Maintenance workers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have received a 63 percent pay increase. Workers who manage heating and cooling temperatures to prevent damage to fragile artworks at the Met, the Met Cloisters and the Met Breuer have come to an agreement following negotiations between the institutions and Local 1503 (a chapter of DC 37 that represents heating, ventilation and air-conditioning workers), which lasted more than a year. The agreement details an hourly pay rise from US$22 to US$35 for licensed HVAC assistant maintainers, while seven senior HVAC engineers will now take home an annual salary of US$81,000. Local 1503 President, Rawle Campbell, considers the agreement ‘a major win’, adding that ‘when you consider the work we did to increase members’ wages, training and upgrades, as well as the union benefits and pension package, HVAC workers at the Met are very happy’.
Over 370 artists and cultural workers have signed a statement protesting gender discrimination in Japan after the closure of the Aichi Triennale exhibition. A month ago, the Prefectural Museum of Art in Nagoya shut down ‘After “Freedom of expression?”’ following threats of violence targeting a display oa work that explored the role of comfort women - the Imperial Japanese Army’s sexual slaves. The move has been criticized by some as a form of censorship in a series of open letters. The statement says that Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung’s Statue of Peace (2011) ‘fundamentally addresses the human rights of women’ and asserts that threats directed at the work ‘unfortunately reflect the pervasive entrenchment of discrimination against women in Japanese society today, and stand in direct contradiction to the Triennale’s commitment to gender equality’. Signatories include artists Candice Breitz, Leung Chi Wo and Sara Wong.
The celebrated Mexican artist Francisco Toledo has died aged 79. A painter, photographer and sculptor, Toledo was regarded as one of the foremost contemporary artists in Mexico and was known as ‘El Maestro’ (The Master) across South America. Using an often-expressionist style, the artist employed motifs from the natural world to create surreal artworks. Toledo was also an activist, who once staged a nude protest to prevent the opening of a McDonald’s in his native Oaxaca. Aged 19, Toledo held a solo show in Fort Worth, which was met with critical acclaim, and he went on to exhibit at the Venice Biennale in 1997 and the Whitechapel Gallery in 2000. He established an art library at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca and was involved in the opening of the es:Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca.
Joichi Ito, the director of the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has stepped down, after it was discovered that he had attempted to hide financial links to Jeffrey Epstein, the American financier and convicted sex offender, who was found dead in his jail cell in August. Following the reports, Ito withdrew from a number of other posts, including board memberships of the MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The New York Times Company. Last week, Ito admitted that he had taken US$1.7 million in donations from Epstein, US$1.2 million of which was for Ito’s own investments funds. In an email to the provost of MIT, Martin Schmidt, Ito said: ‘After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks, I think that it is best that I resign as director of the Media Lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately.’
In further news: Seth Brodsky has been appointed director of Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, Chicago – he has served as interim director since July 2018; Miami Beach’s Pulse Art Fair has named Cristina Salmastrelli as its new director; and Amira Gad will take on the role of artistic director at Lehmann Maupin.