Art Industry News: New York Sues the Sackler Family in the Country’s Biggest Opioid Lawsuit Yet + Other Stories

Plus, Norway agrees to restitute Easter Island artifacts and LACMA reaches a deal with Budi Tek.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/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 this Friday, March 29.


LACMA Moves Ahead on a Deal With Budi Tek – The Los Angeles museum’s director, Michael Govan, is moving forward with a partnership with art collector Budi Tek to establish an endowment between LACMA and Budi Tek’s Yuz Museum in Shanghai. Tek, who is ill with cancer, has a significant art collection of more than 1,500 works, which includes many by Chinese artists. (The Art Newspaper)

Activists Pen Open Letter on El Museo del Barrio – Activists are concerned that the museum, which was originally founded to support artistic members of the Puerto Rican community, is becoming an elitist institution for Latin American art. Brazilian-born Rodrigo Moura was named chief curator earlier this month, sparking outcry. “El Museo del Barrio must be El Museo de los Barrios,” reads the letter, which is called the “Mirror Manifesto” and has garnered more than 200 signatures. (ARTnews)

New York State Names the Sacklers in Opioid Suit – In New York state, it is estimated that nine people die from opioids a day. Two days after the Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma settled with Oklahoma for $270 million, New York’s attorney general Letitia James has expanded her state’s ongoing lawsuit to include as defendants eight members of the Sackler family. The Sacklers are known for their philanthropic work in the arts, but museums are increasingly rejecting their donations. (Courthouse News)

A Giant KAWS Inflatable Comes Down Early in Hong Kong – The artist’s wildly popular giant inflatable “Companion” character will be removed from Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour two days early due to bad weather. Organizers wrote on Twitter: “in view of the upcoming unstable weather over weekend forecast by hong kong observatory, it’s time for KAWS:HOLIDAY to say goodbye to all tomorrow, to avoid any unnecessary circumstances as well as to ensure the safety of marine staff.” (Designboom)


Director of Art Basel Hong Kong on the Asian Art Scene – Adeline Ooi, director of Art Basel Hong Kong explains the importance of balancing the representation of east and west at the premier art fair. “We are building bridges between the east and the west, but also [within] Asia,” she says. “It is a large continent — I see it stretching from Turkey to Australia. And it is very fragmented, with different languages and different histories.” (Financial Times)

Is the Middle Market Slowing Down? – The sales were slower this year at London’s contemporary art sales in March. Whereas the combined total for March 2018 was £347 million ($452 million), this month’s sales rang in at a total of £251 million ($327 million). The pre-sale low estimate was down 25 percent from the previous year as well while premium totals for the sales were down by 27.6 percent. (Art Market Monitor)


Artist Isaac Julien Is Hired at UC Santa Cruz – The artist is joining the University of California, Santa Cruz, as distinguished professor of the arts alongside his collaborator, the curator and critic Mark Nash, who is also taking up a professor of arts role. Together they will develop the Isaac Julien Lab, which will be a mirror of Julien’s London studio, and students enrolled in the program will also get to spend an academic quarter in London. (Press release)

Norway Agrees to Return Easter Island Artifacts – The Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo has agreed to repatriate thousands of items removed from Easter Island during 1950s expeditions undertaken by the explorer Thor Heyerdahl. The museum’s director, Martin Biehl, says the return process “will take time,” especially given that he wants to deliver the items, which include human bones and carved objects from the indigenous Rapa Nui population, to a “well-equipped museum.” (AFP)

The Getty Grants $5 Million to the Courtauld Institute – The J. Paul Getty Trust is giving $5 million to the Courtauld Institute of Art to endow its wall painting conservation graduate program. The money will support scholarships and practical education in the field for Master’s students. (Press release)


Bill Viola Inaugurates Video Art at the Barnes Foundation – Pioneering video artist Bill Viola brings the medium to the Barnes Foundation—famed for its collection of Modern and Impressionist art—for the first time. Curated by John G. Hanhardt, the show, titled “I Do Not Know What It Is I Am Like: The Art of Bill Viola,” will be on view June 30–September 15. The artist’s first major outing in Philadelphia, the exhibition will feature a number of important pieces from 1976 to 2009, and will be accompanied by presentations of Viola’s work at the nearby Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Fabric Workshop and Museum. (Press Release)

Museums Face Thorny New Legal Concerns Online –  Legal questions around social media, artificial intelligence, and free speech online were major topics at an annual conference co-sponsored by the American Law Institute Continuing Legal Education and the Smithsonian Institution. In a discussion called “Hot Topics in Intellectual Property,” officials considered the legal implications for museums using influencers to engage wider audiences over social media. (TAN)

The V&A Acquires Grayson Perry’s Brexit Vases – The V&A has picked up the artist’s matching set of  Brexit-themed ceramics. The two pots, named Matching Pair, were created in 2017 and depict issues surrounding the “Leave” and “Remain” campaigns, were unveiled today, March 29, the date Britain was originally slated to leave the European Union before the deadline was delayed. (Guardian)

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