Art Industry News: The New MoMA Promises a Turbo-Charged, Non-Linear Art History + Other Stories

Plus, 'Vanity Fair' names its art tastemakers and a bestselling book leads to the return of a beloved LA sculpture.

Claude Monet's Waterlilies at the Museum of Modern art in New York. Photo by Felix Hörhager/dpa, 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 4. 


Vanity Fair Releases “New Establishment” Power Rankings – The magazine lists the movers and shakers according to their “tribal affiliations” in Hollywood, technology, politics, and culture—and there are some art-world heavyweights on the list. Larry Gagosian appears in the “Old New Establishment” category (yikes), honoring him for his recently launched Gagosian Art Advisory. Appearing on the more exciting, and much younger, “Tastemakers” group are David Zwirner, described as “[a]rt world puppet master, super-gallerist,” and Swizz Beatz, celebrated for his No Commission art platform, which is “upending the art industry.” (Vanity Fair)

A Smuggled Ethiopian Crown Is Revealed in the Netherlands – In 1998, Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch civil servant who had fled political terror in Ethiopia, spotted a stolen crown from his home country in a guest’s luggage. Concerned that the Ethiopian government was complicit in its theft and that the Dutch government might confiscate it, he held onto the work for 21 years. Now, after the election of reforming prime minister Abiy Ahmed, Asfaw has arranged for the return of the rare and spectacular artifact, which features images of the Holy Trinity and Disciples, and was likely given to a church by an Ethiopian warlord several hundred years ago. “Finally it is the right time to bring back the crown to its owners—and the owners of the crown are all Ethiopians,” Asfaw said. (BBC)

A Sneak Peak at MoMA’s New Art History – When New York’s Museum of Modern Art reopens later this month, expect changes: the permanent collection will feature art diversified beyond its previous Euro-American modernist greatest hits, with a focus on bringing in new voices; galleries will be rehung on a regular basis, with a full third changing every six months; the installation, while still chronological, will highlight “detours, anachronisms and surprise encounters”; art historical terms like “Dada,” “Abstract Expressionism,” and “Pop Art” are banished from the labels; and movies will be projected throughout. Roxana Marcoci, a senior curator, says this all responds to the new way young people approach creativity: “It will never be that perfectly contemplative experience anymore.” (New York Times)

Germano Celant Will Curate KAWS in Qatar – The famed Italian curator, best known for coming up with the term “Arte Povera” in 1967, is turning his sights to a rather different, and much younger, artist. Celant will curate a show of work by Brian Donnelly, aka KAWS, at the Garage Gallery in Qatar, presented in association with the Qatar Art Museum. This isn’t the first time the odd couple have worked together though. Celant curated a KAWS exhibition in Hong Kong earlier this year. (ARTnews)


Sotheby’s Officially Belongs to Patrick Drahi The French billionaire has closed the deal, which takes Sotheby’s back into private ownership. Jean-Luc Berrebi replaces Michael Gross as the auction house’s chief financial officer with Drahi’s $3.7 billion take over. (The Art Newspaper)

Newly Discovered Drawing by Mantegna Heads to Auction – A drawing by Andrea Mantegna that has been in a private collection is expected to sale for more than $12 million at Sotheby’s New York in January. The sketch for Mantegna’s painting Triumph of Caesar was recently shown by the National Gallery in London. (TAN)

Heritage Announces John Steinbeck Auction Featuring Jackie Kennedy Letters – After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, First Lady Jackie Kennedy wrote to author John Steinback, asking him to write her late husband’s biography. He never did, but letters from their correspondence, as well as manuscripts and a handwritten “warm up journal” featuring Steinbeck’s writing exercises. (Bloomberg)


The Academy Museum Names a New Director – The new head of the long-delayed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is Bill Kramer, who served as the institution’s managing director of development and external relations from 2012 to 2016. He replaces Kerry Brougher, who left the job in April after five years. The museum is now scheduled to open some time next year. (Press Release)

Vienna Gets an Instagram-Friendly Museum – Inspired by the popularity of Insta-traps like the Museum of Ice Cream, a new museum for selfies is opening in Vienna. Petra Scharinger, co-creator of the nofilter_museum, which opens today for six months, says that they are trying to combat a drop in the number of young people attending museums by bringing in social media. (BBC)

The Prado Begins a Major Expansion – The Madrid museum has begun its long-planned modernization of the Hall of the Kings. Architect Norman Foster and Partners is leading the expansion project. (EFE)


Unseen Muhammad Ali Photos by Gordon Parks Will Finally Be Shown – Parks’s pictures of the boxer and civil rights icon for LIFE magazine are among the most famous sports photos of all time. Now, a set of 55 works from his two series about Ali, the majority of which were never before published, are getting a show at the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City next February. The museum has also bought some 13 of the photos. (Press release)

A Bestseller Leads to the Return of a Beloved Sculpture – In her bestselling 2018 book about the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, The Library Book, Susan Orlean wrote about the disappearance of 1926 bronze sculpture Well of the Scribes from the library’s gardens 50 years ago. The work, sculpted by Lee Lawrie, depicted a Pegasus and writers from different world cultures. A piece has now been returned, thanks to an antiques dealer in Bisbee, Arizona, who read an article about the book in Alta magazine and realized he had one of three sections of the sculpture, which he had purchased a decade earlier for $500 from an unknown woman. (Los Angeles Times)

Kusama Infinity Room Heads to Ohio – The Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio will be hosting a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room in an effort to bring in more visitors by offering multi-sensory experiences. Fireflies on the Water (2002), on loan from the Whitney, will be at the museum from December 14 through April 26, 2020. Tickets are available from November 25. Visitors will be given just 60 seconds to admire the work. (ARTnews)

A Lost New-Deal Mural Is Uncovered in San Francisco – Marble Workers, a 1935 fresco mural by Frederick Olmsted Jr. at the San Francisco Art Institute is being painstakingly restored, after having been discovered in 2013. The restoration of the scene featuring workmen laboring at a waterfront tile shop is no easy, task, given that the work was whitewashed over and covered with 10 layers of paint, but a $94,000 grant from Save America’s Treasures should do the trick. (San Francisco Chronicle Datebook)


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.