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The week in art news – City of London to keep statues with slavery links

Plus: Biden nominates heads of the NEA and NEH | Mark Roglán (1971–2021) | UK rejects UNESCO’s call to enter talks about the return of the Parthenon Marbles

10 October 2021

The City of London Corporation has reversed a decision, taken in January this year, to remove statues of William Beckford and Sir John Cass from the Guildhall building because of their connections to the transatlantic slave trade. The City of London’s statues working group has, instead, recommended that the statues remain in-situ with ‘plaques or notices placed alongside them, with contextual information about the two men’s links to slavery’. The working group also recommended the planning of ‘educational and cultural events that directly address the context of the statues and the contemporary issues they raise’. In February the then Secretary of State for Housing and Communities Robert Jenrick, wrote to the Lord Mayor William Russell and senior officials urging them to reconsider the plan to remove the figure of Beckford to be re-sited and replaced with new work and for the figure of Sir John Cass to be returned to the Sir John Cass Foundation.

On Tuesday, President Biden nominated Maria Rosario Jackson to be the next chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Shelly Lowe as the next chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Jackson is currently professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA) at Arizona State University, while Lowe is currently the executive director of the Harvard University Native American Program.

Mark A. Roglán, director of the Meadows Museum, has died of cancer at the age of 50. Roglán, a specialist in 19th-century Spanish art, who moved to the Meadows from the Prado in 2001, became director of the museum in 2006. Since then, the collection of the museum has doubled in size and visitor numbers tripled. In August, Roglán opened a new research institute at the museum, the Custard Institute for Spanish Art and Culture. The Meadows Museum, which opened in 1965, is home to one of the largest collections of Spanish art outside Spain.

The UNESCO intergovernmental commission for the return of cultural property to countries of origin ((ICPRCP)  voted unanimously to include the dispute over the Parthenon Sculptures in its remit. The meeting also concluded that the dispute is an ‘intergovernmental’ matter rather than simply one between institutions. A UK government spokesman said in a statement to Artnet News: ‘We disagree with the Committee’s decision adopted in the closing minutes of the session and are raising issues relating to fact and procedure with UNESCO.’

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