English Museums Reopening, Biden Nixes ‘Garden of American Heroes,’ and More: Morning Links from May 17, 2021

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The Headlines

MANY MUSEUMS IN ENGLAND AND WALES ARE REOPENING THIS WEEK, after coronavirus lockdowns, and with international tourism at a standstill, museum directors are telling Britons to come through, the Observer reports. The head of the National Gallery, Gabriele Finaldi, has put out a call for “first-time visitors to discover the art, the beautiful interiors, the wonderful views, and to get acquainted with Van Gogh, Turner, Leonardo da Vinci, and Artemisia Gentileschi ” at his institution. Bringing in revenue will be a priority for some organizations. The Press Association reports that 55 percent of museums in the United Kingdom are concerned about their long-term viability, according to a survey of more than 300 directors by the Art Fund charity.

PRESIDENT BIDEN HAS CANCELED A TRUMP EXECUTIVE ORDER that called for the creation of a “National Garden of American Heroes” with more than 200 statues of everyone from singer Whitney Houston and Supreme Court justice Antonin Scala to photographer Ansel Adams and artist Norman Rockwell, the Associated Press reports. Also revoked was an order to “prosecute to the fullest extent permitted under federal law” vandalism of statues on federal property, which Trump issued amid the defacement and destruction of Confederate monuments in the United States.

The Digest

Art collector and patron Dasha Zhukova has created a real estate development firm in New York that aims to run residential buildings that feature cultural programming. [The Wall Street Journal]

The family of the late Korean artist Suh Se Ok, a pioneer in abstract calligraphy, donated more than 2,000 of his works to the Seongbuk District office in Seoul, which intends to build a museum devoted to him. The gift also included nearly 1,000 pieces he had collected by other artists. [Korea JoonAng Daily]

The Art Busan fair ran this past weekend in South Korea with about 110 exhibitors, and set a record for attendance, with 80,000 people visiting. At least 15 galleries reported sales of more than 1 billion Korean won (about $884,000). [Yonhap]

The writer and curator Katerina Gregos has been tapped to lead the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. Its two previous directors were cut loose by Greece’s Culture Ministry. [The Art Newspaper]

A three-part documentary airing in the U.S. on PBS will look at how the Metropolitan Museum of Art planned its 150th anniversary exhibition, weathered the pandemic, and responded to the racial reckoning in the United States. [WWD]

Art collector and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sold his Upper East Side duplex in Manhattan, which had been priced, as of last August, at $25.75 million. [New York Post]

Libbie Mugrabi is alleging that her ex-husband David Mugrabi gave “damaged” artwork to her as part of a distribution of their assets after their rancorous divorce. [Page Six]

The Kicker

THE ROMAN EMPEROR NERO HAS LONG BEEN REGARDED as a tyrannical and troubled figure, not least because of that whole story about him supposedly fiddling while Rome burned. An exhibition opening later this month at the British Museum aims to provide a more nuanced view of the leader, looking at his positive attributes and the attempts to smear him posthumously. Among its offerings are mirror cases that have lids with coins sporting the emperor’s face. “The mirror cases clearly show that people thought Nero was beautiful,” Francesca Bologna, the show’s curator, told the Wall Street Journal. “You would not put somebody who wasn’t on a mirror case, which is a very personal object.” [The Wall Street Journal]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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