Insurer Says Selfie ‘Pandemic’ Threatens Artworks—And More


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HEADLINES

BACK TO DRAWING BOARD. The Arts Council England is backtracking, and has announced it will revise its recently updated, controversial guidelines for funding arts institutions, which had warned against making “overtly political or activist” statements. Their announcement comes following backlash to the new policy, which has been widely perceived as a form of censorship. “We’re looking again at some of the language we’ve used, and will clarify it to fully reflect our original intention,” said an ACE statement.

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The entrance to a building with the words 'ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO' above its door. Before its glassed-in facade is 'AGO' in big red letters.

SELFIE PANDEMIC. The art insurer Hiscox is sounding the alarm against “a pandemic of selfies,” harming artworks in museums around the world. The insurer reports that a large percentage of accidental damage to artworks point to selfies as a common culprit, with visitors unwittingly backing into art, or tripping and falling on artworks as they focus on snapping flattering self-portraits. The damage can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and some venues have banned selfie sticks. Make that cities — Milan doesn’t allow selfie sticks in public to minimize the risk of accidents. Veni, vidi, and nix the selfie.

The Digest

Julia Kwon’s textile artwork about anti-Asian discrimination was stolen from Brooklyn’s UrbanGlass Art Center. The work “AAPI Hate Affects AAPI Mental Health (71% of the respondents who experienced hate incidents during the pandemic report anti-Asian discrimination to be their greatest source of stress, much higher than any other pandemic concerns)” (2021) was stolen on January 19, while displayed in a group exhibit. [Hyperallergic]

Dozens of pro-Palestine demonstrators protested on Tuesday at Canada’s Art Gallery of Ontario, holding signs referring to the departure of Indigenous art curator Wanda Nanibush. Her abrupt departure has been heavily contested, with many believing it was linked to her support of Palestine, though the museum says otherwise. [ARTnews]

A Cairo court has convicted the Egyptian graphic artist Ghada Wali with plagiarizing imagery she used in murals for Cairo’s subway system, and sentenced her to six months of prison. She was also ordered to pay 100,000 pounds ($970) to the artist Georgy Kurasov, for theft of his intellectual property. She is appealing the ruling. [Aharam Online and Quotidien de l’Art]

Workers at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) have announced they are forming a union, in a letter signed by 32 people. They represent about one third of MCA staff eligible to join. [The Art Newspaper]

Another woman has accused French actor Gérard Depardieu of sexual harassment in a new legal complaint. The woman, who has not been publicly named, was Depardieu’s former assistant. [Le Parisien and AFP]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Thursday its co-chairs for the 2024 Met Gala, which will have the “The Garden of Time” as its theme. Co-chairs include Jennifer LopezZendaya, Bad Bunny, and Chris Hemsworth, who will join Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour. [WWD]

The French gallery Ceysson & Bénétière will open a space in Tokyo’s Ginza district in the fall. [The Art Newspaper, France]

The Kicker

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS. In the end, a missing comma is what saved the Hungarian bookshop Lira, from an anti-LGBTQ+ fine. The chain bookstore had challenged a government-issued fine of 30,000 euros ($32,300) in court, which they received after allegedly breaking rules for selling books touching on LGBTQ+ subjects. In this case, the books in question were Alice Oseman’s graphic novel series Heartstopper. The ordered fine was in accordance with anti-LGBTQ+ legislation banning the use of materials seen as promoting homosexuality, proposed by the government of nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban. However, all that reading appears to have paid off. Lira argued in their defense that a missing comma in the anti-LGBTQ+ law alters its meaning, and the presiding judge was convinced. “A comma is a comma,” said the judge in their ruling, reports Liberation with Heti Világgazdaság. We hope they paused at the appropriate moment, for effect. 

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