Art Industry News: Uniqlo China Yanks KAWS Merch After His Mao Art Draws Fire at Sotheby’s + Other Stories

Plus, the Royal Shakespeare Company cuts ties with BP and museum patrons debate the Warren Kanders controversy.

KAWS at the opening for his London exhibition at Skarstedt during Frieze 2019. Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Skarstedt.

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 Thursday, October 3. 


Walid Raad Will Get His Prize After All – Walid Raad will receive the Aachen Art Prize worth around $11,000, the Ludwig Forum for International Art has announced. The news reverses Monday’s decision by the city of Aachen to rescind the prize because the artist was associated with the pro-Palestinian movement of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel (BDS), which a recent German law has labelled anti-Semitic. The board of the Ludwig Forum says that it has found no evidence that Raad holds anti-Semitic views, and that it did not need the city’s permission to give out the award. (ARTnews, WDR)

Royal Shakespeare Company Cuts Ties With BP After Protests – After a group of students threatened to boycott the Royal Shakespeare Company over its partnership with BP, the theater has dropped the oil giant as a sponsor. Company reps explain that they “could not ignore” the “strength of feeling” against the deal, which had been in place since 2011. Representatives for BP say they are “disappointed and dismayed” at the decision. (BBC)

Sotheby’s and Uniqlo Hit With KAWS Mao Controversy – The clothing retailer Uniqlo has pulled KAWS’s mega-popular merch from its website after Chinese fans took issue with a 2002 work that depicts Chairman Mao in the style of the artist’s signature cartoon characters. Some angry critics were burning their merchandise and sharing it on Chinese social media after the online platform 2CCM pointed out that the work, which was due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on October 7 and estimated at $79,000–121,000, was coming up for sale in the same week as the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. Sotheby’s has removed the image of the Mao work from its site, but you can still see it elsewhere online. (HighsnobietyARTnews)

Museum Patrons Debate Kanders Controversy – The Times does a deep dive into the recent debates about museum funding. Among other things, the paper charts the sources of wealth of museum trustees: some 40 percent hail from the world of finance, by far the biggest slice. Other revelations from the piece are more human-scaled: When the Whitney’s controversial trustee Warren Kanders stepped down from the museum’s board earlier this year, fellow trustee Kenneth Griffin was “livid,” threatening to leave himself. He only came back when the museum’s chairman emeritus, Leonard Lauder, “phoned Mr. Griffin from a boat to coax him back,” the Times reveals. (New York Times)


Beware the Blue-Chip Art InvestmentWorks by brand-name artists may not be as “bankable” as collectors may think. In an economic downturn, there are few works that are gold-plated assets, even if they are by a Warhol, Basquiat, Richter, or Jeff Koons. Art advisor Todd Levin says blue-chip art is less volatile as an investment “because it has institutional status.” A lot, of course, depends on the quality of your Warhol, Basquiat, Richter etc. The auction analyst Christine Bourron points out that the value of artworks tends to vary widely “even for some of the best brand-name artists.” (The Art Newspaper)

Jane Fonda’s Painting Heads to Christie’s – The octogenarian star of Netflix’s comedy Grace and Frankie is selling a mixed-media work by Thornton Dial for $200,000 at Christie’s London auction during Frieze week. The work, titled Trophies (Doll Factory), is a melange of Barbie dolls, stuffed animals, toys, rope carpet, and other detritus covered in a layer of spray paint and enamel, affixed to canvas. (Page Six, Christie’s)

PAD London Going Strong Despite Brexit – Dealers at the art and design fair PAD London, which opened yesterday, say that sales have been good despite Brexit blues. Some traders are debating ditching the pound in favor of the euro and dollar because of the poor exchange rate, however. (Financial Times)

SPRING/BREAK Is Taking 2020 Submissions – If you are an “excessive” curator, good news: As of October 2, the well-liked, curator-driven art fair SPRING/BREAK is taking submissions for both its New York and LA fairs next year, which will have the theme “In Excess.” Specifically, the fair is looking for exhibition ideas “dealing with virtues and/or limitations of maximalism, materialism, capitalism, consumerism, the over-foot-noted and the over-labored.” (SPRING/BREAK)


The Morgan Museum & Library Goes Green(er) – Part of the institution’s four year, $12.5 million renovation will include a garden designed by award-winning landscape designer Todd Longstaffe-Gowan. The garden marks the first time in the Morgan’s 113-year history that outdoor grounds will be publicly accessible. (Observer)

Bad News for the Rubin Museum – New York’s Rubin Museum is cutting staff, hours, and exhibition programming in order “to chart a course for long-term financial sustainability and success,” wrote executive director Jorrit Britschgi in a letter to staff yesterday, the institution’s 15th birthday. A quarter of the staff will lose their jobs, and the museum will close Wednesdays and cut back temporary exhibitions from five to six to just two a year. On the flip side, they plan to retain a new “chief experience officer” to specialize in immersive visitor experiences. (The Art Newspaper)

Deborah Marrow, Former Director of the Getty Foundation, Has Died – Art historian Deborah Marrow, who had worked at the Getty in Los Angeles since 2003, has died. She retired at the end of 2018, having most recently served as director of the Getty Foundation, overseeing the organization’s grant-making operations. That included the Getty’s ambitious Pacific Standard Time initiative, which provided dozens of southern California institutions some $28 million in funding for two cycles of themed exhibitions. (ARTnews)

Katherine Crawford Luber to Succeed Kaywin Feldman in Minneapolis – The Minneapolis Museum of Art has tapped Katherine Crawford Luber as its director and president, filling the vacancy left by Kaywin Feldman’s 2018 departure to lead the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Luber comes from the San Antonio Museum of Art, where she has been director for eight years. (New York Times)


Tune Into the Radio at CCA Wattis Institute – Cinthia Marcelle, who represented Brazil at the 2017 Venice Biennale, is turning San Francisco’s CCA Wattis Institute galleries into a temporary radio station for her upcoming exhibition “A Morte.” The show is named after Brazilian poet Oswald de Andrade’s 1937 play A morta (The Dead Woman), and will feature on-air programming taking place inside the museum gallery, activating the space, as well as radio broadcasts from the artist’s native country. (Press release)

Jerry Saltz’s Ode to the Modern – Modernism is so much a part of art critic Saltz’s life story, “all of our life stories,” that what happens at the mothership of MoMA matters dearly. So when it reopens in October, he hopes the rehang is not too radical. He accepts that the cannon has to expand, the strict timeline has to go, and segregation between media must be a thing of the past. But he does not want the museum to be unrecognizable. “I still need to return there regularly to commune with the ancestors,” he writes. (Vulture)

Who Is London’s Most-Exhibited Artist? – Data shows that Lucien Freud has been the most-exhibited artist in London over the past two decades, with ten exhibitions at the city’s public museums and galleries. Unsurprisingly, David Hockney clocks in second, with eight shows, and Tacita Dean steals joint third place with Andy Warhol, with both Dean and the Pop artist having had seven exhibitions. (TAN)

See Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus Ballet at Frieze London – One of the highlights of Frieze London’s opening day was Thaddaeus Ropac gallery’s restaging of a Bauhaus ballet by Oskar Schlemmer. The artist’s grandson, C. Raman Schlemmer, organized the performances of Schlemmer’s Bauhaus Dances for the Live program at the fair. (artnet News)

Frieze Art Fair 2019, London, UK. Photo by Linda Nylind.

Frieze Art Fair 2019, London, UK. Photo by Linda Nylind.

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