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The week in art news – Susan Rothenberg (1945–2020)

MFA Houston first major US institution to reopen | Venice Art and Architecture Biennales postponed | Hobby Lobby is suing Christie's

22 May 2020

Susan Rothenberg has died at the age of 75. Rothenberg first came to attention in 1975, with her solo show at 112 Green Street, in which she exhibited three large paintings of horses, a subject with which she was associated for long afterwards, although she concentrated on it for only five years. Her work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Stedelijk in Amsterdam. Angela Westwater, who had long shown Rothenberg’s work at Sperone Westwater gallery, said in a statement, ‘As a pioneer, she extended the boundaries of painting – especially for other women artists.’

The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is to reopen this Saturday. The Texan museum is the first major US institution to do so since closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March. New safety measures will include the compulsory wearing of masks and the taking of visitors’ temperatures at the entrance, and no food or drink will be allowed inside the building. The San Antonio Museum of Art will reopen next week. In New York, however, as the Art Newspaper reports, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will not reopen before August at the earliest, and has cancelled all tours, talks and events through to the end of the year.

Mark Masuoka, the director of the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, has resigned. In June 2019, 27 employees of the museum sent an unsigned letter to the museum’s board, alleging instances of racial discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation at the institution. A former museum board member, Jon Fiume, will serve as interim director while a permanent replacement is sought.

Instead of having a shorter run later this year, the Venice Architecture Biennale will now take place in 2021 and, instead of opening in April 2021, the Venice Art Biennale has been postponed until 2022. Cecile Alemani, curator of the 59th edition of the art biennale, told the New York Times that she will use the delay ‘to develop ambitious new projects’.

Hobby Lobby is suing Christie’s for fraud and breach of warranty in selling it a cuneiform tablet that US authorities say has been looted. This follows the US Attorney’s Office in New York beginning proceedings to confiscate the tablet, which bears part of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and return it to Iraq. The chain of arts and crafts retailers, which bought the tablet from Christie’s for $1.67m in a private sale in 2014, alleges that the auction house knew that the artefact’s provenance was false. Christie’s denies the claim.

The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has appointed Neil Mendoza as its Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal. Mendoza, who led a review of museums in England is 2017, is to contribute an ‘an expert and independent’ voice to the department’s response to the impact of coronavirus on the arts in the UK.

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