Art Industry News: ‘You’re Never More Than 150 Miles Away From a Looted African Object,’ According to Museum Director + Other News

Plus, Rencontres D'Arles gets a new director, and a run-down of what sold at the online edition of the Masterpiece art fair.

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 Tuesday, June 30.


Protesters Detained in Moscow for Defending Art Activist – Forty protestors were detained on Saturday after demonstrating in Moscow and St Petersburg in solidarity with LGBTQ+ activist Yulia Tsvetkova, who is facing six years in prison for pornography charges. Tsvetkova awaits trial in July for posting feminist body-positive art online. She says she has a “one percent chance” of being acquitted, but that the attention on her case is important: “The government, ironically, did not silence us, but made it possible to loudly declare injustice.” (The Art Newspaper)

Why the Toppling of Statues in Europe Does ‘Nothing’ For Former Colonies – Prominent US-based Congolese scholar Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja says the removal of monuments to King Leopold II in Brussels means “absolutely nothing” for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He suggests instead that the country’s present political problems “start with the so-called Congolese leaders” who “followed into the footsteps of King Leopold in treating the state as their personal property and neglecting the people, the most important element in any country.” This week, King Philippe of Belgian expressed “regret” on behalf of the royal family for “violence” in the former colony. (Al Jazeera)

How UK Museums Are Responding to Black Lives Matter – The worldwide protests and demands for racial justice sparked by the police killing of George Floyd are putting pressure on UK museums to address issues related to restitution. “In this country, you’re never more than 150 miles away from a looted African object,” says Dan Hicks, a senior curator at the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford. The issue is particularly pressing at the British Museum (home to the so-called Benin Bronzes), which does not employ a single Black curator. (BBC)

The Guggenheim Bilbao’s New Billboards Purify the Air – The museum has unveiled inventive new banners that not only advertise its exhibitions, but also double as air purifiers. Coated with a photocatalytic surface called PURETi, the signs offer an air-purifying effect similar to that of trees. The new banners on the museum’s facade and around the city are estimated to have the same air-purifying effect as 700 trees. (designboom)


What Sold at Masterpiece – A fittingly eclectic selection of works have found buyers at the online-only edition of the London fair. Among them are Oswald Birley’s Portrait of a Nurse (1921) from Philip Mould & Company for £65,000 ($80,000); Walter Sickert’s The Studio (1906) from Piano Nobile, for £350,000 ($431,105); and a novelty nutcracker carved as a crocodile (1820) from Thomas Coulborn & Son for £2,750 ($3,387). (The Art Newspaper)

Pace to Represent Elmgreen & Dragset – The mega-gallery has added the Berlin-based duo, known for their witty installations and sculptures, to its roster. Pace will represent the pair worldwide in collaboration with their other dealers, including Galería Helga De Alvear, König Galerie, Victoria Miro, and Perrotin. The artists’ first project with Pace will be an installation on a tennis court in East Hampton, where the gallery is opening a new outpost this summer. (Press release)


Rencontres D’Arles Gets a New Director – The former director of Berlin gallery Esther Schipper will become the new director of the celebrated French photography festival. Christoph Wiesner joins Rencontres D’Arles in September. (Press release)

Paintings Depicting the First Gay Kiss in UK Theatre History Acquired by a Museum – The Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex, has acquired five paintings by Leonard Rosoman from the 1960s. The vibrant figurative works were based on a censored 1965 play by John Osborne. In one particularly captivating painting, The Drag Ball, No 1, the curtain rises on an aristocratic ball scene of all-male actors, with two of them embracing. (Guardian)

The Oldest Known Photograph of a Māori Person Has Been Discovered – A daguerreotype dated to 1846 shows Māori man Hemi Pomara in his korowai cloak. Pomora, who was captured as a child after his family was slaughtered, was taken to London and displayed before the royal family and was part of a “living display” representing the colony to locals in the UK. The colorized photograph of Pomora, who inspired generations of writers and filmmakers, is the oldest surviving image of a Māori, and was discovered in the archives of the national library of Australia. (Guardian)


Japanese Cities Offer Emergency Arts Funding – Japan’s central government is offering up to 25 million yen ($233,166) to support the online streaming of concerts and other art performances in the second half of 2020, while local municipalities are also stepping in to give the arts a boost. The Kanazawa city government, for example, is supporting the training of 38 geishas by providing them 240,000 yen ($2,240) each. (Kyodo News)

Public Art Fund Brings New Art to New York Bus Shelters – The nonprofit is bringing new works by 50 New York-based artists to bus stops across the city. The works will be installed in phases: the first 10 were revealed yesterday, June 29, and the other 40 will go on view from July 27. The artworks, which all respond to the coronavirus pandemic and the antiracism protests, will be in place until September 20 and can be found using an interactive map. Selected artists include Jordan Casteel and Nina Chanel Abney. (ARTnews)

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