Art Industry News: The Feds Are Investigating Jeffrey Epstein’s Hair-Raising Art Collection + Other Stories

Plus, the Baltimore Art Museum rehangs its collection to focus on black artists and the Biennale Paris's vetting committee chiefs resign.

US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images.

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 Tuesday, July 16.


New York’s Natural History Museum Wants to Hear From You – A special committee set up by New York City to consider controversial monuments was divided over the fate of the statue of Theodore Roosevelt in front of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Now, the museum is opening up the question to the public with a new exhibition about the work. Many see James Earle Fraser’s monument—in which Roosevelt towers over a Native American and African man on either side—as a celebration of the US President’s racist views. Museum curator David Hurst Thomas admits that he never liked the statue, and says it hampers his work with Native American communities—but he does not think it should be removed. “I think it’s a statement in time about where the museum was,” he said. (New York Times)

Do the New US Visa Rules Stifle Free Speech? – Ai Weiwei is among the artists speaking out against new State Department visa policies introduced on May 31 that require almost all applicants to submit their social media profiles, email addresses, and phone numbers from the past five years. “We are concerned that artists who use social media to build audiences will be punished for their creativity and rejected entry to the US for the very thing that makes them so important to our society,” says a spokeswoman from the New York-based National Coalition Against Censorship. Artist Vik Muniz says he has already heard from artists who are editing their social media history to avoid problems applying for a visa. (The Art Newspaper)

Feds Investigate Jeffrey Epstein’s Art Collection – US prosecutors are fighting to keep the disgraced billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein behind bars while his lawyers argued in court that he should be able to stay at his Upper East Side mansion ahead of his trial for sex trafficking. Assistant US Attorney Alex Rossmiller cited the “art and diamonds” found in Epstein’s $77 million home, along with an expired passport listing his country of residence as Saudi Arabia, as reasons he should be denied bail. “Certainly, the first question for a defendant of this tremendous means is how much money does he have?” Rossmiller asked in court. “How much is in diamonds or art?” (Epstein, incidentally, is known to have a certain creepy taste in art, for instance decorating his home with a custom mural of himself standing in the middle of a prison tableau.) Two new accusers have also stepped forward alleging Epstein sexually abused them when they were underage, adding to a growing list of women that includes the artist Maria Farmer. (Courthouse News)

Are These the 25 Most Important Works of Contemporary Art? – T Magazine brought together three artists (Martha Rosler, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Torey Thornton) and two curators (David Breslin and Kelly Taxter) to complete an impossible task: pick the 25 most influential works of art made since 1970. Unsurprisingly, there was much agonizing and a lot of debate, but out of the conversation emerged a strong list that is overwhelmingly American but more gender balanced and diverse than the traditional museum canon. The lineup includes work by Jenny Holzer, David Hammons, Kara Walker, Nan Goldin, and Cady Noland, among others. Surprisingly, there is no Land Art and few market darlings. Jeff Koons’s Ilona on Top (Rosa Background) (1990) makes the cut—but the artist did not give the Times permission to use an image of the work. (You can see it here though.) (T Magazine)


Biennale Paris Vetting Committee Chiefs Resign – Two chairmen of the vetting committee of the Paris art fair, Frédéric Castaing and Michel Maket, have resigned from their roles over the inclusion of exhibitors targeted by criminal investigations. The dealers concerned face allegations of antiquities trafficking, money laundering, and selling fake design objects. The Biennale Paris is due to open in September. (The Art Newspaper)

Painter Hilary Harkness Joins P.P.O.W. – The painter of surreal scenes has joined P.P.O.W. from Mary Boone, which closed following its founder’s conviction on tax evasion charges. The gallery will show Harkness’s work at Art Basel Miami Beach in December and mount a solo show of her work in 2021. (ARTnews)

Is the Knoedler Fakes Legal Saga Nearly Over? – The Liechtenstein-based Martin Hilti Family Trust, which purchased a fake “Rothko” from the defunct Knoedler Gallery for $5.4 million, could be close to settling out of court. It is the last active case in the sprawling Ab Ex fakes scandal that first ignited in 2011. (TAN)

Paris Photo Adds Hauser & Wirth – The mega-gallery will make its Paris Photo debut in November with a solo booth dedicated to August Sander. Hauser & Wirth is one of 35 new exhibitors. (Press release)


Museum Founder Frieder Burda Has Died – The German art collector and museum founder died on Sunday at his home in Baden-Baden at age 83. Much of his collection, which focused on postwar German and American painting, is held in the Richard Meier-designed museum he founded in Baden-Baden. “His faith in the conciliatory power of art has been unbroken, and his fascination with the rousing power of color has been unbroken,” reads an obituary on the museum’s website. (Monopol)

ICA at VCU Plans Layoffs – Six out of 27 full-time positions at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU are being eliminated as a result of a reorganization. “The ICA is not being downsized,” the museum’s director Dominic Willsdon said. “We’re carrying out a staff [reorganization], as organizations do from time to time.” He said seven new full-time positions would be created in the months ahead. (Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Albright-Knox Will Close for Two Years – The Albright-Knox Art Gallery has secured planning permission for its proposed 30,000-square-foot expansion. Beginning on November 4, the museum will close for two and a half years while construction is underway, before the revamped museum reopens as the Buffalo Albright-Knox-Gundlach Art Museum in mid-2022. (Buffalo News)

London Nixes Norman Foster’s “Tulip” Skyscraper – The mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, has put the kibosh on the Norman Foster-designed, 1,000-foot-high “Tulip” skyscraper, citing “limited public benefit” and “insufficient quality” for the location near the Thames. The building’s opponents fear that the structure would ruin London’s recognizable skyline. (Guardian)


Baltimore Unveils Rehang Centered on Work by Black Artists – The Baltimore Museum of Art has unveiled a reinstallation of its contemporary collection galleries that focuses on the work of 20th and 21st century black artists. “Every Day: Selections from the Collection” includes work by David Hammons, Kara Walker, and Mickalene Thomas, among others, and will be on view through January 5. (Press release)

The Prado Announces Modern Art Gifted by a German Donor – German businessman Hans Rudolf Gerstenmaier has donated 11 works of late 19th century and early 20th century art to the Prado Museum in Spain. Eduardo Chicarro’s Bayaderas Indias and Joaquín Sorolla’s portrait of Ella J. Seligman are among the new acquisitions. (EFE)

Philip Glass Once Drove Salvador Dalí Around – The 82-year-old composer Philip Glass revealed that he once had Salvador Dalí in the back of his cab when he worked a day job as a driver. Glass drove the famous Surrealist on a short trip back to his hotel. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve gotta say something,'” Glass said in a conversation at the Manchester International Festival. “I never could think of anything to say to him.” (BBC)

The Nasher Gets a New Lawn (Again) – A new lawn is something to celebrate at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. Unfortunately, it needs to be regularly relaid because of the scorching it gets from sunlight bouncing off a badly designed skyscraper next door. The ironically named Museum Tower has been a thorn in the Nasher’s side since 2012, and there seems to be no feasible solution in sight. The unwelcome solar glare means a whole lot of sod. (Instagram)

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