Art Industry News: Gagosian Sold a $5.5 Million Cecily Brown Painting Through Its Online Viewing Room on Mother’s Day + Other Stories

Plus, La Biennale Paris cancels its 2020 edition in September and Milan recruits architects to help enforce social distancing.

Cecily Brown, Figures in a Landscape 1 (2001). In Gagosian's Frieze New York 2020 Online Viewing Room. Artwork © Cecily Brown. Courtesy Gagosian.

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 Monday, May 11.


Milan Asks Architects for Help Enforcing Social Distancing – As Milan—one of the cities hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe—prepares to enter phase two of its reopening process, local leaders are asking its many design experts and architects for help. Authorities have issued a call for practical proposals that will allow businesses like restaurants to open while enforcing social-distancing measures through creative floor plans and partitions. All proposals will be made publicly available. (designboom)

Will Coronavirus Change the Chemical Composition of Artworks Forever? – According to Francesca Casadio, director of conservation and science at the Art Institute of Chicago, the answer is yes. She and her peers have worked hard to track down a disinfectant that can keep the museum environment safe for visitors without harming the art. And even though she’s found one (it’s called Thymol, if you’re curious), she envisions a future in which conservators are likely to find droplets of this or other cleaning agents on artworks—a microscopic reminder of the coronavirus era. (ARTnews)

Gagosian Sells a Major Cecily Brown Online – The mega-gallery successfully sold the British painter’s 2001 work Figures in a Landscape 1, which was priced at $5.5 million (about $1 million less than the artist’s current auction record). The sale was finalized on the last day of a dedicated viewing room set up by the gallery, which ran from May 4 to 10. Coinciding with Frieze Week, the online portal was chock full of video content, art-market research, and other bells and whistles designed to make the Brown sale feel like a market event. This is Gagosian’s priciest virtual sale since Albert Oehlen’s Untitled (1988), which sold for $6 million last March from a viewing room that coincided with Art Basel Hong Kong. (Press release)

Upstate New York Museums Prepare (Cautiously) to Reopen – Under New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest rules, upstate museums will get the green light to open well before art institutions in New York City. And while arts institutions are currently listed as phase four of the reopening plan, some upstate arts leaders are lobbying to be included in phase three, contending that they can properly social distance at large venues like Dia:Beacon. (New York Times)


La Biennale Paris Cancels 2020 Edition – The latest event to call off its 2020 edition is La Biennale Paris, one of the world’s most prominent art and antiques fairs. The fair was due to be held at the Grand Palais from September 18 through 22. Now, its next edition will take place in September 2021. The president of the fair said in a statement that the “the health situation will not allow the organization of a major international event such as La Biennale Paris and the gathering of thousands of dealers, collectors, professionals, and visitors.” The cancellation is likely to draw considerable attention since its 2020 dates almost exactly coincide with the rescheduled Art Basel fair, leading some to wonder whether it will follow suit. (The Art Newspaper)

Art Düsseldorf Moved to 2021 – The Art Düsseldorf fair, originally slated to take place this November, has also been pushed to 2021. The new date for the fourth edition of the fair will be announced in September. The fair relaunched under new ownership last year after a short stint in the portfolio of MCH Group, Art Basel’s parent company. (Monopol)

California Gallery Owner Forced to Close (Again) – After getting lots of press (including on this website) for her defiance of the California governor’s rules for business operations during lockdown, Katharina Powers of Art Ventures Gallery has conceded to close her doors again. Local police dropped by last week to give her a second warning and hand her a copy of the county’s shelter-in-place order, which she was violating. (Mercury News)


Architect Jaquelin Taylor Robertson Dies at 88 – The American architect turned impassioned urban design advocate died in East Hampton on Saturday of Alzheimer’s. The son of an aristocratic Virginia family, Robertson maintained a lifelong love of classicism and established New York’s Urban Design Group, a municipal agency intended to raise the profile of public design in the city. (New York Times)

Why the Lyon Biennale Will Not Open in 2021 – The organizers of the French event raised eyebrows when they announced plans to reschedule from 2021 to 2022, becoming the first major art event planned for next fall to postpone amid the health crisis. Curators Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath explain the decision was both logistical and ethical. Since their appointment in February, they have not been able to travel to Lyon to work with their team; they fear they will have trouble competing for public funding at a time when resources are stretched thin; and they do not want to ask artists to reflect on a crisis they are in the middle of experiencing. (TAN)

Gwangju Biennale Postponed to 2021 – Like many biennials planned for 2020, the Gwangju Biennale Foundation is pushing back the 13th edition of its exhibition. Originally slated to run September 4 through November 29, 2020, the biennale will now take place February 26 through May 9, 2021. (Press release)


Hermitage Braces for Major Budget Shortfall – Saint Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum and other museums in Russia are feeling the pain from prolonged closure. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage, estimated the nation’s largest museum had lost half of its revenue since closing on March 18. The losses from closure are compounded by the fact that the country’s oil and gas companies—a large source of funding for Russia’s museums—have suffered as oil prices tumble. (Artforum)

Museum Directors and Artists Fight Plan to Demolish Outdoor Sculpture – Museum directors, architects, and art lovers alike are protesting the removal of a granite sculpture outside of the National Geographic Society’s headquarters in Washington, DC. The installation by Elyn Zimmerman, called Marabar, has been in the outdoor plaza for nearly 40 years but is now due to be removed to make way for a new entrance pavilion. (New York Times)

Artists Pay Tribute to Little Richard – After news broke that the late rock n’ roll legend Little Richard died on Saturday at age 87, artists of all stripes were quick to pay tribute to his influence. Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey recalled his use of the performer’s image in a 2003 print, while French performance artist Lili Reynaud-Dewar said she created a piece in 2006 in his honor. “I have always been in love with him so deeply, found him always so exciting, sexy, intelligent, [the] best performer and composer,” Reynaud-Dewar wrote on Instagram. (The Art Newspaper)


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