Art Industry News: Research Shows That Hanging Portraits on the Wall Can Make an Institution Seem Unwelcoming + Other Stories

Plus, Benin asks France for more time before looted treasure is returned and Ronald Lauder sues to claim a $25 million trove of World War II objects.

House Financial Services Committee member Rep. Ruben Kihuen in front of portraits in the Rayburn House Office Building. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/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 30.


Why Rodin and Rilke Were Poor Role Models – It took him awhile, but the New York Times’s columnist David Brooks has finally come around to reading You Must Change Your Life, the book about the extraordinary friendship between Auguste Rodin and the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Written by artnet News’s Rachel Corbett, it is a cautionary tale about creative genius. The older artist and his protégé were both selfishly devoted to their work, while being “horrid to their wives and children,” Brooks notes. Do you have to be obsessively focused, and a bit of a jerk, to be great? Brooks thinks not, citing David Epstein’s book Range, which is “a powerful argument that generalists perform better than specialists.” (New York Times)

How New York Will Make Museums Less White – Sixty-five cultural institutions across New York, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have taken part in a demographic survey of their staff and trustees in a bid to boost their diversity. The Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has pledged to link future public funding for museums and arts groups to the diversity of their employees and board members. If they do not follow through on their plans to improve, they could lose funding, warns Tom Finkelpearl, the mayor’s cultural affairs commissioner. Thirty-three institutions on city-owned property have submitted their action plans to boost diversity. MoMA PS1 has already ended unpaid internships, which are seen as discriminating against people on low incomes. (New York Times)

Research Shows Art Can Make You Feel Like You Don’t Belong – Yale School of Medicine’s art collection includes 52 portraits of white men and only three women, who are also white. Qualitative research by three students found that female students and those from minority groups did not feel welcome by the medical school partly because of the lack of diversity of the portraits on its walls. Participants thought the paintings demonstrated the school’s values, which they identified as “whiteness, elitism, maleness, and power.” The art exacerbated feelings of being unwelcome at the school. The medical school has now opened an exhibition featuring portraits of female faculty members. (Hyperallergic)

Benin Asks France for More Time Before Looted Treasure Is Returned – Earlier this month the French culture minister declared that the 26 bronzes France promised to return to Benin last year would be quickly sent home, without waiting for the restitution to be enshrined in French law. But authorities in Benin were taken by “surprise” at France’s unexpected change of heart on the matter, and are asking for two years to build an adequate museum in which to display and care for the artworks, which were stolen from the kings of Dahomey in 1892. “Our response to the French proposal is: have patience, keep them a little while until we are really ready,” says José Pliya, the director of Benin’s National Agency for the Promotion of Heritage and Tourism. (Le Figaro)


Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys Snap Up Work by Tschabalala Self – Power couple Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys have bought two paintings by the young artist Tschabalala Self. They plan to donate one to the Brooklyn Museum. (Bloomberg)

Paris Gets a New Gallery Hub – Five Paris galleries are moving to a new cultural complex in a northeastern suburb of the city. Called Komunuma and spread across two former industrial buildings in Romainville, it will become the new home of Air de Paris and Fabienne Leclerc. Joining them are In Situ, Jocelyn Wolff, Imane Farès, and Sator, though those galleries plan to also keep their city center spaces. (The Art Newspaper)

Sunil Gupta Joins Hales Gallery – The Canadian-Indian, London-based photographer will be represented by the London and New York gallery. The artist and curator, whose work often explores migration and queer identity, will have a touring retrospective in 2020, which is co-organized by the Photographers’ Gallery, London, and the Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto. (Art Daily)


Estate of Drue Heinz Donates 100 Works to the Carnegie Museum – The estate of the philanthropist, actress, publisher, and art collector Drue Heinz, who died in March last year, has given 100 artworks to the Pittsburgh museum. The institution has chosen to display 74 works, including a number of Old Masters and contemporary works acquired from the Carnegie International exhibition, while conferring 26 others to a study collection. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Princeton Museum Acquires Michael Graves Drawings – The estate of the postmodern US architect Michael Graves has donated nearly 5,000 drawings to the Princeton University Art Museum. The works include sketches, preparatory studies, and what Graves dubbed “definitive drawings,” the three steps he identified as part of the design process. (Architect’s Newspaper)

Busan Biennial Announces Artistic Director – The organizers of the Busan Biennale in South Korea have named Jacob Fabricus as the artistic director of its 2020 edition, which is slated to open in September next year. Fabricus, is the artistic director of the Kunshal Aarhus in Denmark. (Art Asia Pacific)


A Huge Dinosaur Bone Is Found in France – Paleontologists in France were thrilled when they unearthed a 6.5-foot, 880-pound, dinosaur bone in a winegrowing village near Bordeaux. The prehistoric thigh bone is 140 million years old, and is thought to have once belonged to a Sauropod, a gigantic herbivorous dinosaur. (Art Daily)

Ronald Lauder Revealed as Owner of WWII Trove – The billionaire art collector has outed himself as the owner of a $25 million collection of World War II memorabilia after he was named in a federal lawsuit against a Massachusetts museum. The trove includes some 3,500 books, 500,000 photographs, 100 uniforms, 1,650 posters, and a Russian cannon, among other objects. Lauder is suing the International Museum of World War II for refusing to send the collection, which he bought from the museum’s founders. (ARTnews)

The Jewish Museum Presents George Segal’s Kent State Sculpture – The Jewish Museum in New York is exhibiting George Segal’s sculptural tribute to the Kent State Massacre through 2020 next year. The life-sized plaster installation uses the biblical story of Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac as an allegory for the 1970 tragedy that saw National Guardsmen shoot four students during an anti-Vietnam War protest. (Art Daily)

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