Art Industry News: The World’s Oldest Cave Art Is Under Threat From Miners in Indonesia + Other Stories

Plus, Texas is censoring an artist's work and Meghan and Harry could be dragging Hauser & Wirth into the Mexit saga.

Cave art in Bulu Sipong 4, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Courtesy of Griffith University, Ratno Sardi/Griffith University/AFP/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 on this Monday, February 24.


San Antonio District Attorney Censors Artist’s Work – Oakland-based artist Xandra Ibarra’s sexually subversive video was pulled from a show of Chicanx art in San Antonio by the city’s district attorney. Andy Segovi decided that Ibarra’s 2014 video was “obscene” and should not be shown at the Centro de Artes, which is managed by the city. The National Coalition Against Censorship has complained to San Antonio’s mayor, writing that this “flies in the face of the city’s First Amendment obligations.” Ibarra plays a character named “La Chica Boom” in the short video, which mocks racial and sexual stereotypes about Latinx people. (ARTnews)

National Archives Releases Emails About Women’s March Photo – The National Archives has released heavily redacted emails sent by staffers discussing how to alter photographs of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, DC. There was an outcry after negative references to President Trump on protestors’ banners were blurred when it was put on display at the National Archives. The archives was forced to apologize for the self-censorship. The policy to “clean up” the Getty Images photo seems to have come from the top, with one staffer writing: “We have been told by the Archivist that any images we end up using should be carefully inspected for offensive signage.” None of the emails touched on possible political fallout, and few involved in the the decision appeared to think it could be seen as unethical, sexist, or even contentious. (New York Times)

World’s Oldest Art Under Threat From Cement Mining – Experts are concerned that the world’s oldest cave art is under threat. The prehistoric paintings of hunting scenes created at least 40,000 years ago are located in an area on an Indonesian island that’s controlled by the cement company Tonasa. Company officials insist the site is safe, but critics point out that trucks filled with limestone and other materials drive close to the entrance of the caves. The art is threatened by dust and vibrations caused by the heavy traffic, and mining nearby. Tonasa is planning to build a museum to allow visitors to see the paintings. (Guardian)

A Mega-Gallery Is Dragged Into the Mexit Saga – The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are allegedly upset that the Queen won’t let them exploit the “Sussex Royal” brand now that they’ve stepped down from their royal duties. They also note in a lengthy statement that while other “titled members of the Royal Family” are allowed to seek employment, they have been put on a “12-month review period.” Critics interpret this as a coded reference to Princess Eugenie and her sister Beatrice, among other royal relatives. Eugenie is an associate director at Hauser & Wirth, although she may have more royal duties to perform post-Mexit. Eugenie and her employers, Iwan and Manuela Wirth, were also guests at Meghan’s wedding, while Meghan’s bridesmaids and page boys wore sashes based on Hauser & Wirth artist Mark Bradford’s work. (Daily Mail)


Sotheby’s Moves Hong Kong Sales to New York – The spread of the coronavirus has forced Sotheby’s to move its Hong Kong sales of Modern and contemporary art to New York this April. The auction house has also postponed its sale of Chinese art, jewelry, and wine in Hong Kong until July. (Press release)

Western Museums Are Playing Catch Up on African Art – The founding director of the contemporary African art fair 1-54 says in a recent interview that museums such as Tate and MoMA are playing catch up after ignoring the continent’s art until recently. Touria El Glaoui, who has just organized the Marrakech edition of the fair, also declined to distance herself from fair sponsor Sindika Dokolo, the Congolese businessman and African art collector who is fighting allegations of corruption. (Guardian)

Bonhams Will Offer a Major Soulages Painting – The veteran French artist’s black-and-red abstract painting Pienture 16 decembre 1959 has a £7.5 million ($9.7 million) upper estimate at Bonham’s London. The classic painting is due to go under the hammer on March 12. This could actually be a dip in price, however: The work previously sold in 2018 at Christie’s New York for $10.6 million. (Art Market Monitor)


Artist Jack Youngerman Dies at 93 – The French-trained American artist has died after complications from a fall. His  invention of fluid shapes created a new world of abstraction in the wake of Abstract Expressionism. (NYT)

Contemporary Austin Names Executive Director – Sharon Maidenberg has been named the new executive director and CEO of the art museum Contemporary Austin. The former chief executive of the Headlands Center for the Arts near San Francisco will begin in her new role on September 1. (Glasstire)

Michael Rakowitz Creates a Gulf War Memorial for England – The artist’s sculpture of a British soldier who served in Iraq will be installed at the Margate seafront facing the direction of UK Parliament. The life-sized monument has one arm outstretched and a finger pointed in an accusatorial way to where the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was made. (KentOnline)

Ai Weiwei Takes Over the Facade of the Minneapolis Museum of Art – For his most recent work, the Chinese artist has covered the exterior columns of the Minneapolis museum with 2,400 life jackets worn by refugees traveling from Turkey to Greece. The work, Safe Passage, is part of an exhibition on displacement and immigration called “When Home Won’t Let You Stay: Art and Migration.” (CNN)


Could Philadelphia Museum Scandals Spark a Union Push? – One month after the museum had experienced a fallout for allegedly protecting a top executive after numerous complaints from staff about his conduct, the Inquirer wonders if the saga will prompt the staff to form a union. It says that workers felt that its management’s inaction was “emblematic of a culture that protected senior staff at the expense of lower-tier workers.” High-profile scandals of this kind have triggered union movements in that past. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Hockney Unveils a Portrait That Caused a Family Rift – My Parents and Myself, a precursor to his 1977 work My Parents, is similar in composition, except that in the earlier work, the artist includes his own self-portrait in a mirror reflection. He eventually gave up on the piece, which frustrated his family, but it will now be seen publicly in an exhibition opening this week at the National Portrait Gallery. (Guardian)

What Did Monet Really See? – Ever wonder what the house in Claude Monet’s Houses At Falaise In The Fog (1885) really looked like? Now you can see what famous painters saw on the other side of their easels, thanks to the home renovation search engine HomeAdvisor, which has created realistic renderings of famous paintings. (HomeAdvisor)


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