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Director of Poland’s Second World War Museum dismissed

Plus: Ownership dispute over Israel Museum’s Bird’s Head Haggadah | Uncertainty over Art Gallery of New South Wales director’s contract | and artists pen open letter to Documenta to protest evictions in Athens

11 April 2017

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Director of Poland’s Second World War Museum dismissed | Historian Pawel Machcewicz has been dismissed from his post as director of Gdansk’s Second World War Museum, reports the Art Newspaper. Machcewicz’s dismissal follows a controversial ruling last week that will allow the newly opened institution to merge with another as yet unbuilt museum. Critics say that Poland’s ruling PiS party is using the planned merger in order to increase state control over the museum.

Ownership dispute over Israel Museum’s Bird’s Head Haggadah | An ownership dispute over the Bird’s Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving illustrated Passover manuscript in the world, has resurfaced between the Israel Museum and the family of a previous owner. The grandchildren of German-Jewish lawmaker Ludwig Marum say he lost possession of it due to Nazi persecution, and that it was sold on to what would later become the museum without their family’s consent. They do not demand its return, but are seeking compensation. The museum has acknowledged that the family once owned the manuscript, but has demanded documentation as to its whereabouts between 1933 (when Marum was arrested) and 1946, when it was acquired in Jerusalem. The family says it will present new material that suggests the seller at that time did not have the funds to purchase it legally himself.

Uncertainty over Art Gallery of New South Wales director’s contract | The board of Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales has extended director Michael Brand’s contract for just 12 more months, instead of renewing it for a full five-year term, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. Brand’s original contract expires in June. In recent years, the museum has seen a drop in visitor numbers and a shortfall in funding for a proposed $450 million expansion project. The board cites public service rules introduced in 2014 as the reason for its decision.

Artists pen open letter to Documenta to protest evictions in Athens | A group of artists have signed a letter of protest to the organisers of Documenta 14, following a series of raids at properties housing artists, activists and refugees in Athens. The exhibition opened in the Greek capital last week. The Artists Against Evictions group criticise the organisers of the exhibition for failing to condemn the raids. ‘The silence of Documenta is not acceptable’, the letter reads. ‘This violent act is dividing the legitimate bodies from the illegitimate ones by state force and Documenta has so far been silent.’

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