May 13, 2020

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

One-way visitor traffic and a ban on audio tours: guidelines for reopening museums emerge
Face mask stolen from Art Institute Lion; will be replaced
NEA chair Mary Anne Carter: The arts are in survival mode across the country
Selling art online? Here are the legal pitfalls to avoid
Cache of Russian avant-garde works surfaces in regional museum's basement
A Miniature Gallery Mounts Tiny Artworks, With Big Results
Mom and Pop Shops Struggle to Survive During COVID-19
Banksy 'brightens up' Southampton hospital with tribute to nurses
Gainsborough's newly restored Blue Boy awaits the end of lockdown

One-way visitor traffic and a ban on audio tours: guidelines for reopening museums emerge
Brussels museums release their planned safety measures along with the museum ethics organisation Cimam

Officials at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels have issued strict safety measures that visitors must follow when the Old Masters Museum, part of the Royal Museums group, reopens on 19 May. The move could set a possible precedent for museums hoping to open their doors in the near future after closing for prolonged periods in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Safety measures planned for the Brussels museums include following a one-way circuit. A quota of admissions per hour will spread the number of visitors throughout the day and audio guides will not be offered “in order to reduce the risk of contamination”. The safety measures posted online also state: “Depending on the size of the rooms, more or less people will be admitted simultaneously. The allowed number will always be indicated at the entrance of each room.” The Belgian collector Alain Servais tweeted however: "But who will bear costs on lower revenues?"

The art historian Bendor Grosvenor, tweeted that “[it is] interesting to see the rules here [re: Brussels] for possible museum reopening”. In response, Tony Butler, the executive director of Derby Museums, UK, said: “Through a range of UK museum networks, we are already planning how museums can open and operate with distancing measures in place. We want to open up and share our treasures as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Meanwhile, the international museum ethics body Cimam (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art) has issued a set of Precautions for Museums during Covid-19 Pandemic, encompassing safety measures for re-opening and resuming activity at museums.

The recommendations were prepared by three Cimam board members: Eugene Tan, the director of National Gallery Singapore and Singapore Art Museum; Suhanya Raffel, the director of M+ Hong Kong; and Mami Kataoka, the president of Cimam and director of Mori Art Museum, Tokyo. “The [precautions document] is based on the examples of these three museums in response to the outbreak of Covid-19,” says a Cimam statement.

The document comprises 20 points under headings such as “visitor safety” and “public communication”. These include: “Implement temperature screening of all visitors as well as keeping an eye out for individuals who appear unwell. These visitors must be turned away and encouraged to seek medical attention.”

All visitors and participants must wear a mask and all guided tours must be suspended, according to Cimam's experts. Another suggestion is suspending programmes and events “targeted at senior citizens and other vulnerable groups”. To ensure staff safety, it proposes “implement[ing] daily temperature checking twice daily for all staff, once on arrival and a second time at 2pm, the results of which should be recorded”. The Art Newspaper

Face mask stolen from Art Institute Lion; will be replaced
The large-scale masks were installed early Thursday as a symbolic gesture ahead of a statewide mandate starting Friday requiring people to wear masks in public places amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A face mask adorning one of the iconic lion statues at the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago was stolen Thursday evening, less than 24 hours after the symbolic masks were applied.

By Friday afternoon, the mask had been replaced and both lion statues were once again sporting the protective gear.

On Thursday, an Art Institute security guard saw two men get out of a black Chevrolet sedan about 10:55 p.m., climb onto one of the statues at the museum at 111 S. Michigan Ave., cut the mask from the lion’s head and take off, according to the Chicago police.

In a statement Friday morning, Kati Murphy, the Art Institute’s executive director of Public Affairs said: “Naturally, we are disappointed that the North Lion’s mask was stolen, but we are replacing it — and we look forward to continued partnership with Mayor Lightfoot to spread awareness in the city of Chicago.”

The large-scale masks had been installed early Thursday as a symbolic gesture ahead of a statewide mandate starting Friday requiring people to wear masks in public places amid the coronavirus outbreak.

A mask also adorns the Picasso statue in Daley Plaza.

The masks were designed by Kelly Winter of Dimension Design in Glenview, and the materials used in their creation did not draw from the materials needed to produce PPE supplies for those on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.

