Art Industry News: Why the Wild Success of the Van Gogh Experience Has Traditional Museum Directors Sweating Bullets + Other Stories

Plus, custodial staff stage a protest at the Guggenheim Bilbao, and the Armory Show plans a focus on Latinx art.

Visitors attend the media preview of Imagine Van Goghat the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.)
Visitors attend the media preview of Imagine Van Goghat the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via 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 Tuesday, December 14.


Cleaners Protest at the Guggenheim Bilbao – Custodial staff at the Guggenheim Bilbao protested their €5 ($5.65)-per-hour salaries in a poignant performance organized with artist Lorenzo Bussi, who works under the name Art Builders Group. Twelve cleaners formed a spaced-out line in front of the museum entrance and asked the public passing through one question: “Is everyone’s work equally important?” The hour-and-15-minute performance was intended to stress the importance of their invisible labor. (Hyperallergic)

Rashid Johnson Shows How to Use Art Stardom for Good – ARTnews looks at the impact and circle surrounding the artist Rashid Johnson, who for years has worked as “an insider from the outside and an outsider on the inside” to support artists and institutions in the New York art world. Despite questions about the relevance of the museum format in 2021, Johnson is committed to improving the old system. “I think if we’re not active in changing the discourse and dialogue and language around those spaces, we’re doing everyone a disservice,” he said. (ARTnews)

The Success of the Van Gogh Experience Is Making Museums Nervous – As the popularity of the Van Gogh Experience and its ilk shows no sign of waning, museums are still struggling to attract audiences. While the Met director Max Hollein notes that “these multisensory experiences are not art,” some audiences in Columbus, Ohio, feel differently. They showed up at the city’s museum hoping for “Immersive Van Gogh,” but got a Van Gogh show instead. “It was awkward,” said the Columbus Museum’s director Nannette Maciejunes. (Wall Street Journal)

Gallery Must Pay €17,000 for Damaging Koons Sculpture – A German court has ordered a Dusseldorf gallery to pay €17,000 ($19,211) after it damaged a “Balloon Venus” sculpture by Jeff Koons. The owner had consigned the work to the gallery in 2017 but it was scratched in transit from Taunus to Düsseldorf. (Monopol)


Armory Show Focuses on Latinx Art – The Armory Show has hired three curators specializing in Latin American and Latinx art for its 2022 edition in an effort to bring “a unified focus to the fair’s curatorial sections for the first time.” Carla Acevedo-Yates of the MCA Chicago will curate Focus, Tate curator Tobias Ostrander will curate Platform, and MFA Houston curator Mari Carmen Ramírez will chair the fair’s curatorial leadership summit. (Press release)

MoMA Launches Scholar-in-Residence Program – New York’s Museum of Modern Art is teaming up with the Ford Foundation on a scholars-in-residence program beginning September 2022. Academics whose work offers new perspectives on art history will work at the museum for one year each over a three-year period. Each will receive a $185,000 stipend. The museum is currently accepting nominations on its website. (ARTnews)

Science Museum Vaccination Center Runs Out of Appointments – As London accelerates its booster vaccine program in an effort to control the spread of the Omicron variant, people face long queues at the city’s vaccination centers including the Science Museum, where appointments for the next five days have run out even before it reopens tomorrow. The museum, which is where Prince William and Kate Middleton got their jabs, will be accepting walk-ins, but long wait times are expected. (Evening Standard)


Chinese Collector Makes Art Figurines – If you’re looking for a legitimately cool holiday present that will be totally unintelligible to your nieces and nephews, we have you covered. The Shanghai-based art collector Chong Zhou has been releasing limited-edition art figurines in collaboration with contemporary artists. The first was with Zeng Fanzhi; the latest is based on the art of Wang Xingwei. The “Miss & Mister” figures are produced by Chong’s ArTy ReTro brand. (Instagram)

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