Art Industry News: New ‘Mom-and-Pop’ Overhaul of the White House’s Art Makes Room for a Painting by Hunter Biden + Other Stories

Plus, the Kunsthalle Bern hires its first non-European director, and Scotland's museums change their restitution policy.

The White House in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of the White House.

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 28.


Are Visitors Returning to London Museums? – The Art Newspaper surveyed six London museums to see how their attendance has fared since the government permitted them to reopen on May 17. Compared to the equivalent dates in 2019, visitor numbers had dropped significantly, with Tate welcoming just 32 percent of its pre-pandemic visitors, and the British Museum, just 20 percent. (The Art Newspaper)

Kunsthalle Bern Hires Its First Non-European Director – The next director of the influential Kunsthalle Bern is Johannesburg-based curator Kabelo Malatsie. The former director of Stevenson gallery, Malatsie will begin her new role in April 2022. She will be the first non-European and the second woman to helm the Swiss institution. (ARTnews)

The Biden Overhaul of White House Art Is Underway – Although the First Family has not yet put in official requests for art from the Smithsonian or National Gallery, they have started to hang art that is important to them in the White House. In addition to the portraits and sculptures of important political figures in the Oval Office, the Bidens have brought in art with a personal touch. First Lady Jill Biden has hung a few works by her son Hunter in her office, as well as works by artists from their home state of Delaware. Their sensibilities have been described as “less MoMA chic and… more mom-and-pop.” (Washington Post)

Scotland Museums Change Colonial Restitution Policy – The National Museums Scotland has reversed its long-held blanket denial of repatriation requests and has implemented a new procedure for considering them. Trustees at the institution have approved the about-face on its restitution policy, which could put more pressure on other British museums to follow suit. (Times)


London Gets a New Gallery – A new gallery with an all-female team has opened in the heart of Mayfair. Led by founder, Lucinda Bellm and director, Sophie de Mello Franco, LAMB’s inaugural exhibition presents modern abstract art spanning 100 years. (TAN)

Rare Rubens Up for Auction – On July 7, Sotheby’s is selling a rare drawing by Peter Paul Rubens that survived a fire in 1720. The consignor bought the sketchbook page from a small French sale on a hunch for a few thousand dollars; now, it could fetch as much as £600,000. (Guardian)


Brazilian Architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha Dies – The architect, who was blacklisted for 20 years during Brazil’s dictatorship, died at age 92 from lung cancer. While he was associated with the Brazilian Brutalist movement, he had a lighter touch than the label implies; his public spaces were often informed by his socialist ideals. (New York Times)

Guerrilla Girl Jane Kaufman Dies – Artist Jane Kaufman, one of the few members of the feminist art collective who did not use a pseudonym, has died at age 83. Kaufman was known for her painting and embroidery work as well as her feminist activism. (ARTnews)

Prince Harry and William Prepare to Unveil Diana Statue – Prince Harry and Prince William will unite to unveil a sculpture of their late mother, Princess Diana, on July 1. Commissioned from the artist Ian Rank-Broadley in 2017 to mark the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, the statue will be unveiled at the Sunken Garden in Kensington, London. (Evening Standard


Visiting Italian Museums Without Tourists – Rome’s museums lost 75 percent of their visitors last year—and tourists who are able to travel have been rewarded with nearly empty sites. While the roomy spaces are exquisite, writes Jason Farago, “if mass tourism is the problem, Piranesian ruin porn is not the solution.” (NYT)

Antiquities Unearthed Along Maya Train – Thousands of pre-Columbian artifacts have been unearthed during the construction of Mexico’s 932-mile Maya Train, the country’s flagship tourism project. The discoveries have slowed progress but not altered the planned route, leaving locals and Indigenous communities afraid that their cultural heritage could be looted along the way. (El Pais)

Extinction Rebellion Activists Arrested – Environmental activists from the art-informed group Extinction Rebellion dumped a truck full of manure outside the Daily Mail offices and staged an intervention in front of the Tate Modern as part of a day of action across London on Sunday. The activists said they were “demanding an end to media corruption that suppresses the truth from the public for profit.” (Evening Standard)

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