Art Industry News: The Pompidou May Adopt Duchamp’s Notorious Urinal as Its New Brand Symbol + Other Stories

Plus, Iran aims to sidestep US sanctions through art sales and star curator Naima Keith heads to LACMA.

Photo by Robert Alexander/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 Friday, February 22.


Academics Map Massachusetts’ African American History – Two professors at Tufts University have created a black history trail of Massachusetts. More than 200 sites in Boston and beyond—some of which are well known and others that have been overlooked—are listed on the project’s website. “We wanted to make the history more visible and the facts accessible,” says Kendra Field, who spearheaded the initiative with Kerri Greenidge. Sites range from colonial-era homes of former slave-owning families to places significant to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. (New York Times)

The Met Gets a Surprise Gift of Latin American Art – A collector in São Paulo announced a surprise gift of Spanish colonial art to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. James Kung Wei Li cold-called the New York museum in 2017 to tell them the good news after hearing that the Met was seeking to build up that part of its collection. The gift will be unveiled at the museum in early March. (TAN)

Just Call It the Pom-Pee-Doo-Doo – The Centre Pompidou in Paris is on a mission to select an iconic artwork from its collection to become a symbol of the museum, like the Louvre’s Mona Lisa, in order to boost its brand recognition among tourists. The shortlist of 17 works includes only one by a female artist (Louise Bourgeois) and one particularly controversial contender: Duchamp’s urinal Fountain. The whole concept has divided critics and staff, some of whom object to the idea of making one work into a “fetish.” Pompidou president Serge Lasvignes told the newspaper Liberation that ideally the chosen work would function like Guernica does for Madrid’s Reina Sofía. (TimesLiberation)

Baltimore Art School Apologizes for Its Racist Past – The president and board of the Maryland Institute College of Art have issued a statement apologizing for “its historical denial of access to talented students for no other reason than the color of their skin.” The Baltimore college admitted only white students from 1895 until 1954. A new exhibition organized by student Deyane Moses, which traces the history of black students at the school, inspired the institute’s president Samuel Hoi to issue the statement and underscore its institutional resolve “to redouble our efforts towards change.” (Press release)


Iran Sidesteps US Sanctions With Art Sales – Iran’s culture minister recently urged local artists and galleries to export more art. Why? Cultural production—which includes art, books, and films—are exempt from the US-imposed sanctions that have been ravaging the country’s economy. Iran plans to ease regulations to encourage more exports of art in the future with the goal of earning much-needed foreign currency. (Jerusalem Post)

Team Gallery Alumnus Strikes Out on His Own in DC – Todd von Ammon is opening a 3,600-square-foot project space in Georgetown to fill what he sees as a commercial gap in Washington, DC. The inaugural solo show, which opens April 6, is dedicated to work by New York–based artist Tabor Robak. Von Ammon worked at New York’s Team Gallery for the past seven years. (ARTnews)

Africa’s Art Market Is a Slow Burn – As the 1:54 fair returns to Marrakech this week, Africa’s domestic art market is still in the early stages of development. But as China’s economy continues to slow, the continent is attracting increasing attention. The way has been paved by the burgeoning demand among international collectors for work by African and African diaspora artists. Cape Town and Marrakech currently lead the way as art hubs, with interest growing in Lagos. (The Art Newspaper)

Gallery Dedicated to Social Impact Opens in LA – Brannan Mason, the co-founder of the ear-monitor company Noble Audio, is opening a gallery in downtown Los Angeles with a philanthropic mission.Ten percent of its sales will go to nonprofit organizations, and each donation will be made in the name of the buyer. The inaugural exhibition at Brannan Mason Gallery will benefit the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. (Artforum)


Iraq Announces Venice Biennale Plans – For the first time, Iraq will be represented by one artist (as opposed to a group) at the Venice Biennale. The Ruya Foundation has invited painter Serwan Baran to present a new series called “Fatherland” in Venice. The works will reflect on Baran’s time as a conscripted war artist in the 1980s and ’90s. (Press release)

Star Curator Naima J. Keith Heads to LACMA – The California African American Museum’s deputy director and chief curator is heading to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. On April 1, she takes up the position of vice president of education and public programs. During her time at CAAM, attendance almost doubled. Keith, who is also co-organizing Prospect.5 in New Orleans, is credited with waking up the formerly “sleepy” institution. (Los Angeles Times)

Bronx Museum Adds Six Board Members – The institution’s new board members include artist Angel Otero, Karen Robinovitz, the former CEO of Digital Brand Architects, and Debbie Landau, the former president and CEO of the Madison Square Park Conservancy. The members “embody the tremendous resources our community has to offer,” says director Deborah Cullen. (ARTnews)


An AR Installation Puts the Whitney Underwater – For the exhibition “Programmed: Rules, Codes, and Choreographies in Art, 1965–2018,” on view until April 14, the Whitney Museum commissioned an artist imagine it underwater. Tamiko Thiel’s Unexpected Growth is an augmented reality artwork that lets viewers see the New York museum, and the city beyond, as if it were submerged in polluted waters. (Hyperallergic)

UK Sculpture Collection Goes Online – The charity Art UK plans to document all of the sculptures in Britain’s public collections and make the images accessible online. The trove will supplement an existing database of oil paintings. By 2020, the foundation estimates that there will be 150,000 sculptures in its database. (Guardian)

Native American Pottery Was the Original Social Media – New research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that well before the advent of Snapchat or Instagram, indigenous peoples in the south Appalachian mountains were communicating with one another through images—via pottery. Between 800 and 1650 AD, they stamped unique symbols onto clay with carved wooden paddles and used the designs to map social networks among different communities. (Ancient Origins)

KAWS Gets a Hong Kong Survey – The cartoon-loving artist has found an unlikely champion in renowned Italian critic and curator Germano Celant. The Arte Povera expert is organizing a survey of work by KAWS at PMQ in Hong Kong. Focusing on the past decade of his practice, “KAWS: Along the Way” will feature 37 works spanning 2008 to the present. (Press release)

Accomplice (2010). Courtesy of Phillips.

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