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The Big Review: Gauguin and the Impressionists at the Royal Academy of Arts

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Gallery view of Gauguin and the Impressionists at the Royal Academy of Arts. Photo: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts

The 60 paintings had all arrived, ready to be hung—but then the coronavirus closure hit on 17 March. This was just 12 days before the planned opening of Gauguin and the Impressionists: Masterpieces from the Ordrupgaard Collection. Still in their crates, the pictures remained in the storeroom of Londons Royal Academy of Arts (RA).

The light-infused Impressionist works are now finally hanging. For art lovers, it brings joy to see paintings once again after months of lockdown, and it is an even greater pleasure when they are works which will be fresh for most British gallery-goers. But what is it like to view art in the coronavirus era? Masks are obligatory, making for a slightly uncomfortable experience. The upside is that there are few visitors, quite a contrast with the usual huddle around the paintings, especially in popular shows on Impressionism, and offering a welcome opportunity to savour the art close up.

The RA faced a logistical nightmare in sorting out its exhibition programme in the wake of the coronavirus closure. Among the dilemmas was what to present in the Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries, inaugurated two years ago in the Burlington Gardens building. Originally Gauguin and the Impressionists was to have closed there on 14 June, to be replaced by Cézanne: the Rock and Quarry Paintings—a show that had opened at Princeton University Art Museum just a week before the US lockdown. Reluctantly, the RA cancelled Cézanne and opted to extend Gauguin and the Impressionists.

The RA faced a logistical nightmare in sorting out its exhibition programme in the wake of the coronavirus closure

The exhibition comes entirely from one place, the Danish-based Ordrupgaard collection. This made it logistically easier for the RA to get the loans extended, which would have been much more complicated for an exhibition with dozens of lenders.

Global tour

The Ordrupgaard is currently closed for building work and although it was due to reopen late this year, this has been delayed slightly and it is now scheduled for next spring—so the extension was readily agreed. London is the last stop on the Ordrupgaard touring show, which during the past three years of its building project has been presented in Paris, Ottawa, Padua, Martigny, Prague and Hamburg. Loan fees from seven venues will contribute towards the cost of the £16m extension, which has been designed by the Norwegian architects Snøhetta to provide improved display space for the French pictures and temporary exhibitions. The extension is being named Himmelhaven (heavenly garden), reflecting its site in a leafy suburb of Copenhagen.

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The show presents just over half the Ordrupgaards French paintings, in general the finer works. The title of the RA exhibition should pull in the punters, but is slightly misleading. There are eight Gauguins, just over a tenth of the show, and only half the remainder are Impressionist works (the rest are mostly earlier, plus a few Post-Impressionist and Modern pictures).

As with many private collections, there is a fascinating story about the people behind it. The Ordrupgaard pictures were assembled in the early 20th century by Wilhelm Hansen (1868-1936), who made a fortune selling life insurance, and his wife Henny (1870-1951). They benefited from the First World War, when art prices were low, and bought voraciously from Parisian dealers. The Hansens also built a villa in Ordrup, an area in the northern outskirts of Copenhagen (“gaard” means country estate). In 1922 Wilhelm suffered a financial loss and had to sell off half of his collection, but his fortunes soon recovered and he then started buying again.

A masked (and socially distanced) visitor at the Royal Academy exhibition, with Monets Waterloo Bridge, Overcast (1903) in the background Photo: © David Parry/ Royal Academy of Arts

In the RA exhibition, labels on the paintings mainly give just the artist, title and date, since, unlike a monographic show, most visitors here are unconcerned with a painters development (succinct labels are also good for social distancing). Although the Hansen story is briefly explained in wall texts, more detailed information and a few more early photographs of the interior of their villa would have been welcome, since it is the couples collecting that binds the show together. Normally such information would also be conveyed with an audioguide, but because of Covid-19 these are not available (an audio explanation can be downloaded onto a mobile phone).

The presentation is slightly confusing, at least in terms of chronology. The first room has mainly Impressionists (1860s to 1890s); the second one reverts to earlier 19th-century paintings; and the final room features “Impressionist Women” (with female artists or sitters), ending with a bang: the eight Gauguins.

The centrepiece of the Gauguin display is the striking portrait of Jeanne Goupil (1896), the nine-year-old daughter (looking rather older in the painting) of a French couple in Tahiti. The final two Gauguins feature Tahitian women, with the wall labels giving the now almost obligatory disclaimer: “His depictions of Polynesian women often reflect his fantasies of a supposedly ideal primitive society, which, probRead More – Source

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Chair of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts steps down as former director sues over unfair dismissal

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Former director Nathalie Bondil is suing the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for unfair dismissal and libel

The chair of the board of trustees at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Michel de la Chenelière, is stepping down, two months after firing the museum's director Nathalie Bondil.

