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The week in art news – mining company chief resigns after destruction of sacred Australian sites

11 September 2020

The world’s second largest mining company, Rio Tinto, announced today that its chief executive Jean-Sébastien Jacques and two other senior executives have resigned after criticism of the destruction of two cave sections of the Juukan Gorge in Western Australia. The blasting of the caves as part of the company’s mining for iron ore, was discovered only after it had taken place in May – with government approval, but against the wishes of the traditional owners of the sites, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people (PKKP). Last month, after an internal review, the Rio Tinto board reduced the executives’s bonuses. The Australian parliament is currently conducting an inquiry into the blowing up of one of the country’s most significant archaeological sites, which had shown signs of continuous human habitation for 46,000 years. Jacques will leave the company by the end of March 2021, or when his successor has been appointed.

The French government has announced a €2bn fund to support the culture sector during the coronavirus pandemic. The funding comes in addition to the €1bn already promised earlier this year. Under the scheme, €614 million has been allocated to museums, including the Louvre, Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay, which have experienced a dramatic drop in their visitor numbers. There is also money for the music industry and theatres and an initiative worth €113 million to support emerging artists and educational initiatives.

The chair of the Commons Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking for an extension of the furlough scheme for workers in the arts and leisure sectors. Warning that, compared to other sectors, more than half of these workers are still on furlough, the Conservative MP, Julian Knight, argued that without such an extension, ‘not only will mass redundancies follow but we can expect many cultural organisations to go out of business, never to return’.

Last Friday the Tate announced it has cut ties with Anthony d’Offay. The move comes more than two years after allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour were made against the collector and retired dealer. The museum is to return works loaned by d’Offay and remove his name from the building.