A round-up of art news and reviews from the past week.
Another day, another spurious Leonardo discovery. This time scientists claim to have discovered that Leonardo deliberately developed a specific technique and that there are stylistic similarities between his works. Groundbreaking. This sort of ‘arts reporting’ is really just lazy reprinting of press releases without any real journalism, something that is underlined by the report in the Telegraph where they mistakenly use an image of the so-called Isleworth Mona Lisa, a much later copy, which was itself the subject of another Leonardo media frenzy a few years ago. Leonardo is obvious clickbait for media so perhaps you shouldn’t give them the satisfaction and read one of these more interesting articles instead.
The National Gallery of Australia has announced a Tom Roberts ‘blockbuster’ for its summer exhibition, as well as rehang of the permanent collection. At the announcement Director Gerard Vaughan declared ‘Australia’s national gallery needs to give blockbuster status to our own heroes and our own visual culture.’ Although the language of the announcement seems to emphasise that the gallery is doing something innovative, Tom Roberts seems like a conservative choice. Though the last major exhibition on Roberts was in the mid-1990s, so perhaps he is due for another outing. At the same time this desire to widen the variety of exhibitions by giving blockbuster status to currently ‘non-blockbuster’ artists is frustrating. It would be preferable to see galleries less obsessed with ‘blockbuster’ status as this would then make space for an even wider range of exhibitions. Also, in checking teh dates of the the last Tom Roberts exhibitionI am struck by the fact that it travelled to five different state galleries over two years, which was once a common occurence for exhibitions put together by our national and state galleries. The press release for this upcoming NGA exhibition proudly declares ‘Canberra Only’ (just as the current Hermitage exhibition is ‘exclusive to Melbourne’), clearly audiences are now expected to do the travelling.
In other NGA news the gallery has removed thirteen deity sculptures from public display that had been purchased from art dealer Subhash Kapoor. The gallery is currently in the process of arranging the return of the sculptures to India.
Many people have been watching with interest the plans to overhaul the way that Italy’s top 20 museums, a group that includes the Galleria degli Uffizi and Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, and the Galleria Borghese in Rome. Italian culture minster Dario Franceschini last week announced the newly appointed directors for these museums, the appointees include ten women and seven non-Italians. These new ‘super-directors’ will head up museums and archaeological sites that have, for the first time in the modern era, been granted financial autonomy. In this article Thomas Marks looks at who the new appointees are and what challenges(and crisis) they have inherited.
A story about the ex-Getty curator Marion True who has resurfaced in an interview with Geoff Edgers in the Washington Post. In 2005 True was formally accused (though never convicted) by the Italian government of taking part in a stolen-art ring. She lost her job at eth Getty and her career and left the United States. In this interview she criticises her former employees and colleagues for abandoning her “What I never understood is why American museums did what they did. And my colleagues and my bosses never, ever stood up for me. They acted as if I had done all this stuff on my own, which would have been impossible to do. They just vanished.”
The Mellon Foundation has released the results of a survey of the demographics of Art Museum Staff in the United States. The results are interesting and while obviously specific to the states, perhaps reflect some broader trends in what is changing (or not changing) in the staffing of museums. For example, the survey found that “museum staff has become 60% female over the past decade or so, there is now also a preponderance of women in the curatorial, conservation, and educational roles that constitute the pipeline for leadership positions such as museum director, chief curator, and head of conservation or education… [but] there is no comparable “youth bulge” of staff from historically underrepresented minorities in curatorial, education, or conservation departments… Therefore, even promotion protocols that are maximally intentional about the organizational benefits of diversity are not going to make museum leadership cohorts notably more diverse.” Read the full report here.