Art Industry News: Helen Molesworth Speaks Out in Her First Interview Since Her MOCA Firing + Other Stories

Plus, an AI robot is making art, David Hockney paints Ed Sheeran, and the Vancouver Art Gallery strike comes to an end.

Former Chief Curator Helen Molesworth. Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

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, February 12.


Can Museums Compete With Mega-Galleries? – As the Frieze bandwagon arrives in Los Angeles, art-market studies professor Natasha Degen wonders if public museums are being eclipsed by art fairs and mega-galleries. The latter are free to visit, show A-list artists, and have sprawling spaces, like Hauser & Wirth’s LA venue. They also offer family events, better food than most museums, and their own publications. But all this vertical integration may be dangerous, Degen warns: “Even at their best, the narratives and agendas promoted by major galleries can’t help displacing alternatives from smaller, independent and public institutions.” (Los Angeles Times)

Why Donors Prefer University Museums – Donors who want to see their gifts on museum walls rather than stuck in storage are increasingly offering their treasures to university museums. Smaller and less prestigious, these institutions are sometimes more willing to accept donors’ various conditions—and might even offer a teaching course based on the collection. (Wall Street Journal)

Helen Molesworth Speaks Out – In her first interview since she was fired last year as chief curator at LA MOCA, Helen Molesworth doesn’t dwell on the tumultuous episode. “I was fired without warning for no cause on March 12, 2018, and the rest is history,” she tells Sarah Thornton. “It was a total debacle.” MOCA trustee Catherine Opie, who photographed Molesworth for the story, says she was floored by her dismissal. “If Philippe [Vergne] had asked about firing Helen, we would have said, ‘Are you kidding?’” Now, Molesworth is looking straight ahead, working on a memoir about art, love, and freedom and making a series of podcasts about postwar women artists for the Getty Research Institute. (Cultured Magazine)

Vancouver Art Gallery Strike Ends – The union and the museum have reached an agreement in their ongoing negotiations over a prior contract, which representatives said had expired in June 2017. With a new four-year agreement in place, the union told staff members to return to their jobs this morning after a nearly-week-long strike. (ARTnews)


Armory Show Announces Monumental Works – The New York fair will present nine large-scale works in its “Platform” section, which is organized by Sally Tallant, the new director of Queens Museum. The exhibiting artists are: Andreas Angelidakis, Siah Armajani, Tania Candiani, Ryan Gander, Iris Häussler, Xaviera Simmons, Jessica Stockholder, Super Taus, and Pascale Marthine Tayou. (Press release)

1stdibs Moves Into New Bricks-and-Mortar Space – The online marketplace is relocating its New York showroom from Midtown East to the more art-world-friendly Terminal Stores building in Chelsea. More than 50 exhibitors are setting up shop there, including Inga Davidsson of Area ID, who says that she had to close her store in Little Italy when the rent tripled. 1stdibs’s former space at 200 Lexington Avenue will now be home to 50 dealers who have signed on with Incollect, a 1stdibs competitor. (New York Times)

Artists Without Galleries Get a Spotlight in Mexico – Salón ACME, which ran alongside Zona Maco and the Material art fairs in Mexico City last week, offered something a bit different: it presented works by artists who are mostly self-represented. This year, the platform mounted its largest selection of open call submissions to date: 50 projects chosen from more than 1,000 applications. (The Art Newspaper)


Blanton Museum Gets a $20 Million Gift – The Texas museum has received a major gift from the Moody Foundation to transform its outdoor spaces. The $20 million revamp will be carried out by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. (Glasstire)

PAMM Acquires Large Tapestry by Ebony G. Patterson – The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) raised more than $1 million for acquisitions of work by African American artists at its sixth annual Art + Soul celebration over the weekend. During the event, the museum also revealed its latest acquisition: a large tapestry by Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson, who had her first solo museum exhibition at PAMM last year. (Artforum)

Fatoş Üstek Will Direct the Liverpool Biennial – The Turkish curator and writer has been named the new director of the Liverpool Biennial. Currently, Üstek is the director and chief curator of the David Roberts Art Foundation in London; she begins her new role in May. (Press release)

“Napalm Girl” Wins Peace Prize – Kim Phuc Phan Thi, the little girl who was photographed fleeing down the street naked with severe napalm-induced burns during the Vietnam War, shocked the world. Decades after the atrocity, she has received an award of €10,000 ($11,270) in Dresden, Germany, for her peace work. Phuc is a vocal supporter of UNESCO and children hurt in wartime. (Guardian)


Why Monty Python Turned Down the V&A  Eric Idle, a founding member of the British comedy gang, recently revealed in his memoir that the group called off a planned show at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London due to a clash over the title. The group wanted to call the show “Monty Python: The Same Old Bollocks,” but the V&A insisted on the more staid “Monty Python: from Dalí to Dead Parrots.” Idle called the V&A’s idea “pretentious nonsense,” saying, “We’re nothing to do with Dalí or Duchamp… Python has always been about comedy. That is the art.” (The Art Newspaper)

An AI Robot Is Making Art – Meet Ai-Da, the first robot that can create a life drawing or portrait painting. The brainchild of art dealer Aidan Meller, the artist-robot can process human features to create portraits via clever engineering, algorithms, and cameras in her eye sockets. Named after the 19th-century mathematical genius Ada Lovelace, Ai-Da is due to make her public debut at the University of Oxford in May. In the future she will even be able to talk to her sitters. (Daily Mail)

See Derek Blasberg’s Art Collection – The fashion journalist, YouTube exec, and Gagosian senior staffer offers a walkthrough of his playfully designed Manhattan apartment. The colorful, patterned rooms are filled with art, largely by Gagosian mainstays such as Dan Colen, John Currin, and Urs Fischer. A pair of Richard Prince Instagram works enliven the dining room. Who knew media still paid so well? (Architectural Digest)

David Hockney Paints Ed Sheeran – The pop-music hitmaker is one of the latest celebrities to get the portrait treatment by David Hockney. The English musician recently shared likeness with his 27.2 million followers on Instagram. The real thing is on view now as part of Hockney’s career-spanning show at L.A. Louver. (NewsyPeople)

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