Art Industry News: Only Art Can Save the World From Ecological Doom, Says Noted Environmentalist + Other Stories

Plus, see Coachella's weirdest art installation and Ai Weiwei creates lego portraits of missing students for a new show in Mexico.

Artists can save the world? Stranger things have happened. (Photo by Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via 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 Monday, April 15.


Ai Weiwei Makes Lego Portraits of Abducted Students – The Chinese artist’s latest Lego portraits show the 43 Mexican students who were abducted and apparently murdered in 2014. Called Restablecer Memorias (Re-establishing Memories), the political installation is on view at the University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City. The portraits of students from a rural teachers’ college are accompanied by documentary material about their unsolved disappearance. Known as the Iguala mass kidnapping, it has been blamed on corrupt police acting in collusion with drug gangs. (South China Morning Post)

KAWS Gives Fan a Work of Art on a Scrap Paper – KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, made a fan’s dream come true at a recent Whitney Museum dinner. Ronni Willet approached the artist to congratulate him on his recent auction record (even though, for the record, KAWS won’t see any of that money in a direct fashion) and to tell him that she dreams of owning his work. Then and there, the artist used a scrap of paper to create a drawing, which he promptly signed, dated, and handed over. Page Six writes that KAWS “took a page out of the Jean-Michel Basquiat playbook,” as the late artist would also give away his doodles—albeit before he was famous. (Page Six)

Only Art Can Measure the Real Cost of Armageddon – Scientists can tell us how bad climate change could get and economists can calculate the cost—but only artists can truly convey the scale of the crisis, according to the writer Bill McKibben. In his new book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?the environmentalist concludes that art is the only real way to value “the fact that people have lived for millennia” in a certain way that is now disappearing. “This is a cost only art can measure, and it makes sense that the units of that measurement are sadness and fury—and also, remarkably, hope,” he writes. (Rolling Stone)

Victims’ Parents Push Harvard Museum to Remove Sackler Name – Parents carrying portraits of their late children who died after overdosing on OxyContin held a protest at Harvard University on Friday. The demonstrators want Arthur M. Sackler’s name removed from its art museum, calling the family’s donation “blood money.” Harvard defended the gift, pointing out that Sackler died in 1987, before the opioid was developed and marketed by his family’s company Purdue Pharma. The university says it had no plans to remove his name. Meanwhile, Jillian Sackler, Authur’s wife, penned an op-ed for the Post titled: “Stop blaming my late husband for the opioid crisis.” (Washington Post)


Princess’s Art Collection Hits the Block – The $40 million art collection of a late Texas oil heiress who became a princess is heading to auction at Christie’s. Thirteen of the 30 works in the collection will be offered at the house’s Impressionist and Modern art evening sale on May 13; the rest will be sold throughout the year. The collection of Cecil Amelia Blaffer—who became Princess “Titi” von Fuerstenberg through marriage to an Austrian prince—is led by works by Rothko and Picasso. (Bloomberg)

Nelson Mandela’s Prison Drawing Heads to Auction – A previously unseen sketch by Nelson Mandela of his cell door on Robben Island is heading to auction at Bonhams in New York on May 2. The work—which Bonhams’s African art chief finally persuaded the family to sell—carries an estimate of $60,000to $90,000. The South African President and freedom fighter took up art in retirement and made drawings as a form of therapy. (Guardian)

You Can Buy a Piece of Burt Reynolds’s Estate – The actor’s estate includes art that was close to the his heart, much of which turns out to be horse-themed. Works headed for sale at Julien’s Auctions include a painting of his favorite horse, Cartouche, which carries an estimate of $20,000–30,000, and a watercolor by artist-actor Buck Taylor titled Cowboy Nurse (2015), estimated to fetch between $1,000 and $2,000. (Press release)


Ho-Am Prize Goes to Lee Bul – The South Korean artist has won the 2019 edition of the $263,300 Korean art prize. Bul’s recent survey at London’s Hayward Gallery received glowing reviews; she will also be included in Hayward director Ralph Rugoff’s main exhibition at the Venice Biennale this year.  (Artforum)

Activist Artist Arrested in Havana – The Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested outside his home in Havana while paying homage to another detained activist artist ahead of the opening of the controversy-ridden Havana Biennial. Artists critical of government censorship of the arts in Cuba have been targeted ahead of the opening, while the Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco was denied entry to the country last week. (The Art Newspaper)

Mike Kelley Foundation Disburses Next Round of Grants – Ten Los Angeles arts organizations have received $400,000 among them as part of the foundation’s fourth annual Artist Project Grants program. The groundbreaking nonprofits receiving grants are: 18th Street Arts Center; California State University Dominguez Hills; Dirty Looks Inc.; Echo Park Film Center; Equitable Vitrines; Ford Theatre Foundation; IF Innovation Foundation; Los Angeles Poverty Department; Pomona College Museum of Art; and the Huntington Library. (Press release)

Bruce Museum Names New Director – The museum’s board has named Robert Wolterstorff as its new executive director and CEO. Wolterstorff, who comes from the Bennington Museum in Vermont, will take over from Peter C. Sutton after he retires June 1, and will guide the Connecticut institution through a $60 million expansion and renovation project dubbed the “New Bruce.” (Press release)


French Academics Launch Campaign to Remove Racist Mural – Two US-based French academics, Mame-Fatou Niang and Julien Suaudeau, are petitioning to remove a mural in the French parliament that commemorates the abolition of slavery in 1794. The scholars say the mural, which was painted by the artist Hervé di Rosa in 1991, is “historically unacceptable and politically incomprehensible,” describing the artist’s depiction of black faces with oversized lips as “humiliating and dehumanizing.” The artist himself was taken aback by the objections, telling Le Monde newspaper that his characters have always had large red lips “whatever their color, gender, or physical characteristics.” (Guardian)

Claude Monet’s Former Home Is on Airbnb – After announcing a competition to spend a night at the Louvre, Airbnb is raising its art game even further. Monet’s Blue House in Giverny, France, is now taking reservations on the website at $225 a night. The three-bedroom manor formerly owned by the French Impressionist painter is home to vast gardens and is a stone’s throw away from the better-known house where he painted his famous water lilies. (Points Guy)

Spectacular Egyptian Tomb Is Opened – Egypt’s antiquities ministry has opened up a 4,300-year-old tomb uncovered by archeologists in Saqqara, north of Cairo, last month. The magnificent tomb made for an ancient Egyptian nobleman has colorful wall art and inscriptions. (Daily Mail)

This Is Coachella’s Weirdest Art Installation – Humans dressed as hippos man the makeshift control room at H.i.P.O., an eight-room performance art space designed by the art collective Dedo Vabo for the desert music festival. Visitors can check out the rooms, where the 200-odd performers tackle the absurd, from munching on receipts to catching plastic fruit that is intermittently spit out of a hose. (Variety)

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