Art Industry News: Beijing’s Museums Are Shutting Down Again Amid a Coronavirus Spike + Other Stories

Plus, California will remove a Columbus statue from its capitol building and museums invest in art therapy to serve anxious publics.

Paramilitary policemen patrol around the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. Photo: Feng Li/Getty Images.

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 Wednesday, June 17.


Is There a Medium Position to Take in the Statue Debate? – British philosopher Julian Baggini says that we need a framework for which to decide which statues get toppled and which remain. “By our current standards, most Britons in history have been misogynist, racist, and homophobic,” Baggini writes. “To insist that we are only allowed to have historical heroes who were able to fully rise above the prejudices that shaped them is to ask too much.” He offers three key questions to help determine whether to take down a statue: Is the achievement for which they are being celebrated intimately or causally tied to their sins? Were they significantly worse than others of their time? How recent was the offense? (Times Literary Supplement)

Museums Embrace Art Therapy – To help its public weather the strife of 2020, museums are embracing therapeutic public programming. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is developing free art-therapy initiatives and highlighting soothing artworks, the Cincinnati Art Museum is training an army of volunteers in the discipline, and the Rubin Museum of Art is preparing to launch a meditation podcast. “This is a time to consider museums as places of care,” said the Queens Museum’s director Sally Tennant. “There is a need to develop porous cultural institutions that are open, inclusive, and empathetic as we recover from living through a prolonged period of isolation and loss.” (New York Times)

Beijing Art World Shuts Down Again – A new wave of coronavirus is hitting Beijing, dashing locals’ hopes of returning to normal operations after a stretch of nearly zero domestic transmissions. Schools in the city are now closed and several art museums, including Minsheng Art Museum Beijing and the newly launched X Museum, have voluntarily shuttered. Institutions in the 798 arts district, including UCCA and a number of commercial galleries, remain open with strict capacity limitations in place, as well as other precautions including temperature checking and visitor registration. (The Art Newspaper)

Columbus Sculpture to Be Removed From California Capitol – A statue depicting Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain will be removed from the rotunda of the California Capitol, becoming the latest monument to the explorer to come down in the US. “Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations,” Democratic lawmakers said in a joint statement. “The continued presence of this statue in California’s Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today. It will be removed.” (Courthouse News)


Galerie Templon to Represent Ed and Nancy Kienholz – The gallery now has European representation of the estate of installation-art pioneers Edward and Nancy Kienholz, whose work explores the dark side of American history. Their first exhibition with the gallery will be held in September. (Press release)

Shanghai Fair Launches Inside a Mall – The backers of the art fair Art021 are mounting novel public art programs in unlikely locations. Last weekend, they unveiled a new project, the Immersive Art Gallery (IAG), at a mall in Shanghai. In addition to an exhibition space and accompanying “art shop” that covers 1,000 square meters, organizers installed an array of interactive artworks amid the mall’s shops and restaurants. (The Art Newspaper)

Etsy’s App Now Offers Augmented Reality for Art – Elite art fairs and galleries aren’t the only ones experimenting with VR and AR. The e-commerce company Etsy has launched an update that lets iOS users project any painting, photograph, or print on offer onto their wall to help decide if they want to buy it. (The Verge)


Humboldt Forum Will Open in December – In the rare case of an opening date moving up, rather than back, the Humboldt Forum’s debut is now slated for the end of December, earlier than was foreseen given the global health crisis. The massive museum project, which costs €644 million ($711 million), will house Berlin’s non-European and Asian collections—including questionable objects culled during the colonial era. Its construction has been marred by controversy. (Monopol)

UK Art Fund Offers $2.5 Million in Coronavirus Relief – The UK charity Art Fund will give out $2.5 million in grants for museums and galleries around the country that have been affected by the coronavirus. It will allocate nearly $2 million for the most pressing needs of institutions, which it identified in a May report were the offsetting the financial impact of a safe reopening and attracting visitors with social-distancing measures in place. (Artforum)

IllumiNative Offers Support to Native Artists – The Native-led nonprofit IllumiNative has launched a new rapid-response art fund for Native artists who are making work calling for the end of systemic racism. Artists will be awarded funds to make art in solidarity with the Black community in the battle against police brutality and racism in the US. (Press release)

