Art Industry News: How a Street Artist’s Tiny Bikini Sparked a Massive Legal Battle + Other Stories

Plus, the world's best-paid woman helps Tate buy works by Sylvia Pankhurst and the Belgian queen's makeup artist is suspected of jewel theft.

A swimmer. Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/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 Friday, December 21.


Roberta Smith Pans the Met’s “Hapless” Abstraction Show – Reader, we’d like to report a murder: The Met’s show of 60 abstract works from its collection has been slaughtered by the New York Times‘s art critic. “It’s horrible to see the Met look this hapless,” Roberta Smith writes. “Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera” underlines how the museum “frequently seems clueless and guided more by fashion than imagination when it comes to its collecting of postwar art.” Recent acquisitions are often disappointing, while several impressive works in the overcrowded hang turn out to be loans. Meanwhile, spare a thought for Carmen Herrera, who gets joint top billing with Jackson Pollock in the exhibition’s title but has to “hold up her end of things with just one geometric abstraction,” while Pollock gets nine works. (NYT)

V&A Director Tristram Hunt on Big Issues Facing Museums – The politician turned director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum argues that museums should show leadership in “curating the ethics of disagreement.” Museums need to be brave in confronting the big issues, Hunt argues. As politics become more heated, “we shouldn’t fear that it is too difficult to entertain all shades of opinion under our roofs.” Museums’ ability to “tell complicated stories of hybridity and cosmopolitanism is vital” at a time when nationalism is on the rise, political divisions deep, and in an era of fake news, Hunt says. (The Art Newspaper)

A Street Artist’s Tiny Bikini Sparks a Courtroom War – In 2012, the New York-based Turkish entrepreneur Ipek Irgit had a bright idea: to turn the brightly colored crocheted bikini she bought in Brazil into a business. The Kiini, as it was called, was a hit, and soon she was pulling in millions of dollars a year. She has also been quick to sue imposters, including Victoria’s Secret and Neiman Marcus, when they released similar versions of her design. But it turns out that Irgit had an uncredited influence of her own: she bought her original suit from the Brazilian street artist Maria Solange Ferrarini, who has been selling her handmade bathing suits for the past two decades. A lawyer recently negotiated a deal for Ferrarini, whose swimsuits are available at major retailers under the name “Platinum Inspired by Solange Ferrarini” for about $170. (New York Times)

Queen’s Makeup Artist Questioned Over Jewel Heist – Here’s a tale fit for a feature film: The Queen of Belgium’s makeup artist is a suspect in the theft of some of Luxembourg’s crown jewels. Authorities found traces of his DNA in the area where the jewels disappeared. The staffer, who is only identified as “J.V.” in Luxembourg media, has denied any involvement and has not been charged. Luxembourg’s Grand Duke Henri and his wife, Maria Teresa, only confirmed this week that the jewels had been missing since the time of their Belgian cousins’ visit earlier this year. (New York Post)


UOVO Art Storage Expands – The art storage company is expanding, adding a Brooklyn warehouse to complement its other New York facilities. UOVO Brooklyn, which measures 150,000 square feet, opens in Bushwick this fall at a cost of $76 million. It will be the company’s fourth art and collections warehouse. (Press release)

Frieze New York Hires All-Star Curator Lineup – The fair’s New York edition has an all-star lineup of guest curators. Patrick Charpenel, the director of El Museo del Barrio, will organize a new themed section dedicated to contemporary Latino and Latin American artists. Franklin Sirmans, the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, will team up with Linda Goode Bryant, the founder of JAM Gallery, to organize a spotlight on the pioneering space. Meanwhile, Dia curator Courtney J. Martin will oversee the Frieze Art Award, while the Drawing Center’s Laura Hoptman will organize the Spotlight section dedicated to overlooked pioneers. (Press release)

Sotheby’s 2018 Auctions Total $5.3 Billion – The auction house ended the year with a total of $5.3 billion in sales, up 12 percent from 2017. Highlights of the year included a $157.2 million Modigliani sale (which ended up not being so profitable after all) and the sale of Kerry James Marshall’s Past Times, which Diddy purchased for $21.1 million. (Art Daily)

Untitled Names Special Projects Curator – Juana Berrío has been appointed guest curator of the special projects sector at Untitled Art in San Francisco. She has worked at the Walker Art Center and New Museum and co-founded and directed the San Francisco gallery and bookstore Kiria Koula. The San Francisco edition of the fair takes place at the end of January. (ARTnews)


Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca Will Represent Brazil in Venice – The pavilion, organized by the recent São Paulo biennial curator Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, will center on a new film by artist duo Bárbara Wagner & Benjamin de Burca. Their production will draw on Brazilian culture and popular culture, from evangelism to rap music. (Press release)

Cleveland Museum Names Greek and Roman Art Curator – Seth Pevnick, currently the chief curator at the Tampa Museum of Art, will take up his new role in Cleveland in March. Pevnick is known for collaborating with source countries including Greece and Italy, which the museum hopes will help it avoid ownership disputes like those it has been embroiled in in the past. (Plain Dealer)

Cherokee Artist Shan Goshorn Had Died – The multimedia artist behind politically activist works addressing human rights died on December 1 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 61-year-old, best known for her elaborate basketweaving, died from a rare form of cancer. (NYT)

New Mexican Tribes Get Artifacts Returned – Galleries, auction houses, and private collections the world over returned around 30 ceremonial artifacts to the Acoma Pueblo people on Wednesday, December 19. The federal government intervened to help repatriate the sacred objects, including a shield that was illegally removed from the tribe’s village. (PBS)


The World’s Best-Paid Woman Helps Tate Buy Sylvia Pankhurst’s Paintings – The Tate has bought the suffragette leader’s watercolor portraits of working women in the early 1900s, which documented their unsafe working conditions and meager wages. The paintings, which the gallery bought from Pankhurst’s grandchildren for an undisclosed sum with funds from the betting billionaire Denise Coates, are meant to remind viewers of art’s role in inspiring social change. (BBC, Guardian)

Miami Street Artists Are Going Corporate – Street artists once on the wrong side of the law and penalized by the city for their work are now being drafted by Miami real estate executives and city planners to decorate new developments. There’s a growing appetite for bringing the art form indoors, artists say, thanks to the growing profiles of famous street artists like Keith Haring and Banksy. (Miami Herald)

New Criterion Editor Isn’t a Fan of the New NGA Director – The art critic and New Criterion editor Roger Kimball has dubbed the national art museum the “National Gallery of Identity Politics” after he unhappily learned of the appointment of the museum’s first female director, Kaywin Feldman. Feldman, he claims, is an enemy of art with a “slavish devotion to transforming the museum into a left-wing political redoubt.” In a MAGA-spirited rant, Kimball bemoans the good old days when universities and institutions weren’t “bastions of political correctness, “intersectionality,” and identity politics.” (Wall Street Journal)

The Art-World’s Seasonal Greetings – From Sean Kelly’s pups Molly & Finnegan posing in front of a Tschäpe to Pace’s forest thinker to Spencer Finch’s snowflake, see how galleries are fêting the festive season on Instagram. Our own Art Industry News will resume on January 2. Happy Holidays! (Instagram)

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.


Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In