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Masterpieces by Manet, Picasso and Cézanne Renamed After Black Models

In further news: backlash over Serpentine Pavilion architect’s unpaid interns; Whitney Museum hit by further protests

Édouard Manet, Olympia, renamed Laure, 1863. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Édouard Manet, Olympia, renamed Laure, 1863. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The curators of the exhibition ‘Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse’ at Paris’s Musée d’Orsay have renamed artworks by Manet, Picasso, Cézanne and others after their black subjects. For instance, Manet’s Olympia (1863) – which portrays a nude prostitute and her servant – is now titled Laure after the model posing as the black maid. Marie-Guillemine Benoist’s Portrait of a Negress (1800) has been retitled Portrait of Madeleine. ‘For more than 200 years there has never been an investigation to discover who she was – something that was recorded at the time’, US curator and scholar Denise Murrell (whose doctoral thesis grew into the exhibition, first shown at New York’s Wallach Gallery) commented. Murrell explained the historic namelessness of black models, and the important roles they have played in art: ‘It was art history that left them out. It has contributed to the construction of these figures as racial types as opposed to the individuals they were.’

The architect behind this year’s Serpentine Pavilion is under fire for their use of unpaid interns. Junya Ishigami was announced earlier this year as the architect for the annual commission, now in its 19th edition. But Junya Ishigami + Associates has become embroiled in controversy over its internship practices – an email sent by the Tokyo studio responding to a student looking for an internship, stipulated several ‘conditions’ including no pay, and a six-day working week, from 11am to midnight. In addition, the email stated that the internship would last from 8 to 12 weeks ‘or more’, and interns were required to use their own computers. The Serpentine Gallery said that it was unaware of Ishigami’s use of unpaid work and that it had raised the issue with the studio.

Activist group Decolonize This Place have held another protest at the Whitney Museum in New York, demanding the removal of the museum board’s vice chair Warren B. Kanders. The activist group have been calling for Kanders to step down since last December, when it emerged that he owned Safariland, which manufactures tear gas used against asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border. The protest, which took place on Friday evening, is the first in a series of weekly demonstrations by the group, titled ‘Nine Weeks of Art and Action’, due to take place each Friday until the launch of the Whitney Biennial on 17 May.

In appointments news: Cosmin Costinas has been named as artistic director of the 2020 Kathmandu Triennale; and Eugene Tan has been appointed director of Singapore Art Museum – Tan will also continue as director of the National Gallery Singapore.

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