Art Industry News: A Successful Crowdfunding Campaign Gives Lithuania’s Venice Biennale Pavilion a New Lease on Life + Other Stories

Plus, activists occupy El Museo del Barrio and United Talent Agency names a new leader for its fine art division.

Sun & Sea, Lithuania's contribution to the 2019 Venice Biennale. Photo: Neon Realism.

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 this Wednesday, June 12.


Activists Occupy Museo del Barrio – Around a dozen activists staged a protest at New York’s El Museo del Barrio last night during the annual Museum Mile Festival as part of an escalating campaign against what they see as the museum’s abandonment of its roots. Demonstrators read a manifesto in the lobby demanding the museum show more art by Puerto Rican and Latin American artists living in the US, and then walked through the galleries chanting, “We shall not be erased.” Yasmin Ramírez, a curator and former board member who was part of the protest, said that the Queens Museum and the Whitney are doing a better job presenting Latinx art in New York than El Museo. The museum says it is seeking a curator focused on Latinx art and its director, Patrick Charpenel, was present and listening in during the beginning of the protest. (ARTnews)

Arts Groups File Suit to Fight Relocation of Confederate Statue – The Friends of Louisville Public Art, the Louisville Historic League, and other individuals have filed a complaint arguing that a controversial monument to a former Confederate soldier, John B. Castleman, should not be relocated from the city center to the cemetery where Castleman is buried. They argue that the statue is a landmark and that it should not be seen as a Confederate monument because Castleman, who was pardoned for his service in the Confederate army by President Andrew Johnson, is being celebrated for what he did with the rest of his life. (Courier Journal)

Venice’s Golden Lion Pavilion Gets a New Lease on Life – Many more Venice Biennale visitors will be able to experience Lithuania’s prize-winning pavilion after a successful crowdfunding campaign enabled organizers to expand the number of live performances offered. The climate change opera Sun & Sea (Marina) will now be fully staffed with performers every Wednesday and Saturday until October 31. (Previously, performances were only held on Saturdays, and even that was proving pricey.) Additional support has been provided by the Republic of Lithuania, Basel’s Laurenz Foundation, and a number of individuals and foundations. (Press release)

Pepe the Frog Cartoonist Wins Payout From Conspiracy Website – The cartoonist Matt Furie has won his battle with the conspiracy website Infowars over its use of his character Pepe the Frog on a line of posters promoting right-wing commentators. The website, which settled out of court, agreed to hand over the $14,000 profit it made from the posters, destroy the remaining copies, and donate $1,000 to the charity Save the Frog. The settlement marks the artist’s latest victory in his ongoing quest to reclaim his amphibian character from online Trump supporters who seized it as a symbol during the 2016 Presidential campaign without Furie’s blessing or permission. (New York Times)


Dealers Zero In on Venice Biennale Artists in Basel – The many dealers who supported projects by their artists at the Venice Biennale are now looking to make their money back at Art Basel. Gallerist Thaddaeus Ropac, who works with four artists represented in Venice, says works on view there are either sold before they arrive or after the exhibitions close “in order to respect the integrity of the Biennale.” But that won’t stop anyone from cashing in at Basel, where Ropac is presenting works by Lee Bul, Georg Baselitz, Adrian Ghenie, and Emilio Vedova in his booth at the fair. (The Art Newspaper)

Rare Tintin Cover Sells for More Than $1 Million – The first original cover art featuring Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy sold for $1.13 million with premium at Heritage Auction in Dallas on June 8. The 1930 cover of Hergé’s Tintin in the Land of the Soviets went to an anonymous bidder for a price slightly below expectations; it was estimated to fetch $1.3 million. (CNN)

Coin Discovered by Metal Detectorist Heads to Auction – This is way better than finding a crumpled $20 bill in your pocket. An amateur metal detectorist recently realized that a silver Roman coin he found in a field in Berkshire more than 30 years ago is actually a prized antique worth an estimated £10,000 ($13,000). The 62-year-old Tom Thomas’s Carausius Denarius Roman coin is around 2,000 years old and is the only example of its kind. The coin is now headed for sale at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire. (Daily Mail)


UTA Names New Leader of Fine Arts Division – The United Talent Agency has appointed the art collector Arthur Lewis as creative director of UTA Fine Arts, the branch of the agency that represents artists, and its Beverly Hills gallery, UTA Artist Space. Lewis, who serves on the boards of the Hammer Museum and the Underground Museum and previously worked as vice president of the Kohl’s design office, succeeds the late Josh Roth. (ARTnews)

Mary Max, Wife of Artist Peter Max, Has Died – Mary Max, who has been embroiled in a bitter dispute for years over her husband’s art, wealth, and legacy as he struggled with dementia, died on Sunday in an apparent suicide at her apartment in New York. She was 52. She met her husband, Pop art star Peter Max, who is 30 years her senior, on a Manhattan sidewalk in 1996, when he told her he had “been painting [her] profile his entire life.” (New York Times)

Chinese Media Mogul Buys Art Review – Chinese publishing magnate Thomas Shao’s company Modern Media has acquired a majority stake in ArtReview, ArtReview Asia, and The media conglomerate already owns The Art Newspaper China, LEAP, Nowness, and Numéro, among other arts publications. (Press release)


Architect Blocks Street Artists’ Paris Murals – A street art initiative to “beautify” Brutalist buildings in Paris’s 13th arrondissement has been blocked by the renowned architect Gilles Béguin. The architect has won a court order to protect the five 1970s Brutalist tower blocks he renovated in 2013 from street artists who have painted murals onto the end walls of 32 other buildings in a quest to create an “open-air museum.” (Times)

Missing Moholy-Nagy Film Rediscovered – The British Film Institute in London recently discovered a long-lost film by the artist and Bauhaus teacher László Moholy-Nagy that had been secreted away in its archives for the past 80 years. A restored version of Moholy-Nagy’s 1933 optical sound film, Tönendes ABC / ABC in Sound, will be screened at BFI Southbank on June 18 ahead of an online release. (Art Daily)

See Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Talked-About Mural in Basel – The Argentina-born artist has painted a provocative message onto a large wall facing Basel’s Messeplatz, which reads: “The Odious Smell of Truth.” The mural is part of a decade-long public art project organized by Beat Raeber Galerie and is likely to make at least a few of the art world elite pouring into town for Art Basel pause. (Instagram)

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