Art Industry News: Melania Trump Opened an Ironic Art Exhibition to Kick Off the Republican National Convention + Other News

Plus, Vanity Fair examines what museums should look like in 2020 and the National Building Museum plans a show of protest art.

First Lady Melania Trump attends an event on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/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 Tuesday, August 25.


Is the Detroit Institute of Arts Irredeemably Out of Touch? – The museum has been mired in controversy since employees filed a whistleblower complaint with the Michigan attorney general and the IRS over the loan of an artwork to the museum by director Salvador Salort-Pons’s father-in-law. Salort-Pons has also been accused of being out of touch when it comes to matters of race. While Detroit is 80 percent Black, the institution’s 371-strong staff is 38 percent Black and only one member of its nine-person senior leadership team is Black. “He can only do this job if he is willing the shake the very foundations of that museum,” said the Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker. “If he does not have the courage to do that, he should not be the director.” (New York Times)

A Virtual Museum Preserves Black Lives Matter Art A new database cataloging public art related to George Floyd and this summer’s protests has received 1,000 submissions since launching in June. The virtual museum aims to be a crowd-sourced, educational tool that operates outside of the bureaucracies and hierarchies of museums and curatorial mandates. It charts the transforming visual landscape around the protests, including the exterior of Cup Foods, where Floyd died. (Hyperallergic)

Melania Trump Opens Women’s Suffrage Exhibition – While her husband was preparing for the Republican National Convention, the First Lady of the United States unveiled an art exhibition on Monday to mark the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. The show, unveiled outside the White House, features work by students from all 50 states submitted in response to an open call, as well as historic photographs depicting women’s suffrage. Trump called the adoption of the 19th Amendment a “turning point” in the women’s rights movement. The irony that the Trump Administration is, by its own account, engaging in voter suppression at this very moment seems to have been lost on the exhibition’s organizers. The works are available to view online. (AP)

What Should a Museum Be in 2020? – Curator and writer Kimberly Drew asked art-world leaders including MoMA curator Thomas Lax, writer Jessica Lynne, and curator Taylor Brandon to share their ideas, testimonials, and observations about what kinds of changes museums need to make if they hope to dismantle white supremacy. Curator and artist Tiona Nekkia Mcclodden says: “Cultural institutions must understand that they will have to be reworked from the inside out. Change will not occur without conflict in the attempt to repair many years of exclusion, and institutions must care for the Black artists and staff within these spaces.” (Vanity Fair)


Bathurst Family Sues Art Lender Over Gainsborough Painting – UK nobleman Rupert Edward Ludlow Bathurst and his family are suing Art Finance Partners LLC over an 18th-century painting by Thomas Gainsborough, Bathurst Children. According to the suit, the disgraced dealer Timothy Sammons gave the financing company the work as collateral for a loan—but he was not its rightful owner. (Sound familiar?) The Bathurst family had given Sammons the work for valuation in 2009. (The Art Newspaper)

Phillips Wades Deep Into Cross-Category Sales – Auction houses have been working to expand their offerings beyond art into other luxury sectors for some time now. But Phillips is taking things to the next level. From September 2–14, the house will host INTERSECT, its second online auction this year to offer luxury items like watches and jewelry alongside art by the likes of KAWS and Banksy. (Press release)


Norman Foster Plans Pop-up Parliament Building – The star architect has designed a temporary building to house the UK Parliament while the Palace of Westminster undergoes restoration in 2025. Foster has proposed a $390 million transparent building that could be dismantled and reused elsewhere after it is no longer needed by Parliament. We, for one, think that the UK government could do with a bit of transparency. (designboom)

Natural History Museum Group Projects $13 Million in Losses – Los Angeles’s group of natural history museums anticipates a $13 million loss in admission revenue this year. The museums do not yet have a reopening date. Meanwhile, their only source of income is ongoing membership fees. (CBS)

National Building Museum Plans Protest Art Show – The National Building Museum in Washington, DC is opening an outdoor exhibition celebrating activist murals in Judiciary Square on August 28. Public art created in connection with this summer’s protests against police brutality will be on show alongside new murals created for the exhibition through late November. (DCist)


Teachers Brace Themselves for Arts Cuts – Art and music teachers across the US are growing concerned about sweeping budget cuts as cash-strapped public schools scramble to comply with new safety measures. Specialized instructors are bracing for job cuts while core subject teachers anticipate being asked to incorporate art and music into their lesson plans to save money. (USA Today)

Gold-Hunting Diggers Destroy Sudan’s Priceless Past – Gold-diggers armed with heavy machinery are pillaging archeological sites in Sudan and destroying precious cultural heritage at the same time. After the ancient site of Jabal Maragha was ruined by treasure hunters last month, experts are raising the alarm that this is part of a pattern of systematic looting of ancient sites. (Courthouse News)

Artists Design Decolonial Monuments – T magazine asked five artists and collectives—Ibrahim Mahama, Rindon Johnson, Decolonize This Place, Tourmaline, and Jennifer Odem—to come up with proposals for new US monuments that could be erected to capture this moment of reckoning. See images of their proposals below. (T Magazine)

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