Art Industry News: Who Are New York City’s Most ‘Toxic’ Museum Trustees? + Other Stories

Plus, a man is arrested for threatening the Aichi Triennale organizers and Europe executes an epic sting on antiquity smugglers.

Political activists at the Whitney Museum finally succeeded in their mission to oust Kanders. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images.
Political activists at the Whitney Museum finally succeeded in their mission to oust Kanders. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images.

Art Industry News is normally 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 Thursday, August 8.


More Than 18,000 Looted Artifacts Recovered in Europol Sting – Thousands of cultural artifacts and antiquities have been seized in an international operation against illicit trade in Europe. Fifty-nine people have been arrested in operation Pandora III, which has recovered a Mesopotamian crystal cylinder seal and a 15th-century bible stolen in Germany over 25 years ago, among many other objects. Dutch police led a “cyber patrol” of 169 suspicious websites, resulting in the seizure of 682 pieces. Officers from 29 countries took part in Europol’s latest operation, searching auction houses, art galleries, airports, archaeological sites, and private residences. (The Art Newspaper)

Toni Morrison Taught Us Why Artists Matter – The late Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison championed art as a bridge between people and communities, but we are failing to encourage and support the artists that we need as a society, writes musician and California Institute of the Arts president Ravi S. Rajan. He says that arts schools like the one he leads are in part responsible because they “routinely rank among the most expensive places at which to get an education.” In an op-ed, he says he regrets that “opportunity in our current system falls terribly short.” Morrison taught us that “artists are the pillars and guideposts of our advancement…. At a time when racism, terrorism and electoral battles push us apart, art promises a space to create models of civility.” (The Hill)

Who Are New York’s Most Toxic Museum Trustees? – After Warren B. Kanders stepped down as vice chair of the Whitney Museum’s board following months of protest, many wondered: Who will be advocates’ next target? Vulture has assembled a list of leading New York museums’ other potentially toxic trustees who could be in for a rude awakening. They include Whitney board member Nancy Carrington Crown, whose family is a majority shareholder in one of America’s largest defense contractors, General Dynamics, and Roberto A. Mignone, the vice chairman of the American Museum of Natural History, who is on the board of Teva Pharmaceutical, a company that has been linked to the opioid crisis. Another cultural figure who has begun to attract opposition is real estate kingpin Stephen Ross, a board member of the Shed whose pricey fundraiser for Donald Trump in the Hamptons on Friday has led to calls to boycott his businesses. Meanwhile, the artist Andrea Fraser, whose tome 2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics provides a comprehensive list of trustees’ political donations, sounds a note of auction. “Targeting particularly toxic individuals risks missing the forest by focusing on a few rotting trees,” she says. (Vulture, ARTnews)

A Swedish Museum Returns Exhumed Skulls to Sami People – Advocates for Sweden’s indigenous Sami people have succeeded in a long fight to reclaim the human remains of their ancestors from a Stockholm museum. The skulls of 25 Sami will be reburied this week in the graveyard from which they were taken by researchers in the 1950s. Katherine Hauptman, the Swedish history museum’s director, said the institution had “clearly failed,” and has apologized for keeping the skulls in storage for decades. Despite a request made in 2007, 11 Swedish state museums, universities, and institutes retain Sami bones in their collections, according to Mikael Jakobsson, the chair of the Sami parliament’s ethics council. (Guardian)


Iran’s Online Galleries Grow – Although US sanctions have on Iran have left artists and dealers struggling, some in the country are turning to a bourgeoning online art market where companies such as Artibition are connecting artists, buyers, and collectors. Just know your local laws: Organizing payment and shipping might be tricky to some countries. (Tehran Times)

Phillips Releases Highlights of Editions Sales – Linocuts by Picasso of his second wife Jacqueline Roque and iPad drawings and etchings by David Hockney are among the works on offer at Phillips’s evening and day editions sales in London on September 12. The works will be on view at the auction house beginning September 5. (Press release)


Cincinnati Names New Senior Curator – Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center has named Amara Antilla its new senior curator. Antilla, who worked at the Guggenheim for eight years, most recently as assistant curator, will join the Ohio institution on September 1. (Artforum)

Louisiana Contemporary Award Recipients Announced – As part of its annual juried exhibition titled Louisiana Contemporary, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans is awarding up to $5,000 to four participating artists. The winners are Jessica Strahan, Sarrah Danzinger, Rachel David, and Thomas Deaton. (Artforum)

Pacific Standard Magazine Shuts Down – Pacific Standard’s editor-in-chief, Nicholas Jackson, announced in an emotional message on Twitter that the online magazine would be shutting down next Friday. In a series of angry and frustrated tweets, Jackson explained that their primary funder—the nonprofit Social Justice Foundation—had ceased all charitable giving without warning. Over the past decade, the magazine has covered social and environmental justice issues, as well as arts and culture. “I hope some of what we’ve done has touched you, and influenced others who continue where we can’t,” Jackson wrote. (Twitter)

Angela Davis Exhibition Gets NEA Funding – The NEA is giving the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University $45,000 in grant money to support its exhibition “Angela Is Happening! Angela Davis: Image and Text.” The exhibition, slated for September 2020, was among the beneficiaries of $80 million in grants by the organization as part of its second major funding round for the fiscal year. (New Jersey Stage)


Hito Steyerl Questions the Principle of Museum Funding – The German artist is growing increasingly outspoken about problematic arts patronage. “I’m not interested in individual patrons,” she says in a new interview. “It’s about pointing out that in the long run, the interdependence of private patrons in the art world can lead to completely unpredictable complications and can also privatize and undermine a public sphere of discussion. That is my main concern…. Why are names sold via portals to the highest bidders? That is not really understandable to me.” (DPA)

Man Arrested for Threat to the Aichi Triennale – Police in Japan have arrested a 59-year-old man who threatened to commit arson at the Aichi Prefecture Museum of Art because it had displayed a sculpture that referenced “comfort women,” the mainly Asian women the Japanese military forced into sexual slavery during World War II. More than 70 artists protested after the work was censored from the Aichi Triennale. The man, named as Shuji Hotta, has confessed to faxing a threat to the festival’s organizers earlier this month. (Japan Times)

New Museum Nominated as America’s Best Bathroom – The New Museum in New York has been nominated for a surprising (and very honorable) accolade: “America’s Best Restroom.” The national contest organized by facility supplies company Cintas celebrates publicly accessible bathrooms for their design and cleanliness. You can vote for the New Museum’s facilities, which feature colorful pixelated cherry blossom tiles, through September 13. If it wins, the museum will earn $2,500 in facility services to keep it sparkling clean. (Hyperallergic)

See the Apollo Theater’s Tribute to Toni Morrison – Harlem’s storied Apollo Theater has paid tribute to the literary hero Toni Morrison, who died this week at age 88. The marquee of the theater has been emblazoned with a message to the Nobel Laureate author of Beloved: “Rest in Power Beloved Toni Morrison, February 18, 1931–August 5, 2019.” (Atlantic Broadband)


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