Art Industry News: Ai Weiwei Has an Unusual Number of Cats, and Some of Them Appear to Be Super Cats + Other Stories

Plus, Expo Chicago cancels its 2021 edition and UCLA's Fowler Museum begins discussions about returning its Benin Bronzes.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei photographs a cat inside his home on the day of his court hearing, in Beijing on July 20, 2012. (Photo: Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages)

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, April 15.


Van Gogh’s Sister Gets Her Due – After the deaths of Van Gogh and his brother Theo, Van Gogh’s sister-in-law, Jo van Gogh-Bonger, was left with 400 works and hundreds of drawings by the influential artist. A new biography and her recently recovered diaries have revealed that it was she who played the main role in building the painter’s reputation, and tirelessly worked to have the work seen and appreciated, realizing how Van Gogh’s letters were the key to marketing the art. (New York Times)

DIA Director Responds to Mismanagement Allegations – The embattled director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Salvador Salort-Pons, has said he is working with a leadership coach and having his performance monitored to address management failings after staff complained of mistreatment and an independent inquiry found he was intolerant of, and sometimes retaliated against, those with differing views. “I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow, and for the institution as a whole to do the same,” the director said. (The Art Newspaper)

Ai Weiwei Dishes About His Love of Cats – magazine’s latest issue explores friendships of all kinds—including, crucially, the bond Ai Weiwei has with his cats. Here are some very important things we learned from the interview: two of his cats once jumped out a window in his upper-floor apartment in Berlin and were unharmed; at one point, he had more than 30 cats in his Beijing compound, which is particularly notable because pets are not widely accepted in communist China. “Anyone who opens their mind or heart to cats can experience something that can’t be found in human society,” Ai says. (T)

Leaked MoMA Email Reveals Museum Spin – In a leaked email sent to staff at the Museum of Modern Art, director Glenn Lowry acknowledged the ongoing Strike MoMA initiative, which organized a protest across the street from the museum last week. But Hyperallergic claims that the missive mischaracterizes the intentions of the movement as advocating for “‘disassembling’ MoMA and all museums so they no longer exist.” By contrast, Strike MoMA organizers say their cause is a call to re-evaluate and remake the museum, not destroy it. (Hyperallergic)


Judge Dismisses Non-Payment Claim Against Anatole Shagalov – The art sale and leasing company Artemus has won a legal tussle with the dealer Anatole Shagalov, who had sued the company over a multimillion-dollar leaseback deal including works by Keith Haring and Frank Stella. The court found Shagalov did not pay the agreed-upon fees and dismissed the case. Artemus must now sue to claim unpaid lease charges and legal fees worth $4 million. (TAN)

Expo Chicago Cancels 2021 Edition – The Windy City fair is the latest 2021 event to bite the dust amid continued pandemic-induced uncertainty and travel restrictions. The fair announced it would move its previously scheduled fall event to April 7–10, 2022—and would retain spring dates for good moving forward. The following editions will be held April 13–16, 2023 and April 11–14, 2024. (Press release)

Deutsche Bank Collection Goes on Sale Again in June – A selection of 25 more works from the Deutsche Bank Collection will hit the block at Ketterer Kunst auctions on June 18 and 19. Highlights include a Max Liebermann oil painting estimated at €300,000 and a Günther Uecker sculpture estimated at €200,000. (Press release)


Gallerist and Investor Jeffrey Paley Dies at 82 – The journalist, investor, and gallerist has died from complications related to COVID-19. Paley was known for championing young artists in SoHo through his gallery Paley and Lowe. An early advocate for Pat Steir and Mary Heilmann, he used his investment wins from the stock market to fund his art endeavors. (NYT)

California Museum Broaches Plan to Return Benin Bronzes – The Fowler Museum at UCLA is planning talks with Nigeria’s Legacy Restoration Trust to discuss the future and possible return of 18 looted Benin objects in its collection. “We know these discussions may lead to various resolutions, including either their return or a long-term loan that would permit us, as a university museum, to share them in teaching the history of the Kingdom of Benin,” the Fowler’s director Marla Berns said in a statement. (TAN)


Experts Want Düsseldorf to Return Nazi-Looted Painting – Düsseldorf’s cultural committee has recommended that the city restitute a Nazi-looted painting by Franz Marc to the heirs of its original owner. The 1913 painting, Die Füchse (Foxes), was sold in New York to fund the Jewish businessman Kurt Grawi’s emigration from Europe. (Monopol)

“Women Take the Floor” at the MFA Boston – The Guardian visits the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s exhibition “Women Take the Floor,” which presents more than 200 works of art by women, largely drawn from the museum’s collection. Highlights include both well-known painters such as Joan Mitchell and Alice Neel as well as lesser-known ceramics from the 1920s and ’30s by Maija Grotell and Hawaiian artist Toshiko Takaezu. (Guardian)

Installation view, background: Joan Mitchell, <i>Chamonix</i>, about 1962; foreground: seven ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu. Courtesy of the MFA Boston.

Installation view, background: Joan Mitchell, Chamonix, about 1962; foreground: seven ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu. Courtesy of the MFA Boston.

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.