Art Industry News: Nearly 100 Newfields Staffers Join the Call for the Museum’s Besieged President to Resign + Other Stories

Plus, Art Brussels calls off its 2021 in-person edition and a logbook from Birmingham Jail signed by MLK is up for sale.

Newfields director Charles Venable. Image courtesy of Newfields.

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 Wednesday, February 17.


Some Skulls at Penn Museum May Belong to Enslaved People – A new investigation into skulls held by the Penn Museum at the University of Pennsylvania found that dozens were taken from burial grounds used by the Philadelphia Almshouse, which later became a hospital. The report does not rule out that some of these remains are from people who were formerly enslaved, although it says it is “highly unlikely.” Meanwhile, the museum says it is continuing to take steps to repatriate and rebury dozens of other skulls in the collection that were found to be remains of enslaved people from Cuba. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

People Think These Antony Gormley Sculptures Look Like Sex Toys – A UK collector is in hot water with her local planning committee after she installed a group of cast iron sculptures by Antony Gormley on the beach in the seaside town of Aldeburgh. Caroline Wiseman failed to secure the proper permissions in advance, though she has requested retroactive approval. Not everyone is thrilled by the addition, however: a number of local residents have taken to online forums to complain the works resemble “a collection of sex toys” and “giant rabbit droppings.” (The Art Newspaper)

Newfields Staff Call for President to Step Down – A group of 97 staff and members of the board of governors at Newfields (formerly known as the Indiana Museum of Art) have signed an open letter calling for its president Charles Venable to resign after he oversaw a job posting for a new director that prioritized maintaining the museum’s “core, white art audience.” The missive, which is the second open letter calling for Venable to step down, also demands other structural changes to the institution, including appointing an independent human resources department. (Indy Star)

Romanian Sculptor Accused of Fraud – Romanian sculptor Ioan Bolborea has been charged with fraud after selling a group of 11 statues to the Bucharest government as bronzes, when they were actually made out of brass. Bolborea is charged with defrauding the state out of some $4.5 million. The fraud was first suspected in 2017 when a much-mocked sculpture of a nude emperor carrying a wolf was vandalized—and the tail of the wolf broke off in the process. (France24)


Art Brussels Cancels Its 2021 Edition – Art Brussels has decided to cancel its in-person 2021 edition; the next IRL fair will be held in spring 2022. Local galleries will still be able to take part in Art Brussels Week from April 22 through 25, as well as an online viewing room from April 14 to 28. (Press release)

Jail Logbook Featuring MLK’s Signature Is Up For Sale – Hake’s auction house in Pennsylvania is offering four pages from the logbook of Birmingham Jail signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his incarceration there in 1963. The lot will go up for sale on February 24 with a starting bid of $10,000. (Press release)


London’s ICA Partners With Dr. Martens – London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts has teamed up with art students’ favorite shoemaker to provide £60,000 in production grants to commission emerging artists to make moving image and film works. Applications for the seven grants are open to UK-based artists until March 30. (Press release)

The New Mexico Museum of Art Plans to Remove Historic Chicano Mural – The New Mexico museum will destroy a beloved Chicano mural to make way for its second campus in Santa Fe. Campaigners are fighting the decision to retire the mural, which was painted in 1980 by the Chicano muralist Gilberto Guzmán. (Hyperallergic)


North West Gets a Personal Invite to the Bob Ross Experience – Kim Kardashian’s daughter, North, whose advanced artwork divided the internet last week, has been invited to visit the Bob Ross Experience in Muncie, Indiana. The company wants North, whose landscape painting drew comparisons to the beloved TV artist, to get formally trained in Ross’s technique. (TMZ)

See a New Installation on the Façade of the SLG – The South London Gallery has unveiled a new permanent mural by the American artist Lawrence Weiner on the façade of its Fire Station annex. The work, which was conceived in 1999 and acquired before the pandemic, poignantly reads “AT A DISTANCE TO THE FOREGROUND.” (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.