Art Industry News: Damien Hirst Got Creative After Maurizio Cattelan Rejected His Offer to Buy That Notorious Banana Sculpture + Other Stories

Plus, top museum directors' salaries are under scrutiny and the British Museum undergoes a deep clean ahead of its reopening.

Image courtesy of Damien Hirst Instagram.

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 19.


Museum Directors’ Salaries Are Under Scrutiny – American museum directors are facing growing criticism for taking six- and seven-figure salaries while budgets are slashed and staff are laid off at their institutions. The Met’s CEO Daniel Weiss, for example, makes $1.25 million a year, according to public filings. Although he has taken a 20 percent pay reduction during lockdown, critics say that’s not enough when 400 staff members have been cut since March. Collector Lonti Ebers, meanwhile, reportedly quit the New Museum’s board back in 2018 when director Lisa Phillips sought to negotiate a larger compensation package. The museum said an independent compensation consultant affirmed her salary was in line with industry norms. (New York Times)

Michael Rakowitz Gets the New Yorker Profile Treatment  In a deep-dive profile, the Iraqi-American artist recounts his upbringing in New York and the sense of estrangement from Iraq that pervaded his family and later informed his art. “What was on the floor, what was on the wall, what came out of the stereo, what came out of the kitchen was from Iraq,” he said, likening the experience to an installation. “It was tinged with a brokenhearted longing.” While he has never been to the country, it continues to inspire his work, including his recent projects that “reappear” looted antiquities from the war-torn country. (New Yorker)

Damien Hirst Recreates the Art Basel Banana – The British artist Damien Hirst was so taken by Maurizio Cattelan’s viral sculpture Comedian that he asked if the artist had any editions left over or if he would create one for him. “I offered to swap it for anything of mine,” Hirst wrote on Instagram. “But sadly he said no!” A mutual friend, the curator Francesco Bonami, created his own version and sent it as a gift to Hirst to soften the blow. Hirst has hung the banana (though, per Bonami’s instructions, it must be installed facing the opposite direction of the original) and plans to replace it weekly. “I want it to look fresh,” he said. (The Art Newspaper)

Museums Have a Docent Problem – As museums across the country wrestle with entrenched bias, some critics say they must also work to change the way docents interact with visitors. These volunteers are, according to one museum worker, often an “army of privileged old white women” who may not have the language, training, or context to appropriately serve as ambassadors for art that deals with race. Part of the problem is that the positions are unpaid and volunteer-based, limiting the population that is able to take on the role and making it difficult to enforce training. Now, some are advocating for paying docents—but given the financial struggles museums are facing, the chances of this happening are slim. (Slate)


Hebru Brantley Signs With WME – The Chicago painter, whose work explores Black life in America, has joined William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. Previously represented by UTA, he will work with WME to expand his Angry Hero production company. (Deadline)

Lisson Will Represent Van Hanos – The Marfa-based painter will make his debut with Lisson at the gallery’s new Hamptons outpost on August 20. Next spring, Van Hanos’s vibrant, colorful paintings will be the subject of a full show at the gallery’s new space in New York City. (TAN)


Houston Museum Takes Confederate Monument – The Houston Museum of African American Culture has accepted a monument to the Confederacy that was removed from Sam Houston Park in June in order to show it in an appropriate, history-informed context. “The overwhelming majority of people … trust that our ability to take power from this symbol will help our community heal,” the museum’s board president Cindy Miles said in a statement. (KRPC)

The British Museum Undergoes a Pre-Opening Deep Clean – As it prepares to reopen to the public on August 27, the British Museum has been meticulously dusting off its collection. The major London institution only had minimal cleaning during the 183-day lockdown, and so now, dust particles, which are dangerous to the conservation of antiquities, are being carefully removed. The project has taken 30 staff three weeks to complete. (Independent)


A Romero Britto Work Was Destroyed on TikTok – A video of a woman smashing a Romero Britto sculpture in front of the Brazilian artist himself has gone viral on the social-media platform TikTok. The video was originally taken in 2017, and (of course) there’s a backstory: the angry woman is the owner of a Spanish restaurant in Miami Beach who wanted to teach the artist a lesson after he was rude to her wait staff. (TAN)

The World’s Largest Painting Heads to Auction – A giant canvas the size of two football fields is going up for sale in Dubai. The work, created by the Dubai-based British artist Sacha Jafri, will be chopped up into 60 canvases measuring 30 meters square and sold at a gala in December. The goal is to raise $30 million “to promote global digital equality.” (TAN)

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