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The week in art news – Art Basel Miami Beach cancelled

Plus: Siah Armajani (1939–2020) | and SFMOMA is cutting the pay of all full-time staff

4 September 2020

The organisers of Art Basel Miami Beach have cancelled this year’s edition of the fair, due to take place on 3–6 December, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fair issued a statement on Wednesday declaring that it had no option to cancel, ‘Given the current situation regarding the pandemic’s impact, which spans from South Florida to other parts of the country and the world; limitations and uncertainty about the staging of large-scale events; international travel restrictions and bans, as well as quarantine regulations within the United States and internationally, alongside other factors […]’. Exhibitors will not be charged for their booths and their application fees will be carried over to next year’s fair, which is scheduled to take place on 2–5 December 2021.

The Iranian-American artist Siah Armajani has died at the age of 81. Among his many public projects, Armajani designed the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge that links the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden with Loring Park and the Olympic cauldron for the 1996 games held in Atlanta. A philosophy student at the University of Tehran, Armajani left Iran for the United States in 1960 because of family concerns for his safety raised by his political activities. In keeping with his lifelong interest in engineering and technology, Armajani was one of the first artists to explore the possibilities of computer art. In 2018, the artist was the subject of a major retrospective, ‘Siah Armajani: Follow this Line’ at the Walker Art Center, which travelled to the Met the following year. In ‘Manifesto: Public Sculpture in the Context of American Democracy’ (1968–78; revised 1993), Armajani wrote: ‘Public sculpture should not intimidate, assault, or control the public. It should enhance a given place.’

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has announced that it will introduce furloughs for all full-time and many part-time members of staff. From the end of September, affected employees will have their salaries cut by about 20 per cent and the reductions will apply until the museum reopens. It has not yet announced an opening date. When the museum closed in March it predicted a 40 per cent drop in its operating revenues in the fiscal year ending in June. It has already laid off 135 casual staff  in March and made a further 55 staff redundant in June. SFMOMA’s director, Neal Benezra, has taken a 50 per cent cut to his salary, which in 2018 was close to $1 million. In April, ‘concerned SFMOMA staff’ wrote an open letter criticising the board and senior management and suggesting Benezra draw no salary at all while employees were furloughed.

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