INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FORCULTURAL PROPERTY PROTECTION
Reposted from Town & Country
When Emily Cooper breezily bypassed the Louvre in favor of Atelier des Lumières’ digital reproduction of Starry Night on the Netflix series Emily in Paris, art lovers everywhere cringed from their couches. A room filled with digital renderings of famous artworks—oversize, animated, set to music, and sometimes even scented (quelle horreur)—hardly compares to the real thing. Or does it?
Already a fixture in Europe and Asia, digital art spaces are sprouting up across the U.S., promising immersive experiences that can transport viewers. The expansive, room-wrapping format of these shows riffs on an experience created by teamLab, an art collective based in Tokyo. In 2001, they debuted their landmark digital art technology, creating interactive rooms that grew into an eponymous museum in Tokyo, which opened in 2018. It had 2.3 million visitors its first year, the largest attendance for a single-artist institution in the world.
Aside from one-off exhibitions like Yayoi Kusama's Mirror Rooms or Random International’s Rain Room, the most established of these digital-first spaces in the U.S. is Artechouse in New York’s Chelsea Market (it also has outposts in Washington, D.C., and Miami Beach) which commissions digital artists to create specific digital installations. But it's not the only game in town anymore: Superblue, opening this spring in Miami, is taking things up a level by including installations from teamLAB and James Turrell.
Museum curators are reckoning with the fact that these destinations, once dismissed as Instagram fodder, could also be the way forward in the world of classical art. Dwindling museum foot traffic is a real issue that was exacerbated by Covid-19 restrictions.
“People are introduced to and engage with art differently now,” says Jonathan Berger, marketing director at Newfields Museum in Indianapolis (formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art). “As a cultural institution we have to reflect that, yet even though society has changed, museums haven't.” The Newfields Museum is the first U.S. institution to go all-in on a dedicated space in hopes to increase visitors. It is dedicating its entire fourth floor to a 33,000-square-foot virtual space, entitled The Lume, which will open in June.
Other classical remixes include both traveling pop-up exhibitions, such as San Francisco’s “Immersive Van Gogh,” which opened March 18 after a residency in Toronto, and standalone venues. Culturespaces, the company behind Paris’s Atelier des Lumières of Emily in Paris fame, is opening an outpost in Lower Manhattan’s former Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank this year (date to be announced).
“Anything that brings people to the fine arts is worthwhile,” says Steven Naifeh, curator and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Van Gogh: The Life. “But at the same time, I think of it like music. As nice as listening to a recording can be, it would be terribly sad to never see a live performance.”
Undoubtedly, there is a poetry to standing next to a work of art, the same canvas that a great master touched, to study the brushwork; it just might not be enough alone to sustain the institutions these works call home. The staggering numbers drawn in by digital shows is a tempting lure, one that museums hope will get people in the door and then stick around to explore the collections IRL.
For Newfields and "Immersive Van Gogh, the artists serves as a suitable entry to art, and not only because of his popularity. Van Gogh wanted as many people to see his work as possible and even painted duplicates of Sunflowers and Lullaby to send out to friends. If he were around today it is likely he would be impressed by these extravagant displays—and he might even tag himself.
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Reposted from Artnet News
An eight-year-long, $2.4 million restoration of the Ghent Altarpiece went viral last year as the 12-paneled painting’s central figure, a sweet lamb symbolizing Jesus himself, was made to look like the kid from the ”Trying to hold a fart next to a cute girl in class” meme.
People online promptly compared the effort to Monkey Christ and any number of other famous restoration fails—even as researchers proved that this is what the lamb originally looked like when Flemish painters Jan Van Eyck and Hubert Van Eyck first created the work at Belgium’s St. Bavo’s Cathedral in 1432.
But you needn’t rely on memes to weigh in on the painting anymore. Today, St. Bavo’s Cathedral welcomed the famed painting home after its run in a once-in-a-lifetime Jan van Eyck exhibition, and in doing so they unveiled a new €30 million ($35 million) state-of-the-art glass structure for its display, as well as other updates.
The 20-foot-tall case boasts bulletproof glass and a 1,000-square-foot climate-controlled interior. The painting was moved from the cathedral’s Vijd Chapel to the Sacrament chapel, where, according to the Guardian, it will hang from pneumatically controlled steel supports above an altar. Meanwhile, extra large security doors have been installed nearby, in case of an emergency.
For another painting this might seem like overkill, but not for the Ghent Altarpiece, which, over the course of its 588-year history, has been stolen on more than a dozen occasions—Napoleon and Hitler were among those desperate to take it—and nearly destroyed by fire on numerous others.
“Jan Van Eyck was a genius who has been astonishing the world for more than five centuries with his innovative techniques. Both the magnificent restoration and the circumstances in which the Ghent Altarpiece can now be admired are astonishing,” Jan Jambon, the Flemish Prime Minister, said in a statement. “The splendor of colors, the details, the lighting: everything is perfect. That makes us proud.”
With the installation of a new display for the Van Eycks’ masterpiece came a full architectural upgrade for St. Bavo’s—a process that involved the redesign of the Cathedral Crypt and some of the building’s ancient stone walls. With an elevator and extra sets of stairs, the 746-year-old site is now fully accessible. The cathedral has also introduced a new augmented reality experience that will guide visitors through the space virtually.
“Religious and Christian heritage is unlocked here in a unique way,” the Bishop of Ghent, Lode Van Hecke, added. “This is not only important for the sake of the past, but even more so for today and tomorrow.”
“It confronts us with human’s eternal quest for mystery,” he continued. “I am convinced that many people will find personal resonance here.”
