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The week in art news – Science Museum signed gagging clause in sponsorship agreement with Shell

Plus: Phillip King (1934–2021) | Xavier Rey appointed director of Centre Pompidou | and the American Museum of Natural History sues its insurer over Covid-19 coverage

31 July 2021

The Science Museum in London has signed a gagging clause in a sponsorship agreement with Shell International. The agreement, which has been seen by Channel 4 News, was for Shell’s sponsorship of the ‘Our Future Planet’ exhibition, which opened in May. It requires that the Science Museum and its trustees take reasonable care ‘not at any time’ during the exhibition term to ‘make any statement or issue any publicity or otherwise be involved in any conduct or matter that may reasonably be foreseen as discrediting or damaging the goodwill or reputation of the Sponsor’. Jonathan Newby, the acting director and chief executive at the Science Museum Group, said in a statement: ‘We entirely reject the unsubstantiated claim that our curators were in any way inhibited in carrying out their vital role in an expert, independent and thorough manner.’ The value of the sponsorship agreement to the Science Museum has not been made public.

The sculptor Phillip King (1934–2021) has died. Born in Tunisia and having moved to London in 1945, King read modern languages at Cambridge before studying sculpture at St Martin’s School of Art, where he was taught by his near contemporary Anthony Caro. Like Caro, after teaching at St Martin’s himself for a year, King worked as an assistant to Henry Moore. After his work was included in the ‘New Generation’ sculpture show at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1965, King had several solo shows in the United States, as well as a retrospective at the Whitechapel in 1968 and another at the Hayward Gallery in 1981. His sculptures can be found in public spaces all over the world, with a final project, La Ronde de Rennes, to be unveiled in the French city later this year. He had a long and illustrious career as a teacher, first at St Martin’s from 1959–1980, then as professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art from 1980–90, and finally at the Royal Academy Schools from 1990–99. King was elected president of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1999, a post he held until 2004.

Xavier Rey has been appointed director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In his current role as director of the Musées de Marseille, the 39-year-old Rey is responsible for 19 sites and has curated exhibitions about Surrealism in American art and Man Ray and fashion. At the Musée d’Orsay, where Rey was director of exhibitions, he co-curated the show ‘Cézanne Portraits’ in 2017, among others. Laurent Le Bon, the new president of the Centre Pompidou, praised Rey’s ‘dynamism, goodwill, experience on the ground, and his openness to the arts, combined with his managerial skills’. At the end of 2023, the Centre Pompidou will close for four years for essential maintenance work. The aim is to reopen in 2027 for the museum’s 50th anniversary.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York (AMNH) is suing its insurer, claiming that it was unlawfully denied coverage for its losses, amounting to some $37 million, sustained because of its closure for six months last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a civil complaint filed on Friday 23 July to the Supreme Court of New York, the museums argues that its insurer, Affiliated FM Insurance Company, has wrongly denied its claim to damages twice. Under its interpretation of the museum’s ‘all risk’ policy, Affiliated FM has offered a maximum figure of $200,000 to cover the AMNH’s losses.

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