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A painting of three men shows

Biden Calls for NEA Budget Jump, U.K. Halts Export of $24.1 M. Roundel, and More: Morning Links from May 31, 2021

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The Headlines

PRESIDENT BIDEN HAS PROPOSED A 20 PERCENT JUMP in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, to $201 million, in his proposed budget for the 2022 fiscal year, the New York Times reports. If approved by Congress, it would be its largest budget in history, measured by raw dollars, as the Art Newspaper notes. However, adjusting for inflation, it pales to the funding it received in some earlier decades. (The NEA’s $99.9 million appropriation in 1977 would be more than $400 million on today’s dollars, for instance.) President Trump regularly called for eliminating the NEA in his budget proposals, but its funding grew about $17 million during his term, the Times notes, to $167.5 million. In comparison to some other funds, the NEA’s budget is relatively modest. Britain typically sends more than $1 billion to the arts each year, the Times reports, and New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs alone has a $193.1 million budget.

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A painting of three men shows

WILL YOU HAVE TO WEAR A MASK when you next go to your local museum? It depends where you are. Major Boston organizations—the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Institute of Contemporary Art—said they will drop mask requirements for vaccinated visitors, in accorded with guidance from the CDC, Massachusetts, and the city, WBUR reports. Meanwhile, 14 cultural groups in the Portland area are keeping mandatory-mask rules in place for now, including the Portland Art Museum, according to the Oregonian. Regardless of mask policies, many museums are continuing to do timed tickets. In the event of (understandable) confusion, it is probably best to call ahead, or consult museum websites, before visiting.

The Digest

Tourism in Egypt took a hit because of the pandemic, with 13.1 million foreign visitors in 2019 falling to 3.5 million in 2020. The country government is hoping a string of recently announced archaeological discoveries will bring them back. Its tourism and antiquities minister, Khaled el-Anan, made the case that “Egypt is a perfect destination for post-COVID in that our tourism is really an open-air tourism.” [Associated Press]

To allow for efforts to buy the work and keep it in the country, the United Kingdom has placed a temporary export ban on a Renaissance bronze roundel from Mantua, Italy, that sold for £17 million (about $24.1 million). The hold lasts until September 27, and can be extended if a plan is proposed to raise the cash. [BBC News]

Archaeologists believe they may have found a war memorial that could be the oldest in the world. It’s a 4,000-year-old mound in Syria that contains the bones of some 30 soldiers. [The Art Newspaper]

The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver has a new director: Joyce Tsai, who is currently chief curator of the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art in Iowa City. Its founding director, Dean Sobel, stepped down last year to become a professor at the University of Denver. [Press Release]

Artist Antony Gormley has a proposal for what to do with the fiercely contested statue of Cecil Rhodes on the facade of Oriel College at Oxford University in England. “I would just simply turn him to face the wall rather than facing outwards,” he said, explaining that it would be “an acknowledgment of collective shame.” One Tory politician called the idea “completely wacky.” [Financial Times]

Curator and writer Antwaun Sargent, who guest-edited the current issue of Art in America, is getting ready to open a show at Gagosian in New York, where he is a director. Titled “Social Works,” it includes works by 12 Black artists, including Titus Kaphar, Carrie Mae Weems, and Christie Neptune. [WSJ Magazine]

The Kicker

LAST WEEK, 28 PEOPLE COMPETED TO SEE WHO COULD become the most relaxed on South Korea’s Jeju island. The winner—as determined by the lowest and most stable heart rate—was a local hair stylist, the Washington Post reports. The contest, titled Space Out Competition, was the work of an artist, the one-namer Woopsyang . The sedate annual event dates back to 2014, but it was extra poignant this year, the artist said. “We have a lot of downtime at our homes but we spend that time stressing over the virus and feeling anxious.” The battle lasted for 90 minutes, about twice the length of artist Oliver Payne’s similarly mellow Chill Out performances, which require people to do nothing while listening to the KLF’s 1990 Chill Out album. “I like this idea of chilling out being a militant position,” Payne once said.

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

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