Reposted from Texas Monthly
On Tuesday night, a pair of would-be art thieves in Houston attempted to commit a glamorous crime: breaking into the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Bayou Bend Collection and Garden in River Oaks, with the suspected intent to pull off an honest-to-gosh heist. According to the museum, the duo is believed to have consisted of a man and a woman, who are accused of entering the illustrious mansion in which the collection is housed at around 6:45 p.m. How did they enter? If the words “art heist” mean anything, they mean that the thieves did not attempt to enter through the front door: rather, they squeezed through a grate covering a basement window on the museum’s north terrace.
Alas, nothing. The heist wasn’t meant to be. The museum’s burglar alarm sounded, alerting a security guard to the intruders’ presence. As detailed by the museum’s statement on the attempted crime, they escaped through the main door on the museum’s southern facade, after which the security guard gave chase (!) as they darted through the woods (!!) on their way to a motorized fishing boat (!!!) they had prepared as a getaway vehicle, waiting for them on the nearby Buffalo Bayou.
So far, it appears that way. After evading the security guard, the waterborne burglars navigated the bayou to a storm drain, where they abandoned their craft and, thus far, seem to have vanished. Police found the boat, investigated the museum, and explained that “no one was harmed and no works of art were damaged,” and that “nothing appears to have been removed from the premises.”
Nobody knows! That’s what happens when you complete a successful getaway.
I mean, kind of, yeah? Certainly, we don’t wish to encourage our readers to commit crimes of moral turpitude, and stealing valuable things that don’t belong to you is definitely not a good thing. But we are not immune to the allure of certain crimes as being, uh, pretty cool, and decades of heist movies and shows—from The Thomas Crown Affair to The Great Muppet Caperto Ocean’s Eleven to Bonnie & Clyde to Lupin—have worked their magic. We acknowledge the glamour conjured by the words “art thieves.” That’s especially true when the caper A) results in no injuries or material losses, B) was planned elaborately enough that the criminals found a basement window to enter through, and C) was conducted both by land and by sea.
True, yes. These are C+ art thieves at best. Danny Ocean would not accept them into his crew.
Depends on your definition of “often,” really, but it happens more often than you might think! Right here in the Lone Star State, there are instances of high-end art, some of which is of immense value, being either taken, purchased despite being of dubious provenance, and/or disputed by multiple owners with claims to the work.
That’s true of pieces by contemporary artists such as Nicole Charbonnet and Erin Cone, who each had several paintings stolen from a trailer in a Dallas parking lot while in transit from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Louisiana in 2019. (The FBI is still seeking leads in the case, though a possible break came in January, when a mysterious caller reached out to Cone and to Charbonnet’s art dealer, seeking a reward for returning the paintings.) It’s true of a pair of priceless stolen thirteenth-century Byzantine frescoes purchased and restored by Houston collector Dominique de Menil, half of the couple for whom the city’s Menil Collection is named, in the 1990s. After being displayed in Houston for more than a decade, the frescoes were returned to the Church of Cyprus in 2012. Just this month, a similar case in Dallas led to the return of a looted ancient artifact, the Stele of Lakshmi-Narayana, to its native Nepal.
And then there’s the pair of portraits of the actress Farrah Fawcett, painted by the legendary Andy Warhol, which the actress bequeathed to the University of Texas—but one of which remained for years in the possession of her former beau Ryan O’Neal. (O’Neal’s possession of the work was discovered, naturally, while he was filming a reality TV show, because the camera captured it hanging on his dang wall. After a lengthy legal battle, O’Neal was allowed to keep the painting.) Another recent scandal took place in Houston, where a ring of art thieves targeted the city’s wealthy socialite community—including former mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee, who used the example to argue for “more police on the street” during his campaign. Those burglars were arrested in the summer of 2019, after months of casing their targets via social media.
They do not. But neither do they involve anybody splashing around the sewers empty-handed, with their boat in the possession of the police, so we’ll call it a wash. In any case, the bungling bayou burglars did better than the 2014 attempted art thieves who tried to steal an oversized canvas work and escape through Houston’s downtown tunnel system but found themselves stymied by size of the 6-by-6-foot piece, which was too large to fit through the entryway.
Reposted from KGOU
The head of security at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City took the internet by storm when he was tasked with running the museum’s social media accounts at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the security director turned internet star has an exhibition of his own at the museum.
The exhibition #HashtagtheCowboy opened March 17 and features the viral social media posts of Tim Tiller, the museum’s director of security. In his endearing posts, Tiller shows off artifacts in the museum’s collection as he learns the ropes of social media.
Tiller’s security guard uniform and bolo tie are also included in the exhibition as well as letters and gifts he’s received from fans around the world.
Nathan Jones, associate curator of history at the museum, said the exhibition is a physical representation of what has brought people joy online during the pandemic.
“There's a tendency to look back on 2020 and just see the bad things,” Jones said. “And while there were plenty of catastrophes going on around us, there were also moments of genuine human connection when we were all feeling very isolated. So this was one of the big highlights for this museum's community and for our online followers.”
Tiller took on the additional role of assisting with social media since he was one of the few employees allowed in the museum while it was temporarily shut down in March 2020 due to the pandemic. Even after the museum reopened, Tiller has remained involved in posting on social media.
Seth Spillman, the museum’s chief marketing and communications officer, said Tiller’s social media posts have attracted new visitors to the museum.
The exhibition runs through Aug. 8.
Reposted from Security Magazine
The primary security operations topic in 2021 continues to be the global pandemic – and for good reason. One of the most obvious challenges to achieving herd immunity is vaccinating enough people to keep the virus from spreading.
As COVID-19 vaccines roll out throughout the country, many organizations and government entities are facing – or soon will be facing – challenges around the logistics, distribution of information and administration of those vaccines.
How do you communicate vaccine availability to specific groups of people? And how do you effectively communicate and facilitate the logistics for any single person receiving a vaccine?
