August 19, 2020

By August 19, 2020
Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden. Image courtesy of The Momentary and Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.

One-third of U.S. museums at risk of closure  

Re:Focus a photo exhibition on view at Swan Coach House in Atlanta through October 27

WASHINGTON D.C.—The American Alliance of Museums recently released a survey of 760 museum directors, where 33% of them said there was either a “significant risk” of closing permanently by next fall or that they didn’t know if their institutions would survive. Alongside art museums, the surveyed institutions varied from aquariums and botanical gardens to historic societies.

“Museums support 726,000 direct and indirect jobs and contribute $50 billion each year to the economy. Of the museums able to reopen, over 40% plan to do so with reduced staff and will need to spend additional funds to ensure their ability to reopen safely,” AAM said in a statement. Further, AAM President and CEO Laura Lott clarified the actual sources of funding for museums and other cultural institutions: “There’s a large public perception that museums rely on government support, when the reality is they get only a quarter of their funding from the government.” Ticket and gift shop sales, school trips and museum events are primary sources of funding, she says, “most of which went to zero overnight when they were all shuttered.”

Read the full statement from the American Alliance of Museums here.

Museums offer reports of progress on promises made following protests


NEW YORK— U.S. museums that promised institutional change following nationwide uprisings spurred by George Floyd’s murder are working to actualize them, Artnet News reports. Though listed institutions include San Francisco Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, and the Guggenheim, the New Orleans Museum of Art is the single representation from the South. 

The article references each institution’s commitments surrounding diversity, inclusion, and access in addition to their current progress. Many of the pledges made include reexamining exhibitions and programs and reevaluating existing hiring practices. Check out the full article here.  

Protests in London’s Trafalgar Square against the recent murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. Image courtesy of Dominic Lipinksi – Associated Press.

University of Virginia unveils Memorial to Enslaved Laborers

CHARLOTTESVILLE—The newest monument at the University of Virginia, made of  two open rings of carved-granite surrounding a circular patch of grass, serves as a memorial to enslaved laborers that physically constructed the University. This addition to the campus mirrors the trend of monuments scattered through Charlottesville, largely in honor of Confederate leaders

“The memorial’s enclosing circular wall slopes upward to a height of eight feet,” details critic Holland Cotter. “The inner surface is carved with single and paired words identifying slaves at the school, some by name (Ishmael, Jenny, Zebray, Eston Hemings), others by jobs (stableman, laundress, gardener, cook), still others by social roles (sister, husband, grandchild, friend). Each word is underscored. About halfway around the wall, the words stop but the underscores continue, place-savers for names yet-to-be-uncovered through research. When light rain or mist washes the wall, water gathers in the incisions and runs down like tears.

Learn more about the memorial’s meaning here.

Kusama’s Narcissus Garden arrives at The Momentary

BENTONVILLE—Despite many of Yayoi Kusama’s U.S.-based installations being postponed due to COVID-19, Narcissus Garden (1966) will open at the Momentary—the contemporary counterpart to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The work is composed of nearly 900 stainless steel orbs carefully arranged on the ground, and will remain installed for at least a year. 

Read more about Yayoi Kusama and the history behind Narcissus Garden on the Momentary’s blog.

Stephanie Smith resigns as Chief Curator at ICA at VCU

RICHMOND—The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA at VCU) has announced that Stephanie Smith is stepping down as Chief Curator on October 1, 2020 after serving in the role since fall 2016. Smith was heavily involved in the opening of the ICA in 2018 and was pivotal in the institution’s curatorial vision and programming.

“Stephanie was instrumental in setting the ICA’s curatorial vision and under her leadership we have built an incredible lineup of timely and incisive exhibitions and programs,” said Dominic Willsdon, Executive Director of the ICA at VCU. “We are thankful to Stephanie for her many contributions to the ICA and wish her all the best in future endeavors.”

Read the full press release here.

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