Art Industry News: How WeWork and Jeff Koons Both Made the Same Boneheaded Mistake + Other Stories

Plus, MOCA in Los Angeles expands its performance program and New York looks for artists to design new monuments to black history.

Adam Neumann, co-founder and deposed chief executive officer of WeWork. (Photo by Jackal Pan/Visual China Group via 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 Friday, October 25.


US Ambassador Returns a Stolen Statue to Italy – The US has returned an ancient marble head to Italy after the looted antiquity was spotted in an auction catalogue in California. The US ambassador to Italy handed over the head of Pan to Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, at a ceremony in Rome on Thursday, three years after the Carabinieri first identified the artifact in 2016. The head of the Greek god was stolen from an archaeological site near Rome in 1968. It is believed to have entered the US in the 2000s from a European collection. (Courthouse News)

New York Seeks New Monuments to Honor Black History – The city is inviting artists to propose designs for two monuments that aim diversify the subjects of its public sculpture and honor overlooked pioneers. One memorial, in Central Park, will honor the Lyons family, leading members of the city’s early black community who were evicted from their land in the mid-19th century so Central Park could be created. The planned site of the Lyons memorial has been criticized by Jacob Morris, the director of the Harlem Historical Society, who called the location “disrespectful” and “insulting” because it is a mile away from the family’s former home in what was known as Seneca Village. A second memorial in East Harlem will mark an African burial ground. (The Art Newspaper)

What WeWork and Jeff Koons Have in Common – The co-working real estate company is in dire straits after it withdrew its IPO at the 11th hour, its CEO resigned, and its value slid from $47 billion to $10 billion in less than a year. Felix Salmon attributes the failure to a weakly structured business based off of speculative, rather than real, growth. To understand the situation, he says, consider how a similar dynamic shaped Jeff Koons’s trajectory. The artist leveraged the rising value of his art as a key component of his business model, selling unmade work, running out of cash to produce it, and then asking the collector for more money. When the value of his art tapered off, the cogs stopped turning: the studio had to lay off at half of its staff and Koons (and his gallery) are facing lawsuits from buyers. “Whether you’re issuing shares or sculptures,” Salmon writes, “it’s extremely foolish to count on them appreciating in value whenever you need them to do so.” (Axios)

Design Museum Gets a $3.8 Million Bailout – London’s Design Museum needed a loan of nearly $4 million after running at a deficit last year. The Conran Foundation injected the cash in March, as the museum struggled to raise money to cover the operating costs of its swanky new home in Kensington, West London. The institution ended the financial year with a deficit of $1.5 million, despite its outgoing directors making cutbacks. The loan from the charity of museum founder Terence Conran gives its new director, Timothy Marlow, breathing space to raise income, although the first repayment is due in 2022. (Third Sector)


Galerie Templon to Represent Iván Navarro – The US-based, Chilean artist will now be represented by Galerie Templon in Europe and North America. The artist is currently in the midst of making a new work for the opening of the Momentary, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art’s contemporary space, which is due to open February 2020. (Art Daily)

Harmony Korine Returns to Gagosian – The artist and film director is organizing a spooky exhibition called “Birth Machine Baby” at Gagosian’s Park & 75 space in New York. The show, which opens on November 5, unites the dramatic work of the Swiss painter H.R. Giger and the Canadian sculptor Mark Prent. (ARTnews)

Kohn Gallery Now Represents the Estate of Ed Moses – Los Angeles-based Kohn Gallery will represent the estate of the legendary West Coast painter Ed Moses, who died last year. William Turner Gallery in Los Angeles will also continue to work with the artist’s estate. (Press release)


Illinois State Museum Returns Cultural Artifacts – The Illinois institution is now the first in the world to repatriate artifacts as a part of the Australian government’s new Return of Cultural Heritage Project, which aims to restitute Australian Indigenous objects from abroad. The US museum has agreed to return 42 pieces currently in its collection to Australian First Nations. (Press release)

$100,000 Frontier Prize 2019 Awarded – One of the world’s heftiest art prizes, the Frontier Art Prize, has been awarded to Polish conceptual artist Agnieszka Kurant. The award, given annually to an artist whose practice “reflects a pioneering spirit,” was established in 2017 as part of the World Frontiers Forum, a gathering of cultural, social, and tech leaders. To mark her win, Kurant will develop a new work on the theme of digital identity that will debut at the 2020 Frontiers Forum. (Press release)

Shandaken Reveals New Faculty and Opens Applications The art nonprofit located in Upstate New York’s Ulster County has announced an impressive lineup for the next faculty of Paint School, its free postgraduate fellowship run in partnership with Cooper Union and other New York City schools. The instructors are: Rob Pruitt, Ellen Berkenblit, Tschabalala Self, Leidy Churchman, Chitra Ganesh, Mark Thomas Gibson, and Kyle Staver. Applications for fellows open in the coming days. (Press release)

Nicolas Berggruen Awards Ruth Bader Ginsburg $1 Million – The billionaire art collector has named US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the recipient of his eponymous institute’s $1 million prize. The Berggruen Institute is a politically-oriented think tank that gives an annual prize to a figure making an important impact in the domain of philosophy or culture. (ARTnews)


MOCA Embraces Performance – The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles is turning a satellite venue into a new performance space. Thanks to a $5 million gift from trustee Wonmi Kwon, the Geffen Contemporary will now host the series Wonmi’s Warehouse Programs, which will focus on performing arts, readings, concerts, and screenings. Director Klaus Biesenbach says the program will be like its “own institution within MOCA.” (Artforum)

Prospect.5 Releases Expanded Programming Plans – For its 10th anniversary, in addition to its usual exhibition, the New Orleans triennial Prospect is launching a series of supplemental programs organized by curators, educators, and writers like Kimberly Drew and Maricelle Robles. The theme of the triennial, which runs from October 24, 2020 to January 24, 2021, is inspired by a New Orleans jazz song, “Yesterday we said tomorrow,” and will examine tensions between the past and present. (ARTnews)

Another Infinity Room Comes to New York – The New York Botanical Society is the latest venue to get on the Yayoi Kusama bandwagon. Now, more details are available about the open-air show of her sculpture next spring. The solo show, called “Cosmic Nature,” will explore the veteran Japanese artist’s longstanding interest in nature (her family ran a flower nursery). Alongside early sketches of flowers she made as a teenager, the show will present 16 new works, including the new 16-foot-tall Dancing Pumpkin. And yes, there will be an Infinity Room, too. (ARTnews)

See Bridget Riley’s Optical Illusions at the Hayward – Bridget Riley’s retrospective, on view at London’s Hayward Gallery through January 26, is already garnering rave reviews. The 88-year-old artist’s vibrant optical illusions might give some visitors a headache, but the Guardian‘s Adrian Searle raves: “Her work bursts and shimmers, rolls and flickers and writhes before us, winking at us, humming with its painted intervals and visual beats, going in and out of phase, dopplering and creating grand visual chords.” The show also includes the veteran painter’s one and only immersive sculpture. (Guardian)


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