The complexity of communicating throughout the process of vaccine distribution is increased by the sheer number of organizations involved in the vaccination process. From government at the federal, state and local levels to health departments, drug stores, retail chains and residents, successful mass immunization requires efficient, targeted communication and cooperation across a wide range of entities.
Enter: critical communications.
Though many of us in the security industry are well-versed in the value of emergency mass notification technology, we have entered what is arguably this sector’s most significant era, as it plays a central role in the largest public health initiative in modern times. Now more than ever, organizations need to take a closer look at their critical communications practices to ensure they foster operational resilience and efficiency.
Whether you are a municipality turning to an emergency mass notification solution to help you distribute vaccine doses, a company looking to safeguard an unprecedently remote and distributed workforce until it’s safe to return to the office, or any other organizational decision maker exploring technology to help solve countless pandemic-related critical event management challenges, here are some best practices to keep in mind in the months ahead:
Advance your risk intelligence capabilities.
In instances of a crisis or security risk, every minute counts. Having a system in place that can monitor critical events in real time and quickly identify relevant threats to vaccine availability and accessibility will enable you to make proactive decisions that protect your people, places and property.
To that end, forward-thinking leaders are leveraging artificial intelligence-driven risk intelligence capabilities to increase the speed and accuracy of how they are identifying and responding to emerging threats. AI and machine learning can ingest thousands of verified data sources, identify the most critical events facing an organization and deliver tailored alerts to the right people at the right time – far faster than human analysts.
Therefore, complementing your critical communications infrastructure with risk intelligence technology can provide early warning of adverse events, such as the inclement weather that has put further strain on local government teams responsible for advancing immunization while keeping roads open and electricity running.
Communicate before you execute.
It’s important to communicate with the right people before there is a need to reach them. To prepare, ensure you are continuously building your database of critical communications recipients. If you’re only truly starting this process as it’s time to press ‘send,’ you’re too late.
When it comes to vaccine deployment, successfully sharing the availability of injections and scheduling appointments to get injections in the arms of specific groups is vital to success, particularly when:
Therefore, governments and public health authorities need to build a sophisticated database of residents they may need to engage, as well as multiple ways for those residents to sign-up for communication. This can be accomplished by proactively sharing sign-up information with the prospective message recipients via email, social media, press releases, including it on the website and mentioning the solution during public hearings and forums.
There is also an increased need now to manage these databases more closely and share sign-up information on an ongoing basis. Given the pandemic, people have made permanent and temporary moves from their original residences to avoid more populated cities and areas with greater COVID-19 risks. As people move away from or to different areas, having accurate information on who is where can help ensure that the right people receive the right messages at the right time.
Prepare for a dialogue.
In addition to having an accurate database of notification and alert recipients well in advance, organizations can achieve resiliency amid evolving COVID-19 challenges by proactively preparing communications messages in anticipation of common scenarios. Build templates for these likely situations with simple and clear messages that can be ready when needed.
Some of the specific messages you may consider preparing are those related to COVID-19 exposure. New laws in California are requiring companies to notify their employees and subcontractors if they have been exposed to COVID-19 at a worksite. Having concise communications ready that trigger engagement from the recipient can help protect the safety and well-being of your organization and its people.
For COVID-19 vaccination and infectious disease mitigation efforts in particular, messages should also encourage two-way communication between public health authorities and citizens, such as prompting residents to confirm their scheduled vaccine and come back for their second dose. This feedback loop will help maximize the choregraphed deployment for both rounds of vaccination. Organizations also need a system that encourages two-way dialogue to keep employees informed about the benefits of vaccination; collect feedback from employees on pre- and post- appointment check-ins, as well as potential side effect reports; and even engage with staff surrounding vaccine hesitancy.
Test, test, and then test again.
It is simply too late to test your critical communications systems when a critical event hits.
Teams should regularly test critical communications software to ensure it works as expected. Just as risk intelligence is used to foresee the unexpected, proactive testing can mitigate problems prior to your messages being sent.
A key part of testing includes encouraging recipient participation and confirmation they received your test alerts or notifications. Not only does proactive testing ensure your messages are reaching the right people and your infrastructure is in order, it also helps familiarize the recipients with you, so they don’t dismiss important alerts as spam or some unwanted communication. Fostering this trust between the sending party and receiving party is vital to the success of any critical communications framework, particularly in the context of public health imperatives.
Leverage integrated critical communication technology platforms.
As COVID-19 challenges continue to evolve, organizations need to be prepared to react quickly and communicate to a growing number of internal and external stakeholders in real time throughout these events.
There is a growing need for critical communications solutions that streamline this process. Software that integrates risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management in one platform and connects with your other business continuity solutions can help ensure your organization is safe, informed, and connected when it matters most.
From aggressive vaccination efforts across the U.S. to mitigating new COVID-19 outbreaks, leaders must equip their communications functions to anticipate, mitigate and resolve these threats more efficiently than ever before, as speed, relevance and usability within critical event management will directly save lives during this time.
In summary, not only is it important to optimize your messages and databases so that your communications are reaching and engaging the right audience, but it’s also imperative to have a central, trusted platform that can accomplish three pivotal objectives: 1) quickly identify threats to your business; 2) communicate information and instruction to mitigate the threat; and 3) build a two-way dialogue between your organization and message recipients to resolve risk.
Now is the time to optimize critical communications to maintain resiliency through new COVID-19 challenges and beyond.
Reposted from ArtNews
For the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the reckoning followed a field trip gone awry. In the spring of 2019, a group of middle schoolers, all students of color from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, Massachusetts, were treated to a visit to the museum as a reward for good grades and good behavior. There, they were allegedly greeted with racist invective and profiled by museum staff and fellow visitors alike. According to Academy teacher and chaperone Marvelyne Lamy, a museum employee told the children that “no food, no drink, and no watermelon” were allowed in the galleries. In an impassioned Facebook post uploaded after the visit, Lamy also described in detail how the students were harassed by fellow museumgoers and tailed closely through the galleries by museum security, who reprimanded them disproportionately compared to white students visiting from another school. She swore she would never go back to the MFA.
