Art Industry News: UNESCO Warns of ‘Unprecedented Crisis’ as the Culture Sector Loses 10 Million Jobs + Other Stories

Plus, the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum names a new director and Hauser & Wirth poaches a rainmaker from Christie's.

Conservators at work on Michelangelo's Pietà. Courtesy of the Opera del Duomo Museum. Photo: Claudio Giovannini.

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 Wednesday, February 9.


MFA Boston Repatriates Antiquities to Mali – The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston will transfer ownership of two Djenné antiquities to the Republic of Mali that are believed to have been illicitly excavated and trafficked out of the country. The two terracotta figures date to the 13th to 15th centuries. Collector William Teel, who acquired the objects (in good faith) in the U.S. in the late 1980s and early ’90s, donated them to the museum. (Press release)

U.K. Partners With Saudi Arabia on Culture – The U.K.’s culture secretary Nadine Dorries has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries. The memorandum to “increase cooperation with her Saudi Arabian counterparts across sport and culture” will involve potential collaborations in the film, museum, and heritage sectors, as well as in sustainable tourism. (The Art Newspaper)

UNESCO Warns of “Unprecedented Crisis in the Cultural Sector” – A new report from UNESCO found that ten million jobs were lost in creative industries during the pandemic. It called on governments to better protect the creative labor force by considering measures like a minimum wage for culture workers and better pension and sick pay for freelancers. (ARTnews)

Vasarely Foundation Wins Back 87 Works in Court – A Paris appeals court has ordered disbarred lawyer Yann Streiff to return 87 works by op artist Victor Vasarely—including 20 works subsequently sold to other buyers—to the Vasarely Foundation. Vasarely’s wife had given them to Steiff in lieu of payment for his services in 1996, but the court found the donation exceeded the inheritance rights of Vasarely’s sons. (Quotidien de l’Art)


Cooper Hewitt Names New Director – Architecture curator and historian Maria Nicanor has been named director of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. She replaces Caroline Baumann, who was forced to resign over allegations of impropriety (which were later disputed by a number of trustees, who resigned on protest). Nicanor begins her new role on March 21. (New York Times)

Hauser & Wirth Nabs Christie’s Exec – The mega-gallery has hired Elaine Kwok, director of 20th and 21st century art at Christie’s Hong Kong, to the newly created role of managing partner of Asia. Kwok, a 15-year veteran of Christie’s who helmed the region’s livestreamed sales during the pandemic, will focus on developing clients and relationships with institutions in the region. (ARTnews)

Shaker Museum Gets $1 Million – The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation has gifted the Shaker Museum $1 million to support the construction of its new Selldorf Architects-designed building in Chatham, New York. Inspired by the simplicity of Shaker form and design, Kelly began collecting Shaker objects in 1970, and his collection of Shaker furniture was donated to the museum after his death in 2015. (Press release)

Nicolas Bourriaud Launches Curatorial Collective – Curator Nicolas Bourriaud, who coined the term relational aesthetics, has founded a new curatorial cooperative called Radicants. The nomadic organization will work with independent curators around the world on exhibitions that offer a contemporary perspective on art history. The first exhibition, “Planet B: Climate Change & the New Sublime,” will open on April 20 in Venice during the 59th Biennale. (Press release)


A New Digital Sales Platform for Emerging Artists – A nonprofit called TheArtists seeks to promote the work of contemporary artists who have yet to find gallery representation. The online platform will present works selected by famous artists, curators, and art-world professionals; the first three exhibitions have been selected by German artist Gregor Hildebrandt, art collective Slavs and Tatars, and curator Maya El Khalil. (Press release)


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