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The week in art news – Tate to cut 120 gallery jobs to reduce losses

Plus: Irina Antonova (1922–2020) | MCH Group approves investment from James Murdoch’s firm | letter calls for Philip Johnson’s name to be removed from public institutions

4 December 2020

The Tate has announced that it will be making a second round of redundancies, just months after cutting 295 jobs in its commercial arm, Tate Enterprises, because of losses incurred by Covid-19. In a joint statement Tate’s director Maria Balshaw and chief operating officer Vicky Cheetham say that the institution expects to have lost £56 million in self-generated income over the course of this year. The planned job cuts will reduce its workforce by 12 per cent – equivalent to 120 full-time positions – to make savings of £4.8 million. A voluntary redundancy scheme has been launched ‘in all departments and at all levels’, with the possibility of compulsory redundancies if not enough members of staff come forward.

Irina Antonova, the president and former director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, has died at the age of 98. The Moscow-born art historian started working at the Pushkin in 1945, rising to the rank of director by 1961. One of her greatest achievements was introducing Western art to Soviet audiences – bringing long-hidden paintings by European masters out of the vaults and negotiating loans of world-famous pieces such as the Mona Lisa, which was displayed at the museum in 1974. While forced to step down from her role in 2013, Antonova remained a familiar presence during her tenure as president of the Pushkin; the museum’s current director Marina Loshak wrote in a statement of how her predecessor visited the institution to which she had dedicated her career ‘almost every day’ that it was open.

The shareholders of MCH Group, the parent company of Art Basel, have approved a deal for James Murdoch’s investment firm to acquire a stake of 49 per cent in the events company. Lupa Systems is now set to invest up to $80 million ($CHF 75 million) in MCH Group. The deal, which was first announced in July, was delayed until now due to opposition from shareholders over a clause allowing Lupa Systems to acquire the stake without making a public offer; the terms were subsequently revised to allow existing investors to increase their shares and new investors to buy in.

An open letter has been published calling for public institutions to remove the name of the architect Philip Johnson from ‘every leadership title, public space, and honorific of any form’. The letter, which has so far been signed by more than 40 artists, architects and academics, was co-ordinated by Johnson Study Group, an anonymous collective dedicated to the re-examination of Johnson’s legacy. The letter cites the ‘widely documented white supremacist views and activities’ of the American architect, who in 1932 became the Museum of Modern Art’s first head of architecture and design. MoMA is one of the institutions specifically addressed in the letter, along with the Harvard Graduate School of Design; Johnson’s name appears both in the title of the museum’s chief curator of architecture and design and on one of its exhibition galleries.