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The week in art news – V&A revises plan to restructure departments

Plus: Mali and Unesco receive symbolic reparations for Timbuktu destruction | France pledges €500,000 for Sursock Museum repairs | Gianluigi Colalucci (1929–2021) | Leon Black will not seek re-election as MoMA chair | and Detroit Institute of Arts trustees resign after criticisms of director

1 April 2021

The Victoria and Albert Museum has announced that it is extending its internal consultation about the merging of curatorial departments and the cutting of 140 jobs. In its statement the museum says that it has revised the plan to end the arrangement of the curatorial staff by materials, but is still looking to find savings of £10m a year due to losses incurred during the pandemic. The statement reads: ‘As part of the ongoing consultation process with V&A staff and Trade Union representatives, we have shared an updated proposal that retains and reforms the V&A’s materials-led approach, creates three new curatorial departments by bringing existing departments together in addition to a department for Asia, delivers the agreed savings, and builds a structure and vision that will connect with the audiences of tomorrow. The V&A also remains committed to establishing a new, centralised research, National Art Library and archive function alongside increased resource on Africa and the diaspora.’ The original restructuring plan, which proposed creating a Europe and Americas department divided into three chronological periods, a single department for Asia and Africa, and merging the research institute and the National Art Library, was due to end on 31 March.

In a ceremony in Bamako on Tuesday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) gave a symbolic euro to the government of Mali and to UNESCO in reparation for the shrines that were destroyed in Timbuktu, a World Heritage site, in 2012. The symbolic payment was part of the sentence the ICC passed in August 2017, in which it ordered the Islamist militant Ahmad Al Faqi Al Madhi – who was convicted of war crimes by the ICC the previous year – to pay €2.7m in damages to the community of Timbuktu, the people of Mali and the international community, with reparations and funds for the mausoleums’ restoration in practice coming from the ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims.

The French government has pledged €500,000 towards the reconstruction of the Sursock Museum in Beirut. The French ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Grillo, made the pledge in a press conference at the museum last Friday, in which she announced that the French culture ministry would finance the restoration of the museum’s historic stained windows and its first floor. Located 800m from the site of the blast that devastated the Lebanese capital last August, the Sursock Museum sustained extensive damage. It had reopened in 2015 after a decade-long restoration project.

Gianluigi Colalucci, who was the chief restorer of the Sistine Chapel from 1980 to 1994, has died at the age of 92. The Vatican Museums paid tribute to Colalucci on their Instagram account: ‘It is thanks to his courage and talent that today the colours of Michelangelo’s Vault and Last Judgment appear in all their dazzling splendour.’ The director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, told Vatican News that it was ‘a sad day for the Vatican Museums and for the world of restoration’, adding that she had accompanied Colalucci on a private tour of the museums only a few days ago so that he could be shown ongoing restoration works.

Leon Black, the chairman of MoMA, has told the museum board’s executive committee that he will not stand for re-election in June, reports the New York Times. In January this year, Black announced that he was stepping down as chief executive of Apollo Global Management, the private equity firm of which he is a co-founder, after an inquiry ordered by the firm’s board found that the billionaire investor had paid $158m to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein for tax and estate advisory services. In February, more than 150 artists and activists, including Nicole Eisenman, Nan Goldin, the Guerrilla Girls and Michael Rakowitz, signed a letter calling for the removal of Leon Black from MoMA’s board. The Times reports that Black is expected to remain on the board after stepping down as its chair.

Seven trustees have resigned from the board of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The Art Newspaper reports that the resignations followed a meeting of the board’s executive committee on Friday 26 March, held to address the issues raised by the leak of a recording of a confidential presentation made to the board last November. In this presentation investigators from a law firm had reported several criticisms of the management style of Salvador Salort-Pons, the museum’s director. The chair of the board, Eugene A. Gargaro Jr., has confirmed that the executive committee had agreed on steps to address the issues, but dissenting members of the board resigned.

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