Art Industry News: Neil deGrasse Tyson Will Keep His Museum Job After a Sexual-Misconduct Investigation + Other Stories

Plus, John Waters lashes out at Trump and Roberta Smith defends San Francisco's controversial George Washington murals.

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Photo by Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank 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 Monday, July 29.


John Waters Defends Baltimore Amid Trump Criticism – The Baltimore-based artist and filmmaker hit back against the president’s targeting of Democrat congressman Elijah Cummings on Twitter. Trump told Cummings he should focus on Baltimore, a “very dangerous and filthy place,” rather than the conditions faced by migrant children in detainment centers on the Southern border. “Give me the rats and roaches of Baltimore any day over the lies and racism of your Washington, Mr Trump,” Waters told ARTnews in response to the president’s comments, adding, “Come on over to that neighborhood and see if you have the nerve to say it in person!” (ARTnews)

The Art World Responds to Warren Kanders’s Resignation – After Warren B. Kanders resigned from his position as vice chairman on the Whitney’s board, the art world is wondering what comes next. With his ouster secured following months of demonstrations against Kanders and his ownership of defense companies that make bullets and tear gas, what patrons will activists set their sights on next? Some are wondering whether museums will review their policies for board membership, and the artist Coco Fusco calls it a “watershed moment” for the art world. “The pressure has been mounting on museums to take a stand with regard to patronage from morally questionable sources,” she tells ARTnews. Others are worried that increased scrutiny of patrons will hinder fundraising. “If you become ultra-pure about who you take your money from, you end up diminishing the ability of the museum to be effective in the public arena,” one museum adviser said. (ARTnews)

Neil deGrasse Tyson Will Keep His Museum Job – The American Museum of Natural History has allowed Neil deGrasse Tyson to keep his job as director of the Hayden Planetarium after an investigation into sexual-misconduct allegations made against the famed astrophysicist. The museum has now closed the inquiry into Tyson’s alleged inappropriate behavior with two women (which Tyson has defended as benign), and allegations that he raped a third in 1984 (which Tyson denies), concluding that he could resume his position after his temporary suspension. In March, the National Geographic network and Fox Broadcasting also allowed his television shows to re-air after closing their own investigations into Tyson. (New York Times)

Roberta Smith Says San Francisco Murals Should Stay – The Times art critic has penned an op-ed in defense of 13 controversial George Washington murals at a San Francisco high school, which “autocratic” authorities in the city’s board of education plan to whitewash following complaints from students. After viewing photographs of the murals, Smith defends the 83-year-old artworks as “subversive,” commenting on how the artist—a Russian emigré and communist, Victor Arnautoff—presented a rare critical view of the Founding Father’s life by showing his ownership of slaves and support of the Indian genocide. “In a democracy, destroying a work of art is never a solution to any offense it may give,” Smith writes. She argues for something less permanent than whitewash, such as shrouding the offensive murals, adding contextual information, or commissioning more “response” murals like those painted by artist Dewey Crumpler. (NYT)


Paula Cooper Adds New Staffers Suzanne Egeran, who founded Egeran Galeri in Istanbul, has joined Paula Cooper Gallery as a director, while Shanghai-based Cara Zhuang will now be the gallery’s representative in Asia. (Press release)

Obama’s High School Basketball Jersey Comes to Auction – Heritage Auctions is selling the basketball jersey worn by the former president of the United States in high school. Barack Obama’s 1978 number 23 jersey from Hawaii’s Punahou School is expected to fetch $100,000 in the August 17 auction. (Press release)

Jeffrey Epstein’s Taste in Art Remains Odd – Epstein’s art dealer Leah Klemen has shared a taste of what the billionaire financier, who was charged this month with sex trafficking, likes to spend his money on buying. Kleman—sells furniture and antiques from Manhattan Art and Antiques Center, where Epstein was a regular for 25 years—says he was most recently interested in a crystal bamboo chandelier retailing for $50,000, and five larger-than-life bronze architect’s pencils, selling for $10,000. (Bloomberg, Twitter)


Aldrich Names New Senior Curator – Amy Smith-Stewart has been promoted to senior curator at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut, where she is organizing Eva LeWitt’s first solo museum show in the fall. (Artforum)

Knight Foundation Launches Art-Tech Grant Program – The Knight Foundation has teamed up with Microsoft to support projects that can augment traditional art using technology. The $750,000 fund will also support immersive art projects that can be experienced in multiple locations. (Techcrunch)

Guggenheim Launches a Photography Fellowship – The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation has endowed two projects at the Guggenheim. The museum is launching a photography conservation fellowship as well as a three-year interdisciplinary research project on Mapplethorpe’s work in its collection. (Artforum)

Art Aspen Names Inaugural Artist Commission – The Colorado art fair has tapped New York-based artist Adrienne Tarver, whose work explores the intersection of plant life and cultural histories, to create a site-specific installation for its entry hall. (Press release)


Congress Investigates Art Institute Closures – Members of Congress are calling for an investigation into how students in a chain of Art Institutes that have now shut were told that the colleges were still accredited. The Californian nonprofit the Dream Center is facing accusations of deceiving students after it bought out the failing colleges in Pittsburgh, Illinois, Michigan, and Colorado. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette)

David Hammons Sculpture Site Gets a Revamp – Authorities are upgrading the location for artist David Hammons’s planned public sculpture on the Hudson River at Gansevoort Peninsula. Called Day’s End and inspired by Gordon Matta-Clark’s famous work of the same title in which he sliced through a riverside warehouse, it will be surrounded by a new park featuring a small beach and a landing point for canoeists. (The Art Newspaper)

Klaus Biesenbach Proudly Presents a Gravity-Defying Acquisition – The director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, devoted five Instagram posts to its newest acquisition. The gravity-defying performance piece In Just a Blink of an Eye by the Chinese artist Xu Zhen made its West Coast debut on Saturday and Sunday when a group of dancers from Calarts appeared frozen in mid air. They will continue to float mysteriously in the museum every weekend through September 1. (Instagram) (LAT)

Street Artist Hijacks a Tarantino Billboard – The street artist Sabo has taken over a billboard in Los Angeles advertising Quentin Tarantino’s new film Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood to attack the disgraced billionaire Jeffrey Epstein. The defaced billboard features cutouts of Epstein and Roman Polanski in the lead roles for a film retitled “Once Upon a Time… in Pedowood.” Sabo is now selling prints of his work. (Los Angeles Times)

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In