Art Industry News: Meet the Rising-Star Actor Who Has Been Chosen to Play Basquiat in a Major New Biopic + Other Stories

Plus, Iwona Blazwick is stepping down from her post as director of London's Whitechapel Gallery, and Australian artist Craig Ruddy dies at 53.

Kelvin Harrison. Jr. attends the U.K. premiere of "Cyrano" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on December 7, 2021 in London. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Universal Pictures)

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know this Thursday, January 6.


Italy Returns Parthenon Fragment to Greece (For Now) – Italy is making good on its promise to loan a piece of the Parthenon’s eastern frieze, long held in Palermo’s Antonino Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum, back to Greece. The loan will last four years with the intent to be extended for another four. After that, there is a chance it may become permanent, though this would require complex legal maneuvering on the part of Italy. The deal could renew pressure on the U.K. to return its own major collection of marbles(Guardian)

Painter of Aboriginal Australians Dead From Covid – The Archibald Prize-winning Australian artist Craig Ruddy died on Wednesday, January 5, at the age of 53, due to complications from Covid. The artist won Australia’s most celebrated portrait prize in 2004. His paintings explored environmental issues and the lives and culture of Australian Indigenous people. (Guardian)

Biopic Casts Its Basquiat – Basquiat is getting a new biopic, and its director Julius Onah has now found his star: Kelvin Harrison, Jr. The actor, 27, and filmmaker previously worked together on the 2020 drama Luce, for which they both won Independent Spirit Awards. Developed by Endeavor Content, the film Samo Lives will explore Basquiat’s life and career. Notably, it is also the first biopic about Basquiat to be envisioned by a Black filmmaker. In a statement, Onah said Harrison’s “sensitivity and soulfulness” will enable him to “truly honor Jean-Michel’s legacy.” (Variety)

How the Treatment of Fearless Girl Harms Artist Rights – Todd Fine offers his view of the ongoing Fearless Girl saga, in which the company State Street, which commissioned the statue, is locked in a lawsuit with Kristen Visbal, the artist who created it, over her ability to profit from reproductions of the work. The suit, which the author calls “a bullying tactic,” has implications for all artists who want to profit from their creative copyright, he writes. (Hyperallergic)


Iwona Blazwick Steps Down From Whitechapel Gallery – The longtime director of the venerable London institution is departing her post in April after 20 years. She will continue to work for the institution as an independent curator into 2023. The board of trustees says it will begin the search for a new director immediately. (Press release)

This Man Is Making Bank for Western Museums in China – Yizan He, the founder of the company Alfilo Brands, has generated tens of millions of dollars for international museums by licensing images of works from their collections and slapping them on stationery, surf boards, and home furnishings to be sold in China. His clients include the British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum and, in a recent deal, the Brooklyn Museum. (The Art Newspaper)

Guggenheim Creates Conservation Mentorship Program – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has promoted Francesca Esmay to director of engagement, conservation, and collections care. The longtime conservator will establish a new 10-week paid mentorship program for three BIPOC undergraduate or graduate students to study museum conservation. (ARTnews)

Queer|Art’s Prize for Recent Work Goes to Anaïs Duplan – The New York-based nonprofit awarded its annual $10,000 prize to Anaïs Duplan. The poet, curator, and artist won for his 2020 publication Blackspace: On the Poetics of an Afrofuture, a collection of interviews, essays, and ekphrastic poetry. (ARTnews)


Check Out This 717-Gigapixel Photo of Rembrandt’s Night Watch The Rijksmuseum has created the largest and most detailed photograph of any artwork ever as a part of its ongoing conservation of and research into Rembrandt’s Night Watch. Click here and zoom in to examine the minute dust particles and micro-cracks in the painting for yourself. (Press release)

Courtesy the Rijksmuseum.

Courtesy the Rijksmuseum.

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