Art Industry News: Japan’s Ninja Museum Was Robbed Overnight by Thieves Who May or May Not Be Ninjas + Other Stories

Plus, Beirut's museums face a brand new threat and Kentucky's state capitol building gets its first-ever statue of a woman.

Japanese Iga-ryu Ninjas pose after a performance during a Japanese Cultural Festival in Hong Kong 10 May 2007. (MIKE CLARKE/AFP 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 Friday, August 21.


Beirut Museums Face Looting Threat – UNESCO has warned that museums in the Lebanese capital are at risk of looting following this month’s devastating blast, which injured 6,000 and killed at least 180 people. Without facades to protect them, many cultural sites are in need of temporary storage units to safely preserve works while reconstruction begins. The restoration of historic buildings is expected to cost an estimated $300 million. Meanwhile, some property developers are already making bids to buy up the damaged properties, which could displace museums and residents. (Pledge Times)

The Susan B. Anthony Museum Rejects Donald Trump’s Pardon – The museum named after women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony, who was tried and convicted for voting illegally before women’s suffrage, has declined President Donald Trump’s recent pardon. The museum said accepting the pardon of the 1873 conviction would be to “validate the proceedings.” Many see the museum’s move as an indirect statement about the current state of voting rights in the US ahead of the presidential election in November. (Deadline)

Under Cover of Darkness, Thieves Rob Japan’s Ninja Museum – Thieves raided central Japan’s Iga-ryu Ninja Museum, dedicated to the history of the ninja and ninjutsu, in the early hours of Monday morning. They broke into the museum with a crowbar and absconded with a safe containing more than one million yen (about $9,400). No word on whether the thieves were, in fact, ninjas. (BBC)

What Happens When the Art-World Machine Starts Up Again? – It’s become trendy to say that the post-lockdown art world will not resemble what came before. But writer Martin Hebert wonders if that statement is really true. “I suspect most people have a good idea of what artists are going to do next, with (again) honorable exceptions: something somebody already did, with a twist,” he writes. “The art world has lately gotten very good at perpetual motion, and meanwhile forgotten about traction.” (Art Review)


Joan Mitchell’s Market on the Rise – The abstract painter, who died in 1992, has posthumously emerged as a market star. Mitchell’s annual total auction sales have risen by 123 percent over the past 12 years, from $28 million in 2007 to $62.6 million last year. Her profile, which long lagged behind her male peers, is likely only to grow: the Baltimore Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are co-organizing a comprehensive retrospective of her work in 2021. (Art Market Monitor)

Authorities Hunt for True Owner of a Nazi-Looted Painting – A 19th-century painting by Nicolas Rousseau that was returned by the son of a German solder to France has gone on public view at the World Centre for Peace, Liberty, and Human Rights in Verdun. The goal of the display is to locate the work’s original owner before it was looted during World War II. (Guardian)


Kentucky Installs State Capitol’s First Statue of a Woman – Kentucky’s state capitol building is getting a bronze sculpture celebrating Nettie Depp, an early 20th-century champion of public education. The statue, which is the historic building’s first ever honoring a woman, will be unveiled next August. (Smithsonian)

Palestinian Artist Pulls Out of Sharjah Exhibition in Protest – The Berlin-based Palestinian artist Mohamed Badarne has withdrawn his work from an exhibition at the Sharjah Art Foundation in the UAE in protest of the government’s decision to resume a relationship with Israel. In an open letter published on Facebook, the artist writes: “Following my belief that art, unless engaged with human causes and justice, has no value, I announce withdrawing my participation in your scheduled exhibition.” (Hyperallergic)


Magnum Suspends Photographer in Response to Harassment Complaint – The Magnum photo agency has suspended the photographer David Alan Harvey while it investigates an allegation that he harassed a female colleague. The suspension coincides with another investigation of Alan Harvey’s work, a trove of historical images documenting sex workers in Thailand that may show child sexual exploitation. (Guardian)

Helsinki Lets People Deliver Performance Art to Each Other’s Doors – As part of a summer arts festival in Helsinki, the Finnish capital has organized a new initiative called Art Gifts, which allows residents to order five-minute performances to be executed by local performers on the recipient’s doorstep. Now, the app has been made open source so the experiment can be replicated around the world. (Press release)

Watch an Artist’s Mark Zuckerberg-Themed Music Video – The artist Jeremy Hutchison has animated the letters he has been writing to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg expressing concerns regarding the proliferation of fake news on the platform and its erosion of privacy. Set to music by Oisin Byrne, the absurdist synth-pop anthem contains existential lyrics that ask whether “the tools that we design end up designing us.” The video is performed by animated maquettes of the tech billionaire, which the artist sees as “monuments” to Zuck’s colonial legacy. (Press release)

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