Art Industry News: Virgil Abloh Hops on the da Vinci Bandwagon by Selling a $99 Backlit “Mona Lisa” Through IKEA + Other Stories

Plus, tourists threaten the survival of Pompeii and the Saudi royal family is revealed as the buyer of one of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Rooms.

Virgil Abloh's backlit Mona Lisa for IKEA. Courtesy of IKEA.

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 Monday, October 28.


Why Agreeing on New York’s New Monuments Is So Difficult – New York City’s leadership earned praise when it announced a plan to build new public monuments at a rapid pace to honor women, people of color, and other overlooked figures, from female suffragists to jazz singer Billie Holiday. But the effort has become more contentious than anticipated as stakeholders fight over exactly who should be honored, who should build the monuments, what they should look like, and where they should be located. Now, a group of historians, preservationists, politicians, and community organizers wants City Hall to better formalize its decision-making process. (New York Times)

Two Critics Compare Notes on MoMA – New York magazine’s art critic Jerry Saltz and its architecture expert Justin Davidson try hard not to rain on MoMA’s parade, but they have a few bugbears after its $400 million expansion. Davidson couldn’t get past the crowds to reach the cafe, was distracted by sounds spilling into galleries, and said the new staircase vibrates so much he thought “a football team was thundering down from the third floor.” Saltz, meanwhile, is also worried about overcrowding, but praises the museum’s (albeit limited) inclusion of self-taught artists as well as the entire gallery dedicated to Florine Stettheimer. (Vulture)

Virgil Abloh and IKEA Team Up Even Virgil Abloh, the versatile artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, is not safe from Leonardo da Vinci fever. As part of his collaboration with the Swedish furniture and home decor giant on a collection of home objects that will launch on November 1, the designer has created a backlit artwork featuring a reproduction of the Mona Lisa. All you need to install your very own glowing Old Master is a handy electrical socket, basic DIY skills, and $99. Called Markerad, which means “marked” in Swedish, IKEA says the new artwork is Abloh’s tribute to Leonardo’s iconic painting, adding that it “balances along the boundary between function and art.” The Mona Lisa light box is part of a 15-object collection that includes a “wet grass” green carpet, a receipt wall hanging, and a brown bag with the word “sculpture” in bold print. (Press release)

Will Increasing Tourism Destroy Pompeii? – The Great Pompeii Project, a restoration effort scheduled to wrap up this year, has secured many of the ancient site’s threatened buildings and significantly improved the experience for tourists. But as visitor numbers continue to rise—a record 450,000 people visited Pompeii in July—experts are voicing concerns that attendance is not being properly managed. Critics say there are not enough guards and too many large tour groups led by unlicensed guides, so people ignore barriers, pick up mementos, and touch fragile frescoes—which could result in permanent damage. (NYT)


Zwirner and the Louis-Dreyfus Foundation Team Up – Some 42 works by the self-taught artist Bill Traylor from the collection of the late commodities trader and philanthropist William Louis-Dreyfus are going on view at David Zwirner’s Upper East Side gallery this week at prices ranging from $60,000 to $500,000. Most of the proceeds will go toward the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit benefitting Harlem youth. The goal is to present Traylor outside of the limited category of “outsider artist,” according to the collector’s daughter, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus. “He really likened Traylor to the greats—the Giacomettis, the Kandinskys,” she said. (NYT)

Saudis Behind Purchase of Kusama at the Center of a Lawsuit – An ongoing lawsuit between a German art investment firm and the art dealer Inigo Philbrick has drawn attention to the owner of a Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Room” at the center of the dispute: the Saudi Royal Family. The 2016 installation, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, is currently on loan to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, which lists the lender as Collection of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula. (Bloomberg)

US Anti-Money Laundering Bill Passes the House – The US House of Representatives unanimously passed an anti-money laundering bill last week that aims to crack down on shell companies and prevent terrorist financing. If it becomes law, it would affect art and antiquities dealers, who would need to report all transactions exceeding $10,000. (The Art Newspaper)

Veteran Gallerist Ronald Feldman Retires – The New York gallerist Ronald Feldman is stepping down from the helm of his eponymous gallery after 50 years for health reasons. Now 82, Feldman and his wife were SoHo stalwarts and early champions of artists including Joseph Beuys, Hannah Wilke, and Chris Burden. His eldest son, Mark Feldman, will take over the gallery’s operations. (NYT)


UOVO Employees Narrowly Reject Unionization – Employees at the upscale art facility UOVO in Rockland County and Long Island City have narrowly voted against unionization. Art handlers, dock receivers, and drivers were hoping to organize with the city’s union for professional movers and art handlers, Teamsters Local 814, but lost by a margin of just three votes. The company has come under fire for its anti-union efforts, which a New York state senator described as a “campaign of intimidation.” (Hyperallergic, TAN)

Brooklyn Museum Reopens Asian Galleries – The institution has opened two new galleries that focus on the museum’s wide-ranging collection Chinese and Japanese art after a multiyear renovation. The Arts of China and Arts of Japan galleries, which have been closed for the major overhaul since 2013, feature historic masterworks, contemporary works, and never-before-seen treasures from the Brooklyn Museum’s impressive collection of Asian art. (Art Daily)


Vietnamese Activist-Artist Detained – Artist Thinh Nguyen, whose work delves into such knotty subjects as land rights and death row, was briefly detained without a warrant by plainclothes police officers in Hanoi on Friday. No reason was given, though the officers asked questions about his work. He was released after several hours, but not before police confiscated two of his computers, several cameras, and other electronics. (AFP)

UK Museum Names Beetle After Greta Thunberg Researchers at Britain’s Natural History Museum have named a small, blind, wingless bug Nelloptodes gretae, after the 16-year-old climate activist Great Thunberg. The tiny insect was first discovered in Nairobi in the 1960s, but it remained nameless until the museum found the specimen in its large collection. A scientific associate at the museum said he “wanted to acknowledge [Thunberg’s] outstanding contribution in raising awareness of environmental issues.” (Art Daily)


View this post on Instagram


இந்த வண்டின் பெயர் கிரேட்டா தன்பெர்க். 1960களில் கென்யாவில் கண்டுபிடிக்கப்பட்ட போதிலும் இதுவரை பெயரிடப்படாத இந்த வண்டிற்கு விஞ்ஞானியான மைக்கில் டார்பை, கிரேட்டாவின் பெயரை வைத்துள்ளார். இந்த வண்டின் அறிவியல் பெயர், Nelloptodes gretae. 1மில்லி மீட்டர் நீளம் உள்ள இந்த வண்டிற்கு, கண்களும், ரெக்கைகளும் கிடையாது. சுற்றுசூழல் பாதுகாப்பிற்காக அயராது பாடுபட்டுவருவதால், கிரேட்டாவின் பெயரை இதற்கு வைத்ததாக கூறுகிறார் விஞ்ஞானி மைக்கில். (PC:Michael Darby and Getty Images) @gretathunberg #gretathunberg #nelloptodesgretae

A post shared by BBC News Tamil (@bbctamil) on Oct 25, 2019 at 8:25am PDT

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.