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Eike Schmidt to lead Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum

Plus: Houston museums begin to reopen | Rashid Rana steps down as director of inaugural Lahore Biennale | Report on national monuments recommends reductions to protected land | and recommended reading

1 September 2017

Eike Schmidt is to become the director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, in autumn 2019. The German art historian has been director of the Uffizi in Florence since November 2015, when he was among the first foreign directors appointed by the Italian culture ministry as part of a programme to reform the Italian museum system. Schmidt will replace Sabine Haag, who has been at the helm of the Kunsthistorisches Museum since 2009. The news was announced this morning by the Austrian culture minister Thomas Drozda at a press conference in Vienna, at which Schmidt stressed the need for the KHM to embrace digital opportunities to appeal to a wider international audience.

Schmidt’s contract at the Viennese museum will initially be for five years. At the Uffizi, he has gained a reputation for bold modernisation: renovating and redisplaying major galleries (including those dedicated to Botticelli), reorganising the curatorial structure, introducing a new pricing system for museum tickets, and expanding the scope of the exhibition programme at both the Uffizi and Palazzo Pitti.

The KHM will present its own extensive challenges: its director is responsible for multiple museums and collections, including those of the Weltmuseum and Imperial Treasury, housed in different buildings in central Vienna. The Austrian media reports that 15 candidates applied for the position, among them 10 Austrians and five foreign candidates.

Houston museums begin to reopen | A number of museums in storm battered Houston are making cautious moves towards a full reopening. Institutions in the city including the Menil Collection and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston shuttered their doors last week before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast. The Houston Chronicle reports that the latter institution reopened on Thursday, and the Menil expected to follow today. The Bayou Bend and Rienzi may remain closed for ‘at least a week or more’, but other institutions have stated that they will resume normal service next week.

Rashid Rana steps down as director of inaugural Lahore Biennale | Rashid Rana, the artistic director of Lahore’s first art biennale, has announced that he is stepping down. Artforum reports that Rana and the Lahore Biennale Foundation issued a joint statement announcing that they were ‘not able to reach a formal agreement’ on their collaborative partnership and had thus decided to ‘amicably part ways and not work together’. The event was due to launch in November, but organisers have informed the Art Newspaper that it will now be delayed until 2018.

Report on national monuments recommends reductions to protected land | A report submitted to the White House by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended shrinking the protected boundaries around a number of national monuments. According to the Art Newspaper, Zinke’s report could mean that adjustments are made to the boundaries of the federally protected land surrounding Michael Heizer’s land art masterpiece, City, in the Nevada desert. Few details have yet been made official, but conservationists fear that resulting reforms could put sites of this kind at risk of development and drilling.

Recommended reading | In the New Yorker, Louis Menand visits MoMA’s ‘Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends’ and is transfixed by the artist’s White Paintings. In the Art Newspaper, Martin Bailey speaks to British Museum director Hartwig Fischer about his plans for a ‘radical’ redisplay of the institution’s collection. ‘We cannot tell the story of world cultures solely from a European point of view’, he says. ‘[…] We have to say where the objects came from and how they got here.’ And in the FT, Simon Schama talks to Rachel Whiteread about her upcoming show at Tate Britain show.

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