Facing Budget Shortages, Nearly One in Five UK Museums Will Make Partial Closures by 2016, Survey Reveals

Children on a school field trip to the National Gallery, London.

Across the United Kingdom, many museums are facing an uncertain future due to severe cuts in public funding. According to research accumulated by the Museums Association, eighteen percent, or one in five museums, have made partial closures within the past year or will be forced to do so in 2016.

The Museums Association’s fifth Cuts Survey for 2015 sources its data from one-hundred and fifteen participants. This was the first time the survey asked for full financial data on public funding, grants and donations, and self-generated income.

The survey revealed that sustained funding cuts are coming at a time when museums are at their most valued. Despite the drop in funding, the data shows a 61 percent increase in visitors over the past five years.

Cuts in funding have led to significant changes in the way these museums must operate and have put museum collections at risk. The practice of selling works, such as Northampton Borough Council’s controversial sale of an Egyptian statue from its stored collection in 2014, is worrisome to the Museums Association. Eleven percent of museums reported that they would consider parting with works for their institution’s financial health.

“We know from previous research that funding cuts are changing the way museums are managed with many forced to cut jobs, introduce admission charges, reduce opening hours and cut back on other services,” said director of the Museums Association Sharon Heal. There has already been a 13 percent decrease in temporary exhibitions and a 29 percent drop in group visits from schools. To prevent further elimination of public services, the survey showed that 8 percent of museums began charging for admission last year and 12 percent are expected to charge in 2016.

Forty-four museums have closed in the UK since 2010. Museums in Northern Ireland and the north of England reported the largest decrease in public funding – 6 percent and 5 percent respectively.

The responses to the tough decisions many museums are being forced to make has been varied. An independent museum located in East Midlands reported that they have become more commercial than ever before and have been using galleries to hold corporate events.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for a university museum east of England said “We do not charge for any events and believe everything we do, within reason, should be free of charge.”


May 29, 2017

Nancy Graves Foundation Awards Grants to Sam Contis and Myeongsoo Kim

Sam Contis, Hold Down, 2014, gelatin silver print, 20 x 24".

The Nancy Graves Foundation’s annual grants for visual artists, which include an unrestricted $5,000 prize, have been awarded this year to Sam Contis and Myeongsoo Kim, according to a report by Maximilíano Durón in Artnews.

The foundation, which was established in 1996 after Nancy Graves’s death, has awarded grants to artists since 2001. Sam Contis, who lives and works in Oakland, California, currently has a solo show of her photography at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery in New York. Brooklyn-based artist Myeongsoo Kim concentrates on sculptural installations with a range of found and fabricated objects.

May 29, 2017

Walker Art Center to Remove Artwork After Outcry from American Indians

Sam Durant, Scaffold, 2012. Installation view: Documenta 13, Kassel.

Liz Sawyer reports in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that a sculpture by the Los Angeles-based artist Sam Durant will be dismantled and removed from the Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden after roughly one hundred American Indians gathered at the museum to protest the piece and an outcry on social media. Titled Scaffold, 2012, the two-story-high sculpture was partly inspired by the gallows where thirty-eight Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato in 1862, and was supposed to go on view on June 3 along with more than a dozen other new works at the museum. The hanging of the “Dakota Thirty-Eight” after the US-Dakota War of 1862 in Minnesota was the largest mass execution in US history. Precisely when and how Durant’s piece will be removed will be determined in consultation with Dakota elders at a meeting this Wednesday with the Walker’s staff.

Durant’s intention was to raise awareness about capital punishment and address America’s violent past, but critics and protesters have called the work insensitive, saying it trivializes Dakota history and genocide. The Walker’s executive director, Olga Viso, said in a statement last Friday that the work had provoked a response that Walker officials “did not sufficiently anticipate or imagine.” After meeting with the artist, Viso decided the best course of action was to take down the work. “I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others,” Viso said. “This is the first step in a long process of healing.” She noted that Durant told her he was open to seeing his work dismantled because “it’s just wood and metal—nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people.”

Graci Horne, an artist who identifies as Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota and Hunkpapa Dakota, told the demonstrators, who were carrying signs demanding the removal of the work on Saturday, of the museum’s decision. Community leaders had promised to present a “unified response to these grave offenses,” Horne said. They want to open a dialogue with Walker staff and to invite Durant to visit for a discussion on “ending the appropriation of the indigenous narrative.”

The artist today released a full statement regarding the removal of the piece and his original intentions for it, which you can read in full below.

May 26, 2017

Italian Court Rejects Appointment of Five Museum Directors

Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi with the twenty new museum directors appointed in 2015. Photo: Tiberio Barchielli

On Thursday, May 25, an Italian regional court made a controversial ruling disrupting the culture ministry’s plan to revive the museum sector. After a high-profile recruitment campaign in 2015, the ministry hired twenty new directors for institutions across Italy. After two individuals who had applied for the same positions, but had been rejected, filed complaints, the judges suspended five out of the twenty new appointments, citing a lack of transparency in the hiring process, The Local reports.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said that he was “speechless” after the ruling, adding that he plans to appeal the decision made by the Lazio administrative court. The five ousted directors include Martina Bagnoli at the Galleria Estense in Modena; Paolo Giulierini at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples; Eva Degl’Innocenti at the National Archaeological Museum of Taranto; Carmelo Malacrino at the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria; and Peter Assmann at the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua

While the court questioned the ministry’s decision to nominate foreigners for the positions, only one of the five was a foreigner, Assmann, the art historian from Austria. Yet, it approved other foreign candidates including the German director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.

May 26, 2017

El Museo del Barrio Executive Accused of Intimidating Staff Members

El Museo del Barrio in New York.