Within days, the incident had been picked up by national news outlets. A week later, the museum issued a public apology, staking a claim for the future to be “committed to being a place where all people trust that they will feel safe and treated with respect.”
In the next week, two museumgoers who had made derogatory remarks to the students were banned from the premises. A range of reforms was promised, including new training sessions for all front-facing docents, guards, and staff. Meanwhile, internal investigators grappled with how to overhaul a museum culture that had allowed for a hostile environment and ensure that changes would be made.
The Massachusetts attorney general also launched an investigation that culminated in an agreement between the museum and the attorney general’s office. As part of the arrangement, the MFA appropriated $500,000 to launch a new fund for diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as internships for students of color. It also developed a more direct system for processing complaints regarding discrimination and implemented new anti-harassment and discrimination training for museum staff.
Four months after the agreement was finalized, the museum also announced a new hire: Rosa Rodriguez-Williams, who took the newly created position of senior director of belonging and inclusion. At the time of her hiring, MFA director Matthew Teitelbaum said in a statement that Rodriguez-Williams would be “integral in reimagining how we welcome and engage historically underrepresented audiences, truly reflecting the communities we serve.”
The position was developed within MFA Boston’s Division of Learning and Community Engagement rather than under the banner of human resources, with an understanding that the work would be fluid and determined by the demands of the audiences the museum wants to reach. In Rodriguez-Williams’s own terms, one of the most important aspects of her job is “fostering visitor experience” from inside and outside the institution.
Born in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez-Williams assumed the post in early September, after more than a decade at the helm of the Latinx Student Cultural Center at Boston’s Northeastern University. Her job there focused on recruiting and retaining Latinx and Latin American students, with a particular focus on establishing a sense of belonging among those from marginalized communities. With her background, she was quick to recognize that educators had been working on issues related to equity and inclusion for much longer than museums had—and that change owes less to institutions than to the people who support them.
“My day-to-day is working alongside the departments and providing the tools they need to prioritize inclusion within their own work,” she said in an interview in November, two months into her tenure. “Museums and organizations are about people, so helping people—staff and visitors—engage with a sense of belonging is where I come in.”
When protests swelled over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last spring, many predominantly white-led art institutions wrestled with how to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement as layoffs and furloughs disproportionately affected BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) employees. Amid the unemployment crisis, open letters penned by museum workers condemned leadership at major institutions—among them the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Getty Trust in Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art—for legacies of racial bias and institutional inequity.
Full-time positions promoting inclusivity have been instated with growing frequency since. Last August, the Seattle Art Museum tapped Priya Frank for the new role of director of equity, diversity, and inclusion. In September, the Milwaukee Art Museum named Kantara Souffrant its inaugural curator of community dialogue, and SFMOMA appointed Kenyatta Parker director of diversity, inclusion, and belonging. In November, the Metropolitan Museum of Art made a high-profile move in hiring Lavita McMath Turner—who had done similar work for the City University of New York—as its first chief diversity officer; that same month, London’s Serpentine Galleries announced the appointment of Yesomi Umolu as director of curatorial affairs and public practice.
Responsibilities differ in the job descriptions, but among the common goals are diversification in terms of curatorial programming and museum staff, as well as aims to connect with communities of color. In Boston, Rodriguez-Williams leads a voluntary group called Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility (IDEA) that has launched affinity groups for those less well represented, including BIPOC and LGBTQIA+. Such measures, she said, are “a good way to support the incredible diversity in the museum.”
In all of her work, Rodriguez-Williams collaborates closely with Makeeba McCreary, who in 2018 was appointed MFA’s first chief of learning and community engagement. A Boston native, McCreary came to the museum from the Boston Public Schools, where she worked as managing director and senior adviser of external affairs. Describing her role as “amorphous,” McCreary now works in a role whose official responsibilities, as per MFA’s own language, include “integrating diverse perspectives into the museum’s programs and educational offerings” and fostering “a better understanding of the issues of today through the lens of art.” Outside of that, she thinks of her job as an interpretive process. “When I came here, I found myself in a dramatically outward-facing role—I was figuring out how to reach out to the public and say ‘Come,’ ‘come,’ ‘come,’ ” McCreary said. “But then I realized that you had to worry about what would happen when you do find them at the threshold. The question is: what gets them over that threshold and willing to explore?”
McCreary and Rodriguez-Williams are currently working to create what they refer to as “tool kits” to help their colleagues in various departments reduce barriers between the institution and its audience. In the museum’s Art of the Americas Wing. wing, for example, an effort was initiated in 2020 to provide translations for every wall label. And new initiatives were enacted around special exhibitions including “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation,” a show (running into May) anchored by Jean-Michel Basquiat but expanded to illustrate how the barrier-breaking hip-hop movement was the cumulative vision of Black and brown communities of artists.
Writer and musician Greg Tate, who co-curated “Writing the Future” with MFA curator Liz Munsell, said McCreary was “essential” to the exhibition’s success. Before the show opened, McCreary invited members of the community—artists, business people, musicians—to gather and respond to questions about it. Did the exhibition speak authentically to their lived experience? What does Basquiat mean to people living and working in his wake? The exhibition opened in October and, by December, attendance averaged around 2,000 people a week—a “remarkable” figure, Tate said, given the circumstances, the pandemic keeping so many people at home.
“It would be pointless to have this show while not being able to crack those castle walls, that alienation that exists between the community and the institution,” Tate said. “People said that they had actually avoided the museum because they felt like nothing in there spoke to them. Those talks were an icebreaker to a frozen relationship.”
