Art Industry News: A Leaked Tape Reveals How an ‘Autocratic’ Director Led to a Meltdown at the Detroit Institute of Arts + Other Stories

Plus, Leon Black is reportedly in talks to step away from his chairmanship at MoMA and a worker dies on duty at a private museum in Beijing.

The Detroit Institute of Arts director Salvador Salort-Pons outside the museum.

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, March 15.


Leon Black in Talks to Step Back From MoMA – Leon Black is reportedly in discussions with New York’s Museum of Modern Art about stepping back as chairman of the board amid recent revelations about his ties to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. After a number of artists voiced opposition to Black’s continued relationship with the museum, several trustees are said to have approached Black about vacating his leadership role when his term ends on July 1. It is unclear whether Black plans to remain on the board, where he has been a member since 1997. If the museum cuts ties to Black, it could risk losing access to his storied art collection, which includes Edvard Munch’s The Scream and a $47.9 million drawing by Raphael. (New York Post)

Worker Dies on Site of M Woods Museum – A construction worker at Beijing’s M Woods Hutong museum died on March 9 after falling from the rooftop of the institution while insulation work was underway. The museum has closed to the public today, and the Beijing government has launched an investigation into the incident. (Art Asia Pacific)

A Leaked Tape Reveals Turmoil Inside the DIA – A leaked recording of a meeting among senior staff at the Detroit Institute of Arts reveals internal discussions of an investigation conducted by outside counsel into employees’ allegations of a toxic work environment. Many current and former staffers described director Salvador Salort-Pons as “erratic, autocratic, condescending, intolerant of dissent, and lacking in clear and effective communication.” In response to the review, the museum says it has established a new board position to liaise between staff and the board and has created a confidential hotline for reporting incidents of discrimination and mistreatment. It did not comment on a question that asked whether the director, whose five-year contract had been scheduled to expire at the end of last year, had signed a new employment agreement. (New York Times, Hyperallergic)

Former Documenta Advisor Was Tied to Nazis – New evidence has surfaced revealing that the influential German art historian Werner Haftmann was a member of the SA, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary wing. Haftmann was the founding director of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie and an early influence on Documenta. Writer Karin Wieland and sociologist Heinz Bude uncovered evidence that Haftmann joined the SA and the Nazi Party in 1933, despite him testifying after World War II that he had never officially been a member of either organization. (ARTnews)


Sprüth Magers Now Represents Nancy Holt – Sprüth Magers is partnering with the Holt/Smithson Foundation to represent the American land artist Nancy Holt. The gallery will present Holt’s work during Art Basel’s OVR this month, followed by solo exhibitions at the gallery’s locations in Berlin and Los Angeles this fall. (Press release)

Artnet Auctions’ Contemporary Art Sale Hits a High – The sale’s sell-through rate by value neared 100 percent, a 144 percent increase on average from that of previous years. Notable results included Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work on paper Untitled (1981), which realized $360,000, and Philip Taaffe’s Twisted Covenant (Original), which realized $84,000—seven times its high estimate—after more than 40 bids. (Press release)


Two Longtime San Diego Art Institutions Merge – The San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park and Lux Art Institute in Encinitas have announced that they will merge to become the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego. The new institution will launch in September with a $1.6 million budget and a new program across both venues and the six acres of outdoor space at Lux. (San Diego Union Tribune)

US Artists CEO to Join the Mellon Foundation – United States Artists chief executive Deana Haggag is leaving the organization for the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She will take up her new role as a program officer in arts and culture in May; Jamie Bennett will succeed her as interim CEO of US Artists. (Hyperallergic)


Artist Simon Denny Offers a Way to Carbon-Offset NFTs – Artist Simon Denny’s new show at Petzel Gallery will address the environmental impact of NFTs. After minting and releasing a suite of NFTs, Denny plans to retire the mining computers he used from the blockchain network Ethereum, and will donate the processing power from them to environmental research. (Financial Times)

Contemporary Art Society Launches “Choose Art” Campaign – The London-based charity Contemporary Art Society has launched a new annual crowdfunding campaign called Choose Art. Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has designed a limited-edition T-shirt as an inducement for donations of £60 ($83.50). The campaign, which is in collaboration with Frieze, runs through April 15. Proceeds will go toward the purchase of works by UK-based artists that will be donated to museums. (Press release)

CHOOSE ART. Courtesy of Katharine Hamnett London and the Contemporary Art Society.

CHOOSE ART. Courtesy of Katharine Hamnett London and the Contemporary Art Society.

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