Art Industry News: Jeff Koons Was ‘Saddened’ by the Backlash Over His Balloon Tulips for Paris + Other Stories

Plus, a treasure hunter gets permission to dig for a pirate's trove and the Pope unveils a monument to migrants.

Jeff Koons at the Hirshhorn Museum's Spring Gala. May 12, 2018. Photo by Shannon Finney/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 Tuesday, October 1. 


The Pope Unveils a Monument to Migrants – The artist who has brought Homeless Jesus to park benches now has a monumental work in the Vatican. Pope Francis unveiled Timothy Schmalz’s sculpture in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday. Commissioned by the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees office, the work was overseen directly by the Pope, who even blessed the maquette. Called Angels Unaware, it depicts 140 migrants and refugees, including Jewish and Muslim ones, fleeing in a boat that is heading toward the basilica. It is unclear how long the work will remain on show in the piazza. (BBC)

Outcry at a Treasure Hunter’s Dig for Pirate’s Gold – Archaeologists and environmentalists are upset that a US treasure hunter plans to use heavy machinery to look for a pirate’s trove. Bernard Keiser has been given permission to excavate on Chile’s Juan Fernández Islands in the South Pacific. He is convinced that he has found possible sites where a treasure trove of jewels, gold, and Inca artifacts were buried by Spanish pirates in the 18th century. “The motive is profit, not archaeological interest,” says the Chilean archaeologist, Alejandra Vidal. “There’s a very real risk of artifacts being lost or damaged,” if a trove is discovered. (Guardian)

Jeff Koons Is Bummed France Didn’t Want His Tulips – When Jeff Koons offered to give the people of France his 39-foot-tall metallic balloon sculpture Bouquet of Tulips as a present following the Paris attacks, there was a lot of backlash. (Donors had to foot the fabrication bill.) That “saddened” the artist, he admitted, noting that the controversial Palais de Tokyo location wasn’t his idea. It will be installed Friday at a less prominent location near the Petit Palais museum, and remains, he added, a “magnificent opportunity to show my respect and love for France and the French.” Proceeds from copyright fees will go toward victims of terrorist attacks on Paris. (Agence France Presse)

Is This the Swiss Stonehenge? – Aquatic excavations of Switzerland’s Lake Constance have unearthed what archaeologists believe to be a Neolithic relic, featuring a circle of stones placed at regular intervals. A researcher on the project promises that his team “has no intention to compete with the original Stonehenge” in the West of England, pouring cold water on media reports that it is the “Swiss Stonehenge.” (Daily Mail)


John Gerrard Joins Pace’s Roster  – The artist has joined Pace gallery but he will be co-represented by Thomas Dane Gallery of London and Naples. Gerrard is best known for his moving image-based digital “simulations.” (ARTnews)

Ugo Rondinone Raises $1.1 Million for Cancer Research – Ugo Ronindone’s Stop Bladder Cancer auction at Sotheby’s, featuring work by Carroll Dunham, Sarah Lucas, Oscar Murillo, and Elizabeth Peyton, brought in more than a million dollars to support treatment and research at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. The artist was inspired to raise money for the cause after being diagnosed with cancer in 2017. (Press Release)

A Gauguin Painting Heads to Auction After Ten Years at the Met – Paris’s Artcurial expects to fetch as much as €7 million ($7.6 million) from the December sale of Paul Gauguin’s Te Bourao II (The Purao Tree). The piece is one of a series of nine paintings by the artist made in Tahiti in 1897 during his work on the large-scale Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, masterpiece Where Do We Come From? What are We? Where are we Going?; Te Bourao II is the only one still in a private collection. Until 2017, the work was on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York thanks to a 10-year loan from the unidentified owner. (The Art Newspaper)


Walker Art Center Names Chief Curator – The Minneapolis-based museum has named Henriette Huldisch as chief curator and director of curatorial affairs, prompting her to depart from her current post at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is the first major appointment by Mary Ceruti since taking over as the director of the Walker in January. Huldisch will begin her post on January 6, 2020. (ARTnews)

A New Home for Newark’s Project for Empty Space Jasmine Wahi and Rebecca Jampol, co-directors of Newark’s Project for Empty Space have announced plans to move, opening a new building at 800 Broad Street in January 2020. The art nonprofit was founded 10 years ago as a nomadic institution, but has offered art studios for local artists and staged exhibitions of socially engaged art in their facility at the Gateway Center for the last seven years. (Press Release)

Artsy Lays Off More Staff – Some 20 employees, or 10 percent of the staff, have lost their jobs at art-services company Artsy, in the second round of layoffs this year. The company saw co-founder Carter Cleveland move to an executive chairman position as Mike Steib, head of XO Group Inc., parent company of online wedding-services company the Knot, took over as CEO in June. (The Art Newspaper)

Otobong Nkanga Wins Inaugural Lise Wilhelmsen Art Award  – The Nigeria-born artist has won the inaugural award of $100,000 for her work that inspires social change. Norway’s Henie Onstad Museum will give the artist a midcareer survey in 2020 and acquire a work for its collection.  (Artforum)


Brazen Thief Gets Three Years Jail Time – The man who stole a painting—in broad daylight—from Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery in January has been sentenced to three years in prison. The video surveillance shows a blasé Denis Chuprikov, carrying off Arkhip Kuindzhi’s 20th-century painting, Ai-Petri. Crimea, without anyone taking notice. Chuprikov told the court he took the canvas on a whim. “If I had been stopped with the painting, I would have given it back,” he claimed. (Radio Free Europe)

Art that Survived Saddam Hussein Goes on Show – Works by Kurdish artists that survived ISIS and Saddam Hussein are set to debut in London later this week. The group show at P21 Gallery in North London includes pieces by a former Kurdish Peshmerga fighter turned artist, as well as an installation that includes ancient Assyrian reliefs peppered by bullet holes. (Guardian)

Stolen John Lavery Painting Recovered After 25 Years – Dublin’s Whyte’s auctioneers was set to auction a work by 19th century Belfast artist John Lavery when the house realized the €20,000 ($21,800) painting, Youth and Age (1885), had been stolen about 25 years ago from Stonyhurst College in Lancashire in the UK. “Whyte’s are delighted to have assisted in its recovery,” said the company’s managing director. (The Irish Times)

Rumors of War Is Unveiled in Times Square  – Obama portraitist Kehinde Wiley debuted his first  public commission, a sculpture titled Rumors of War, in Times Square. The bronze work sends up the traditional Confederate equestrian statues that line the streets of Richmond, Virginia, where the work will be permanently displayed after its weeks-long stint in New York City. Riffing on the memorial to Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, Wiley’s sculpture shows a heroic young African American man, his short dreadlocks gathered atop his head, wearing Nike sneakers and a hoodie, gallantly astride his horse. (Instagram)


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