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Solomon Islanders Demand British Museum Returns ‘Cannibal’ Feast Bowl

In further news: collector joins Mapplethorpe censorship row; new space for Bronx Museum of the Arts

19th century feasting bowl from Solomon Islands. Courtesy: British Museum, London

19th century feasting bowl from Solomon Islands. Courtesy: British Museum, London

19th century feasting bowl from Solomon Islands. Courtesy: British Museum, London

Solomon Islanders have demanded the return of looted feasting trough, currently exhibited at London’s Royal Academy of Arts’s ‘Oceania’ exhibition, and owned by the British Museum. The trough, which is nearly 7 metres long and is carved from wood to resemble a crocodile with a human head in its jaws, was looted by Captain Edward Davis during a punitive raid in the western Solomon Islands in 1891. Davis claimed that ‘cooked captives were eaten from this bowl by the captors’, though the local chief denied it – the Royal Academy says that the islanders were not cannibals but were headhunters. Director of the Solomon Islands National Museum, Tony Heorake, said that he wanted talks with the British Museum about the return of the artefact, according to The Times. ‘I think that if the item was taken by force and/or looted then they should take the appropriate action and have the item returned to its kastom owners,’ he said (kastom being a Pijin word referencing traditional culture). The British Museum have said that they were not involved in the original acquisition of the trough and that it was yet to receive a request from the Solomon Islands to return the object.

The director of Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory has been put on temporary paid leave following the museum’s mishandling of harassment claims. A statement released on 28 September said that the Mattress Factory had placed executive director Michael Olijnyk on ‘temporary paid leave’, following complaints filed by museum employees with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the museum had discriminated against certain employees for accusing a co-worker of sexual misconduct including rape and harassment. An initial complaint was made in February when one employee took allegations of sexual misconduct by her co-worker to Olijnyk. After investigating the incident, Olijnyk told her that the employee had ‘received and completed workplace harassment training’, and he remained a staffer for three months afterwards.

New York’s Bronx Museum of the Arts has announced a new downtown exhibition space due to open in 2019. The new space will open in New York’s TriBeCa Neighbourhood at 80 White Street, with a focus on supporting the museum’s Artist in the Marketplace programme, which provides professional development tools such as training in exhibition documentation, installation and design. The space will host 36 emerging artist fellowships, as well as residencies for alumni artists such as Jacolby Satterwhite, Diana Al-Hadid and LaToya Ruby Frazier. The new venture is funded by a gift from Martin Weinstein, Gerald Weinstein, and Teresa Liszka.

Tate Britain has launched a search for an Angelica Kauffman canvas last seen in 1941. Religion Attended by the Virtues was last seen hanging on the walls of Guildhall in Plymouth more than 75 years ago and now, Tate Britain have launched an appeal to find the artwork, regarded as one of the most ambitious oil paintings of its era. The painting was never photographed and only a contemporary engraving of the work exists. It had been left to the British Museum by its first owner James Forbes in 1835 and later moved to a space that would become the Tate. Documents then show that the work was sent to Plymouth for display. Plymouth was heavily bombed in the Second World War and many fear that the painting may have also been destroyed.

Portuguese collector Luiz Teixeira de Freitas is to withdraw his collection of 700 drawings from Porto’s Serralves Foundation following a Mapplethorpe censorship controversy. The collector’s decision is reportedly in solidarity with João Ribas, who recently resigned as artistic director from the Serralves Museum over claims that its Robert Mapplethorpe show had been censored – two rooms were allegedly restricted for those under 18, and 20 images were removed. Ribas commented at the time: ‘a museum cannot condition, separate, or delist access to works, to say what people can see or not’. Teixeira de Freitas’s loan to the museum is said to include work by Mark Lombardi and Gabriel Orozco – it was being stored at the foundation under a ten-year agreement. 

In grants and awards news: New York’s Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art has been given the promise of a USD$1 million bequest by photographer and philanthropist Michael Becker; the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas has been gifted USD$3 million by patrons Catherine Marcus and Will Rose; and the PinchukArtCentre in Kiev, Ukraine, has announced the shortlist for its 2018 Future Generation Art Prize which recognises artists 35 and under – shortlisted artists include Monira Al Qadiri, Marguerite Humeau, Taus Makhacheva, Toyin Ojih Odutola and Sondra Perry.

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