Art Industry News: Tennessee Lawmakers Vote to Keep a Bust of a Notorious KKK Leader in the State Capitol + Other Stories

Plus, VOLTA cancels its September art fair in Basel and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says a monument to Christopher Columbus in Manhattan should stay.

The bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Tennessee State Capitol. Photo: Christopher Amrich.

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 Friday, June 12.


Museums Are Suddenly Woke. But Is it Too Little Too Late? – Museums across the US have been issuing statements expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but the critic Holland Cotter says the gestures from these “suddenly woke institutions” have felt “both self-aggrandizing and too little too late.” Suggesting that museums can do more, Cotter points to the example set by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which launched last week a new web portal offering resources on how to talk about race. “Focus instead on restructuring from within, and actually do it,” Cotter advises museums. “Recruit nonwhite trustees, artists included. Hire nonwhite curators (and pay all your curators well). Strengthen ties with the communities of color around you, and listen to what they tell you they need.” (New York Times)

Philadelphia Museum Apologizes for Saying “Every Life Matters” – Timothy Rub, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Gail Harrity, its president, have apologized for sending an email to museum employees on May 31 stating that the protests that erupted in the days after the police killing of George Floyd were “compromised” by looting and property damage, and that “every individual life matters.” “You were right to say that our letter did not make an obvious and essential point,” the pair wrote in their apology, “one that frames this incident in both specific and historical terms: This victim of this murder was an innocent Black man.” (ARTnews, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Tennessee Lawmakers Vote to Keep KKK Statue – Lawmakers in Tennessee have voted against a proposition to remove a bust of a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest, from its state capitol building. A House committee voted down the idea of removing the statue of the Confederate Army general by 11 to five on Tuesday, but another bill, aiming to end special observation of Nathan Bedford Forrest Day on July 13, passed by one vote to be considered by the full legislature. (WMC 5)

Former Palm Springs Museum Staffers Pen an Open Letter Opposing the Museum’s BLM Response – Former staff from the Californian museum signed an open letter condemning the institution’s “neutral” response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The staffers say that the museum waited too long before publishing a response to the widespread protests that have rocked the world, and that the reply lacked concrete plans for action. “To stay silent and to stay neutral during the global movement against racism is to actively enable and perpetuate the white supremacist world order that continues to poison and erase Black and Brown lives,” the authors write. (Open Letter)


Berlin Dealers Are Bringing Art Basel to Berlin – Thirty-one Berlin galleries that were supposed to be at Art Basel next week have decided to open their doors to critics, curators, and collectors and to show works they originally planned for their booth presentations. Running in parallel with the online Art Basel viewing rooms that launch next week, Basel by Berlin, as the event is called, takes place on Wednesday, June 17, and Thursday, June 18, and is an official VIP event of the art fair. (Press release)

VOLTA Cancels September Edition in Basel – Following the cancellation of Art Basel’s flagship Swiss fair in September, a satellite art fair, VOLTA, has also decided to cancel its September edition as well. In a statement, the fair said “the safety of our galleries and visitors is paramount and, at this point, in light of the current global pandemic and the associated restrictions on gatherings and travel, we feel we cannot stage a strong and safe fair in Basel this year.” (Press release)


Collector of African American Art Ronald Allie Dies at 69 – Ronald Ollie, a major collector of African American abstract art, has died at age 69. The esteemed collector had gifted 81 artworks to the Saint Louis Art Museum, and owned works by James Little, Ed Clark, and Herbert Gentry, among others. (CultureType)

Palm Beach Museum Director Resigns – Elliot Boswick Davis has resigned from her position as director and chief executive of the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach after less than a year and a half. In a statement, Bostwick Davis said that “the events of the past months have impressed upon me the importance of being closer to my family, and I’m looking forward to returning to Boston and beginning the next chapter of my life.” A team of staff will lead the museum while it seeks out a replacement. (Palm Beach Posts)

Cuomo Says Columbus Sculpture Should Stay – New York governor Andrew Cuomo says he doesn’t think a statue of Christopher Columbus in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle should be removed. “I understand the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support,” Cuomo said at a press conference on Thursday. “But the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York. For that reason, I support it.” Detractors, who point to Columbus’s mistreatment and exploitation of Native Americans, want the statue removed. (NPR)


YBAs on the Statue-Topplers – YBA artists Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor are among the artists weighing in on the movement to remove monuments around the world. “I suspect that most of us pass by public monuments with a blind indifference that’s only equal to the violence they mask,” artist Jake Chapman tells the Gurdian. “They go unnoticed in the same way that power goes unnoticed. Implicit in the image of civilization is the myth of bloodless progress.” (Guardian)

Hank Willis Thomas Projects Work onto the Department of Justice – Last night, the artist, together with the think tank Incarcerations Nations Network, projected an iteration of Thomas’s ongoing project, The Writing on the Wall, onto the US Department of Justice building in Washington, DC. The work loops an 11-minute slide show of declarations by incarnated people. (Observer)

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