Art Industry News: A Viral Instagram Hoax Has Been Tricking Famous Artists (But Not Kara Walker) + Other Stories

Plus, an Australian official questions Yoko Ono's art chops and the MIT Media Lab struggles to free itself from its Jeffrey Epstein ties.

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 22.


Will David Adjaye Design the Benin City Museum? – The British-Nigerian star architect appears to be the frontrunner to design a new museum for Benin bronzes in the City of Benin, in Southern Nigeria. Adjaye outlined his ideas for a Royal Museum that could house artifacts looted from the Kingdom of Benin in the late 19th century by the British at the latest meeting of Benin Dialogue Group in early July. The meeting included representatives from the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, which all have Benin artifacts in their museums’ collections. The next meeting is due to be held in 2020 at the British Museum in London. (Guardian)

Hong Kong Artist Detained by Chinese Police – Sanmu Chan, the Hong Kong-based artist, curator, and activist who has been a vocal supporter of the city’s ongoing protests, was detained by Chinese police on August 19 while passing through immigration at Lo Wu station, which sits on the border between Hong Kong and the Mainland. He was suspected, according to police, of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” After seven hours of questioning, he was released and returned to Hong Kong. According to local media, officers questioned Chan specifically about a protest banner he designed earlier this summer, which read, “There are no rioters, only dictatorship.” (Art Asia Pacific)

A Viral Instagram Hoax Spreads to the Art World – Art-world figures have begun circulating the viral “channel 13” Instagram hoax online. The nonsense text, which reads like old-school chain mail, warns that Instagram will have permission to make deleted photos and messages public if users do not share the note denying the company to the right do so. It went viral after celebrities including Usher, Julia Roberts, and Rob Lowe shared it on their accounts. One can only hope the art-world figures who have shared it, including Oscar Murillo and Arthur Jafa, are doing so with tongues firmly in cheek. Kara Walker, for one, had a little fun with the message. Scroll to the bottom to find screenshots of the hoax. (Instagram, The Verge)

The Director of MIT Media Lab Promises to Return Epstein’s Money – Joi Ito has apologized for his and the MIT Media Lab’s links to the disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide earlier this month while awaiting trial for sex trafficking. In a letter posted online, Ito says he met Epstein at a conference in 2013, which led to the financier providing funding for the lab that researches art and design, as well as technology, media, and science. Epstein also contributed to Ito’s own investment funds for tech startups. Ito claims that he was unaware of Epstein’s past when they met, and he now vows to “raise an amount equivalent to the donations the Media Lab received from Epstein,” which will go towards supporting trafficking survivors. Ito also pledged to return the money that Epstein gave to his personal investment funds. (Art Asia Pacific)


A Gallery Dedicated to Female Artists Opens in Melbourne – Australia is getting its first commercial gallery dedicated to female artists. The Finkelstein Gallery in Melbourne is founded by the art consultant Lisa Fehily (who named the gallery after her maiden name, Finkelstein). It will represent 10 artists, including Lisa Roet, Louise Paramour, and Monika Behrens. (TAN)

Simon Preston Joins Pace – The swiftly expanding mega-gallery has hired Simon Preston, who previously ran an eponymous gallery in Chinatown, as a senior director. He will focus on bringing new artists to Pace and enhancing its contemporary programming. Preston ran his gallery for 10 years, but felt that the pressures on a small business like his were simply too great to continue. “I looked at what the next 10 years look like,” he said, “and this just seemed like a good opportunity.” (ARTnews)

ADAA Opposes Chinese Art Tariff – The Art Dealers Association of America has—perhaps not surprisingly—come out in opposition to President Trump’s new 10 percent tariff on Chinese art and antiquities. In a statement, the ADAA said: “With the tariffs in place, it will be virtually impossible for these businesses to price artwork competitively within the global art market.” (Press release)


London’s Indian Museum Faces Closure – Officials from the Indian state of Maharashtra are battling the local council of a wealthy London suburb over a museum dedicated to one of the founding fathers of modern India, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. The museum has been open since 2015 and recently underwent a £2 million ($2.4 million) revamp, but the London council is forcing it to close because it turns out that permission was never given to turn the residential property into a museum. Ambedkar, who was one of the authors of the Indian constitution, lived in the house in London while he was a student. (Times)

Contemporary Art Center to Open in Estonia – The Kai Arts Center is slated to open in a former submarine production plant on the waterfront in Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn on September 20. The center will host 14 artists a year for an international residency program. (Artforum)

Arkansas Arts Center Names Director – The former director of the El Paso Museum of Art, Victoria Ramirez, is the new executive director of the Arkansas Art Center. Ramirez, who has also worked at the Bullock Texas State History Museum and the MFA Houston, will guide the museum on a $128 million fundraising campaign for a new building and its endowment. (Artforum)

Advocates Win Restoration of Arts Funding in Alaska – Alaskan officials have restored full funding to the state’s arts agency after statewide protests over its planned dissolution. Following widespread outcry, Governor Mike Dunleavy stopped the state from becoming the first without an arts agency in an emergency special session of the state legislature. (Hyperallergic)


Australian Tourism Chief Disses Yoko Ono – The chief executive of the official tourism agency that promotes Sydney and New South Wales did not think much of Yoko Ono, according to never-before-seen correspondence published following a legal fight between a journalist and the agency. In a 2013 letter to the director of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Sandra Chipcase said that while the Japanese-American Fluxus pioneer is a “well-known celebrity,” she questioned whether she could attract audiences on the same level as artists like Anish Kapoor and Annie Leibovitz. Nevertheless, the agency ended up giving AU$500,000 ($338,370) to help fund a Yoko Ono exhibition—and the show went on to draw a respectable 74,000 visitors. (The Art Newspaper)

In a Creative Rut? Try These Tips – The 33-year-old author of the graphic memoir I Was Their American Dream, Malaka Gharib, shares her tips for how to break through a creative block. Gharib’s strategies include setting yourself a tight deadline—she sometimes forces herself to make a mini-zine in just five minutes—as well as drawing inspiration from your immediate environment and your lived experiences. (New York Times)

British Council Condemns Iran for Jailing a Curator – The British Council is trying to fight a court in Iran after it upheld a 10-year jail sentence for one of the council’s former employees, a curator who has been accused of espionage. Aras Amiri, who was accused of “cultural infiltration by the British intelligence services in Iranian internal affairs” after she refused to spy for the Iranian intelligence services, lost an appeal of her conviction earlier this week. (TAN)

See That Viral Instagram Hoax in Action:


View this post on Instagram


I’m thinking of doing a little sociological study on gullibility.

A post shared by Kara Walker (@kara_walker_official) on Aug 21, 2019 at 1:20pm PDT

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