Art Industry News: How Banksy Controls Collectors, the Media, and the Art Market to Protect His Legacy + Other Stories

Plus, Yale addresses criticism over its decision to cut its art history survey and Barnes and Noble scraps its diversity covers.

Installation view from "The Art of Banksy" opening party in Miami Beach.

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 Thursday, February 6.


Suspected Banksy Thieves Are Arrested in Paris – Two men suspected of stealing a Banksy work in Paris have been arrested. The 32- and 35-year-old suspects are thought to have been involved in the theft last September of Banksy’s street art tribute to the May 1968 uprising in France. The work, which depicted a rat holding a box cutter, was taken from a billboard near the Centre Pompidou. The men are currently in police custody and it is yet to be determined whether they will be placed under investigation. While the missing work was not found, other Banksy works or copies were uncovered in a search. (Le Monde)

Yale Addresses Controversy Over Its Art History Changeup – In a letter to the College Art Association, Yale defended its decision to cut its popular course “Introduction to Art History: Renaissance to the Present,” once taught by Vincent Scully, in favor of a selection of less Eurocentric classes. “Art history is a global discipline,” the letter reads. “[N]o one survey course taught in the space of a semester could ever be comprehensive, and that no one survey course can be taken as the definitive survey of our discipline.” (ARTnews)

Inside Banksy’s Efforts to Control His Legacy – Banksy’s rise to global fame has been managed through the careful control of his message, his market, and his mystery. The anonymous street artist’s former dealer Steve Lazarides has said that the artist is “a total control freak.” Indeed, Banksy has tried very hard to control his resale market by creating his authenticating agency, Pest Control, which has also been cracking down on knockoff merchandise on his behalf. He speaks to media only through a spokeswoman or his surprise posts on his Instagram account, and allegedly controls his anonymity with a team of lawyers and nondisclosure agreements. (New York Times)

Barnes and Noble Scraps Its Diversity Covers – Before it even launched, the bookstore chain Barnes and Noble has suspended its campaign to incorporate diversity onto the covers of classic American novels such as Treasure Island and The Count of Monte Cristo. The initiative was intended to “reimagine protagonists as people of color,” but backlash characterized the effort as “literary blackface” and Barnes and Noble scrapped it before the books appeared in stores. (Slate)


Gagosian Gets a New Communications Head – Michael Sherman, who formerly served as chief communications officer at Phillips, has joined Gagosian as worldwide head of communications. He previously worked at Christie’s and as a reporter at Bloomberg News and as a press secretary in Bloomberg’s mayoral administration. Sherman, who will work alongside the gallery’s longtime communications chief Virginia Coleman, said, “Larry has built the world’s greatest gallery, and I look forward to helping my new colleagues tell the gallery’s story to collectors around the world.” (Email)

Psst, Wet Paint Will Return Next Week – An update for all the dedicated readers of “Wet Paint,” Artnet News’s gossip column. Writer Nate Freeman is out this week, but look out for an extra juicy Frieze edition from Los Angeles next week. (Artnet News)

The Art World’s Love Affair With Leverage – Art collectors are increasingly borrowing money against their paintings, seeing enormous potential in the $67 billion art market. In recent years, art secured loans have risen 40 percent, with many Wall Street aficionados getting in on the action, including the hedge fund manager Daniel Sundheim, who has been benefitting from a credit line from JPMorgan Chase & Co. against the top works in his collection. (Yahoo! Finance)


David Hockney’s Portrait of Ed Sheeran Is Coming to the UK – David Hockney’s 2018 portrait of the musician Ed Sheeran will be on display in the UK for the first time this winter at London-based Annely Judah Fine Art. The work shows Sheeran, with his vibrant red hair and various arm tattoos, sitting comfortably in a green armchair. The work is going on view as part of the show “Video Brings Its Time To You, You Bring Your Time To Paintings and Drawings,” and will also feature a portrait of singer Bruno Mars. (Guardian)

Finland Selects Its Artist for the Venice Biennale – Finland has elected the video and performance artist Pilvi Takala to represent the country at the 2021 Venice Biennale. The pavilion will be curated by Christina Li. Takala’s work often involves challenging normative social structures by staging performative interventions in various specific communities. (e-flux)

French Strikers Stage a Die-In at the Ministry of Culture – As the opposition to France’s controversial pension reforms forges on, affected culture workers are kicking their protests up a notch. Protesters were seen staging a die-in on the steps of the French culture ministry. (Twitter)


Overlooked Figures Get Sculptures in New York – The Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, New York, has launched an open call for artists to propose public monuments dedicated to “overlooked” historical figures. Monuments by artists including Jeffrey Gibson, Xaviera Simmons, and Paul Ramírez Jonas will be showcased in the park’s fall exhibition. (The Art Newspaper)

Antony Gormley’s Public Sculpture for New York – Antony Gormley has debuted a monumental abstract sculpture in Brooklyn. The looping aluminum sculpture at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 3 is called New York Clearing (2020), and was made possible as part of an international public art project commissioned by the K-Pop band BTS. (designboom)

Billie Eilish Performs Conceptual Art at MOCA – See pop star Billie Eilish participating in the Chinese conceptual artist Xu Zhen’s performance work In Just a Blink of an Eye. While on a visit to the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Eilish took part in the work, which makes it look like the performer is eerily suspended in mid-air. (Vogue)

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