Art Industry News: The Astronomers Who Took That Viral Black Hole Photo Now Want to Do a Live Video Feed + Other Stories

Plus, archaeologists slam a proposed Machu Picchu international airport and Ai Weiwei pushes a German museum building to its limits.

The Event Horizon Telescope was designed to capture images of a black hole. The image shows the light around the black hole’s boundary. Image courtesy of the Event Horizon Telescope.

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 17.


Holland Cotter Reviews the Whitney Biennial – Though the exhibition doesn’t seem explicitly politically charged at first glance, “quiet agitation” permeates this sculpture-heavy edition of the exhibition, writes the New York Times critic. Cotter notes that the lineup is the show’s most inclusive and likely its youngest to date, with three-quarters of the artists under 40. Spirituality, agency, identity and history are all strong threads running through the show. A group of very different artists, he writes, “suggests a 21st-century trend away images of victimhood toward those of agency, which is not necessarily the same thing as old-time Black Power.” (New York Times)

Notre Dame’s Billion-Dollar Pledges Are Up in the Air – The Archbishop of Paris, who is tasked with collecting the funds pledged for the cathedral’s restoration, says that only a fraction of the money has actually been handed over so far. In the wake of the fire, donors including luxury goods billionaires François Pinault and Bernard Arnault swiftly pledged a total of around $1.12 billion to the cause. But all of that money may not be necessary, according to the Archbishop. Pinault and Arnault have now agreed to offer their contributions in stages as the restoration continues because experts remain unsure of exactly how much the rebuilding will cost. (AFP)

Scientists Say “Black Hole” Picture Was Just a Preview – Enchanted by the first-ever photograph of a black hole, released publicly last month and seen by an estimated 4.8 billion people? It turns out that was just the beginning. The Event Horizon Telescope program, the initiative responsible for the photo, is asking Congress for more funding in order to expand their research. They want to increase the number of telescopes and satellites to eventually shoot live-action video of the black hole. “Imagine when Galileo was looking through the first telescope,” Sheperd Doeleman, the director of the program, said. “It wasn’t the end of astronomy but the beginning.” (Courthouse News)

Archaeologists Are Furious About a Planned Machu Picchu Airport – More than 1.5 million tourists visited the famous site in Peru in 2017, twice the UNESCO-recommended cap. Now, construction is underway for a new international airport in the neighboring town, which could potentially increase visitor numbers to the fragile site even further and damage the ruins and local ecology. “Putting an airport here would destroy it,” says one of the experts petitioning against the development. (Guardian)


A Dive Into the Art Market Boom – In his new book about the expansion of the art market, Boom: Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art, Michael Shnayerson cites Leo Castelli as a pioneer and Jean-Michel Basquiat as the poster boy of the boom that has transformed contemporary art into the must-have currency of the global nouveau riches. The book is also full of appalling anecdotes, like when artist Takashi Murakami parted ways with his pregnant dealer Marianne Boesky, reportedly telling her, “You’re lactating—you can’t be my business partner.” (Bloomberg)

Phillips Achieves Its Best Day Sale to Date – Marion Maneker notes that the May 15 day sale at Phillips marked a high point for the auction house. Sales reached $34.7 million, proving growth in the value of the middle market, and new records were set for artists Ed Clark ($337,500 for a 2007 painting) and Stanley Whitney (also $337,500 for a 2016 work), among others. (Art Market Monitor)

Dealer Hopes He Bought a Picasso at a Junk Sale – Drawn to the frame of a painting at a yard sale, a collector paid approximately $300 for what he thought was a Picasso knock-off. Now, he thinks it could turn out to be an original study by Picasso for his 1930 painting Seated Bather. Now, he is flipping the yard-sale find at Brighton and Hove Auctions on June 7, where it could fetch as much as $957,000. (Mail)


The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize Names Winner – American photographer Susan Meiselas has been awarded the $38,000 prize for her retrospective at the Jeu de Paume in Paris. The Magnum photographer is known to engage deeply with her subjects, from those affected by the revolution in Nicaragua in the late 1970s to women who performed stripteases at carnivals in New England. (TAN)

The Tisch Family Offers a Boost to Michigan Museum – Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch have donated more than $2.8 million to support the University of Michigan Museum of Art’s interdisciplinary exhibitions program. In recognition of the gift, the museum will rename its central gallery after the couple. (Press release)

Dia Promotes Two Young Curators – The Dia Art Foundation has promoted Kelly Kivland and Alexis Lowry, who formerly served as associate curators, to full curator positions. Kivland will continue to oversee Land Art in Utah, including Spiral Jetty, while Lowry—the daughter of MoMA’s longstanding director—will continue her work with Walter De Maria’s The Lightening Field. The appointments follow the departure of Dia chief curator Courtney Martin, who will become director of the Yale Center for British Art. (ARTnews)


US Museum Strikes a Deal With Italy Over a Problem Vase – The Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio will repatriate a looted ancient Greek vase with a problematic provenance to Italy. Under the terms of the agreement, the vessel, which is attributed to the Kleophon Painter of Athens, will remain on loan to the US museum for the next four years. The museum purchased the object in 1982 for $90,000. (ARTnews)

Rirkrit Tiravanija Creates a Sake Bar for London’s ICA – The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London has commissioned a permanent work by the Thailand-born artist. Tiravanija will transform an alcove into a new social space comprising a sake bar, seating, and tables made by the artist’s studio in Chiang Mai. (Press release)

The Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden Redesign Is Ruffling Feathers – The museum’s sculpture garden was inaugurated in 1974 by Gordon Bunshaft and updated in 1981 by landscape architect Lester Collins, and is considered one of Collins’s best creations. Now, a plan to redesign it—which involves adding a performance space in the garden’s center—has preservationists worried about the loss of the landmark. The museum maintains the spirit and influence of the architects will remain and notes that the project is still in the planning stages. Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto, who recently revamped the Hirshhorn’s lobby, is tasked with developing the new design. (NYT)

Ai Weiwei’s 164-Ton Sculpture Tests a Museum’s Limits  – Düsseldorf’s Kunstsammlung NRW had to consult a structural engineer before installing Straight (2008–12), a 164-ton steel sculpture by the Chinese artist on view in Europe for the first time. Ai Weiwei’s piece deals with the devastating earthquake that hit Sichuan in 2008, where thousands of children were buried under the ruins of cheaply constructed schools. “Everything is art; everything is politics,” Ai said ahead of the exhibition, a sprawling survey that opens tomorrow across two Düsseldorf museums. (German Press Agency)

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