Art Industry News: Jeffrey Epstein Has Close Ties to MoMA’s Board Chairman, Too + Other Stories

Plus, Cory Arcangel leaves Team Gallery for Greene Naftali and architect Philip Freelon has died at age 66.

Jeffrey Epstein in 2005. © Patrick McMullan. Photo: Neil Rasmus/PMc.

Art Industry News is normally 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, July 10.


British Museum Retains Ties to BP – As artists push for museums to sever ties with oil company British Petroleum, the British Museum is not wavering. Hartwig Fischer, the museum’s director, said that BP’s support has helped the museum “create unique learning opportunities” over the years. “This sort of support is vital to [the museum’s] mission,” he said at a press briefing this week. BP will not sponsor the museum’s upcoming show dedicated to the people of the Arctic (probably a good idea), but it will support the exhibition “Troy, Myth, and Reality,” which opens next fall. (The Art Newspaper)

Meet the Most Controversial Museum Director in America – What has Charles Venable—the director who rechristened the Indianapolis Museum of Art as Newfields and whose bold ideas will either destroy museums as we know them or save them from oblivion, depending on who you ask—been up to lately? Planning more of his love-them-or-hate-them populist gambits, including an autumn harvest festival timed to coincide with a Yayoi Kusama show (both involve pumpkins, you see). He combines these mass-audience initiatives with a strong fiscal conservatism: Instead of maintaining free admission, he raised the entrance fee to $18. A former Newfields employee called his approach a “shallow sham of an experience to get people in the door.” (ARTnews)

Close Ties Between MoMA’s Chairman and Jeffrey Epstein – Epstein, the billionaire hedge-funder and sex offender who was arrested this week on child trafficking charges, had close links to many of New York’s elite. One of them is mega-collector and Museum of Modern Art chairman Leon Black, who retained Epstein as the sole non-family director of his foundation until at least 2012, well after he had pleaded guilty to charges of soliciting prostitution in 2008 as part of a sweetheart deal with prosecutors. Epstein pleaded not guilty to additional trafficking charges this week. He did not appear to collect a salary for his role at Black’s foundation, which donated millions of dollars to MoMA during his tenure. (New York Post)

What Is the Role of Jewish Museums? – Peter Schäfer, the former director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin who stepped down amid accusations of “anti-Israel activity,” has brought a difficult conversation to the fore regarding the purpose of Jewish museums. “It’s hard in European Jewish museums, getting the balance right between who is the museum for and who it should represent,” said Abigail Morris, the director of the Jewish Museum in London. “In countries where the Jewish population has largely been murdered, it’s particularly acute.” Meanwhile, an international search continues for Schäfer’s replacement. (New York Times)


Cory Arcangel and Andy Robert Join Greene Naftali – The New York gallery has added artists Cory Arcangel and Andy Robert to its roster. Arcangel, who explores technology and consumerism in his multimedia work, will have his first exhibition at the gallery in spring 2021. He was previously one of the more prominent artists on Team Gallery’s roster. Andy Robert is a young painter based in Harlem(ARTnews)

Sotheby’s Will Sell a Trove of Vintage Maison Margiela – Around 220 pieces of clothing and accessories by the famed fashion house Maison Margiela will be sold in an online sale at Sotheby’s between September 19 and October 1. The trove, which will be exhibited IRL at Sotheby’s Paris location this fall to coincide with Paris Fashion Week, comes from an undisclosed private collection. (WWD)

David Zwirner Hires Gavin Brown Director – Thor Shannon, a longtime employee at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, where he got his start as an intern seven years ago, is leaving to become a director at David Zwirner. The mega-gallery has been making big strides lately: Zwirner has added 15 artists over the past 18 months. Meanwhile, Gavin Brown has recently lost artist Avery Singer—perhaps Zwirner’s new hire offers a signal of where she might be headed next? (ARTnews, artnet News)


Harvard Receives Gift of Otto Piene’s Sketchbooks – Elizabeth Goldring, the wife of the late artist who co-founded the ZERO Group, has donated 70 of Piene’s sketchbooks to the Harvard Art Museums. The museums will hire a fellow to study the sketchbooks, which date from 1935 to 2014, and they will be made available for visitors to examine in its Art Study Center and online. (Harvard Crimson)

Painter Eberhard Havekost Has Died – The German artist died of unknown causes on July 5 at age 51. Havekost was known for his disturbing paintings on photographs and digital images depicting human bodies and faces, as well as disorienting images of everyday objects. (ARTnews)

Architect Philip Freelon Dies at 66 – Philip Freelon, the socially minded architect who helped build the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture alongside J. Max Bond, Jr., and David Adjaye, has died at age 66. Freelon had battled ALS for years. (ARTnews)


Meet the Artist Behind the Google Doodle – Most people have never heard of Matthew Cruickshank, but billions view his art every day on the Google homepage: he is the brain behind its beloved “doodle” designs. The illustrations and interactive games, which aim to “educate and entertain,” can take between 10 days and three months to complete. (BBC)

Basketball Star Sues Artist for Using His Nickname on T-Shirts – NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo is suing the Philadelphia-based artist Jinder Bhogal for marketing a shirt emblazoned with his nickname, “Greek Freak,” a registered trademark. The Milwaukee Bucks player filed the lawsuit in Manhattan federal court on Monday, claiming the products sold under the moniker were done so “with the purpose of confusing and misleading consumers.” (New York Post)

An Open Letter to Peter Zumthor – LA Times art critic Christopher Knight has penned an open letter to the architect Peter Zumthor, who is behind the redesign of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to address statements he made in an interview with a Swiss newspaper about the controversial project. Among Knight’s sticking points? Zumthor says he wants to rethink the encyclopedic museum, which he calls “an asylum for homeless objects.” Knight counters that “LACMA’s encyclopedic collection is not an accident, and no architecture can compensate for lost context. And you have to get this building right.” (Los Angeles Times)

See Olafur Eliasson’s Survey at Tate Modern – The Danish-Icelandic artist, who is keen to fight climate change through his art, is showcasing 40 of his works in the exhibition “In Real Life,” on view at Tate Modern through January 5. See some of his mind-altering installations, including a waterfall, a misty rainbow, and a disorienting spiral tunnel, below.

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