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Russian and Syrian officials agree plans to restore Palmyra

Plus: Cambridge college to return Benin Bronze to Nigeria | Art Basel cancels three-day event in Abu Dhabi | Lecturers at the Courtauld Institute strike over conditions | and Hetty Berg appointed director of Jewish Museum Berlin

27 November 2019

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Russian and Syrian officials agree plans to restore Palmyra | Representatives from the State Hermitage Museum and the Russian Academy of Sciences have signed an agreement in Damascus with the Syrian Directorate-General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), setting out a joint plan to renovate the National Museum of Palmyra, with a view to eventually restoring the ancient city of Palmyra itself. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage, said the National Museum of Palmyra is ‘of particular value for the entire complex’, which suffered serious damage during occupation by ISIS; after the restoration of the museum, long-term goals expressed in the agreement include a collaboration between the Hermitage and the National Museum of Oman to restore 20 Syrian antiquities, and the creation of an international body of experts overseen by UNESCO and DGAM.

Cambridge college to return Benin Bronze to Nigeria | Jesus College Cambridge has formally confirmed its intention to return a bronze statue of a cockerel, known in Benin City as the Okukor, to the Nigerian state. It is the first time a British institution has agreed to the restitution of any of the Benin Bronzes, which were taken from the royal palace of Benin by the British punitive expedition of 1897 and which are now dispersed across museums in the UK, Europe and America. Last week, the Manchester Museum returned a group of Aboriginal ceremonial objects in its collection to indigenous leaders in Australia – also a first for a UK museum.

Art Basel cancels three-day event in Abu Dhabi | Art Basel Inside, a three-day event scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi in February 2020, has been cancelled. Art Basel issued a statement this morning (27 November), expressing regret at a decision it said had been made jointly by Art Basel, its parent company MCH Group, and the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, who were scheduled to co-host the $15,000-per-ticket event.

Lecturers at the Courtauld Institute strike over conditions | Academic staff at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London have joined a nationwide series of strikes organised by the University and College Union (UCU), citing ‘current inequalities in pay’ and the fact that ‘income and borrowing are being invested in property and other capital assets rather than on human resources’. In line with other members of the UCU taking industrial action at 60 universities across the UK, the Courtauld lecturers are planning to strike for eight days until 4 December. The Courtauld Institute has stated that its priority during this period will be ‘to mitigate any disruption to learning’.

Hetty Berg appointed director of Jewish Museum Berlin | The Jewish Museum Berlin has named Hetty Berg as its next director, to take up the role on 1 April 2020. Berg, who is currently museum manager and chief curator of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam, will succeed Peter Schäfer, who resigned in June this year.

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