Art Industry News: An Ancient Vase in the British Museum Is Actually a Deadly Weapon + Other Stories

Plus, two Midwest auction houses merge and an ancient stone from the Pyramid of Giza sparks a diplomatic dispute.

The Umma Mace-head, Early Dynastic period, c. 2400 BC. Photo credit: J.Fernandes © the Trustees of the British Museum

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 Wednesday, January 9.


Museum Guards Among Those Suffering During Shutdown – Museum staff, including janitors, security, and cafeteria workers, are among the low-wage contractors who have been deemed “non-essential government workers” and kept from their jobs by the government shutdown that has been ongoing since December 22. More than 800,000 federal employees are receiving their final paychecks until the government reopens, and it’s unlikely they will receive backpay for the missed wages when it does. “You find yourself not sleeping well at night,” one museum worker tells the Washington Post. “I’m constantly wondering when this nightmare will end.” (Washington Post)

Laura Raicovich on the Myth of the Neutral Museum – The former Queens Museum director argues that the dawn of 2019 presents a good opportunity for museums to do some soul-searching. Cultural institutions have never been neutral, she notes, and they must acknowledge the fact that the dominant idea of what “good art” looks like was shaped by collections “typically gifted by wealthy, usually white, usually male, philanthropists.” Now, activists and the general public are increasingly calling on museums to confront their own biases and exclusionary histories. “If some change may be achieved within the arts, it might provide a structure for confronting societal inequities on a larger scale,” Raicovich writes. (Walker Soundboard)

British Museum Discovers Ancient Vase Is Really a Weapon – Curators at the British Museum have realized that an ancient object they had assumed was a vase is actually a mace-head. In the course of their research for an exhibition about the first recorded border conflict, “No Man’s Land,” they compared the object to a similar one at Yale University, and realized they’d been displaying it upside down. It was a “daft” move, admits one co-curator of the show, Irving Finkel. It turns out the fired-clay mace was made for King Gishakidu of Umma. It is now displayed right side up in the show, which runs through January 27. (The Art Newspaper)

Ancient Stone From the Pyramid of Giza Sparks a Diplomatic Dispute – The National Museum of Scotland will show an ancient Egyptian artifact from the Giza pyramid for the first time since it arrived in Edinburgh in 1872 to inaugurate its new gallery, Ancient Egypt Rediscovered, which opens February 8. But now, Egyptian officials have reached out to the museum asking for proof that the institution is the rightful owner of the casing stone from the Great Pyramid of Giza. Some suspect the rare artifact was smuggled out of the North African nation. (Daily Mail)


Sean Kelly Names New Partners – Executive director Cecile Panzieri, who has worked at the New York gallery for 20 years, has been named senior partner, while Lauren Kelly, Janine Cirincione, and Thomas Kelly have become partners. In a statement, Kelly said that “it is notable that the partners are multigenerational, and that the gallery is very much a family business. Two of the newly appointed partners are my children, but all of them are my professional family.” (Press release)

Two Midwest Auction Houses Merge – A new entity, Hindman LLC, which is co-chaired by Chicago auctioneer Leslie Hindman, has acquired both Leslie Hindman Auctioneers and the Cincinnati-based Cowan’s Auctions. “We decided to partner because we both recognized that the new digital landscape and growing auction customer base provides the best opportunity to realize our vision of creating a national client-centric auction house,” says Wes Cowan, the vice chair of Hindman LLC’s board. (Press release)

New Art World Conference to Launch – Three hundred artists and creatives will come together at the new Art World Conference, organized by founders Dexter Wimberly and Heather Bhandari, to discuss management issues and financial literacy in the arts. The conference will be held at New York Law School in Tribeca between April 25 and 27. (Press release)

Do’s and Don’ts of Attending Art Openings – According to Artspace’s “how-to” guide to gallery openings, it’s okay to load up on the free booze at blue-chip previews, but it’s worth remembering that “you’re in a gallery, not a bar.” As for what to wear, being underdressed is a better bet than being overdressed, as people are more likely to think you’re “so cool that you don’t care.” (Artspace)


DC Museums Worth Visiting During the Shutdown – While many institutions, including 19 Smithsonian museums and the National Gallery of Art, remain closed as the government shutdown enters its 19th day, the Washington Post rounds up worthy local institutions that are open for visitors. They include the Baltimore Museum of Art (just a short ride away from Washington), which has shows by Mark Bradford and the four-member art collection DIS on view, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is presenting an exhibition dedicated to the fashion designers of Rodarte.  (Washington Post)

The Shed Gets an Opening Date – Mark your calendars! The highly anticipated new arts institution in New York’s Hudson Yards finally has an opening date. The Shed will launch on April 5 this year with a genre-bending program that includes a dozen shows, talks, and performances that span hip-hop, theater, visual art, and poetry. Among the newly announced projects is a joint exhibition of new work by artists Tony Cokes and Oscar Murillo. (Press release)

Record Attendance for the Uffizi Museum – The Italian museum reports that more than four million visitors came to its various sites in 2018, a 25 percent increase from the previous year. The Uffizi’s first non-Italian director, Eike Schmidt, introduced a fluctuating pricing system that was steeper in the high season as well as an active social media presence, both of which helped boost attendance. Schmidt, who has led the museum since 2015, is headed to Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna later this year. (Monopol)


Can You See These 500 Art Installations Before You Die? – Phaidon’s new Destination Art: 500 Artworks Worth the Trip brings together hundreds of outdoor art installations around the world—including many you have probably never heard of, and several located in extremely hard-to-reach places. The book’s off-the-wall world tour includes Yayoi Kusama’s collaboration with Coca-Cola in Nagano, Japan, and Louise Bourgeois’s laketop spider in rural France. (Colossal)

French State Rejects Suspect Caravaggio – After 30 months of study, the French Ministry of Culture has turned down the opportunity to purchase the recently discovered painting Judith Beheading Holofernes. It was found in an attic in 2014 outside of Toulouse, France. The unsigned work, which the majority of specialists deemed inauthentic, can now go up for sale and possibly travel abroad. (Le Figaro)

Kehinde Wiley on Diversifying the Museum – The artist who painted Barack Obama’s official portrait is on a mission to diversify museum collections. His signature paintings depict contemporary black figures in the style of Old Master aristocrats, disrupting the trope of the white male hero. For his current show “Saint Louis” at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Wiley has painted people from the local community in traditional poses, disrupting the alienation many of his subjects feel when entering the museum. “That great historic storytelling of myth-making or propaganda is something we inherit as artists and I wanted to be able to weaponize and translate it into a means of celebrating female presence,” Wiley says. (Guardian)

KAWS Goes Large in Taipei – KAWS will install a 118-foot-tall, inflatable version of his trademark figure Companion at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan. The sculpture, called KAWS:HOLIDAY, will be on view from January 19 through 27, just in time for the inaugural Taipei Dangdai art fair, which opens January 18. (Instagram, Malay News)

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.


Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In