Art Industry News: Coronavirus Postpones the Venice Architecture Biennale + Other Stories

Plus, the Royal Academy of Art pokes fun at social media censors and Turkey releases a jailed Kurdish artist.

The Dutch pavilion. Photo Iwan Baan, courtesy Venice Architecture Biennale.

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 5.


Turkey Releases Jailed Kurdish Artist – The Kurdish activist-artist and teacher Fatos Irwen has been released after serving more than three years in jail. She was sentenced in 2016, charged with resisting the police, attending a demonstration, and “belonging to a terrorist organization,” which she has denied. The group Artists at Risk said Irwen has “faced harsh prison conditions under charges designed to silence dissident freedom of expression and action in Turkey under President Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian regime.” (The Art Newspaper)

Boorish Graffiti Artists Upset Locals in Africa – A group of anonymous graffiti artists on tour in Namibia has outraged locals. Nrupesh Soni, a man angered by the tags, hunted for the rogue artists’ graffiti, finding their boast posts on Instagram and Facebook. Soni was helped by others upset at the group’s tagging. The alleged perpetrators include a Canadian and Frenchman, both in their mid 30s. The French newspaper Le Progres splashed their photographs on its front page as two of the tags,“Soli” and “JAB,” are linked to a graffiti group in Lyons. (Times of London)

Venice Architecture Biennale Postponed – The Venice Architecture Biennale was due to open in May but has been pushed back to the fall and will only run for three months. The move is one of a number of precautionary measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in Italy. Various governments’ advice against travel to Northern Italy, which has borne the brunt of the epidemic in Europe so far, “will have a domino effect on the movement of people and works in coming weeks,” the biennial’s organizers said in a statement. Venice’s museums, along with those in Milan and Turin, have reopened with restrictions in place. (Guardian)

The Royal Academy Pokes Fun at Social Media Prudery – The Royal Academy’s social media team has been posting cheeky images to mock social media giants’ rules about nudity. The academy has been highlighting bare buttocks and breasts painted by Titian ahead of the National Gallery’s exhibition. Other risqué images included work by Sarah Lucas and Tom of Finland. When images were flagged on Twitter, the Royal Academy responded that “our video for February’s exhibitions contained a massive phallus and didn’t get flagged.” It is no coincidence that the academy’s new social media manager is Adam Koszary, who is back in the UK having been briefly headhunted by Elon Musk, a big fan of Koszary’s droll Tweets about museums. When the Barbican gallery moaned about images in its “Masculinities” show being censored, the Royal Academy replied: “We’ll start our own Twitter… with butts.” (Times)


Marc Anthony Drops $150,000 to Fund an Exhibition – The singer Marc Anthony admires Florian Eymann’s art so much that he bought out the French artist’s solo show before it opened. Anthony snapped up 12 portraits based on remixed Old and Modern Masters’ work for $150,000 after a sneak preview of Eymann’s show at Avant Gallery’s Miami space. (Page Six)

Can TEFAF Survive a Dwindling Old Masters Market? – Sotheby’s and Christie’s Old Masters sales totaled $239 million in 2019, which is less than a single auction of contemporary art. But Old Master dealers soldier on. At TEFAF Maastricht the Swiss-based dealer Salomon Lilian says even Old Master paintings in the €100,000 to €300,000 range have become difficult to sell. “We used to sell nice, but not museum quality, pictures to Belgian and Dutch private clients, but they’ve disappeared.” (TAN)


IM Pei Partner Henry Cobb Has Died – The architect Henri Cobb has died at age 93. During his 70-year career, Cobb was a partner of IM Pei, and designed some of the most recognizable buildings in the US, including the blue-glass skyscraper, the John Hancock Tower, in Boston. (NYT)

A Rare Isaac Newton Manuscript Turned Up in a Corsica Library – A conservation researcher discovered a first edition of Isaac Newton’s Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy in a library on the French island of Corsica. Another rare Latin edition of the 17th-century tome sold for $3.7 million at Christie’s in 2016. The director of the Fesch public heritage library has stumbled on many unexpected texts since they began reviewing its holdings a few years ago but calls the Newton find a “Holy Grail.” (Courthouse News)

Prospect New Orleans’s Arist List Announced – The New Orleans triennial Prospect.5 has announced the artist list for its 2020 edition, titled “Yesterday we said tomorrow.” Highlights include the LA-based artist Mark Bradford and rising star Simone Leigh, who will be installing a temporary public monument on the site of the felled statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The triennial runs October 24 through January 24. (Glasstire)


Calida Rawles Comes Into the Spotlight – Artist Calida Rawles’s star is rising following her gallery debut at Various Small Fires in February. The 44-year-old artist is finally seeing a decade of hard work pay off in the market after her work was featured on the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s first novel, The Water Dancer, and a solo booth of her work sold out at Frieze LA. (The Cut)

Catherine Opie Doesn’t Want to Drain the Swamp – The artist Catherine Opie has turned her lens to swamps for a new series “Rhetorical Landscapes,” on view through April 4 at Regen Projects in Hollywood. Opie says she is fascinated by their murky depths as well as their political associations. “[There is] the rhetoric of ‘drain the swamp,'” Opie says, “but the swamp is also a beautiful, vulnerable ecosystem.” (Los Angeles Times)

Preservationists Battle the Children’s Museum Over Plans to Convert Church – Heritage defenders and community locals are protesting the Children’s Museum of Manhattan’s plans to convert a landmarked Beaux Arts church in Central Park West, particularly the plans to remove its stained glass windows. An earlier attempt to transform the space in 2015 was eventually shelved after the owners faced similar community objections. New York’s Landmark Preservation Committee has asked the museum to rework the plans and come back to them at a later date. (Curbed)

Take a Sneak Peek at Joana Vasconcelos’s Sculptures in Yorkshire – The Portuguese conceptual artist Joana Vasconcelos is showcasing work from the past 20 years in an expansive show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Take a sneak peek at some of her works, which often subvert the use of traditionally feminized materials such as crochet and textile. (Instagram)


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