Art Industry News: Sotheby’s Could Get Slapped With a Class-Action Lawsuit Alleging It Denied Workers Healthcare + Other Stories

Plus, London's ICA names Bengi Ünsal as its new director, and protestors in Kazahkstan topple a statue of its former leader.

Sotheby's in New York City. Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images.

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 Friday, January 7.


Boris Johnson Isn’t So Thrilled With the Colston Verdict – While he said he would not comment directly on the verdict of the “Colston Four,” the U.K. prime minister managed to give his opinion on the matter: “My feeling is that we have a complex historical legacy all around us, and it reflects our history in all its diversity, for good or ill. What you can’t do is go around seeking retrospectively to change our history or to bowdlerize it or edit it in retrospect,” he said, likening the removal of a statue to “some person trying to edit their Wikipedia entry.” (Evening Standard)

Conceptual Artist Luciano Perna Dies – The conceptual artist died on December 28 of a heart attack in Los Angeles. He was 63. Perna, who was represented by Marian Goodman, was known for his absurdist take on Arte Povera and his evocative photography. (Artforum)

Sotheby’s Faces Class-Action Lawsuit – Sotheby’s lawyers are trying to dismiss a complaint filed in a New Jersey federal court in March 2021 that alleges that the auction house misclassified workers as independent contractors, denying them benefits. The plaintiff, Francis Fenwick, is a New Jersey accountant who says he worked without a contract in violation of New York’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act. In a memo filed in December, Fenwick’s lawyers indicated a class action lawsuit may be coming down the pike if the court decides he and other workers like him qualify as employees rather than contractors. (The Art Newspaper)

Kazakhstan Protesters Topple Statue of Former Leader – Amid civil unrest over rising oil prices and rampant corruption, protesters toppled a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazahkstan’s first president. Russia, a close ally of the government in the former Soviet state, sent troops to help shut down the protests and the government blocked the internet. In 2018, Moscow’s Garage Museum of Contemporary Art launched a contemporary art center in Almaty, a major city there, that is funded by an oil and property magnate connected to Nazarbayev. (TAN)


The ICA Announces a New Director – London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts has appointed Bengi Ünsal as its new director, beginning March 2022. Formerly head of contemporary music at the Southbank Center, she is the the first woman to serve as director of the ICA in 55 years and was appointed under the chairmanship of Wolfgang Tillmans. Longtime director Stefan Kalmár left the ICA last fall. (Press release)

Gallery Takes Over Peter Doig’s Studio – Twin brothers Sam and Daniel Kapp, co-owners of Kapp Kapp gallery, are planning to open a new space in Tribeca at Peter Doig’s former studio. The 1,800-square-foot space on 86 Walker Street will debut January 15 with a show of work by photographer Stanley Stellar. (ARTnews)

Austria Takes First Step to Return Colonial-Era Artifacts – Austria will set up a panel to evaluate restitution claims for artifacts the nation acquired during the colonial era. More details are expected in the coming weeks. Though Austria was never a colonial power, it benefitted greatly from trading during those centuries: the largest collections of colonial material are in Vienna’s Weltmuseum and Natural History Museum. (TAN)


Edmonia Lewis Gets Her Own USPS Stamp – The prominent Black and Ojibwe artist is being honored with a U.S. stamp. Lewis began her career creating medallion portraits of prominent abolitionists in Boston and later moved to Rome, where she spent the majority of her adulthood. The first internationally recognized Black American sculptor’s stamp will debut on January 26 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. (​​Hyperallergic)

The new Edmonia Lewis stamp. Photo courtesy of the United States Postal Service.

The new Edmonia Lewis stamp. Photo courtesy of the United States Postal Service.

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