“It’s disappointing to have such a great event [Thursday with the installation of the masks] and then to have this happen,” said Jim Winter, executive vice president of Dimension Design, when reached by phone Friday morning.

“We are remaking both masks with new kinds of cables instead of just the strapping that was requested,” he said. “We’re going to use some of the creative methods we normally use. When you use vinyl- or fabric-coated [steel] cables, you get the same results but it will make it very difficult cut them.”

The lion masks were made for a “very modest three-figure charge for material and labor,” he said, while the mask adorning the Picasso statue was “donation from the company to the city and people of Chicago.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted out a pair of photos of the masked lions on Thursday night.

Lightfoot’s office hasn’t responded to a request for comment. Chicago Sun Times


NEA chair Mary Anne Carter: The arts are in survival mode across the country

Mary Anne Carter, the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, is the top federal official with an explicit mandate for the arts. Before her nomination by President Donald J. Trump’s White House in 2018, Carter was a staffer for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, now a Republican senator. Carter has been described as an advocate for the agency who is adept at its protection in an often hostile administration, but who generally prefers to work behind the scenes. Carter is the middle of her four-year term. She answered the Tribune’s questions on the agency’s role in the current crisis. (The following has been edited from our phone interview.)

Q: As you survey the arts community in the United States of America right now, what do you see?

A: At this moment in time, it’s all about survival — who can keep people on payroll and keep their facilities maintained until their doors can open. What are are seeing, sadly, is some organizations can’t keep their doors open and that is painful. The arts community has been devastated. This was a hit to everyone, across the board and across the nation. Survival is where we are.

Q: So what is the NEA doing to help?

A: For those organizations who can get through, we are asking, what does reopening look like? We are surveying all the disciplines. We are finding that people just are not comfortable, and are not really sure when they will be comfortable, with going into a theater or a concert hall or a dance hall. But even for those organizations who are surviving right now, we know they can’t survive another six months or a year without people coming through the door.

Q: And what about beyond mere survival?

A: The next phase involves, how to do you get people back through the door? We are trying to provide recommendations that arts organizations can achieve to assure their constituencies that these are safe environments. Do you provide masks and gloves? Do you make sure the audience has their own masks and gloves? Is it rearranging seating? We are trying to gauge what the arts community is thinking in terms of providing that safe environment. We need to be able to let an audience know, yes we can come through for you.

Q: Arts groups have had to pivot to online, to the extent they can.

A: So many artists and art forms have developed new audiences online. We now have to ask, how can we maintain that new audience, not just virtually but also live when the time comes? That is a pretty unique challenge but that is what arts people need to be thinking about. People love coming together. That is what the arts do.

Q: So you are optimistic.

A: When we are on the other side of this and people feel safe again, they will want to go and see a live show or go dance in a studio. The want will always be there. It is the amount of risk factor that people feel they are willing to take that is the unknown. Making sure a facility is safe for the workers as well as the audience is going to be key, and also proactively advertising that is safe. We are going to have to let people know these are safe environments for people to come into.

Q: Not easy right now.

A: No. There is a lot of hard work ahead. Let us not kid ourselves. But I do think the arts will continue to thrive. They now have found a new audience online — they now need to figure out how to make that economically viable. There is always going to be the want. There is always going to be the need.

Q: Different regions of the country are proceeding differently, of course.

A: All Americans should have access to the arts. It is the smaller rural areas, these under served communities that we take such great pride in, and we have to continue to focus on that. And I worry that the costs of the arts might rise dramatically, especially if you have to take every two or three seats out.

Q: That would suggest a need for more public funding for the arts.

A: Most of that is up to Congress. What I can tell you is that the agency can take on any role that Congress wants us to give us. Within 12 days of the CARES bill, we had our guidelines up and we have already pushed out $30 million to the states and the arts agencies. And we are going to get the remaining money to the arts organizations as fast as we can. (The bill) allows funds to be used for operating funds. But while they loosening that restriction, they didn’t loosen all the restrictions on our process. We are going to have more than 3,000 applications and we still have to panel all those applications. But we are going to be able to do all this as fast as possible.

Q: It sounds like you are arguing that the agency moved faster than some other areas of government, which many report as having been slow to dispense aid to the arts and to artists.

