Art Industry News: Van Gogh’s Thank You Letter to an Art Critic Goes on View at a Museum + Other Stories

Plus, a Pussy Riot member was arrested in Russia and American abstract painter Thomas Nozkowski has died.

Vincent van Gogh (1889). National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: VCG Wilson/Corbis via 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, May 10.


MoMA Joins the Immersive Installation Trend – MoMA is devoting its sixth floor to 11 large-scale immersive works of art in the fall. Titled “Surrounds: 11 Installations,” the show will feature works by artists including Arthur Jafa, Allora and Calzadilla, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Hito Steyerl, and Sarah Sze. All the works are drawn from the museum’s collection and go on show for the first time. Each installation will get its own gallery. It will be organized by a nine-strong curatorial team drawn from across the museum. (Press release)

Pussy Riot Member Arrested in Russia – A Pussy Riot member has been detained in Moscow along with her friends. Activist Veronika Nikulshina, who was briefly detained last month, was taken into custody after neighbors reportedly complained about a noisy party. Her lawyer says she denies the charges of suspected drug use. Group spokesman Pyotr Verzilov, who was treated for a suspected poisoning last year, tweeted that six of Nikulshina’s friends had also been detained. (The Art Newspaper)

Van Gogh’s Thank You Letter to an Art Critic Goes on View – The troubled artist was overjoyed to read the first-ever printed review of his work, which was a positive one. The gushing letter he wrote to the critic, Albert Aurier, was purchased by the Van Gogh Museum last month with the help of the Hong Kong tycoon and collector Cheung Chung-kiu. Aurier praised Van Gogh’s work for its “excess, excess in strength, excess in nervousness, violence in expression.” The artist, who would die within four months, called the critic’s words “a work of art in itself.” (Guardian)

Climate Change Decimated Pre-Columbian Populations – Archeologists have long speculated why South American sites were suddenly abandoned 8,200 years ago. A new study has found that abrupt climate change was probably to blame. Unpredictable levels of rainfall, particularly in the tropics, appear to have had a negative impact on pre-Columbian populations. The authors of the report say that exceptionally wet or dry years prompted indigenous peoples who had relied on hunting and gathering to begin to cultivate plants and develop a new relationship with their environment and so population levels recovered. (HeritageDaily)


Nelson Mandela’s Sketch Sells for $90,000 – A drawing by the former South African president sold for its top estimate, $90,000, at Bonhams’s African art sale last week. It belonged to Mandela’s daughter, Pumla Makaziwe Mandela. The work, titled The Cell Door, Robben Island (2002) is a reflection on Mandela’s nearly three decades of imprisonment. (Financial Times)

Italian Banks Sells Its Art Collection – The Italian bank UniCredit plans to sell off its 6,000-work art collection. Some works will be donated to museums. The proceeds will go towards social initiatives across Europe, including education, gender equality, and job creation. (TAN)

Gallery Moves to Be Close to Tracey Emin – The dealer Carl Freedman, who is Tracey Emin’s former boyfriend, is opening a gallery in the former print works in Margate where she has her new studio. He says that most of his sales were occurring internationally and at art fairs anyway, hence the move from London to the south coast of England. (TAN)


Artist Thomas Nozkowski Has Died – The abstract painter, known for his cosmic compositions and ineffable landscapes, has died at 75. The quiet and understated artist, who was represented by Pace Gallery, did not receive widespread acclaim in his lifetime despite having had 75 solo exhibitions. (ARTnews)

Getty Research Institute Appoints Assistant Curator – Pietro Rigolo has worked as a special collections archivist at the institution since 2013. He will now take up the role of assistant curator of the Getty Research Institute’s modern and contemporary collections. (Artforum)

Tony Costa Wins the Archibald Prize – Sydney-based painter Tony Costa was awarded AUD 100,000 ($70,000) for his portrait of renowned Chinese-Australian artist Lindy Lee. Costa was selected out of 51 finalists for Sydney’s Art Gallery of New South Wales’s 2019 Archibald Prize for Australian portraiture. (Art Asia Pacific)


Damien Hirst’s Wreck Sculptures Head to the Thames – At “London’s answer to the High Line,” Hirst will show a pair of sculptures from his 2017 Venice show “Treasures From The Wreck Of The Unbelievable.” The new free-to-enter walkway project on Greenwich Peninsula on the River Thames, called The Tide, opens on July 5. (Evening Standard)

Art Gallery of Ontario Changes Admissions Policy – The Toronto museum has introduced a new admissions fee policy: visitors 25 or younger will get in for free, visitors over 25 will pay 25 Canadian dollars ($18.50), and its special exhibitions will now be free of charge. For an extra 10 Canadian dollars ($7.50), visitors can purchase a pass to make all future visits to the museum free for one year. (ARTnews)

PhotoFocus Biennial Announces Details for 2020 Event – The theme for the 2020 PhotoFocus biennial will be called the “light &,” as the fifth edition of the exhibition sets out to “explore light and its contrasts in relation to photography and the world at large.” It takes places from October 1 to 4, 2020, in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Press release

Venice Performance Programs Proceed as Usual – After some hold ups due to rainy weather, highly anticipated performances by Victoria Sin and Paul Maheke went ahead yesterday as part of Ralph Rugoff’s official public performance program, titled “Meetings on Art.” The first-ever program was co-curated by Aaron Cezar, director of Delfina Foundation. (Instagram)

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