Art Industry News: A Longtime LACMA Donor Severs Ties With the Museum Over Fears Its Gifts May Be Buried in Storage + Other Stories

Plus, Blain Southern is going into bankruptcy in the UK and the Smithsonian just released a trove of images to the public.

LACMA CEO and director Michael Govan. Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for LACMA.

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 26.


Major LACMA Donors Pull Funding – The Ahmanson Foundation, a major supporter of the museum, will stop giving gifts to the institution following a disagreement over director Michael Govan’s plans to transform the museum and tear down the Ahmanson Building. The foundation, which has donated more than $130 million in European Old Master paintings and sculptures, is unhappy that LACMA intends to disband its permanent collection installations and put its gifts into storage. “We’ve been unable to get a commitment from Michael Govan about presenting the collection as it has been throughout the life of the museum,” the foundation’s president, William Ahmanson, says. (LA Times)

Milan Postpones the World’s Largest Design Fair – Milan’s Salon di Mobile, due to open in April, has been postponed until June owing to the spread of coronavirus, which has forced museums to shutter across Northern Italy. The board of the flagship event of Milan Design Week made the decision at an emergency meeting yesterday and confirmed that the fair will now take place from June 16 through June 21. Giorgio Armani held his Milan Fashion Week runway show behind closed doors on Sunday due to concerns raised by the disease. (designboom)

Bannon Wins a Battle Over His Italian Monastery – President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, won a third court hearing in his legal fight with the Italian Ministry of Culture last Thursday, February 20. The Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), a Catholic lobbying group that he runs alongside British conservative Benjamin Harnwell, has a 19-year lease on a 13th-century, mountain-top monastery just outside Rome, and the Italian ministry has been trying to cancel the lease on the national monument site. “I cannot wait for the main trial in March when the DHI can finally begin to expose to the Italian people, and the whole world, the truth, as well as the ministry’s appalling conduct,” Harnwell said. The next legal decision comes on March 11. (TAN)

Austria Picks Its 2021 Venice Biennale Artists – The Austrian pavilion at the 2021 Venice Biennale promises to be a lively affair. The artists Jakob Lena Knebl and Ashley Hans Scheirl, who are frequent collaborators, made a proposal that “lacks neither humor nor satire,” says the pavilion’s curator, Karola Kraus, the director of MUMOK in Vienna. The artists plan to fill the pavilion with paintings, textile works, photographs, objects, audio and video works, and holograms in order to “undermine the hierarchies of art and design, of high and low.” (Artforum)


Armory Show Issues Statement on Coronavirus – The New York art fair, which opens next week, acknowledged widespread concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in a letter issued to exhibitors this week. “We will continue to consult with experts in the field and pursue best practices in safeguarding the Armory Show[‘s] 2020 edition,” it said. (ARTnews)

Blain Southern Goes Into Wind Down Mode – The gallery, which closed its spaces in London, New York, and Berlin, has gone into administration, a British process similar to American bankruptcy proceedings. Blain Southern’s financial woes are being blamed on its expansion to New York last year; before its abrupt shutdown, the gallery’s cofounder, Harry Blain, had even talked of adding spaces in Los Angeles and Hong Kong. Artist Sean Scully, who joined the gallery in 2018 and left within a year, said that with the benefit of hindsight, Blain’s ambitions were unrealistic. (The Art Newspaper)

Luhring Augustine Announces Opening of Tribeca Space – The Luhring Augustine gallery is opening its new Tribeca space on May 1 with a solo show of works by the late Brazilian artist Lucia Nogueira. It will be her first show in the US. (Press release)


Philanthropist Anne Marion Dies at 81 – The Texas-born arts patron, rancher, and oil heiress died on February 11 from lung cancer at her home in Palm Springs. Marion presided over the Burnett Foundation, meting out grants to support arts and education initiatives. She also donated $65 million toward the expansion of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and supported local institutions like the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and the Kimbell Art Museum. In 1997, along with her husband, John, who was the chief auctioneer at Sotheby’s North America, she established the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. (New York Times)

Mary Weatherford Wins 2020 Aspen Award – The Aspen Art Museum has named artist Mary Weathorford as this year’s winner. She will give a talk in August ahead of the annual ArtCrush gala, where she will be honored for her contributions to contemporary art. Past winners include Rashid Johnson, Teresita Fernandez, Lorna Simpson, and Gabriel Orozco. (Aspen Times)

Studio in a School Names a New President – Agnes Gund’s New York nonprofit, Studio in a School, which brings professional teaching artists into New York public schools, has named Alison Scott-Williams as its new president. Scott-Williams, who will take up the role on March 9, was previously vice president at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. (Artforum)


What Can Museums Do for Immigrant Communities? – NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture is organizing a conference on Friday, February 28, to discuss how local art institutions can positively impact immigrants. Culture workers from the Brooklyn Museum, MoMA, and the Queens Museum, among others, have been invited to share their existing initiatives as well as discuss future possibilities. (Hyperallergic)

Smithsonian Releases Images Online – The Smithsonian has launched a new open-access platform placing some 2.8 million high-resolution images from all 19 of the organization’s museums in the public domain. Over the course of the rest of the year, the Smithsonian plans to digitize a further 200,000 images to continue “being a relevant source for people who are learning around the world.” See some of the newly released images below. (Smithsonian)

Thomas Eakins, Cat in Eakins's Yard (ca. 1880–90).

Thomas Eakins, Cat in Eakins’s Yard (ca. 1880–90). Courtesy the Smithsonian.

Eastman Johnson, The Girl I Left Behind Me (ca. 1872). Courtesy the Smithsonian.

Eastman Johnson, The Girl I Left Behind Me (ca. 1872). Courtesy the Smithsonian.

Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Lansdowne Portrait) (1796).

Gilbert Stuart, George Washington (Lansdowne Portrait) (1796). Courtesy the Smithsonian.

Unknown artist, Pocahontas (copy after Simon van de Passe, after 1616). Courtesy the Smithsonian.

A painting by H. Lyman Saÿen (ca. 1916). Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of H. Lyman Sayen.

A painting by H. Lyman Saÿen (ca. 1916). Courtesy the Smithsonian.

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