Art Industry News: Gagosian Gallery Furloughs Part-Time Staffers and Cuts Pay for Everyone Else Amid Market Struggles + Other Stories

Plus, Art Paris exhibitors agitate for better refunds and there's a wild new theory about Duchamp's famous urinal.

The facade of Gagosian, courtesy of Shutterstock.

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 Friday, April 17.


New York Launches Citywide Coronavirus Public Art Project – Poster House and Times Square Arts have partnered on a citywide project for New York, transforming billboards and signs into artworks offering public service announcements relating to the coronavirus. Nearly 1,800 digital billboards and screens will go up across the city today bearing informative messages as well as words of gratitude for frontline workers. Participating artists include Maira Kalman, Pablo Delcan, and Paula Scher. (Press release)

Was Duchamp’s Fountain a Sexist Pun? – British art critic and television documentary producer Waldemar Januszczak has put forth yet another controversial theory about Marcel Duchamp’s famous urinal. Could it be, perhaps, that the work was in fact meant to depict a giant vagina? Januszczak presents three intriguing pieces of evidence. First, that “R. Mutt,” the name scrawled on the work, is a pun for the German word “urmutter,” which means “first mother” or “earth mother.” He also notes that the artist seemed to have a fascination with Gustave Courbet, who painted the erotic nude L’Origine du monde. Lastly, he found a little snippet Duchamp wrote around 1914 that read, “—one only has: for female the public urinal and one lives by it.—” OK, now that we see it all laid out, maybe that’s not super convincing. But it is fun to imagine nevertheless. (The Art Newspaper)

Gagosian Furloughs Part-Time Staff – As the shutdown in New York enters its second month, the mega-gallery has furloughed part-time staff and interns and is implementing salary reductions for its full-time employees. Staff members making less than $150,000 will receive a 10 percent pay cut, and those making more than $200,000 will receive a 20 percent reduction. In a statement, a spokesperson said: “Gagosian, like most businesses, is facing an unprecedented time due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. It is our hope that these reductions will help ensure the gallery stays strong.” Gagosian has roughly 250 employees and 18 spaces, all of which are closed due to the health crisis. (ARTnews)

New York Relief Fund Issues First Round of Grants – The newly formed NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund has already handed out grants and interest-free loans to 276 New York City-based social services and arts and cultural nonprofits. The support, totaling $44 million, was distributed in grants ranging from $8,000 to $250,000 and as loans from $100,000 to $3 million. Additional funding will be issued to more organizations in the coming weeks. Recipients spanning the five boroughs include Art21, Artist’s Space, El Museo del Barrio, and Performa. (Press release)


Artnet Partners with NADA – Artnet has launched a partnership with the New Dealers Art Alliance (NADA). Through the partnership, the online platform Artnet Galleries is hosting exhibitions from NADA Member Galleries from now through June 20th, giving them the chance to showcase inventory and receive inquiries from collectors on Artnet’s platform. “We’re pleased to be in a position to help our clients, collectors, and fellow colleagues in the art industry during this trying period,” says Jacob Pabst, Artnet’s CEO. (Press release)

George Condo’s Drawings Sell Out Online – Hauser & Wirth says that its online exhibition of Condo’s new works based on social distancing has sold out. The six drawings were priced between $100,000 and $125,000. (TAN)

Art Paris Exhibitors Agitate for Refunds – The French fair’s 2020 edition has been cancelled and some exhibitors are pushing for a better refund. Currently, the fair is returning the equivalent of 50 percent of the participation fees and technical costs, and only at the end of May. The other half of the fee will be applied as a credit toward the 2021 edition scheduled to take place next April, effectively forcing those galleries to participate. (Journal des Arts)


Sculptor Markus Raetz Dies – The Swiss artist Markus Raetz has died at age 78. Raetz produced more than 30,000 paintings and prints before he moved to sculpture in the ’70s, and was known for mind-bending works that play with perception and change based on where the viewer is standing. (Artforum)

Conceptual Artist Ian Wilson Has Died – The South African artist Ian Wilson has died. Wilson was known for his work exploring the aesthetic potential of language, and although he made paintings and sculptures early on in his career, his discussion works were not recorded or photographed in any way, presaging the art of Tino Sehgal. (Press release)

Helen Toomer Named Executive Director to AIRIE – Helen Toomer, the former director of the PULSE art fair and co-founder of Stoneleaf Retreat, has been appointed executive director of the Artists in Residence in Everglades (AIRIE) program. The residency in the Everglades National Park focuses on the insights that can be gleaned from the wilderness. (Press release)


Watch the Trailer for the New Knoedler Documentary – The filmmaker Barry Avrich’s new documentary, Made You Look, examines at the biggest case of art fraud in US history, the audacious and notorious con that engulfed New York’s Knoedler Gallery, which inserted $80 million worth of fake art into the market. The trailer is available now, and the full doc is premiering on CBC Canada. (Deadline)

Getty Launches Animal Crossing Project – The art-Animal Crossing crossovers just keep coming. The Getty has launched a new tool for the wildly popular video game called the Art Generator, which transforms any of its open-access images into a mini-artwork for the game that can be hung on the wall of a player’s virtual home or made into a shirt for their avatar. (Press release)

ArtActivistBarbie Takes Her Protest Online – A Barbie doll with an activist sensibility has taken to social media to share her critiques of various artworks and collections now that museums and galleries are closed. ActivistArtBarbie is all about “small signs, big questions, fabulous wardrobe,” and uses her power to take on the patriarchy in arts institutions. (Guardian)

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