Art Industry News: Anticipating a ‘Long-Term’ Attendance Drop, Tate Will Cut More Than 300 Visitor-Services Jobs + Other Stories

Plus, a Belgian collector sues a gallery for allegedly chipping the paint on his Donald Judd sculpture and the Milwaukee Art Museum's staff seeks to unionize.

Tate Modern. Photo by David Mbiyu/SOPA Images/LightRocket via 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 Wednesday, August 12.


Zadie Smith On Toyin Ojih Odutola – The author weighs in on artist Toyin Ojih Odutola’s exhibition “A Countervailing Theory” at the Barbican in London. The show comprises some 40 pictures that explore the answer to the question, “What would it look like if women were the only imperialists in known histories across the globe?” Before viewers can get too carried away in fantasies of role reversal and revenge, however, the artist weaves in “the mutual melancholy that pervades asymmetric relationships of power,” Smith writes. (New Yorker)

Cao Fei on Xenophobia in the COVID-19 Era – The Chinese artist shares her thoughts on the rise of anti-Asian racism in the US, exacerbated by Donald Trump’s pugilistic rhetoric surrounding China. “Fear can be more contagious than a virus, and it is particularly detrimental at a time when the international community desperately needs a coordinated and comprehensive response to the pandemic,” she says. But it is not just Asians who can be othered in this way, she notes—xenophobic discomfort often mutates into overt racism during a crisis. “It is imperative for those who work in arts and culture to establish a sense of moral urgency,” Cao writes. (Guggenheim Blog)

Tate Confirms the Elimination of More Than 300 Jobs – In an email sent to employees, Tate has confirmed that it will be cutting 313 jobs from its commercial arm. Explaining the “painful and difficult decision,” director Maria Balshaw says that “the long-term drop in visitor numbers we are expecting for the foreseeable future, and the consequent loss of revenue, have left us no option.” She adds that the gallery has already used £5 million of its reserves to retain staff this long into the shutdown, and that leadership is working to ensure that Black, Asian, and minority ethnic employees are not “disproportionately affected by the restructure.” Final decisions on redundancies are expected in mid-September. (@thewhitepube Twitter, The Art Newspaper)

Milwaukee Art Museum Workers Seek to Unionize – Employees at the Milwaukee Art Museum have become the latest in a wave of museum staff to organize. Around 150 workers at the museum are seeking to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 10, which already represents the museum’s security guards. “By putting our individual voices together into one voice, we can improve our working conditions and advocate for those who are most precarious among us,” said Ryan Jann, a visitor services employee involved in the effort. (Milwaukee Business News)


The Art Car Boot Fair Goes Digital – The UK’s popular Art Car Boot Fair—a rollicking event in which UK artists hawk their own wares from stalls or the trunk of a car—will be going online on September 20 after its live iteration was cancelled. (And yes, the experience might be a challenge to translate fully on the web.) More than 100 artists will be selling original work created for the event at low prices. Participants confirmed so far include Gavin Turk, Polly Morgan, Marcus Harvey, and Pam Hogg. (Press release)

Collector Battles New York Gallery Over Chipped Judd – The Upper East Side’s Mignoni Gallery is locked in a lawsuit with a Brussels art collector over a chipped Donald Judd sculpture. The Charles Riva Collection consigned the sculpture to Mignoni, but the gallery returned it after the work failed to find a buyer. Riva says the sculpture came back with “significant paint loss”; the gallery claims the work was already chipped when it arrived. Riva is seeking $1.7 million in damages—equivalent to his cut if the work had sold. (Crain’s New York)


Artist Jan Steward Dies at 91 – The artist, photographer, and graphic designer, who co-authored Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit with the “Pop art nun” Corita Kent, died at 91 from complications related to pneumonia. She also created album covers for George Harrison. (LA Times)

Canada Museum for Human Rights Appoints New CEO Amid Unrest – The human rights lawyer Isha Khan will take over the embattled museum in Winnipeg, Canada. Though she has no museum experience, Khan hopes to overhaul the national institution after an independent report found that racism is “pervasive and systemic” there. The report also found that the museum had altered tours at the request of religious schools, omitting LGBTQ content. (The Globe and Mail)


Giant George Michael Mural Comes to London Borough – Artist Dawn Mellor has been commissioned to make a large mural dedicated to the late singer George Michael. It will be on view from September in the Brent borough of London, where Michael grew up. The work is part of Studio Voltaire elsewhere, a series of large-scale, offsite commissions across the city. (Guardian)

Activist Adds Branding Irons to Hands of Statues – An anonymous activist has added branding irons to two statues in London: one of James II outside the Canada House and one of Charles II at Soho Square. The action is meant to draw attention to the Royal family’s role in the slave trade. (Twitter)

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