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The week in art news – striking Philadelphia Museum of Art workers reach contract agreement

Plus: more looted objects connected to art dealer Subhash Kapoor returned to India | first known map of the night sky thought to have been discovered | Lowry painting acquired by Salford museum | Winner of Marcel Duchamp prize and shortlist for Deutsche Börse prize announced

21 October 2022

A 19-day strike by workers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art has come to an end, with an agreement for a three-year contract reached between the museum and the PMA Union. Unionised workers returned to work on Monday (17 October), after 99 per cent had voted in favour of the contract. Negotiations have been ongoing  since 2019, with the PMA Union formed the following year; the new contract, which lasts until July 2025, includes an increase in the minimum hourly wage offered by the museum from $15 to $16.75, wage increases of 14 per cent wage over the next three years, lower costs for workers’ health insurance and four weeks’ paid paternity leave. In a statement, Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (of which the PMA Union is an affiliate), said: ‘This victory today is an example of what happens when workers come together in a union to demand better wages, fair treatment and respect on the job.’

With a combined value of around $4m, more than 235 looted antiquities were returned to India this week in a ceremony at the Indian Consulate in New York. The objects were seized as part of a long-running investigation by the New York District Attorney’s office into dealer Subhash Kapoor, who remains in prison in India where he was jailed in 2012 for charges related to the trafficking of more than 2,500 South Asian antiquities out of the country; Kapoor also faces multiple charges in the US, pending extradition.

Scholars have discovered what is thought to be the earliest known attempt to map the night sky.  Until now, the only star catalogue known to have survived from antiquity was one compiled by astronomer Ptolemy in Alexandria in the second century AD, although several ancient sources mention that earlier attempts were made by Hipparchus between 190 and 120 BC. Astronomical material found hidden beneath Christian texts on a medieval parchment from a monastery in Egypt is thought to be the work of the Hipparchus, and includes measurements of the constellation Corona Borealis. James Evans, a historian of astronomy at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, described the find as ‘rare’ and ‘remarkable’.

The Salford Museum & Art Gallery has purchased LS Lowry’s painting Going to the Match (1953) for £7.8m. The painting had been on public display at the Lowry arts centre for over two decades, after it was acquired in 1999 by the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) for £1.9m. The PFA decided to sell the painting earlier this year after its charitable arm became a separate body under a reorganisation prompted by a warning from the Charity Commission. A gift from the Law Family charitable foundation helped to secure the acquisition. ‘We firmly believe this iconic artwork must remain on public view, so it can continue to be seen by the broadest possible audiences, for free,’ Julie Fawcett, the chief executive of the Lowry, told the Guardian.

Mimosa Echard has been named the winner of this year’s Prix Marcel Duchamp, the most prestigious art prize in France which includes €35,000 in prize money as well as a residency with Villa Albertine in a US city of the artist’s choice. The Paris-based artist’s multimedia installation Escape More (2022), comprising various elements behind panes of glass coated in running water, is on view at the Centre Pompidou, alongside works by the other three nominees, Giulia Andreani, Iván Argote, and Philippe Decrauzat, until 2 January 2023.

The artists Bieke Depoorter, Samuel Fosso, Arthur Jafa and Frida Orupabo have been shortlisted for this year’s Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize. According to a statement on the prize’s website, all four artists ‘push the boundaries of photography and exemplify its resonance and relevance as a cultural force today.’ The winner will be announced on 11 May 2023.

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