Art Industry News: Roberta Smith on Why She Loves Jeff Koons Even If His Art Makes You ‘Feel Creepy’ + Other Stories

Plus, Democrats work to boost the NEA's budget and Art Basel Miami Beach plans a new section for monumental art.

Jeff Koons looks at his Rabbit. Photo by Leon Neal/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 Monday, May 20.


Attack Near the Grand Museum of Egypt Injures 16 – Egypt’s tourism industry suffered its latest blow with an attack on the doorstep of the new Grand Museum of Egypt over the weekend. An explosion targeting a tourist bus and injured least 16 people who were visiting the nearby pyramids in Giza. Seven South African tourists and ten Egyptian civilians were injured, none seriously. The vast museum is due to open next year. (BBC)

Mnuchin Won’t Reveal His Client – In other Koons-related news, Robert Mnuchin gets the profile treatment just days after he placed the winning $91.1 million bid for Koons’s Rabbit at Christie’sThe veteran dealer is coy about the identity of the bunny buyer, but hedge-funder Steve Cohen is now the leading candidate. Mnuchin, who has donated to dozens of Democratic candidates over the years, is also loathe to talk about his son, Steven, Trump’s treasury secretary. (New York Times)

Roberta Smith Goes to Bat for Koons’s RabbitThe artist’s shiny sculpture of an inflatable bunny has been alternately—and emphatically—loved and hated long before its record-breaking sale at Christie’s last week. But amid the backlash against the pricey work, Roberta Smith contends that we should hate the game (in this case, high-stakes auctions), not the player (the work of art). Koons irrefutably changed sculpture forever, and like all of his best work, Rabbit “elicits a visceral, embarrassing object lust.” (NYT)

What the Met’s Decision to Reject Sackler Money Means – Anand Giridharadas, the author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, unpacks the bigger significance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other institutions’ decisions to no longer accept money from Sackler foundations linked to profits from OxyContin. For decades, “it was understood that you don’t challenge people on how they make their money, how they pay their taxes (or don’t), what continuing deeds they may be engaged in—so long as they ‘give back.’” Now, there are signs this compact may be cracking. (NYT)


Art Basel Miami Plans New Monumental Section – Organizers will unveil a new section at Art Basel Miami Beach this December, titled “Meridians,” that focuses monumental works. (The fairs in Basel and Hong Kong already have similar programs.) The section, held inside the ballroom of the renovated Miami Beach Convention Center, will include around 30 large-scale works and will be organized by Magali Arriola, an independent curator who curated the Mexican Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. (Press release)

Sotheby’s Names New China Managing Director – The auction house has named Beibei Fan as its new managing director of China. The Beijing-based executive has worked for HBO, Warner Brothers, and Walt Disney in China. (Press release)

Alexander Gray Begins an Upstate New York Exhibition Program – The New York gallery is launching a new venture upstate. Over the next year, it will rotate a single work by an artist in its stable inside a nine-by-nine foot cube a 19th-century barn in Germantown in the Hudson Valley. The inaugural installation will be Harmony Hammond’s Bandaged Grid #5 (2016). The project “couldn’t be further from the mythology of mega-gallery expansionism,” Gray says. (ARTnews)


Chrysler Museum Names Deputy Directors – The Chrysler Museum of Art has restructured its senior staff, promoting Seth Feman to be deputy director for art and interpretation and curator of photography. Colleen Higginbotham is now deputy director for visitor experience; Dana Fuqua is deputy director for operations. (Press release)

Berlin Museum Returns an African Cross – The German Historical Museum in Berlin has announced plans to return a historic column to Namibia. The Stone Cross Cape Column was originally erected by Portuguese explorers around 1486 and serves as a symbol of the country’s colonial past. Namibia has called for its return since 2017. (Deutsche Welle)


Democrats Seek to Boost the NEA’s Budget – House Democrats unveiled a bill that would see the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities both receive $167.5 million in the next fiscal year, an increase of $17.5 million each from current levels. President Trump, meanwhile, has proposed eliminating both agencies in his 2020 budget. Democrats are also seeking increased funding for the Smithsonian Institution. (The Hill)

What Does Indigenous Art Really Mean? – According to critic Jason Farago, Australia can offer a primer for how to unwind colonial legacies embedded in national views of modern art. Conversations about the “contemporaneity” of Indigenous art there predate our current discussions by decades. And now, two shows in New York—one at Gagosian focusing on Steve Martin’s collection of Australian painting and one at MoMA PS1 on the Karrabing Film Collective—offer different perspectives on Indigenous art from the continent. (NYT)

Architects Remember I.M. Pei’s Genius – David Adjaye, Norman Foster, and Renzo Piano are among the architects who remember the Chinese-American architect, who died last week at 102. Structural engineer Guy Nordenson recalls how as an up-and-coming architect, Pei charmed Jackie Kennedy to win the commission to design the JFK memorial library in Boston. “[Pei] had the office redone, every detail in place, down to placing flowers he knew she liked in the reception area,” Nordenson says. (NYT)

Dallas Welcomes a “Jaw-Dropping” Dior Show – The Dallas Museum of Art is preparing for a blockbuster. Yesterday, the museum opened a spectacular show of Christian Dior’s fashion, titled “Dior: From Paris to the World” (through September 1). Exhibitions celebrating Dior’s New Look and the designers who followed in his footsteps have attracted huge crowds at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. The Dallas Morning News has called the installation in the DMA’s barrel-vaulted gallery “jaw-dropping.” (Dallas Morning News) 



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