On Friday, De la Chenelière said he will not ask for the renewal of his term at the annual assembly on 29 September, "so that the museum can open a new era". The same day, Bondil filed a lawsuit against De la Chenelière and 21 other board members with the Superior Court, asking for Can$1m (US$750,000) in moral damages and another Can$1m in punitive damages, for unfair dismissal and libel.

Without waiting for the assembly, the board chose Pierre Bourgie, a close ally of De la Chenelière's, to take his place as chairman and acting director. Bourgie, the head of a financial firm that sponsored the opening of a concert hall by the museum in an Anglican church, said on Radio Canada that "the crisis was over" and "everyone now was very happy at the museum".

However, he could soon be contradicted by an audit of the museum's management and board, commissioned by Quebecs Culture Minister Nathalie Roy, which is imminent. The minister, who said she was "flabbergasted" by Bondils sudden dismissal in July, has since ordered the museum to give back a Can$10m subsidy, which was earmarked for the construction of a new space dedicated to the painter Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Nathalie Bondil © Marco Campanozzi

De la Chenelière, who intends to stay on as a trustee, says he had to dismiss Bondil because of a "toxic climate" at the museum, which was pointed out by an investigation led by an independent firm. But since he refused to show the report to anyone, including the culture minister, the unions representative and Bondil herself, he was in the hot seat. Hundreds of members of the museum asked for the "revocation of his mandate" as well as the departure of ten other members of the board. The trustees reRead More – Source

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Chair of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts steps down as former director sues over unfair dismissal

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Former director Nathalie Bondil is suing the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for unfair dismissal and libel

The chair of the board of trustees at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Michel de la Chenelière, is stepping down, two months after firing the museum's director Nathalie Bondil.

On Friday, De la Chenelière said he will not ask for the renewal of his term at the annual assembly on 29 September, "so that the museum can open a new era". The same day, Bondil filed a lawsuit against De la Chenelière and 21 other board members with the Superior Court, asking for Can$1m (US$750,000) in moral damages and another Can$1m in punitive damages, for unfair dismissal and libel.

Without waiting for the assembly, the board chose Pierre Bourgie, a close ally of De la Chenelière's, to take his place as chairman and acting director. Bourgie, the head of a financial firm that sponsored the opening of a concert hall by the museum in an Anglican church, said on Radio Canada that "the crisis was over" and "everyone now was very happy at the museum".

However, he could soon be contradicted by an audit of the museum's management and board, commissioned by Quebecs Culture Minister Nathalie Roy, which is imminent. The minister, who said she was "flabbergasted" by Bondils sudden dismissal in July, has since ordered the museum to give back a Can$10m subsidy, which was earmarked for the construction of a new space dedicated to the painter Jean-Paul Riopelle.

Nathalie Bondil © Marco Campanozzi

De la Chenelière, who intends to stay on as a trustee, says he had to dismiss Bondil because of a "toxic climate" at the museum, which was pointed out by an investigation led by an independent firm. But since he refused to show the report to anyone, including the culture minister, the unions representative and Bondil herself, he was in the hot seat. Hundreds of members of the museum asked for the "revocation of his mandate" as well as the departure of ten other members of the board. The trustees reRead More – Source

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Cattelans notorious banana finds a home at the Guggenheim

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A fair visitor inspects Maurizio Cattelan's sculpture Comedian at Perrotin's stand at Art Basel Miami Beach David Owens

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has gratefully accepted the gift of Comedian, the banana art conceived by Maurizio Cattelan that was taped to the wall at the booth of the gallery Perrotin at the Art Basel Miami Beach fair last December.

The donor was anonymous, and the work gifted consists of a certificate of authenticity and a long list of instructions with diagrams on how it should be installed or displayed, the Guggenheim says. The donation does not include the original banana itself or the duct tape that was used to attach it to the wall of the Perrotin booth. It was the first new piece that Cattelan had offered at a fair in more than 15 years.

The Guggenheim does not say when it might display it. Replacement bananas will presumably have to be recycled if the work goes on view.

"Maurizio Cattelan's work has been important to the recent history of the Guggenheim,” the New York museums director, Richard Armstrong, says, adding, “We are grateful recipients of the gift of ComedRead More – Source

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Artists urge the Whitney to review its ethical practices following backlash over cancelled exhibition

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The Whitney Museum of American Art

Three artists included in the cancelled exhibition Collective Actions: Artist Interventions in a Time for Change at Whitney Museum of American Art in New York have published an open letter to the curators, directors and board members of the museum urging the institution to review its ethical guidelines and practices.

