Art Industry News: Russia Orders the Destruction of a Poetic Anti-Putin Artwork + Other Stories

Plus, Olafur Eliasson is opening a restaurant in Iceland and Christopher Knight has some advice for incoming MOCA director Klaus Biesenbach.

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo by Natalia Kolesnikova/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 Thursday, August 2.


Roll Call of Dead Refugees Vanishes – Artist Banu Cennetoğlu’s The List, which records the names of more than 34,000 refugees killed seeking safety in Europe and was on public view for the Liverpool Biennial, has mysteriously disappeared from a local street, leaving organizers baffled. “We were dismayed to see it had been removed on Saturday night and would like to know why,” the biennial tweeted. The city council confirmed that none of its employees had removed the work. (Guardian)

The Battle Over Robert Indiana’s Legacy Gets Personal – Toward the end of his life, the American artist named his studio assistant, Jamie Thomas, as executive director of his foundation. But some question the former caretaker’s ability to look after the artist’s legacy or turn his home-studio on Vinalhaven into a museum. He’s been accused of intentionally isolating Indiana to take advantage of him and unwisely license his art. As lawyers head to court to wrest control of the artist’s legacy, Thomas isn’t commenting—nor is he invited to the artist’s memorial service on September 13. (New York Times)

Russia Orders Destruction of Anti-Putin Work – Activists are protesting an order by Russian authorities to destroy a framed print of 9 Stages in the Decomposition of the Leader (2015) by the art collective Rodina. The work, a time-lapse image that shows a photographic portrait of Putin gradually rotting on top of a box of grass, was seized during an anti-Putin protest in Saint Petersburg last spring. A local court is currently hearing an appeal that seeks to halt the work’s destruction. (Hyperallergic)

A To-Do List for LA MOCA’s New Director – Christopher Knight is skeptical about MOCA’s choice of Klaus Biesenbach as its new leader. By appointing an established curator with a thin administrative record, he writes, “you get the feeling that MOCA’s board, heavily populated by art collectors, is secretly eager for a personal curator of its own.” Nevertheless, he lays out four priorities for Biesenbach that should keep him busy for a few years: make MOCA free, build the depleted curatorial staff back up, remake the board of trustees, and focus on the art of LA. (Los Angeles Times)


Ulay Will Be Represented by Richard Saltoun – London’s Richard Saltoun gallery now represents the performance artist and (recently reconciled) ex of Marina Abramovic. The gallery will present a solo show of his work next year featuring a rarely seen 1971 film of the former performance power couple driving a van in a circle in Paris, plus Polaroids of Ulay in drag. (The Art Newspaper)

David Mugrabi Files for Divorce – The art mega-collector and trader and his wife Libbie Mugrabi are divorcing. The couple, who have been married for 13 years, had no prenup in place, sources tell Page Six. Their divorce papers are sealed. (Page Six)

Aspen Screens an Art Market Exposé – The Aspen Institute is screening the documentary The Price of Everything, which traces how the art world became a financial market. Its producer Jennifer Stockman, who is a philanthropist and former Guggenheim trustee, will discuss the state of the art market with the film’s director Nathaniel Kahn at the event ahead of its HBO release. (Aspen Public Radio)

English Cathedral Buys Bible It Lost 500 Years Ago – Canterbury Cathedral has bought a 13th-century illuminated Bible that it lost when its library was dispersed after the Reformation. The cathedral paid a hammer price £100,000 ($130,207) at Bloomsbury Auctions to recover the Lyghfield Bible, which is named after a medieval monk. (Antiques Trade Gazette)


American Folk Art Museum Names New Director Jason T. Busch will take over as the executive director of the American Folk Art Museum in September. He replaces Anne-Imelda Radice, who retired in March after working for years to turn around the troubled institution. Busch, a former deputy director of the St. Louis Art Museum, is jumping back into the nonprofit world after a stint on the commercial side. He served most recently as director of Jason Jacques Gallery in New York. (>NYT)

Asia Pacific Triennial Artist List Announced The ninth edition of the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art has released its artist list, which includes 80 artists and collectives from more than 30 countries in Asia, Australia, and the Pacific. Highlights include Kuwaiti artist Monira al-Qadiri and video artist Qiu Zhijie from China. The triennial will be held at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, from November 24 through April 28, 2019. (ArtAsiaPacific)

Northwestern Launches Hurricane Art Recovery Effort  Armed with a $500,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Northwestern University is launching an initiative to help Puerto Rican artists rebuild the island’s cultural scene following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. The two-year project will begin in August with a professional retreat to the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo in San Juan for 10 emerging artists. (Artforum)

Getty Announces Painting Conservation Project  The Getty is launching Conserving Canvas, an initiative to ensure that highly technical conservation skills are passed down to a new generation. Conserving Canvas will offer grants to support workshops, seminars, training residencies, and a major symposium. The inaugural list of grant recipients includes the National Gallery in London, and Yale University, among others. (Press release)


Curators Hunt for Grayson Perry’s Early Work – The Turner Prize-winning artist and the Holburne Museum in Bath have put out a joint call to anyone who might own or know the location of Perry’s early ceramic works, which have largely been sold or given away to unknown parties. The museum is planning a major exhibition in 2020 of the material—assuming curators can find it. (Guardian)

Olafur Eliasson Is Opening a Restaurant – The Icelandic-Danish artist is opening a pop-up conceptual restaurant in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik from August to November. His sister, the chef Victoria Eliasdóttir, will run the restaurant in the waterside Marshall House, which Eliasson owns. Fusing community, art, and food, the project is inspired by his Studio Olafur Eliasson (SOE) Kitchen in Berlin, which serves the artist’s 100-person studio daily. (Wallpaper)

Wim Wenders Says Cell Phones Killed Photography – The director and Polaroid photographer is not so keen on the iPhone. He compares selfies to looking in the mirror, not real photography (although he admits he has taken a few himself). His other gripe with cellphone cameras is that no one prints the images. “Photography is more alive than ever and at the same time more dead than ever,” Wenders opines. (BBC)

Artist Sinks Le Corbusier Building in a Fjord – The architect’s celebrated Villa Savoy appears to be sinking into a Danish fjord thanks to artist Asmund Havsteen-Mikkelsen. He intends the doomed scale model of the Modernist landmark as a statement about the alleged manipulation of voters in the US presidential election and the Brexit referendum. “Through this meddling, a certain sense of democracy has ‘sunk,'” he says. Called Flooded Modernism, the work is part of the Flooded Art Festival organized by the Vejle Museum. (Dezeen)

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