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The week in art news – Governor of Virginia orders removal of Robert E. Lee’s statue

5 June 2020

Christo has died at the age of 84. With his partner Jeanne-Claude, the artist was responsible for some of the most ambitious and best known public art projects of recent years. These included wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin in 1995 and placing more than 7,500 saffron-coloured panels in Central Park in New York in 2005. Christo left his native Bulgaria in for Prague in 1957. He met Jeanne-Claude in Paris in 1958, after which he began working on a much bigger scale. Read Claire Barliant’s interview with Christo in the March 2020 issue of Apollo.

Ellen McAdam is stepping down as the director of Birmingham Museums Trust after nearly seven years in the post. McAdam, who was previously head of museums and collections in Glasgow, said,Leading one of the UK’s greatest regional museum services has been a unique and challenging experience.’ In appointments, Anne Kremers is to be the first director of the FENIX Museum of Migration. The museum, which is still at the planning stages, will open in the Fenix Warehouse in Rotterdam and will tell ‘stories of departure and arrival’ related to the city. Kremers was director of the Museum Villa Mondriaan in Winterswijk between 2013 and 2017.

A Florida-based interior designer who bought artworks using the stolen identities of his clients has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison. The artworks bought by Antonio DiMarco and his associate Joakim von Ditmar, an art adviser, included paintings by Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt. DiMarco, who had pleaded guilty in taking part in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud last year, has been ordered to pay $2.4m in compensation to those he defrauded.

The German government has allocated £1bn to arts and culture in the stimulus package announced by Angela Merkel on Wednesday. The funds, which amount to half the yearly federal budget, will be released over the next two years and will allow private cultural institutions to put safety precautions in place before reopening, among other measures. Olaf Zimmermann, head of the German association of cultural industries, described the announcement to the Art Newspaper as ‘a good result’.

The Walker Art Center has announced that in response to the death of George Floyd and other instances of police brutality, it will no longer ask off-duty officers from Minneapolis Police Department to provide security for museum events. Mary Ceruti, executive director of the Walker, described the move as ‘a symbolic policy decision, but symbols can be powerful, which is what led to the notion that we should actually make it a public statement’. Earlier in the week Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas, apologised for the police being allowed to park in the grounds of the institution. Zugazagoitia said that he had asked the police to leave when he had become aware of their presence.

The Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, announced on Thursday that he was ordering the removal of the statute of Robert E. Lee from its plinth in the centre of Richmond. A petition to take down the monument to the Confederate general has been circulating since 2016. In recent days, the plinth of the statue has been tagged with graffiti denouncing police violence. Northam said in his statement, ‘In 2020, we can no longer honour a system that was based on enslaving people.’ At the same event, Levar Stoney, the Mayor of Richmond, said that he would also remove other Confederate monuments on land belonging to the city: ‘It’s time to put an end to the lost cause; Richmond is no longer the capital of the Confederacy.’