BY Frieze News Desk in News | 08 OCT 19

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts Promises Reform Following Racism Investigation

In further news: Jeff Koons’ controversial sculpture unveiled in Paris; contract agreed between New Museum management and employees’ union 

BY Frieze News Desk in News | 08 OCT 19

MFA Boston. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is making moves to reform following allegations of racist incidents at the institution. Earlier this year, a group of black middle class students alleged that they were subject to harassment and mistreatment at the museum by other patrons and a staff member who allegedly told them: ‘no food, no drink and no watermelon’. The museum later apologized for the incident, banned two visitors and launched an internal investigation and independent review. The Associated Press charts how the museum has also taken further steps to ‘get woke’, by appointing a senior director of inclusion to push diversity within the museum, devoting an entire wing to female artists as part of the exhibition ‘Women Take The Floor’, as well as opening for free next Monday 14 October to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. ‘It’s not a secret that this museum doesn’t serve folks who are black and brown,’ the museum’s chief of learning and community engagement Makeeba McCreary said. ‘We know enough to know that’s not who we want to be.’

The New Museum and a union representing its employees have come to an agreement on a contract that will see staff receive salary increases, more paid leave and reduced healthcare expenditures. The decision comes following a six-month period of negotiations and strike threats from museum employees. On Tuesday 1 October, members of the union UAW 2110 voted to approve the contract, which had been agreed on by members of the New Museum management and representatives from the union. Maida Rosenstein, the union’s local president described the agreement as ‘a very good contract’. The contract will accord an eight percent average wage increase to full-time staff in the first year, while hourly workers, who work mostly part-time will see on average an increase of 15 percent in the first year and promises a 3 percent rise in the following years.

Jeff Koons’s controversial sculpture which commemorates the victims of the 2015 and 2016 terror attacks in Paris has been unveiled in the French capital. The sculpture, titled Bouquet of Tulips (2019) depicts a hand clutching a bouquet of balloon-style tulips. The work has been controversial since it was first announced in November 2016. Its detractors were aggrieved that Koons only donated the idea for the work, but expected the French government to foot the EUR€3.5 million bill for the work’s execution and installation. Eventually, an agreement was reached after the company responsible for the work raised sufficient private funds to cover the work’s substantial cost. When the cost of the work reached more than EUR€1 million, Koons also agreed to cover the additional costs. At the inauguration ceremony in Paris, Koons described the flowers depicted in the sculpture as: ‘a symbol that life moves forward,’ the Guardian reported.

A prize has been withheld from contemporary media artist Walid Raad after he refused to denounce the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a group which aims to put pressure on the Israeli government to change their treatment of Palestinians. The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported that Walid was set to receive an award from the German city of Aachen for his project The Atlas Group (2001–ongoing), which concerns the Lebanese Civil Wars. However, in a press release the city’s mayor Marcel Philipp said that they had decided to withdraw the EU €10,000 prize, after it was found that Walid was a supporter of the BDS movement and had been ‘evasive’ on his position regarding the movement. In a statement released to ARTnews, Phillip said: ‘According to research, we have to assume that the designated prize winner is a supporter of the BDS movement and has been involved in various measures for the cultural boycott of Israel.’

In further news: Tim Marlow will step down as artistic director of London’s Royal Academy of Arts in 2019 to take on the role of chief executive and director of the Design Museum in London, while the co-directors of the Design Museum, Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black will step down after 12 years heading up the London museum; M Woods Museum in Beijing has named Victor Wang as its new artistic director and chief curator; and Pace Gallery has announced plans to open a new space in Paris.