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The week in art news – MoMA takes a ‘chainsaw’ to its budget

Sotheby’s prepares to reopen | MFA Boston sets up diversity fund | Cathie Pilkington elected keeper of the RA | Arts Council England lobbying for extra museum funding

7 May 2020

On Monday the Art Newspaper reported that the art collector James Stunt has been charged with money laundering and forgery. A court date has been set for 9 July at Leeds Magistrate’s Court. The former gold-bullion trader, who had his assets frozen in 2018 and was declared bankrupt in June last year, has said he will contest all charges.

 On Tuesday the chief executive of Sotheby’s, Charles Stewart, said that the auction house is ‘actively preparing’ to reopen its spaces in New York and London and looking to hold sales in New York in the week of 29 June. Meanwhile, Phillips and Christie’s have said that they are planning to hold sales in the week of 22 June.

Also on Tuesday, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston announced that it is setting up a $500,000 fund for diversity initiatives. The attorney general of Massachusetts also said that the museum had agreed to do more to support artists and young people of colour. The move comes a year after a school group complained of being racially harassed by a guard and two visitors. The museum’s director, Matthew Teitelbaum, said ‘There’s nothing more important to us than making sure everyone feels welcome at the MFA.’

On Wednesday Bloomberg reported having seen a Zoom conference call in which Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, spoke of taking a ‘chainsaw’ to the museum’s exhibitions budget, cutting it from $18m to $10m, its publications budget by about half and its overall budget from $180m to $135m. While stating that he was not worried about MoMA’s ultimate survival, Lowry expressed concern about ‘smaller more vulnerable institutions’.

Also on Wednesday it was announced that Cathie Pilkington has been elected as the new keeper of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Pilkington became a Royal Academician in 2014 and was professor of sculpture from 2015–19. The keeper is responsible for the Royal Academy Schools. Pilkington takes over from Rebecca Salter, who is now the president of the RA.

On Thursday, the Art Newspaper reported that Arts Council England is lobbying the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of the need for a £250m increase in public funding for UK museums, which will receive many fewer visitors once they eventually reopen. The Arts Council has not commented on the proposed figure.

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