Art Industry News: Russia’s New Culture Minister ‘Can’t Stand’ Art Exhibitions and Thinks Museums Are a Waste of Time + Other Stories

Plus, two Iranian art shows are postponed indefinitely and Washington, DC, is getting a museum of diplomacy.

Russia's new culture minister Olga Lyubimova during a press conference on the 2019 Cinema Night events in Moscow. (Photo by Anton NovoderezhkinTASS 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 Friday, January 24.


Whistleblower Appears in Court in Subodh Gupta Defamation Case – The Instagram account @herdsceneand, which was dedicated to anonymously revealing accounts of sexual harassment in the Indian art world, has landed in court. The artist Subodh Gupta sued the anonymous creators of the account for defamation in relation to harassment allegations made against him on Instagram. (The artist denies the harassment claims.) In court, the account’s legal representative said @herdsceneand’s actions were needed “in the absence of [an] internal committee to deal with such instances [of sexual harassment].” The court—which previously ruled that posts related to Gupta’s content must be taken offline—will determine at a later date if the creators of the account can remain anonymous. (The Art Newspaper)

New Legislation Seeks to Get Washington to Diversify Its Monuments – There is a new bill being floated to members of the Washington, DC, city council that would address controversial statues, street names, and schools that commemorate histories tied to sexism and racism. A second bill proposes the construction of eight new statues of women and people of color who contributed to the city and the nation. Regardless of the outcome of these measures, which reflect similar endeavors that have already been executed in New York City, challenges remain. For one, the city expects to spend around $250,000 each year on monuments, which may not be sufficient to erect even a single sculpture. New York City has spent an average of $1 million per new statue. (ARTnews)

Does Russia’s New Culture Minister Hate Art? – Russia’s cabinet under new prime minister Mikhail Mishustin includes a freshly appointed culture minister—but she may not be a fan of the arts. Olga Lyubimova, who comes from a family of theater professionals, reportedly once wrote, “I’m not bloody cultured at all,” adding that she “can’t stand” going to exhibitions, museums, or the opera. She hasn’t been to the Louvre, and she feels she “wasted [her] time” at the British Museum. On the other hand, Lyubimova does seem to be a cinephile, though she does not “understand a bloody thing” about arthouse films. (The BBC was not able to directly verify the quotes, which appeared on a blog that is believed to have been authored by Lyubimova.) A famous film critic in Russia seems to have a rosier view of the new minister, posing on Facebook: “I’m sincerely happy that Russia has as culture minister a young, intelligent, educated, pragmatic woman devoid of fanaticism or cynicism.” (BBC)

Two German Exhibitions on Iran Indefinitely Postponed – Amid tensions between the Middle Eastern country and the West, two shows planned for later this year in Germany that prominently feature Iranian objects have been postponed. “Death in Salt: An Archaeological Investigation in Persia” was due to take place this spring. “The Persians” was set to open at the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe on October 10 and to include 200 loans from Iranian museums. In both cases, organizers said it was impossible to insure the loans due to the ongoing political situation. (TAN)


Kusama’s Disputed Infinity Room Must Stay in Florida, Court Says – A court has ordered an injunction on Yayoi Kusama’s infinity room All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins, obliging it to be kept in Miami-Dade County, where it had been on view at ICA Miami, until an ownership dispute is settled. A German art firm, Fine Art Partners, alleges that it had agreed to buy the work from the runaway art dealer Inigo Philbrick, but that the artful dodger double-crossed them and sold the work to a Saudi Arabian entity called MVCA without their knowledge. (ARTnews)

Hollis Taggart Adds Two Artists to Its Roster – The New York gallery now represents Dana James and John Knuth, two artists known for their abstract works. Each has solo shows in the works that will be announced later this year. (Press release)

Inside the Growing Resale Market for Designer Kicks – Sneakers are becoming the new hot category for major auction houses hoping to cash in on a fertile new group of collectors: sneakerheads. Buoyed by limited-edition drops and swanky collaborations with the likes of Rick Owens and Tom Sachs, the global sneaker resale market has been valued at as much as $7 billion per year. Auction houses are now recruiting experts and sneaker authenticators to draw in this tribe of young, educated collectors, who are willing to shell out thousands for the right pair of kicks. (ARTnews)


Looted Bull Sculpture Returns to Kabul – A limestone sculpture of two bulls that was looted during Afghanistan’s civil war during the 1990s recently showed up on a British auctioneer’s website and was flagged by the Art Loss Register. The artifact, which dates from 2 AD, will now be permanently returned to the Kabul Museum after a three-month stint at the British Museum. (Smithsonian)

DC Is Getting a Diplomacy Museum – The first museum in the US dedicated to diplomacy is coming to Washington, DC, with the aim of making the international field more accessible to the public. The planned National Museum of American Diplomacy, which is set to open in 2022, is a public–private partnership between the State Department and the nonprofit Diplomacy Center Foundation. (Washington City Paper)


Ancient Utah Rock Art Is at Risk – After it was denied federal government protection through inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, the ancient rock art of Moab, Utah, is at risk of eroding away forever. Some of the work, which was carved and painted by Native American tribes 8,000 years ago, has been vandalized and damaged in recent years. (Hyperallergic)

Mexican Artist and Activist Killed Near US Border – The 26-year-old artist and feminist activist Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre was assassinated in Juárez, a Mexican city on the US border that has seen a dramatic increase in murders and disappearances of women since it became a capital for cheap manufacturing in 1994 under NAFTA. De la Torre went missing on Friday night and was found the next day with bullet wounds in her chest. Fellow women’s rights activists are calling for justice, as well as an end to the murder of women in the city. (Democracy Now)

Right-Wing Artist Jon McNaughton Paints Sean Hannity as Paul Revere – The artist that Twitter loves to hateJon McNaughton, has released a new painting depicting Fox News host Sean Hannity riding away from the flaming US Capitol on horseback. The artist explained that he believes Hannity is “the modern-day Paul Revere.” As usual, the mawkish portrait swiftly provoked derision online, with some commenting that it looks like Hannity himself set the Capitol building on fire, and others pointing out the anachronism of the building’s presence, as it was not erected in the 18th century when the American Revolutionary lived. (Newsweek)


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