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Smithsonian Seeks Museum Directors, Patron Donald R. Sobey Dies, and More: Morning Links from March 25, 2021

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The Headlines

THE SMITHSONIAN IS IN THE PROCESS OF HIRING no fewer than six museum directors, reporter Peggy McGlone notes in her Washington Post story about the stakes of that leadership hunt. The process is in the final stages for the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. The large number of openings is partially because two new museums were just authorized, the National Museum of the American Latino and the American Women’s History Museum. Intriguingly, Kevin Gover, the Smithsonian undersecretary overseeing the searches, said that people with backgrounds in film, broadcasting, design, and digital experience “will be considered more strongly than in the past.”

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THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN IN SCOTLAND HAS DECIDED to return a bronze sculpture it owns that was taken by British troops in 1897 while pillaging the kingdom of Benin, in what is now Nigeria, the Guardian reports. It will send the piece to the country within weeks, Reuters reports, which notes that it will be one of the first public institutions to do so. The news follows an announcement from Berlin’s Humboldt Forum that it would not display Benin bronzes long held by the city’s Ethnological Museum and that Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been speaking with Nigerian officials about returning them. The British Museum holds the largest collection of the bronzes, and activists have been calling for it to follow suit.

The Digest

Canadian arts philanthropist Donald R. Sobey has died at the age of 86. He was the founder of the Sobey Art Award, which celebrates contemporary artists in the country, and established an endowment to support Canadian artists showing at the Venice Biennale. [The Globe and Mail]

It’s official: Nicolas Bourriaud will be out as head of Montpellier Contemporain in France when his contract expires at the end of April. Numa Hambursin, the chief of Cannes’s art center, has been selected to take his place. The board in charge of the museum is said to want to pursue a more populist program than the one Bourriaud offered. [Artforum]

Kaywin Feldman wrote about how she is approaching her job as director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and her decision to postpone a Philip Guston retrospective last year. “It is imperative that the National Gallery slow down and really listen,” she says, “not only to the curators and art critics but also to members of our staff and the wider community who have something to say about how these works affect them.” [Apollo]

Lee Seul-gi has been named the winner of the latest Korea Artist Prize, which is selected annually from a shortlist of artists picked to exhibit at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. [The Korea Times]

Painter Sam McKinniss got the profile treatment from Rachel Tashjian, in the form of a fan letter, as he was preparing paintings for a show at the Bevery Hills home of Hollywood dealmaker Michael Ovitz. “Elegance, I think, is important,” McKinniss said. “I think that’s one of my core values.” [GQ]

Howard University has launched a virtual exhibition in honor of the trailblazing artist and scholar David C. Driskell, who died last year from the coronavirus. The show features his own work alongside the Black artists that he championed. [NBC Washington]

It’s time to go visit that weird friend you have who collects swords. The FBI has put up a $10,000 reward for help recovering three swords and two daggers that were stolen from the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri, way back in 1978. They were gifts from the Saudi Crown Prince Saud and the Shah of Iran and were estimated, at the time, to be worth as much as $1 million. [Fox 2 Now]

Speaking of the Shah, in a new book, curator Donna Stein reveals how she helped build a collection of modern and contemporary art for the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art during the final years of his reign in the 1970s. [Bloomberg]

Why not have a look inside the Paris home of sculptor and furniture maker Ingrid Donat? It features her own work alongside pieces by Frederik Molenschot, Pierre Jeanneret, and others. [Architectural Digest]

The Kicker

RENZO PIANO, THE ARCHITECT OF MANY LUMINOUS MUSEUMS, from the Menil Collection in Houston to the Centre Pompidou in Paris, remains quite busy at 83, Jackie Daly reports, in an extensive tour through his life and studio practice for the Financial Times. Among the projects he has on tap: a series of residences in Monaco (Le Renzo, they’re called) and an 18-story building and square in the Paddington area of London, which will have no car parking “because cities must accept we can’t have cars, they must accept public transportation,” Piano said. For those looking to hire him as an architect, he provides this secret: “every time I am asked to do a new project, I look first at whether there is water—if there is water, especially salty water, I like it.” [Financial Times]

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

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