Art Industry News: Staffers Quit a Moscow Museum After Pay Is Cut to ‘Starvation’ Levels at $390 a Month + Other Stories

Plus, Parisians are still not crazy about Jeff Koons's flowers and MoMA teases new contemporary art installations ahead of its reopening.

A woman attends the opening of "Impresario. The Trajectory of Dance" at Moscow's Bakhrushin Museum. (Photo by Vyacheslav ProkofyevTASS 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 8.


George Washington High School Alumni Sue to Keep Mural on View – Five former students have filed a lawsuit against their San Francisco school district in an effort to keep Victor Arnautoff’s polarizing George Washington murals on view. The suit follows the San Francisco school board’s recent vote to conceal “The Life of George Washington,” which includes imagery suggesting George Washington’s connection to violence against slaves and Native Americans. The lawsuit focuses on a technicality—the fact that the school board did not conduct a proper environmental review before making its decision—rather than the broader issue of whether it is more appropriate to cover up or publicly air problematic histories. San Francisco’s superior court will hear the case. (Hyperallergic)

The French Really Don’t Like Koons’s Tulips Jeff Koons’s sculpture Bouquet of Tulips is meant to symbolize love and solidarity with Paris in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attacks on the city. But many locals remain unimpressed with the spectacle, which was unveiled last week. One compared the sculpture’s rounded tulip flowers to marshmallows. Others have described the work as “grotesque,” “dreadful,” and even “pornographic.” The philosopher Yves Michaud had a particularly colorful description, calling the bouquet “11 colored anuses mounted on stems.” Koons’s sculpture has been controversial since he first offered it as gift to Paris. But the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, remains a fan, describing it as “a magnificent symbol of freedom and friendship.” (BBC)

Staff Quit Russian Museum in Protest of Low Wages – Dozens of staff members have quit their jobs at a Moscow museum after their wages were cut to what they described in an open letter as “starvation” levels. One employee at the Bakhrushin Museum, which houses theatrical archives, said their pay been halved to around $390 a month. In the open letter, disgruntled staff claimed that the collection, which includes works by Léon Bakst and Natalia Goncharova, is now at risk due to the departure of qualified specialists. Trouble began with the appointment of a new deputy director in March, who staff claim is redistributing museum funds. The museum’s longstanding director, Dmitry Rodionov, told the Russian media in August: “Quiet museum life is in the distant past.” (The Art Newspaper)

Feminist Art Show Is Called Off in China – Organizers abruptly cancelled a feminist group show in Shanghai ahead of China’s National Day in what has been interpreted as the latest incident in a wave of self-censorship. Curators would not comment on the reason for the eleventh-hour cancellation, but organizers posted a coded message on social media showing a blindfolded woman falling over, accompanied by the caption: “This matter is difficult, but not hopeless.” The exhibition of work by young female artists was due to take place at a space in Shanghai’s art district M50. (TAN)


Francis Naumann Is Going Private – The celebrated expert on Marcel Duchamp and Dada is closing his New York gallery after 18 years to focus on private sales. Naumann says his motivation is “primarily financial,” as collectors migrate toward cutting-edge contemporary or high-end blue-chip and away from more academic 20th-century fare. Francis Naumann Fine Art will close in March 2020, but the veteran dealer will continue to sell from his Upper East Side apartment. (ARTnews)

David Lynch Plans First Show at Sperone Westwater – The filmmaker and visual artist will unveil new work at Sperone Westwater New York in November. The show, which runs from November 1 to December 21, will include paintings, works on paper, watercolors, lamp sculptures, and furniture. (Press release)

Sotheby’s Secures a 35-Work Imp/Mod Collection – Auction houses are racing to secure material for the marquee fall sales in New York. The latest to score is Sotheby’s, which will offer a trove of works from an unnamed European collection by masters including Picasso, Magritte, and Monet at its Impressionist and Modern auctions in New York on November 12 and 13. Highlights include six paintings by Marc Chagall and a 1933 work on paper by Picasso, Homme enlevant une femme, which carries an estimate of $1.2 million to $1.8 million. (Press release)


Agnes Gund Gives $1 Million to Promote Tough Conversations – The collector and philanthropist has given her alma mater, Connecticut College, a $1 million gift to endow the Agnes Gund ’60 Dialogue Project, a program to train a new generation of leaders to be able to talk through difficult scenarios. “The Gund Dialogue Project responds to the urgent need for acceptance, understanding, and empathy in our increasingly divided world,” the college’s president Katherine Bergeron said. The program, which includes community service, cultural immersion, and workshops, will teach students “to embrace difference, listen deeply, and find common ground.” (Press release)

Walter Hood Wins Gish Prize – Walter Hood, the landscape and public artist who recently won a MacArthur “Genius” grant, is on a major roll. He has now been named the winner of the annual $250,000 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, which honors an artist who has pushed artistic boundaries and helped create social change. Hood, whose work includes landscape design, urbanism research, and art, is currently redesigning the garden and terraces at the Oakland Museum. (ARTnews)

Louvre Buys a Sketch of Napoleon Looting Art – The Louvre Museum in Paris has acquired a group of drawings by artists who followed Napoleon’s campaigns in Prussia and Poland at the beginning of the 19th century. The collection, which the museum purchased at auction in Toulouse, depicts the emperor’s “imperial achievements,” including his seizure of sculptures from the Kassel Museum during his Prussian campaign, which was captured in a sketch by artist Benjamin Zix. (Antiques Trade Gazette)


Matthew Barney Gets His First Show in China – Matthew Barney is getting his first solo show in China, at UCCA in Beijing. “Matthew Barney: Redoubt,” which runs through January 12, 2020, will present a new body of work that previously debuted at Yale University, including five monumental sculptures of trees harvested from a burned forest. The exhibition will go onto the Hayward in London in October 2020. (Art Daily)

MoMA Plans New Contemporary Art Displays – New York’s Museum of Modern Art is offering a few tasty morsels of what to expect ahead of its grand reopening on October 21. The institution announced that it has commissioned six new long-term, site-specific contemporary art installations by the collective Experimental Jetset and the artists Kerstin Brätsch, Goshka Macuga, Yoko Ono, Philippe Parreno, and Haim Steinbach. See a selection of the new commissions below. (Press release)

Installation view of <i>Exhibition M</i> (2019) by Goshka Macuga, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Installation view of Exhibition M (2019) by Goshka Macuga, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Installation view of <i>Fossil Psychics for Christa</i> (2019) by Kerstin Brätsch, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Installation view of Fossil Psychics for Christa (2019) by Kerstin Brätsch, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Installation view of <i>hello again</i> (2013) by Haim Steinbach, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp.

Installation view of hello again (2013) by Haim Steinbach, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2019 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Heidi Bohnenkamp.

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