Art Industry News: Warren Kanders Calls the Whitney’s Leadership ‘Very Weak’ in a Scorched-Earth Interview + Other Stories

Plus, Judy Chicago will design the set for Dior's next runway show and Skarstedt will no longer represent George Condo.

Allison Kanders and Warren Kanders attend 2012 Whitney Gala at The Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012. Photo by Ben Gabbe/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 Tuesday, January 14.


Judy Chicago to Design Dior Runway Show – The American artist is collaborating with Dior on its spring show at the Musée Rodin in Paris next week. Judy Chicago has designed an installation called The Female Divine to serve as the backdrop of the show; it will also be open to the public from January 21 to January 26. The tableau will feature oversized goddess figures, a floral carpet, and banners embroidered with such questions as, “what if women ruled the world?” The artist, who was commissioned by Dior’s creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, has also made a line of feminist tableware for Dior Maison. (Women’s Wear Daily)

Staff Says Former Erie Museum Director Was Worse Than Reported – We will do everything we can to address the concerns of staff,” promised Timothy Rub, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He was speaking as the allegations of harassment grow against a former staffer, Joshua R. Helmer, the now ex-director of the Erie Art Museum. More than 200 staffers signed a statement of solidarity with colleagues who called out the alleged behavior of the art museum’s former assistant director of interpretation. “The reporting in the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer barely scratches the surface of the abuses perpetrated by this man,” it states. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Warren Kanders Criticizes Whitney Leadership as “Weak” – In his first major interview since stepping down from his role as vice chair of the Whitney Museum, Warren Kanders has harsh words not only for the protesters who pushed for his ouster, but also for the Whitney’s top brass. The museum “had very weak leaders ,” he says, “who quite frankly did not want to engage and always felt it would go away.” What he describes as an “uninformed” fringe group was allowed to have undue influence on the institution, he alleges. (The Whitney declined to comment.) The CEO of Safariland, which produces tear gas and other non-lethal weapons used by law enforcement, says he was moved to speak out because he fears society will have “real issues” if leaders do not encourage those with opposing views to speak to one another. As for his own role in societal debates, he maintains, his job at Safariland is “apolitical.” (Financial Times)

Denmark’s Mermaid Sculpture Vandalized With Hong Kong Graffiti – Danish police are looking for a culprit after Copenhagen’s famous Little Mermaid sculpture was vandalized with a message of support for the ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Someone spray-painted “Free Hong Kong” in red onto the landmark. (The Local)


Skarstedt Splits With George Condo – As we reported in Wet Paint last year, blue-chip painter George Condo is headed to Hauser & Wirth. Now, his longtime American representative Skarstedt has revealed in an email to clients that the gallery’s recently closed New York exhibition will be its last of primary-market work from Condo, “as we refocus our long-standing relationship on the secondary market.” Jeremy Hodkin of the Canvas newsletter also reported the shift yesterday on Twitter. (Twitter)

A 7-Year-Old Artist Is Selling Paintings for $12,000 – Meet the newest child art prodigy: seven-year-old Mikail Akar. The Cologne-based artist’s Jackson Pollock-style abstracts have fetched up to $12,000. But Akar is more interested in soccer. “If [painting] gets too much for him, we will intervene,” says his father, adding: “We turn down a lot of requests.” (New York Post)

Richard Gray Names New Partner – Sharon Kim is leaving Christie’s New York to become a partner at Richard Gray Gallery this summer. She served as an international director of Impressionist and Modern art at the auction house. (Press release)

Sean Kelly Adds Su Xiaobai to Its Roster – The Chinese artist Su Xiaobai has joined Sean Kelly gallery of New York and Taipei. The Shanghai-based painter is best known for his abstract canvases and use of lacquer. (ARTnews)


A Painting Featured on Antiques Roadshow Goes on View in Delaware – One of the finds from PBS’s Antiques Roadshow, a 1923 illustration by Frank Earle Schoonover, is now on view at the Delaware Art Museum. Schoonover’s painting, originally bought for $300, was discovered in an episode filmed at the Winterthur Museum in June, and valued at $125,000. (Delaware Online)

Winners of 2020 Jorge M. Pérez Award Announced – Ilana Harris-Babou (the youngest artist included in last year’s Whitney Biennial) and Mateo Nava have won the National YoungArts Foundation’s award for mid-career and emerging artists. Selected by collector Pérez and Patricia García-Vélez, the director of his development firm the Related Group, the artists will split the unrestricted $25,000 cash prize. (ARTnews)

Amanda Heng Wins Singapore Biennale’s Benesse Prize – The 69-year-old multidisciplinary Singaporean artist Amanda Heng has been named the 12th recipient of the $37,000 prize given by Benesse Holdings, Inc. and the Singapore Art Museum. The prize recognizes works in the biennale that participate in an “experimental and critical spirit” centered on the theme of well-being. (Artforum)

Philanthropists Endow Getty Museum Directorship – Lawyer Maria Hummer-Tuttle and businessman Robert Tuttle are establishing a permanent endowment fund for the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The philanthropists have been among the most generous donors to Getty since its founding, and the museum’s directorship will be named after them. (Press release)


Pepper Spray Deployed in the Denver Museum’s Gift Shop – After a suspected shoplifter discharged pepper spray inside the gift shop at the Denver Art Museum last Thursday, the main floor of its Frederic C. Hamilton Building had to be evacuated, and the chaos meant that some of the hundreds of people waiting in line for its blockbuster Monet show had to be turned away. No one has been apprehended in connection with the incident. (CBS Local)

Red Hot Chili Peppers Drummer Gets an Art Show – Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith is the latest rocker to try his hand at fine art. He debuted an exhibition of his work at the Russell Collection Fine Art Gallery in Austin, Texas, which closed Saturday. The show, which included paintings based on photographs of Smith drumming in a dark room with glow sticks, is expected to head elsewhere on a North American tour. (Fox)

Kidnapped Photographer Sues a Qatari Bank – The American photojournalist Matt Schrier has accused a Qatari bank of funding the Islamist extremists who kidnapped and tortured him in Syria. He is seeking unspecified damages under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which allows a US citizen injured by international terrorism to sue in federal court. Schrier was held for 211 days, during which time he alleges the Qatar Islamic Bank allowed individuals and a charity to drain his account to transfer money to terrorist groups fighting in Syria. He escaped his captors after several months, one of the few Westerners to have done so. (Courthouse News)

Los Angeles’s Mayor Cuts Ribbon at Free MOCA – The Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and philanthropist Carolyn Clark Powers cut the ribbon at the newly free Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The museum now offers free attendance thanks to a generous $10 million gift by Clark Powers. (Instagram)

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