The letter written by Chiara No, Kara Springer and Fields Harrington, signed by over 50 artists and published on Thursday, suggests that artists are living in a moment marked by “well-intentioned but all too often hollow gestures of support for black lives and racial justice”, and argues that the museums efforts to implement more ethical practices has been nebulous at best.

The museum cancelled the Collective Actions exhibition, which was originally slated to open on Thursday and focused on responses to the global health crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement, after a backlash from artists who discovered that their work had been acquired by the Whitney without their knowledge in sales in which pieces were donated or sold at a discount to benefit racial justice organisations.

Artists felt the museum was not transparent about their acquisition of their works, some of which had sold for around $100. The artists were informed of the exhibition when the museum staff requested their biographical information and offered them a lifetime pass to the museum as compensation.

“The ways in which you acquired our work and planned to show it, without conversation with or consent from many of the included artists, demonstrates an undervaluing Read More – Source

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As the world contends with Covid, World Monuments Fund makes a bet on sustainable tourism

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Koutammakou, where the Batammariba have long constructed mud dwellings Damien Halleux Radermecker

It may seem counterintuitive, given that the Covid-19 pandemic has wiped out international tourism at many formerly popular heritage sites. But the World Monuments Fund (WMF) believes that the moment has arrived to champion sustainable tourism. With that goal in mind, today it announced $1m in funding to support preservation work at seven cultural sites that were included in its 2020 World Monuments Watch list of 25 endangered places.

The money, provided by American Express, which joined in the announcement, will support projects at the sites that reinforce local and regional tourism, raise awareness of overlooked heritage and combat the displacement of local communities.

Bénédicte de Montlaur, chief executive of the WMF, said that the disappearance of hordes of tourists from heritage sites after the pandemic hit had driven home a fundamental reality: that the former crowds were untenable and destructive. “We dont want tourism to restart in the same way,” she says. “Were trying not to go back to the experience that there was before.”

Going forward, that means more of an emphasis on drawing local and regional residents to heritage sites and partnering with them to ensure that the sites benefit the community. In many cases, development associated with international tourism has in the past worked to the detriment of locals rather than fostering their well-being, de Montlaur notes.

The seven sites chosen are:

  • Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island, Chile
  • Inari-Yu Bathhouse,Tokyo
  • Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire,UK
  • Central Aguirre Historic District, Salinas, Puerto Rico
  • Canal Nacional, Mexico City
  • Courtyard Houses of Axerquía, Córdoba, Spain
  • Koutammakou, Benin and Togo

In Rapa Nui National Park, WMF will work with the Mau Henua Indigenous Community, which oversees the park, to develop a technical solution for preserving unique carvings by ancestors on basalt boulders that are now threatened by exposure and the inherent weakness of the underlying rock. “Normally we would have started already but we have to wait for the Covid situation to allow us to work,” de Montlaur says, noting the severity of the pandemic in Latin America. The hope is to send a team of engineers by the end of the year.

The Mata Ngarahu sector in the ceremonial village of Orongo in Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island in Chile Ma'u Henua

Planning has already begun on transforming a structure attached to the Inari-yu Bathhouse in Tokyo into an informal gathering space for the elderly in the neighbourhood. “Only one-fifth of the bathhouses that existed in Tokyo in the mid-20th century have survived,” de Montlaur says. “People dont go to them anymore. We want to preserve an example of this kind of architecture and public space but also find another use for them so they remain relevant for the local people.”

The Inari-yu bathhouse in Tokyo Haruka Kuryu

Structural repairs to the Bennerley Viaduct in Nottingham and Derbyshire, built in 1877 to carry a railroad line but out of use since 1968, began in July. It is one of only two wrought-iron viaducts surviving in the UK. Calls for its demolition met with local resistance, and a move is now underway to not only upgrade it but incorporate an oral history project, an educational programme and a bicycle trail. The project is part of a national campaign to transform disused railway routes into exercise destinations that promote health and social connections.

In the Central Aguirre Historic District, a former sugar company town in Salinas, Puerto Rico, distinctive wooden houses with corrugated roofs suffered damage in two hurricanes in 2017. According to de Montlaur, the plan is to restore some of them so they can serve as study cases for a new field school hosted by the WMF and Puerto Rican preservation officials that will provide instruction in traditional wooden construction methods. “The idea is that concrete has increasingly replaced wood and local knowledge has been lost,” she says. “Wooden houses are more sustainable than concrete houses for sure.” The project incorporates both large cottages built for American administrators and more modest houses for workers.

