Art Industry News: Akron Art Museum Director Steps Down After an Investigation of Sexism, Racism Allegations + Other Stories

Plus, Manifesta is happening this year after all and an open letter accuses Albania's Prime Minister of using art to obscure his politics.

Tony Feher, Buoy (2014), Akron Art Museum, Ohio. Photo: courtesy Akron Art Museum.

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 Wednesday, May 20.


Albania’s Artist-Prime Minister Accused of “Artwashing” in an Open Letter – The Prime Minister of Albania demolished an 80-year-old theater this weekend in the capital of Tirana in order to erect a €30 million ($32.8 million) building in its place, prompting outcry from the public. Now, a group of artists and cultural workers are condemning the move in an open letter, arguing that Rama—who is also an artist—uses his dual identity to obscure highly controversial politics. “We are not immune to how attractive the idea of an artist-politician is at a time when mainstream politics has severe difficulties imagining any future at all,” the letter states. “In stark contrast with Edi Rama’s own artistic career, cultural life in Albania has become increasingly precarious. Sources of funding for independent cultural producers are scarce and what non-state funding there is gets mostly channeled into the government’s vanity projects.” (Hyperallergic)

Art Students Band Together in an Uncertain Landscape – Art students across the United States were supposed to have their big debut this month, with thesis exhibitions serving as a kind of coming out party for newly minted artists. But with schools converting to online instruction and IRL exhibitions cancelled, some students are taking matters into their own hands. Many are petitioning their schools for living expense subsidies and organizing virtual thesis shows in collaboration with art dealers like Perrotin and Steve Turner, who is hosting an online show of work by Columbia University’s graduating MFA class through June 6. (New York Times)

Akron Art Museum Director Resigns Following Criticism – The director of the Akron Art Museum in Ohio, Mark Masuoka, has resigned after allegations of sexism, racism, and bullying were made against him by staff and made public in an investigation in ARTnews. Although the museum’s board president previously said Masuoka, who worked at the institution for seven years, had been “unfairly criticized,” he told staff that the board now “agreed it was time for a change in leadership.” Masuoka was accused of having retaliated against employees who complained about him and several donors subsequently called for his ouster. Another donor, Douglas Haslinger, said: “The board is pressed in a hard spot. They really liked what Mark was doing for the museum, but on the other hand, there has been too much controversy and bad press.” (ARTnews)

ADAGP Puts Together a Recovery Plan for Artists in France – The French royalty collecting and distributing society, ADAGP, has published a recovery plan for artists whose incomes have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The plan cites six priority issues, including a commitment from French institutions and galleries to show artists from the French scene, particularly mid-career artists, and the creation of a tax exemption system to encourage people to buy art by living artists in France. It also encourages artists to claim payment from institutions when their work is shown, which they are entitled to per the intellectual property code. (ADAGP)


The Academy Museum Won the Midsommar May Queen Gown – The movie distributor A24 thrilled movie lovers worldwide when it auctioned off props and costumes from recent films to support New York charities. As it turns out, the most sought-after item—the 10,000-silk-flower May Queen dress worn by Florence Pugh in Midsommar—was snapped up by the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The museum shelled out $65,000 for the much-talked-about gown. (Vulture)

NADA’s New Online Fair Opens – The New Art Dealers Alliance’s cooperative online art fair, FAIR, opens today and will run through June 21. The fair has an unusual profit structure: 20 percent of all sales will be put into a communal pot and divided evenly among exhibitors, while another 20 percent will go to exhibiting artists. And instead of a participation fee, galleries will pay 10 percent of their sales proceeds to NADA for organizing the event. The remaining 50 percent of sales go to the galleries who made them. (Press release)


Manifesta Is Happening After All – The exhibition, which was due to take place this June, has been postponed to later this summer but is still planning to go ahead—a surprise move considering that even biennials in 2021 are being pushed back. The 13th edition of the roving European biennial will be held from August 28 to November 29 with a three-tiered rollout of programming. The first is the main exhibition, which will take place across six museums in Marseille. (Press release)

Nevada Museum Acquires Judy Chicago’s Fireworks – The Reno institution has nabbed an important archive of materials related to Chicago’s iconic fireworks pieces, which involved setting off firecrackers and plumes of colored smoke. The archive helps tell a more complete story of Land art, which has historically been viewed as a male-dominated movement. The Nevada Museum will host a show dedicated to the materials in October 2021. (ARTnews)

Independent Curators International Expands Board – Independent Curators International has appointed seven new board members including Neil Barclay, the president and CEO of Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Lauren Kelly, a partner at Sean Kelly gallery, and artist Angel Otero. (Press release)


Artists Say UK Support Scheme Leaves Them Behind – The UK government’s self-employment income support scheme has garnered hundreds of thousands of claims since it launched last week, but artists seem to be falling through the cracks. In March, chancellor Rishi Sunak said the program would cover 95 percent of self-employed people, but he now estimates that just 66 percent will be covered. In Scotland, it is estimated that only 20 percent of artists could be aided by the program. (The Art Newspaper)

Women’s Museum Wins a Webby – The National Museum of Women in the Arts has won a Webby Award for best social media account in the arts and culture category. With @WomenInTheArts, the museum investigates gender imbalances in the art world and brings to light important and overlooked women artists of the past alongside contemporary figures. (Press release)

White Cube and Antony Gormley Raise Money for Mental Health – A 250-edition work on paper by the British artist called Together is raising money for charities supporting those suffering physical, financial, and emotional impacts of the lockdown. The signed work is available for £2,000.(Press release)

Antony Gormley’s Together (2020). © the artist. Photo © White Cube (Theo Christelis)

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