The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which opened in Bentonville, Arkansas, in 2011, offers a blueprint for what equity-minded work can achieve. In 2016, the museum’s board of directors named Rod Bigelow its first chief diversity and inclusion officer—a mantle added to his lead role as executive director. The position was created in response to a damning survey commissioned by the Mellon Foundation in 2015 whose findings included that, among the ranks of U.S. museum staffs, 84 percent of “professional” positions were occupied by workers who identified as white. Only 4 percent of those occupying such roles were Black, and 3 percent were Hispanic.
Recognizing similar points of disparity at Crystal Bridges, Bigelow pledged to make a change. “We had every opportunity to create an organization that was representative of the people of this country, and we didn’t do a great job of that,” he said, of an institution founded just a few years before the survey was conducted. Since then, he and the museum’s board have worked in what he called a two-prong approach: execute short-term solutions and sustain long-term initiatives. “From hiring diverse staff to deciding who makes up an advisory committee to what’s in the galleries—everything must be done to make sure we retain momentum in the long term,” Bigelow said. “That means, firstly, educating the team on what it means to be anti-racist and what racist systems exist that we contribute to.”
The Early American galleries at Crystal Bridges were reimagined early in the process to include contemporary artwork in an effort to add context, such that visitors are now greeted by Nari Ward’s monumental We the People (2015), a 27-foot-wide wall sculpture presenting the opening words of the Constitution’s preamble with each letter outlined in shoelaces. As of this past November, 28 percent of Crystal Bridges staff and 32 percent of museum leadership are people of color. (The board of directors remains predominantly white, with the exceptions of Thelma Golden and artist Hank Willis Thomas.)
In the past year, Crystal Bridges has held more than a hundred sessions with the public to learn about what people feel are the most pressing issues, among them immigration, accessibility, power, and process. “We need to ask the right questions of our community over and over again to ensure real change,” Bigelow said. “Too many times have these issues come up and then faded away.”
In Boston, McCreary shares Bigelow’s concern that attention can be all too fickle. She expressed fear over the prospect of fading awareness as media interest cools and unemployment declines with the pandemic’s hoped-for abatement.
Bigelow, for his part, hopes matters of diversity won’t get too entangled with issues of finance. “Not all of this work requires funding—it’s about changes in procedure and process,” he said. “Too often there’s a default to slowing the work or stopping the work because there’s a perceived lack of funding. But this isn’t entirely about funding—it’s about will.”
When museums around the world went dark last March, the team at the Uffizi Galleries in Florence rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Its director, German art historian Eike Schmidt decided that if they could not bring people into their museum, he would bring the museum to the people.
Now, he’s preparing to launch the “Uffizi Diffusi” program later this year to disperse art from its storage to dozens of venues all over Tuscany in a series of thematically arranged presentations. Schmidt and local mayors are even working to establish bicycle routes between the cities to connect venues, like the late Renaissance palace in Montelupo Fiorentino and an opulent former thermal bath in Livorno.
The Uffizi has also been rapidly expanding its online presence. It signed up for Facebook the day after Italy’s lockdown, and it became one of the first museums to fully lean into TikTok last April. More recently, it launched a YouTube cooking show called “Uffizi da Mangiare” (or “Uffizi on the Plate”) that features chefs from the region taking culinary inspiration from works of art.
Artnet News spoke to Schmidt about how he’s bringing a sustainable and digital renaissance to the historic museum.
How did the idea for Uffizi Diffusi and dispersing works from the collection throughout Tuscany come about?
The idea to have a territorial museum is actually a rather old one. First endeavors in that direction were already made right after the Italian unification in the 1860s and ‘70s, but these remained isolated. It was really during the first lockdown last spring that I was looking at how we could actually change our offer in order to respond to these new times we are in—not just the pandemic but also the ecological crisis.
The idea came up to do a territorial museum project in a more systematic fashion, which means really relocating works of art from the Uffizi throughout Tuscany, especially works that have been in storage for decades and would probably never be exhibited in any other way. These are not at all secondary works. These are oftentimes works of art that in different contexts would be on view, but with the very strong collection that the Uffizi has, often these works do not really have the chance to come out except for special exhibitions, or to replace works of art that are on loan.
Florence was having issues keeping its tourism down to a sustainable level before the pandemic. How does spreading the works out help with some of the crowding issues the city was experiencing?
Our idea is really to de-concentrate. That means opening up the possibility of a new tourism. These works that will be spread throughout Tuscany have an identification value and a social value for the people who live here, so we want to bring the works of art closer to where people actually live.
It is an alternative answer to the problem of what to do with large museum storages. Some museums have opened up walk-in storages to give people an impression of what is there, but the problem with that is that you cannot actually take much away from that experience other than being wowed by how many works there are.
What we are instead trying to do is to create individual narratives that have something to do with the art history of the individual towns of Tuscany, like different chapters of one metaphorical book. In order to read the entire book, you have to go to more than one place. People who live in Tuscany will now go beyond their city walls to see how the works interrelate. People who come just once to Tuscany will be able to see so much more of it now that we are showing these works of art thematically, scattered across the country.
How does the de-concentrated model relate to the ecological crisis?
Florence is known for over tourism, which we experienced up until 2019. We had such a density of out-of-town visitors that would all eat and leave their garbage wherever. This is not ecological, just as it is not ecological to jet into a town for a weekend just to see the Uffizi, and maybe go to the opera before leaving again. With these works of art throughout the countryside, another great advantage is that it favors longer stays. We are working with the region of Tuscany and with dozens of mayors to create bicycle routes throughout those cities’s venues. We want to blend cultural tourism with nature tourism and athletic tourism. It is healthier and more fun, and better for the earth.
I can imagine these cities’ venues might not have the same security as Uffizi Galleries. Is that true? How will you mitigate that?