Canal Nacional in Mexico City, meanwhile, is mainly a social project binding the residents who have protected the waterway, once part of a broad canal network built over 2,000 years ago that gradually disappeared in the 20th century as the city developed. WMF will coordinate cultural programs and community workshops to celebrate the community that has sustained the canal, whichRead More – Source

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As the world contends with Covid, World Monuments Fund makes a bet on sustainable tourism

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Koutammakou, where the Batammariba have long constructed mud dwellings Damien Halleux Radermecker

It may seem counterintuitive, given that the Covid-19 pandemic has wiped out international tourism at many formerly popular heritage sites. But the World Monuments Fund (WMF) believes that the moment has arrived to champion sustainable tourism. With that goal in mind, today it announced $1m in funding to support preservation work at seven cultural sites that were included in its 2020 World Monuments Watch list of 25 endangered places.

The money, provided by American Express, which joined in the announcement, will support projects at the sites that reinforce local and regional tourism, raise awareness of overlooked heritage and combat the displacement of local communities.

Bénédicte de Montlaur, chief executive of the WMF, said that the disappearance of hordes of tourists from heritage sites after the pandemic hit had driven home a fundamental reality: that the former crowds were untenable and destructive. “We dont want tourism to restart in the same way,” she says. “Were trying not to go back to the experience that there was before.”

Going forward, that means more of an emphasis on drawing local and regional residents to heritage sites and partnering with them to ensure that the sites benefit the community. In many cases, development associated with international tourism has in the past worked to the detriment of locals rather than fostering their well-being, de Montlaur notes.

The seven sites chosen are:

  • Rapa Nui National Park, Easter Island, Chile
  • Inari-Yu Bathhouse,Tokyo
  • Bennerley Viaduct, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire,UK
  • Central Aguirre Historic District, Salinas, Puerto Rico
  • Canal Nacional, Mexico City
  • Courtyard Houses of Axerquía, Córdoba, Spain
  • Koutammakou, Benin and Togo

In Rapa Nui National Park, WMF will work with the Mau Henua Indigenous Community, which oversees the park, to develop a technical solution for preserving unique carvings by ancestors on basalt boulders that are now threatened by exposure and the inherent weakness of the underlying rock. “Normally we would have started already but we have to wait for the Covid situation to allow us to work,” de Montlaur says, noting the severity of the pandemic in Latin America. The hope is to send a team of engineers by the end of the year.

The Mata Ngarahu sector in the ceremonial village of Orongo in Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island in Chile Ma'u Henua

Planning has already begun on transforming a structure attached to the Inari-yu Bathhouse in Tokyo into an informal gathering space for the elderly in the neighbourhood. “Only one-fifth of the bathhouses that existed in Tokyo in the mid-20th century have survived,” de Montlaur says. “People dont go to them anymore. We want to preserve an example of this kind of architecture and public space but also find another use for them so they remain relevant for the local people.”

The Inari-yu bathhouse in Tokyo Haruka Kuryu

Structural repairs to the Bennerley Viaduct in Nottingham and Derbyshire, built in 1877 to carry a railroad line but out of use since 1968, began in July. It is one of only two wrought-iron viaducts surviving in the UK. Calls for its demolition met with local resistance, and a move is now underway to not only upgrade it but incorporate an oral history project, an educational programme and a bicycle trail. The project is part of a national campaign to transform disused railway routes into exercise destinations that promote health and social connections.

In the Central Aguirre Historic District, a former sugar company town in Salinas, Puerto Rico, distinctive wooden houses with corrugated roofs suffered damage in two hurricanes in 2017. According to de Montlaur, the plan is to restore some of them so they can serve as study cases for a new field school hosted by the WMF and Puerto Rican preservation officials that will provide instruction in traditional wooden construction methods. “The idea is that concrete has increasingly replaced wood and local knowledge has been lost,” she says. “Wooden houses are more sustainable than concrete houses for sure.” The project incorporates both large cottages built for American administrators and more modest houses for workers.

Canal Nacional in Mexico City, meanwhile, is mainly a social project binding the residents who have protected the waterway, once part of a broad canal network built over 2,000 years ago that gradually disappeared in the 20th century as the city developed. WMF will coordinate cultural programs and community workshops to celebrate the community that has sustained the canal, whichRead More – Source

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Indian museum celebrating Muslim dynasty renamed after Hindu king

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A digital rendering of the previously named Mughal Museum in Agra India, designed by David Chipperfield Architects © David Chipperfield

Indian state officials have renamed a planned museum in the northern city of Agra that will explore the history of the Mughal Empire—a Muslim dynasty which ruled a vast portion of the subcontinent between 1526-1857—to that of a Hindu king.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, announced on Monday that the Mughal Museum, which will show the art, jewellery, weapons and fashion of the former Islamic empire, will now be named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a 17th-century Hindu warrior-king.

