Art Industry News: The Museum of Ice Cream Just Got Sprinkled With a $200 Million Valuation + Other Stories

Plus, the Guggenheim names a new deputy director and activists stage a pro-democracy art exhibition in Hong Kong.

The Museum of Ice Cream's Instagram-famous sprinkle pool. Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Museum of Ice Cream.

Art Industry News is normally 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 Thursday, August 15.


Is El Museo Del Barrio Abandoning Its Core Mission? – The New Yorker takes a deep dive into the tensions between the embattled Museo Del Barrio and critics who feel that the museum has forgotten its roots in a New York neighborhood that used to be mainly Puerto Rican. Campaigners claim elite Latin-American interests are eclipsing the East Harlem museum’s original mission to focus on Puerto Rican and Latino artists. Its Mexican-born director, Patrick Charpenel, has been under fire since taking over, including for hiring a curator from Brazil. The New York-based, Puerto Rican-born artist Tony Bechara, who is the emeritus chair of El Museo’s board, says: “Every museum in the world is being accused of élitism. So why should we be different?” (New Yorker)

Arthur Jafa Gets the T Treatment – T has profiled the 58-year-old artist on the heels of his Golden Lion win at the Venice Biennale. The artist remains unsettled about the legacy of his breakout video Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, which rocketed him to art-world prominence two years ago. “A thousand people have told me that they cried when they saw it,” Jafa said. “I’m very happy that people are moved, but I do think it’s complicated when you say, ‘I cried.’ OK, is that what art is supposed to do? Does that make you any less whatever the hell it is you are? Is that transformative crying or is it just crying? I don’t know.” (T Magazine)

The Museum of Ice Cream Is Valued at $200 Million – Investors can’t get enough of the company behind the Museum of Ice Cream. It is now valued at $200 million and has raised $40 million in venture capital. The plan, according to its founders, is to continue to expand beyond Instagram-friendly “experiums”—short for experience museums—into branded food, clothing, and potentially even a theme park. The company also plans to open additional ice cream museums in other US cities as well as in Asia. The end goal is lofty: “We’re excited to create the next generation of Walt Disney,” says CEO Maryellis Bunn. (Wall Street Journal)

Activists Stage a Pro-Democracy Exhibition in Hong Kong A group of anonymous activists are staging pop-up exhibitions of pro-democracy protest art and ephemera in protest-riddled Hong Kong, defying local authorities. The group, known as Imagine Hong Kong, is presenting pieces drawn from their rapidly growing collection of material produced by demonstrators and working to assemble a permanent archive. “Given the current situation in Hong Kong, we do have safety concerns, which is why we have specifically arranged security for the exhibition,” a spokesman for the group said. (The Art Newspaper)


These Collectors Want to Make Private Art Accessible – Collectors Jessica and Evrim Oralkan have created a website and social media platform to make art in private collections publicly accessible. Called Collecteurs, they describe it as a jointly run museum of private collections for those who might not have the resources to open a brick-and-mortar private institution. Art historian Claire Bishop is on hand, however, to pour cold water on that idea: “This is really not a museum by any stretch of the definition,” she said. (New York Times)

Trump Still Plans to Tax Chinese Art – Although the Trump Administration has delayed a planned tariff on Chinese consumer goods to spare holiday shoppers, the 10 percent tariff on Chinese art and antiquities—regardless of the country they are being shipped or purchased from—is still due to go ahead on September 1. (artnet NewsTAN)


Survivors Protest Museum for Pulse Nightclub Massacre – A group of survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, as well as family members of the victims, are protesting the establishment of a private museum to honor those lost. The Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum says the site of the massacre should be torn down, that any memorial should be built on public property, and that money raised for the museum should be given to survivors. (AP)

Daniela Rivera Wins Rappaport Prize – The Chilean-born, Massachusetts-based artist Daniela Rivera has won the deCordova museum’s $35,000 Rappaport Prize. The annual prize celebrates contemporary artists with ties to New England. (Boston Globe)

Guggenheim Names New Deputy Director – The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has named Leah E. Heister as its new deputy director and chief advancement officer. Heister, who was previously a consultant for the institution, will take up the post September 3. She formerly served as vice president of strategic consulting firm CCS Fundraising. (Artforum)

NEH Awards Next Round of Funding – The National Endowment for the Humanities will give $29 million in grants to 215 projects in the US as part of its latest funding round. The money will support, among other projects, the publication of papers belonging to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as a revamp of the storage areas at Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home, Taliesin West. (Artforum)


Jeffrey Epstein Owned Bizarre Bill Clinton Painting – The tale of the disgraced and now deceased financier gets more sordid by the day. The latest news comes out of his Upper East Side mansion, where Epstein apparently prominently hung a portrait of Bill Clinton in a blue dress and heels. (The dress resembles the one famously worn by Monica Lewinsky.) The painting, Parsing Bill, was painted and sold by a New York-based artist named Petrina Ryan-Kleid. (Page Six)

Philadelphia Museum Eliminates Free Admission for College Art Students – As of July 1, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is no longer offering free admission to college art students. The institution says it scrapped the 40-year-old policy because an increasing number of degree programs meant that the program was no longer financially viable. (BillyPenn)

Mural of a Cuffed Statue of Liberty Goes Viral – The British artist Izaac Zevalking (who goes by the pseudonym Recycled Propaganda) painted a mural in downtown Las Vegas depicting the Statue of Liberty being handcuffed by immigration authorities. The artwork—which is meant to draw attention to America’s founding by immigrants—has garnered new attention following immigration official Ken Cuccinelli’s suggestion earlier this week that the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the statue be amended to specify that only those who “will not become a public charge” should be welcomed to America. (Guardian)

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