Art Industry News: Arthur Jafa Has a Theory That Jeff Koons Is ‘a Very Light-Skinned Black Guy Passing for White’ + Other Stories

Plus, London museums and galleries shutter yet again and New York's Leslie-Lohman Museum names a new director.

Arthur Jafa. Photo by Robert Hamacher.

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 Tuesday, December 15.


People Think David Hockney’s New Yorker Cover Is Very Funny – The British artist has created much-loved covers for the magazine over the years, but Hockney’s December 21 cover for the New Yorker is getting mixed reviews. To some, the squiggly-lined iPad drawing Hearth looks like it was made on the archaic Microsoft Paint application. “Like, its Hockney so I understand the attraction, but did no one look at each other in the office and say, ‘This isn’t very good, is it?’” wrote one observer. Everyone’s a critic! (Observer)

London Museums and Galleries Shut Down Yet Again – On the heels of Germany announcing a tight lockdown beginning tomorrow, December 16, London has followed suit. Public museums and galleries across the UK capital will close as of tomorrow, just two weeks after the last shutdown ended. The Netherlands has also announced a five-week lockdown that includes museums and non-essential shops. (The Art NewspaperEvening Standard)

Arthur Jafa Has a Wild Theory About Jeff Koons – The New Yorker gave filmmaker and artist Arthur Jafa the profile treatment. Among the oddball art-historical theories floated by the influential artist: his tongue-in-cheek idea that Jeff Koons is actually “a very light-skinned Black guy passing for white.” As evidence, he cites Koons’s vacuum-cleaner sculptures, which he argues “refer to Black women” and “domestic workers.” He also insists the artist’s pair of floating basketballs “are testicles, connoting everything from castration to Black sexual prowess.” (New Yorker)

Inside the Latest Deaccessioning Controversy – In justifying a big sell-off from its collection, the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach said many first-rate artists are “overrepresented” in its holdings. Such “cockamamie” reasoning for deaccessioning 59 artworks is sketchy at best, writes Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight. “Museum collections are strengthened by the addition of important art, not by its subtraction,” he writes. (Los Angeles Times)


Businessman Donates $1 Million Worth of Art to Morehouse – Morehouse alumnus and management consultant George Wells has donated a collection of art worth $1 million to the historically Black college. The trove includes works by Rashid Johnson, Amy Sherald, and Mickalene Thomas. (CNN)

German Auction House Has a Surprisingly Good Year – Despite the downturn in 2020, Ketterer Kunst reported a record season, grossing nearly €30 million ($36.4 million) in the second half of 2020. The auction house, which is focused on the 19th through the 21st centuries, grossed a total €60 million ($72.8 million) in sales this year. The top lot was a work by Gerhard Richter that went for €2.6 million ($3.2 million). (Press release)


Leslie-Lohman Museum Names New Director – New York’s LGBTQ+-focused Leslie-Lohman Museum has named its first queer female director. Alyssa Nitchun, who previously spent seven years at the public-art nonprofit Creative Time, will helm the museum beginning in February. (New York Times)

Boston Museums Close Down – The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and other city museums will temporarily close from December 16 in order to comply with the mayor’s directives to help curb rising infection rates. The MFA says it will reopen in January. (Press release)


LA Distributes $12 Million for Art and Culture Relief – The Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture distributed $12 million in CARES Act relief money to 337 local arts nonprofits, including the Autry Museum of the American West and the California LGBT Arts Alliance. Each received a grant of between $1,000 and $45,000. (Artforum)

Bisa Butler Creates a Portrait for TIME – The textile artist Bisa Butler created a quilted portrait of Kenosha-based Black Lives Matter activist Porche Bennett-Bey, who is one of TIME’s “Guardians of the Year.” Bennett-Bey spoke out during a listening session with President-elect Joe Biden, telling him about the violence in the Wisconsin city before and after the shooting of Jacob Blake. (Press release)

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.