Protection of invaluable art during urban unrest

Protection of invaluable art during urban unrest

While most demonstrations and marches were peaceful, political unrest led to looting and property damage in cities such as New York.

Although most public gathering places, such as museums, have been closed since March for social protection in the midst of the Corona pandemic, political unrest is a unique security problem for those responsible for protecting the invaluable art housed throughout. the city.

There are 130 museums in New York City’s five municipalities, according to city figures, including some well-known museums that host the work of world-renowned artists.

Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night is located just away from Claude Monet’s Lily Lake in the halls of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa). The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art host Pablo Picasso’s paintings and other invaluable collections.

And for many, museums are a cultural paradise.

“It’s not too late, but you have to have a plan”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art alone sees more than 7 million visitors a year.

“A lot of people in the city see museums as safe places to have a meaningful discussion on difficult issues. Art is sometimes a bridge to do that,” Marianne Lamonaca told CNN.

Lamonaca is the gallery’s managing director and curator at the Bard Graduate Center in New York and chairman of the board of directors of the Association of Art Museum.

Cultural institutions need to have a plan and coordinate with local services, including federal law enforcement, to plan for emergencies, art expert Stevan Layne told CNN.

Layne, the founding director of the International Foundation for the Protection of Cultural Property, is one of the security experts working with cultural institutions across the country whose leaders are trying to protect invaluable but currently vacant institutions. .

“We say it’s not too late, but you have to have a plan. The police are shocked, they can’t be everywhere. They can’t handle everything,” he said.

Most large institutions often have secure storage facilities in another location to protect the most valuable projects, Layne said. IFCPP is now warning museums to remove the exhibits from the main floor because they are likely to be the biggest risk in the event of a burglary.

At least one museum in the city, the Whitney Museum of American Art, has descended on the windows from floor to ceiling.

Layne says he tells his colleagues to take these precautions if they can, but the cost is high. And for those institutions that rely on daily ticket revenue, they probably can’t afford the resources due to coronavirus-related losses.

Discussion on controversial cultural facilities

Controversial cultural facilities in museums and public spaces have been the focus of discussion in recent years.

“It’s always been a question of what to do with monuments that are offensive to certain groups. That’s no different today than in Charlottesville in 2017,” said Margaret Holben Ellis, president and co-founder of the American Institute for Conservation of Nature (AIC). CNN.

Preservers are those who maintain cultural heritage sites, but also repair them when they are destroyed.

Some conservators have recently been harassed for repairing damaged facilities, Holben Ellis told CNN.

“We have received reports that conservators feel threatened – or threatened – in the performance of their professional duties in protecting and preserving cultural heritage. We must protect our members, as well as monuments, safe from harm and harassment. The decision to make decisions also has an emotional impact on conservatives who must remain neutral in the performance of their duties, “said Holben Ellis.

Conservatives operate on the basis of a code of ethics for the preservation of cultural heritage, said George Wheeler, an associate professor of historical conservation at the University of Pennsylvania.

Maintainers and executives may consider delaying repairs in public places as protests continue every night, Wheeler suggests.

These controversial statues have been removed following protests over the death of George Floyd.

“These things can be addressed, but how and when do we address these issues?”

Wheeler warns against the hasty removal of public facilities and monuments, as politicians have done in some cities.

“The decision may affect the safety of the maintainer, affect the perception of society and these specific sets of decisions may not be easily reversed,” Wheeler said.

“Conscious destruction of a monument because of its symbolism is also an option. This is extreme in the range of preservation – from preservation to something just as it is forever to its destruction,” Wheeler said.

How we use our voices

Both The Met and Whitney declined to comment on their security protocols, but they and many other museums in New York have posted on social media pages condemning the death of George Floyd in solidarity with the protesters.

The Guggenheim Museum promotes the work of African-American artists who have faced racial discrimination in their works.

The city’s public design committee has also posted on Twitter promoting black artists.

MoMa has published what it calls a short list of resources and organizations to combat racism and support justice and equality.

“I think museums want to go up right now and communicate,” Lamonaca told CNN.

The question for curators now, Lamonaca says, is “how do we use our voices, our position in the community to bring people together and have a meaningful discussion on difficult issues.”

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