Art Industry News: China Has No Mercy for the American Who Stole a Warrior’s Thumb + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, a new art fair is coming to the Swiss alps and an artist’s burning cathedral stirs controversy in Russia.

The 2,200-year-old terracotta army is seen at the Qin Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum in 2005. Photo by China Photos/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 Tuesday, February 20.


Mark Bradford Unveils Epic New Body of Work – The artist’s latest paintings, on view at Hauser & Wirth in LA, are made of layered comic books and inspired by the classics he read as a child. The artist says that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman depict “civilization on steroids—and so it kind of fit with this moment.” (LA Times)

Inside Heatherwick’s Hudson Yards Tower – Now that Thomas Heatherwick’s giant staircase, Vessel, is nearing completion in Hudson Yards, the neighborhood’s billionaire property developer Stephen Ross has no doubt he picked the right man for the $150 million job. The British designer was up against Anish Kapoor and Jaume Plensa after Richard Serra declined. (New Yorker)

China Pushes for Harsh Punishment of Thumb Thief – Chinese officials are calling for “exemplary punishment” of the American man who allegedly stole a thumb from a Terracotta Warrior on loan to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Shaanxi Cultural Heritage Promotion Center, which organized the loans, could demand compensation and is sending experts to the US to assess the damage. (South China Morning Post)

Museum Invites Models to Speak About Araki – In the wake of the #metoo movement, New York’s Museum of Sex decided to include the voices of some of Nobuyoshi Araki’s models in its survey of the veteran Japanese photographer. Co-curator Maggie Mustard admits “there’s a lot to unpack” about the photographer-model relationship in his explicit work—particularly because Araki boasted of having sex with the women who posed for him. (Observer)


David Rockefeller Jr’s Pick of His Parents’ Art – The son of David and Peggy Rockefeller reveals he has been courting Chinese and Middle Eastern bidders ahead of the sale of his parents’ art at Christie’s this spring. His father left each child $1 million worth of art in his will. David Jr, who collects Old Masters, chose the porcelain he found “in the basement.” (Financial Times)

Curator Norman Rosenthal to Revisit 1981 Painting Show – Almine Rech has hired the British curator Norman Rosenthal to revisit his landmark 1981 painting survey, “A New Spirit in Painting,” which originally debuted at London’s Royal Academy. Rosenthal will present work by the same artists from 1981 at Rech’s New York gallery in May and update the show with work from the 21st century at her London space in October. (Financial Times)

Art Fair in the Swiss Alps Announced – The inaugural Sommet Winter Salon of Contemporary Art is due to take place in February 2019 in the historic Maloja Palace hotel in the Engadin Valley near St. Moritz, Switzerland. The event’s organizers promise an “unusual, almost surreal context” and wares from around 30 galleries. (Press release)​

Picasso Stolen from Milwaukee Dealer – An etching by Pablo Picasso has been pilfered from DeLind Fine Art Appraisals of Milwaukee. Bill DeLind calls the theft of Torero (1949), which is worth an estimated $35,000 to $50,000, an “unfortunate disaster.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)


Zaha Hadid-Designed Stadium to Open in Qatar – The late architect’s design for the Qatari stadium is on track to open later this year. The Al Wakrah stadium will be the 2022 World Cup venue and has the capacity to host 40,000 people. (Designboom)

Joan Mitchell Foundation Adds New Board Members – The nonprofit, which is dedicated to advancing artists’ careers through grants, residencies, and partnerships, has appointed arts administrator and curator Kemi Ilesanmi and artist and Hunter College professor Juan Sánchez to its board. (Artforum)

Hilma af Klint Foundation and the Moderna Museet Team Up – The two Swedish institutions have signed a long-term partnership agreement to ensure the continuous display of works by the pioneering abstract painter Hilma af Klint in Stockholm. (Press release)

Fleury and Hirschhorn Scoop Top Swiss Award – Sylvie Fleury and Thomas Hirschhorn have been named the 2018 winners of the Prix Meret Oppenheim / Swiss Grand Award for Art along with the architect Luigi Snozzi. The three talented Swiss creatives will be honored in June in Basel during Art Basel. (Press release)


Toyin Ojih Odutola and Solange in Conversation – The Nigerian painter and performance artist talk shop in a conversation at the Noguchi Museum. Both seek to disrupt the white cube as a neutral space and strive to create a unique visual language in their work. Solange reveals that “the main issue I’ve encountered is the expectation of entertainment.” The images accompanying the article were shot by Awol Erizku, of Beyoncé Instagram fame. (Cultured Mag)

Debate Over Obama’s Portrait Reveals Americans’ Discomfort With Art – Seph Rodney examines why Kehinde Wiley’s painting of former President Obama has frustrated some Americans who were expecting a traditional presidential portrait and do not appreciate that contemporary painting has moved beyond pictorial realism. (NBC News)

Artist’s Burning Cathedral Stirs Controversy in Russia A sculpture of a Gothic cathedral by artist Nikolay Polissky was immolated on Saturday at an artists’ commune south of Moscow as part of pre-Lenten carnival festivities. But the act is causing controversy after a video of the burning sculpture went viral. Some allege it targets Catholicism, while others believe it is fascist display of Russian nationalism. For the artist, however, “it is simply a bonfire built in the style of a Gothic building.” (The Art Newspaper)

National Portrait Gallery Shuts for Erdem Catwalk Show – Yesterday, visitors to London’s National Portrait Gallery—which typically welcomes around 5,000 people per day—were disappointed to find that the gallery had been closed by the fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu, who was using it as a catwalk. The publicly funded institution was rented out to offset funding cuts and generate revenue between exhibitions. (The Telegraph)

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