Art Industry News: Pace Becomes the Latest Gallery to Lay Off Staff as It Enters an ‘Extended Period of Financial Uncertainty’ + Other Stories

Plus, Ken Griffin loans his $100 million Basquiat to the Art Institute of Chicago and a conservative women's group sues over a Black Lives Matter mural.

Pace Gallery's flagship location at 540 West 25th Street, New York. Photo: Thomas Loof. Courtesy of Pace Gallery.

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 27.


Conservative Group Sues Over New York’s BLM Mural – A conservative group, Women for America First, is suing New York mayor Bill de Blasio over the giant Black Lives Matter mural he helped paint in front of Trump Tower. After it was unveiled, the group claims they asked to paint their own mural, which would read “Engaging, Inspiring, and Empowering Women to Make a Difference!” in a similar size and location. By denying them, they say, the mayor is violating their First Amendment right and pandering to the Black Lives Matter movement to serve his own “political ambitions.” (Courthouse News)

Tenement Museum Lays Off 76 Employees – The Tenement Museum in New York’s Lower East Side laid off all 71 part-time members of its education staff last week—approximately 92 percent of the department. Hourly employees from the retail, marketing, and visitor services divisions were also let go. (Last spring, employees in these departments voted to unionize and were in the midst of negotiating their first contract.) Although the museum’s president, Morris Vogel, took a 99 percent pay cut when the shutdown began, the museum anticipates a 50 percent budget reduction in 2021. (Artforum)

Pace Is the Latest Gallery to Lay Off Staff – Pace Gallery laid off a portion of its furloughed employees on Thursday, citing “the economic situation caused by the global pandemic.” Around 20 staff members were let go, including senior director Simon Preston, the New York dealer who joined Pace last year after shuttering his own gallery. “This decision was taken after every other measure to ensure we are prepared for an extended period of financial uncertainty and to protect as many jobs as possible in the long-term,” a spokesperson said. Pace is one of a number of top dealers making cuts: earlier this month, David Zwirner Gallery laid off nearly 40 employees, citing a projected 30 percent drop in sales. (ARTnews)

Newly Unearthed Diary Entries Reveal Francis Bacon’s Private Obsessions – Previously unseen diary entries about the early life of British painter Francis Bacon reveal the artist’s fleeting fixation with Nazi culture. Taken from the journal of his cousin and confidante Diana Watson, the pages—which have been acquired by Bacon’s estate and are excerpted in a new book, Inside Francis Bacon—detail the artist’s fascination with Hermann Göring and Nazi regalia. Still, the book’s author Martin Harrison says, “he was never really a fascist sympathizer. How could he be, as a gay man?” (Guardian)


Ken Griffin’s $100 Million Basquiat Goes on View in Chicago – Jean-Michel Basquiat’s monumental canvas Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump (1982), which made headlines when Chicago billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin bought it privately for $100 million earlier this year, will go on view at the Art Institute of Chicago when it reopens after a four-month closure on Thursday. Griffin says the work will remain on public display for the foreseeable future. (Chicago Tribune)

Phillips Plans a Lower-Priced Contemporary Sale – The second iteration of Phillips’s online “HEATWAVE” sale, which runs through July 30, includes 75 lots priced between just £200 ($257) and £50,000 ($64,284). The lower-priced offering is part of the auction house’s efforts to draw in emerging collectors. (Art Market Monitor)


Chilean Artist Lotty Rosenfeld Dies at 77 – The artist is best known for installing a simple white line on a Chilean street in 1979—an act that served as a revered artistic and political intervention against the country’s oppressive government. She has died at age 77, from lung cancer. (ARTnews)

California African American Museum Hires New Curators – Taylor Renee Aldridge, a writer and independent curator formerly based in Detroit, has been named visual arts curator; Susan D. Anderson, the former director of public programs for the California Historical Society, will take on the role of history curator at the LA institution. (Artforum)

Adam Budak Heads to Kestner Gesellschaft – The esteemed director of the National Gallery in Prague will head to Hannover’s Kestner Gesellschaft in November. (Monopol)


Man Charged With Smuggling Syrian Mosaic – A Southern California man has been charged with illegally transporting what is believed to be looted artwork from Syria. The man falsely claimed that he was importing vases and other Syrian works worth less than $3,000. Instead, authorities found a valuable 3rd or 4th century A.D. mosaic depicting the Greek demigod Heracles. (Courthouse News)

Erdoğan Leads First Prayers at Converted Hagia Sophia – Some 350,000 people arrived at the Hagia Sophia to join Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the first prayers at the historic site since it was converted back into a functioning mosque earlier this month. Christian mosaics were covered with curtains for the duration of the prayers. (Guardian)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Has a Duck Fam – Local fauna are taking up residence in the empty Met, which remains closed to the public until the end of August. A duck has decided that the museum’s glorious rooftop is a good nesting spot for her and her babies. The museum is now asking the public to help name its fuzzy new friends. We assume Duckminster Fuller is already in the mix. (Instagram)

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