Art Industry News: Why the Moon Landing Photographs Are Actually Artistic Masterpieces + Other Stories

Plus, Beijing gallery Long March Space quits art fairs for good and Benin is building a museum to house its looted art.

A woman views the "Earthrise" photograph taken from Apollo 8 in an exhibition at the Museum of Communication in Bavaria. Photo by Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via 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 Wednesday, July 17.


Benin Builds a Museum for Returned Loot – Benin is using a loan from France to build a $22 million museum for looted treasures that it hopes will return home, starting with 26 artifacts from France. Due to open in 2021, it will be located near former royal palaces at Abomey in the south of the West African country. The project at the Unesco World Heritage Site has been accelerated following the French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to return Africa’s looted cultural heritage. Alain Godonou, an official at the Benin Heritage Agency, says the country wants to reclaim “its property rights” to the estimated 5,000 Beninese artifacts in French museums, although that does not mean it wants all of them to be restituted. (France 24)

More Art Surrendered in 1MDB Case – A drawing by Jean-Michel Basquiat is part of the latest haul of luxury goods handed over to authorities as part of the ongoing investigation into theft from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB. Wolf of Wall Street producer Joey McFarland agreed to surrender the drawing—as well as a vintage “King Kong” poster and several luxury watches—that he received as gifts from Jho Low, the alleged mastermind behind the scheme. McFarland co-founded a film production company with Riza Aziz, who was recently charged with money laundering in Malaysia as part of the case. (Bloomberg)

Jonathan Jones Says the Moonshots Are Masterworks – When Neil Armstrong photographed Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969, the astronauts created an artistic masterpiece, according to the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones. “One human photographing another in space is as perfect an image of the mystery of ourselves as you can get,” he writes. The portrait, which shows the lunar landscape reflected in Aldrin’s visor, “was the dreamlike climax of a love affair between NASA’s astronauts and photography.” Jones contends that photographs by astronauts—including Earthrise, which was taken by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders—have done what all the best art does: “altered human consciousness forever.” (Guardian)

Will Banksy’s Brexit Mural Become a Museum? – The dealer who bought Banksy’s Port Talbot mural wants to open a street art museum in Dover on the South Coast of England. John Brandler thinks that the building on which Banksy created a Brexit-themed mural in 2017 is the ideal spot for the museum he had proposed—but been unable to carry out—in the Welsh town. But Brandler still needs to convince the property’s owners, who are reportedly exploring whether to keep, remove, or sell the mural, which shows a workman chipping away a star on the European Union flag and has been valued at $1.2 million. The building is currently due to be demolished in order to make way for an expansion of Dover’s dockyard. (Kent Live)


Philippe de Montebello Teams Up With Peter Marino – The former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is joining forces with the flamboyant architect and designer Peter Marino to show Old Masters from New York’s Hispanic Society, where de Montebello serves as chairman, at the Winter Show. The art and antiques fair will be held at the Park Avenue Armory from January 24 to February 2. (ARTnews)

Cheim & Read Moves Uptown – The beloved gallery, which closed its Chelsea space last year to transition into private practice, has found a new home on the Upper East Side at 23 East 67th Street. Cheim & Read’s pared-down uptown outfit will specialize in presenting historical deep dives of work by many of the artists the gallery has collaborated with over the years. The new space is due to open in the fall with a show of  never-before-seen works by Ron Gorchov. (ARTnews)

Long March Space Quits Art Fairs – The Beijing gallery, which has been a regular at Art Basel and Frieze for years, has become the latest gallery to quit art fairs altogether in an effort to “innovate business models and enter a new stage of art market work.” The gallery, which makes its move at a time of turbulence for the mainland Chinese market, plans instead to focus on “research projects,” such as a recent seven-month solo exhibition of work by Wu Shanzhuan. (ARTnews

Pace/MacGill Moves to Pace’s New HQ – After nearly four decades on 57th Street, the photography gallery Pace/MacGill will move to parent gallery Pace’s new high-rise home in Chelsea, which officially opens in September. “We are finally under one roof,” said Pace’s president Marc Glimcher. (Art Daily)


Stedelijk’s Chief Curator Heads to Italy – Bart van der Heide, who was appointed chief curator of the Amsterdam museum under former director Beatrix Ruf, is heading to Italy to lead the Museion, a modern and contemporary art museum in Bolzano. He will take over from the current director, Letizia Ragaglia, on June 1, 2020. (ARTnews)

PAMM Will Create a Caribbean Cultural Institute –The Pérez Art Museum Miami is building a new research platform dedicated to the study of art created across the Caribbean and its diaspora. The project will get a boost from a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. PAMM’s director Franklin Sirmans says Miami is a “nexus point” for the study of the region due to its proximity. (Artforum)

Rothko Chapel Gets $2 Million – The Houston Endowment has awarded the Rothko Chapel $2 million to support its restoration and the expansion of its campus. The non-denominational space has been closed since March while construction is underway on the first phase of its ambitious master plan. (Artforum)

Kerry Bishop Swaps Frieze for ICA The chief operating officer of Frieze fairs since 2013, Kerry Bishop, is leaving her post to join London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. She will take up her new role as managing director of the ICA on September 4. (Artforum)


An Exclusive Look Inside Notre Dame – Some three months after a devastating fire ripped through Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, TIME has gotten an exclusive peek at the recovery efforts. The building is still being stabilized and assessed, but its roof frame is now a tangle of lead spaghetti, and the chief architect of the project, Philippe Villeneuve, warns that there is still a risk that the vaults may collapse. (TIME)

Dutch Court Declines to Rule on Crimean Treasures – An Amsterdam appeals court has refused to rule on the ownership of a trove of 300 historic artifacts, including a solid gold Scythian helmet from the 4th century BC, which were loaned to the city’s Allard Pierson Museum by four museums in Crimea before the region was annexed by Russia in 2014. The court said it needs a further six to nine months to get clarity on the competing claims from Ukraine and the museums before it can make a final judgment. The museum in Amsterdam will keep the treasures in storage in the meantime. (AFP)

Honolulu’s Art Museum Is Selling a Very Desirable Property – The trustees of the Honolulu Museum of Art are putting its historic Spalding House up for sale in order to focus its resources on its main campus. The 5,000-square-foot property in Makiki Heights is slated to close at the end of the year ahead of the sale. Don’t worry: Doris Duke’s Hawaiian dream home Shangri-La, which is also part of the museum, is definitely not for sale. (Star Advertiser)


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