Art Industry News: Frieze’s London Art Fairs Will Be Smaller and Very Different This Fall (If Allowed to Proceed) + Other News

Plus, museum workers pen an open letter to New York institutions calling for concrete action and MOCA Cleveland's director resigns.

Art enthusiasts prepare to enter the Frieze London Art Fair in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/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 Monday, June 22.


Parliament’s Curator Re-examines the Collection’s Racist Imagery – The curator of the UK Parliament’s art collection, Melissa Hamnett, says that many of its artworks were acquired with wealth accrued from slave-owning and colonial-era projects and celebrate historical figures who held racist views. In the wake of mass demonstrations, officials are trying to grapple with that history, engaging in discussions about how to better contextualize the legacy of the British Empire and tell the stories of injustice embedded in the collection. Parliament’s curators are also hoping to commission new artworks that reflect the diversity of the governing body today. (Guardian)

Russian Artist Faces Six Years in Prison for Posting Lewd Drawings Online – A Russian artist and body positivity advocate is facing jail time after posting drawings online that include images of female genitals. Yulia Tsvetkova, who is an LGBTQ activist, has been accused of breaking Russia’s anti-pornography laws with her series “Vagina Monologues,” through which she aimed to remove the stigma around the vagina. She was placed under house arrest from November 22 to March 19 while an investigation was carried out and now faces up to six years in prison. (The Art Newspaper)

New York Cultural Workers Call on Museums to Address White Supremacy – Cultural workers in New York are penning open letters to their institutions urging them to do more to confront systemic racism from within. Current and former employees from MoMA, the Whitney, the Met, and elsewhere signed an open letter on Thursday addressed to all of the city’s museums, asking them to stop “performative allyship and virtue signaling” and instead commit to taking concrete action, including widening the recruitment nets to make it easier to hire BIPOC staff, ending contracts with the NYPD, and investigating artworks that should be restituted to Black and Indigenous communities. “We will no longer be silenced, abused in the shadows nor take the treatment white employees would never accept,” the letter states. (ARTnews)

Annie Leibovitz Doesn’t Want to Be Known as a Celebrity Photographer – The famous photographer catches up with the Financial Times from upstate New York, where she has been on lockdown with her three teenage daughters. While she might be best known for her portraits of celebrities, Leibovitz is showing a quieter, more contemplative side with a new online exhibition presented by Hauser & Wirth called “Still Life.” “Maybe the photography for right now is still lifes,” she muses. The show may also help address one of Leibovitz’s pet peeves: always being associated with celebrity. “I think of myself as more of a conceptual artist using photography,” she says, “so it’s great to explore all the different ways you can take pictures.” (Financial Times)


Frieze Fairs May Be Combined – The organizers of the Frieze and Frieze Masters fairs in London have told exhibitors that if the events do ahead in October, they could be combined into one space and will welcome fewer visitors, prioritizing those invited by galleries. Participating dealers must confirm by Friday, June 26 whether they are still interested in exhibiting, but Frieze organizers have promised to refund participants 100 percent of the stand rental fee if they are forced to cancel. (The Art Newspaper)

Bill Traylor Is Vulnerable to Forgers, Experts Say – Dozens of fake artworks purporting to be by Bill Traylor, a man born into slavery in Alabama who became homeless after he was freed, are circulating on the market. Interest spiked after a drawing owned by author Alice Walker sold at Christie’s New York in January for a record $507,000. Experts—including Richard Polsky, who has recently begun authenticating Traylor’s work—find the trend “very disconcerting,” but add that the forgers are unable to fully capture Traylor’s somber tone. (Guardian)

Black Dealers Face an Uphill Battle – The racial inequity in the art market is highlighted by the fact that none of the 281 galleries participating in Art Basel’s online viewing room is owned by an African American dealer (although there are Black gallerists participating who are not from the US). African American dealers report that they have trouble accessing the upper echelons of the market because discrimination elsewhere means that they have less access to capital and are excluded from the art world’s wider networks. Some suggest that fairs like Art Basel could reserve spots for minority-owned galleries through an affirmative action-style program and could further amplify Black dealers’ voices by adding them to selection committees and talks programs. (New York Times)


MOCA Cleveland Director Resigns – After 23 years, Jill Snyder is stepping down from her post as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland following a scandal over the museum’s decision to cancel a show of work by Shaun Leonardo about police brutality. During her tenure, Snyder oversaw the museum’s move to a 34,000-square-foot, $27.2 million home designed by Farshid Moussavi. (New York Times)

Artists Named for Two New Monuments to the Windrush Generation – Thomas J. Price and Veronica Ryan will create two new individual public artworks to honor Hackney’s Windrush Generation, a postwar generation that came to the UK from Commonwealth countries to help boost a depleted labor market. The works—which are the first permanent public sculptures to celebrate this community—will be unveiled in 2021. (Press release)


Malcolm Gladwell Takes on Deaccessioning – On his podcast Revisionist History, the best-selling author tackles the subject of museum deaccessioning, using the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a case study. His takeaways will not please museum traditionalists. First, he contends, it’s shady that museums get to avoid valuing their art collections in financial statements—and it’s even more concerning that institutions would rather let go of staff than objects, especially when most of the items are just squirreled away in storage. (Art Law Blog)

Guerrilla Girls Release New Video About Black Lives Matter – The anonymous collective released a video tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement drawing on footage from the protests that have flooded cities across the United States in recent weeks. The video, which doubles as a call to action, is part of a new digital series launched by Art Night, a free contemporary art festival in London that has moved online this year. (The Art Newspaper)

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