Art Industry News: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Remain Closed Until July and Expects to Lose $100 Million + Other Stories

Plus, the reconstruction of Notre Dame is put on pause and museums in East Asia continue to reopen—cautiously.

"Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free Us" (2019), installation view. Photo courtesy of the artist; Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels; and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

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 Thursday, March 19.


Notre Dame Reconstruction Halted – French authorities have halted restoration work on the Notre Dame Cathedral due to the ongoing public health emergency. A delicate operation to remove scaffolding that had melted together during the fire last April was originally due to begin on March 23, but will now be delayed indefinitely because members of the 100-person team must stay home. President Macron has declared a national lockdown, restricting people’s movements for at least 15 days. Upon their return, workers will need improved facilities to comply with new health measures in addition to protection against toxic lead particles. (The Art Newspaper)

Judge Orders Seizure of Isabel dos Santos’s Assets – A judge in Portugal has ordered the seizure of Isabel dos Santos’s assets. The Angolan billionaire businesswoman, who is the eldest daughter of Angola’s former ruler and the partner of leading African art collector Sindika Dokolo, strenuously denies allegations that she and her associates siphoned off $1 billion from the African state’s coffers. She claims the charges against her are the result of a political vendetta. Dos Santos and Dokolo have homes in London, Russia, and Dubai. It is unclear if Dokolo’s art collection is included among their shared assets. (ICIJ)

The Met Expects to Lose $100 Million – The Metropolitan Museum of Art is projecting that the current health crisis may result in a shortfall of nearly $100 million. One of the first New York museums to shutter last week, the institution now expects it may need to remain closed until July. The Met’s president, Dan Weiss, and director Max Hollein have warned department heads that drastic cutbacks may be necessary and that layoffs would be likely if the shutdown continues into the summer. If the museum can reopen in July, it will offer a reduced program “and lower cost structure” because it expects lower attendance for at least the next year as a result of the crisis. All staffers are now working remotely and will continue to be paid—but only through April 4—as the museum evaluates its options. Meanwhile, other museums may not be so lucky. The president of the American Alliance of Museums anticipates a third of the museums that are now closed may not reopen if the crisis continues. (New York Times)

Roman Abramovich Steps Up Ahead of London Lockdown – The billionaire art collector and soccer club owner Roman Abramovich has opened the luxury hotel at his Chelsea soccer ground in London to health service workers. He will cover the cost of accommodating doctors, nurses, and cleaners at Stamford Bridge’s hotel, many of whom will struggle to get to work in hospitals if the city goes into lockdown, which looks increasingly likely. Abramovich has been forced to spend less time in London and more in Tel Aviv after the UK government stalled on renewing his visa. The Russian billionaire joins wealthy art collectors Bernard Arnault and Miuccia Prada in offering their companies’ help in France and Italy respectively during the global health emergency. (Guardian)


Bonhams Closes Amid Staff Complaints – Bonhams is temporarily closing most of its locations to the public and holding auctions behind closed doors. The company has been criticized by staffers in Los Angeles who were told to come to work despite concerns about a colleague with flu-like symptoms. Bonhams’s office in Hong Kong is open. (ARTnews, Press release)

Christie’s Preps London Prints Sale – Even if most salesrooms are closed, auctions are continuing: Christie’s prints and multiples sale in London went ahead on March 18 despite coronavirus, pulling in a total of £3.75 million ($4.34 million), down from £3.98 million ($4.6 million) for the equivalent sale last year. The auction was led by Andy Warhol’s Cowboys & Indians portfolio, which fetched £467,250 ($540,274). A 1969 Francis Bacon print of a study of a bullfight made £68,750 ($79,495), exceeding its high estimate of £60,000. (Christie’s)


Museums in East Asia Continue to Cautiously Reopen – As the spread of coronavirus slows down, cultural institutions and galleries in East Asia are beginning to cautiously reopen their doors. More than 180 public museums in China reopened on March 15 and Hong Kong’s M+ Pavilion has resumed its exhibition. In Korea, spaces in Seoul are preparing to reopen; Art Sonje Center plans to resume programming on March 24. (ArtAsiaPacific)

Ceramic Artist Alan Caiger-Smith Has Died – The ceramic artist and founder of the pottery workshop Aldermaston Pottery has died at age 90. Caiger-Smith was also a noted scholar in the field who wrote Tin-glaze Pottery in Europe and the Islamic World (1973) and Lustre Pottery (1985). (Guardian) 


Study Shows National Monuments Boost the West’s Economy – The most common argument for not designating parkland as a national monument is that it can harm the economy by keeping the land from being used for more immediate money-making purposes. But a new scientific study has shown that such a designation actually boosts local economies in the American West. Rural communities are seeing business increase eight to 10 percent as they move away from resource-dependent industries like coal mining. (Courthouse News)

Pakistan’s Censorship Is on the Rise – Artists in Pakistan say the state has gone “berserk” with its censorship, cracking down on art exhibitions, films, and books. A public artwork by Adeela Suleman depicting illegal killings perpetrated by police, which was part of the Karachi Biennale, was removed and destroyed shortly after the exhibition opened. (Al Jazeera)

Desert X Site in Saudi Arabia Becomes Permanent – The canyon in AlUla where the controversial site-responsive exhibition Desert X AlUla took place  in February will now become a permanent arts hub. It will be managed by the Royal Commission for AlUla. (Press release)

Superflex, <i>One Two Three Swing!</i> Installation view at Desert X AlUla, photo Lance Gerber, courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla.

Superflex, One Two Three Swing! Installation view at Desert X AlUla, photo Lance Gerber, courtesy the artist and Desert X AlUla.

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