Art Industry News: Conceptualist Darren Bader Is Launching a Bargain-Basement Online Platform for Artists to Sell Discounted Work + Other Stories

Plus, the MFA Boston launches a $500,000 diversity initiative under pressure and arts groups battle their insurers in court.

Darren Bader. Photo by Sebastian Kim.

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 6.


MFA Boston Launches $500,000 Diversity Initiative Following Accusations of Racism – Almost one year after the Museum of Fine Arts Boston became the subject of national controversy when several students of color were harassed during a visit to the museum, the institution has launched a new $500,000 diversity and inclusion initiative. The Massachusetts attorney general, who investigated the museum after the incident, said she worked with administrators to develop the program, which is designed to increase its engagement with communities of color. The museum will also retain an external consultant on inclusion, implement unconscious bias training for staff, and issue biannual reports on its progress. (ARTnews)

Portland Art Museum Warns of Major Layoffs – The Portland Art Museum has warned in a letter sent to employees that it could lay off nearly half of its staff by July. The museum has only raised enough money through loans and donations to keep people employed through June 30. Management has said that as many as 100 people of a 213-strong workforce could lose their jobs. (KATU)

Arts Groups Battle for Insurance Money – Arts groups are battling their insurance companies in court over lost revenue due to the shutdown of nonessential businesses. While many had policies that covered business interruption, insurers are denying that the losses caused by a pandemic fall under this category. Businesses are duking it out with their insurers in court all over the US, particularly debating over what constitutes a “physical loss.” A group of celebrity chefs including Wolfgang Puck is trying to set a precedent to prove that the virus has indeed caused a physical loss on their businesses. “I can see a tidal wave of these lawsuits coming,” said Kevin Sullivan, a client executive at National Trust Insurance Services, “and insurance companies are going to fight like hell.” (New York Times)

Arts Nonprofits Establish LA Artist Relief Fund – The California Community Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and a coalition of local artist-endowed foundations including the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and the Shepard and Amanda Fairey Foundation have pooled $655,000 to give to artists in Los Angeles struggling because of the pandemic. Onetime grants of $2,000 are available. (Artforum)


Artist Darren Bader Launches Online Sales Portal – The artist Darren Bader has launched a new online sales platform for artists called Inventory. The website hosts work by 20 artists a week with prices marked down from their primary-market value by as much as 90 percent. The aim of the site is to provide financial assistance to artists while gallery exhibitions and art fairs are on pause, and to question a gallery system that forces artists to create new work for a novelty-hungry market while unsold work sits in storage. Proceeds from the sale will be split between charity (40 percent), the artist (33 percent), and galleries (22 percent), with Bader taking a five percent admin fee. (The Art Newspaper)

Sotheby’s Opens Day Sales Online – Sotheby’s has launched its first-ever online day sales for contemporary and Impressionist and Modern art. More than 60 works are on offer across the ambitious sales, which are estimated to achieve more than $20 million before they close on May 14 and 18 respectively. (Press release)


Chinese Artist Li Hui Dies – The artist, who was a rising star on the Chinese art scene known for his interactive installations made with lasers, died at 43 of an undisclosed illness. His work has been collected by such institutions as the Yuz Museum in Shanghai and the Pinault Collection in France. (ARTnews)

Helsinki Biennial Pushed to 2021 – The inaugural edition of the Finnish biennial is the latest major exhibition to be pushed back by one year. It will now open on June 12, 2021. The show will retain its original locations on the island of Vallisaari and on Helsinki’s mainland. (Press release)


A Doctor Photographs the Coronavirus Crisis – Images from the front lines of this public health crisis are hard to come by, both because press access is severely limited to prevent the spread and because images of patients could violate confidentiality protocol. But Duncan Grossman, an emergency medical resident at a Brooklyn Hospital, took his camera into a shift to vividly capture his colleagues’ fight against the virus in real time. (Wall Street Journal)

German Museums Collect Coronavirus Artifacts – German museums are trying to capture life during the coronavirus lockdown for future generations. The Stadtmuseum Wolfsburg, for example, is asking people to collect objects connected to memories of the time, like cookbooks, self-made masks, signs with hygiene rules, or videos of balcony concerts. (Monopol)

Artists Star in an Inspirational Music Video – The Paris gallery kamel mennour has produced a video with director Pierre Dupaquier (the man behind Pharrell Williams’s music video for Happy) to spread some cheer in a trying time. Artists from the gallery’s roster, including Douglas Gordon, Daniel Buren, Tatiana Trouvé, Ugo Rondinone, and others, fly paper planes with messages of hope inscribed on them. The footage is intercut with images of children around the world doing the same. (Press release)

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