A: I think we moved fast. It was important we moved very fast. Everyone was very committed. We can handle it — that much I do know. We work off legislation.

Q: There is so much need out there. You must feel overwhelmed at times.

A: With this situation, it doesn’t matter whether you are big or small. Everyone needs help. I do feel overwhelmed a lot. I get so upset when I read that an organization has closed permanently. I know so many artists have no income. I know many of the salaried employees who have been furloughed.

But I also look for inspiration and there is a lot of it out there. Look at the swiftness with which many organizations were able to move online, even though some of them had no online capability before. Look at the expansion of the arts right now: No one is getting through this isolation without reading a book, or watching a movie, or doing a painting. Look at how costumers started making masks for our first responders. The Baltimore Museum of Industry turned their parking lot into a coronavirus testing site. We try to let others know not only that the arts community is there, but that they are helping our first responders.

Q: So you foresee a recovery for the arts in whatever new world awaits us.

A: I hope so. The arts cover such a broad spectrum. They’re not just going to a Broadway show. They’re not just going to see a concert. The arts don’t always have to involve a live audience, even though that is preferable for the community as a whole, once we are on the other side.

Art therapy is going to help us get through some of the psychological issues we are going to see. For most people in America, this is the least amount of freedom they have ever had. A lot of children don’t understand what’s going on. There are a lot of people who are alone. Art therapy has a way of allowing people to express fears in a non-confrontational manner. We know how music buoys seniors, especially seniors with dementia.

The arts have a very significant role in the well being of America as we recover from this. Chicago Tribune


Selling art online? Here are the legal pitfalls to avoid
Lawyer Petra Warrington on how to protect your business if you are holding online auctions, exhibiting and selling works on Instagram, or entering into sale contracts by email

Art businesses are increasingly turning to online solutions in the hope of keeping at least some sales transactions going. But holding online auctions, exhibiting and selling works on Instagram, or entering into sale contracts by email and other means of distance communication, is not without legal, business and reputational risk. With that in mind, here are a few key points to bear in mind to protect your business.

Using social media to do business
Social media platforms are increasingly being used by the art trade to promote their stock and targeting consumers directly through these platforms is becoming more common. The format can be deceptively informal, and it is important to treat social media marketing and sales with due formality and ensure that anyone posting material on your behalf is doing so responsibly by having a social media policy in place. Anything you publish must comply with copyright (in particular, when it comes to the use of images), data protection and privacy laws and, although you will be subject to the platform’s policies, you should understand how you can control user-generated content. What you say on social media about a work of art may well be interpreted later as a contractual representation or warranty, so appropriate disclaimers and a tie-in with your terms and conditions of business are essential.

Terms and conditions of business
Auction houses are likely to be accustomed to transacting on the basis of their terms and conditions, but may not have focused on the contractual differences between traditional and online sales. Auction houses that generally hold public live sales, which fall outside of the remit of some consumer protection legislation, will need to ensure their terms are appropriate for online-only sales.

If they do not already have them in place, dealers should adopt written contracts for online sales that incorporate valid and effective terms and conditions of business. The contract should clearly describe the sold item, include the terms required by statute (including in relation to consumer sales—see below), make clear the scope of any warranties and limitations of liability, and cover the mechanics of the sale, such as passing of title and risk, payment provisions, and transport and storage.

Consumer contracts
If you are contracting at a “distance” or “off-premises” as defined in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, you will need to provide consumer clients (but not members of the trade) with certain information about your business, the work you are selling and their right to cancel the contract if they change their mind within 14 days of receipt of the work. This information must be conveyed in writing and brought to the consumer’s attention before the contract is entered into. While not all sales conducted remotely will be classified as “distance” or “off-premises”, it is important to understand whether your business model falls within the scope of the regulations and seek legal advice if necessary.

Know your customer
As of 10 January (in the UK), art market participants have become part of the regulated sector for anti-money laundering purposes. This includes auction houses, galleries and dealers who transact in works of art valued at more than €10,000 either individually or in a series of linked transactions, regardless of the method of payment. One of the key requirements under the legislation is that you conduct customer due diligence when you establish a business relationship.

