Today marks day 33 of the US government shutdown—the longest in American history. Since it began in late December, food inspections have been curtailed, court cases have been delayed, and an estimated 800,000 federal have missed paychecks. Museums are feeling the pressure too, as many of the country’s most prominent institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art, have been closed for three weeks.
With no end in sight, future programming is in peril, as several forthcoming exhibitions—and one art installation in outer space—are on the verge of being delayed, shortened, or even canceled before ever seeing the light of day.
Below, we take a look at all the exhibitions threatened by the seemingly endless impasse.
“Tintoretto: Artist of Renaissance Venice” at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Pegged to the 500th anniversary of the artist’s birth, the National Gallery’s much-talked about Tintoretto retrospective, originally slated to open March 10, would become the first ever North American retrospective of the 16th-century Italian painter’s work. However, preparations for the exhibition have been delayed for weeks, and while museum leaders are meeting privately to discuss strategy, there’s a chance the show and two related exhibitions on Venetian prints and drawings will be delayed.
“Striking Iron: The Art of African Blacksmiths” at the National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC
“Striking the Iron” was slated to open in late February at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, but has been postponed indefinitely. The show looks at the evolution of ironworking and how industrial innovation has shaped African cultures for the last 2,000 years. Unfortunately, with all its employees furloughed, the museum hasn’t been able to prepare for the installation of the exhibition. The opening date for the show is now a question mark.
“Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which effectively granted women the right to vote. In celebration of the milestone, another Smithsonian museum, the National Portrait Gallery, hopes to mount “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence,” an exhibition of portraits, historical artifacts, and other materials looking back at the fight for women’s suffrage. Exactly when the show will open, however, is still up in the air. Originally scheduled for March 1, it will be postponed to a new date, as yet unannounced.
Untitled 2020 Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Also recognizing the anniversary of the 19th amendment, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is planning an ambitious exhibition of works by female artists for 2020, the details of which are still being ironed out. However, though the show is still a year away, the shutdown has already put it in a tight spot. According the Philadelphia Inquirer, the museum was planning to fund it in part through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts—another organization that’s currently furloughed. The deadline for applications and the dispersal of funds will likely be pushed back by the agency, meaning that the academy would have to reschedule the exhibition or find a new way to pay for it.
Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector in Outer Space
The shutdown has even made its presence felt beyond the earth. Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector, a bright, self-inflating satellite sculpture, is currently sitting idly on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in orbit some 350 miles above Earth, despite being launched over a month ago. According to The Art Newspaper, the Nevada Museum of Art, which commissioned the work, released a statement explaining the delay: “The [Federal Communications Commission] had asked us to wait for their go-ahead before we deploy the balloon. Since the government shutdown began, communication with the FCC has been suspended, as they are not operational at this time.”
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