Artists and Lecturers Win Workers’ Rights Case Against London’s National Gallery

In further news: Decolonize This Place plans 9 weeks of protest ahead of Whitney Biennial; Rothko Chapel to undergo major restoration

Courtesy: National Gallery 27

National Gallery 27. Courtesy: Jo Hone Photography

A group of 27 art educators have won their case against London’s National Gallery to be recognized as workers. The group, comprising artists and lecturers, were involved in giving talks and workshops at the museum up until 2017, when they were dismissed at short notice. One claimant had worked for the gallery for 45 years. They alleged unfair dismissal, demanding that the gallery recognize them as employees, not freelancers. They were not given rights to paid holiday, sick pay, pension and maternity pay although they were taxed through a payroll system – the museum claimed they were ‘self-employed contractors’. One claimant Steven Barrett, who worked for the National Gallery for 13 years, told frieze: ‘The result means that ‘bogus’ self-employment practices, where employers seek to deny workers their legal rights, have been exposed in the public sector and this must now come under scrutiny in all publicly-funded museums and galleries. Our victory today can potentially benefit all workers whose terms and conditions are classed as ‘atypical’.’ In a statement sent to frieze, the museum said that it welcomed ‘the clarity provided by this decision’ but denied it had ‘‘dismissed’ anyone as part of this process’. The National Gallery also rejected comparisons to action against Hermes, Uber and Deliveroo, and other ‘gig economy’ legal cases.

Activist group Decolonize This Place have announced ‘Nine Weeks of Art and Action’ following the release of the Whitney Biennial’s artist list – protesting the Whitney Museum’s vice chair Warren B. Kanders, owner of Safariland who have produced tear gas used by US law enforcement against asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border. ‘There is no safe space for profiteers of state violence’, Decolonize This Place announced in a statement. The group claimed that they were in conversation with the biennial artists ‘on how we can pressure the museum to do the right thing, which begins with the removal of Warren Kanders.’

The Rothko Chapel in Houston is to close for the rest of 2019 as it undergoes a major USD$30 million refurbishment and expansion, led by Architecture Research Office. Founded in 1971 by the art patrons John and Dominique de Menil, the Rothko Chapel was partially modeled from the artist’s own designs – it opened a year after his suicide. It currently houses 14 vast black and purple works by Rothko. The new development will add three new buildings and the installation of a new skylight and digital lighting system. ‘We’re trying to restore the sanctity of the chapel, very close to what my father had intended for the space,’ Christopher Rothko – the artist’s son – told the New York Times.

Tate have announced five large-scale exhibitions of women artists, scheduled for 2020 to 2021. Tate Britain will show a solo exhibition of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in May 2020, and a Paula Rego retrospective the following year. Tate Modern have planned exhibitions of Magdalena Abakanowicz and Maria Bartuszová in 2020, while Tate St Ives will hold a Haegue Yang solo show in summer 2020.

In galleries and appointments news: Casey Kaplan gallery in New York has addded artist Hannah Levy to its roster; New York’s Kasmin gallery represents the painter Matvey Levenstein; Emma Son has been named senior director of Lehmann Maupin’s gallery in Seoul; Philippe Vergne has been named as the next director of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal, succeeding João Ribas who departed last year over a controversy involving the alleged censorship of a Robert Mapplethorpe show – Vergne himself left his previous post at LA MoCA amid a controversy over the firing of chief curator Helen Molesworth; meanwhile Helen Molesworth has been named inaugural curator-in-residence at Anderson Ranch Arts Center; and Rita Gonzalez has been appointed head of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Janiva Ellis, Catchphrase Coping Mechanism, 2019, oil on linen, 2.2 x 1.8 m. Courtesy: the artist and 47 Canal, New York; photograph: Joerg Lohse

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