Art Industry News: Anti-BP Activists Expose Oily Emails Between British Museum and Russia + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, sexual misconduct investigations hit UK museums and the famed furniture artist Wendell Castle has died.

The banner unfurled by the activist group BP or Not BP? at the British Museum. Photo courtesy of @bpnotbp via Instagram.

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 22.


Sexual Misconduct Cases Revealed in UK Museums – Freedom of Information requests have revealed that national museums in England have investigated several employees for alleged sexual misconduct. Since 2012, six members of the staff have been dismissed or left London’s National Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Science Museum, and the Natural History Museum. The Tate and the British Museum report no cases. (The Observer)

More Iraqi Artifacts Seized from Hobby Lobby – The US craft store Hobby Lobby has handed over a further 245 cylinder seals on top of the more than 5,500 artifacts seized last July that are believed to have been smuggled out of Iraq. The company’s president, Steve Green, is the chairman of the recently opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, where the objects are believed to have been destined. (Hyperallergic)

Activists Expose Emails Between British Museum and Russia – A collective protesting BP’s sponsorship of the arts has released emails about meetings between the British Museum’s director and chairman and Russian officials, alleging that the UK oil company uses the museum as an intermediary “to cozy up to repressive regimes in countries where it wants to drill.” At the BP-sponsored exhibition of Scythian gold, the group—called BP or Not BP?—unveiled a banner in the museum that showed the email correspondence and listed oil spills by Rosneft, the state-controlled Russian energy giant in which BP has a stake. (Hyperallergic)

Vandals Destroy Athens Angel – A controversial sculpture by the Greek artist Kostis Georgiou has been torn down in an Athens suburb. Some suspect the vandals were right-wing protesters, who had denounced Phylax, which resembles a red angel, as looking satanic. The damaged work was recovered and will be reinstalled, the mayor promises. Unveiled in December, it also upset religious conservatives and a priest exorcised the work. (Reuters)


Charles I’s Titian Painting Goes Up for Sale – A Titian painting of Saint Margaret escaping from the mouth of a dragon, which Oliver Cromwell’s government gave to Charles I’s plumber as partial payment for palace repairs, is coming up for sale at Sotheby’s New York on February 1. The painting, once valued at £100 (higher than the Salvator Mundi, which was also in Charles I’s collection), carries an estimate of $2-3 million. (The Guardian)

Christie’s to Sell the JF Chen Collection – Christie’s will auction more than 300 lots from the collection at Rockefeller Center on February 13 and online from February 7-14, with the online lots concurrently on view at Christie’s New York. The important collection of Asian art, decorative objects, and contemporary design speaks to the renowned California antiques dealer Joel Chen’s discerning eye. (Press release)

TEFAF New York Grows for May Edition – The exhibitor list for the spring 2018 edition of the fair in New York, which focuses on Modern and contemporary art and design, includes 91 dealers, out of which 24 are newcomers to the lineup. (Press release)​


Wendell Castle has Died – The Rochester Institute of Technology has confirmed that the legendary furniture artist, a founder of the American Crafts and Art Furniture movements, died on Saturday at age 85. (WXXI News)

Fitz & Co Expands to London – The art world public relations agency is expanding its operations in Europe and will open an office in London. It will be run by the company’s executive vice president, Rebecca Taylor, who has relocated from New York to the English capital for the post. (Press release)

New Director for Tacoma Art Museum – The Washington museum, which focuses on artists from the northwest and broader western region, has named David Setford as its new executive director. He comes to the museum from the Spanish Colonial Arts Society and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Press release)


Former Actress Leelee Sobieski Debuts Paintings – The retired ’90s star, best known for her role in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, opened her debut solo painting exhibition at Brooklyn’s Journal gallery this past Thursday. Guests included industry heavyweights such as Klaus Biesenbach and Jeffrey Deitch, husband Adam Kimmel, and collectors Adam Lindemann and Leon Black, who bought a work. (PageSix)

Rachel Whiteread Addresses Deforestation – As part of the arts programming that began in 2014 to mark the centenary of World War I, Rachel Whiteread’s commissioned work is dedicated to an organization that addressed the deforestation caused by the Great War. It will take the form of a prefab army structure from that time, the Nissen hut, and will be presented this fall on the site of a former PoW camp in Yorkshire. (Press release)

El Anatsui and Others Join MAD Collection – The Museum of Arts and Design has added some 39 artworks to its 3,000-strong collection, including those by El Anatsui, Ebony G. Patterson, and Cauleen Smith, among others, highlighting the institution’s commitment to diversity. (Press release)

Paris Fêtes Viennese Masterpieces – A new space for immersive audiovisual exhibitions opens in a former foundry in Paris’s 11th arrondissement with an inaugural celebration of masterpieces of Vienna Modernism. Paintings will be projected unto the industrial steel-and-concrete interior, run by the private company Culturspaces. (Designboom)

L’Atelier des Lumières. Image courtesy of culturespaces.

L’Atelier des Lumières. Image courtesy of culturespaces.

L’Atelier des Lumières. Image courtesy of culturespaces.

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