Art Industry News: Uh Oh, Looks Like Miami Was a ‘Super-Spreader Event’ as Art-World Revelers Fall Ill With COVID + Other Stories

Plus, the director of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum is departing in 2022, and Lucien Smith launches his own NFT collection.

FWIW, we have no reason to believe these specific people have COVID, but we did need something to illustrate this article. Casa Del Sol Tequila held an event at the 1 Hotel South Beach on December 3, 2021 during Miami Art Week. (Photo by Cassidy Sparrow/Getty Images for Casa Del Sol)

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, December 17.


UNESCO Adds Arabic Calligraphy to “Intangible Cultural Heritage” List – The heritage body has accepted a proposal by a coalition of 16 Arabic-speaking countries to add Arabic calligraphy to its list of precious cultural practices (which also includes folk dances, dialects, and culinary creations). The group of nations will assemble a report on their progress in supporting the art form next year. (ARTnews)

Historian Defends Students Accused of Toppling Colston Statue – As part of the ongoing trial of four people accused of toppling Edward Colston’s statue during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020, British historian David Olusoga was brought in to explain to the jury Colston’s outsize role in shaping the slave trade out of Bristol. Olusoga likened Colston’s role in the Royal African Company to that of a modern-day chief executive, noting that around 84,000 Africans were transported during his involvement with the company. (Evening Standard

Uh Oh—Looks Like Miami Was a Super-Spreader Event – Perhaps unsurprisingly given that the Omicron variant was identified just as dealers were touching down to install at Art Basel Miami Beach, it looks like the weeklong event was a super-spreader. As Artnet News’s own Wet Paint columnist Annie Armstrong notes, the convention center itself was strict about vaccination and masks, but the accompanying parties and events were not. “Basel was a super-spreader event because of all the events around Art Basel, but not Art Basel itself,” she said. (Observer)

Scholars Push Back Against “Clickbait” Study – Scholars are criticizing a paper published this fall in the journal Nature Scientific Reports for its suggestion that a meteor may have destroyed Jordan’s ancient Bronze Age city of Tall el-Hamman—and inspired the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah. The viral study was covered by 176 news outlets, including Artnet News. But some experts now argue that the “clickbait” findings are based in pseudoscience, “poor analyses of biological remains, edited images, overt religious agenda, and misinterpretations of stratigraphic contexts.” Some fear the coverage will inspire the illegal excavation of sites associated with Biblical myths. (Sapiens)


Leader of 9/11 Memorial & Museum Will Leave in 2022 – Alice M. Greenwald will leave her post as president and chief executive of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York, which she has held since 2006. She received criticism in recent years for perpetuating what some described as a narrow narrative of the attacks; former employees said that her administration was limiting research and free speech(New York Times)

Christie’s First Open Online Sale Achieves Highest Total – The auction house’s postwar and contemporary online-only art sale, which ran from December 3 to 15, realized $6 million, the highest total in the history of the offering. The top lot was a painting by Loie Hollowell, which sold for $500,000. (Press release)

That $53 Million Caillebotte Goes on View at the Getty – The painting Young Man at His Window by Gustave Caillebotte, which the Getty purchased at Christie’s Cox collection sale in November, is going on public view until January 9. After that, it will undergo conservation before it is installed among the museum’s star-studded collection of 19th-century paintings in its permanent home in the West Pavilion. (Press release)

Liste Launches New Artist Platform Expedition – Basel’s Liste art fair is launching a digital research forum and artist index called Liste Expedition, which aims to support emerging artistic voices between fair editions. At launch, the platform offers information on 200 artists exhibited by Liste galleries in 2020 and 2021. (Press release)


Lucien Smith Drops NFT Collection – The artist, whose abstract paintings brought him fame during the “Zombie Formalism” craze of the mid-2010s, is beginning a new chapter with the release of an NFT series called “Seeds.” The collection, which is sold through artist-equity management company Lobus, features an array of attributes that can be “cross-bred” with one another. (ARTnews)


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