Art Industry News: A Guide to the Many Art-Historical References in Beyoncé’s New Album ‘Black Is King’ + Other Stories

Plus, Fyre Festival merch is heading to auction and the American Museum of Natural History will reverse pay-what-you-wish upon reopening.

Beyoncé in Black Is King. Photo by Travis Matthews, via Disney+.
Beyoncé in Black Is King. Photo by Travis Matthews, via Disney+.

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 3.


How Lauren Halsey Is Feeding Her LA Neighborhood – The prominent young Los Angeles artist has gone from making art about her community to creating an organization that serves it. This summer, Halsey’s initiative Summaeverythang has worked to bring organic produce to LA’s underserved neighborhoods. For the past nine weeks, the group has donated an average of 600 produce boxes per week to South Los Angeles residents. Although she set out to make new work at the beginning of the shutdown, “two or three days into it, it felt irresponsible to dream up these beautiful images and representations of South Central as an Afrofuturist paradise,” she said. “It made more sense for me to use that energy to do something tangible and immediate.” (Los Angeles Times)

Two Museums Will Investigate Their Gauguins After Sleuth’s Claims – The amateur Gauguin enthusiast who helped the J. Paul Getty Museum determine that their sculpture Head with Horns was not actually by the French artist has now pointed out that the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts each have works that could be fake. Women and a White Horse, which is in Boston, depicts a cross that Fabrice Fourmanoir thinks Gauguin would not have painted as he was having a dispute with the Catholic church at the time. He finds the depiction of women in the National Gallery’s The Invocation “vulgar” and inaccurate. In response, both museums will conduct investigations into the works’ provenance and creation. (The Art Newspaper)

An Art Critic’s Analysis of Black Is King – Beyoncé’s new “visual album,” released by Disney+ last week, takes the story of The Lion King into her own hands. Among the deep bench of critics offering their take over at the New York Times is Jason Farago, who decodes its many art references. (It’s also expertly broken down by Antwaun Sargent on Twitter.) In addition to the work of Derrick Adams, which appears in the form of a large portrait of Black models, the videos also draw on the aesthetic of Ethiopian photographer Aïda Muluneh and Nigerian artist Jelili Atiku. There are references to traditional African art, like kanaga and Yoruba masks, as well as a shot of a catalogue by influential West African art historian Robert Farris Thompson. But for Farago, the whole thing doesn’t entirely hang together: “We are nowhere near any contemporary African city; we are in a cartoon fairyland, still rooted in source material appropriate, per Disney, for children 6 years and older.” (New York Times)

Who Is Cameron Rowland’s Show at the ICA For? – For the sought-after American artist’s new exhibition in London, Rowland connects the Institute of Contemporary Arts to the slave trade by drawing attention to the mahogany doors and handrail, made from a wood that was cut and milled in the 18th century by Caribbean enslaved people. Rowland takes ownership over the wood, calling it Encumbrance (2020): before the opening, the artist arranged for the ICA to mortgage it for £1,000 ($1,300) per piece to the company Encumbrance Inc. As long as the mahogany remains part of the building, the loan will not be repaid. Yet critic Rianna Jade Parker says that “regrettably, Rowland creates work that is virtually illegible to a general public that isn’t versed in Black studies and art history.” (ARTnews)


Fyre Fest Merch Really Is Going to Auction – What do you get the person who has everything? How about a Fyre Fest t-shirt? Auctioneer Gaston & Sheehan is holding an auction on behalf of the US Marshall of merchandise left over from the botched Fyre Festival. Proceeds from the sale of shirts, hats, and plastic bracelets will be used to repay some of the $26 million that Fyre’s founder Billy McFarland owes to defrauded investors. (Vulture)

For $4.5 Million, You Could Own a Breuer-Designed House – If you’re in the market for a cozy upstate New York retreat and have $4.2 million to spend, the Marcel Breuer-designed Neumann Residence is up for sale. The Modernist gem was originally built for the artist Vera Neumann in 1953 and has been lovingly restored with 21st-century appliances. And it appears to have not one but two pools! (designboom)


American Museum of Natural History Will Reverse Pay-What-You-Wish – Visitors will have to pay more to visit the American Museum of Natural History when it reopens on September 9 after the administration removed its “pay-what-you-wish” admission model. Visitors from outside the New York tri-state area will now have to pay a full price of $23, while those living in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut can still pay what they want with a valid ID. (Hyperallergic)

Protests Against Layoffs Come to Southbank Centre – Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Southbank Centre in London on Saturday ahead of the reopening of the Hayward Gallery to protest the possible loss of nearly 400 jobs from its workforce, and the fact that executives have not agreed to take a pay cut after the furlough period ends. The Southbank Centre is the largest arts and culture organization in the UK. (Evening Standard)

Face Masks Are Now Mandatory in the UK – The government has clarified its rules on the wearing of face coverings in the UK. Beginning August 8, it will be mandatory to wear a face mask or other face covering in museums and galleries, among other public places. (If you are looking for a fun art-themed option, allow us to offer some suggestions.) (Press release)


Archaeologist Claims 3,000-Year-Old Clay Heads Depict God – An archeologist claims that three 3,000-year-old tiny clay heads uncovered in Israel are among the earliest depictions of Yahweh. But other specialists reject the claim made by professor Yosef Garfinkel, arguing that the Bible prohibited depictions of God. (Daily Mail)

Google Doodle Celebrates Pacita Abad – Google’s daily doodle on July 31 celebrated the Filipina artist, feminist, and activist Pacita Abad on the 36th anniversary of her receipt of the Philippines’ Ten Outstanding Young Men award in 1984. Her win ruffled feathers among those who believed that only men should be eligible for the honor; she later said that “the Philippines was full of outstanding women.” Abad, who died in 2004, created colorful paintings that foregrounded Indigenous Filipina women, domestic workers from Pakistan, and Cambodian refugees. (ARTnews)

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