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The week in art news – museums in Germany prepare to reopen

24 April 2020

Peter Beard (1938–2020) | On Sunday, the photographer, artist and wildlife enthusiast Peter Beard was found dead after having been missing from his home in Long Island for nearly three weeks. He was 82 and had been suffering from dementia for some time. Best known for his book The End of the Game (1965), which documented manmade destruction to wildlife in Kenya and Uganda, Beard was also known for his fashion photographs, society friends, and being the subject of several paintings by Francis Bacon.

Sue Davies (1933–2020) | On Monday it was announced that Sue Davies, the founding director of the Photographers’ Gallery in London, had died at the age of 87. Davies was director of the UK’s first independent space dedicated to photography, which had its original home in Covent Garden, from 1971 to 1991.

MoMA PS1 lays off 70 per cent of staff | On Tuesday it was reported that MoMA PS1 had furloughed 47 employees, more than 70 per cent of the institution’s staff. In her letter to employees, Kate Fowle, director of MoMA PS1, said that the museum was facing its ‘most serious financial crisis’ ever. Staff will be paid until 1 May and have their health insurance covered until 31 July.

Museums in Germany prepare to reopen | On Wednesday, smaller museums in the state of Brandenburg opened their doors observing new guidelines outlined by the Brandenburg Museum Association. It was also reported by the Art Newspaper that museums in Thuringia (28 April), Berlin and Saxony (from 4 May) are set to reopen. Dresden museums are also planning to open on 4 May, although a spokesperson for the State Art Collections has said, ‘Probably not all of our museums will open that day.’ More details are expected next week.

Myriam Ben Salah appointed executive director of Renaissance Society | Also on Wednesday, it was announced that the Renaissance Society in Chicago has appointed Myriam Ben Salah as its new executive director and chief curator. Part of the University of Chicago, the contemporary art institution was founded in 1915. Ben Salah, who was a curator of special projects at the Palais de Tokyo and was the editor of Kaleidoscope from 2016–19 takes over from Solveig Øvstebø who has been appointed director the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo.

Met lays off 80 employees and predicts greater financial losses | On Thursday, it was reported in the New York Times that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is laying off more than 80 members, of staff, particularly in visitor services and retail, and cutting executive pay by 20 per cent and more. The museum now predicts losses of $150million (up from the $100million forecast in March). Daniel Weiss, president and chief executive of the Met, said, ‘While we are not immune from the impact of this pandemic, the Met is a strong and enduring institution and will remain one.’

Notre-Dame construction site to reopen next week | Also on Thursday, Le Figaro reported that on Monday (27 April), an exploratory party including France’s chief architect, Philip de Villeneuve, will visit the cathedral to prepare for the return of about 50 construction workers on 4 May. The first objective of the work when it restarts is to dismantle the 500 tonnes of scaffolding on the site.

Serpentine Pavilion commission postponed to 2021 | It was announced today that this year’s Serpentine Pavilion, which was to have been designed by Johannesburg practice Counterspace, will be built in 2021 instead and the accompanying programme of performances and talks has also been postponed. In the meantime, Counterspace and the Serpentine are working on a series of off-site and online projects, yet to be announced in detail.

Howardena Pindell sues former gallery | Artnews has reported that Howardena Pindell is suing her former gallery, G.R. N’Namdi, which has locations in Detroit, New York, Chicago, and Birmingham, Michigan. A lawsuit filed by the artist in New York in January claims that N’Namdi provided ‘misleading and inaccurate’ information about her sales. She is seeking $500,000 in damages and the return of various artworks including 12 works from her Autobiography series. Pindell is now represented by Garth Greenan in New York and Victoria Miro in London.

Lead image by Thomas Wolf, www.foto-tw.de used under Creative Commons licence (CC BY-SA 3.0)