Art Industry News: Yayoi Kusama, 91, Commands COVID-19 to ‘Disappear From This Earth’ in an Emotional Statement + Other Stories

Plus, Dubai's art hub Alserkal Avenue waives rent for galleries for three months and MASS MOCA faces an uncertain future.

Yayoi Kusama. Photo © Yayoi Kusama, courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner.

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 15.


Peter Beard Is Still Missing – Police are still looking for one of America’s most celebrated photographers, Peter Beard, who went missing two weeks ago. The 82-year-old, who suffers from dementia, was last seen at his studio and home on Long Island. Though he was known as a wanderer and adventurer earlier in life, the prospect of his return wanes with each day that passes. No evidence has yet to emerge to explain his disappearance. A spokesman for the family said: “It is most important to the family that at this confusing and uncertain time Peter be thought of as the person he is and the way he has always lived: an extraordinary artist, an insatiable traveler, a hero of the conservation movement, a lover of life, of Africa, of adventure, of his family and friends.” (New York Times)

Man Arrested for Plot to Blow Up Central Park Statue – The NYPD has thwarted an attempt to attack a beloved bronze statue in Central Park. A Manhattan man has been arrested for plotting to blow up the sculpted scene from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was made in 1959 by José de Creeft. The man allegedly sent a text to friends and family saying he planned to blow up the statue, along with photos of a pipe bomb and rifle ammunition. (New York Post)

Yayoi Kusama Shares a Poem With the World – The reclusive 91-year-old Japanese artist issued a rare statement in the form of a defiant and hopeful poem distributed by her galleries, Victoria Miro and David Zwirner. The missive, which is headlined, “A message from Yayoi Kusama to the whole world,” notes that “now is the time to overcome, to bring peace,” and then addresses COVID-19 directly: “Disappear from this earth / we shall fight / we shall fight this terrible monster.” She concludes with a note of thanks: “Now is the time for people all over the world to stand up / My deep gratitude goes to all those who are already fighting.” (Press release)

Berkshires Art Community Faces an Uncertain Future – In the arts-centric community of North Adams, Massachusetts, the arrival of spring has not been the typical harbinger of tourism and plenty as usual. The town’s restaurants, bars, and cultural venues are facing uncertain futures—especially MASS MOCA, the largest contemporary art museum in the US. The institution, which has been closed since March 16, laid off 120 of its 165 staff members and does not have a hefty endowment to fall back on like some of the country’s older institutions do. “When you’re in the gathering business like us,” said Joseph Thompson, MASS MOCA’s director, “this hurts.” (Boston Globe)


Art Paris Cancels 2020 Edition – The 22nd edition of Art Paris, the city’s major spring fair for Modern and contemporary art, had initially been postponed from April to the end of May due to the global health crisis. But it has now been entirely scratched from this year’s calendar. (Artfix Daily)

Alserkal Avenue Waives Rent for Galleries – Alserkal Avenue, the gallery hub in Dubai, has decided to waive rent for art galleries and other business tenants for the next three months. “We understand the importance of sharing success and sharing the loss, too,” said Alserkal’s director Vilma Jurkute. “We are looking at this from a community aspect.” (The National)


Fire Guts Historic Church in Haiti – A fire broke out on April 13 at the Milot Church, a historic church in Haiti. The damage is still being assessed on the listed World Heritage building, which was among the first to be built after Haitian independence. (UNESCO)

Iraqi Architect Dies of Coronavirus – The Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji has died at age 93. The architect, who designed more than 100 buildings across Iraq, including Tahrir Square’s Freedom Monument, passed away after contracting the coronavirus. (Archdaily)

Turkey Announces Venice Biennale Pick – Turkey has selected the 83-year-old artist Füsun Onur, whose installations made from everyday materials reflect on time and form, to represent the country at the Venice Biennale in 2021. The pavilion at the Arsenale will be curated by Bige Örer, director of the Istanbul Biennale. (Press release)


You Can Use Artwork Images as Backgrounds for Zoom – Is your background on Zoom calls too boring or distracting? (Not quite sure you want your colleagues to see your science fiction-packed bookshelf?) You’re in luck: you can swap it for a work of art. A number of institutions, including the Getty, the Rijksmuseum, and the National Gallery of Art, are offering free-to-download images of their collections for the purpose. (Open Culture)

Art Institute Forges Ahead With Monet Blockbuster Plans – The Art Institute of Chicago will finish installing its highly anticipated Monet exhibition, “Monet and Chicago,” as soon as Illinois’s stay-at-home order is lifted. The show includes 69 Monet paintings, more than half of which are on loan from other institutions. (NBC)

See Nora Turato’s Glasgow Biennial Work – The performance art dynamo Nora Turato created a billboard for the Glasgow International biennial, which has now been postponed until 2021. While the performance festival Turato was meant to participate in has been shelved, curator Giulia Gregnanin moved ahead with the installation of the Zagreb-born artist’s banner on the façade of the show’s venue, a former Victorian school. Its pointed message reads, “There is no business happening in the business lounge.” (Press release)

Nora Turato, <i>There is no business in the business lounge</i>(2020). Intervention part of the show “Too Much”, Glasgow International Across The City Programme 2021. Courtesy the artist and Understate Project Ltd. Photography by Daniel Cook.

Nora Turato, There is no business in the business lounge(2020). Intervention part of the
show “Too Much”, Glasgow International Across The City Programme 2021. Courtesy the artist and Understate Project Ltd. Photography by Daniel Cook.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.