Art Industry News: The Metropolitan Museum of Art May Be Closed, But the Met Gala Is Still On + Other Stories

Plus, Studio 54 regulars look back ahead of the Brooklyn Museum's show and mega-galleries in New York temporarily shutter.

Nicki Minaj at the Met's Costume Institute Gala. Image ©Patrick McMullan, Photo - Sean Zanni/PMC.

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 Friday, March 13. For an up-to-the-minute list of recent art world cancellations and postponements, have a look here.


Rembrandt’s Forgotten Paintings of Black People – Rembrandt painted several portraits of black people, which, like those of his contemporaries, had been largely overlooked until a young curator decided to research them. Stephanie Archangel has joined forces with art historian Elmer Kolfin to co-organize an exhibition of the Dutch master’s paintings featuring black people. Most feature male and female servants but the collection also includes prosperous freemen living in Amsterdam. Three were commissioned by the sitters, one of whom was a Brazilian slave owner based in Africa. The show at the Rembrandthuis in Amsterdam (which is temporarily closed) features 56 works. Archangel, who is a curator at the Rijksmuseum, says: “There were many more artworks out there.” (New York Times)

Who’s on the Hook When Large Art Events Get Canceled? – Art Basel is “in active discussions” with its insurer about its canceled fair in Hong Kong. Many other organizers of fairs and other large-scale events may not have policies that cover disease-related cancelations and postponements, leaving them (and exhibitors) to foot the bill. Getting insurance against communicable diseases and other disasters outside organizers’ control is expensive. Torsten Jeworrek, a board member of Munich Re AG, recently said the German reinsurer was part of a consortium that extended cancellation insurance to this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. It has “three-digit-millions exposure,” he said. (Wall Street Journal)

The Met Gala Is Going Forward – The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is still planning to forge ahead with its star-studded fashion gala, although the New York museum has closed after two staffers were tested for COVID-19Nancy Chilton, the chief external relations officer for the institute, told The Cut: “We are proceeding as planned and look forward to a wonderful evening,” adding that the museum is keeping a close eye on the situation. The red-carpet fundraiser, which is known as the Oscars of the fashion world, is due to take place on May 4. (Buzzfeed)

Sydney Biennale Rejects Art’s Eurocentrism – Works by Indigenous, First Nation, and artists of color dominate the 2020 edition of the exhibition. Organized by the Australian artist Brook Andrew, who has Indigenous ancestry, the show challenges the traditional hierarchies of the art world. Andrew has worked with a tighter budget after the departure of longstanding corporate sponsors and a number of private philanthropists in the wake of the 2014 edition. Wildfires that reached Sydney’s suburbs also made the exhibition touch-and-go at one point. Standout works include the Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama’s monumental installation of signature hessian sacks in the main venue on Cockatoo Island. The Mexican artist Teresa Margolles, meanwhile, has created a powerful memorial to Mexico’s hundreds of murdered women in the form of a room surrounded by blood-red curtains. (Guardian


Sotheby’s Preps African Art Auction – Works by the Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu will lead Sotheby’s next Modern and contemporary African art sale, which is due to take place on March 25 in London. The artist’s 1953 portrait of Princess Sefi has a high estimate of £300,000 ($378,000). (Africa News)

New York’s Big Galleries Close – Pace, Gagosian, and Hauser & Wirth are shuttering their New York spaces as a precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Zwirner is keeping one space in Chelsea open but closing the other, as well as its Upper East Side space. Hauser & Wirth is also closing its Los Angeles gallery, but Pace is keeping its Palo Alto outpost open. (Artnet News)

Art Brussels Is Postponed Until June –  Art Brussels has announced it is postponing the event due to take place in April until late June. Organizers took the decision in line with the Belgian government’s health recommendations. The fair’s new dates are Thursday 25 to Sunday 28 June. (Press release


Hyperrealist Sculptor J. Seward Johnson Jr. Has Died – The creator of lifelike sculptures has died of cancer at age 89. He is perhaps best known for his sculpture of a seated businessman reviewing the contents of his briefcase, which survived the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. Firefighters are said to have tried to save it, thinking it was a real person. (NYT)

Smithsonian Joins Museums That Are Closing – The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and, now, the Smithsonian Institution have said they will close in an effort to preserve public health. You can check out our up-to-the-minute coverage on art world closures, postponements, and cancelations here. (ARTnews)

Artadia Announces 2020 Los Angeles Winners – Artadia has awarded 2020 grants to the Los Angeles-based artists Beatriz Cortez, Amir H. Fallah, and Suné Woods. Cortez and Woods will receive $10,000, and Fallah will get $25,000 as the Marciano Art Foundation Artadia Awardee. (Press release)


Studio 54 Denizens Look Back Ahead of Brooklyn Museum Show –  While the museum is closed as of today, which puts the kibosh on its highly anticipated show,”Studio 54: Night Magic,” you can at least read the stories of those who attended the legendary nightclub from the comfort of your own home. Fashion designer Norma Kamali recalls the need for escape: “New York was bankrupt, a disaster. Everybody was leaving. At Studio 54, everybody could shake free of the doom and gloom.” (NYT)

Game-Changing Ancient Art Discovered in Basque Cave – Drawings in the painting-rich Basque region show that distinct Paleolithic cultures survived side-by-side for millennia. In recent years, archaeologists equipped with sophisticated tools have discovered 17 previously unknown painting sites in the Basque region dating to this Paleolithic period. (Haaretz)

Palazzo Strozzi Puts Saraceno Show Online – Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi is rolling out a digital platform to explore urgent questions about the future and human relationships, topics which course through the acclaimed exhibition by Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno that is on view in the shuttered museum. Called “IN TOUCH,” the public platform will to share images, videos, stories and readings. (Press release)

Tomás Saraceno, Aria installation at Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze; Photograph ® Studio Tomás Saraceno 2020

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