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The week in art news – Tate to make almost half of its commercial staff redundant

Plus: houses in Old City of Sanaa collapse after heavy rains | Current and former MMFA staff write open letter supporting sacking of Nathalie Bondil | and Judith Reigl (1923–2020)

14 August 2020

On Tuesday the Tate confirmed to staff that it will be making redundant 313 members of staff in Tate Enterprises Ltd (TEL), its commercial arm that runs the shops and cafes across all its venues. The redundancies amount to almost half of the staff employed by Tate Enterprises. The email from Maria Balshaw, director of Tate, and its chief operating officer Vicky Cheetham explained that Tate had given TEL £5m from its reserves to cover losses to date, and was losing at least the same amount in expected revenues from its commercial enterprises this year: ‘We are therefore not in a position to allocate further funds to TEL.’ On Sunday, as the week’s guest on Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, Balshaw told the host Lauren Laverne: ‘We don’t want to lose any staff but we know we have to otherwise the business won’t be able to trade.’ Steven Warwick, a representative of the PCS Union, told the Guardian: ‘These cuts will disproportionately affect the lowest paid and the most diverse teams across the whole of the Tate estate.’

Heavy rains in Yemen have led to the collapse of around 100 houses in the Old City of Sanaa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The deputy head of the Historic Cities Preservation Authority, Aqeel Saleh Nassar, told Al Jazeera that around 5,000 buildings in this district of the capital have leaky roofs, some 100 of which are partially or wholly collapsed. This year’s exceptionally heavy rains, which began in mid-April, combined with a five-year-long war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed, have exacerbated the problems of conserving neighbourhoods that date from before the 11th century.

More than 100 current and former staff from the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal have signed an open letter in support of the sacking of Nathalie Bondil as the director of the institution. In the letter, sent to media outlets on Monday, the employees past and present claimed that under Bondil’s leadership their voices were rarely heard: ‘the success of projects developed by employees were rarely credited to them. Instead, credit went to the director general and her close allies.’ The Art Newspaper quotes a response from Bondil in which she said, ‘I am not at war against the museum, and overall against its cherished team’, before stating that she understood the pressures some of the signatories were under: ‘I know their fear of losing their jobs during our Covid times.’

The painter Judith Reigl has died at the age of 97. The Hungarian-born artist move to Paris in 1950, where she met André Breton, who in 1954 put on a show of her work at the L’Étoile scellée, the gallery he ran at the time and where the Surrealists frequently exhibited. Reigl quickly drifted away from Surrealism to create the exuberant abstract works for which she is best known, and in the mid 1960s her work took a figurative turn. Reigl’s work can be found in the permanent collections of Tate and MoMA, among other institutions.

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