Following the recent appointment of Patrick Charpenel as executive director, El Museo del Barrio in New York is facing discord amongst its top executives. After Berta Colón, the deputy director of institutional advancement, was fired on May 19, for “performance reasons,” she wrote a letter to the board of trustees, in which she disputed her dismissal and accused a fellow staff member of employee intimidation, Colin Moynihan of the New York Times reports.

In the letter, Colón claims that deputy executive director Carlos Gálvez “created an environment that promotes distrust, fear of retaliation and isolation.” Both Gálvez and Colón have been serving as codirectors of the institution since former executive director Jorge Daniel Veneciano announced that he was stepping down in August 2016.

“Staff is threatened with the possibility of being fired, they are pitted against each other,” Colón wrote. She also alleged that Gálvez had discussed the candidates being interviewed for the executive director position with museum employees and pressured them to support the ones he favored.

May 26, 2017

Denis Johnson (1949–2017)

Denis Johnson

Celebrated playwright, author, and poet Denis Johnson died at the age of sixty-seven on Wednesday, May 24. Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, confirmed his passing.

“Denis was one of the great writers of his generation,” Galassi said in a statement on Friday. “He wrote prose with the imaginative concentration and empathy of the poet he was.”

Best known for Jesus’ Son (1992) a collection of stories that chronicled the lives of drug dealers in America and his six-hundred-page Vietnam War novel Tree of Smoke, which won the 2007 National Book Award and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, Johnson was born in Munich in 1949. Since he was the son of a US State Department employee, his family moved frequently. Johnson spent his childhood in the Philippines, Tokyo, and Washington, DC, before settling in Arizona and Idaho. He graduated from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop, where he studied under Raymond Carver.

May 26, 2017

Queen Elizabeth II Knights Architect David Adjaye

Architect David Adjaye receiving his knighthood from Prince William at Buckingham Palace on Friday, May 12.

Architect David Adjaye, whose recent projects include the celebrated African American History and Culture Museum in Washington, DC, was awarded with a knighthood for his service to architecture, Natasha Kwok of Designboom reports. Prince William performed the investiture ceremony on Friday, May 12.

“[Adjaye] is one of the leading architects of his generation and a global cultural ambassador for the UK,” the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood at St. James’s Palace said in a statement. “His designs include the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo in the shell of a disused railway station and the Whitechapel Idea Store in London where he also pioneered a new approach to the provision of information services as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and numerous private commissions.”

Born in Tanzania to Ghanaian parents, Adjaye set up his first office in 1994. In 2000, he renamed his firm Adjaye Associates, which now has offices in London and New York. Among the projects Adjaye Associates is working on is a new major contemporary art museum in Riga, Latvia. The $33.8 million institution will be completed in 2021. Adjaye has also worked as a professor at the Royal College of Art and at the Architectural Association School in London. He is currently the John C. Portman Design Critic in Architecture at Harvard.

May 26, 2017

Art League Houston Names Kheli R. Willetts Executive Director

Kheli R. Willetts

Art League Houston has announced that arts consultant Kheli R. Willetts was appointed as its new executive director. Willetts succeeds Michael Peranteau, who announced earlier this year that he would step down in May. She will take up the post on June 1.

“We are extremely excited to have found a new executive director with the leadership, vision, and extensive experience in arts education, curatorial programming, and community-building in Kheli,” said board president Kristen Johnson Perrin.

Prior to relocating to Houston, to work as an independent consultant, Willetts was the executive director of Community Folk Art Center and a professor of African American art history and film at Syracuse University in New York. Willetts has also worked for a number of arts institutions including the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, the Connecticut Historical Society and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. She also served on several boards throughout the New York area. Currently, she sits on the board of the Association of African American Museums and is a grants panelist for the Institution of Museum and Library Services.

May 26, 2017

London's Wilkinson Gallery to Close After Two Decades

Wilkinson Gallery in London.

The founders of Wilkinson Gallery in London’s East End have announced that they will close the space at the end of July, Anny Shaw of the Art Newspaper reports. Amanda and Anthony Wilkinson said they are “dissolving their partnership” for personal reasons.

The co-owners first opened the gallery on Cambridge Heath Road in Bethnal Green in 1998, and in 2007, they bought a larger space on Vyner Street, which they knocked down and hired architect Bobby Desai to lead the redesign. The gallery became known for being one of the first in London to mount exhibitions by major female artists including Joan Jonas, Dara Birnbaum, and Laurie Simmons. In a statement, the Wilkinsons said they plan on opening separate galleries and that once they are up and running, “it will then be business as usual.”

May 26, 2017

Florida’s Cummer Museum Receives $4 Million Gift

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville , Florida.

The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens in Jacksonville has received a $4 million gift to name from the Disosway Foundation of New York to endow the position of executive director. The donation is the second largest gift to the museum since it was established in 1961.

Founded by Dudley D. Johnson, a Jacksonville native who currently serves as a trustee of the museum and whose grandfather, George W. Gibbs, was influential in the development of Jacksonville during the first half of the twentieth century, the foundation gave the money in honor of Johnson’s grandparents. The head of the museum will now be known as the George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs executive director.

Born in 1884, George Gibbs was an inventor and pioneer shipbuilder. He started the Gibbs Gas Engine Company in 1908 to build gas engines that he designed and by 1910, the company began building naval ships, and was renamed the Gibbs Corporation. During World War II, the shipyards employed more than 2,000 people. Kathleen Maria Ingraham was the daughter of James Edmondson Ingraham, one of Florida’s early railroad builders and land developers, who led the first expedition through the Everglades and later served as mayor of Saint Augustine.