Thanks to new security technologies, which took huge leaps in the past two decades, there is top-notch security available that would have been almost impossible to afford before. We are implementing new lighting technology that is more ecological as well as security systems that are going to be able to guarantee a level of security that we would have been able to only dream of before. We are very optimistic about this.
Conservation, which is another important aspect, will be handled by the Uffizi team. We are looking at climate controls to ensure there is stable temperature and humidity at all the venues and that there are no other risks. In two cases, there are projects—the Villa Medicea L’Ambrogiana in Montelupo Fiorentino and the Terme Del Corallo in Livorno—that need major renovations in the low tens of millions.
The news about the Uffizi Diffusi comes in a year marked by a major change in your offerings, both via your new TikTok account and your recently launched cooking show, where Italian chefs make meals inspired by a work of art in your holdings. How do all these efforts intersect?
In the case of Uffizi Diffusi, it is more of a geographical outreach project, but we are also very much looking at areas that need to be re-qualified at the edges of Florence. TikTok is preferred by younger people, and so we adapted our language to it. It is different from our other digital offerings on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For all of these different channels, we follow a different visual approach and language.
The cooking show aims to tease out different aspects of the works of art closer to the people here. It’s not just about the history of art and cuisine but also about inspiration. Chefs propose recipes and cook along with audiences, so audiences can cook it themselves. This idea came about during lockdown, when people lost access to museums and restaurants. We wanted to anchor the works of art in people’s lives. Our hope is that you cook the recipe at home and speak with your family and friends about the dish and the works of art.
Is TikTok helping to balance an aging museum-going population?
It is an investment in the future. We have been stepping up our education programs for kids and youth quite a lot. We continued doing that throughout the lockdown and I think that this differentiates us from many other museums that cut down on those departments, and especially on educational freelancers who were supposed to be giving seminars and tours.
We didn’t have any school groups for the past 13 months, but, amazingly, our digital programming achieved exactly what we hoped for: We had 10 to 15 percent more young visitors up to 25 years of age step into the museum throughout the entire period we were open, between June and November 2020, than before. That is very encouraging. In terms of people 19 to 25, we actually even more than doubled our numbers. And in the age group of children from zero to 18, we reconstructed the same amount of young people who came the museum—but it was young people coming on their own volition and not in school groups. It shows that our approach really worked and it continues to do so after we opened this past February. We have far stronger numbers of young people coming to the museum.
Even with all these outreach programs, visitor numbers on the whole plummeted, of course. Was the pandemic as detrimental to the museum’s finances as one might expect?
It was financially terrible as we made less than 25 percent of what we had earned in 2019. But we did put some money aside in previous years, so it was possible to get through last year. We also received government aid. I would expect, and I very much hope, that in the course of this year the situation will be normalizing slightly, and that from 2022 we will be getting back to business.
That is why we worked so intensively on the Uffizi Diffusi project because we have to be ready once the masses return. We need to be offering them a polycentric offering in order to get tourism moving in a new direction. It would be really a shame if all the problems that mass tourism brought about would return as fast as business returns. We’re changing our business model, but we have to change it quickly in order to be able to give new signals when people travel again.
You made headlines again recently when you accepted a donation from a street artist named Endless. You are not known for having a contemporary art collection.
It doesn’t get focused on much because it was never displayed in its entirety, or even in large parts, yet it is an absolutely fascinating collection, and the world’s oldest and largest collection of self-portrait and portraits. We have works from the 15th and 16th centuries, and the collection itself was started in the 17th century. Since then, acquiring works never stopped. But in the 18th century, it became a particular honor to be allowed to donate a portrait. We have self-portraits by artists as diverse as Yayoi Kusama, Neo Rauch, and Michelangelo Pistoletto.
Endless is particular because he is the first street artist donating a self-portrait. It is a self portrait as a group portrait. We also have a lot self portraits by women painters.
It is a real treasure trove, but oftentimes people are not aware of it. Once we are showing more of the collection, people will also forget about the notion that female artists were a phenomenon of the modern contemporary age. There were lots of them around in the Baroque period and Renaissance period.
Are you accepting donations?
Every time we acquire a work of art, I always get a hundred letters about this. Basically, no, artists are not at all encouraged to send in works of art because we will have to send them back. The tradition is in fact that you are invited to donate a work. Artists then think carefully about what they donate. This is a collection where you will be next to Bernini, Velasquez, and Raphael. They have one shot.
Reposted from Harvard Business Review
Employee activism is on the rise and we expect it to become a defining feature of the workplace in the coming years. Employees are increasingly aware of social inequality and climate change and how their companies contribute to these ills, with millennials in particular seeming to be unwilling to turn a blind eye to their employers’ complicity. Climate strikes, calls for unionization, and support for Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement are becoming part of the reality in organizations, reinforced by the growing pressure from investors targeting environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aims.
But our last seven years of research into how employees speak up at work — and our more recent research into politics in the workplace specifically — have shown us that leaders tend to be ill-equipped to handle their outspoken employees.
That’s understandable. That social, environmental, and political issues should even have airtime at work creates a more problematic employer-employee contract than most leaders are used to and exposes them to a minefield of values and perspectives they are frequently ill-equipped to engage with.
Still, missteps in handling employee activism can be damaging for leaders and companies. For example, Wayfair’s nonresponse to employees asking the company to stop supplying furniture to inhumane immigrant holding facilities resulted in well-publicized walkouts that brought much more negative attention to the company. Amazon’s heavy handed crackdown on employee activists has done little to slow movement toward unionization, and has prompted a high-level resignation. Talented employees are increasingly poised to wrest power from management — or turn to competitors — and consumers stand at the ready to support employees and take their business elsewhere.
