Apollo Magazine

The week in art news – Kevin Young appointed director of Smithsonian’s African American history museum

Plus: V&A to cut 10 per cent of workforce | RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal goes to David Adjaye | and Clore Duffield Foundation announces £2.5m grants for cultural organisations

Courtesy National Museum of African American History and Culture

Courtesy National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian Institution has announced that Kevin Young will be the next director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Young, who is currently poetry editor at the New Yorker as well as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York, will take up his new role in January 2021. He will take over from the historian Spencer Crew, who has served as interim director of the museum since its founding director, Lonnie G. Bunch III, was appointed secretary of the Smithsonian in 2019.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the latest institution to announce job cuts, telling staff on Tuesday that – with visitor numbers at the museum currently down by 85 per cent – it would be entering a period of redundancy consultations with the aim of reducing its annual costs by £10m. A statement from the museum confirmed that the proposed restructuring would mean the loss of 103 roles (10 per cent of the V&A’s overall workforce) in its retail and visitor experience teams; subsequent reviews over the next six to nine months will involve staff ‘at all levels across every department in the museum’. The Public and Commercial Services Union says it ‘will not accept the museum’s current approach’, which it describes as a ‘direct attack on the most diverse and some of lowest paid workers at the museum’.

The Royal Institute of British Architects has awarded its 2021 Royal Gold Medal to David Adjaye. The projects of the British-Ghanaian architect, who founded his studio Adjaye Associates in 2000, include the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016. Other notable buildings include Ruby City, a private museum in San Antonio, and the Spyscape museum in New York. The prize will be the only one awarded by RIBA this year; the organisation has postponed its Regional, National and Stirling awards due to the difficulty of conducting in-person visits to sites during the coronavirus pandemic.

The UK-based Clore Duffield Foundation is giving more than £2.5m of grants to support learning and community work affected by the pandemic at cultural organisations across the country, it was announced this week. The money will be distributed between 66 recipients, including the RA and V&A in London, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, the National Gallery of Scotland, and the National Museum Wales. Funds will be allocated according to the size of the grant each organisation first received from the foundation to open its learning space.

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