Art Industry News: Did Scientologists Have a Hidden Hand in Okwui Enwizor’s Departure? + Other Stories

Plus, a star Met curator returns to the UK and dissident Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky faces a decade in prison.

Okwui Enwezor. Photo: Photo: Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images for Prada.

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 Thursday, October 18. 


Artist Pyotr Pavlensky Faces a Decade in Prison – The dissident Russian artist, known for his self-mutilating protest demonstration, was recently released after a year’s detention ahead of his trial. He has been accused of sexually assaulting an actress, and prosecutors are pushing for a 10-year sentence. The artist has described horrific abuse suffered during his incarceration. (Hyperallergic)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets a Museum Show – The Supreme Court Justice—who has recently been the subject of a book, documentary, a Ben & Jerry’s flavor, and soon-to-be-released feature film—has a museum show to her name now, too. The exhibition, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” opens tomorrow at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The show—which includes home movies, archival photos, contemporary art, and, yes, a judge’s robe you can try on—runs until March 10. (Los Angeles Times)

Scientology and Mismanagement Contributed to Okwui’s Ousting – We may know more about what led to star curator Okwui Enwezor’s abrupt departure from the Haus der Kunst. Although the director said he was departing for health reasons, the real drivers seem to be a potent mix of scandal, overspending, and just plain racism and xenophobia. A key factor was a critically acclaimed but exorbitantly expensive “Postwar” show. More outlandish was the infiltration of the staff by Scientologists, who are considered a threat to German democracy, leading to government surveillance of the institution. (New York Times)

Barbara Kruger Brings a Mural to LA in Time for the Midterms – Barbara Kruger’s mural, Untitled (Questions) (1990), originally installed on the facade of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary during the first Bush administration, will return to the museum ahead of the US midterm elections. The piece—which asks, “Who is beyond the law?”—became famous when an LA photographer captured uniformed National Guardsman walking past the mural during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. (Los Angeles Times)


Top Collector Says China Is Propping Up the Market – J. Tomilson Hill, the mega-art collector and vice chairman of Blackstone, says the art market is unlikely to crater anytime soon due to the rising demand for art in China fueled by thousands of Chinese museums due to open in the coming years. “There are under 7,000 museums in China but they’re growing at between 500 to 1,000 museums a year,” he said. But the outlook might not be quite as rosy as Hill thinks: Our artnet Intelligence Report spells out the reasons for caution. (CNBC)

Kate Moss Hits the Block at Sotheby’s Gold Auction – Don’t worry, the auction stunts won’t stop with Banksy. The first-ever all-gold sale at Sotheby’s, appropriately titled “The Midas Touch,” will include an 18-karat gold sculpture of Kate Moss with a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 to $370,000. The likeness of the famed supermodel, titled Song of Siren, is the work of Marc Quinn. (New York Observer)

NYPL and the Jewish Museum Team Up for a Joint Acquisition – Grammar and design nerds, rejoice! All 57 of illustrator Maira Kalman’s whimsical gouache paintings created for the 2005 edition of the reference book The Elements of Style (written by William Strunk Jr. in 1918 and revised by E.B. White in 1959) are joining the collections of the New York Public Library and New York’s Jewish Museum. The works were shown in 2017 for the first time at New York’s Julie Saul Gallery. (Art Daily)


Shortlist for Future Generation Prize Announced – The Ukraine-based PinchukArtCentre released the shortlist for this year’s Future Generation Art Prize. The 21 artists and artist collectives who made the cut includes familiar names like Toyin Ojih Odutola, Korakrit Arunanondchai, and Sondra Perry. (e-flux Journal)

Star Met Curator Named Fitzwilliam Director – Luke Syson, the chairman of European sculpture and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 2012, is returning to his home country of England to lead the Fitzwilliam Museum. He will be tasked with overseeing its master plan to expand its gallery spaces and improve facilities over the next 15 years. (The Art Newspaper)

Autry Gets a Major Gift – The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians is giving the Autry Museum of the American West a $414,101 grant. The money will be used to ensure that the institution’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection is in compliance with the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which seeks to return cultural artifacts to tribal nations. (Press release)

The Sky Gets Another Arty Addition – Trevor Paglen may have sparked a new trend with his controversial plans to place a reflective sculpture into orbit: after a space company unveiled a copycat project earlier this year, the Chinese city of Chengdu has announced that it will launch an artificial moon, eight times brighter than the real deal, into space. Inspired by a French artist who imagined the planet with a necklace of mirrors, the illumination satellite will supposedly emit a “dusk-like glow.” (The Daily Mail)


New York’s PBS Station Launches ALL ARTS – With its new free on-demand service ALL ARTS, local PBS outlet WNET hopes to expand access to the arts with cultural content about dance, film, stories, music, theater, visual art, and design. In addition to original public television programming, the multi-platform venture will also feature special events and an artist residency program, all led by artistic director Jörn Weisbrodt. (Press release)

A High School Student Sues Her Old School – A recent graduate from the Niskayuna High School in upstate New York filed suit in federal court this week in an ongoing dispute over her censored art project. The work in question was a self portrait of a man’s hands covering the student’s mouth, and embedded in the drawing was the name of the (adult) man who allegedly raped the student. (Times Union)

MCA Chicago Wants You for a Performance – Are you an avant-garde dancer skilled at navigating a darkened space and holding poses for 10 minutes or longer? Then you are an ideal candidate to participate in a forthcoming performance at the MCA Chicago. The museum has put out a call for participants for a performance accompanying Danny Giles’s video dead(air) (2015). The performance on November 8 is part of the program “MCA ’68: Art & Violence, Then & Now.” (ARTnews)

As Global Warming Leads Us Ever Closer to Mass Extinction, an Animal Photography Project Reminds Us What’s at Stake – Since 2005, Joel Sartore has been photographing portraits of every animal species at the world’s zoos and nature preserves. The “Photo Ark” project, which aims to raise awareness of endangered species and will have hit 8,000 different types of animals by the year’s end, is now on view at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. (Hyperallergic)

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