Art Industry News: The Sackler Family and Purdue Pharma Pay $270 Million Settlement to Oklahoma + Other Stories

Plus, Plus, El Museo del Barrio hires a Latinx curator amid pressure and a look at Van Gogh's lesser-known London years.

The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo courtesy of the Met.

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 this Wednesday, March 27.


El Museo del Barrio Hires Latinx Curator Amid Pressure From Artists – Following activist pressure on the museum for working with Latin American artists and curators at the expense of Latinx and Puerto Rican ones, El Museo Del Barrio has created a new position for a curator specializing in Latinx art. The role is currently open for someone to support the museum in advocating for the art and culture of “historically marginalized Latinx communities in the United States,” which include Puerto Ricans, Chicanos, Afro-descendants from the Americas, and LGBTQ people. (Press release)

Van Gogh Was Once an Urbane Londoner – An exhibition on view at Tate Britain in London highlights the troubled artist’s lesser known years in the UK. The artist spent part of his early 20s in Victorian London living a comfortable middle-class life while he worked as an assistant in an art dealership, Goupil & Cie. in Covent Garden. Although he never painted in London, the exhibition puts forward the case that the city influenced some of his work, from 19th-century English literature and British art to some of the city’s vistas. (New York Times)

The Sackler Family Reaches $270 Million Settlement With Oklahoma – Members of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma have agreed to pay $270 million to settle claims made by Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences over allegedly downplaying the addictive nature of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, which Purdue Pharma produces. The school will use the money to help fight the ongoing nationwide opioid addiction crisis, which is particularly problematic in Oklahoma, with over half of overdose deaths last year caused by pharmaceuticals. Purdue Pharma also agreed to stop promoting opioids in the state. Earlier this week the family of art philanthropists halted all its charitable giving. (Courthouse News)

Judge Dismisses Antiques’ Dealer’s Lawsuit Against the Wall Street Journal The New York State Supreme Court dismissed a libel suit brought against the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones, by a leading dealer in antiquities. Hicham Aboutaam sued the company in 2017 for defamation when it published an article about his entanglement him in a legal investigation over the trafficking of antiquities looted by ISIS. While it is true that Aboutaam was being investigated, the dealer maintains he never handled terrorist-looted artifacts, and said that the article caused a drop in his gallery sales. In dismissing the case, the judge said the article did not accuse or suggest that Aboutaam was guilty, and that reporting on investigations is legally protected. (NYT)


Paul McCartney’s English Textbook Sells for £46,000 at Auction – Two fans duked it out in a 15-minute bidding war to get their hands on one of the Beatles star’s former school books, which was being sold at Omega Auctions in the UK. The English textbook from McCartney’s time at Liverpool Institute High School for Boys featuring essays about literature and some doodles sold for around $62,000, nearly 10 times its estimate. (BBC)

Christie’s to Sell Modern Masters from the Collection of Si Newhouse, Jr. – Christie’s New York is selling 11 important works, including one of Jeff Koons’s Rabbit sculptures and a Paul Cézanne still life, from the collection of the late collector and magazine publisher Si Newhouse, Jr., during two evening sales in May. The auction house’s chairman of postwar and contemporary art suspects that the Koons, estimated at between $50 million and $70 million, may set a new record for the artist, which currently stands at $58.4 million for an orange balloon dog in 2013. (NYT)


Raphael’s ‘School of Athens’ Cartoon Goes Back on View After Conservation – After four years of restoration, the Italian master’s sketch for his famous work in the Vatican, the “School of Athens,” is going on public view. The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan has had the preparatory drawing in its collection for 400 years. (New York Times)

MoMA Promotes Thomas Lax to Curator of Performance and Media – The Museum of Modern Art has appointed Thomas J. Lax as curator of its department of media and performance. Lax joined MoMA in 2014 as an associate curator after working at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He will be oversee major research-focused exhibitions, key acquisitions to the collection, as well as manage projects for MoMA’s new space devoted to time-based art, called the Studio. (Press release)

Dallas Museum Ramps Up Its Latin American Focus – Through a new endowed curatorial post and acquisitions program, the Dallas Museum of Art is boosting its focus on art from Latin America. The position is still open for applicants as the institution seeks to implement its new “strategic plan focusing on inclusion.” (The Art Newspaper)


Kochi-Mizuris Biennale Construction Workers Say They Haven’t Been Paid – India’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale is embroiled in a controversy as construction workers allege that they have not been paid for their work preparing pavilions. On an Instagram account, the group says the biennial owes some workers more than 12.3 million rupees (about $178,500). The biennial has called it a “disinformation campaign.” (ARTnews)

Yoko Ono Wants Photos of Your Eyes for Her Upcoming Retrospective –  For her largest retrospective yet in Germany, some 60 works will be on view, including pieces from Ono’s involvement within the Fluxus movement, as well as rarely seen drawings. The show will also have a participatory element: Yoko Ono has asked for women to send images of their eyes (“a testament of harm done to you for being a woman,” she says). The show, “Peace is Power,” opens on April 4 at the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts. (TAN)

See the Drone Photographs of Ethiopia That Have Been Shortlisted for Sony Prize – Edinburgh-based photographer Kieran Dodds has been shortlisted for his series “Hierotopia.” The body of work explores tiny patches of protected forests in Ethiopia that surround churches, where farming has otherwise devastated the forest. The aerial views were shot with a drone camera. (Scotsman)

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