Art Industry News: A 12-Year-Old Made Almost $400,000 Minting NFTs of Whales on His Summer Vacation + Other Stories

Plus, UCCA Shanghai is expanding to Chengdu, and Cindy Sherman made original art for a new George Jones and Tammy Wynette cover album.

Weird Whale NFTs, screenshot courtesy of Twitter.

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 Monday, August 30.


Frieze’s Next Big Swing – While most fairs poured money into digital during the onset of the pandemic, Frieze decided to invest in brick-and-mortar. The company is preparing to open its first year-round space on Cork Street in Mayfair, London, on October 7. Galleries can use the space for small events and pop-up exhibitions. The first round of dealers to set up shop there are James Cohan (New York), Commonwealth and Council (Los Angeles), and Proyectos Ultravioleta (Guatemala City). (Financial Times)

New York Fairs Prepare for Their Comeback – The executive director of New York’s Armory Show is expecting the unexpected ahead of the fair’s opening in less than two weeks. “We are putting on this event and have a Plan A, B, C, D and E,” Nicole Berry said. Big galleries are still planning to go—David Zwirner, Stephen Friedman, and Marianne Boesky are among those signed up to show their wares at the Javits Center beginning September 9. Meanwhile, some European collectors are considering a two-week stop in Mexico to bypass the current quarantine rules. Now that’s commitment. (New York Times)

Meet a 12-Year-Old NFT Mogul – Benyamin Ahmed made more money during his summer vacation than most professionals make in a year. The 12-year-old spent the break creating pixelated artworks called “Weird Whales” and then selling NFTs of the characters for a total of £290,000 ($399,156) to date. Ahmed’s father, a software developer, likened the whales to “digital Pokémon cards,” and praised buyers for recognizing the “historical significance” of his son’s work in a new medium. (Guardian)

Artists Remain Held in Cuba – Artists Hamlet Lavastida and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara are among several individuals being held in maximum security prisons on unclear charges for several months in Cuba. Lavastida was jailed in June upon his return from a prestigious art residency in Berlin for messages sent in a group chat in which he suggested marking Cuban currency with acronyms for artist-led freedom movements 27N and MSI; the action never took place. (The Art Newspaper)


UCCA Expands Even More – The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art is opening a fourth location, in Chengdu, in 2024. The art center debuted its third space in May, an outpost called UCCA Edge in Shanghai. (TAN)

Auction Highlights India’s Forgotten Masters – Previously overlooked 18th- and 19th-century artists who were commissioned by officials at the East India Company are the subject of a sale called “In an Indian Garden” at Sotheby’s on October 27. The 29 lots were once owned by the American art dealer Carlton Rochell. (Guardian)

Vaccinated Brits Can Now Travel to Italy – Great news for those who have been waiting to go to see the cultural wonders in Venice, Florence, or anywhere in Italy—quarantine measures will be dropped for fully vaccinated U.K. citizens or residents from next week. All that will be needed is a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 48 hours of travel. (Evening Standard


Cindy Sherman Designs an Album Cover – While we wait with baited breath to see the final album cover for Kanye West’s Donda, another new release merits art-world attention. Teddy Thompson and Jenni Muldaur, along with producer David Mansfield, have released an album of duets by George Jones and Tammy Wynette (Teddy & Jenny Do George & Tammy). The unbeatable album cover features Cindy Sherman cast in both roles. Muldaur and Sherman both have homes in Springs, New York. (Instagram)


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