Art Industry News: US Museum Slams the German Far-Right for Co-Opting Its ‘Slave’ Painting to Demonize Immigrants + Other Stories

Plus, Madrid's Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza wins a decade-long legal battle over a Pissarro painting and Joel Mesler paints a portrait of Jennifer Lawrence and Cooke Maroney.

A billboard for the European elections by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party depicts part of the painting The Slave Market by Jean-Leon Gerome with the text: "So That Europe Doesn't Become "Eurabia!" and "Europeans vote AfD." Photo by Sean Gallup/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 Wednesday, May 1.


Looted Pissarro Painting Will Stay in Madrid Museum – The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza has won a lengthy US court battle to hold onto a painting by Camille Pissarro that was taken by the Nazis from its Jewish owner in 1939. After a decade-long battle by the American heirs, an LA court ruled that it cannot compel the Madrid museum or Spain to restitute the work because Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza lawfully purchased it, despite red flags about its provenance that the judge said should have been pursued further. The Nazis had forced German industrialist Julius Cassirer’s daughter-in-law to sell Rue Saint-Honore, apres-midi, effet de pluie for about $360, though she never saw any of the money, according to the lawsuit. (Bloomberg)

Cambridge University Will Research Its Links to the Slave Trade – The university has launched an inquiry into gifts and bequests with possible links to the Atlantic slave trade. The Fitzwilliam Museum and other collections will be included in the research to uncover how Cambridge University may have indirectly profited from the exploitation of African labor. Researchers will also look into the university’s contribution to scholarship that underpinned or justified slavery. (Press release)

American Museum Protests Use of Its Painting in German Election Campaign – The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, has condemned the right-wing German political party AfD after it featured a painting from its collection, Jean-Léon Gérôme’s Slave Market, in its latest election campaign. The anti-immigration party accompanied the 19th-century image of an enslaved pale-skinned woman with the slogan “Eurabia,” often used by conspiracy theorists to describe alleged Arab plans to dominate Europe. The Clark’s director said it has written to demand the AfD cease and desist its misuse of the painting, but noted that the image is in the public domain. (The Art Newspaper)

Joel Mesler Paints a Portrait of Jennifer Lawrence and Cooke Maroney – The actress and her “Art Boy” partner were spotted admiring a small, crudely rendered portrait of themselves on a New York street corner. Internet commenters wondered why a cosmopolitan art dealer such as Maroney and a wealthy movie star like Lawrence would opt for a painting that looked like it might have been made by the woman who painted Beast Jesus. Gallerist-artist Joel Mesler stepped forward to Vulture as the creator of the work, explaining, “I just paint that way cause it’s the best I can do.” If you want a Mesler portrait of your very own, hop on the ferry to Frieze New York this week, where the artist will be stationed and taking commissions. (Vulture)


Berlin Gallery Weekend Director Addresses Complaints – Maike Cruse, the director of Gallery Weekend, has pledged to respond to criticism, led by the artist Candice Breitz, that 75 percent of shows shows opening in the 2019 edition featured work by white male artists. Cruse noted that many of the most interesting young artists are female—”so, in five or 10 years’ time, these lists of artists will hopefully look a lot different.” (TAN)

IFPDA Announces New Leadership – The International Fine Print Dealers Association has announced new leadership: former Pulse art fair director Helen Toomer will become the director of the Fine Art Print Fair, held every fall in New York. She will work with Jenny Gibbs, the former director of the MA program in art business at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, who was appointed the IFPDA’s executive director in February. (Press release)

Jutta Koether Leaves Bortolami to Join Lévy Gorvy – The German artist and critic will be represented by Lévy Gorvy after a decade with Bortolami in New York. While it is unusual for the news of an artist move to be announced by the former gallery, Stefania Bortolami beat Lévy Gorvy to the punch. “Though parting ways is difficult, we will always be honored and humbled that Jutta entrusted us with her work,” she wrote in an email. (Email)

David Kordansky to Represent Linda Stark – Los Angeles’s David Kordansky Gallery now represents the LA-based painter whose surreal, bold paintings featuring flowers, cats, and the female body were a highlight of the 2018 “Made in LA” Hammer biennial. Kordansky will present a solo show of Stark’s work in its newly expanded gallery in early 2020. (ARTnews)


Pussy Riot Members Gain Asylum – Authorities in Sweden have granted asylum to Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky, two members of the Russian collective Pussy Riot, after they received death threats in response to their anti-government performances and protests in their native Russia. Their claim, initially filed in 2017 and rejected by Sweden’s immigration office, was approved on appeal. (AFP)

Banksy’s Port Talbot Mural Is There to Stay – Local authorities in the Welsh steel town where Banksy painted a Christmas mural have reached an agreement with the art dealer, John Brandler, who purchased the work. Season’s Greetings will be moved from its current location at the end of May and put on public display in a former police station in the center of Port Talbot for at least three years. Brandler’s larger plans to create the UK’s first street art museum, hampered by bureaucratic red tape, remain up in the air. (Guardian)

Palace Museum Hires Peabody Essex Curator – Academic and curator Daisy Wang Yiyou will lead Hong Kong’s new Palace Museum as deputy director beginning July 2. She previously served as curator of Chinese and East Asian art at Massachusetts’s Peabody Essex Museum. (SCMP)


New Zealand’s Art World After the Christchurch Shooting – The Indonesian artist Zulfirman Syah is recovering from gunshot wounds sustained during the March attack at the Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, where the shooter headed after killing worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque. Syah will be showing his work at the Auckland Art Fair, which runs today through Sunday, while he recovers from his hospital room. Fellow artists in the country have been supporting Syah and contributing to a fundraiser for his hospital bills. (ARTnews)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Shares Its Wealth – The Philadelphia Museum will lend dozens of artworks to eight smaller nearby museums thanks to a $700,000 grant from the Art Bridges and Terra Foundation for American Art initiative. Works by Charles Demuth, Edward Hicks, and Charles Sheeler, among others, will travel to the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown; the Allentown Art Museum; the Erie Art Museum; the Reading Public Museum; the Palmer Museum of Art; Trout Gallery at Dickinson College; Demuth Foundation and Museum in Lancaster; and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Russian Jailed for Attacking Painting of a Tsar – Russian authorities have imprisoned Igor Podporin, the man who attacked a 19th-century painting of Ivan the Terrible at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery last year because he objected to the unflattering depiction of Russia’s first Tsar. Podporin has been sentenced to two years at a “correctional colony.” (AFP)

Stedelijk Cracks the Mystery of a Wartime Portrait – The Amsterdam museum has revealed new information about the sitter for a famous Dutch wartime portrait by Charley Toorop. The museum found out that the anxious subject in Working Class Woman was based on Toorop’s housekeeper, Johanna “Jansje” Punt, who was worrying about her three sons forced to work in Nazi Germany. Punt’s grandchildren wrote the museum to identify the subject after reading about the painting in the newspaper. (Guardian)

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