Art Industry News: Cash-Strapped Philadelphia Museum of Art Slashes Staff by Almost 25 Percent + Other Stories

Plus, an investigation of the Seattle Children's Museum is underway and a new exhibition in Austria shows what top artists made in isolation.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Alonso Javier Torres, via Flickr.

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Wednesday, August 5.


Turmoil at Seattle’s Children’s Museum  Days after the Seattle Children’s Museum took to social media to share antiracist kids’ books in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was deleted from those very same posts. The museum’s director told staff she removed the phrase so that the institution could agree on its messaging as an organization first—and because it might put off donors. In response, nine staff members went on strike; those same employees were later laid off in what the museum described as necessary budget cuts. Since then, the museum’s director has gone on leave while an outside investigator hired by the board conducts an inquiry of the social-media incident. (New York Times)

An Austrian Museum Show Explores Life in Lockdown – A new exhibition at Kunsthaus Bregenz in western Austria titled “Unprecedented Times” is comprised almost exclusively of work made by artists as they sheltered in place this year. The show, which runs through August 30, includes art about boredom, doubt, and isolation by the likes of William Kentridge, Annette Messager, and Helen Cammock. (NYT)

Philadelphia Museum of Art Lays Off More Than 80 People – Shuttered since March, the museum announced on Tuesday that it would be laying off 85 employees (56 part-time staff and 29 full-time). An additional 42 staff members have accepted voluntary separation agreements. When the museum reopens in September, it will do so with a workforce reduced by 23 percent. The institution also expects a $6.5 million shortfall this year. “We will be forced to operate in a very different way than in the past in order to protect our staff as well as our visitors,” the museum’s director Timothy Rub wrote in an email to staff. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Public Art Becomes a Battleground – While politicians are creating more and more initiatives to commission new public works, artists feel that the decision-making process leaves much to be desired. In San Francisco, artist Lava Thomas saw her commission revoked after officials realized her planned memorial to Maya Angelou would be done in an abstract style. “Public officials and political appointees treated artists like our time and expertise had no value,” Thomas said. “Systemic changes need to be made that meaningfully address the power imbalance, lack of transparency, and lack of artist protections within the process for public art commissions.” (ARTnews)


Los Angeles Galleries Hustle for Sales – People may not be going to see art in person just yet in LA (dealer Michael Kohn estimates his gallery received just six by-appointment visitors for its recent Nir Hod exhibition), but they are still buying. Half of the dozen works in Hod’s show have sold since the July 16 opening at prices ranging from $85,000 to $95,000. “Many people knew his work already and were able to make decisions based on videos and photography,” Kohn said. (Hollywood Reporter)

Art Paris Reveals 2020 Exhibitors – The 22nd edition of Art Paris is forging ahead, with plans to open at the Grand Palais on September 10. Among the 112 participating international galleries are first-time exhibitors Perrotin, Pigment Gallery of Barcelona, and Galerie Ernst Hilger of Vienna. (ARTnews)


San Antonio Museum of Art Adds Three Trustees – Collector May Lam, High Line cofounder Robert Hammond, and former museum director Héctor Rivero Borrell have joined the Texas museum’s board of trustees. They begin their three-year terms in October. (Press release)

A Shaker Museum Could Come to Upstate New York – New York’s Shaker Museum has invested $15 million to create a space for its collection of artifacts relating to the mostly defunct religious sect. A new 30,000-square-foot building in Chatham, New York will be designed by Selldorf Architects, with construction set to be complete in 2023. (The Art Newspaper)


Miami Beach Approves More Relief Funds – The city of Miami Beach has approved $1 million in funding to support 13 of the city’s beleaguered cultural organizations. An additional $1 million will be set aside to launch a second Miami Beach Cultural Arts COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for next year. (Press release)

Acute Art Teams Up With Cao Fei – The Acute Art app has collaborated with the Chinese artist to create a new interactive augmented reality experience called Eternal Wave AR:Li Nova. The project is a virtual companion to a physical recreation of the kitchen at the Hongxia Theatre in Beijing, which is currently on view in the Serpentine Galleries. (Instagram)

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