Art Industry News: A Feline-Loving Frenchman Has Left His Money to the Oh-So-Cultivated Cats Who Live in the Hermitage Museum + Other Stories

Plus, Tate's ethics committee deems its Rex Whistler mural "unequivocally offensive" and Barbra Streisand is revealed as the buyer of a Van Gogh at Christie's.

This photo shows a cat in front of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Hermitage's cats guard the museum's artworks from mice. Photo: OLGA MALTSEVA/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 on this Tuesday, December 8.


Ethics Committee Deems Tate Britain’s Restaurant Mural “Offensive” – Tate’s ethics committee has ruled that a 1927 mural containing racist imagery in Tate Britain’s restaurant is “unequivocally… offensive.” The mural shows an imaginary hunting expedition that includes enslaved Black children being led on a leash as well as racist caricatures of Chinese people. The verdict on the mural—located in the Rex Whistler restaurant, which is named after the artist behind the work—may lead to the restaurant closing permanently. (Guardian)

Marina Abramović’s TV Show Is a Dud – The performance artist took over Sky Arts television for an evening of performance, interviews, and archival clips that aimed to teach the audience her famed “Abramović method.” Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones gave the “heroically egotistical” outing two stars, deeming it “embarrassing, boring, and oddly reminiscent of more low-brow fare.” The production proved, he claimed, that the once-avant-garde movement of performance art has become “an air-headed and emptily populist genre.” (Guardian)

A Frenchman Leaves Money to the Hermitage’s Cats – Here’s some good (ahem) mews coming out of State Hermitage Museum in Russia: An anonymous French philanthropist was so charmed by the 50 cats that live at the museum—whose job is to keep rodents from the premises—that he left them a modest sum of money in his will. The funds will likely be used to repair the basement, where the felines live. “Our French friend did a very good thing; this is brilliant PR for both the cats and charity,” said the museum’s director Mikhail Piotrovsky. (CNN)

What Will UK Import Rules Look Like After Brexit? – Collectors and museum professionals have often taken advantage of the UK’s low import tax on art to bring objects into the European Union with no further charge. But with negotiations on a post-Brexit trade deal down to the wire, it is unclear whether a higher tax will be applied to art moving from one region to the other in the future. To avoid getting stuck with an unexpected bill, collectors are advised to move art destined for the bloc sooner rather than later. (The Art Newspaper)


Art Basel Cancellation Threatens Real Estate Deals – With fewer high-net-worth individuals flying to Miami for Art Week this year, real estate developers have lost out on an opportunity to showcase their flashy projects to out-of-town buyers. Real estate developer Daniel Kodsi estimates that Art Basel Miami Beach has a $1.5 billion impact for the Miami economy. (CBS)

Barbra Streisand Bought a Van Gogh – The singer and noted art collector revealed in a recent interview that she was the buyer of an 1885 Vincent van Gogh painting that sold at Christie’s in October for $4.47 million. Streisand says that Peasant Woman With Child on Her Lap is currently on loan to a museum. (T Magazine)


V&A Museum May Close for Two Days a Week – The pandemic-induced financial squeeze and drop in tourism has been so hard on the Victoria & Albert Museum in London that it is likely to remain closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until at least early 2022. The other option, according to the institution, was to remain open seven days a week but close certain galleries; leadership opted to operate at full capacity five days a week instead. (TAN)

Ex-Christie’s Specialist Lexi Bishop Opens a New Gallery – Lexi Bishop, formerly a specialist in postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s, will open a new gallery called ‘here’ in Pittsburgh in January. The inaugural show will present work by LA-based artist Molly Greene. (Press release)


An Artist’s Project on Lab-Grown Meat Sparks Backlash – Orkan Telhan has come under fire for his work Ouroboros Steak, which features lab-grown meat made from human cells. The project, on view at the Design Museum in London, was meant to draw attention to the dangers of climate change and the polluting meat industry—but many see it as too “provocative.” (NYT)

Artist Sues Los Angeles for Throwing Away His Work – David Lew, better known by his artist pseudonym Shark Toof, is suing the Chinese American Museum and the city of Los Angeles after his outdoor artwork was trashed following its inclusion in the 2018 exhibition “Don’t Believe the Hype: LA Asian Americans in Hip-Hop.” A city maintenance crew threw most of his installation of hand-painted canvas bags out. (Los Angeles Times)

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