Art Industry News: Meet the Banksy of Italy, a Mysterious (and Controversial) Street Artist Prowling the Streets of Rome + Other Stories

Plus, the Bronx Museum of the Arts names a new director and Marie Antoinette’s shoe sells at auction at Versailles.

Geco has tagged walls, buildings and urban structures throughout Rome. (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio 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 on this Monday, November 16.


Celebrities Interview Steve McQueen – The artist and filmmaker answers questions from his celebrity admirers ahead of the release of his five-film anthology, Small Axe, which traces the Black British experience from the late 1960s through the early ’80s. Tate director Maria Balshaw asks what made McQueen realize he could become an artist; he says it was getting into art school even though he didn’t have the right grades. In response to Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo’s query about what advice he would offer young Black creatives navigating predominantly white spaces, the director says, “Be patient and be focused. A lot of the time, you have to deal with what you have. So you do what you want in the space you have. But if negotiating means compromising your vision, don’t do that.” (Guardian)

The Case of the Missing Botticelli – A legal battle is raging over the rightful ownership of a $10 million Botticelli painting. There’s just one problem: nobody can find it. Madonna and Child (1485) hasn’t been seen since a 2007 exhibition at scammer Lawrence Salander’s New York gallery. The work was later awarded to a company called Kraken Investments. But a cache of leaked documents is raising questions about the company, which is based in the British Virgin Islands. (Guardian)

Meet Italy’s Answer to Banksy – Rome has unmasked an elusive graffiti artist who left his now-ubiquitous “Geco” tag on walls across Italy. Rome’s mayor triumphantly declared on Facebook last week that authorities had caught the artist (although he has not been officially charged) after a yearlong investigation. “He has soiled hundreds of walls and buildings in Rome and other European cities, which had to be cleaned using public funds,” Virginia Raggo wrote. While the city has not officially named Geco, his identity—a Rome-based artist in his late 20s—was leaked in the Italian press. It was rumored that Geco had landed in the mayor’s cross hairs after mistakenly tagging what he thought was an abandoned building—but turned out to be a hideout for the Secret Service. (New York Times)

Should British Museums Sell Their Art to Survive? – The UK Museums Association’s code of ethics states that objects “should not normally be regarded as financially negotiable assets,” but as many galleries, museums, and other organizations grapple with the economic toll of lockdown, some are flirting with the possibility of deaccessioning. So far, non-art organizations—like the Royal Opera House, the English public school Rugby, and the Royal College of Physicians—have been the most aggressive in selling off collectible assets to address budgetary shortfalls. But art institutions are reconsidering their approaches, too. (Guardian)


Marie Antoinette’s Shoe Sells Big in Versailles – A silk shoe bearing Marie Antoinette’s name on its heel was sold by the French auction house Osenat at an auction in the Palace of Versailles on Sunday. The shoe fetched $51,780, trampling its low estimate of $11,800. (Deutsche Welle)

Artnet Auctions Offers an Early Elaine Sturtevant – More than 50 works, including one of the earliest Andy Warhol appropriations by artist Elaine Sturtevant (low estimate: $250,000) and a rare late-1920s composition by Wassily Kandinsky (low estimate: $400,000) are included in Artnet Auctions’ postwar and contemporary art sale. The auction, which also includes work by ascendant stars Genieve Figgis and Julie Curtiss, is open for bidding through November 19. (Press release)

Fai Khadra Will Curate Sotheby’s Contemporary Sale – The artist, creative director, and model—who has been described by Elle as “Kylie and Kendall Jenner’s go-to platonic date”—will guest curate Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated auction this season. The online sale, which includes work by Ed Ruscha and Cindy Sherman, will be open for bidding from November 17 through 24. (Press release)


Bronx Museum Names New Director – Klaudio Rodriguez will become the new executive director of the contemporary art institution where he has been interim director since January. Rodriguez was recruited to the Bronx institution by Holly Block, the museum’s late executive director, in 2017 from the Frost Art Museum in Miami to take a job as deputy director. (NYT)

Tate Joins the Rebranded “Festival of Brexit” – The festival formerly known as the Festival of Brexit—now simply Festival UK—has tapped teams from the Tate galleries to pitch in ideas for the celebration of UK “creativity and innovation.” A total of 30 teams will receive £100,000 ($131,000) each to develop plans for the event, due to be held in 2022. (BBC)

Freelands Foundation Fights Racial Inequality in the Arts – The Freelands Foundation has awarded £1.27 million ($1.6 million) in its first round of grants aiming to combat racial inequality in art education. The recipients are: the Institute of International Visual Arts in London, the Nottingham-based New Art Exchange, and Create London. (Press release)


German Museum Association Calls for Early Lift to Lockdown – The federal association of museums in Germany is pushing for the government to allow art institutions to reopen in December. “Museums are not places with an increased risk of infection and have implemented strict rules of hygiene and distance,” the organization said in a statement on Friday. Museums have been closed since the beginning of November as part of a second wave of lockdowns. (Monopol)

UNESCO Under Fire for Using the Met’s Works in Ads – The organization has pulled a number of images from an anti-trafficking ad campaign following complaints that it misrepresented some of the artifacts pictured. Among the objects were three pieces from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; while the UNESCO ad suggests they were stolen in recent years, their provenance goes back much further. In a “clarification” on its website, UNESCO says it “regrets the use of Met images that caused any misunderstanding.” (The Art Newspaper)

The Story Behind That Viral Kamala Harris Image – The Los Angeles Times speaks to the two collaborators, Gordon Jones and Bria Goeller, behind the widely shared photo illustration of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris walking alongside the shadow of Ruby Bridges. The image had been on the website for Jones’s new online brand Good Trouble for weeks—but it went viral after the election results were announced. “Although I’m not really profiting much from this, I think that I have the platform now to be able to really reach people with the art that I’m doing and that’s all I could have asked for,” Goeller said. (Los Angeles Times)

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