Art Industry News: New Mapplethorpe Biopic Slammed as a ‘Vanilla’ Dud That ‘Doesn’t Risk Enough’ + Other Stories

Plus, Bonhams raises its buyers premium and Christian Louboutin foots the bill to renovate his favorite childhood museum.

Ondi Timoner's new Mapplethorpe biopic. Image courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival.

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 Monday, March 4.


Are Museums Clear Enough About What’s Real and What’s Not? – Museums are not always transparent about what is original and what is a copy, replica, or cast, according to an investigation by artnet News contributor Menachem Wecker. He takes issue with, for example, the labels of posthumous casts of Rodin’s sculpture at the Hirshhorn. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture has now pledged to revise the label accompanying its reproduction of a panel from Jacob Lawrence’s epic “Migration Series” to clarify that the real thing is in the Phillips Collection. (Washington Post)

Heirs Petition the Supreme Court to Reclaim a Matisse Portrait – London’s National Gallery successfully defeated attempts to reclaim Matisse’s portrait of Greta Moll, which the subject’s heirs claim was stolen in the wake of World War II. Now, the battle may find a new audience. After losing in a New York court, the heirs are continuing to seek $26 million compensation or the return of the painting and have petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their case. At issue is whether Portrait of Greta Moll was sold to a Swiss dealer in 1947 without the family’s authorization, a claim the National Gallery rejects. (Times)

The Mapplethorpe Film Is a Disappointment, Apparently – The new biopic Mapplethorpe, which focuses on the rise of the photographer (played by The Crown‘s Matt Smith) and his ultimate death from AIDS, is what critic David Edelstein describes as “Mapplethorpe Vanilla.” Though it is explicit, the film still skims the surface of exactly how punk his friend Patti Smith was and the extremity and depth of the artist’s personal life and photography. It is not a fitting tribute to an artist who shocked the public: “Mapplethorpe doesn’t linger long enough to have a present tense. It hits its marks and breezes on….  It doesn’t risk enough to be bad,” Edelstein writes. (Vulture)

South Africa Names Venice Biennale Artists – In the eleventh hour, the African nation has finally revealed its artists for the 58th Venice Biennale, which opens this May. Painter Mawande Ka Zenzile, sculptor Dineo Seshee Bopape, and interdisciplinary artist Tracey Rose will investigate social, political and economic resilience in the post-Apartheid era. The pavilion will be organized by Nkule Mabaso, a curator at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis Galleries, and Nomusa Makhubu, an art history lecturer at the University of Cape Town. (The Art Newspaper)


Ex-Rijksmuseum Director to Oversee TEFAF Vetting – Wim Pijbes, the former director of the Rijksmuseum, will lead the art and antiques fair’s reconstituted vetting committees. He takes up the role of global chairman of vetting at the same time that the rules governing the committees have changed: To avoid conflicts of interest, art dealers and auction house experts are no longer permitted to authenticate works on sale at TEFAF in Maastricht and New York. (Press release)

Almine Rech to Represent the Tàpies Estate – The Spanish artist’s estate is now working with the gallery Almine Rech, which will host its first Tàpies show at its Brussels space next year. Pace Gallery, Galerie Lelong & Co, and Timothy Taylor also continue to represent the estate. (ARTnews)

The Armory Show Announces Two New Prizes – The fair’s Pommery Prize will award $20,000 to the best presentation in the Platform section, while the $10,000 Étant donnés Prize will go to a living artist of French nationality whose work on view at the fair impresses the judges. (Press release)

Bonhams Increases Buyers’ Premiums – The auction house is following Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips’s lead in raising its fees for buyers. Bonhams’ new premiums range from 13.9 percent of the hammer price for works selling for more than $4 million to 27.7 percent for works selling up to $3,000. (Press release)


Preis der Nationalgalerie Names Nominees – The prestigious biannual German art prize has released its shortlist for 2019: French artist Pauline Curnier Jardin, Simon Fujiwara from the UK, Kosovo-born Flaka Haliti, and Estonian artist Katja Novitskova. Last year, the prize’s organizers were called out by the women on its all-female shortlist for placing undue emphasis on their gender and foreign nationalities. Previous winners include Anne Imhof and Omer Fast. (ARTnews)

SFMOMA Announces New Appointments – Janet Bishop, the museum’s longtime painting and sculpture curator, has been named chief curator, while Chad Coerver, also an SFMOMA veteran, has been promoted to chief education and community engagement officer. Rebecca Malkin-Chocron is the museum’s new director of finance. (Press release)

Architect Kevin Roche Dies at 96 – The Dublin-born American architect has died, leaving behind a legacy of Modernist corporate and institutional buildings around the world. The Pritzker Prize winner emerged as one of corporate America’s leading designers in the postwar boom years and was perhaps best known for his work with New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, for which he developed a master plan in 1967 and designed galleries including the glass pyramid that houses the Temple of Dendur. (Washington Post)


China Sends Archaeologists to Egypt for the First Time – After Egypt and China recently signed a memorandum of understanding, a team of Chinese archaeologists began an unprecedented collaboration with Egyptian experts. Their first joint project is the restoration of a temple north of Luxor. The aim of the five-year-long Chinese mission is to rebuild the Temple of Montu and open it to tourists. The move comes after the Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan visited Egypt last fall. (CGTN)

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland Goes Free – Beginning March 16, the museum is introducing free admission, as well as four other changes that seek to promote equity and inclusion. Called “Open House,” the initiative also involves the creation of a diversity-focused curatorial fellowship, an engagement-guide apprenticeship, enhanced programming for families and teenagers, as well as the addition of an education specialist position. (ARTnews)

Christian Louboutin Helps Restore His Childhood Museum – The shoe designer traces his origin story to his childhood hangout, the Palais de la Porte Dorée in Paris. It was there that he first saw a sign depicting a woman’s high heel (to inform visitors that no heels were allowed), which inspired him to begin sketching models for stilettos. To thank the museum he loves, the designer made an “expensive” but unspecified donation to fund an overhaul of its grand hall, atrium, two oval rooms and library, as well the exterior, adding resplendent LED lighting. (New York Times)

Palais de la Porte Dorée with its 1931 relief by Alfred Auguste Janniot. Photo: Bruno DE HOGUES/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

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