Art Industry News: In a Decision That Will Surprise Approximately No One, ‘NFT’ Has Been Dubbed Word of the Year + Other Stories

Plus, London gets a new play about Warhol and Basquiat, and artist Maya Lin's NYC forest installation is being repurposed for boats.

Beeple, Everydays – The First 5000 Days. Courtesy of the artist and Christie's.

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 25.


Looted Palmyra Sculptures Return to Syria – Geneva’s Museum of Art and History is restituting three archaeological artifacts found to have been looted from Syria. The items, which are from the ancient city of Palmyra, had illegally entered Switzerland between 2009 and 2010. They were confiscated in 2016 along with six other objects that were being stored at the Free Ports of Geneva by private individuals. They were exhibited at the museum in 2017 to raise awareness of the illicit trade of art and antiquities, and also stored there for safekeeping during the course of an investigation into their provenance. (Press release)

China’s Museums Cozy Up to Commercial Galleries – Museums’ curatorial aims and the art market’s commercial interests have a lot of overlap in China, where museums have been sprouting up all over the country. While these new projects are often hugely expensive and boast formidable architecture, they may lack curatorial vision or staff. The trend is related to the recent arrival of many international galleries in China, which correlates with the sudden uptick in shows by Western artists. “They all have their own mainland China sales directors, who are tasked with talking with private museums to arrange shows,” said one curator. (TAN)

NFT Is Collins’s Word of the Year – In case you’ve been living under a rock, non-fungible tokens, more commonly known in crypto parlance as NFTs, are the buzz of the art industry and just about everywhere else. The use of the word NFT went up by 11,000 percent in 2021 alone (and Artnet News was only responsible for like, half of that). Collins’s Dictionary has crowned it the word of the year. Other newcomers on the list are “crypto” and “metaverse.” (BBC)

An L.A. Law Office Offers an Artist Residency – The law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has given over its L.A. office space to artists as a part of a new artist residency program. The project was spurred by the pandemic, when most of its staff shifted to remote working. The residency lasts four months and the firm has given its two current artists, Molly Segal and Edgar Ramirez, $1,500 for artists materials as well as a monthly stipend of $5,000. The firm plans to continue with the residency and will announce the next pair of artists in January 2022. (New York Times)


Einstein Manuscript Fetches $13.2 Million in Paris – A 54-page manuscript co-authored by Albert Einstein sold in an auction at Christie’s on Tuesday in Paris for €11.7 million ($13.2 million). The documents include a rare view into how the physicist thought through complex questions in the lead-up to his general theory of relativity. (Reuters)

Warhol Play Heads to the Young Vic – The story behind a notorious 1985 flop exhibition of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat is now the subject of a play at Young Vic theater in London. Called The Collaboration, the play, written by Anthony McCarten and directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, looks at their fame and their friendship in and around this storied yet critically loathed show. (Guardian)

Lihua Tung Joins David Zwirner Hong Kong – Auction world veteran Lihua Tung has been tapped as a new director at Zwirner’s Hong Kong outpost. She was previously a senior director at Phillips in Hong Kong, where she focused on 20th-century and contemporary art. She will work closely with Leo Xu, who leads the Hong Kong gallery as senior director. (Press release)

Megan Leckie Departs Art Basel Hong Kong – The regional head of Art Basel’s VIP team in Asia, Megan Leckie, has announced she is heading back to the U.K. Art Basel thanked Leckie for her contribution to the team over the past six years. (Press release)


Maya Lin’s New York Forest to Become Boats – The 49 trees from the artist’s work Ghost Forest will be carved into boats that a group of teenaged students plan to sail in 2022. The installation, which relocated dead white cedar trees from a dying grove to Madison Square Park in New York, was a powerful comment on the environmental apocalypse. The wood will now be used by the nonprofit Rocking the Boat, which seeks to connect the local community in the Bronx to the water. (New York Times)


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