Art Industry News: New Report on Artistic Freedom Says Censorship Is ‘Widespread’ Around the World + Other Stories

Plus, an art teacher is suspended for showing images of nude models and Cold War spy plane images reveal the Middle East's lost heritage.

A demonstrator holds a placard reading "Censorship." Photo: Javier Soriano/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 this Tuesday, April 9.


Can the Berkshire Museum’s New Director Heal Old Wounds? – Jeff Rodgers discusses his outlook as he settles into his new role at the helm of the Berkshire Museum. He arrives at a difficult moment: his predecessor made headlines for his controversial $66 million plan to refurbish the museum, which was funded by the sale of 40 works from the collection. Some museum supporters also opposed removing historical elements of the building to make way for a new atrium. But all that controversy didn’t put Rodgers off. “It didn’t scare me, obviously. I’m here,” he said. “Museums face challenges. Clearly, this museum faced a challenge.” (Berkshire Eagle)

Sotheby’s Teams Up With a Fashion Designer to Promote Old Masters – The auction house is selling works from the collection of German fashion retailer Sør Rusche with a little curatorial help from Dutch clothing designer Jan Taminiau. Ahead of the sale, he will present highlights from the Old Master collection in his Amsterdam pop-up store on April 11 and 12. It’s not the first time Sotheby’s has opted to present Old Masters in a fashion context; it previously arranged a similar collaboration with Victoria Beckham. (Press release)

Report Surveys the State of Artistic Freedom – An annual report by the organization Freemuse gathers data outlining the global threats to artistic freedom. The report—titled “Whose Narratives Count?”—records 673 documented cases of artistic censorship and repression (of which 147 concerned the visual arts) in 80 countries last year. It calls intolerance “widespread,” with Turkey being one of the worst offenders. The report notes that 157 artists were either imprisoned or detained in 29 countries in 2018. The US isn’t immune from censorship, either; the report states that art with political content is often rejected by institutions “for fear of appearing partisan.” (Hyperallergic)

Teacher Faces Suspension for Showing Nude Art – An art teacher at Western High in Davie, Florida, Brenda Fischer, is looking at a three-day suspension after she showed students images of nude male and female models last summer. Students say the models were photographed in “sexually suggestive” poses, drawing the ire of the Broward County School Board, which now seeks to suspend her for “misconduct in office, incompetence, and willful neglect of duty.” The school’s teacher’s union, however, says it will fight the suspension, arguing that Fischer was doing her job as an art teacher. The offending artwork has not yet been identified. (Sun-Sentinel, Daily Mail)


Hauser & Wirth Will Open New Publishing HQ – The gallery is growing the publishing business it founded in 1992 by opening a new global headquarters and bookstore in Zürich this June. The address of the bookstore and HQ, Rämistrasse 5, has over the years been home to various bookstores and publishers producing key 20th century critical theory, philosophy, and design texts. (ARTnews)

How Did Marfa’s First Art Fair Do? – The inaugural edition of the Marfa Invitational hosted nine visiting galleries, each showing work by just one artist. The fair’s opening drew a mix of locals and out-of-towners and saw sales including a painting by Tomoo Gokita priced at $140,000 at Bill Brady’s booth to collector Alison Blood. (ARTnews)

ARCO Director Joins the Thyssen-Bornemisza’s Foundation The collector Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza has named Carlos Urroz as the director of her contemporary art foundation, TBA21. The former director of the Madrid art fair ARCO will oversee TBA21’s temporary exhibitions in Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which her father founded. (Press release)


Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s First Billboard Will Return to New York – The Public Art Fund is reinstalling the Cuban-American artist’s first billboard to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a catalyst for the gay liberation movement. The text work, which features a series of dates, names, and movements important to both US history and gay and lesbian history, will be on view in its original 1989 location on a street corner in the West Village near the Stonewall Inn. (ARTnews)

Acclaimed Russian Director Is Released – The filmmaker and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov has been released from house arrest but still cannot leave Moscow. His supporters believe that the accusations of embezzlement he faces are, in fact, punishment for his anti-establishment views. (AP)

Academy Museum’s Deputy Director Abruptly Departs – Deborah Horowitz has abruptly left the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where she oversaw its curatorial team. The long-delayed Renzo Piano-designed museum, located next to the LACMA campus, is scheduled to open by the end of 2019, although no specific date has been announced. (Variety)

Christian Viveros-Fauné Is Named Artland’s Chief Critic – The art critic and curator has joined Artland 3D, a startup dedicated to creating 3D renderings of exhibitions, as its chief critic. He will write about exhibitions in New York and its cultural scene. (Press release)


A Critic Takes Aim at Ceiling Cat – Eva and Franco Mattes’s Ceiling Cat (2016), a sculpture inspired by of one of the internet’s most popular memes, is the star of a SFMOMA show about the circulation of imagery before and since the age of social media. But Philip Kennicott of The Washington Post takes issue with the museum’s invitation to photograph and share the eavesdropping kitty. The critical detachment of the show curated by Clément Chéroux “is replaced with coos and giggles and feel-good vibes,” the critic complains. (SF Gate)

Cold War Spy Images Reveal the Middle East’s Lost Heritage – Archaeologists at Penn and Harvard Universities are the first to study declassified U2 spy plane images in an effort to spot lost or damaged heritage in the Middle East. Emily Hammer and Jason Ur have identified a wealth of evidence of ancient life and structures in Syria, Iraq, and Iran by studying thousands of high- and low-resolution images taken in the late 1960s by America’s spies in the sky. (Eurekalert)

What If Famous Paintings Got Daily Mail Captions? – In tribute to the breathless captions written by the Daily Mail’s copy editors, Garage has penned their own versions for some very famous paintings. Guess the work of art given the tabloid treatment: “Shocker! Manet’s newest nymph steps out with TWO OTHER MEN and a WOMAN for a languorous picnic in the woods, sans clothes……what is she hiding???” And this one: “[A] bathing beauty flaunts her enviably toned physique seaside in a giant shell as her squad surrounds her; is her outfit sending a deliberate message to Cardi B? Click through to find out!” (Garage)

Sneak Peek of Daniel Buren’s High Line “Painting” – The next High Line show “En Plein Air” is taking shape. It features work by artists whose “paintings” are made of the right stuff to be public art come rain or shine. Ahead of its official unveiling on April 19, High Line director Cecilia Alemani posted an image on Instagram of Daniel Buren’s signature stripes fluttering above the elevated park. The veteran French artists is one of eight painters in the novel group show that runs through March 2020. (Instagram)


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Coming soon @highlineartnyc #danielburen #lesguirlandes part of #enpleinair opening April 19!

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