National Gallery Sculpture Park to Reopen – The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is reopening its six-acre sculpture garden on Saturday ahead of a phased reopening of the museum. The sculpture park will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a maximum of 270 visitors at once and face coverings required. (Washington Post)


On the Photography of George Floyd’s Funeral – The photographer Eli Reed, Magnum’s first Black photographer, captured a portfolio of George Floyd’s funeral. Curator Chaédria LaBouvier writes that Reed’s images create a kind of portrait en creux of Floyd, but also of the storm of mourning that is rattling the US; there is a horse-drawn carriage, a golden casket, and a choir, but also quiet moments of grief that are much more difficult to capture. (The Cut)

Slovenian Artist Detained During Anti-Government Protests – The Slovenian artist Jasa Mrevlje Pollak, who represented the country at the 2015 Venice Biennale, was detained during a protest against government corruption and the handling of the coronavirus in Ljubljana. Mrevlje Pollak was detained in a police van for 20 minutes after scaling a fence and throwing large paper planes at the country’s parliament. (TAN)

Bismarck Sculpture Attacked in Hamburg – A sculpture of the first German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, has been defaced with red paint in Hamburg-Altona. Officials are still unclear about why the statue was targeted and whether the attack was related to the current movement against problematic monuments around Europe. (Monopol)

Austrian Art Festival Reinvents Itself as a Media Company – The Austrian art festival steirischer herbst is going ahead on its originally scheduled dates, but in a reimagined format. Playing on the current atmosphere of anxiety surrounding the virus, artists have created a new broadcast station called “Paranoia TV,” which will broadcast from an unsettling, dystopian parallel universe. (I know, I know, it sounds like our own. Just go with it.) Contributing artists include Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Neïl Beloufa, Hito Steyerl, and Akinbode Akinbiyi. (Press release)


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NEW CONCEPT & PARTICIPANTS RELEASED! As we approach the halfway point of a year that has been anything but “normal,” sanity seems to slowly be returning to some parts of Europe. Art is even allowed back into people’s lives. Still, many people are scared; paranoid even. Fear of a second wave is fostering an aversion to public spaces, filled with the breath of potentially contagious strangers. Clearly, the virus is not to blame for xenophobia, racism masked as a hygienic norm, ubiquitous surveillance, or radical inequality. These phenomena were all part of what was considered “normal.” It is this “normal” that brought us the virus. It is this “normal” that we should fear. Rather than suppressing this fear, steirischer herbst will engage with it head on by reinventing itself as a media consortium called “Paranoia TV”: a platform for the uncanny and the unsettling, broadcasting from a dystopian parallel universe, where there is no such thing as reassurance. Artists and Collectives Contributing to Paranoia TV: Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Akinbode Akinbiyi, Jérôme Bel, Neïl Beloufa, Christian von Borries, Sergey Bratkov, Alexander Chernyshkov, Pauline Curnier Jardin, Josef Dabernig, Nika Dubrovsky & David Graeber, Vadim Fishkin, Dani Gal, Thomas Geiger, Gelitin, Tamar Guimarães in collaboration with Luisa Cavanagh and Rusi Millán Pastori, Rana Hamadeh, Janez Janša, Lina Majdalanie & Rabih Mroue, Michikazu Matsune, Ingo Niermann, Lulu Obermayer, Ahmet Ogut, Diederik Peeters, Joanna Piotrowska, Alexandra Pirici & Jonas Lund, Hendrik Quast & Maika Knoblich, Judy Radul, Joanna Rajkowska and Robert Yerachmiel Sniderman, Roee Rosen, Susanne Sachsse / Marc Siegel / Xiu Xiu (Jamie Stewart), Igor Samolet, Liv Schulman, John Smith, studio ASYNCHROME, Sung Tieu, TIB – Theater im Bahnhof Graz, Clemens von Wedemeyer, and Anna Witt With conversations convened by Herwig Höller, Srećko Horvat, Adam Kleinman, Milo Rau, and Hito Steyerl, amongst others. Paranoia TV Design: Grupa Ee (Mina Fina, Ivian Kan, Damjan Ilić) Curatorial group: Mirela Baciak, Ekaterina Degot (Chief Curator), Henriette Gallus, Dominik Müller, Christoph Platz, David Riff #paranoiatv #steirischerherbst

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