Art Industry News: Opponents of the Frick’s Expansion Want the Museum to Buy Jeffrey Epstein’s Townhouse Instead + Other Stories

Plus, the number of UK students studying art history has plummeted over the past decade and the CEO of TEFAF quits.

The front of Jeffrey Epstein's residence at 9 East 71st Street in the borough of Manhattan, New York on July 18, 2019 in New York City. Photo by Scott Heins/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 21.


Erie Art Museum Searches for an Interim Director – After the dismissal of the Erie Art Museum’s director, Joshua Helmer, following allegations of sexual harassment, board member Diana Denniston has agreed to take on a more active role in the museum’s day-to-day operations while it looks for an interim executive director. In a statement, the board of directors says a committee has been formed to begin the search process. “This is not an issue that should be rushed,” they write, adding that it expects that the process of recruiting a new executive director will take much longer as they will seek advice from consultants, professionals, and the community. “The Erie Art Museum is more than just one man,” the statement says. (Facebook)

Fewer Students Are Studying Art History in the UK – The number of first-year students in the UK who choose to study art history has fallen 28.5 percent over the past decade, according to new figures released by the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency. Other humanities subjects, including classics and archaeology, also saw a decline, while business, agriculture, and medicine—which students believe offer better opportunity for employment—grew in popularity. (The Art Newspaper)

Critics Want the Frick to Buy Epstein’s Mansion – Preservationists have come up with a somewhat radical proposal that would allow the Frick Collection to expand without altering its beloved Upper East Side facility: buying the late Jeffrey Epstein’s $77 million mansion across the street. “The fact that it’s so convenient to the museum means that the Frick could potentially lay Jeffrey Epstein’s name to rest by purchasing it and changing the function,” said Theodore Grunewald, who has been fighting the Frick’s controversial $160 million revamp alongside advocacy groups Save the Frick and Stop Irresponsible Frick Development for years. There’s just one problem: the Frick isn’t having it. The Frick’s deputy director said the proposal is not a “functional solution.” (New York Daily News, Architect’s Newspaper)

Wreck of the Titanic Will Be Protected by New Treaty The US government has ratified a treaty that gives it and the UK government the power to control entry to the famous wreck and limit the removal of artifacts from the site. Although the Titanic lies in international waters, 350 nautical miles off the Canadian coast, the UK and US governments have each passed laws granting them the right to issue licenses to divers to enter the ship or remove items scattered on the sea bed. Both countries now want Canada to sign on to the agreement, too. (Press release)


San Francisco’s Fairs Highlight Its Wealth Inequality – The 2020 editions of the FOG Design+Art and Untitled fairs highlighted the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, according to Leora Lutz. While major international galleries, including Gagosian and David Zwirner, took part in FOG, some smaller and medium-sized spaces based in the city opted out, choosing to spent their modest budgets on events like talks or gallery-share initiatives that aim to nurture young collectors. (TAN)

Valuable Rediscovered Painting Leaves the UK – An 18th-century work by the artist Joseph Wright of Derby is headed to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles after UK museums failed to raise the requisite funds to keep it in the country. The government had placed an export bar on Two Boys with a Bladder, which is valued at £3.5 million ($4.6 million), after the American museum bought it at TEFAF Maastricht last year. (TAN)

TEFAF Boss Departs – Patrick van Maris, the president and CEO of the European Fine Art Fair, is leaving his post after five years. During his tenure, he oversaw TEFAF’s expansion to New York with two fairs held annually at the Park Avenue Armory. He will remain in his role until May 2020. (TAN)


BBC Head Will Chair the National Gallery – The director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, is leaving his broadcast job to take over as chair of London’s National Gallery. Hall succeeds the interim chair Sir John Kingman, who has been holding down the fort since Hannah Rothschild stepped back in September. (Variety)

Bode Museum Thieves Face Up to Seven Years in Prison – A German public prosecutor is pushing for a seven-year prison sentence for two of the men accused of stealing a multimillion-dollar gold coin from Berlin’s Bode Museum in 2017, with six- and five-year sentences recommended for the other two accused. The defense lawyers for the group, who range in age from 21 to 25, are due to speak on January 27, with a verdict handed down on February 20. (Monopol)

Vancouver Art Gallery Receives a Major Gift – The art collectors Claudia Beck and Andrew Gruft have donated 36 works to the Vancouver Art Gallery, including significant photographs by 19th-century photographers Hilla Becher and Alfred Stieglitz. To date, the couple has gifted 552 works to the institution. (Artforum)


Israeli Museum Cancels Talk by Palestinian Artist – The University of Haifa in Israel has condemned the decision made by a museum on campus to cancel an artist talk because the artist identifies as Palestinian. The Hecht Museum axed the appearance by Saher Miari on the grounds that it would not conform with the politics of the foundation that runs the art institution. Denouncing the move, the university held the talk at another venue on campus. (Haaretz)

See Tadao Ando’s Newest Museum in China – The Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando’s firm has released new images of the design for southern China’s He Art Museum, which is slated to open on March 21. The inaugural exhibition, called “From The Mundane World,” is a group show organized by leading Chinese independent curator Feng Boyi. (ArchDaily)

Honolulu Biennial Becomes a Triennial – The Honolulu Biennial Foundation has announced that the exhibition will move toward a triennial format and will now open in February 2022. Ahead of its first edition as a triennial, the foundation will present a preview symposium in February 2021. The next edition will be curated by Melissa Chiu, the director of the Hirshhorn Museum.  (Press release)

See Judy Chicago’s Feminist Banners for Dior – The feminist artist Judy Chicago designed the set for the Dior Couture’s Spring-Summer 2020 show at the Musée Rodin during Paris Fashion Week. Her set includes large banners embroidered with questions about the role and power of women, beginning with “What If Women Ruled the World? (Instagram)

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