Art Industry News: Former Venice Biennale Director Declares Biennials Are ‘Stale, If Not Dead’ + Other Stories

Plus, a Moscow art museum bans visitors from discussing the art and Klaus Biesenbach walks back his LA/Berlin comparison.

Italian curator Francesco Bonami. Courtesy of Bonami.

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 Friday, August 3.


Nicole Eisenman Wins New $200,000 Art Prize – The artist will create new work with the cash that forms part of the inaugural Suzanne Deal Booth/FLAG Art Foundation Prize, which launched this spring and is now one of the largest art prizes in the world. Eisenman will also get a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Austin and at FLAG Art Foundation in New York. She was chosen by a panel of curators and art historians including Helen Molesworth, the former chief curator at LA MOCA, and Eungie Joo, a curator at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (New York Times)

Moscow Museum Bans Group Discussion – The State Tretyakov Gallery is facing backlash after it announced that, in an effort to combat “illegal” tours, only certified guides with special badges would be allowed to talk about the work on view. A professor from Moscow State University and his students were escorted out of the gallery by guards who said the group lacked “proper accreditation.” Following the blowback, the museum has said it will review how its crackdown on unlicensed guides is enforced. (The Art Newspaper)

The Dark Side of the Biennial Boom – The biennial model is “stale, if not dead,” declares Francesco Bonami, a former Venice Biennale artistic director. To keep the 2019 edition fresh, Ralph Rugoff reveals that he had wanted to invite 100 artists to Venice and have them in residence for months—but the idea proved prohibitively expensive. Another Venice alum, Massimiliano Gioni, defends sprawling exhibitions, saying: “I am tired of the international sport of biennial bashing.” There are plenty to bash: Zürich researchers counted 316 biennials in total, up from fewer than 50 in the 1980s. (In Other Words)

Biesenbach Backpedals on His LA-Berlin Comparison – Some in LA are worried that LA MOCA will revert to the populist days of Jeffrey Deitch under its new leadership, given Klaus Biesenbach’s past collaborations with celebrities. His comment this week that LA is “the new Berlin” did not impress artists and critics in Los Angeles, either. Biesenbach says it would be a mistake to think his focus is only on pop culture: “I think my legacy at MoMA has different chapters; I work in series.” Admitting the LA-Berlin comparison wasn’t great, he says he meant to say only that LA is a new center for emerging artists because of its affordable studios. (NYT)


A Fistful of Promotions at Sotheby’s – The auction house has made Simon Shaw the vice chairman of its global fine art division. He leaves its Impressionist and Modern art department, which August Uribe will lead in New York. Julian Dawes and Scott Niichel, meanwhile, will be the department’s new co-deputy heads. Lastly, Yin Zhao will lead Asian business development for the global fine art division. (ARTnews)

Cheim & Read to Host Cynthia Nixon Fundraiser – The soon-to-be-private gallery is hosting a fundraising event for the actor-turned-politician, who is challenging Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in New York. Tickets for the event cost between $100 and $1,000. (ARTnews)

Greek Court Convicts Two in Antiquities Saga – An appeals court in Athens has ruled that Despina and Dimitri Papadimitriou, two members of a shipping dynasty, are guilty of possessing illicit antiquities. The artifacts were seized at their homes in Athens and on the island of Schinoussa in 2006. Photographs also seized in the Schinoussa raid document artifacts traded by the disgraced British dealer Robin Symes. (Art Crime Blog)

Bird Ceramics Come With Passports A British pottery dealer is issuing “bird passports” in order to identify and record the history of the Victorian ceramics created by Robert Wallace for Martin Brothers’ pottery. Dealer Alison Davey is issuing the accreditation free of charge to collectors and curators. The passports feature black linen binding, silver leaf embossed covers, and unique identity numbers. (Antiques Trade Gazette)


New Museum Incubator Gets Knight Grant – The New Museum will extend its technology-focused incubator, NEW INC., for an additional two years thanks to a $660,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. The second cohort joining the space includes Abstract Nomadic Media, a New York-based augmented reality film production company, and Movers and Shakers, an advocacy platform bringing VR and AR to marginalized communities. (Artforum)

Brazilian Modernist Antonio Dias Has Died – The acclaimed Brazilian artist has died, at age 74. His compelling practice used graffiti and comic book influences to address violence, censorship, war, and Brazil’s former dictatorship. Later in life, he moved into abstraction. (Artforum)

Johns Catalogue Raisonné Will Be Released This Fall – The six-volume catalogue of the artist’s drawings will be published in November by the Menil Collection in Houston to coincide with the opening of its $40 million Drawing Institute, which launches with a Jasper Johns solo show. One entry in the catalogue reveals that a 1956 flag drawing was a gift to pay off a $50 poker debt owed by Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. (TAN)


Artists Unite Behind Planned Parenthood Campaign  Carrie Mae Weems, Mickalene Thomas, and Zoe Buckman are among the 10 female artists supporting Planned Parenthood’s new arts campaign, “Unstoppable.” The group will bring awareness to women’s issues, including birth control and abortion rights, through video art. (ARTnews)

Qatar Censors NYT Exhibition Review  – After Shannon Sims’s review of artist Skylar Fein’s show about a massacre at a gay bar in the 1980s ran in the New York Times, the journalist received a photo of the paper’s Qatari edition, showing the same article blacked out by a large box. The reason: In Qatar, homosexuality is criminalized, so the newspaper’s printing house censored Sims’s story. (NYT)

Catnapping at Moscow Museum Captivates Russia – When Behemoth the cat went missing from the Bulgakov House on Wednesday, Moscow was on high alert. The fluffy 15-year-old feline is an official staff member of the museum dedicated to the Soviet-era writer Mikhail Bulgakov. Luckily, Behemoth was soon found in a nearby theater. The woman who had taken him thought he was not being properly cared for (though he does have his own stylist and medic). (AFP)

Campaign Launches to Support Female Photographers – The Royal Photographic Society is launching “Hundred Heroines,” a new campaign to highlight female talent in the traditionally male-dominated field of photography. Online nominations are open until September 30, and they can also be submitted via Instagram. (Guardian)


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