Art Industry News: The Year of Lockdown Has Inspired Longtime Dealers to Quit the Rat Race of Gallery Life + Other Stories

Plus, 60 percent of UK museums fear they may not survive and Sotheby's plans a star-studded sports memorabilia sale.

The work of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla at United States pavilion during the International Art Biennale on June 2, 2011 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Massimo Di Nonno/Getty Images)
The work of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla at United States pavilion during the International Art Biennale on June 2, 2011 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Massimo Di Nonno/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 Thursday, November 19


The Director of Mass MoCA Gives an Exit Interview – Joseph C. Thompson is leaving the museum he helped found in North Adams 33 years ago. With 28 buildings that span more square feet than the Louvre, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art claims it is the largest museum in the world. During his tenure, Thompson ran an ambitious program on a relatively small annual budget of $10 to $12 million. “I could write a book on how not to build a museum,” Thompson told New York Times. “We started with no endowment, no cash reserves, no line of credit, so we were living on whatever it is we made that week and—given that museums lose money every week they’re open—that was just a very challenging environment.” (New York Times)

US Museums Raise Alarm Over Pissarro Appeal – Camille Pissarro’s La Bergère Rentrant des Moutons (1886) is back in the courts. French heiress Léone-Noëlle Meyer is trying to walk back a settlement deal reached in 2016 that specified the work, looted during World War II from her father’s collection, would be transferred back and forth between France and the US every three years. In a joint letter, the leaders of the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors said they hoped the courts would honor the original settlement “but, more important to us, that future potential consensual resolutions to Nazi-era claims will not be negatively affected by the current proceedings.” The case will be heard on January 19. (The Art Newspaper)

Longtime Dealers Look for Calmer Pastures – The changes wrought by lockdown have inspired some longtime gallerists—including Gary Waterston, an 18-year veteran of Gagosian; Lock Kresler, a senior director at Lévy Gorvy; and Graham Steele, a partner at Hauser & Wirth—to step off the mega-gallery treadmill in favor of a more entrepreneurial, independent approach. The shift is driven by the desire for more flexibility—as well as the reality that locked-down galleries do not require the same level of staffing. Melanie Gerlis posits that, just as the 2008 economic crisis fueled a boom in the art advisor industry, a new brand of entrepreneurial dealer may emerge from this one. (TAN)

60 Percent of UK Museums and Galleries Might Not Survive – A survey for Art Fund has found that only half of UK museums received any form of emergency funding this year. A whopping 60 percent of respondents say they are now facing an existential threat due to a lack of financial support as well as the hectic timelines for reopening and closing. Art Fund is aiming to raise £1 million to help institutions as part of a campaign called Together for Museums. It has been backed by artists including Lubaina Himid, Anish Kapoor, Michael Landy and Melanie Manchot. To date, more than £250,000 has been raised. (Guardian)


Phillips Nabs a Rare Clyfford Still – The auction house has announced the latest big-ticket consignment for its modern and contemporary art evening sale on December 7 in New York: a Clyfford Still painting estimated to fetch $17 million. Still’s work, PH-407 (1964), was once in the collection of German art collector and publishing heir Frieder Burda. (Art Market Monitor)

Sotheby’s Partners on a Sports Memorabilia Auction – Sotheby’s is holding its first dedicated sale of sports memorabilia since 2008. The online sale, a collaboration with Goldin Auctions, is called “A Century of Champions” and will offer objects spanning more than a century. The top lot is the 1970 World Cup Jules Rimet Trophy that was presented to Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé. It is estimated to fetch between $650,000 and $800,000. (Press release)

The “Picasso of Pigeons” Sold for a Record $1.9 Million – An anonymous Chinese pigeon collector who goes by “Super Duper” set a new record with the $1.9 million acquisition of New Kim, a two-year-old female, at PIPA, a Belgian pigeon auction house. (Apparently there is more than one pigeon auction house.) This homing pigeon, who will be used in competitive racing, is one of the last birds raised by retired breeder Gaston Van de Wouwer. “You could compare it to a Picasso painting,” PIPA founder Nikolaas Gyselbrecht said. (New York Times

Pay It Forward With Jennifer Rubell’s Performa Project – Jennifer Rubell presented a sweet (or salty) new performance for the performance art biennial Performa’s 15th anniversary eight-hour telethon on November 18. Called $100 Tipper, it enabled individuals to order limited edition golden “$100 Tipper” coins by the artist if they added a $100 tip for a delivery person on the Seamless delivery service page when ordering NY Popcorn—a gourmet popcorn maker. (Press release)


Zehra Doğan Wins Artissima’s Women’s Art Prize – The Kurdish artist and journalist Zehra Doğan, who was imprisoned for nearly three years for sharing an artwork criticizing Turkey’s invasion of the Kurdish city of Nusaybin, has won Artissima’s inaugural Carol Rama Award. The award is given to a living female artist who channels the spirit and ethos of the late Italian artist Carol Rama. (Press release)

Warhol Foundation Reveals Arts Writer Grant Winners – Colony Little and Barbara Calderón, two Artnet News contributors, are among the 22 art writers who have received grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation this year. The grants, given for articles, books, and short-form writing, total $675,000, with each recipient getting between $15,000 and $50,000. (Artforum)


Maine Legislators Back Unionization Effort at Portland Museum – Forty lawmakers in Maine have signed a letter asking management at the Portland Museum of Art to recognize its staff’s right to form a union without engaging in “any anti-union tactics” such as hiring legal consultants to sow fear among staff. Museum employees filed a petition to form a union in September; leadership said it did not think a union was “right” for the museum. (Press Herald)

Mattress Factory Sues Insurer Over Lost Revenue – The Mattress Factory, a contemporary art center in Pittsburgh, has filed a federal lawsuit against its insurance company over more than $600,000 in expenses and lost revenue incurred during lockdown. The museum alleges that its property insurance policy with the Cincinnati Insurance Co. should have covered damages caused by a virus or communicable disease. The museum is seeking a jury trial over the matter. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Monopol Gives Black Lives Matter the Top Spot in Its Power List – The mass movement is the most influential force in the art world this year, according to the German art magazine. Thanks to the movement, “millions of people demonstrated, streets with discriminatory names were renamed, public monuments are being discussed anew,” states the magazine. “Museums around the world are debating how to reach out to other segments of the population” and “striving for more diversity in programs and personnel, for decolonization of their collections.” (Monopol)

See AI-Generated Brutalist Buildings in This New Music Video – The Portuguese musician Moullinex’s new music video includes an ever-shifting landscape of imaginary Brutalist buildings that have been dreamed up by a generative design algorithm. The machine learning tool StyleGAN2 that created the images was trained on a data set of 200 photographs of modernist concrete buildings around the world. (Dezeen)

Experimenting with Machine Learning art. These buildings do not exist, they were computer generated by a model trained with brutalist architecture, using StyleGAN on RunwayML.Thanks to Derrick Schultz for the intro to this world of magic where science and art collide yet again. Music created on Arturia EMS Synthi V.

Posted by Moullinex on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

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