Art Industry News: The Frieze Art Fair Will Launch a Virtual Platform in May, Refunding Exhibitors at Its Cancelled NYC Edition + Other Stories

Plus, the National Gallery of Art returns a Picasso to avoid a lawsuit and David Hockney shares some spring cheer.

The outside of Frieze New York 2019. Photo: Mark Blower, courtesy of Frieze.

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 Wednesday, April 1.


These Were the Most Popular Shows of 2019 – The Art Newspaper has published its annual ranking of attendance at museums worldwide. The most popular show of 2019 by a single artist was Ai Weiwei’s traveling survey in Brazil—his largest exhibition to date—which drew more than 1.1 million people during its run. Brazilian museums secured the top three spots in the survey, which ranks shows by the number of visitors per day. The top two spots for overall shows went to a free traveling exhibition that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the production house DreamWorks. (It drew 9,277 daily visitors in Belo Horizonte and 11,380 people per day in Rio.) Shows dedicated to Munch and Gustav Klimt at the Tokyo Art Museum took fourth and fifth place. (The Art Newspaper)

National Gallery of Art Returns Picasso – A 1903 drawing in the National Gallery of Art’s collection from Picasso’s Blue Period will be returned to the heirs of prominent German-Jewish banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. Though the Washington, DC museum decided to transfer ownership of the drawing, it said doing so “does not constitute an acknowledgment of the merit or validity of the asserted claims,” but rather is to “avoid the heavy toll of litigation.” The art collector sold Picasso’s Head of a Woman among at least 16 masterpieces in the moments after the Nazis seized power, before his death in 1935. (New York Times

Cancelled Frieze New York Offers Exhibitors Full Refunds – Frieze New York, which was set to take place from May 7 to 10, has taken the unusual step of offering its nearly 200 planned exhibitors full refunds, as well as returning any money paid in advance for booth construction and other fees. Galleries will receive the money in two payments, one in May and one in June. (The move stands in contrast to Art Basel, which offered exhibitors 75 percent refunds for the cancelled Hong Kong fair.) Frieze also said it would offer incentives for exhibitors who choose to put the money toward a future Frieze fair: “We face similar issues to many galleries and other businesses,” the organizers wrote in an email to galleries. “If your circumstances allow, we hope you will consider rolling over the second payment into Frieze New York 2021 or to one of our other fairs to which you are selected to participate.” In lieu of the physical fair, Frieze New York will launch an online viewing room with free participation for exhibitors; additional details of the project have yet to be revealed. (ARTnews)

Japan’s Museums Finally Shutter – Japan is belatedly shuttering its art museums as the country realizes it might not be exceptional after all amid the global health emergency. Many private museums and commercial galleries stayed open through much of March, albeit with reduced hours. The result was a mix of half-open, half-closed art venues. Two artists, who wish to remain anonymous, said their exhibition in Fujisawa was postponed, but the same municipal building where it was held continued to be crowded with people. Canceling the exhibition was “just PR,” they said. Now, the official decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics for a year and the death of a beloved comedian from coronavirus has led to a change in public opinion about the threat the virus poses. (Japan Times)


Dallas Art Fair Goes Online – While the physical fair has been postponed until the fall, the Dallas Art Fair is launching an online edition from April 14 through April 23. The digital event will offer collectors the chance to preview works from participating galleries and even, if they are so inclined, place reserves or make purchases in advance. (Glasstire)

Dorotheum Moves Contemporary Sales to June – Austria’s leading auction house will move its April and May classic and contemporary week sales to June. Its master drawings, watercolors, and design sales will be held online in early April. (Art Market Monitor)

Sotheby’s Inks $2.7 Million Middle East Art Sale – Sotheby’s London online sale of 20th-century Middle Eastern art saw 60 percent of the 67 lots exceeding their estimates. But the sale’s final total of £2.2 million ($2.7 million) failed to meet the pre-sale high estimate of £2.3 million. (Art Market Monitor)


Hirshhorn Names Performance Art Curator Marina C. Isgro has been appointed the Hirshhorn Museum’s new associate curator of media and performance art. She arrives in DC from Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, where she was the inaugural Nam June Paik research fellow. (Press release)

Artist and Writer Tomie dePaola Has Died – The author and illustrator of beloved children’s books, including the “Strega Nona” series, has died at 85 from complications after an operation following a fall. Many of his books were inspired by his Italian grandparents and featured an eternally full pot of pasta. (New York Times)


John Oliver Launches a Search for Erotica Painting – The Last Week Tonight host is desperately seeking the collector who owns Brian Swords’s painting of erotic rats (yes, you read that right). John Oliver wants to buy the early-’90s erotica to brighten up his makeshift home studio. He is offering $1,000 to the current owner, plus a $20,000 donation to the food bank of that person’s choice. “I want that piece of art hanging behind me on this wall next week,” Oliver told his fans. (Philadelphia Voice)

David Hockney Shares Spring Cheer – The prolific artist has released more paintings and iPad drawings to cheer people up and provide a sunny break from the news. The veteran artist is in his home in Normandy, Northern France, with his dog and two studio assistants. He is drawing his garden and the fast-changing landscape as it bursts into flower during spring. The 83-year-artist says: “The only real things in life are food and love in that order, just like our little dog Ruby. I really believe this and the source of art is love.” (Guardian)

Campaign Raises $4.3 Million to Save Artist Derek Jarman’s Cottage – In just 10 weeks, the public, charities, and philanthropists made over 8,100 donations worth more than £3.5 million ($4.3 million) to save artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. Celebrities like Tilda Swinton and David Hockney were vocal supporters of the project to save the deceased director’s home, which was in peril of being sold privately and having its artistic legacy lost. (Press Release)

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