Art Industry News: Artworks by Venice Biennale Stars Have Already Begun Selling for Millions + Other Stories

Plus, the Lucas Museum is under fire for a controversial appointment and Japanese artist Nobuo Sekine has died.

Two works by Zanele Muholi in the Arsenale. Image courtesy Ben Davis.

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 15.


Lucas Museum Under Fire for Controversial Appointment – George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art has been criticized for hiring a chief operating officer who left a previous job as CEO of a nonprofit amid accusations he failed to address a toxic workplace. Emmett Carson was forced to step down as CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, where staffers complained that a senior staff member had bullied and sexually harassed them. The Lucas Museum has defended Carson’s appointment, saying he is the right person for the job. (Nonprofit Quarterly)

Jerry Saltz Loves the Whitney Biennial – The Whitney Biennial, which opens to the public this week, is notoriously an exhibition that people love to hate. But Saltz seems to have simply loved it. He says the show offers 15 standouts—an unusually high percentage—and “breakthroughs abound.” Particularly notable are rising stars Carissa Rodriguez, Elle Pérez, and Nicholas Galanin, whose art is not meant “as an illustration of theory or as aesthetic gamesmanship only.” He praises the exhibition’s co-curators for choosing such a diverse and young list of artists (though he laments a certain stylistic uniformity across much of the painting). Happily, however, he suggests that this Whitney Biennial may signal a “thankful waning of the 50-year fetishization of Duchamp and Warhol.” (New York)

Big Sales Abound at the Venice Biennale – Labels in Biennale’s central exhibition no longer credit the dealers who represent the selected artists and commercial support in the national pavilions is “well hidden.” But while it might look and feel less commercial than in the recent past, the Venice Biennale is still a place for commerce—if you know the right people. Jacqueline Tran of Matthew Marks confirms that the sculptures by Martin Puryear, who is representing the US, are discreetly available for sale at prices ranging from $1.5 million to $4 million. “We have placed some pieces, but we would be happy to sell others,” she said. (New York Times)

Daniel Libeskind Designs a Kenyan Museum – The famous paleontologist Richard Leakey has commissioned the architect to design a museum in Kenya called “ngaren,” which will recount two million years of human history. Evolution, biodiversity, overpopulation, war, disease, and climate change are just some of the subjects that will be covered in its displays. Leakey, who discovered the most complete skeleton of early man in Kenya in 1984, says the museum is the culmination of his life’s work and dubs the project, due to open in 2024, a “call to action.” (Designboom)


A New Gallery Comes to Manhattan – The Lower East Side has a new gallery. Called A.D. and located at 19 Monroe street, it is led by three artists: Nick Irzyk, Philip Hinge, and Nicholas Sullivan. The space will launch with a group show including work by another artist-turned-gallerist, Mitchell Algus. (ARTnews)

Dealer’s Remorse at Flipping a Picasso – The veteran art dealer Martin Summers looks back at four decades of deals in the Art Newspaper. Sales that stand out for the wrong reasons include his decision to flip a Picasso. After legendary German dealer Heinz Berggruen part-exchanged Harlequin With a Mirror (1923) for a Cézanne still life, the Lefevre Gallery sold the Picasso to Baron Heinrich ‘Heini’ Thyssen for $2.5 million. Summers hates to think what it would be worth today. (The Art Newspaper)


Japanese Artist Nobuo Sekine Has Died – The Japanese conceptual artist and sculptor has died at age 76.  One of the founding members the influential Japanese art group Mono-ha, Sekine is known for his ephemeral site-specific installations that allowed for unexpected encounters with natural materials. (Press release)

LA Is Getting a New Instagram Trap – Step aside Museum of Ice Cream, and make way for “Flutter—Where Art and Happiness Meet,” a new Instagram-friendly experience that will be installed at 217 South La Brea Avenue come June 1. Running through November, the group show of 15 artists, which promises to be “playful,” will include VR works and furniture you can climb on to get that perfect Insta-snap. (ARTnews)

UCLA Gets an Endowed Art Chair – Speaking of furniture, LA philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick, whose snack empire includes Fiji Water and POM juice, have donated $2 million to the Los Angeles university to establish an endowed chair in art at the school of arts and architecture. (Artforum)


Danish Museum Recovers Its Iconic Monkey – The Trapholt Museum of Modern Art and Design in Kolding is delighted to see the return of its beloved wooden monkey sculpture by Kay Bojesen, which was stolen from its “Humor in Danish Design” exhibition in December. The museum’s director says its return is a testament to just how difficult it is “to hide and sell stolen items from an art museum.” It seems it would be particularly difficult if that stolen item was a 66-pound monkey sculpture. (Local)

Is Tyree Guyton Really Dismantling His Detroit Art Mecca? – The Detroit artist who turned a rundown street into a landmark installation is slowly taking it apart. But reports that Tyree Guyton, who recently had a show about his Heidelberg Project at Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Art, is dismantling the whole street have been exaggerated. Guyton and his wife, Jenenne Whitfield, hope to preserve some of Guyton’s major works in situ, and dream of turning some of the rundown buildings into cultural and educational centers. (New York Times)

KAWS Teases His Latest UNIQLO Collaboration – The art sensation has teamed up again with the Japanese fast fashion retailer for a new capsule collection of t-shirts for adults and children. The Brooklyn-based artist posted a teaser of the project on Instagram, apparently in response to photos of the collaboration leaking early. Get a sneak peek below. (Instagram)


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BFF would like to show you some of the kids T’s that are part of the collection… @UNIQLO.UT @UNIQLO #UTxKAWS #KAWS

A post shared by @ kaws on



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