Art Industry News: David Hockney Promotes a Completely Bogus Theory That Smokers Are Immune to Coronavirus + Other Stories

Plus, the weirdest art owned by the late Robin Williams goes up for auction and Phillips sells a $2 million David Hammons online.

Anti-smoking campaigner Stuart Holmes interrupts a photo-call by British artist and smoking advocate David Hockney at the Labour Party Conference in 2005. (Alessandro Abbonizio/AFP/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 on this Thursday, April 16.


Robin Williams’s Weirdest Art Is for Sale – The San Francisco-based Clars Auction Gallery has launched an online auction of pieces from the collection of the late actor Robin Williams. Much of the actor’s fine art was sold at Sotheby’s in 2018—but the San Francisco auction house seems to be selling off some of his more, well, eclectic items. Offerings include a taxidermy monkey that starred in Williams’s 2006 film Night at the Museum, gothic art pieces by Donald Roller Wilson, and a painting titled Ducks in a Row by Kim Cogan. (Hypebeast)

A Searing Critique of LACMA’s Expansion – Criticism of the controversial plans for LACMA’s new $750 million Peter Zumthor-designed building continues after a wrecking crew began demolishing four of its buildings while Los Angeles was under lockdown earlier this month. The museum and its director, Michael Govan, are coming under renewed fire for a lack of transparency, particularly regarding the final interior plans for the building, which have yet to be revealed publicly despite promises that they would be released in March. Detractors are particularly concerned about the amount of gallery space in the “moose antler”-shaped building, and are unimpressed by the museum citing the pandemic as an excuse for the delay. (Los Angeles Times)

David Hockney Boosts Bogus Coronavirus Theory – David Hockney—who moved to France because, he said, it had become illegal to smoke practically everywhere in America—is now peddling a conspiracy theory that smokers are immune to the coronavirus, despite science pointing in the opposite direction. Hockney, who has been a heavy smoker for more than 60 years, penned a letter to the Daily Mail citing a study from China that recorded fewer smokers being admitted to the hospital with the disease. In reality, research suggests smokers are more vulnerable to the respiratory infection than the general population, due to the frequency with which their fingers come near to their mouths and the likelihood that they already have reduced lung capacity or lung disease from the habit. (Observer)

Some Small Museums Won’t Survive Lockdown – A number of small museums in the UK that rely heavily on admission fees and do not receive regular government funding are in danger of closing down for good amid the country’s prolonged lockdown. The chair of the Association of Independent Museums, Andrew Lovett, admitted that it was probably inevitable that some institutions would “just run out of cash and go to the wall.” Those at risk include the Florence Nightingale Museum, which generates around 98 percent of its income from admissions and retail, and the Charles Dickens Museum, which expects admissions revenue for the summer to be reduced by at least 75 percent. (BBC)


The Wealthy Are Borrowing Against Art for a Quick Cash Infusion – As the economy tanks, art collectors and dealers are increasingly using their blue-chip collections as collateral for loans. The move means they can have their cake and eat it too, as they can get cash while still hanging the art on their walls. But the risk is that the art will be headed for the auction block under duress if the economy does not bounce back. (New York Post)

Phillips Offers a $1.5 Million David Hammons – Auction houses are steadily adopting their own versions of galleries’ online viewing rooms to offer works for private sale. Phillips has landed a significant consignment for one of its first virtual offerings: David Hammons’s African American Flag (1990), available for an asking price of between $1.5 million and $2 million. Such flags, which are among the reclusive artist’s best-known works, rarely come up for sale. (Art Market Monitor)

UK Auction Houses Are Finding Success Online – Regional auction houses in the UK have been pleasantly surprised by the results of their online-only sales, which are proving, in some cases, to be more lucrative than their real-life counterparts. “We took the gamble that there would be a lot of people at home with nothing to do and fewer auctions to participate in, as so many were cancelled or postponed—and it paid off,” says Gavin Strang, managing director of Lyon & Turnbull. (Financial Times)

Esther Schipper Grows Its Roster – The Berlin gallery has added the artist Etienne Chambaud, the French sculptor who puts a contemporary twist on the readymade, to its stable. The Berlin gallery also represents Pierre Huyghe, Liam Gillick, and Ann Veronica Janssens. (Press release)


Art-Fair Conglomerate Names New Director – The art-fair company Intersect Art and Design has appointed Becca Hoffman as its new managing director. The conglomerate owns three art fairs: Art Aspen, SOFA Chicago, and Art Palm Springs. Hoffman has served as director of the Outsider Art Fair for the past seven years. (Press release)

A Caravaggio-Inspired Photo Wins at the Sony Image Awards – Antoine Veling, a Sydney, Australia-based photographer, has won the Sony Image Award’s culture category for his photograph capturing audience members dancing on stage at an Iggy Pop concert at the Sydney Opera House in April last year. The chiaroscuro and biblical drama of the image recalled a Caravaggio painting. (Creative Boom)


Domingo Zapata Accepts Caviar as Partial Payment – Here’s how you know times are tough—even the rich are resorting to a barter economy. New York City-based artist, writer, and fashion designer Domingo Zapata (made legendary by this incredible 2013 New York Times profile) has accepted $6,000 in caviar as partial payment for a $30,000 artwork depicting a diamond-dusted panda. (Page Six)

Art-Historical Posters Tell People to Go Home – The Glasgow-based artist Ross Muirs has designed a pun-derful series of Van Gogh-inspired posters that are now popping up around the city to encourage people to stay home. The designs show a self-portrait of the Old Master wearing an Adidas tracksuit with a striped shirt underneath, telling people in Scottish slang to “just go home.” (Monopol)–ATjrlZ0C/

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