Art Industry News: Salvagers Will Try to Recover the Titanic’s Priceless Telegraph Machine That Sent the Ship’s Final Pleas for Help + Other Stories

Plus, Chinese mega-collector Michael Xufu Huang is about to open his new museum and plans for Art Basel Miami Beach forge ahead.

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 Monday, May 25.


A Female Designer From Parsons Helped Inspire the N95 – In the late 1950s, design consultant Sara Little Turnbull created an early model for what became the N95 mask. Using the shape of a bra cup as inspiration (up until then, doctors had been wearing flat tie-on masks), in 1958 Turnbull made a seminal presentation to the executives of 3M, explaining the novel possibilities of a material called Shapeen to turn into different products, including a molded bra cup. Two years later, she realized the revolutionary potential this specific form had for the medical world, and pitched the idea for turning the same bra cup form into a wearable mask. (NPR)

How an Artist Made Friends With the Thief Who Stole Her Paintings – A new Hulu documentary called The Painter and the Thief tells the story of Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova who befriended Karl-Bertil Nordland, a drug-addicted thief who was convicted for stealing two of her most prized paintings. Kysilkova did not reprimand him, but instead asked to paint his portrait. An unlikely friendship between the two developed. The documentary by Benjamin Ree is available from Friday, May 30. (Vanity Fair, Vulture)

Judge Rules Salvage Firm Can Recover the Titanic’s Marconi Telegraph – RMS Titanic, Inc will be allowed to cut into the historic wreckage off the coast of Newfoundland with a remote-operated vehicle in order to extract its Marconi telegraph machine that made the distress calls. The court ruling has altered a decision from 2000 that forbade cutting or detaching of any part of the ship. Not everyone approves—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is strongly opposed to the plan. (Smithsonian Magazine)

Inside the MFA Houston’s Reopening – The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston became the first major American museum to reopen over the weekend. The museum’s director, Gary Tinterow, personally welcomed the 20-some visitors who lined up to be the first to enter at 11 a.m. on Saturday morning. After walking past a thermal imaging device that checked their temperature, each had about a studio apartment’s worth of space to themselves inside the galleries. (New York Times)


Diane Arbus Image Leads Christie’s Photographs Sale – Christie’s is planning online photography sales to replace its usual live spring photo sales. Among the highlights of the auction, which went live on May 19, is Diane Arbus’s Family on their lawn one Sunday in Westchester, N.Y. (1968). First published in the Sunday Times, the photo of a family on the lawn on a hot summer day carries an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. (Art Market Monitor)

David Zwirner Pens a New York Times Op-ed – In response to the question, “Why does art matter?,” the gallerist argues that it serves to “make us better people.” He also contends that the education system’s emphasis on science at the expense of the humanities is a mistake. “The machines have proven to be absolutely amazing during a pandemic, connecting us, informing us, and entertaining us, but in the end they are limited,” he writes. “They’re born of science and they have no imaginations.” (New York Times)

Plans for Art Basel Miami Beach Proceed – Organizers have finalized the lineup of galleries for Art Basel Miami Beach and are “planning full tilt on the basis and expectation that we can hold a fair in Miami in December,” according to the US fair’s director Noah Horowitz. Although Art Basel leadership previously suggested the fate of the December fair was up in the air, Horowitz now says “it feels far enough out that this can work. That’s what we’re focused on.” (Miami Herald)

Millennial Collector Michael Xufu Huang on His New Museum – The 26-year-old’s plans to open the highly anticipated Museum X in Beijing this winter were delayed by the global health crisis. The young Chinese collector now plans to open on May 29 with the “X Museum Triennial” that includes 33 artists under 40 who are either Chinese or of Chinese decent. (Financial Times)


Celebrated Egyptian Sculptor Adam Henein Dies – The artist, whose sculptures and paintings united modernist abstraction with pharaonic iconography, died on Friday at a hospital in Cairo. He was 91. One of the most influential Arab artists of his generation, Henein centered his practice on Egypt’s working class. In 2014, he transformed his Giza home into a museum. (ARTnews)

Painter Richard Anuszkiewicz Dies – The American painter and Op art pioneer has died at age 89. Anuszkiewicz, who was mentored by Josef Albers in the 1950s, became known for nesting squares of complimentary colors in his paintings, evoking a sense in the viewer that the shapes were vibrating. His work was included in the legendary Op art exhibition “The Responsive Eye” in 1965. (Artforum)

New-York Historical Society Nabs a New York-Themed Art Collection – New York City real-estate executive Elie Hirschfeld and his wife, Sarah, have spent decades building an art collection that tells the story of New York City. Now, they are donating the 130-piece trove—which includes works by Thomas Hart Benton, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe—to the New York Historical Society. The collection will be showcased in a dedicated exhibition at the society next fall. (Wall Street Journal)


Winners of Herb Alpert Awards Announced – The recipients of the 26th annual award, given by the Grammy-winning trumpeter’s foundation to risk-taking mid-career artists, were announced on Friday. They are: Karen Sherman (dance), Sky Hopinka (film), Christian Scott (music), Phil Soltanoff (theater), and Firelei Baez (visual arts). The winners, chosen by a panel of experts, will receive $75,000 each. (Reuters)

In Mexico City, Experts Find Bones of Dozens of Mammoths – Archaeologists have uncovered the bones of about 60 mammoths at an airport construction site north of Mexico City. The discovery is six miles from where human-built mammoth trap pits, where more than a dozen of the prehistoric creatures were found last year. (Courthouse News)

Charging Bull Becomes the Subject of Fierce Debate—Again – A privately-financed initiative to relocate Arturo di Modica’s famous monument from its current site in Lower Manhattan to the New York Stock Exchange received a major setback last Tuesday. In a video conference standoff, Bill de Blasio’s administration had their proposal to move the sculpture voted down over concerns about the aesthetics of placing it outside the trading center, as well as security risks. The city does not officially own the monument, which creates another gray area when discussing its relocation. (ARTnews)

The brass Charging Bull sculpture stands near the Financial District April 2, 2018 in New York City. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

The brass Charging Bull sculpture stands near the Financial District April 2, 2018 in New York City. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

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