But how do you “know your customer” in a virtual world? In the first place, try to obtain copies of government-issued identity documents (such as a passport), as these are the most reliable sources of verification. In appropriate cases, you may rely on a combination of document and electronic checks for identity verification. In every case, make sure that the approach you take is in line with your written anti-money laundering policies and compliance procedures, and bear in mind that your risk profile will be raised when transacting with someone you have not met face to face. The British Art Market Federation’s guidance (available at represents industry good practice and is an essential resource.

Combating fraud
While the art world tends to associate fraud with fakes and forgeries, you need to be equally aware of the rising risk of cybercrime, client data theft and other scams that can affect any business. Relying on online sales may increase the risk of becoming a victim of fraud, whether in the form of identity theft or payment fraud, and evidence shows that fraud has been increasing during the current health and economic crisis. Taking simple steps, such as confirming bank account details by phone as well as email before sending or receiving funds will help. Protecting your employees’ and clients’ personal data is not only a legal requirement but an essential tool for fraud prevention, as is conducting due diligence on customers, suppliers and contacts. The Art Newspaper


Cache of Russian avant-garde works surfaces in regional museum's basement
Art historian Andrey Sarabyanov is planning a new exhibition of forgotten pieces by Kandinsky, Rodchenko and Stepanova

A leading Russian avant-garde expert says he has identified dozens of works by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova languishing in an obscure history museum in the Kirov region, 800km away from Moscow.

Andrey Sarabyanov says he was “astounded” at what he found in the basement store of the Yaransk Museum of Local Lore, in a town of fewer than 16,000 people. Discoveries included three watercolours by Kandinsky, a gouache by Stepanova and a “completely unknown” work by Rodchenko from 1915—a painting on cardboard that is now being restored.

Sarabyanov, the editor of a Russian avant-garde encyclopaedia that will be published in English in 2022, believes the works were abruptly abandoned after featuring in an early Soviet travelling exhibition in 1921. Having fought against the prevalence of Russian avant-garde forgeries, he defends the authenticity of the Yaransk trove and says he is open to technical analysis.

The Kandinskys were already known to specialists and had been “shown but not emphasised” in a 2005 show at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, he says, but “no one had revealed the history of the appearance of these works”.

Sarabyanov learned of Yaransk’s hidden treasures from a local cultural official, Anna Shakina, during a 2017 visit to the regional capital Kirov, where the Vasnetsov Brothers Art Museum holds a rich avant-garde collection. Shakina’s 2008 dissertation research had unearthed the catalogue of the 1921 exhibition, for which the early Bolshevik government transported more than 350 works by 20th-century artists around the region by horse-drawn cart.

According to records, 85 of the works remained in Yaransk. Around half were transferred to Kirov in the 1960s for restoration and hidden in storage due to censorship from the Soviet authorities, which had long since banned avant-garde art. They are now openly displayed as part of the Vasnetsov Brothers Art Museum’s collection. Sarabyanov knew those pieces from visits in the late Soviet era and in 2015, when he was preparing a Moscow exhibition of forgotten avant-garde art from provincial museums.

Together with Shakina—now the Kirov museum’s director—and Natalia Murray, a lecturer at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, Sarabyanov plans to reconstruct the 1921 exhibition at the Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg, reuniting the works divided between Kirov and Yaransk. The show is currently scheduled to open in September. The whereabouts of the 250-plus other works are still unknown but alternative pieces will be lent by the Slobodskoy Museum and Exhibition Center.

“It is rare to find unknown works by such important artists,” Murray says. “It is a very important discovery which will not only bring new works to light but will also tell the fascinating story of the travelling exhibitions in Russia in the first years after the October Revolution.” The Art Newspaper


A Miniature Gallery Mounts Tiny Artworks, With Big Results
Shelter In Place is a Boston gallery born out of the coronavirus pandemic. Artist Eben Haines built the maquette and artists submit works to scale, which are photographed with surprisingly realistic results.

In the past month, a Boston gallery has managed to mount 15 exhibitions of brand-new works, with a rigorous program still to come. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, arts institutions around the globe shuttered one after the other; meanwhile, Shelter in Place Gallery was not only founded during the crisis but continues to thrive.

