Art Industry News: Top Whitney Museum Trustee Owns the Company Making Tear Gas Used at the Border + Other Stories

Plus, the Berkshire Museum finally concludes its controversial art sales and Marfa's gentrification is hurting longtime residents.

Central American migrants arrive in Tijuana, on the Mexico side of the US-Mexico border, on November 27, two days after US authorities used tear gas at them. Photo Guillermo Arias AFP/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, November 28.


Marfa’s Gentrification Gathers Pace – The tiny city in West Texas has seen real estate prices skyrocket, particularly for adobe buildings. The historically cheap product has become an albatross for longtime residents of Marfa, where taxes have increased dramatically on homes built with adobe bricks. Sculptor Donald Judd is partly to blame for making adobe so sought-after—when he came to Marfa in the 1970s, he built an adobe wall around his studio and residence in the center of town. (New York Times)

European Museum Directors Respond to Restitution Report – Museum leaders from Germany and the UK have responded to French President Emmanuel Macron’s recently published report on restitution. “Looted art must always be returned,” says Hartmut Dorgerloh of Berlin’s controversial Humboldt Forum. But not everyone is on board with the findings. “It has to be said that the authors of the report have little awareness of quite how much work is going on,” writes Nicholas Thomas, the director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. (The Art Newspaper)

Whitney’s Vice Chairman Owns Tear Gas Maker – As advocates raise more awareness about and scrutiny of the source of museum patrons’ funds, Hyperallergic notes that the Whitney Museum of American Art’s vice chairman, Warren B. Kanders, purchased the defense manufacturer Safariland in 2012 for $124 million. Safariland tear gas was seen being used at the US-Mexico border on Sunday by US border patrol against Central American migrants, many of whom were children. Kanders is listed as a “significant contributor” to the Whitney’s current “Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again.” The museum has not yet commented to the website. (Hyperallergic, UPI)

Curators Rewrite Labels for the #MeToo Era – Museum wall texts are quickly becoming a space to revise history and acknowledge the problematic pasts of predominantly male artists. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, didactic panels are including controversial information (like calling out painter Paul Gauguin’s sexual exploitation in Tahiti or the Canadian artist Emily Carr’s use of the word “Indian.”). The trend could soon become an obligation. (Guardian)


Berkshire Museum Finally Concludes Its Art Sales – The Berkshire Museum’s controversial sale of up to 40 works from its collection in order to fund its endowment and renovations is finally complete. A total of 22 works were sold at Sotheby’s over several months, raising $53.25 million. The trustees have confirmed that maintenance on the building will begin shortly. (Press release)

Dealer Wins Access to Sotheby’s Documents in Fakes Scandal – Mayfair art dealer Mark Weiss has won the legal right to examine internal documents exchanged between Sotheby’s and art experts as part of an ongoing dispute. The auction house is suing Weiss to recover $10.7 million for a painting it sold that turned out to be a fake Frans Hals. (City A.M.)

The Eiffel Tower’s Original Staircase Sells for $191,000 – The Parisian auction house Artcurial sold a piece of the original staircase from Paris’s famous 19th-century tower. The 25-step iron spiral segment, which used to connect the third and fourth levels, flew past its pre-sale high estimate of $56,460. (Monopol)

ARCO Madrid Announces Its New Director – Longtime director Carlos Urroz is stepping down after the 2019 edition of the art fair. Next year’s edition will be co-directed by Urroz and Maribel López, who take over as the Madrid fair’s director in 2020. She has worked for the fair, which opens on February 27, for the past 11 years. (ARTnews)


The Getty Acquires a Painting by Quentin Metsys – The Los Angeles museum has acquired the Old Master painting Christ as the Man of Sorrows (1520–30). In a private collection for centuries, the work by the Flemish painter was once attributed to Rogier van der Weyden. The first work by the artist to enter the Getty’s collection, it is due to go on view in spring 2019. (Press release)

The MCA Denver’s Director Adam Lerner Will Step Down – After a decade in charge of Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Adam Lerner is stepping down in 2019. Among Lerner’s achievements are clearing the debts of the David Adjaye-designed museum, which opened in 2007, and raising $17.5 million for its capital campaign. (Press release)

PAMM Gets $300,000 From the Ford Foundation – The Pérez Art Museum Miami recently launched a Latin American and Latinx art fund to underwrite dedicated exhibitions and programs at the museum, including an exhibition of work by Teresita Fernández in fall 2019. And the pot is already growing: the Ford Foundation just donated $300,000 towards Fernández’s show as part of the initiative. (Press release)



Leo Villareal to Start Lighting Up London Bridges – Four bridges across the Thames, including London Bridge, will be transformed by the American artist this summer. Work on the first phase of Illuminated Bridges, a planned 15-bridge project, will begin in January. Investor Len Blavatnik has made a multi-million-pound gift to the project, which is led by the Rothschild Foundation. Villareal and architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands were the winners of a high-profile international competition to illuminate the city’s bridges in a sustainable way. (Press release)

UBS Plans a Major Sarah Morris Commission – Even the UBS Lounge at Art Basel in Miami Beach will host brand new art. The VIP watering hole will be adorned with Sarah Morris-designed wallpaper and a newly acquired painting, Precious Stone [Sound Graph] (2018), as well as pieces by Frank Stella and Howard Hodgkin. All three artists will be featured in the renovated lobby of UBS’s Midtown New York headquarters, which is due to be complete in early 2019. (Press release)

The V&A Cast Court Reveals Its “Steampunk” Secret – The Victoria & Albert Museum reopens the final phase of the restoration of its Victorian-era galleries of plaster casts at the weekend. The centerpiece is a full-scale copy of Rome’s Trajan’s Column. A small door at its base will be open for the first time for visitors. Critic Jonathan Jones describes the column’s brick interior as the London museum’s “steampunk secret.” (Guardian

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