The links between Shivaji and the city of Agra are tenuous. Meanwhile the museum will sit closely to India's most famous building and the world's greatest example of Mughal architecture—the Taj Mahal, completed in 1653 by the Muslim emperor Shah Jahan.

Although little ground has broken on the building, which was greenlit in 2016 and is being designed by the Berlin firm of British architect David Chipperfield, further announcements have revealed that the museum's narrative will also shift to shine more light on Hindu culture.

The move by the nationalist Indian People's Party (BJP) government, led by prime minister Narendra Modi who was re-elected in a landslide victory in 2019, is the latestto stoke religious tensions across the country. Last year, the government began a series of amendments to the nation's citizenship laws, which discriminated against Muslims seeking citizenship while protecting Hindus. Widespread, violent protests erupted as a result.

“How can Mughals be our heroes?” asked Adityanath duringRead More – Source

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Indian museum celebrating Muslim dynasty renamed after Hindu king

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A digital rendering of the previously named Mughal Museum in Agra India, designed by David Chipperfield Architects © David Chipperfield

Indian state officials have renamed a planned museum in the northern city of Agra that will explore the history of the Mughal Empire—a Muslim dynasty which ruled a vast portion of the subcontinent between 1526-1857—to that of a Hindu king.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, announced on Monday that the Mughal Museum, which will show the art, jewellery, weapons and fashion of the former Islamic empire, will now be named after Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a 17th-century Hindu warrior-king.

The links between Shivaji and the city of Agra are tenuous. Meanwhile the museum will sit closely to India's most famous building and the world's greatest example of Mughal architecture—the Taj Mahal, completed in 1653 by the Muslim emperor Shah Jahan.

Although little ground has broken on the building, which was greenlit in 2016 and is being designed by the Berlin firm of British architect David Chipperfield, further announcements have revealed that the museum's narrative will also shift to shine more light on Hindu culture.

The move by the nationalist Indian People's Party (BJP) government, led by prime minister Narendra Modi who was re-elected in a landslide victory in 2019, is the latestto stoke religious tensions across the country. Last year, the government began a series of amendments to the nation's citizenship laws, which discriminated against Muslims seeking citizenship while protecting Hindus. Widespread, violent protests erupted as a result.

“How can Mughals be our heroes?” asked Adityanath duringRead More – Source

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Activist employee group demands resignations of three Guggenheim leaders

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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York

Three months after accusing the institution of racism, an activist coalition of current and former employees of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York expanded its critique of the museum today and demanded that its director, chief operating officer and chief curator resign.

In a statement addressed to the museums board of trustees and staff and to their own allies, the group, called A Better Guggenheim, said that the director, Richard Armstrong; senior deputy director and chief operating officer, Elizabeth Duggal; and artistic director and chief curator, Nancy Spector, should be removed if they do not step down.

The group invokes a 29 June letter it submitted to the board listing 22 calls to action in response to the institutions “white dominant culture and toxic work environment.” “Nearly three months later,” it says in todays statement, “the board has yet to respond to our letter, or to our five follow-up messages, except to call our request for timely action unrealistic.”

However, the June letter ultimately drew 225 signatories, and the statement released today had none. It is therefore unclear how much employee support the group has for its demands. Contacted by email, A Better Guggenheim said only that its “organising group,” composed of current and former staff members across departments, composed the statement. Asked how many people that involved, the group replied by email: “Due to the museum's record of retaliation, we cannot confirm that information at this time.”

The document calls for the board to take “urgent” action by pursuing the three resignations. “Through their complacency, the board has demonstrated their support of leaderships negligent and oppressive behaviours,” the group writes. “It also betrays their belief that they bear no responsibility for the injury these behaviours cause to staff or the Guggenheims survival probability.”

A spokeswoman for the museum says it has no comment on the groups statement. Last month, the Guggenheim unveiled a plan to adjust its recruitment and hiring practices, seek a more diverse board, acquire more works by minority artists and reach out to a wider audience.

The statement presents a detailed indictment of the three targeted Guggenheim officials. It accuses Armstrong, who has led the museum since 2008, of “nurturing a culture of unchecked racism, sexism, and classism across all departments, levels, and locations associated with the Guggenheim”, sanctioning the berating of employees and the instilling of fear, and making “haughty, sexist comments”.

Duggal, the statement complains, abruptly introduced layoffs as “a first resort” to reduce operating costs within months of taking office in July 2018 and turned again to job cuts after the onset of the coronavirus paRead More – Source

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