Art Industry News: In a Reversal, Governor Cuomo Indefinitely Delays New York’s Museum Reopenings + Other Stories

Plus, the fall edition of TEFAF New York is cancelled and a blaze rips through a Nantes cathedral in a suspected arson attack.

A sign outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 13, 2020. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images.
A sign outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art on March 13, 2020. Photo by Cindy Ord/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 Monday, July 20.


Arson Suspected After Fire Breaks Out at French Cathedral – More than 100 firefighters were deployed early Saturday morning to fight a huge blaze at Nantes’s St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral. The fire left its 17th-century organ likely destroyed. The volunteer who was responsible for closing down the church on Friday evening is now in police custody for suspected arson. (Euronews)

Battle Rages Over Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden – The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, is moving forward with a plan to refurbish its grounds with a new design by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. But advocates for the preservation of modernist landscapes say the project would undo key features of the original postwar design by the late landscape architect Lester Collins and architect Gordon Bunshaft. Critics are especially concerned that the plan would decrease green space and replace the garden’s current reflecting pool with one that is more than double the size, with a stage at its center. (NYT)

New York Museum Reopenings Pushed Back – Although New York museums were due to be permitted to reopen today as part of Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that they would have to wait just a bit longer. Indoor cultural attractions, malls, and indoor dining have all been excluded from Phase 4 as the government looks to limit the potential for a second wave of the virus. Zoos and botanical gardens will be allowed to reopen at 33 percent capacity. (New York Times)

The Latest Museum Open Letter Targets the Getty – More than 150 current staff members of the Getty Museum, the Getty Trust, and the Getty Research Institute, in addition to around 100 former employees and some visitors, have signed a letter alleging that the California institution has displayed a pattern of racial bias and insensitivity. According to the letter’s authors, the Getty’s recently formed diversity, equity, and inclusion council and task forces have been constrained by budget cuts and overworked staff. They call the Getty’s response to the murder of George Floyd “half-hearted” and ask for “actionable, measurable goals to increase diversity” at the museum. (Hyperallergic)


TEFAF New York Cancelled – The latest art fair to be called off due to the public health situation is TEFAF New York, which had originally been rescheduled from May to the end of October. Organizers said that while they had been working hard to organize a “socially distanced fair,” they ultimately determined it would not be possible. In lieu of the in-person event, TEFAF is planning a digital component that will be unveiled closer to the fall. (ARTnews)

MCH Warns Investors to Accept Murdoch Deal – Art Basel’s parent company told investors that if they rejected a rescue package that includes a sizable investment from James Murdoch, the organization might not survive. “If this overall package were to fail, extremely little time would be left for developing and implementing alternative restructuring solutions before it was too late,” according to a statement from the board of directors on the company’s website. Murdoch is set to acquire a stake of between 30 and 44 percent of the events company. (Bloomberg)

Fair Warning’s Next Lot Is an $8 Million Basquiat – Loïc Gouzer’s breakout auction app Fair Warning is planning its next sale at a higher price point than previous offerings. On July 30, he will sell an untitled 1982 work on paper by Jean-Michel Basquiat estimated to fetch between $8 million and $12 million. Although Gouzer initially said he would avoid guarantees, he said some sellers demand them; this one is guaranteed near the low estimate. (NYT)

Phillips’s New Now Sale Shows Steady Demand for Young Stars – Last Wednesday’s 196-lot auction totaled $4.6 million. Amoako Boafo’s untitled portrait from 2019 sold for £187,500 ($236,363), ten times its £20,000 low estimate. The top lot was Eddie Martinez’s You Come Up Short (2016), which sold for £471,000 ($593,743), more than double its low estimate. (Art Market Monitor)


5Pointz Landlord Jerry Wolkoff Dies – The prominent New York real estate developer became known in the art world as the owner of the 5Pointz building, the street art mecca in Long Island City. He landed in court after he painted over the site and was hit with $6.75 million fine. He died at age 83 after a brief neurological illness. (The Real Deal)

Brigid Berlin, Stalwart of Warhol’s Scene, Dies – The socialite who rejected her privileged upbringing as the daughter of a publishing magnate to become a member of Andy Warhol’s inner circle died at 80 from cardiac arrest after years of health problems. A prominent figure in the New York art world in the ‘60s and ‘70s, she acted in Warhol films, recorded the Velvet Underground, and befriended artists who considered her one of them, although she rejected the label for herself. (New York Times)

Lawsuit Moves to Oust Top Brazilian Arts Official – Luciano Querido, a former aide to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s son Carlos, has been appointed as president of the the country’s National Arts Foundation, despite having few qualifications, according to critics. The federal public ministry filed a lawsuit earlier this month aiming to remove him from the post. (The Art Newspaper)


Virginia Judge Recuses Himself From Confederate Statue Case – Virginia judge Bradley Cavedo has recused himself from two lawsuits over the removal of Confederate monuments in Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy. The judge, who previously ruled against the sculptures’ removal, said the fact that he lived near the statues could create the appearance of bias. The judge also came under scrutiny after an op-ed he wrote for his college newspaper opposing integration resurfaced. (Courthouse News)

National Gallery Director Responds to Staff Petition – Kaywin Feldman, the director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, says that she agrees with some of the concerns cited in a petition directed at the museum and that the institution must address the racial disparity among its staff. But, she says, she does not subscribe to the petition’s assertion that white supremacy is at the core of the institution’s mission. (Washington Post)

Massive Relocation of Sydney Museum Called Off – Australia’s New South Wales government has cancelled the controversial relocation of Sydney’s 140-year-old Powerhouse Museum. The A$1.1 billion ($770 million) plan involved demolishing the museum’s current 1988 building and creating a new venue in a planned waterside cultural hub in a western suburb. Campaigners hail the decision but say the battle is still ongoing to boost arts funding and to ensure the community has a say in the remainder of the project. (TAN)

LA Artist Donates 1,800 Artworks to a Brooklyn Hospital – A truckload of paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Michael Gittes recently arrived at Brooklyn’s Interfaith Medical Center—one for each worker, each depicting a flower. The works in the series “Strangers to No One” were made with paint-filled syringes, drawing a connection between the medical world and the creative world. (CNN)

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