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V&A Director Tristram Hunt Defends Rising Ticket Prices

In further news: Rachel Maclean speaks out against ‘male dominated’ art world; Museo del Prado completes Bruegel restoration

Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, V&A, London, 2014. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, V&A, London, 2014. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, V&A, London, 2014. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Tristram Hunt has defended an increase in ticket prices at the V&A but says the London museum will offer flexible pricing with cheaper options. Speaking at Cheltenham Literature Festival, the museum director said he did not believe the prices were extortionate. ‘If you can book ahead it’s going to be cheaper than turning up on the day. That kind of modelling that we’re used to in aeroplanes and other parts of our life. I’m not saying we’re turning into Ryanair’. He also added that the V&A’s Pink Floyd exhibition in 2017 had the highest number of people from lower social-economic groups visiting that gallery during that time, despite the high ticket price of GBP£24. Hunt commented: ‘If people are willing to pay hundreds and hundreds of pounds on football season tickets then seeking to have a fair price for a work of great curatorial excellence does not seem to me wrong.’ Hunt has also advocated for local authorities to levy a hotel tax that would help support the city’s cultural infrastructure. Government spending on the V&A has fallen by 30% since 2010.

Rachel Maclean has spoken out against ‘male domination’ of the arts and urged galleries to showcase more work made by women. The Glasgow-based multi-media artist told an audience at London’s National Gallery during the screening of her first feature film Make Me Up (2018), that ‘Art history is made by men, and women only appear in a painting or naked in a sculpture. UK museums and institutions and much of the art world is still male-dominated.’ Maclean also said that galleries should acquire more work by women and show more women artists from their collections, adding: ‘Artistic ability in a woman is something that, in the collective mind, is not there to the same extent.’ A spokesperson for National Galleries of Scotland said: ‘We are working to redress the historical gender imbalance in our collection, and our record of recent acquisitions and exhibitions clearly reflects our desire to address this issue.’

Madrid’s Museo del Prado has completed a complex Bruegel restoration after two years. Restoring The Triumph of Death (1562-63) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a challenging project for the museum, but the work has now regained its structural stability and original colours. The conservator who restored the surface of the painting, Maria Antonia López de Asiain, told The Art Newspaper: ‘The work required a complete cleaning, which was particularly complex because of the thinness of the original layer of paint compared to the thickness of the retouches – a real crust.’ Working from copies and using infrared reflectography, the conservator was able to repaint and reintegrate missing details. The artwork is now on loan to Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum until 13 January 2019 for a major exhibition marking 450 years since Bruegel’s death.

Tensions rise as Chicago prepares to sell Kerry James Marshall’s mural Knowledge and Wonder (1995), originally created for a branch of Chicago Public Library. The city’s mayor Rahm Emmanuel announced that the work had been consigned to Christie’s and was expected to sell for USD$10–15 million. The money raised will reportedly support the city’s Legler Library, helping it to become ‘a vital community anchor’. However, the president of Chicago’s Civic Federation Laurence Msall protested: ‘If the decision is made to take this community asset out of the neighbourhood, the money should be for longer-term investments – not operating expenses.’ In a comment shared with ARTnews, Marshall said ‘I am certain they could get more money if they sold the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza,’ also adding that ‘the City of Big Shoulders has wrung every bit of value they could from the fruits of my labour.’ In May, Marshall’s Past Times (1997) sold at Sotheby’s for $21.1 million to Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs.

In awards and grants news: New York arts organization Rhizome has named its 2018 microgrant awardees – Cassie McQuater, Elisabeth Nicula, Dina Kelberman, Theo Triantafyllidis, Tough Guy Mountain, Display Distribute, Barrett White & Miriam Karraker, and Bryan Thao Worra will each receive between USD$500 and USD$1,500 for projects focusing on net art, virtual reality and poetry; and the historically black women’s college Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, is the recipient of a USD$5.4 million grant from the Walton Family Foundation to help support the college in its efforts to diversify US art museum professionals, through its establishment of the Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies.

In appointments news: Louis Marchesano will join the Philadelphia Museum as Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs – he begins in the role in January; The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska, has named Rachel Adams as its new chief curator and director of programmes; Valerie Hillings joins the North Carolina Museum of Art as its new director, succeeding Larry Wheeler who is retiring after almost 25 years; Hanh Ho has been appointed by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona as its new curator; and Germany’s Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen has announced that Thomas Thiel will head up the institution as its new director from April 2019.

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