Of course, there’s a catch. Shelter In Place is a miniature gallery, measuring 20 by 30 inches and exhibiting scaled-down works in a model structure created using foam core, mat board, balsa wood, and plexiglass. Artists can submit works at a 1:12 or one inch to the foot scale, allowing them to create and show even ambitious, seemingly large-scale pieces — a romantic, suspended latex installation by Mary Pedicini; wall-to-wall canvases by B. Chehayeb — while traditional exhibition spaces remain closed. With high ceilings and skylights that flood the space with sunshine, the condensed gallery is impressively lifelike, giving artists room to get particularly creative. In some photographs, it is nearly impossible to tell apart from larger galleries.

The brilliant concept was devised by Eben Haines, a painter and graphic designer for exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston. “With the ongoing shutdowns and lockdowns across the globe, artists are having to stay home, and away from their studios. For most of us, that means drastically less space to create,” he said in a first post on Instagram, the gallery’s virtual home.

“So I’ve built SIP gallery as a new platform for Boston Artists (and eventually from all over) to allow for large scale artworks to be made at a desk or dining room table,” he added.

The idea first came to him back in 2018, long before the pandemic, when Haines was asked to participate in a group show at the Porch Gallery in Minneapolis titled Art Fair. The concept was simple: each artist received a 10-by-10-inch, white-painted MDF box that would serve as an ersatz fair booth where they could show scaled work.

“I went a little overboard making works and building out a scaled room with wallpaper, moldings, etc.,” Haines told Hyperallergic. Months later, as a rainy day project, he decided to create his own 1:12 scale model to house maquettes for large-scale works that he could not produce in his studio due to space or financial constraints.

“But then the weather got better, and the more or less abandoned model stayed tucked away in my studio,” he said.

Enter the current crisis. Haines was one of more than 300 workers furloughed from the MFA Boston, which closed its doors in March to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. As the situation escalated, he realized it would be difficult to access his studio during lockdowns, so he packed up supplies and set up shop at his desk at home.

Haines dusted off the gallery model from years back and began making miniature paintings, initially as a strategy to continue working in his reduced studio space, which had shrunk from 400 square feet to a mere 10. But it dawned on him that other artists might be in a similar predicament, confined to less-than-ideal work conditions and aching to share their creations in a meaningful way.

“That was when I realized how fruitful this space could be for artists coping with the same situation, who need an impetus to continue making through this new reality we’ve been placed in,” Haines said. “So I made an Instagram and asked for submissions!”

Each exhibition at Shelter In Place is based on artist-submitted work selected by Haines and his partner and gallery assistant, Delaney Dameron, from submissions initially sent online. The shows usually last three to four days, during which Haines and Dameron capture installation and detail photography as well as video that are shared on the gallery’s Instagram.

Haines was amazed by the elaborate quality of the tiny works that arrived on his doorstep. When mounted in his intricate gallery maquette, the result is deeply authentic and visceral; shots of the lilliputian exhibitions are virtually impossible to distinguish from life-sized shows.

That’s partly thanks to the gallery’s submissions criteria: all of the works on view are original, and it prioritizes new pieces as opposed to small copies of existing ones. Digital copies are all but prohibited.

“The model is made out of the same materials the exhibition designers I work with use for their exhibition models,” said Haines. “I then used paint to age everything as realistically as I could.”

Haines’s father was a frames conservator who taught him how to faux grain and age wood, techniques he incorporates frequently in his own work. So far, all works have arrived ready to be hung, which has made installations easier. Haines said some works like Peter Kazantsev’s dazzling, disco ball-like dangling sculpture of a glittery hand posed a bit more of a challenge.

Haines emphasizes the project is not commercial; instead, any sales inquiries received are rerouted to the artists themselves, or to their galleries. Nicole Duennebier’s exhibition, for instance, nearly sold out before they could deliver the mini-paintings back to her gallery, 13FOREST.

“I’m hoping that artists are able to get more eyes on their work and even sell some work during the pandemic and beyond,” said Haines. “One of my ambitions for this project, besides urging people to step outside of their crisis mode for a little bit, is for artists to be able to use their submission proposals and photographs of their installed work to send to galleries, residencies, or grant programs, and have some momentum when the country opens back up.”

