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The week in art news – SFMOMA appoints Christopher Bedford as director

13 February 2022

Christopher Bedford, currently director of the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), is to take over from Neal Benezra at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Benezra announced his intention to step down last year and Bedford, who has run the BMA for six years, will take up his new post in June. At Baltimore, Bedford made headlines for initiatives such as a progressive deaccessioning policy and acquiring works only by women in 2020. At SFMOMA he will be responsible for a much larger budget and twice as many staff.

Fine Arts Paris and La Biennale are to merge into a single event from this November. The Art Newspaper reports that Fine Arts Paris & La Biennale, as the new fair is to be called, will be held at the Carrousel du Louvre before moving to the Grand Palais Ephémère and the Grand Palais in subsequent years. The fair will be run by the Agence d’Événements Culturels (which formerly organised Fine Arts Paris and is still responsible for Salon du dessin) with advice from the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (previously responsible for La Biennale).

Jonathan Watkins, director of Ikon in Birminghan, is to step down in October after nearly 25 years at the gallery. During his tenure, Ikon has earned itself a reputation for being the first to put on important shows by international artists in the UK as well as working closely with British artists with links to Birmingham. In 2015, the gallery celebrated its 50th anniversary and Watkins established the Ikon Investment Fund to support future programming and new commissions. Read Jonathan Watkins’ statement here.

Jorge Zamanillo, executive director and CEO of HistoryMiami Museum, has been named founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino. The  establishment of the new museum was agreed by Congress at the end of 2020. The Smithsonian is currently conducting a study to find a location for the museum on or near the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Zamanillo said after the appointment was announced, ‘The Latino experience is American history, and I want to make sure our story will be preserved for future generations.’

Bamber Gascoigne, best known in the UK as the original presenter of the television quiz show University Challenge, has died at the age of 87. Gascoigne, who inherited a 16th-century country house, West Horsley Place in 2014, set about turning it into a community arts centre with his wife Christina. It was typical of his commitment to the arts, which included sitting on the boards of the National Gallery and the Tate, the Royal Opera House and the National Trust. Most recently, he was a supporter of the Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust, which is working to restore the last remaining part of the poet’s villa at Twickenham.

And finally, it has been revealed that a security guard at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center in Ekaterinburg in Russia doodled on a painting on display out of boredom. Three Figures (1932–34) by Anna Leporskaya depicts three faceless figures. The guard used a ballpoint pen to give these figures eyes. The curator of the exhibition said of the security guard, ‘His motives are still unknown but the administration believes it was some kind of a lapse in sanity.’ The vandalism was first noticed on 7 December and the guard, who worked for a private security firm, was fired.