Art Industry News: Austria’s Culture Minister Resigns Following Criticism of Her Vague, Tight-Fisted Response to the Pandemic + Other Stories

Plus, a chemical factory explosion sends a cloud of black smoke over Venice, and could artificial intelligence make curators obsolete?

Austria's culture minister Ulrike Lunacek addresses the press from behind a protective plexiglass wall on April 17, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by HELMUT FOHRINGER/APA/AFP 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 on this Friday, May 15.


Chemical Factory Explosion Sends Smoke Over Venice – An explosion at a chemicals factory on the edge of the Venice lagoon on Friday morning sent a cloud of toxic smoke into the air. According to local news reports, there were two casualties. The fire is now under control, but the Venice town council has told people to stay indoors, keep windows closed, and not eat food grown in kitchen gardens to avoid the pollution. (The Art Newspaper)

Could Curators Become Obsolete? – Art in America wonders: at a time when museums are under unprecedented strain and artificial intelligence is becoming ever more sophisticated, could AI create “a curatomaton”? It could be that, rather than spending two years visiting artist studios, a robo-curator could scan art periodicals, galleries, and art-fair websites to build shows based on particular themes in a fraction of the time. (If you think that sounds dystopian, just see what AI is already doing in the art market.) “Only by trusting in their eyes and hearts will today’s curators have a slim chance to outsmart machines,” the authors write. (Art in America)

Austria’s Culture Minister Steps Down – Austria’s culture minister, Ulrike Lunacek, stepped down from her post after less than four months on the job amid criticism of the government’s pandemic response toward the arts sector. Lunacek, who previously focused on foreign and European policy and had little experience in culture, said in a televised address that she is “making way for someone else who can hopefully achieve more than I have in this crisis situation.” Her administration has been criticized for failing to come up with a clear procedure for the easing of lockdown measures and failing to offer significant financial relief to artists. (TAN)

Are We in a New Era of Gallery Collaboration? – Beloved New York dealer Mitchell Algus writes that the gallery system is at “an evolutionary bottleneck and its genetic structure is about to change in unforeseen ways.” The Lower East Side dealer is not all that impressed by David Zwirner’s online platform for smaller dealers, which Algus calls a form of selective breeding. He hopes to see more projects like Jeffrey Deitch’s GalleryPlatform.LA, especially in New York, where there has been little collaboration. “A merger of the NADA and ADAA art fairs, just in the virtual realm—could be helpful,” he muses. (ARTnews)


Photo London Will Open in October – As the fate of many autumn fairs remains up in the air, Photo London—which normally takes place in May—is forging ahead with plans to reschedule for October, coinciding with Frieze on October 7 to 11. It will temporarily relocate to Gray’s Inn Gardens while its usual venue, Somerset House, is occupied by the 1-54 African art fair. Organizers are planning timed entry, a mask-on policy, and one-directional visitor flow to keep things safe and socially distanced. (The Art Newspaper)

Vortic Announces Participating Galleries – The son of Victoria Miro, Oliver Miro, has announced a top-notch lineup of participating dealers for his new virtual platform Vortic, which allows galleries to create virtual-reality exhibitions using 3D-scanning technology. Participating dealers include: Galleria Continua, Pilar Corrias, Goodman Gallery, Victoria Miro, Lehmann Maupin, and David Zwirner, among others. (Press release)

JD Malat Launches a Competition for an Exhibition – Auctioneer Simon de Pury and artist Gavin Turk are on the selection committee for a summer group show organized by the London contemporary art gallery JD Malat. Some 20 UK-based artists will be chosen for “Isolation Mastered.” (Press release)


Cécile Debray Renamed Head of the Musée de l’Orangerie – Cécile Debray’s contract as head of the Musée de l’Orangerie, the temple of Impressionism in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, has been renewed. The 54-year-old curator was first appointed in 2017, and will now continue in the prestigious role for a further three years. (Journal des Arts)

Yerba Buena Center Announces Artist Power Center – San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has launched a new hotline and digital platform called the Artist Power Center to help struggling artists and culture workers. It aims to connect them to funding opportunities through a constantly updated database and full-time phone support in both English and Spanish. (Artforum)


Artangel Supports Early-Career Artists During Lockdown – The UK arts body Artangel has partnered with the Freelands Foundation on a new initiative to support early-career artists called “Thinking Time.” Twenty artists between the ages of 20 and 50 will be given £5,000, along with mentoring from Artangel—all with the goal of providing them the opportunity to research and reflect. Selected artists include Cécile B. Evans, Maeve Brennan, and Rosalie Schweiker. (Press release)

Here’s How Canada’s $500 Million Emergency Relief Fund Breaks Down – Canada’s government has announced how its $500 million emergency relief for culture, heritage, and sports will be distributed. A total of $198.3 million will go directly to arts and culture organizations that already receive funding from Canadian Heritage; $53 million will be administered to the heritage sector; and $55 million will be given out by Canada Council for the Arts. The remaining funds will go towards the digital and audiovisual sector as well as need-based funding. (Press release)

Hans-Ulrich Obrist Partners With Google – The omnipresent curator has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to share his “do it” initiative globally. The 27-year-old project, now called “do it (around the world)” asks artists to come up with a set of instructions, known as “word scores,” that can be completed by anyone. (ARTnews)

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