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MAD FUNDS MISUSED? The former chief financial officer of New York’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Denise Lewis, sued the institution last week, alleging its leadership fired her after she accused the director of misusing institutional funds, reports ARTnews’ Senior Editor Alex Greenberger. Lewis said she approached the board with allegations about director Tim Rodgers, claiming he had used MAD money to fund expenses related to a second home in Connecticut, as well as payments towards a vacation in Mexico, all of which she contested.

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WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 21: The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History stands along Madison Drive Northwest on the National Mall in Washington, DC. An investigation by the Washington Post into the Smithsonian's human remains collections revealed the revered institution is holding 30,700 bones and body parts, including 255 brains as party of its "Racial Brain Collection." Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III has apologized for how the collection was created and has built a task force to decide what to do with the remains. (Photo Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Smithsonian Misused Covid Relief Funds, Report Says

Smithsonian Secretary Apologizes After Human Brain Specimens Investigation

SMITHSONIAN PANDEMIC SPENDING. In more news of financial scrutiny, an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit has criticized the Smithsonian Institution’s spending of pandemic relief funds under the 2020 CARES Act, stating the government-run museums and research centers did not consistently use “funds in accordance with applicable laws, policies and procedures.” The institution received $7.5 million to help respond to the impact of the pandemic, reports Artnet News.


Protestors occupied London’s Science Museum Saturday and accused the institution of “greenwashing” for accepting sponsorship of a new gallery by the Indian conglomerate Adani Group, the world’s largest coal miner and weapons manufacturer, which the museum reportedly found was linked to alleged corruption and human rights concerns. The “Energy Revolution: the Adani Green Energy” gallery is sponsored by the group’s renewable energy subsidiary, and it opens today with an exhibit on climate change. [The Art Newspaper]

Researchers have uncovered what is believed to be the secret to Roman building longevity: a technique for making concrete that is “superior” to modern versions. A building excavation site in Pompeii has revealed how Romans made their concrete, in what scientists describe as a “self-healing” mixture. [The Times]

La Scala orchestra members in Milan have demanded its director, Dominique Meyer, remain on board for the duration of his contract, despite him being of French origin. The far-right Italian government has said it wishes to replace Meyer with an Italian native, as part of a controversial, nationalist policy. [Le Figaro]

New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has apologized for refusing entry to two visitors on March 16, because one had a Palestinian headscarf, or keffiyeh, in their bag. In a statement, the museum said their security staff had mistaken the headscarf for a banner. [Hyperallergic]

The Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s basilica masterpiece begun 144 years ago, should be completed by 2026. Esteve Camps, the president of the group responsible for its construction, announced the news in time with the centenary of Gaudi’s death. However, key details, such as a controversial stairway to the main entrance will take longer, with works continuing until 2034. [The Guardian]

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has pledged $640 million in gifts to hundreds of US nonprofits, a figure that is more than double her initially announced plan. [The Observer]

Artists are concerned over Meta’s new default feature limiting “political content” from algorithms on Instagram and Threads. [Hyperallergic]

French children’s author and illustrator Laurent de Brunhoff, the son of Jean de Brunhoff, who wrote and illustrated the first Babar book, has died at age 98. Laurent continued his father’s series, adding over 40 titles. [The Times]

A list of France’s most visited art exhibition in 2023 has revealed Egyptian art continues to draw crowds, with 817,000 tickets sold for a Ramses II show at Paris’ La Villette venue. Next on the top of the list, are two blockbusters at the Musée d’Orsay featuring Edvard Munch, as well as the duo Manet-Degas exhibit, both drawing around 700,000 visitors. [Le Quotidient de l’Art]


MONUMENTAL DEBATE. A culture war is heating up over new décor and artworks, including sculptures of Old Testament prophets, which have been added to Berlin’s Stadtschloss palace. Critics argue far-right leaning individuals have been funding the additions to the building, which houses a collection of non-European art, and that they are selecting décor steeped in symbolic references to Christianity and a nationalist agenda. The museum has told The Guardian that “problematic” donations accounted for a fraction of financial contributions, and rejected allegations that donors were actively involved in the building’s exterior renovations. “The point is that reconstruction isn’t a neutral scientific process, but a cultural program that comes with certain values,” Philipp Oswalt, an architectural historian at Kassel University, told The Guardian. “To pretend that this is only a debate about beauty and ‘authentic’ history is to play straight into the playbook of the far right.”