Apollo Magazine

The week in art news – Oxford college backs calls to remove Rhodes statue

Plus: Amazon boss appointed director of Natural History Museum | Nanne Dekking steps down as chair of TEFAF | Marlborough closes gallery in New York

The statue of Cecil Rhodes outside Oriel College in Oxford, photographed in June 2020.

The statue of Cecil Rhodes outside Oriel College in Oxford, photographed in June 2020. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images

Our regularly updated digest of the week’s top art news

The governing body of Oriel College, Oxford, has expressed support for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes that currently stands in a niche facing on to the High Street. The stone statue was erected in 1911 to adorn the façade of a new building funded by a bequest from Rhodes, who had died nine years previously. Since 2015 the statue has been a focus of Rhodes Must Fall, an international campaign to dismantle monuments to the British imperialist and decolonise spaces of higher education. In 2016, the governing body of Oriel voted to preserve the statue in situ, while ‘seek[ing] to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there’. After renewed calls for its removal during recent Black Lives Matter protests in Oxford, the governing body has now voted to launch an ‘independent Commission of Inquiry’ into issues surrounding the statue, stating their ‘wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edward Street Plaque [which commemorates Rhodes’s place of academic residence]’.

The Natural History Museum in London has announced the appointment of Doug Gurr, currently Country Manager of Amazon UK, as its next director. Gurr – whose CV also includes stints as president of Amazon China and as a partner at the consultancy firm McKinsey – has links to the museum world through his current role as a trustee of the National Gallery and his previous tenure as chair of the board of the Science Museum. He will succeed Michael Dixon, who retires after 15 years in the role.

Nanne Dekking has stepped down as chairman of TEFAF’s executive committee. He has been replaced, with immediate effect, by the modern and contemporary art dealer Hidde van Seggelen. TEFAF has also appointed five new trustees to its board, four of whom are women. Speaking to the Art Newspaper, Dekking conveyed his desire to focus on his digital art registry business, Artory, and said his decision had nothing to do with criticisms of TEFAF Maastricht going ahead despite Covid-19 in March. A statement from TEFAF praised Dekking for building ‘bridges between the teams in the Netherlands and the US’ and tightening up vetting procedures.

Marlborough is to close its gallery in New York. The decision was taken during board meetings earlier this month, Max Levai, president of Marlborough, confirmed to Artnet. The date of the closure has not yet been announced, and there has been no announcement about the gallery’s London operation. Marlborough, which first opened in London in 1946 and in New York in 1963, represents painters including Frank Auerbach, Paula Rego and the estate of R.B. Kitaj. The gallery unified its London and New York operations in July 2019.

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