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The week in art news – arson suspected in Nantes Cathedral fire

Plus: Gavin Brown to shut down his gallery and join Gladstone Gallery | the government of Quebec investigates Montreal Museum of Fine Arts | and Martin Parr resigns from Bristol Photo Festival after racism row | Birmingham Museums Trust places half its staff at risk of redundancy

24 July 2020

Arson is suspected as the cause of the fire at Nantes Cathedral that broke out on Saturday. More than 100 firefighters worked for several hours to put out three separate fires at the site. Stained glass windows and the baroque great organ of the 15th-century cathedral have been destroyed; the local fire chief confirmed that the roof was secure, however, stating that this was ‘not a Notre-Dame scenario’.

On Monday, Artnet reported that Gavin Brown is closing his eponymous gallery, which will include shutting its large space in Harlem, New York, and will be joining Gladstone Gallery as a partner. At the time of writing, ten of the artists on the roster of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, including Joan Jonas, LaToya Ruby Frazier and Alex Katz, are set to move with the dealer. Barbara Gladstone has said, ‘This new alliance with Gavin feels natural, evolutionary, and auspicious.’ Brown told the New York Times that in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘It was clear that the economy of the art world was so different, and that conversation became very concrete.’ The Rome outpost of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, which opened in 2015, will continue to operate as part of Gladstone Gallery.

The government of Quebec is launching an inquiry into the sacking of Nathalie Bondil as the director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Following the announcement of the review, which will be carried out by an independent firm, the museum’s board of directors issued a statement defending the decision to dismiss Bondil and offering the inquiry its full co-operation.

Martin Parr has resigned as artistic director of the inaugural Bristol Photo Festival after criticism of his involvement with a reissue in 2017 of Gian Butturini’s photobook London (1969). This follows a sustained anti-racist campaign by Mercedes Baptiste Halliday, an anthropology student at University College London, which has focused on a spread in the book that juxtaposes images of a black ticket inspector and a gorilla in London Zoo. Halliday told the Art Newspaper that Parr ‘is the Charleston statue of photography’. Parr has apologised for writing an introduction to the book and promoting it at various events, writing on Twitter, ‘I fully acknowledge the highlighted spread is racist & am sorry for offence caused.’

Birmingham Museums Trust has announced that is has started redundancy consultations with its workforce, with around half of its staff placed at risk of redundancy. The trust is responsible for eight museums and heritage sites in the city, including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Thinktank, Birmingham’s science museum, as well as the Museum Collection Centre. In a statement released on Friday 24 July, chair Niels de Vos said: ‘Only when visitor numbers and spend return to pre-coronavirus levels will our business model break even again. We desperately want to avoid redundancies, but we must do what we can to secure the future of the charity’.

 

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