Art Industry News: The Met’s Director Apologized to Glenn Ligon for Using His Art to Address the Protests Without Permission + Other Stories

Plus, arts workers petition New York's mayor on behalf of Black Lives Matter and Saudi Arabia unveils a megawatt cultural plan.

Max Hollein, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Eileen Travell, courtesy of the Met.

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 8.


How Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Fortune Cookie Project Came Out Empty – Andrea Rosen Gallery and David Zwirner’s talked-about global Felix Gonzalez-Torres exhibition has devolved into an art-world popularity contest and Instagram stunt, writes Carolina Miranda, who was one of the 1,000 people invited to take part in the fortune-cookie extravaganza. Miranda notes that the late Cuban artist’s original intention for his piles of treats was to evoke cycles of depletion and regeneration amid the backdrop of the AIDS crisis in the 1990s. But deploying the project in the middle of another pandemic, during which people are hungry, unemployed, and at risk of contagion, was “tone deaf at best.” Making matters worse, many participants ended up installing the piles in their own homes, transforming the artist’s deeply humane work into an “Instagram prop for the art world well-connected.” (Los Angeles Times)

The New Quai Branly Museum Director Speaks – The new director of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, Emmanuel Kasarhérou, wants to bring the colonial-era museum into the 21st century. As the first indigenous director of a major French museum (Kasarhérou is half Melanesian and half French), he plans to acknowledge the colonial context under which many of the museum’s treasures were acquired, as well as take up the mantle of restituting cultural heritage to sub-Saharan Africa. But in an interview, the director explains, “I feel as much the descendant of people who were colonizers of a certain place as of people who were colonized,” and adds that there will be no sweeping resolutions. Instead, he will consider restitutions on a case-by-case basis. “I’m not in favor of objects being sent out into the world and left to rot,” he says. (New York Times

The Met Apologizes to Glenn Ligon – The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Max Hollein, has apologized privately to the artist Glenn Ligon for using his work to illustrate a letter detailing the museum’s response to the current Black Lives Matter demonstrations without his permission. Ligon—whose work, notably, was used in Instagram posts and in emails by many institutions last week in their response to current events—objected to the little-more-than-symbolic gesture on his Instagram, writing, “I know it’s #nationalreachouttoblackfolksweek but could y’all just stop, or ask me first?” The apology comes as many museums are facing criticism for their responses to the anti-racism protests in the US following the killing of George Floyd. “No institutional leader has all the answers right now,” Hollein said. “There is a moment when you reflect, when you have to listen.” (New York Times

Saudi Arabia Forges Ahead With Big Cultural Ambitions – The price of oil may be on a steep decline, but that hasn’t softened the ambitions of Saudi Arabia to become an international arts destination. Over the next decade, the kingdom plans to build more than a dozen major art institutions, plus additional smaller ones—including a new museum to house Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. But the government does not want the painting to be seen as the star of its culture push. “It’s an issue of perception. What does it say about Saudi identity if we put that painting on a poster?” says Stefano Carboni, chief executive of the ministry’s new Museums Commission. (Wall Street Journal)


Christie’s Holds First Post-Lockdown Live Auctions – Christie’s held its first live sales in Paris last week since lockdown began in March, achieving a combined total of $17.3 million for its works on paper and Impressionist and Modern sales. But the sell-through rate of 79 percent was lower than average against conservative estimates. (Art Market Monitor)

What Happens to the Market If Chinese Demand Falters? – During the last global financial crisis, it was Chinese buyers who saved the art market—but the combination of the public-health situation and political uncertainty in Hong Kong may complicate that dynamic this time around. Gallery Weekend Beijing, held late last month, was the first major Asian market event to take place since the shutdown, but 33 galleries that had originally signed up had to withdraw because they hailed from Beijing’s still locked-down Caochangdi district. (South China Morning Post)

Christie’s Partners With La Biennale Paris – The cancelled La Biennale Paris art fair has partnered with Christie’s on an online-only auction. More than 50 dealers will take part in the sale from September 10 through 21. The works on offer—which range from antiquities to contemporary art to jewelry—will be on view at the participating galleries for the duration of the sale. (Press release)


Art Workers Petition the New York Mayor on Behalf of BLM – Curators Natalia Viera, co-founder of Pública Espacio in Puerto Rico, and Patrick Jaojoco, the director of programs at FABnyc in the Lower East Side, penned an open letter to urge the local New York government to defund the police and invest in BIPOC communities. It has been signed by hundreds of workers in the arts sector. (Hyperallergic)

Günther Uecker Invited to Authenticate His Own Painting in Court – The 90-year-old German artist is preparing to testify as a witness regarding the authenticity of Sandpicture on Handmade Paper after the plaintiff paid a deposit of €7,500 for the work, which she now believes is a forgery. (Monopol)


Toledo Museum Director in Hot Water for Protest Response – The Ohio museum is the latest institution to receive criticism for its response to the protests that have swept the nation following the murder of George Floyd. “Let me reemphasize this point: the Toledo Museum of Art does not have a political stance,” Adam Levine, the museum’s director, said in an internal staff memo released on the museum’s website, adding that “nonpartisan and disinterested approach is baked into our institutional DNA.” The statements angered the public; in response, Levine said the museum should not have rushed to share internal communications and asked the community to judge it by its actions in the coming years. (Hyperallergic, The Blade)

Dread Scott on George Floyd – In a powerful essay, the artist Dread Scott parses the current moment and its aftershocks being felt worldwide. “The fire is spreading,” he writes. “The government fears us, but the people in the streets see little to lose and increasingly don’t fear the government. President Trump in particular hides in his bunker with the lights off and can only walk outside for a photo op surrounded by hundreds of armed bullies and thugs.” (The Art Newspaper)

DC Makes Addition to Black Lives Matter Mural – The image of a massive “Black Lives Matter” mural commissioned by the Mayor of Washington DC on the road to the White House (it is so big you can literally see it from space) has been shared worldwide—but some local advocates feel it was a theatrical stunt by a mayor who has proposed to increase funding for the police. That’s why local Black Lives Matter activists made an addition over the weekend, adding “Defund the Police” in yellow letters alongside the existing mural. (Twitter)

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