Art Industry News: Despite Talk of a Busting Bubble, NFT Sales Were Actually Up in the Second Quarter of 2021 + Other Stories

Plus, Benin's Oba comes out against the prevailing Benin Bronze restitution plan, and Damien Hirst says NFTs may outlast galleries.

Joy Cheng, Alice and I 06, NFT (2021). Courtesy of the artist.
Joy Cheng, Alice and I 06 NFT (2021). Courtesy of the artist.

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 on this Thursday, July 22.


Poland Ousts Director of Contemporary Art Museum – Polish art professionals are condemning the government’s decision to not renew the contract of Hanna Wróblewska, the director of Warsaw’s Zacheta National Gallery of Art. Many see the move as a political maneuver by the country’s right-wing leadership, which has been replacing top museum professionals with more conservative candidates for years. Signatories of an open letter opposing the ouster include artists Paweł Althamer and Joanna Rajkowska. (The Art Newspaper)

Damien Hirst Says NFTs May Outlast Physical Galleries – The star artist told CNBC this week that he believes NFTs might just stick around longer than physical galleries. His new project, “The Currency,” pits the physical and digital worlds against each other: 10,000 NFTs, which cost $2,000 a pop, are each attached to their own work of in-the-flesh art. The buyers have one year to decide to keep the NFT or exchange it for the IRL work—whichever version is not chosen will be destroyed. (NBC)

NFT Market Defies Expectations – There’s been a lot of talk about the NFT market taking a nosedive this spring and summer. But as it turns out, the second quarter of 2021 saw a whopping $2.4 billion in NFT sales, according to the latest Dapp Industry Report. That’s up slightly from the first quarter, when the market hit $2.3 billion. This growth has not necessarily been led by art collectables, however—the fastest-growing segment of the NFT market is for use in gameplay and as “keys” to access experiences. Just don’t tell that part to Damien Hirst. (ARTnews)

Benin’s Oba Opposes Bronze Restitution Plan – The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, said in a meeting earlier this month that restituted Benin Bronzes should be handed over to the royal family and housed in a museum on palace grounds. He called the Legacy Restoration Trust, which is leading the call for works from Western museums to be transferred to the Edo Museum of West African Art, an “artificial group” that will “divert” the return of the Bronzes. The Oba’s statement is particularly confusing given that his son and apparent heir, crown prince Ezelekhae Ewuare, is on the trust’s board of trustees. (BBC)


ARCO Lisbon Cuts Losses and Goes Digital – In light of continued travel restrictions and caseloads, ARCO Madrid’s sister fair will convert its 2021 edition to a digital-only format, which will run from September 13–19 (with VIP access on September 12). (Press release)

Museum of the Year Shortlist Announced – The shortlisted U.K. institutions for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 are: the Centre for Contemporary Art Derry, Experience Barnsley, Firstsite, Thackray Museum of Medicine, and Timespan. The winning museum, which will receive a prize of £100,000 ($137,000), will be announced on September 20. (Press release)

Illicit Banksy Work Will Be Sold as an NFT – As we continue to wade into the shadowy world of unauthorized NFTs, an unapproved iteration of a work by Banksy, called Spike, will be auctioned off today, July 22. The IRL work is owned by Italian collector Vittorio Grigolo, but some have questioned whether he is even legally permitted to create an NFT version of the work in the first place. (Domus)


Asian Art Museum Debuts New Building With Teamlab – Can’t get tickets to the Van Gogh Experience? The Art Newspaper suggests trying the latest installation from Japanese art collective teamLab instead. “Continuity” is part of the inaugural lineup for the new $38 million expansion at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, which was designed by the architect Kulapat Yantrasast. Just remember: selfie or it didn’t happen. (TAN)


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