There are three fundamental traps that snare leaders facing activism from their employees: over-optimism, a belief that you can be apolitical, and a rush to quick fixes. Let’s look at each more closely — and then examine how you can avoid them.
When we asked the CEO of a large manufacturing organization about his response to growing employee activism, he leaned forward with a puzzled expression on his face. In a somewhat conspiratorial whisper, he said, “I think we’ll be fine. We’ve always run a meritocracy and people just get on with it. If people think something they generally just speak up.” But the survey we had just conducted at his organization pointed to a very different reality: one in which environmental and social concerns bubbled just below the surface, with employees afraid to bring them up.
Our research on speaking truth to power clearly highlights that the more senior you are, the more optimistic you become. As a result, you are more likely to underestimate the challenges your employees face and their feelings around so-called activist issues, whilst overestimating the degree to which they feel safe to speak up to you (and your skills in listening to points of view that don’t match with your take on the world). This is partly because your powerful position may mean you are intimidating to others, so you don’t hear what needs to be heard. It is also due to advantage blindness – leaders tend to carry multiple labels that convey status, for example, CEO, white, or male. When you have these labels, you can be the last person to realize how impactful they are. It isn’t until you don’t have those labels that you can really experience how consequential they are on the ability to speak up — and be heard.
The optimism bubble means that leaders can dismiss activism as rebellion: unnecessarily disruptive behavior. As a result, they pay no heed to growing dissatisfaction until it is too late. In the case of the optimistic CEO we worked with, he was oblivious to the fact that talented employees had begun to move to competitors because of their dissatisfaction with his approach, including the influential and insightful head of one of their employee networks.
Avoiding the optimism bubble requires you to take seriously the prospect that you are out of touch. Reverse mentoring and shadow boards can all help get the voice of a younger generation into your head. Employee network groups can be the organization’s antennae. And increasing organizational diversity through recruitment and promotion might force you out of an echo chamber of similar, passive, and uncritical opinions. Yet, to work, all of these steps require you to listen to be changed, rather than to defend and rebut.
In a blog post that swiftly went viral last year, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong directed employees to be “laser-focused” on the company’s mission and to cease to “engage in broader societal issues when they’re unrelated to our core mission.” He concluded that employees who wished to be at “an activism-focused” company would be helped to move elsewhere. Over 60 employees took him at his word and have subsequently left the company.
Appearing apolitical can be appealing when it seems so dangerous for leaders to do anything else. Some observers applauded Armstrong’s statement as the safest way for a business to operate. After all, by taking a stand, companies can lay themselves open to being cancelled or accused of playing politics, affecting their reputation with investors, customers, and potential employees.
The trouble is that the view that it is possible to be apolitical reveals a failure to understand that inaction is not neutral: it is also a political statement and stance. It also opens the company to criticism on the very issue it was hoping to avoid.
For example, McKinsey recently mandated that its staff in Moscow stay neutral during recent political demonstrations. But staying off the streets also served Vladimir Putin’s agenda, as was pointed out in a Financial Times column. In response to the backlash, McKinsey’s Global Communications Director, Ramiro Prudencio, issued a mea culpa in the newspaper a few days later.
Avoiding the apolitical trap requires leaders to accept that stakeholders can ostracize them for views that they offer — or the ones that they don’t.
Human beings tend to be uncomfortable with ambiguity. Leaders and managers, because they have been told on numerous occasions that they are supposed to “manage” change and be in control, are perhaps particularly uneasy and are notoriously swift in their grasp for quick solutions. But that can mean insufficiently thought-through reactions to employee activism, in particular over-promising and under-delivering.
Leaders and companies that fail to truly practice what they preach often find themselves at the mercy of the same public judgment they sought to avoid. For example, firms such as BlackRock, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle have all recently faced accusations of either simply going through the motions when it comes to environmental issues, or saying one thing to one group while lobbying behind the scenes to achieve another.
Similarly, as numerous organizations rushed to make statements in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, many ended up being accused of running communication exercises as quick fixes with nothing to stimulate or support meaningful change underneath them.
To avoid the quick fixes trap, have your executive team discuss their overall approach to employee activism as part of your strategic plan — being proactive, not just reactive, can help to avoid panicked responses. Link executive renumeration to ESG targets to encourage action and not just words.
In our analysis, avoiding all these traps depends on something more fundamental but less easily engineered than corporate process or policy changes. That is the degree to which you as an organizational leader are aware of, care for, and see yourself as responsible for wider societal issues beyond the boundaries of your corporate remit. Leaders who fail to see themselves and their actions as part of that larger system tend to be those who don’t see developing problems, embrace inaction as neutral, rush to half-hearted solutions — and suffer the consequences along with their organizations.
We recommend asking yourself and your colleagues these two underlying questions deeply and regularly:
We find that many leaders we speak with, given a moment to think over these questions, recognize their organizations to be actively perpetuating, or tolerating, societal inequities. We also find that they can fan sparks of activism in many leaders who long to initiate real positive change in the world.
One of China's most visited cultural sites: the Mausoleum of Qin Shihuangdi in the city of Xi'an needed a comprehensive security alarm upgrade. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a 2,000-year-old army of clay statues, the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, guarding the tomb of China’s first emperor. The site is visited by thousands of people each day and call for an unobtrusive, yet effective intrusion detection system that reliably alerts security staff to potential incidents, while still allowing tourists to see the integrity of the site.
In order to protect the large site from theft, damage and vandalism, the museum installed a comprehensive intrusion system from Bosch Building Technologies. Several hundred TriTech motion detectors are deployed to protect the 16,300-square-foot museum against theft and damage. These detectors prevent false alarms under challenging environmental conditions, while providing detection reliability of real alarms.
