Briefing: V&A Director Tristram Hunt Rules Out Return of Looted Ethiopian Treasures

In further news: more women accuse architect Richard Meier of harassment; activists call on Brooklyn Museum to create ‘Decolonization Commission’

Courtesy: V&A

Courtesy: V&A

Courtesy: V&A

The V&A’s director Tristram Hunt has ruled out an outright restitution of looted Ethiopian treasures. The museum director made headlines when he announced earlier in the week that he was interested in long-term loans of certain artefacts to their country of origin – he was referring to objects looted by British soldiers after the 1868 Battle of Maqdala, including a gold crown, royal wedding dress and gold chalice. But Hunt does not support the permanent and total return of treasures, as French president Emmanuel Macron has recently advocated regarding the holdings of African artefacts in Parisian museums. Hunt told The Guardian: ‘You have to take it item by item and you have to take it history by history. Once you unpick the histories of the collections it becomes a great deal more complicated and challenging.’

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After allegations of sexual misconduct made against the architect Richard Meier, more women have come forward to accuse him, in a New York Times report. They say that Meier’s behaviour was an open secret at his firm. Meier and his partners have issued a statement say that the allegations ‘do not reflect the ethos and culture of the firm.’

Activists have published an open letter calling for the Brooklyn Museum to create a ‘decolonization commission’. The demand follows the museum’s controversial decision to appoint a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as its curator of African art, with many arguing that the institution should have hired a person of colour for the role. The group Decolonize This Place says that the appointment ‘reflects deeper structural flaws within this museum’s culture in particular and in the field, more generally’. The creation of a decolonization commission would send a message ‘about the museum’s will to redress ongoing legacies of oppression, especially when it comes to the status of African art and culture,’ they argue. You can read it in full over here.

After a series of failed attempts, New York’s The Frick Collection has revealed its fourth expansion plan – carried out by Selldorf Architects, the USD$160 million renovation project will be carried out over two years, beginning in 2020. It will add 30% extra gallery space, and will include a new auditorium and education centre, alongside a renovated lobby.

Conceptual artist Christo has revealed further details for the monumental floating installation he plans to take to London’s Serpentine lake this summer, as part of his Serpentine Galleries show which runs from 20 June to 9 September. Titled ‘The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake)’, the artwork will consist of a stack of 7,506 stacked barrels, taking the form of an ancient Egyptian tomb on the water.

Finally, in awards news: the Graham Foundation, Chicago, has announced winners of its 2018 individual grants, totalling USD$534,850 – grantees include Jasmina Cibic, Stefan Gruber and Ashley Hunt; and Francis Alÿs has won the EYE Art & Film Prize 2018, which comes with a GBP£25,000 award – the Amsterdam EYE Filmmuseum is currently featuring an exhibition of prizewinners from the last three years: Hito Steyerl, Ben Rivers and Wang Bing.

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