Over a month into the longest government shutdown in the US, countless government organizations are suffering and an estimated 800,000 government pay checks have been withheld from thousands of government employees. Now, the museum sector is about to realize a new level of pressure stemming from having to shut their doors to wait for the necessary funding. After continuing operations on the fumes of last year’s budget, many of the US’ best-known and loved institutions, like the Smithsonian, have been closed for three weeks. As the shutdown trudges on with little hope of ending, a number of exhibitions could be left in the wake of the shutdown.
Here are a few of the exhibitions that may be delayed, shortened, or even cancelled unless an end comes quickly to the shutdown.
The first exhibit on our list affected by the shutdown is an unusual one. Since 2016, artist Trevor Paglen has worked with the Nevada Museum of Art to create an artwork that takes a closer look at surveillance. On December 3rd, Orbital Reflector was launched in to low Earth orbit before it would eventually deploy a large metallic balloon. Once inflated, the balloon would orbit the Earth as a satellite which would be visible to us Earthbound people if we knew where to look. Due to the government shutdown, though, the balloon has yet to be deployed because work with the FCC has been suspended with the shutdown according to a January 18th statement. While engineers continue to talk to the spacecraft, Paglen is (understandably) growing more frustrated with the interference, excuse the pun, between the government and his spacecraft artwork.
Meant to open in just about a month, this exhibition will look closely at the fundamental ways in which African culture has been shaped and forged by ironworking. The travelling exhibition organized by UCLA’s Fowler Museum will (hopefully) run between February 27th and October 20th at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Without the necessary museum staff to continue preparations, though, the exhibition has been delayed indefinitely.
This exhibition expected to run the entirety of the year at DC’s National Portrait Gallery (NPG) has been postponed. ‘Votes for Women’ will celebrate the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in the US, which allowed women to have the right to vote. Some events for the show have already been cancelled and it is unknown if the NPG will extend the exhibition to accommodate lost time. The current government shutdown, though, feels like a cruel joke for the monumental anniversary of another historical moment in US history.
Expected to open on March 10th, this massive retrospective of Tintoretto’s work will be the first of its kind celebrating the artist in North America. The exhibition will also mark the 500th anniversary of the Italian Old Master’s birth. Set for the National Gallery of Art in DC, the show debuted in Venice this past September and recently wrapped up on January 6th. So, the show is currently being moved to its DC stop, which is also its final stop.