Art Industry News: Philadelphia Museum of Art Is Now Accused of Shielding a Staffer Who Actually Beat Up Subordinates + Other Stories

Plus, an art collector sues Princeton over a deal gone wrong, and can LACMA actually afford its $750 million renovation?

The Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo Peter Miller, via Flickr.

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 Friday, February 21.


The Replicas That Duped Prince Charles – Vanity Fair unspools the saga of James Stunt, the fast-talking businessman who loaned 17 works from his prize collection to Prince Charles’s charity for display at a historic house. The only problem: evidence suggests the works were actually copies made by forger Tony Tetro. In the wake of the hubbub, both Prince Charles and the Queen were reportedly embarrassed and upset. The Prince’s Foundation had insured the replicas of Picasso, Dalí, Monet, and Chagall for £104 million without consulting outside experts or the curator of the Royal Collection. Malcolm Rogers, former director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, was also taken in by Stunt and helped to facilitate the loans. For his part, Stunt maintains the works are genuine. (Vanity Fair)

A Deep Dive Into LACMA’s Debt – The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is preparing to tear down four old buildings to make way for its new Peter Zumthor-designed home. But can the museum afford a project with a price tag that has now risen to a stunning $750 million? LACMA’s director, Michael Govan, says that the initiative will not leave the museum drowning in debt, as its critics claim. The Los Angeles Times crunches the numbers, showing that LACMA’s debt will be large—far larger than most of its peers—but not mission-critical, if the project doesn’t go over budget. Govan insists the math adds up. “I have the county. I have an oversight committee,” he said. “We wouldn’t be allowed to go forward if the building wasn’t on budget.” (Los Angeles Times)

Philadelphia Museum of Art Under Fire for Abusive Manager – The Philadelphia Museum of Art was in the hot seat earlier this year for its employment of Joshua Helmer, a former manager who went on to be accused of sexual harassment by multiple employees. Now, it is under fire for another allegedly abusive employee: retail director James Cincotta. Staffers reported that Cincotta slapped, punched, pinched, shoved, grabbed, and verbally berated workers, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer, citing interviews with 14 current and former staff members. After Cincotta allegedly slapped one 20-year-old retail worker on the back of the head, she quit that day; he remained at the museum for two more years. A museum spokesperson confirmed Cincotta left the museum in 2018 and said it had hired a firm to perform a “cultural assessment” of the museum and suggest changes to improve its work environment. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Star Artist Cao Fei Faces Issues With UK Visa – The travel restrictions imposed as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak are having broad ripple effects. Chinese artist Cao Fei has visa troubles, which could prevent her installing her solo show at London’s Serpentine Galleries. Cao would be arriving from Singapore, where she has been living, but would be unable to return to her country of origin because Singapore has banned Chinese citizens from entering in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus. She would instead be forced to return to Beijing without her young family. The artist is now appealing the decision. Update: After Singapore granted the artist permission to return after visiting the UK to install her show, she now plans to travel to London. (Times)


Collector Sues Princeton for Backing Out of an Art Deal – The collector Vincent Fay is suing Princeton University after the school’s art museum backed out of an agreement to purchase 17 works from his collection for nearly $1 million. The university, which had already paid $475,000 towards the unnamed artworks, raised concerns about the provenance, authenticity, and value of pieces when it withheld final payment. Fay says Princeton has provided no evidence that would justify reneging on the deal. (New York Post)

KAWS Opens Up About His Collection – Artist Brian Donnelly, better known as KAWS, gives the New York Times a tour of his fast-growing art collection. The recently appointed board member of the American Museum of Folk Art has a particular interest in self-taught artists, triggered by the institution’s collection of Henry Darger works. Veteran artist Helen Rae’s “amazing” drawings recently caught his eye at the Outsider Art Fair. (NYT)

Aria Dean Joins Greene NaftaliThe sharp-eyed artist, curator, and critic Aria Dean will be represented by New York’s Greene Naftali Gallery, where she will have a solo show next spring. Dean’s work will also be included in the Hammer Museum’s upcoming “Made in LA” biennial. (Press release)


Met Reveals New Contemporary Art Commissions – The Metropolitan Museum of Art has chosen the Mexican artist Héctor Zamora for its annual roof garden commission. His terra cotta brick sculpture, Lattice Detour, will be on view from April 21 through October 25. Meanwhile, in September, Carol Bove will debut new sculptures in the Met’s facade niches through March 2021. (NYT)

Estonia Will Move Into Venice’s Dutch Pavilion – It’s musical chairs at the Venice Biennale. The typically nomadic Estonian Pavilion will take over the Dutch pavilion’s central location in the Giardini for the 2021 exhibition. The Netherlands is moving out of the historic garden to show off-site. (Press release)

Curator Ingrid Schaffner Joins Chinati – The acclaimed curator behind the 2018 Carnegie International has been named the new curator of the Chinati Foundation, which oversees more than 100 works by Donald Judd and other Minimalists in the small Texas town of Marfa. (ARTnews)


Banksy Is Glad His Art Has Been Vandalized – Bansky’s Valentine’s Day mural, which depicted a girl with a slingshot hitting a burst of red flowers, showed up in his hometown last week—but was vandalized just days later with the words “BCC W**KERS,” presumably in reference to the Bristol City Council. Banksy, for one, isn’t bothered. He took to Instagram to post preparatory sketches of the work and wrote, “I’m kind of glad the piece in Barton Hill got vandalized. The initial sketch was a lot better…” (Independent)

Rick Owens Visits Heizer’s City in Style – Designer Rick Owens and wife Michèle Lamy went to see artist Michael Heizer’s monumental land art piece-in-progress, City, in the Nevada desert, on a bus tour as part of a collaboration with Moncler. “It’s spooky and it’s eccentric and it’s extreme and it’s heroic and it’s kind of an underground thing—and I just couldn’t resist,” Owens said. “I mean, I jumped at the chance.” (Vogue)

Picasso Takes Over Piccadilly Circus For one night only, Picasso starred on the massive screens in London’s Piccadilly Circus. The collaboration between the Royal Academy of Arts and ad company Ocean Outdoor saw films and still images of the artist and his work up in lights, giving a spectacular boost to the exhibition “Picasso and Paper” on view at the RA down the street. (Instagram)


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