Art Industry News: Climate Change Activists Stage a Mass ‘Die-In’ at a London Museum + Other Stories

Plus, Klaus Biesenbach plans a very un-gala gala for MOCA and an art blockchain company gets investment from a backer of Spotify.

Extinction Rebellion climate change activists at a mass 'die in' in the main hall of the Natural History Museum in London on April 22, 2019. Photo by Tolga Akmen AFP/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 Tuesday, April 23.


MOCA’s Gala Is Back, Sort Of – The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’s new director Klaus Biesenbach has resurrected the museum’s annual gala in the form of a benefit to be staged at a Geffen Contemporary satellite space in Little Tokyo on May 18. The gala, which raised more than $3 million for the museum back in 2017 when it honored Jeff Koons, was canceled last year amid complaints about the lack of diversity of the honorees. Biesenbach promises this year’s event will be more democratic and community-minded than glam, with no corporate sponsor and half the seats given away to artists for free. “A benefit is not about being served, it’s about being of service,” Biesenbach says. (Los Angeles Times)

Armstrong’s Spacesuit Returns to the Air and Space Museum – The spacesuit worn by astronaut Neil Armstrong on the Apollo 11 mission will go back on view at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum from July 16 through 20 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. The artifact, which has been undergoing extensive conservation, hasn’t been shown publicly for 13 years. It will also feature in the museum’s “Destination Moon” exhibition slated for 2022. (Washington Post)

Activists Stage a Climate “Die-In” at the Natural History Museum – A massive protest that has been roiling London has found its way to the city’s museums. Around 100 climate-change-protesters from the activist group Extinction Rebellion took over the Natural History Museum yesterday to stage a “die-in” beneath the museum’s famous blue whale skeleton to raise awareness of what they are calling the “sixth mass extinction.” Since the climate change protest began a week ago, activists have set up camps across major thoroughfares, blocking traffic and requiring the mobilization of around 9,000 police officers; some 1,000 people have been arrested. The activists threaten “much worse” disruption if politicians continue to ignore their demands to “tell the truth about climate change,” reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025, and support a citizen’s assembly to track progress. (BBC)

Nonprofit Helps Displaced Artists Start Fresh at Brooklyn Army Terminal – A nonprofit called ArtBuilt wants to help artists who are being pushed out of studios in gentrifying neighborhoods in New York City by offering long leases and below-market rents in the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Some 100 artists have rented studio space in the 50,000-square-foot ArtBuilt Brooklyn, which runs on private funding as well as support from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Affordable Real Estate for Artists program. The project, advocates say, offers a model for collaborating with local government to create affordable spaces and prevent the exodus of cities’ creative populations. ArtBuilt is now in talks to build a second space in New York. (New York Times)


Artory Gets $7.3 Million in Funding – The blockchain-secured digital art registry, which aims to offer greater transparency in the art market, has raised $7.3 million from investors including a major backer of Spotify. Founder Nanne Dekking says the successful round of fundraising proves Artory is “a viable commercial product that will change the way collectors and buyers—established and new—engage with the marketplace for fine art and collectibles.” (Press release)

Vienna Museum Now Owns Ronald Lauder’s Modernist Room – The Leopold Museum has acquired an interior by Josef Hoffmann that recently belonged to the collector. The museum’s director is keeping quiet on how much it paid for the historic installation, but an Art Nouveau specialist estimates it was just over €1 million ($1.1 million). (Der Standard)

Jacob Pabst Breaks Down the Latest Art Market Trends – artnet’s own CEO breaks down the latest developments in the online contemporary art market in the inaugural episode of the Art Insiders New York podcast. The podcast hosted by Anders Holst offers in-depth conversations with the city’s art, design, and architecture movers and shakers. (Art Insiders)


MALBA Names a New Artistic Director – Gabriela Rangel is leaving the Americas Society in New York, where she serves as chief curator, to become the new artistic director of MALBA, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. She begins full time in September, succeeding Agustín Pérez Rubio. (ARTnews)

Barnes Announces Chief Experience Officer – Valerie Gay has been named the Barnes Foundation’s deputy director for audience engagement and chief experience officer—an increasingly trendy role. She joins the Barnes from her post as director of the Philadelphia nonprofit Art Sanctuary. (Press release)

LA Curator Josine Ianco-Starrels Has Died – The veteran Los Angeles curator, who led its Municipal Art Gallery from 1975 to 1987, has died at 92. Bucharest-born Ianco-Starrels, a longtime champion of underrepresented artists, was the daughter the Dada co-founder Marcel Janco. (Los Angeles Times)

Star Met Donor Jayne Wrightsman Has Died – One of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most generous (and glamorous) donors, Jayne Wrightsman, has died at age 99. With her late husband, the oil tycoon Charles Wrightsman, she supported the museum’s Wrightsman Galleries of French Decorative Arts; donated works by Monet, Delacroix, and Renoir; and served as a board member. (WWD)


MoMA to Stage Dorothea Lange Survey – New York’s Museum of Modern Art will present the first major solo exhibition of the work of the photographer in more than 50 years. The exhibition, on view from February 9 to May 2, 2020, will present around 100 photos from the museum’s collection, including Lange’s classic images for the Works Progress Administration from the 1930s. The show will be one of the first in MoMA’s expanded building. (Press release)

Jerry Saltz on Serrano’s Trump Spectacle – The art critic says that the $200,000 of Trump merchandise and memorabilia assembled by Serrano is more than a portrait of the businessman-turned-US President. “I find it hard to feel that the collection merely tells the story of one man, no matter how flamboyantly fame-crazy, tasteless, ruthless, and full of entitlement and rage,” Saltz writes. “It is a portrait of us, America.” (Vulture)

Historic LA Freeway Mural Is Whitewashed – One of the historic freeway murals commissioned for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games has been whitewashed. The artist, UCLA professor Judy Baca, is now considering legal action against California’s Department of Transportation—but the agency insists that it is not guilty and says it will work to restore Hitting the Wall, which celebrates the first female Olympic marathon. (LA Times)

Van Gogh Museum Will Reveal Sunflowers’ Secret – The Amsterdam museum will place the artist’s most famous floral still life in the context of his broader obsession with sunflowers. In a rare move, curators will put the back of the artist’s Sunflowers on public display, revealing how he attached a narrow wooden strip at the top to give the flowers more space on the canvas. The exhibition, on view from June to September, will also include Paul Gauguin’s Vincent van Gogh Painting Sunflowers (1888). (Press release)

Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers (1889). Courtesy Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation).

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