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The week in art news – Baltimore Museum of Art pulls works from controversial sale

30 October 2020

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) withdrew paintings by Clyfford Still and Brice Marden from the Contemporary Art auction at Sotheby’s New York and also paused a private sale of a work by Andy Warhol. The move came after a week of mounting criticism of the deaccessions to fund a $65m ‘Endowment for the Future’. On the day of the sale, 14 former presidents of the Association of American Museums (AAMD) had written to the chair of the BMA’s board of trustees asking for the sales to be cancelled. This followed a memorandum, sent the previous day by the president of the AAMD’s board of trustees to all its members, which did not single out the BMA, but stated that the association’s temporarily relaxed rules about sales ‘were not put in place to incentivise deaccessioning, nor to permit museums to achieve other, non-collection-specific, goals’. In other deaccessioning news, Sotheby’s sale of items from the Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem was called off on Tuesday after the intervention of the museum’s parent foundation and critical comments from the president of Israel.

The renowned Moroccan artist Mohamed Melehi has died at the age of 84. The modernist painter, who studied fine art in Spain and New York before returning to Morocco, also made his mark in graphic design, photography and as a teacher at the Casablanca School of Art in the late 1960s. He also worked with architects on interiors, creating reliefs, frescoes and even furniture. In 1963, Melehi was the first artist from North Africa to have his work included in a show at MoMA in New York. In Morocco, he was part of an avant-garde that sought to democratise art, putting on a street exhibition in 1969 and founding the annual Asilah Moussem Festival of the Arts in 1978. A retrospective, ‘New Waves: Mohamed Melehi and the Casablanca Art School Archives’ was at the Mosaic Rooms in London last year and is currently at Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, Dubai.

The rise in cases of coronavirus across Europe means that museums have begun to close again as part of new lockdown measures. In France museums are closed from today (30 October) until 1 December. In Germany, while restaurants, bars and theatres are among the venues that must close for November, clarification is still needed in each state regarding museums. In Belgium, all museums are closed until 19 November. In Italy and Spain, museums remain open although other cultural venues have closed.

The art collector Sindika Dokolo has died at the age of 48 in Dubai. The Congolese-born businessman, who was married to Isabel dos Santos, daughter of the former president of Angola, was a leading collector of contemporary African art and an advocate for the restitution of African artefacts to the continent. Dokolo and dos Santos were being investigated by the Angolan authorities after the publication of an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in January 2020; both Dokolo and dos Santos denied allegations of diverting state funds and money laundering. Dokolo is said to have begun collecting at the age of 15 and through his foundation, established in the early 2000s, had built up a collection of some 3,000 works. Among those to have paid tribute to Dokolo, as the  Art Newspaper reports, are Touria El Glaoui, founder of Tiwani Contemporary and the 1-54 art fair, the Brussels-based art dealer Didier Claes, and the South African artist Kendell Geers.

This year’s edition of Art X Lagos has been postponed. The organisers of the fair, due to take place between 6 and 15 November, took the decision to postpone ‘after serious consideration of the ongoing civil unrest in Nigeria, and out of respect for the lives lost in the recent #EndSARS protests’.