Art Industry News: Why the Arts Need a New Deal-Style Government Bailout Just Like the Airlines + Other Stories

Plus, museum leaders ask Congress for $4 billion and a long-lost work by Ana Mendieta sparks a lawsuit against Sotheby's.

Performers in front of the Detroit Industry murals by Mexican artist Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2012. Photo by Paul Warner/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 Friday, March 20.


Museum Leaders Ask Congress for $4 Billion – American museum leaders are lobbying Congress to allocate $4 billion to nonprofit museums as part of a broader bailout package to address the economic fallout of the current health crisis. The American Alliance of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors stress that institutions employ 760,000 people and annually contribute $50 billion to the US economy. During the coronavirus shutdown, they are losing an estimated $33 million a day. The AAM notes that some staff have already been put on furlough or been laid off; even an institution as well-funded as the Metropolitan Museum of Art is bracing for a $100 million shortfall and possible drastic cutbacks. (Hyperallergic)

Will This Discovery Recalibrate Ancient History? – New research suggests that radiocarbon dating, used to identify the dates of events in prehistory, could have been off by years, or even a few decades. Experts argue that the use of radiocarbon traces to date ancient events in Europe and the Mediterranean, such as the death of King Tutankhamen, failed to take into account regional variations in how trees grow. Cornell University professor Sturt Manning and his colleagues note that the radiocarbon level on Earth varies according to region and season. Adjusting the dates accordingly, Manning says, has the potential to rewrite prehistory—including which groups were significant in shaping classical civilization. (Science Daily)

Is It Time for a Cultural Bailout? – The economic impact on the arts of the coronavirus pandemic will be so great that the US will need a version of the 1930 New Deal, William S. Smith argues—and it is essential that culture be part of that equation. He cites the Federal Art Project during the Great Depression, which funded both individual artists’ work and institutions’ shows when private philanthropy plummeted, leading to a flourishing of mural painting and laying the foundation of the postwar rise of art in the US. Smith proposes that museums today might receive more direct public funding in exchange for offering free admission. “Private markets and philanthropy will be changed on the other side of this pandemic,” he writes, “so it is time once again to envision what art looks like as a public good.” (Art in America)

Artists Reflect on the Virus’s Impact  The American artist Trevor Paglen’s show in Turin is half-installed and in lockdown. Bill Fontana’s show in the Kunsthaus Graz had just opened when all of Austria’s museums were abruptly shuttered. Like fellow artists around the world, they are now working out what they will do next. Fontana will take advantage of the long stretches at home to organize his archive, which spans five decades. Paglen, who has a studio in Berlin, says he will take a deep dive into researching “the things that make us feel safe in a very broad way.” (The Art Newspaper)


Long-Lost Ana Mendieta Sparks Lawsuit – Mendieta’s estate is suing Sotheby’s and the consignor of a photograph by the feminist artist that was pulled from auction after doubts were raised about its provenance. Galerie Lelong, which represents Mendieta’s estate, first spotted the photograph Guanaroca, which was previously thought to be lost, in a sale catalogue. The artist’s estate believes the work was in Mendieta’s possession at the time of her death in 1985 and says it is unclear how the previous owner, Edward Meringolo, came to possess it. (ARTnews)

Art Advisor Goes on a Spending Spree Before Lockdown – Before New York City and other hubs around the country went into lockdown, the New York-based art adviser Todd Levin made a last dash to examine artwork in person. He jumped on a plane and headed to Denver and Salt Lake City to assess two top-dollar 20th-century works on offer, though he declined to name them. “People are selling,” he says. “With this kind of money being talked about, these pieces have to be looked at. I can’t do a condition report from afar.” Levin is now back home and hunkered down. (Bloomberg)


Director of the Pinault Foundation Steps Down – Sylvain Fort, the former presidential press director who was hired to lead billionaire art collector François Pinault’s foundation, is quitting after just six months on the job. The launch of Pinault’s Parisian gallery has been indefinitely delayed due to the current health crisis. A spokesman said the split was “by mutual agreement.” (The Art Newspaper)

MOCA Founder Merry Norris Has Died – The art consultant who helped reshape the artistic landscape of Los Angeles has died at the age of 80 from pneumonia unrelated to COVID-19. Norris was on the city’s Cultural Affairs Commission and a key founder of the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Auctioneer Peter Loughrey Has Died – The influential Los Angeles curator, collector, and founder of Los Angeles Modern Auctions died this week at age 52, from cancer. Loughrey established LAMA at the tender age of 24 and built it into a leading hub to buy and sell the work of California artists long before the blue-chip art market began to recognize its value. (Architectural Digest)


Biennale of Sydney Remains Open – The 22nd edition of the Biennale of Sydney is still open to the public, free of charge, despite the coronavirus outbreak. The organization said it was taking all the necessary precautions outlined by authorities, including frequent cleaning and abundant hand sanitizer. The exhibition, “Nirin,” includes work by Huma Bhabha, Anna Boghiguian, and Tania Bruguera, among others. (Press release)

African American Artists on Their Inspirations – If you are looking for a refreshing break from COVID-19 content, allow us to recommend this New York Times feature in which 35 top African American artists identify one work that most inspires them. Painter Kerry James Marshall selected the film Get Out (“It wasn’t a movie; it was cinema”), while TV producer Kenya Barris selected Glenn Ligon’s Double America 2 (“the simplicity of it is radical and confrontational”). (New York Times)

Artist and Comedian Harry Hill Offers Cute Coronavirus Tips – The artist, who is a regular exhibitor at the annual Royal Academy Summer show, has some tips on helping the world fight the coronavirus. With images borrowed from the toy brand Sylvanian Families, Hill shares the commandments: stay indoors, avoid unnecessary gatherings, and, please, don’t stockpile food. (Instagram)

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