Art Industry News: The Restoration of Notre Dame Enters a Hair-Raisingly Perilous Stage + Other Stories

Plus, Jeff Koons loses a plagiarism lawsuit (again) and the Marciano Foundation is slapped with a lawsuit following mass layoffs.

A photograph taken on December 26, 2019, shows a giant crane outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was partially destroyed when fire broke out beneath the roof. Photo by Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via 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 Thursday, January 2.


Marciano Worker Files Suit Over Layoffs – Former employees of the now-shuttered Marciano Art Foundation are suing the private museum in Los Angeles. Lawyers accuse the foundation of breaking a state law that requires notice before mass layoffs. Guess clothing tycoons Paul and Maurice Marciano abruptly closed their museum amid a labor dispute in November, laying off around 70 members of staff. The brothers claimed their decision was due to “low attendance.” Former staffers are now seeking damages of at least 60 days’ back pay, plus the value of lost benefits. (New York Times)

Yinka Shonibare Will Launch Artists’ Residencies in Lagos – The British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare has long wanted to offer artist residencies in Lagos, as he has for years in London. Now, his Guest Artist Spaces Foundation plans to open a space in his home country that will include a gallery, a studio, and accommodations for emerging and established African artists. Fellow artists El Anatsui, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Olafur Eliasson, and Antony Gormley have been enlisted as trustees and advisers to the foundation. Phillips is due to hold a fundraising auction for the initiative in London in May. (Artforum)

Notre Dame Is Still in Danger – The restoration of the Paris cathedral has reached a critical stage, in which steel beams need to be installed to stabilize the structure and a tower of scaffolding fused in the fire in April has to be removed. The scaffolding, which was erected before the blaze, must be treated for lead contamination before specialists—suspended aloft by ropes—can cut it away. Once this perilous step is complete, they will construct a temporary roof, called the “grand parapluie” (or large umbrella), over the nave. No final decision has yet been made about the design of the cathedral’s lost spire. (The Art Newspaper)

French Court Upholds Decision Against Jeff Koons – An appeals court in France has upheld a ruling against the American artist and the Centre Pompidou for copying the photograph by the late French artist Jean-François Bauret to create his 1988 porcelain sculpture, NakedThe court concluded that the original 2017 plagiarism ruling was correct, and that the artist and the museum must pay $22,000 to the artist’s family. This isn’t the first time the series has gotten Koons in hot water. (Observer)


France Blocks Export of Old Master Discovered in a Kitchen – French museums have 30 months to try to buy Cimabue’s Christ Mocked (around 1290). The French government has placed a temporary export bar on the medieval painting, which was discovered hanging in a kitchen and then sold at auction for $26.8 million in October. (ARTnews)

Crystal Bridges Acquires Work by Women – Crystal Bridges has announced a number of acquisitions of work by female artists ahead of the planned opening of its contemporary art space, Momentary, in February. New additions to the collection include Amy Sherald’s monumental painting Precious jewels by the sea (2019), which was part of her debut exhibition at Hauser & Wirth last year, plus pieces by Marie Watt, Lorraine O’Grady, and Dyani White Hawk. (Artfix Daily)


Head of the Musée du Quai Branly Steps Down – After 21 years at the helm, Stéphane Martin is departing this month as the president of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac. The director of Paris’s ethnography museum was one of the few museum directors who pushed back publicly against President Macron’s pledge to return looted art to Africa. (Le Monde)

Skywriting Artist Steve Poleskie Has Died – The self-taught artist and (presumably not self-taught) pilot, who turned skywriting into performance art, has died at the age of 81. In his aerial theater performances, he flew an aerobatic biplane, trailing smoke, through a series of flips and turns to create a design in the sky. He once said that he used his plane as a pencil. (Artforum)

Video Artist Woody Vasulka Has Died – The pioneering video artist, who turned surplus military hardware into forward-thinking new media installations, has died at age 82. Vasulka was also the co-founder of New York’s avant-garde art space the Kitchen. (New York Times)


Trove of Gold Coins Is Discovered in Israel – Israeli archaeologists have discovered a hoard of 9th-century gold coins in a clay pot—or, as we’d like to think of it, an ancient piggy bank—in the city of Yavneh in Israel. Most of the coins date from the period of the early Abbasid Caliphate, which was based in Baghdad. (Daily Mail)

Arts Council Says Artists Should Get Money Earlier in Their Careers – The head of England’s arts funding body, Nicholas Serota, says the organization is retooling its strategy to offer more grants of up to $20,000 for artists, writers, and composers early in their careers. It doesn’t need to be a lot of money to make a difference, Serota says: “Maybe £10,000 to £15,000 to get help and on their way…it makes a difference at the right moment.” (Guardian)

Ivanka and Jared Snap a Mona Lisa Photo – America’s “First Daughter” Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner posed with the Mona Lisa in a conspicuously uncrowded Musée du Louvre over the holidays. (For the record, her hat also looks quite similar to one that America’s unofficial first lady, Beyoncé, wore to take the same photo in 2014.) The presidential advisor—who has had a rocky relationship with the art world—also marked the end of the decade posing in front of the giant clock at the Musée d’Orsay. (Daily Mail)


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