Tiny exhibitions, of course, will never replace the joy and freedom of working at a larger scale, but in a nation with an artistic population that is overwhelmingly without economic prospects, Shelter In Place provides a bit of blue sky. It invites artists to experiment with different formats and mediums, and may even help them build their portfolios.

Haines, himself a cultural worker affected by recent waves of furloughs and layoffs in the sector, is vocal about the need for equal opportunity in the art world. MFA Boston has kept furloughed workers insured through June, though it is unclear what July will bring.

“The messages of togetherness and unity we’re hearing from museum directors tend to ring a bit hollow when half of the staff is on furlough. It is then compounded by the fact that, even after executive pay cuts, these directors’ monthly compensation is still higher than what those furloughed workers make per year,” said Haines.

So far, Shelter In Place has shown only local work that’s easy enough to drop off (“contact free, of course”), so as to avoid possible contamination during shipping. But Haines hopes to extend the opportunity to a more diverse group of artists.

“We’re honestly so busy with the local response we’ve had that it seems daunting to open it up, but once going to the post office gets a little safer and easier, I’d love to be able to show work from outside Boston,” said Haines.

In the meantime, local artists or those who can easily transport work to the area can review submission guidelines on the gallery’s Instagram.

Currently at the gallery: glazed ceramic works by Fabio J. Fernández. Up next: “large” paintings by Sharon Lacey. Both not to be missed. Hyperallergic


Mom and Pop Shops Struggle to Survive During COVID-19

Mom and pop shops are the backbone of the L.A. economy, but when COVID-19 hit, retailers deemed nonessential had to close. Jim Winstead is co-owner of Raw Materials, an art supply store in Downtown, and he recently moved to a new larger space less than a year ago.

     What You Need To Know

     Mom and pop shops are the backbone of the L.A. economy

     Many deemed non-essential forced to close

     Hoping to survive once stay at home order is lifted

     Only 3% of small businesses in California received funds

“One of the reasons we moved into this space is to have a classroom available so we can do classes,” said Raw Materials Art Supplies co-owner Jim Winstead. “We’ve hosted a calligraphy workshops and we plan to do so much more and we had to shut down because obviously you can’t social distance in a small classroom full of artists.”

Winstead asked the city if he could offer curbside pick-up, but was told no and then explored shipping online directly from his wholesalers, but he ran into a few obstacles.

“Part of what we do is collect things from different suppliers and really curate what we sell here so there’s not one source we can point to they can ship it all for us,” said Winstead.

Then both warehouses closed due to possible exposure to COVID-19. Winstead couldn’t fulfill online orders even if he wanted to.

“We don’t know if they’re going to hit a problem again, if somebody else is getting exposed and they’ll have to shut down for safety,” said Winstead. “If we’re taking orders, how are we going to fulfill that if we can’t do that?”

“It’s just heart-breaking because we have a whole store full of products that we can’t sell,” added Raw Materials co-owner and wife, Celia Esguerra.

So in the meantime, they’re staying busy. Stocking, cleaning, and clearing.

“One thing I do want to make sure we stay on top of is our social media,” said Esguerra.

They applied for the Paycheck Protection Program, but the money ran out at their bank. Only 3 percent of small businesses in California received funds. Their biggest concern are their customers who couldn’t get access to funds either.

“A lot of our customers are small businesses themselves whether it’s an individual artist or it’s a small design shop or a small photography studio,” said Winstead. “Those are the people that are struggling to get access to these loans.”

Winstead and Esguerra have been in business for 10 years and are confident they will survive, but they worry for their neighboring small businesses.

“I hope in the end that we come out of this that we can get back to being a part of the arts community and supporting the arts community which is such a huge part of Los Angeles and it would be a shame at the end of this if there weren’t small business like us that we’re a part of that community,” said Winstead.

Shop local everyone. Spectrum News 1


Banksy 'brightens up' Southampton hospital with tribute to nurses
The work has been installed in collaboration with hospital managers and will be auctioned later this year to benefit the NHS

The street artist Banksy has paid homage to the true superheroes of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic: nurses.

In a mostly black-and-white painting that has been installed at the Southampton General Hospital near the building’s emergency department, the artist depicts a child playing with a masked nurse doll in NHS uniform, while Marvel superheroes like Batman and Spiderman have been tossed aside in a bin.

