Art Industry News: Robert Indiana’s Famous ‘LOVE’ Sculpture Started Out as a Much Filthier Word + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, Frida Kahlo is the subject of a new Google art project and a sneak peek of the expanded Glenstone.

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 Thursday, May 24.


Discontent at Canada’s National Gallery Revealed – A confidential internal survey conducted in February has revealed high levels of dissatisfaction within Canada’s National Gallery. The survey concluded that a majority of respondents felt senior management did not communicate well within the institution and that decisions were not made in a timely or effective manner. The survey was completed before a painting by Chagall from its collection was withdrawn from auction. (Ottawa Citizen)

Why Do Pop Stars Want to Be Performance Artists? – The New Yorker charts the rise of celebrities who have taken up the mantle of performance artists. Most recently, A$AP Rocky staged Lab Rat, a 90-minute performance at Sotheby’s New York, to reveal the cover art for his third LP. While the rapper stood trapped in a transparent box wearing an orange jumpsuit, Amanda Petrusich was “helplessly, catastrophically bored.” (New Yorker)

LOVE Started Out as a Much Filthier Word – Before he made Pop art history with the word “LOVE,” Robert Indiana sent a postcard in late 1964 to his on-and-off lover Ellsworth Kelly with a different four-letter word in the same shape: one that starts with an “F” and is followed by a “U.” By Christmas, when Indiana repurposed the artwork as a holiday card (soon afterwards sold through MoMA), the artist had cleaned up his colorful language. “Love has a bit more nuance to it,” curator Barbara Haskell says. (New York Times)

Frida Kahlo Is the Face of Google Arts – The arts and culture wing of the tech giant has worked with 33 museums to digitize more than 800 Kahlo photographs, letters, and journals, as well as 20 high-res images of the Mexican artist’s work, for a new website and app. Kahlo’s great-niece, the photographer Cristina Kahlo, also helped create a new work in the style of her famous forebear. (Digital Arts Online)


Nigerian Art Needs Room to Shine – Interest in Nigerian art is growing abroad—but in Lagos, space to show and sell work is in short supply. The local Arthouse Contemporary had to use a car showroom for its latest auction. Meanwhile, the government scrapped plans for a contemporary art museum, allowing a shopping mall to go up in its place. (LA Times)

Tbilisi Gets Its First Fair – It’s early days for Georgia’s art market, but last week, the capital saw the launch of the Tbilisi Art Fair. Tapestries by Georgia’s leading artists were prominent at the first edition. Buzz around the scene is building: Lisa Offermann, an art dealer from Berlin, has just opened the city’s first foreign-owned gallery. (The Art Newspaper)

artnet Auctions See Record Results – The postwar and contemporary premier sale achieved the highest total sales value in the company’s history. A 1981 painting by Eric Fischl sold for $525,000, the platform’s highest total to date in 2018, while a new auction record was set for Richard Hambleton, whose Jumping Shadow Man (1984–86) sold for $108,000. Further records were set in the print and photography sales. (Press release)

David and Peggy Rockefeller’s Bling Head to Auction – The Rockefellers’ mega-charity auctions continue at Christie’s New York with the sale on June 12 of the family’s jewelry collection. The 189 lots have estimates ranging from $3,000 to $3.5 million. (Press release)​


Bard Names Keith Haring Fellow – The artist and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden is the fifth person to receive the annual Keith Haring Fellowship in Art and Activism for her work examining race, gender, and sexuality. Beginning in September, she will teach at Bard and carry out research into overlooked black artists working during the AIDS epidemic. (Artforum)

New Director for the Williams College Museum of Art – Pamela Franks, the senior deputy director and curator of Modern and contemporary art at the Yale University Art Gallery, has been named the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts. She will take up her new role in mid-September. (Press release)

China’s Artist of the Year is Taiwanese – The Taiwanese artist and filmmaker whose guerrilla art defied Taiwan’s censorship rules in the ‘80s, Chen Chieh-jen, received the honor for his efforts to promote and develop Chinese contemporary art. Meanwhile, the Beijing-based artist Cao Yu won the prize for young artist of the year. (Art Asia Pacific)

Sculpture in the City Artists Announced – More female artists than ever are participating in London’s sculpture festival, which takes place across Square Mile this summer. Highlights will include a sound work by Marina Abramović and Nancy Rubin’s large-scale Crocodylius Philodendrus, while Tracey Emin’s Your Lips Moved Across My Face will be tucked inside a passageway for Londoners to stumble upon. (Press release)


Take a Sneak Peek at the New Glenstone – Before the Maryland museum’s highly anticipated expansion opens to the public on October 4, Architectural Record got a behind-the-scenes look. The private museum and sculpture park has added 50,000 square feet of exhibition space, a courtyard pond, new cafés, landscaping, and storage facilities. (Architectural Record)

A Penis Fountain Makes a Statement in Holland – The artist Henk de Boer has installed a 25-foot-tall fountain featuring 220 penises that squirt when a public toilet is flushed. The work was created—and crowdfunded—to protest the selection of 11 non-Dutch artists to make fountains to commemorate Leeuwarden’s selection as the European City of Culture in 2018. The project takes inspiration from the expression “Jan Lul” (John Willy), which refers to someone who has been excluded. (Guardian)

San Diego Is America’s Most Charitable City – Move over, New York. A rise in new wealth across the US has changed the face of philanthropy in the country. The Big Apple didn’t even make it into Charity Navigator’s 2017 list of the 10 most charitable cities. San Diego took the top slot, with Houston coming in second. (Observer)

See the Mona Lisa of Makeup Artists Is the Italian Renaissance this year’s newest throwback fashion trend? The make up artist YUYAMIKA transforms herself into Leonardo da Vinci’s mysterious smiling subject in this video posted to YouTube and Instagram. Check her out below. (YouTube)

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