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May 2020

Open With Caution. After China lifted its social distancing rules, the UNESCO world heritage site of the Huangshan mountains in Anhui province was flooded with visitors and was eventually closed back temporarily in March. Meanwhile, the Forbidden City has been reopened but visitor numbers are restricted to 5,000 a day.

Museums Take the Hit. As Singapore was hit by a second wave of coronavirus, its museums have been closed since beginning of March. On April 22, 2020, The Metropolitan Museum of Art laid off more than 80 employees, after it revised its budget to address the pandemic, expecting its losses to reach $150 million. Meanwhile, in Germany, museums are preparing to reopen with strict social and hygiene measures in early May. In France, “small museums” will be reopened starting May 11.

Rent! While landlords in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue arts district waived rent for the next three months, New York galleries which closed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic now seek rent relief and started petitions to #cancelrent.

Going Online. As the British Museum launched its newly revamped online catalogue, it mistakenly credited “Her Hakki Mahfuzdur”, the Turkish term for “all rights reserved”, as Turkey’s largest producer of postcards. This week, the Museum also launched its new platform CircArt, identifying possible provenance issues regarding pre-Islamic antiquities from Egypt and Sudan.

Surveying the Arts. According to an early survey by Americans for the Arts, financial losses to the US nonprofit arts sector are estimated to be $4.5 billion as of April 6. More recently, Artist Relief estimates that 95 percent of artists reported loss of income due to the pandemic.

Moral Rights, Anyone? A Brooklyn-based art collective purchased a Damien Hirst print for $30,000 and cut out its dots to sell them for $480 each, along with its hollowed-out frame “88 Holes,” as an act of protest against fractionalized art investments.

Smugglers Go Online. The Antiquities Trafficking and Heritage Anthropology Research (ATHAR) Project reported a surge in offers for looted antiquities over Facebook in the wake of COVID-19, pointing to the vulnerability of cultural sites during times of crisis.

Thou Shall Not Steal. Mid-April, Oxford papyrologist Dirk Obbink was arrested for allegedly selling 13 fragments of biblical fragments excavated from Egypt to Steve Green, President of the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby and Chairman of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. The Museum has announced that it will return 11,500 pieces with dubious provenance to Iraq and Egypt.

Please Don’t Stop The Music. The London police stopped Sotheby’s auctioneer Helena Newman from playing concerts with her family’s string quartet in front of their West London home, fearing that the concert encourages neighbors to break the lockdown to watch from the street. Andrew Lloyd Webber started screening his musicals to keep people at home and mesmerized.

Russian Lore Trove. Art historian Andrey Sarabyanov discovered dozens of works by avant-garde Russian artists such as Kandinsky,  Rodchenko, and others in the basement of the Yaransk Museum of Local Lore in Russia.

Save the murals.Battle to save concrete Picasso muralsin Oslo intensifies after MoMA steps in. “Workers at the Y-Block site have started drilling, but it’s worrying as once they start moving the mural, it will crack,” says co-creator’s daughter.

Webcam Photos. An artist used screenshots from a video feed to document Italy’s deserted streets. Now the webcam company responsible is demanding payment. The company, SkylineWebcams,is seeking €2,100 after Radisic used 40 of its images.