BY Frieze News Desk in News | 19 FEB 19

85% of Artists in US Museums are White, Research Finds

In further news: Radical Matriarchy protest lack of diversity at Washington’s National Gallery of Art; Met to return stolen ancient coffin to Egypt

BY Frieze News Desk in News | 19 FEB 19

Man views paintings by Eugéne Delacroix at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2018. Courtesy: Getty Images; photograph: Robert Nickelsberg

An estimated 85 percent of artists represented in US museum collections are white, a new study has claimed, according to Artnet News. The study, carried out by mathematics and art history scholars mostly from Williams College in Massachusetts, also found that 87 percent were men. Researchers studied 40,000 artworks in 18 museum collections across the country, including the Met in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The findings appear disproportionate when contextualized within US population data, which is 61 percent white and 50.2 percent male. Don’t miss Baltimore Museum director Christopher Bedford writing for frieze on why the Baltimore sold off Rauschenberg and Warhol to fund works by artists of colour.

Art-activist group Radical Matriarchy held a Valentine’s Day protest outside Washington’s National Gallery of Art last week, calling attention to the need for greater diversity in the museum’s collection. The group said that 90 percent of artworks in the gallery were by white men – with less than 3 percent by people of colour.

Meanwhile, hundreds of demonstrators took over the British Museum in London on Saturday in a large-scale protest against links to oil companies. Organised by activist group BP or not BP?, the protest cited BP’s sponsorship of the exhibition, ‘I Am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria’ – the exhibition includes artefacts from modern-day Iraq. Demonstrators assembled in the museum’s Great Court, drawing attention to the legacy of the Iraq War and oil extraction in the region, and chanting: ‘We are the people rising, when oil burns and armies grow’. Campaigner Yasmin Younis told The Guardian: ‘These are the very same sponsors who advocated for the war which destroyed my homeland and slaughtered my people all in the name of oil.’

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is to return an ancient coffin to Egypt, after discovering that it had been recently stolen in 2011, and sold on with a fake export license. Dating back to the 1st century BC, the coffin of a high ranking priest had been sold to the Met in 2017 for USD$4 million by a Parisian art dealer. The museum said that it had been ‘fully cooperative’ with an investigation into the coffin’s provenance carried out by the Manhattan district attorney, and described itself as ‘a victim of fraud’.

The Louvre in Paris has expressed its interest in borrowing Salvator Mundi – which sold for USD$450 million at Christie’s in New York in 2017 – for its Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, scheduled to open in the autumn. Despite claims by French scholar Jacques Franck, who disputes the work’s attribution and has described the decision to include the work in the show as ‘almost scandalous’, the museum has confirmed its request for the painting to be loaned. A spokesperson for the Louvre dismissed claims that it had cancelled its loan request as ‘fake information’, according to the Art Newspaper.

In galleries and gifts news: New York’s Andrew Kreps Gallery now represents the artist He Xiangyu, with a solo show planned for 2020; Seattle gallerist Mariane Ibrahim is moving operations to Chicago, where she aims to have her business running by the end of the year; and the Royal Academy Schools in London has received a GBP£10 million donation from Tetra Pak heir Hans Rausing.