Art Industry News: MoMA’s Board Chair Leon Black to Be Subpoenaed in Connection With the Jeffrey Epstein Case + Other Stories

Plus, MASS MoCA's founding director is retiring after more than 30 years and Photo London pulls the plug on its 2020 physical edition.

Leon Black speaks onstage at the Museum Of Modern Art Film Benefit on November 19, 2018, in New York City. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Museum of Modern Art.

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 Monday, August 24.


Vandals Smash Mary Magdalene Statue – A group of conservative vandals destroyed a sculpture of Mary Magdalene in the chapel of Saint Pilon in Southeast France because they were offended that she was depicted in the nude. The vandals left a note next to the ruined sculpture explaining that they found the depiction of the saint to be unacceptable. Church authorities have decried the act as “extremely violent” and an “act of degradation,” and an investigation is now underway. (The Art Newspaper)

Shanghai Pride Suspends Operations After Exhibition Opening – Shanghai Pride is coming to a halt just after the opening of its 12th Shanghai Pride Art Exhibition amid increased government scrutiny of public life in the mainland. While the art show will continue through September 6, the organization announced that it would suspend all scheduled events. “We love our community, and we are grateful for the experiences we’ve shared together,” the statement read. “No matter what, we will always be proud—and you should be, too.” No official reason was given for the decision, although some speculate that the organization bowed to government pressure. (TAN)

MoMA Board Chair Due to Be Subpoenaed in Epstein Case – Billionaire art collector and patron Leon Black, the chairman of the board of the Museum of Modern Art, is expected to be subpoenaed by the US Virgin Islands in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein case. The wealthy investor is being asked to share information about his decades of business links to the late disgraced financier, who provided him advice on tax strategy, estate planning and philanthropy. (A spokesperson for Leon Black’s family foundation previously disputed reports that Epstein remained involved with the organization for four years after his 2008 conviction, noting that his presence on tax forms through 2012 was due to a “recording error.”) Subpoenas will also go to his private equity firm Apollo and entities that help manage his extensive art collection. (New York Times)

National Trust Denies Dumbing Down Programming – The National Trust in the UK is facing criticism over leaked internal documents that reveal it is considering storing more of its art collections in order to open up historic properties to “more active, fun, and useful experiences” to draw new audiences. The heritage organization denies that it is “dumbing down” but says that it needs to make sure its houses are “meaningful and relevant for the 21st century.” (Guardian)


Photo London Pulls the Plug on Physical Edition – The 2020 edition of Photo London, due to take place during Frieze Week in October, will be moved online. The fair’s organizers attributed the decision, made in close “consultation with stakeholders,” to the fact that the uncertainty surrounding the global health situation has not diminished. (Press release)

Gagosian Concludes Its First Season of “Spotlight” – Gagosian’s first season of online Artist Spotlights, a weekly presentation dedicated to individual artists in its program, has generated at least $10 million, with the gallery hinting that many more sales have not been publicly released. Among the priciest sales were an untitled work by Mark Grotjahn from his “Capri” series, which fetched $5 million. The program will begin again in the fall. (ARTnews)

Art Paris Remains Committed Despite Rise in Infections – The general curator of Art Paris art fair, Guillaume Piens, has reaffirmed his commitment to opening on September 9 in Paris’s Grand Palais, with capacity limited to 3,000 people and health restrictions in place. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said, “but it is evident that, while Frieze has been canceled and London’s position is in decline, Paris has more to play for than ever.” (Journal des Arts)


MASS MoCA’s Founding Director Retires – Joseph C. Thompson, the founding director of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, will step down at the end of October after 30 years in the role. During his tenure, MASS MoCA became the largest institution in the US devoted to contemporary art. Tracy Moore, the museum’s deputy director and COO, will serve as interim director while the trustees conduct a formal search for his replacement. (New York Times)

Museum of Arts and Design Director Steps Down – Christopher Scoates will step down as director of New York’s Museum of Arts and Design after two years. He is the fourth director to leave the museum in the past decade—an unusually high rate of turnover for a prestigious institution. Scoates said he “felt it was the right time to focus on working with other institutions that are navigating the challenging times ahead.” (ARTnews)


A Spotlight on Black Artists in Portland – Artists Sharita Towne and Intisar Abioto discuss the long history of Black artists and creatives in Portland, a city that has been described as the whitest in the United States. As protests against police brutality continue and federal agents remain in the streets, local Black artists say their work can offer a roadmap for other cities. “In Portland, we are finding new ways to care for one another,” Abioto said. “That involves addressing structures of power.” (NYT)

Ragnar Kjartansson Performs in a Milan Church – Massimiliano Gioni from New York’s New Museum is working with the Icelandic artist to restage his 2018 performance, Il Cielo in Una Stanza (The Sky in a Room), in Milan. Singers will perform the Italian composer Gino Paoli’s 1960 song Il Cielo in Una Stanza at the church of San Carlo al Lazzaretto from September 22 to October 25. The idea is to mark “the painful months spent imagining the sky in a room” during lockdown, according to organizers. (TAN)

Artists Support Tate Protests – Artists including Jeremy Deller and Hannah Black are rallying behind the Tate United, an organization that is pushing back at the Tate’s plan to make more than 300 lower-paid staff redundant. (Instagram)

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