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The week in art news – Smithsonian and other US museums close amid Covid surge

20 November 2020

A surge in Covid-19 cases has led to the closure of museums in multiple states across the US. The Smithsonian has announced that all of its venues in Washington, D.C. will be closed as of Monday 23 November (its New York sites have been shuttered since March). Also in D.C., the National Gallery of Art will be closed from Saturday 21 November. Meanwhile, all museums in Philadelphia are shut due to a city-wide mandate, and new state-level restrictions in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota and Washington have meant the shuttering of institutions across the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.

The Art Fund has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £1m for museums in the UK. The call for donations highlights the grave challenges facing institutions that have lost revenue as a result of the pandemic, both during closures and when open at reduced capacity. The initiative has been backed by artists including Lubaina Himid and David Shrigley, who have offered artworks and other objects as rewards for donations.

David Ross, the Carphone Warehouse co-founder who in July was appointed chair of the board of trustees of the Royal Opera House (ROH), is the new owner of the Hockney painting which the venue sold at auction last month. The portrait of David Webster, painted in 1971 to mark the retirement of the former ROH general administrator, went for £12.8m (including fees) at Christie’s. It will now go back on display at the ROH on long-term loan. For more on the details of the sale, see the Art Newspaper’s report.

The billionaire real estate developer and collector Sheldon Solow has died at the age of 92. In 1991 he founded the Solow Art and Architecture Foundation, which provides grants for art and educational initiatives and houses part of Solow’s art collection in one of his Manhattan properties – the Solow Building at 9 West 57th Street. The foundation, which is registered as a non-profit, has come under criticism for the inaccessibility of the works in the collection; Solow’s widow, the artist and designer Mia Fonssagrives Solow, says plans are afoot to build a museum at 9 West 57th Street.