Art Industry News: Leaving Germany, Ai Weiwei Calls the Country That Gave Him Asylum Too ‘Self-Centered’ + Other Stories

Plus, Richard Prince and Lisa Spellman recall when a Jeff Koons basketball tank cost $3,500 and David Adjaye's Holocaust memorial in London is in trouble.

Ai Weiwei at his Berlin studio with his flag to mark the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. Photo by Camilla Greenwell.

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 Friday, August 9.


Lisa Spellman and Richard Prince Get Nostalgic – The artist Richard Prince interviewed the New York art dealer Lisa Spellman (who happens to be his ex-wife) ahead of her 303 Gallery’s 35th anniversary. They recalled how she presented the debut of Jeff Koons’s basketball tanks, priced at only $3,500, in 1985. “It was a surreal space, all a white cloud,” Spellman recalls. “I think access all around was much easier, easier to meet artists, collectors, writers; everything fit into a storefront.” When Prince asked her how she feels about the art world’s size today, Spellman said: “The bigness is like getting shot of Novocaine, it just dulls everything around it. It takes all the oxygen out of the room; at this point, it’s a little boring and expected.” (Vulture)

David Adjaye’s Holocaust Memorial May Be Nixed – A proposed Holocaust memorial and museum near the Houses of Parliament is likely to be rejected by planners, according to leaked correspondence from the leader of Westminster Council. The multimillion-pound memorial and education center, which was co-designed by star architects David Adjaye and Ron Arad, has the backing of two ex-UK Prime Ministers as well as senior religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Opponents argue that the site in a small park is the wrong location for such a large building, although much of it would be underground. Others claim the memorial and its visitors would be a “soft target” for extremists as the site is just outside the Palace of Westminster’s high-security zone. The leader of the council wrote that the proposed design is “heading towards an unfavorable recommendation” by its planning officers. (Times)

Ai Weiwei Says Germany Is Too “Self-Centered” Ai Weiwei is leaving the country where he found asylum after his detention in China, but not before criticizing his hosts for being “self-centered.” Germany is not an open society, he told Die Welt: “It’s a society that wants to be open, but above all protects itself.” Though he did not confirm when and where he is going, he hinted in previous reports that he will relocate to upstate New York. “German culture is so strong that it does not really accept other ideas and arguments. There is hardly any room for open debates, hardly any respect for dissenting voices,” Ai said. “My family and I loved living here very much, but I am leaving Berlin anyway. This country doesn’t need me because it’s so self-centered.” (FAZ)

Warring Faction Asks State to Investigate Robert Indiana Estate – The Morgan Foundation, a for-profit organization that represents the artwork of deceased artist Robert Indiana, is asking Maine’s Attorney General to investigate his estate. The foundation is accusing the Indiana estate of “reckless conduct” in managing the creator of the iconic LOVE sculpture’s legacy, of selling artwork from Indiana’s private collection to raise money for legal bills, and for rejecting a settlement with the foundation that would have been worth $10 million. A legal dispute has been ongoing between the two parties since Indiana died in 2018. (Press Herald)


Why Don’t More Museums Collect Performance? – In Just a Blink of an Eye, a work by Shanghai artist Xu Zhen that was recently purchased by LA MOCA, is an example of the ephemeral nature of hard-to-collect works of performance art. While Tate, MoMA, and the Guggenheim are leading collectors of performance work, many other museums are relative newcomers to the genre. This is only the second performance work MOCA owns, but rumor is that the museum’s new director, Klaus Biesenbach, also has his eye on a historical work by Simone Forti and a contemporary piece by Simone Leigh. (Los Angeles Times)


Philadelphia Museum Fundraising Exceeds $455 Million – The director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Timothy Rub, is delighted that fundraising for its Frank Gehry-designed revamp and endowment is ahead of schedule. But he is not resting on his laurels. “We need to add another $70 [million],” he says, adding that the final stretch to $525 million “will be the real test.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

An Anonymous Donor Gave 170 Works to a University Museum – A very generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous just gave the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts 170 works by contemporary artists including Mark Bradford, Laura Owens, Cindy Sherman, Candice Breitz, and Laura Owens. A selection goes on show there September 10. (ARTnews)

National Museums of Scotland’s Chief Steps Down – After 16 years at the helm of the National Museums of Scotland, Gordon Rintoul is retiring next year. He oversaw the $97 million revamp of the National Museum in Edinburgh. (Times)

UK Science Museum Staff Vote to Strike – Trade union members have voted overwhelmingly to strike for 24 hours on August 30 at the Science Museum Group. The dispute is over low pay at the national museums, which includes the Science Museum in London, the National Media Museum in Bradford, and Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. (Press release


Tracey Emin Wins Munch Museum Commission – A monumental bronze of a woman by the British artist will be installed outside the new Munch Museum in Oslo. Emin’s The Mother was chosen from a six artist-strong shortlist that included efforts by Olafur Eliasson and Ragnar Kjartansson. She will also show her work alongside Munch’s in a show next spring when the new museum opens. The exhibition will travel to the Royal Academy of Arts in London in late 2020. (The Art Newspaper)

See Mark Bradford in Action – “One of the perks of @moca is visiting some of the museum’s trustees at their workplace,” writes the museum’s director Klaus Biesenbach on his Instagram. The director shared a sneak peek of Mark Bradford at work in his 50,000-square-foot studio, midway through creating a monumental abstract painting. See the virtuoso with a high-powered hose, evidently enjoying just another day at the office. (Instagram



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