Art Industry News: Virgil Abloh’s MCA Chicago Exhibition Is Drawing Almost as Many Visitors as David Bowie’s + Other Stories

Plus, the British Museum returns 150 ancient Sumerian tablets to Iraq and art dealers scramble to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

Fashion designer Virgil Abloh. (Photo by Francois Durand/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 this Friday, August 30.


Dealers Prepare for a No-Deal Brexit – As Boris Johnson moves to suspend Parliament in order to force through Brexit by October 31, members of the art trade in London fear delays and disruption are on the horizon, particularly when it comes to shipping work between Britain and Europe. Art dealer Thaddaeus Ropac is moving his personal collection to the continent, and Kamel Mennour has already moved art back to Paris. When asked if Hauser & Wirth is planning to open a Paris space, following in the footsteps of David Zwirner, a spokeswoman did not deny the rumor, saying: “We don’t currently have any news to share.” (The Art Newspaper)

Kemper Museum Trustees Are Under Fire – The latest American museum to come under scrutiny from activists because of the business ties of its trustees is the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Five board members have been linked to a detention center in Rhode Island that has been accused of inhumane treatment. The artist Molly Crabapple is among those urging the Kansas City museum to cut ties with the trustees, who include Mariner Kemper, the CEO of UMB, a bank holding company that represents bondholders for the Wyatt Detention Center. The activist campaign began after two Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees died in the center and the bondholders sued the Rhode Island city where the center is housed over its decision to stop receiving ICE detainees. (Hyperallergic)

Virgil Abloh’s Show Doubles Summer Attendance at MCA – Turns out Virgil Abloh has almost as much wide appeal as David Bowie and Takashi Murakami. The designer, DJ, and artistic director’s exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, “Figure of Speech,” has been seen by 100,000 visitors since it opened in June. It is now on course to become the museum’s third most popular exhibition ever, after its David Bowie and Murakami blockbusters (both drew just under 200,000). Much of Abloh’s popularity is due to Gen Z: MCA Chicago’s chief curator Michael Darling said that “with Virgil’s significant youth following, we have seen a surge of young people exploring the museum.” To meet the demand, the MCA has extended the show until September 29. (Complex)

The British Museum Hands Over Looted Iraqi Tablets – The British Museum has handed over more than 150 ancient Sumerian tablets to the Iraqi ambassador in London. The more than 4,000-year-old artifacts were seized by customs officials in 2013 as they were being smuggled into Heathrow from the United Arab Emirates. Paperwork claimed that they were handmade tiles worth a few hundred dollars; on the black market, they would be worth tens of thousands. The clay tablets are believed to have been looted in 2003 after the US-led invasion to topple former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. (Times)


Are the Rich Spending Less? – The super-rich in the United States seem to be cutting back their spending on art, classic cars, jewelry, and luxury real estate, stoking to fears of a recession. Volatile markets and slowing global growth have meant that billionaires are putting themselves on a budget. But for the art market, at least, the true test of their restraint will come during the marquee November auctions in New York. (CNBC)

The Bridge Fair Adopts a New Concept – Out: art fairs. In: curated commercial concepts. Following the trend away from booth-constrained fairs, the Hamptons event commonly known as the Bridge fair has reinvented itself as the September Art Show. The next edition will offer 10 curated pavilions featuring work from participating galleries, including art by Richard Prince, Frank Auerbach, Robert Rauschenberg, and Keith Haring. It runs from September 13 through 15. (ARTnews)


K11 MUSEA Opens in Hong Kong – As protests in Hong Kong rage on, collector and real estate developer Adrian Cheng has unveiled a new 10-story art-and-retail complex, K11 MUSEA, in the city’s harbor. The project, 10 years in the making, has set out to “facilitate a broader discussion on the interconnectedness of creativity, culture, and innovation,” Cheng says. Art on view includes works by artists Elmgreen & Dragset, Erwin Wurm, and Katharina Grosse, among others. (Press release)

Howardena Pindell Wins $25,000 Award – The Artists’ Legacy Foundation in Oakland, California, has named artist Howardena Pindell as the winner of its 2019 Artist Award, which comes with a $25,000 prize. The annual award is given to a painter or sculptor who has made important contributions to the field. Pindell was overlooked for much of her 50-year career, and is now widely known for her abstract works on paper made of hundreds of numbered dots. (Artforum)


Inside LS Lowry’s House – The new film Mrs Lowry and Son, about the life of British painter LS Lowry and his mother, is out soon, starring Timothy Spall and Vanessa Redgrave. But what is it like to live inside the real Lowry’s house? Fans frequently flock to the home outside of Manchester, and sometimes its current inhabitants let them peek inside. But after a local pilfered the plaque marking the home, visitors often find it hard to tell exactly which house it is. (BBC)

Humans Came to America 1,000 Years Earlier Than We Thought – A new archeological dig has revealed that Homo Sapiens came to the Americas 16,500 years ago, a whole millennium earlier than was previously estimated. The news is based on newly discovered stone tools and other artifacts unearthed at an archaeological dig at the Cooper’s Ferry site in Idaho. The find also adds weight to the theory that people entering the Americas first crossed over from East Asia to Alaska. (Daily Mail)

Get a Sneak Peek of Olafur Eliasson’s Warriors Sculpture – Eliasson’s latest commission, Seeing Spheres, will be unveiled on September 3 at the Golden State Warriors’ home at the Chase Center in San Francisco. The five hydroformed steel spheres contain massive mirrors angled to magnify the plaza—and the sports fans inhabiting it. (Instagram)

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