Art Industry News: Art Cologne’s Director Thinks Parisians Made a Big Mistake Welcoming Art Basel Into Their Midst + Other Stories

Plus, Frieze calls off a planned sculpture show in L.A., and France's prestigious École des Beaux-Arts taps its first female leader.

Daniel Hug, director of Art Cologne. Courtesy of Art Cologne. Photo: Gene Glover.

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 Monday, January 31.


California University Returns Massacre Remains to Wiyot Tribe – The remains of at least 20 members of the Wiyot tribe who were believed to have been killed during the Indian Island Massacre of 1860 have returned home after nearly 70 years. The remains were uncovered in 1953 along with 136 artifacts by a team from University of California, Berkeley. The university’s Hearst Museum of Anthropology, where the remains were held in storage, denied requests for repatriation for years, citing lack of evidence. But a recent policy change cleared the way for their return. (Los Angeles Times)

Jeff Bezos’s Smithsonian Deal Has No Moral Clause – The Smithsonian Institution may not be able to terminate naming rights if the Amazon founder is caught behaving in a way that would ruin the institution’s reputation because his donation agreement does not contain a “moral clause.” (A similar issue arose with the Sackler family.) The e-commerce tycoon’s name will be displayed on a new building at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, as well as in several other places, for at least 50 years in recognition of his $200 million gift. (MarketWatch)

Art Cologne Chief Criticizes Art Basel’s Move to Paris – Daniel Hug, the outspoken director of Art Cologne, said that he was “sorry” for Paris over Art Basel’s controversial takeover of the Grand Palais from FIAC. “Loving how everybody just thinks Art Basel will make their city the center of the world,” the fair director, who once described Art Basel’s expansion as “colonialism,” said on Instagram. He laid out the previous “flops” from MCH Group including Art Basel Cities Buenos Aires, the India Art Fair, and Art Düsseldorf. “I hate to break this news to you, but MCH Group is only interested in making money and keeping Art Basel the number one fair in the world,” he wrote. “Ultimately, it means Paris will never have an art fair of equal stature to Basel, ever.” (Monopol)

OpenSea Reverses Course on NFT Limit – The NFT marketplace made waves when it announced that it would limit the number of NFTs OpenSea users could create in an attempt to prevent theft. The plan was to restrict users to no more than five collections, each containing a maximum of 50 NFTs, or 250 in total. But the announcement sparked an immediate outcry from users and OpenSea reversed the decision within 24 hours. (ARTnews)


Frieze L.A. Cancels Public Sculpture Show – Frieze has cancelled plans to stage a free outdoor sculpture exhibition during its Los Angeles fair because of shipping delays and a shortage of workers to install the art. The initial plan was to feature 12 works at Beverly Gardens Park as a substitute for Frieze Projects, which featured site-specific artist installations and performances at the fair’s previous Paramount Studios location. (LAT)

École des Beaux-Arts Picks First Female Leader – The prestigious art school has named Alexia Fabre, longtime chief curator of the Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne in Vitry-sur-Seine, France, as its new director. She is the first woman to assume the role in nearly 400 years. The influential curator, who has worked on high-profile art projects such as the Nuit Blanche in Paris, will succeed Jean de Loisy. (ARTnews)

U.S. and Nigeria Sign Cultural Property Agreement – The U.S. and Nigeria have signed a bilateral memorandum of understanding to fight illicit trafficking of archeological and ethnological items from 1,500 B.C. to 1,770 C.E. “This agreement will certainly reduce the incentive to pillage our irreplaceable archaeological and ethnological material,” said Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture. (The Art Newspaper)

Hermitage May Call Off Barcelona Satellite – Russia’s Hermitage Museum may be forced to shelve its long-held plans for a Barcelona branch amid ongoing disputes with local authorities and the prospect of a court battle. The outpost was initially planned for the port of the Catalan city, but Barcelona’s city council rejected the proposal last spring. Investors are now seeking to recover their money, which could exceed €100 million ($111.5 million). (ARTnews)


Design for Abolitionist Memorial in Brooklyn Moves Ahead – New York City is forging ahead with plans to build a monument to the abolitionist movement by the artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed, which incorporates messages of social justice into the benches and borders of a $15 million park in Brooklyn called Abolitionist Place. Some preservationists and activists protested the plan because they felt it was too abstract for a city where so few monuments honor Black people with figurative sculptures. (New York Times)

An artist impression of Abolitionist Place. Credit Hargreaves Jones.

An artist impression of Abolitionist Place. Credit Hargreaves Jones.

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