Art Industry News: Did the Vatican Censor Its Art to Cover Up the Secret History of Female Priests? + Other Stories

Plus, a Napa art center plans to sell off the majority of its collection and Franz Ferdinand's drummer is injured by a falling artwork.

Pope Francis holds a mass to give the sacred pallium to new metropolitan Archbishops on June 29, 2019 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo credit should read TIZIANA FABI/AFP/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 8.


Antony Gormley Joins Protest Over BP Sponsorship – The esteemed sculptor Sir Antony Gormley has joined the growing calls for London’s National Portrait Gallery to end its relationship with longtime sponsor BP. The oil company has supported the gallery’s prestigious annual portrait award for about three decades. In a letter sent last week, almost 80 artistsincluding five Turner Prize winners and 10 former competitors for the National Portrait Gallery’s BP Portrait Award—called on the institution to cut ties because of BP’s role in “furthering the climate crisis.” Gormley expanded on the letter speaking to BBC, saying, “Art is about giving a platform for sustainable futures…. [It is] very clear that this is not a part of BPs remit.” (BBC)

Op-Ed Calls Out the Enduring Whiteness of Mainstream Criticism – In the New York Times, Elizabeth Méndez Berry, a director at the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and Chi-hui Yang, a program officer at the Ford Foundation, argue that mainstream media remains largely segregated, note that critics with the biggest megaphones remain white men. That’s a problem when much of the most vital art is being made by artists of color, whose references might not always be immediately legible to white viewers. The stakes are high: “Whether we believe someone should be locked in a cage or not is shaped by the stories we absorb about one another, and whether they’re disrupted or not,” they write. (New York Times)

Did the Vatican Hide Depictions of Female Priests in Art? – Art historian Ally Kateusz presented a research paper in Rome last week arguing that the church buried evidence of Catholic iconography in which women were shown carrying out duties now only permitted for men in an effort to keep them from becoming priests. She tracked down several examples of early Christian artwork showing women as bishops and priests, although some academics disagree with her interpretation of the artifacts. (Daily Beast)

National Gallery Chair May Have Quit Over “Gig Economy” Criticism – Why did Hannah Rothschild resign last month as chair of the National Gallery in London two years before her term was due to expire? She said it was “to devote more time to my writing, and to my family’s business and philanthropic activities.” But sources tell the Guardian that the dispute over the dismissal of 27 gallery lecturers and educators, who won the right earlier this year to be recognized as employees rather than freelancers, played a major role as well. The de facto prime minister David Lidington wrote to Rothschild on behalf of one of his constituents, a former lecturer; the former chair is said to have been “particularly stung” by his letter. (Guardian)


Why the Art Market Is Losing Interest in Abstraction – Writer Cody Delistraty attempts to psychoanalyze the current art market and explain why, in his estimation, demand for abstract art has been on the decline. Why the love of the figurative and a turn away from the abstract? Pointing to slumped sales for work by artists like Alberto Burri, Mark Bradford, and Rudolf Stingel at recent contemporary art auctions compared to runaway results for artists like KAWS, he suggests that “the art that is doing well in the market provides a place of escape from society. Right now, that’s an escape to rules and boundaries and to easily digestible culture.” (Baffler)

Vielmetter Gallery Expands in Downtown Los Angeles – The gallery is expanding, opening two additional exhibition spaces downtown, which brings its total square footage in the neighborhood to an eye-popping 24,000 square feet. As it opens its expanded space in September, Vielmetter will close its longtime Culver City location and concentrate operations in the growing downtown art hub, where it opened a space not far from Hauser & Wirth last year. (Press release)


Napa Art Center to Sell Off Most of Its Collection – What happens to a private art institution if its founders do not leave enough money to support it after they are gone? The Rene and Veronica di Rosa Foundation in Napa, California, offers an example. The organization, established to promote the work of northern California artists, has decided to stop collecting and will begin deaccessioning works from its 1,600-strong holdings. “The reality is the organization has just always been underfunded,” the foundation’s director Robert Sain said. “We’re doing all this to make sure we can… be viable and have a sustainable future.” The institution plans to hold on to several hundred works; the rest will be liquidated to fund the endowment. (San Francisco Chronicle)

More Artists Cancel Shows at 500 Capp Street – A wave of artists have cancelled scheduled exhibitions at the San Francisco art space 500 Capp Street—the former home of conceptual artist David Ireland—after its head curator, Bob Linder, was unexpectedly laid off last week. Matt Connors called off his show first; Liz Magor and Nina Canell were not far behind, opting to end their current shows early. Now, B. Wurtz has canceled an upcoming project that had been slated for December. The institution says it let go of Linder because it is shifting its focus away from external exhibitions and toward a renewed focus on Ireland’s work. (ARTnews)

Franz Ferdinand Drummer Abandons Tour Due to Falling Artwork – Beware of falling art! Franz Ferdinand’s drummer, Paul Thomson, will not be participating in the remainder of the band’s European tour after his finger was crushed by a falling artwork in a hotel lobby in Morocco. The identity of the artist behind the work—and his or her exact level of antipathy toward the band—remains unclear, but the band called the offending object an “ugly piece of art” in a tweet announcing Thomson’s temporary replacement. (AltPress)


An Interactive Map of Whitney Biennial Artists Over Time – What does mapping the major American artists over the past century based on the year they appeared in the Whitney Biennial reveal? The New York Times created a set of interactive maps documenting where artists included in the influential show lived from the 1930s to today—right down to their particular street corners. The maps of individual cities—Chicago, New York, Los Angeles—make for particularly pleasurable viewing, and reveal much about how the scenes functioned and who they revolved around. (New York Times)

Prix Pictet Shortlist Announced – The 12 artists shortlisted for the eighth cycle of the $100,000 photography prize—the world’s most prominent prize in the field, which focuses on the intersection of photography and sustainability—are: Shahidul Alam, Joana Choumali, Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Rena Effendi, Lucas Foglia, Janelle Lynch, Ross McDonnell, Gideon Mendel, Ivor Prickett, Robin Rhode, Awoiska van der Molen, and Alexia Webster. The artists will be asked to create a body of work responding to the theme of “hope.” The winner will be announced on November 13. (Guardian

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