Art Industry News: Megadealer David Zwirner Lays Off Dozens Ahead of a Projected 30 Percent Drop in Art Sales + Other Stories

Plus, the Miami Beach Convention Center is serving as a temporary hospital and a court rules Anatole Shagalov must pay Sotheby's $2 million.

David Zwirner's 20th Street space in New York. Photo: David Zwirner.

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 6.


Half the British Public Is Uncomfortable Visiting Art Venues A new poll of the UK public by research company Ipsos Mori shows that 49 percent are still uncomfortable visiting an indoor museum or exhibition space despite the fact that most major museums are now reopening. The poll of more than 1,000 people showed that just 34 percent were “very” or “fairly” comfortable visiting a museum after lockdown. But the survey also revealed that the public is generally more comfortable with the idea than with other risky activities, including returning to bars and restaurants. (The Art Newspaper)

France to Return Colonial-Era Skulls to Algeria – The French state has returned 24 skulls of decapitated Algerian resistance fighters to the North African country. The skulls were taken by French soldiers as war trophies during the colonial era and had been in storage at the Musée de l’Homme in Paris. Scholars had been campaigning for their return for years, and they will go on view at the Palace of Culture in Algiers before they are laid to rest in the martyrs’ section of the El Alia cemetery. (France 24)

David Zwirner Lays Off Nearly 40 People – The mega-gallery, which had largely avoided cutbacks in the early months of the shutdown, has now laid off nearly 20 percent of its staff. The reductions affected employees across its six locations worldwide, but were largely concentrated in the US. “The staff reductions are a function of the changed nature of our business and the near total disappearance of traditional workloads in certain departments,” said Zwirner, who has not taken a salary during the shutdown. The gallery said it expects to see a 30 percent drop in total sales by the end of the year, but will slowly staff up in digital marketing and client development. (ARTnews)

American Collector Sues Over Pissarro Restitution  American collector and real estate developer Bruce Toll is suing the French state for compensation after a court ordered the restitution of an artwork he had lent to the Marmottan Museum in Paris. The French state seized Camille Pissarro’s Pea Harvest from Parisian collector Simon Bauer under anti-semitic laws in 1943. Toll says he bought the work in good faith from Christie’s in 1995, and that given the original crime was committed by the French state, he should be compensated for damages, and the loss of the $1.7 million painting. (TAN)


The Miami Beach Convention Center Is Now a Hospital – The recently remodeled convention center, which serves as the home of Art Basel Miami Beach each December, is now serving as a COVID-19 testing site and temporary hospital as the number of virus cases skyrockets in Florida. The Department of Health recently extended its lease on the convention center through September 6, with an option to extend for another 30 days. (Re Miami Beach)

Judge Rules Anatole Shagalov Must Pay Up for Haring – The art dealer Anatole Shagalov, director of Nature Morte gallery in New York, has been ordered to pay $2 million to Sotheby’s after he failed to make payments on a Keith Haring painting. Shagalov bought the 1982 tarp by the street artist in 2017 for $6.5 million, but never paid the auction house for it. Sotheby’s resold the work to its guarantor for $4.4 million in October, and sued the dealer to recover the difference. (TAN)


Photographer Margaret Morton Dies at 71 – The former Cooper Union professor who spent decades  advocating for the welfare of people living on the margins died at 71 while being treated for leukemia. She began photographing encampments created by people experiencing homelessness in Tompkins Square Park in the late 1980s. Author Phillip Lopate said, “She pulled off a rare combination of socially engaged photography that was also formally exquisite.” (New York Times)

New Convenor for Bergen Assembly – The French conceptual artist Saâdane Afif has been named as the convenor for the next edition of Bergen Assembly in 2022. The artist will conceive the exhibitions, talks, and programming for the Norwegian triennial. (Press release


Neïl Beloufa Creates a Miniseries About the Pandemic – The French artist has adapted a satirical miniseries he created about a pandemic following the MERS outbreak in 2014 into a new online game for the COVID era. Beloufa’s game, called “Screen-Time,” tests players on various trivia points and pokes fun at the proliferation of misinformation and incompetent government responses to the crisis. (Frieze)

The Smithsonian Head on Social Justice in Museums – The Smithsonian’s secretary, Lonnie Bunch, speaks with the “Corner Office” column about how an institution like his can collect in the present for audiences of the future—and whether he considers the present moment to be unique in the history of civil rights. “What I worry about is that after the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act, we also saw a law-and-order backlash,” Bunch said. (NYT)

Artists Bring Messages of Solidarity to Detention Centers To mark July 4, 70 artists took to the skies to deliver messages of resistance and solidarity with immigrants held in detention centers around the United States. Two fleets of five skywriting planes called for the abolition of inhumane detention practices as part of the project, called In Plain Sight. More than 80 messages, including “Care Not Cages,” were written in the sky in nearly 20 different languages. (NYT)

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