As wall detectors, the TriTech motion detectors protect the pits where the terracotta warriors are located. Because these pits collect large amounts of dust that could cause false alarms, the sensor data fusion algorithm in each of the rugged detectors checks potential alarms with PIR sensor and microwave Doppler radar for a consistent result. The area to be protected is also secured from above by ceiling-mounted TriTech motion detectors. These detectors are located 4.8 meters above the museum floor, yet operate accurately and reliably. They thus exceed the range of standard ceiling detectors by more than two meters.
In the event of an actual security breach, the Bosch G Series system controller sends an alert, including the location of the triggered detector, in less than two seconds to the security team in the control room, which uses live images from a video system to verify the alarm. In most cases, tourists trigger an alarm when they cross a threshold to retrieve their cameras or smartphones that have accidentally fallen into the pit. In doing so, there is a risk of damage to the priceless terracotta warriors.
Reposted from CIP Association
The use of artificial intelligence holds promise in helping avert, mitigate and manage disasters by analyzing swaths of data, but more efforts are required to ensure that technologies are deployed in a responsible, equitable manner.
According to UNDDR, about 1.2 million lives have been lost worldwide and more than 4 billion people affected in disasters that took place between 2000 and 2019.
Faster data labelling
Cameron Birge, Senior Program Manager Humanitarian Partnerships at Microsoft, says their work in using AI for humanitarian missions has been human-centric. "Our approach has been about helping the humans, the humans stay in the loop, do their jobs better, faster and more efficiently," he noted.
One of their projects in India uses roofing as a proxy indicator of households with lower incomes who are likely to be more vulnerable to extreme events like typhoons. Satellite imagery analysis of roofs are used to inform disaster response and resilience-building plans. A simple yet rewarding avenue of using AI has been around data labelling to train AI models to assist disaster management.
One challenge, he noted, has been around "unbiased, good, clean, trusted data". He also encouraged humanitarian organizations to understand their responsibilities when making use of AI models to support decision-making. "You have to ensure you sustain, train and monitor these models," he advised. Microsoft also wants to promote more sharing of data with its 'Open Data' campaign.
Precise decision support
AI is becoming increasingly important to the work of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Supercomputers crunch petabytes of data to forecast weather around the world. The WMO also coordinates a global programme of surface-based and satellite observations. Their models merge data from more than 30 satellite sensors, weather stations and ocean-observing platforms all over the planet, explained Anthony Rea, Director of the Infrastructure Department at WMO.
AI can help interpret resulting data and help with decision support for forecasters who receive an overwhelming amount of data, said Rea. "We can use AI to recognize where there might be a severe event or a risk of it happening, and use that in a decision support mechanism to make the forecaster more efficient and maybe allow them to pick up things that couldn't otherwise be picked up."
Understanding the potential impact of extreme weather events on an individual or a community and assessing their vulnerability requires extra information on the built environment, population, and health.
"We need to understand where AI and machine learning can help and where we are better off taking the approach of a physical model. There are many examples of that case as well. Data curation is really important," he added.
WMO also sets the standards for international weather data exchange, including factors such as identifying the data, formats, and ontologies. While advocating for the availability of data, Rea also highlighted the need to be mindful of privacy and ethical considerations when dealing with personal data. WMO is revising its own data policies ahead of its Congress later this year, committing to free and open exchange of data beyond the meteorological community.
'Not a magic bullet'
Rea believes that AI cannot replace the models built on physical understanding and decades of research into interactions between the atmosphere and oceans. "One of the things we need to guard against in the use of AI is to think of it as a magic bullet," he cautioned.
Instead of vertically integrating a specific dataset and using AI to generate forecasts, Rea sees a lot of promise in bringing together different datasets in a physical model to generate forecast information. "We use machine learning and AI in situations where maybe we don't understand the underlying relationships. There are plenty of places in our area of science and service delivery where that is possible."
Rakesh Bharania, Director of Humanitarian Impact Data at Salesforce.org, also sees the potential of artificial or augmented intelligence in decision support and areas where a lot of contextual knowledge is not required. "If you have a lot of data about a particular problem, then AI is certainly arguably much better than having humans going through that same mountain of data. AI can do very well in answering questions where there is a clear, right answer," he said.
One challenge in the humanitarian field, Bharania noted, is scaling a solution from a proof of concept to something mature, usable, and relevant. He also cautioned that data used for prediction is not objective and can impact results.
"It's going to be a collaboration between the private sector who typically are the technology experts and the humanitarians who have the mission to come together and actually focus on determining what the right applications are, and to do so in an ethical and effective and impactful manner," he said. Networks such as NetHope and Impactcloud are trying to build that space of cross-sectoral collaboration, he added.
Towards 'white box AI’
Yasunori Mochizuki, NEC Fellow at NEC Corporation, recalled how local governments in Japan relied on social networks and crowd-behaviour analyses for real-time decision-making in the aftermath of 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami.
Their solution analyzed tweets to extract information and identify areas with heavy damage and need for immediate rescue, and integrated it with information provided by public agencies. "Tweets are challenging for computers to understand as the context is heavily compressed and expression varies from one user to another. It is for this reason that the most advanced class of natural language processing AI in the disaster domain was developed," Mochizuki explained.
Mochizuki sees the need for AI solutions in disaster risk reduction to provide management-oriented support, such as optimizing logistics and recovery tasks. This requires “white box AI” he said, also known as ‘explainable AI’. "While typical deep learning technology doesn't tell us why a certain result was obtained, white box AI gives not only the prediction and recommendation, but also the set of quantitative reasons why AI reached the given conclusion," he said.
Webinar host and moderator Muralee Thummarukudy, Operations Manager, Crisis Management Branch at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), also acknowledged the value of explainable AI. "It will be increasingly important that AI is able to explain the decisions transparently so that those who use or are subject to the outcome of these black box technologies would know why those decisions were taken," he said.
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