The work has been installed in collaboration with hospital managers and will be auctioned later this year to raise money for the NHS.

In a note to health care workers in the hospital, the artist wrote: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if it’s only black and white.” And in an Instagram post the artist published today—which coincides with National Nurses Day in the US—Banksy has captioned the image: “Game changer.”

“The fact that Banksy has chosen us to recognise the outstanding contribution everyone in and with the NHS is making—in unprecedented times—is a huge honour,” Paula Head, the chief executive of the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, told the BBC.

She added: “It will be really valued by everyone in the hospital, as people get a moment in their busy lives to pause, reflect and appreciate this piece of art. It will no doubt also be a massive boost to morale for everyone who works and is cared for at our hospital.” The Art Newspaper


Gainsborough's newly restored Blue Boy awaits the end of lockdown
Closed by coronavirus, Huntington Library posts online video reflecting on 18-month conservation treatment of dazzling portrait

After months in the conservation lab at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, California, Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy (around 1770) is ready to go back on display, although the galleries are closed because of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic until at least 15 May. In the meantime, the museum has posted a video about the restoration on its website.

The project began in 2013, when Christina O’Connell arrived at the Huntington as the institution’s first ever paintings conservator. She undertook a full survey of the museum’s art collection, examining around 600 paintings to assess their physical condition. The Huntington’s most famous grouping is in the stately Thornton Portrait Gallery, where full-length portraits in the British “grand manner” style are hung, including The Blue Boy, depicting a confident young man in a blue satin suit posing in the British countryside. In 1921 the American railroad mogul Henry Huntington bought the painting from the dealer Joseph Duveen for $728,000, the most ever paid for a painting at the time.

In 2017, O’Connell and Melinda McCurdy, the associate curator for British art, closely studied the work using the latest technologies, including infrared reflectography and multiple high-resolution X-rays that were digitally stitched together. “We spent a lot of time studying the materials and the technique of the artist, how they’ve aged over time,” says O’Connell, “and also understanding the history of past interventions, what’s been added”. The painting needed considerable work, given its flaking paint, darkened varnishes and structural weaknesses.

One surprise was an early 11-inch tear in the lower left side of the canvas, which was revealed through the X-rays. It had been well mended: the canvas fibres had been lined up and an overall protective backing was added. “My theory is that the tear happened sometime in the early 19th century,” McCurdy says. “It was exhibited several times, and I think it happened during shipping.”

Fortunately, says O’Connell, the tear was so well mended that she did not need to repair it again, but she did have to remove some earlier overpainting to reveal Gainsborough’s brushwork. Today, the tear is only noticeable if you stand to one side and catch the light just so—it appears as a slightly raised ridge.

After drawing up a plan of attack, O’Connell spent a year and a half working on The Blue Boy, including 12 months in public in the Thornton gallery, where she sat in a mini-lab behind a small exhibition that attracted more than 217,000 visitors. It was a way to keep the very popular painting on display while also teaching visitors about the conservation process. While O’Connell would regularly give talks to the public, most of the time she was working on the canvas while listening to podcasts on her headphones.

O’Connell started the conservation work by gluing down flaking paint, using tiny sable brushes and a surgical microscope. Then she undertook a thorough cleaning, using custom-made cotton swabs dipped in solvents. Slowly, she uncovered a brighter blue in the subject’s outfit—thought to be a costume for a ball—and details in the landscape on the lower left side that had darkened over the years. Last autumn The Blue Boy was brought into her lab for the finishing touches, which included mending smaller tears in the canvas, tacking edges and repairing cracks and splits in the wooden stretcher.

Apart from the canvas, O’Connell has also been working on the painting’s ornate gilt frame, which was not the one in which it was delivered to Huntington but dates from the same 18th-century period. “We’re adjusting the fit within the frame,” says O’Connell. “And we’re applying materials that make it safe for these fragile edges [of the canvas] to be in contact with the edges of the frame.” To separate the two, a barrier film is being added.

O’Connell says she is pleased with how the conservation has gone, remarking that few visitors will notice what she has done. “I’ve done my job when it’s invisible,” she says. The Art Newspaper

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