Art Industry News: A Polish Woman Was Arrested for Her Rainbow-Adorned Virgin Mary Posters + Other Stories

Plus, how artists and designers are revamping marijuana’s image and Brazil's National Museum is broke.

Demonstrators in front of St. Mary's Basilica with posters "Free Ela" to support Elzbieta Podlesna who was accused of profanation for making a graphic poster of Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo. Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via 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 Wednesday, May 8.


Artists and Designers Are Updating Marijuana’s Image – As the wave of marijuana legalizations hits states across the US, the drug is becoming normalized and high-end dispensaries are drafting artists and designers to create pot-themed interiors. The new imagery is more sophisticated than the classic pot leaf designs usually associated with the drug, and is spawning a bona fide design movement that the New York Times dubs “nouveau marijuana.” (New York Times)

Brazil’s National Museum Is Broke – Following last year’s devastating blaze, authorities at the gutted national museum in Rio are in the midst of a funding crisis. The museum cannot afford to store the artifacts that were recovered from the ashes of the building, and urgently needs to raise the equivalent of $250,000 if it is to have hope of survival. Its director, Alexander Kellner, has warned that there will be “no more National Museum” if they are unable to secure funding from the country’s educational ministry. (AFP)

A Polish Woman Was Arrested for Her Rainbow-Adorned Virgin Mary Posters – A 51-year-old woman has been arrested and, if convicted, could face a prison sentence of up to two years for allegedly painting rainbow halos on posters of the Virgin Mary in Poland. The Polish interior minister, Joachim Brudziński called her posters of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa “cultural barbarism.” The posters were discovered when police searched the home of Elzbieta Podlesna in Krakow. In Poland, the Black Madonna of Czestochowa is a particularly revered image of the Virgin Mary.  (Guardian)

Missing Bit of Stonehenge Is Returned – A stolen piece of one of the world’s most famous monuments has been returned to the UK. A member of the 1950s restoration team, Robert Phillips, had taken a stone core from Stonehenge to the US. Scientists are hoping that the cylinder, which was drilled out of one of the monument’s large stones to prevent cracks from growing bigger, will help with further research into the historic landmark. (Times)


A Man Smuggled Heroin Inside a Sculpture of Mao – Three people have been arrested in Hong Kong after police discovered what is suspected to be methamphetamines hidden inside a bust of Mao Zedong. The find was among some more than HK$1 million ($12.7 million) worth of drugs seized following raids in the city on Monday.  (South China Morning Post)

‘Dragon Throne’ Could Fetch $1.6 Million at Christie’s – Calling all Game of Thrones fans: On May 14, Christie’s auction house is selling an elaborate 18th-century red throne known as the “dragon throne.” The carved red lacquer throne is expected to make upwards of $1.6 million. (Observer)


Blanton Museum Endows a Spanish Americas Curator – The University of Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art has endowed a permanent curatorial position devoted to art of the Spanish Americas, underwritten by the Thoma Foundation. The position is currently held by Dr. Rosario I. Granados. (Press release)

Syracuse University Museum Appoints a New Director – Vanja Malloy had been named director and chief curator of Syracuse University’s art galleries. Following her time as curator of American art at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum, Malloy joins in Syracuse, taking over from Domenic Iacono, who had held the position for 40 years. (Press release)

Staff Exodus from West Kowloon Cultural District – Five executives will leave their charge of the delayed West Kowloon Cultural District. Staff and advisers said that the longer the delays, the more people could leave due to frustration with the overdue project. The Box theatre was to supposed to open in April but now won’t be ready until June; the opening of M+, the museum of visual culture, may be postponed until 2021. (SCMP)


Pepe the Frog May Find His Way to Court – Artist Matt Furie’s character Pepe the Frog could find his way to the courtroom after a federal judge indicated that a jury should decide whether the right-wing conspiracy website Infowars’ use of the cartoon on a 2017 alt-right poster was an infringement of the artist’s copyright or whether it amounted to political free speech. (Courthouse News)

The Statue of Liberty is Banning Commercial Tours Due to ‘Overcrowding’ – The National Park Service will ban commercial tours inside the Statue of Liberty because of concerns over overcrowding. There has been a 600 percent increase in commercial tours over the last 10 years, according to a spokesman. (USA Today)

Antony Gormley Sculptures Move to a 5,000-Year-Old Greek Island – The Greek island of Delos, one of the world’s top archaeological sites and a UNESCO world heritage monument, will become home to a group of Gormley’s life-sized forms. Made in iron, the pieces will be on view from May 18 through October 31, 2019. (Hyperallergic)

FBI Recovers New Deal Sculpture – A 180-pound wooden sculpture by an unknown artist dating to the 1930s has been handed over to the FBI. The depiction of a shouting head was commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to strengthen the labor force during the Great Depression, and is therefore the property of the US government. (Houston Public Media)

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.