Art Industry News: The National Gallery of Australia Just Spent Its Entire Acquisition Budget on Jordan Wolfson’s Latest Robot + Other Stories

Plus, Shell ends its sponsorship of London's Southbank Centre and the embattled Erie Art Museum gets an interim director.

Jordan Wolfson's first art sensation, Female Figure, an animatronic sculpture of a woman. (OLAF KRAAK/AFP via 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 Tuesday, March 10.


Southbank Cultural Center Drops Shell Sponsorship – The oil company is not renewing its sponsorship of London’s Southbank Centre and the British Film Institute. They are the latest UK cultural organizations to sever their controversial ties with energy giants. Chris Garrard of the advocacy group Culture Unstained described the development as a “crucial milestone” in the ongoing campaign against oil sponsorship, which has seen the National Theatre, Tate, and National Galleries of Scotland end their relationships with energy companies. The move will increase pressure on the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Science Museum, which are currently standing by sponsor BP. (Guardian)

Did Banksy Plot Pompidou Heist of His Own Work? – Banksy has denied having any part in the theft of one of his artworks from a billboard near the Pompidou Center in Paris last year, contradicting the man who was arrested for stealing the mural of a rat with a box cutter. The suspect’s defense lawyer claimed that his client was commissioned by the artist to swipe the work—but Banksy sent an email to the editorial staff of Le Parisien, which first reported the allegations, saying he had nothing to do with it. (Le Parisien)

Jordan Wolfson, Revealed – The artist Jordan Wolfson’s most provocative work may be himself, writes Dana Goodyear in an instant classic New Yorker profile. One individual who knows the artist well described his behavior—he’s the kind of guy who will park in the handicapped spot and hit on your girlfriend—as “by-the-book sociopathy.” The artist feels strongly that no subject should be off-limits—although he admits that approach is becoming more difficult as a wealthy, straight, white male artist. American museums are increasingly wary of acquiring such transgressive work—Castello di Rivoli director Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who recently acquired Wolfson’s VR-work Real Violence, thinks it is because the art world is very literal, and Wolfson’s work “puts the knife right into the wound.” But the National Gallery of Australia just blew nearly $5 million, its entire annual acquisition budget, on Wolfson’s latest provocative animatronic sculpture, Cube, which is due to be unveiled next year. (New Yorker)

Art Organizations Condemn Withdrawal From Creative Europe – Nearly 700 cultural figures in the UK have signed an open letter to the government protesting the country’s withdrawal from the Creative Europe fund, which supports cultural initiatives across the continent. The letter states that the decision, which will make it impossible for British creatives to access the €1.46 billion ($1.66 billion) fund, will result in an “impoverished future” for creativity in Britain. (TAN)


McKinsey Exec Sells Off Indian Art – A management consultant who began working for McKinsey in India almost 30 years ago built a 1,000 work-strong collection of Indian Modern art. Now, Kito de Boer and his wife, Jane, are selling 153 of those works at Christie’s New York and online beginning March 18. They have a combined high estimate of $4.9 million. (Bloomberg)

Van Gogh Painting Sells for €15 Million at TEFAF – London-based gallery Dickinson has sold Van Gogh’s Peasant Woman in Front of a Farmhouse (1885) to a private collector at TEFAF Maastricht for around €15 million ($17 million). It was originally spotted in a junk shop in London in 1968 and snapped up for less than $60. (TAN)

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz Collection Nets $17.2 Million – An array of intriguing items that once belonged to artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz brought in a total of $17.2 million at Sotheby’s. In advance of the public auction, Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired a group of photographs and literature through private sale. The trove came from fellow artist and O’Keeffe confidante Juan Hamilton. (ARTnews


Erie Museum Hires Interim Director – The Eerie Art Museum has appointed Pam Masi as its interim director following the departure of former director Joshua Helmer, who was pushed out amid allegations of sexual harassment. Masi has 30 years of nonprofit management experience and was most recently the director of the Red Cross of Northern Pennsylvania. She will take up the role in April. (Go Erie)

UK Photography Show Postponed – The Photography Show and the Video Show 2020, which were due to take place at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, UK, between March 14 and 17, have been postponed until September due to the ongoing threat of COVID-19. Organizers say they made the “difficult” decision to postpone ahead of any government guidelines on curtailing large events out of concern for the wellbeing of their visitors, exhibitors, and staff. (Photography)


Artist-Activist Charged Again in the Philippines – The Philippine government is continuing to pursue the artist-activist Gabriela Krista “Kiri” Dalena and nine fellow activists for alleged perjury after they sought legal protection against “red-tagging” (the act of accusing activists of having links to armed communist groups). Critics of the government, including Amnesty International, say it targets human-rights activists by falsely accusing them of violent communist ties. (Art Asia Pacific)

Etsy Removes Coronavirus-Themed Artworks – The e-commerce site Etsy, where users sell handmade and vintage crafts, has banned listings related to the coronavirus from its website. While the move was ostensibly meant to eliminate items that falsely claimed to protect people from the virus, the site has also removed artworks inspired by microbiology that were actually trying to fight misinformation, like a crochet model of the coronavirus. (Forbes)

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