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First In-Person Art Fair in a Year and Other Headlines


by Jana Farmer on May 14, 2021


Frieze Art Fair Reopens for In-Person Attendance
The Frieze Art Fair, relocated from Randall’s Island to the Shed in Manhattan, was praised by participants and attendees for its seamless install and organization, with timed entry allowing galleries and guests more time to connect.

The fair’s experience will likely serve as an example for other cultural institutions around the world seeking to reopen for in-person events post-vaccination.

Newark Museum of Art’s Deaccessioning Plans Encounter Criticism from Art Historians
More than 50 art historians, curators and researchers submitted an open letter to the Newark Museum of Art, denouncing as a “senseless monetization” of art its plan to sell works from its collection, including Thomas Cole’s painting The Arch of Nero (1846). The museum justified their deaccessioning plans by the need to finance the care of other collections. In an effort to provide relief for institutions devastated financially by the pandemic-related closures, in April 2020 the Association of Art Museum Directors approved a two-year moratorium on its rule that museums may only deaccession artworks to finance new purchases; currently, museums also may deaccession to raise funds for direct collections care. The critics claim that several of the works being sold are of pivotal importance for the reexamination of America’s past and the role of art and artists in it. The museum released a statement noting that its selection of artworks to sell was carefully and thoughtfully considered and that “deaccessioning is a routine and necessary component of the work of any museum.”

The Breach of a “Handshake” Deal Expressed in Art
The forthcoming augmented reality (AR) project by artist Nancy Baker Cahill considers broken “handshake” contracts and the repercussions of breaking the moral commitment that such unwritten contracts carry. The project consists of three pieces, each featuring two augmented reality hands reaching toward each other but dissolving in a cloud of pixels before they connect. With the growing popularity of digital art and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) ‒ and the “smart contracts” embedded within them ‒ a number of problems arise, including the potential inability to establish reliable provenance and the possible lack of recourse should the embedded link to a purchased work of art break, or the location of that work disappear. Despite the seeming appeal of “smart contracts,” it is important to remember that because no actual legally binding agreements are included, the deal relying solely on “smart contracts” may disappear like a flurry of pixels.


Uffizi Adds Female and Minority Artists to Permanent Exposition
Florence’s Uffizi Gallery reopened in early May following a six-month closure for renovations, adding artworks by female artists and artists of color, historically excluded from the canon, to its display of 15th to 17th century works.

Nightclubs in Germany Now Have the Status of Museums
Following a 15-month campaign to protect Germany’s nightlife and music clubs from rising rents, urban development and noise complaints, the German federal parliament voted to reclassify the clubs and live events venues as “cultural institutions.” The measure will make clubs less vulnerable to gentrification and clubsterben (club death). Proponents of the measure note that music clubs shape the identity of city districts and should therefore be protected from displacement.

Neighbors of Tate Modern Museum in London Take Their Privacy Fight with the Museum to the UK Supreme Court
Residents of a luxury development adjacent to Tate Modern’s Blavatnik Building claim that Tate’s visitors are looking into their homes from a viewing space at the museum, taking pictures of the interiors and their occupants, and posting them on social media. Last year, the Court of Appeal dismissed the residents’ appeal of the lower court’s decision, noting that “overlooking” does not fall within the tort of nuisance. The residents are now taking their case to the UK Supreme Court.

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