Art Industry News: Big Brother Venice Is Using Cell Phone Data to Track Visitors’ Every Move in an Effort to Prevent Overcrowding + Other Stories

Plus, a sculpture of George Floyd is vandalized in New York's Union Square and the Guggenheim gets a new board chair.

Rialto Bridge overlooking the Grand Canal with crowds of tourists, Venice, Italy. (Photo by: Jumping Rocks/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The Rialto Bridge overlooking the Grand Canal with crowds of tourists, Venice, Italy. Photo: Jumping Rocks/Education Images/Universal Images 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 Tuesday, October 5.


George Floyd Sculpture Defaced in Union Square – Just two days after it was unveiled in New York’s Union Square, a sculpture of George Floyd was splashed with gray paint. The nearly six-foot-tall bust, which was unveiled by Floyd’s brother on Friday, stands alongside those of the late Breonna Taylor and Representative John Lewis as part of a project called “SeeInjustice” that will be on view through October 30th. Artist Chris Carnabuci said that the defacement “is quite upsetting to us all,” noting that he had chosen the site because of its storied history as a place for peaceful activism. (New York Times)

Statue of Henrietta Lacks Unveiled in Bristol – The University of Bristol in the U.K. has unveiled a statue of Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cells, taken without her or her family’s consent, have been used in to advance medical research since she died 70 years ago. Sculpted by the Bristol artist Helen Wilson-Roe, it is the first statue of a Black woman in the city. The plinth is inscribed with the words “More than a cell,” and the dedication: “To all the unrecognized black women who have contributed to humanity, you will never be forgotten.” (Guardian)

Venice Goes Big Brother to Prevent Crowding – Venice is taking its quest to prevent overcrowding to a new level. It is now acquiring cell phone data from unwitting tourists and using hundreds of surveillance cameras to monitor crowd flow. The system, which collects age, sex, country of origin, and prior location, is designed to help authorities spot crowds they want to disperse and ultimately design a gate and booking system. Even some locals are disquieted by what they see as an invasion of privacy. “It’s like declaring once and for all that Venice is not a city, but a museum,” said one native. (NYT)

What Should I Do With My Portrait of a Slaveholding Ancestor? – Ethicist columnist Kwame Anthony Appiah doles out advice to the heir of a portrait depicting his slave-holding ancestor, Alabama governor William Wyatt Bibb. To be sure, someone who perpetuated such evils should not be given a place of honor in the home, Appiah writes—what matters is what he symbolizes to the family now. The past cannot, nor should it be, expunged, but instead can serve as a tool for reflection. “As a society, we can acknowledge our difficult history—with both its vices and its virtues—and aim to address the persisting wrongs that derive from past moral error,” he writes. (NYT Magazine)


The Guggenheim’s Board Gets a Shake-Up – Billionaire collector J. Tomilson Hill has been named as the new chair of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, and will take up the post November 1. The writer Claudia Rankine has been elected as trustee, the second Black woman ever to be appointed to the board. (NYT)

NEA Awards COVID Relief Grants – The U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities has announced the 300 cultural and educational institutions that will receive grants as part of its $87.8 million American Rescue Plan Act. New York institutions receiving aid include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which will use the funding to expand access to materials by historically underrepresented artists in its library collections, and the nonprofit Firelight Media, which will receive $2 million to support 36 BIPOC filmmakers whose documentary projects were interrupted by the pandemic. (NYT)

Mexico Is Forming an Art-Crime Unit – Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador is creating a special art crime unit that will be tasked with tracking down looted Mexican artifacts. The task force was inspired by the Italian equivalent, which has had success in recovering stolen art and antiquities. (Observer)

K-Pop Stars Dabble in Art-Making – London’s START fair, which runs October 13 through 17 at the Saatchi Gallery, will include work by 70 artists—including the premiere of works by K-pop stars Ohnim and Yoo Yeon from the band Winner, as well as singer and actor Henry Lau. (Press release)


Now You Can Smell Like KAWS – KAWS has teamed up with the fashion house Comme des Garçons on a perfume called Mirror. The musky floral scent comes in packaging designed by the artist depicting one of his “Companion” characters drowning in a red pool. Who wouldn’t want to smell like that? (Highsnobiety)


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