Art Industry News: MoMA Director Glenn Lowry Will Take a ‘Chainsaw’ to the Museum’s Budget and Cut 220 Positions + Other Stories

Plus, the Natural History Museum prepares for a $100 million deficit and the Portland Museum wins a lawsuit over a donor's will.

The front entrance of the closed Museum of Modern Art in New York City on March 22, 2020. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images.

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 Thursday, May 7.


Portland Museum Wins Appeal Over Disputed Bequest – Maine’s Portland Museum of Art has won an appeal in a lawsuit over a $3.3 million gift from one of its late donors. The patron, Eleanor Potter, had named the museum as a beneficiary in her will, but then, in 2015, a few months before she died, changed the document and turned over the money instead to her caregiver, Annemarie Germain. Now, Maine’s supreme court has affirmed a lower court’s ruling that Germain coerced Potter to make the change while she was unwell and that the museum is the rightful recipient of the bequest. (Portland Herald)

Russia’s Culture Minister Has Coronavirus – The Russian culture minister has become the third member of the government’s inner circle to contract the coronavirus. Olga Lyubimova, who took the post in January, was confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 by the official state news service. “It is a mild case of the illness, there is no talk of hospitalization,” her press secretary said. Lyubimova, who was responsible for shutting down Russia’s museums and theaters on March 17, will be temporarily replaced as she recovers. Prime minister Mikhail Mishustin and construction minister Vladimir Yakushev have also been diagnosed with the illness. (The Art Newspaper)

MoMA Prepares for Major Cutbacks – The Museum of Modern Art in New York will make a drastic $45 million cut to its planned $180 million budget for the next fiscal year. In a recorded conference call obtained by Bloomberg, the museum’s director, Glenn Lowry, said that the museum would take a “chainsaw” to its budget. To cut costs, it will eliminate about 220 staff positions, including 60 that were open but will remain unfulfilled; cut $8 million from its exhibitions budget; and cut its publications budget in half. “You don’t take $45 million out of a budget elegantly,” Lowry said on the call. “You take it out in very large units, and you take it very quickly.” The museum is also planning for radically reduced attendance figures, and is considering implementing timed tickets to allow only 1,000 people inside at a time. (Bloomberg)

Natural History Museum Cuts Scores of Staffers Two hundred full-time employees at the American Museum of Natural History in New York will lose their jobs as the institution struggles to gain financial footing. Dozens of staffers will be laid off, while others will be nudged into retirement and those with expiring contracts will not be asked to return. Another 250 workers will be furloughed indefinitely (they will be allowed to keep their health insurance). The museum is now expecting a staggering deficit of between $80 million and $120 million. (New York Times)


Lehmann Maupin Now Represents Billie Zangewa – The gallery will become the New York representative of the Johannesburg-based artist, a rising star who is best known for her fabric-based works that contain scenes from her life. Lehmann Maupin is offering work by the artist in its online Frieze New York booth and plans to open a solo show of her work in September. (ARTnews)

French Auction Houses Apply for Emergency Export Certificates – The French ministry of culture is implementing an emergency procedure to allow auction houses to obtain export certificates while the typical process is on hold. The emergency measure will apply to auction houses that had applied for a certificate before March 4, or to objects for which the sale is pivotal to the auction house’s continued operations. (Journal des Arts)


Kraftwerk Founder Florian Schneider Dies at 73 – As the cofounder of the widely influential band, which was formed in Düsseldorf in 1970, Schneider helped shape not only its progressive synthetic music, but also its striking visual sensibility, which inspired artists including David Bowie and Daft Punk. After breaking out in 1974 with the album Autobahn, Kraftwerk went on to record six more studio albums and was the subject of a nontraditional retrospective at MoMA in 2012. Schneider died of cancer. (BBC)

Broad Art Museum Gets a New Director – Mónica Ramírez-Montagut has been named director of Michigan State University’s Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. The curator, who trained as an architect, is currently director of the Newcomb Art Museum at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she led a team that organized exhibitions including “Per(Sister): Incarcerated Women of Louisiana.” Ramírez-Montagut begins her new role next July. (Michigan State University)

A Blade of Grass Announces Socially Engaged Art Fellows – The New York nonprofit has named its 2020 fellows for socially engaged art, who will receive $20,000 each as well as support from A Blade of Grass’s professional network. The fellows include New York artist Alfredo Salazar-Caro and the North Carolina-based Hidden Voices Collective. While the grants are typically given to fund specific projects, this year’s awards will be unrestricted to help artists in this time of crisis. (Press release)


Germany Releases $3 Million for Provenance Research – The German Lost Art Foundation has approved €2.7 million ($2.9 million) for provenance research projects on Nazi-looted art. The funds have been released for proposals put out by museums, libraries, scientific institutions, and four private individuals who applied for funding in the first round of applications this year. (Monopol)

COVID Throws Scholarly Museum Exhibitions Out of Whack – Many exhibitions that had been years in the making were closed prematurely due to the worldwide lockdown. And now, curators are facing the grim reality that some shows, like the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of Jan van Eyck at the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent, will be impossible to reopen. A show of work by the Greek sculptor Takis due to debut at the Museum of Cycladic Art has been called off after loans were rescinded because no one was willing to accompany the works to Greece. (NYT)

Nicolas Party Shares Watercolors From Quarantine – Reese Witherspoon isn’t the only one spending her time in quarantine with watercolors. The Swiss artist Nicolas Party recently took to Instagram to share some of his latest works, 11 colorful paintings of treetops from a series called “Canopy” that he created while in isolation in New York. A selection is on view now in Hauser & Wirth’s online viewing room. (Creative Boom)

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