The week in short: Beyoncé releases ‘Black Is King,’ a duck nests atop the Met and more art news

The week in short: Beyoncé releases ‘Black Is King,’ a duck nests atop the Met and more art news

This week’s art stories, in short.

July 31

  • Attention: Beyoncé’s visual album “Black Is King” is here. Dropped at 3 a.m. Eastern, the release landed on Disney+ this morning after the reveal of the singer’s “Already” music video. In a statement on Instagram, Beyoncé said the record was originally meant to complement tracks off of “The Lion King: The Gift” soundtrack and to “celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry,” but has since expanded to “serve a greater purpose.”

“‘Black Is King’ is a labor of love,” she wrote. “It is my passion project that I have been filming, researching and editing day and night for the past year. I’ve given it my all and now it’s yours … With this visual album, I wanted to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy.” [NPR]

  • The American Museum of Natural History announced plans to open its doors to visitors in September. The move pends approval from the city and state. As with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the institution will reduce hours, limit capacity to 25% and require patrons over the age of two to wear masks. The museum has been shuttered since mid-March. [AP News]

July 30

  • With readers in the United States flocking to the page, book sales appear to be doing well. “In fact,” wrote publishing expert Jane Friedman, “2020 may prove to be one of the strongest sales years in recent memory.” The Hot Sheet writer attributes the market health to — among other things — online sales, current events and a rise in the rate of ebook consumption. She also states that preliminary estimates of bricks-and-mortar bookstores sales are down. [The Hot Sheet by Jane Friedman]
  • The London Book Fair, canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has drawn the ire of agents who are now left without full refunds for their tables. In an open letter, the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR) and Professional Association of Canadian Literary Agents (PACLA) condemned Reed Exhibitions’ management of refunds.

“As the Association of Authors Representatives (AAR), we have tried to work this out privately with calls and letters from individuals as well as leaders of our organization,” organizers stated. “However we have seen no movement whatsoever on Reed’s part. We now need to make it clear publicly that we strongly disapprove of their silence and what we see as overly punitive actions.” [Publishers Weekly]

  • Further evidence that ducks are art: a mallard has been found nesting atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The art-curious duck took up residence in a planter placed on the museum’s Cantor Rooftop Garden. The duck and her ducklings will be moved to Central Park once they hatch. You can follow the Met’s Instagram for updates. [Hyperallergic]
  • Barrington Stage Company — which was set to be the first theater to allow an Actors’ Equity member perform indoors amid the state’s phased reopening — announced that it will be moving performances outdoors after all. The decision comes as the Pittsfield, Mass., institution prepares to stage David Cale’s “Harry Clarke,” starring Mark H. Dold. The performance will now be presented in a tented area. [The New York Times]

July 29

  • If you’re longing for a live dance performance and have access to Tivoli, N.Y., you are in luck. This year, Kaatsbaan is presenting an outdoor dance festival, set to run Aug. 1 to Sept. 27. Dancers will perform for a masked, socially-distanced audience. The plan stemmed, The New York Times reports, from retired American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Stella Abrera, who became Kaatsbaan’s artistic director earlier this year (after being named in 2019). Alicia Graf Mack, Lloyd Knight and Calvin Royal III are among the dancers gathered to help develop programming.

“How can we not respond to what is happening in our society?” Abrera told the Times. “Art helps us be part of our world, to process what is happening around us, to grieve.” [The New York Times]

  • Following allegations of racism and sexism at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), executive director Elysia Borowy-Reeder has been terminated. The institution’s board placed Borowy-Reeder on leave earlier this month after the release of an open letter signed by more than 70 former MOCAD employees. Also this week, two recently resigned MOCAD curators, Jova Lynne and Tizziana Baldenebro, launched the online exhibition “ARTWORK,” which aims to provide an example of what a more equitable art world looks like. [The Detroit News]
  • Opera Philadelphia will be moving its much-anticipated fall season online, as concerns for the coronavirus continue to limit the organization’s ability to safely interact with audiences in person. The plan, revealed earlier this week, will include options for a year subscription or pay-per-view for individual performances. [ALL ARTS]

July 28

  • Those wondering where Vincent van Gough painted his last artwork, “Tree Roots,” can stop speculating. In a press release July 28, the Van Gough Museum stated that Wouter van der Veen (scientific director of the Institut van Gough) traced a postcard to the exact spot the painter captured.

“Every element of this mysterious painting can be explained by observation of the postcard and the location: the shape of the hillside, the roots, their relation to each other, the composition of the earth and the presence of a steep limestone face,” the discoverer said. “The site is also consistent with Van Gogh’s habit of painting motifs from his immediate surroundings.” [Van Gough Museum]

  • The multi-hyphenate musician Rhiannon Giddens will take the helm as artistic director of Boston’s arts organization Silkroad. She started in her role Wednesday, appearing with the group in “Recitals for the World Stage,” a digital concert series from Tanglewood. [Boston Globe]

Top Image: Beyoncé from "Black Is King." Photo: Travis Matthews.