Art Industry News: Bowing to Years-Long Pressure, the V&A Is in Talks to Return Looted Ethiopian Treasures + Other Stories

Plus, the Palm Springs Museum is selling a multimillion-dollar Helen Frankenthaler from its collection and Hong Kong's M+ museum is delayed (again).

A Crown, made in Ethiopia around 1740, on view in "Maqdala 1868, A reflection on the 1868 siege and battle at Maqdala", at the Victoria and Albert museum in central London. The crown was taken by British troops at the siege of Magdala (Mek'dala) in 1868. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP 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 9.


Artists Organize a Vigil for COVID Victims – Around 50 artists and activists assembled outside a hospital in Queens, New York, on Tuesday to mourn the 212,000 American victims of the coronavirus outbreak. The neighborhood has been one of the hardest hit by the crisis. Activists wore black and face masks emblazoned with the word “vote” while they read aloud the names of people who had died. The organizer of the event, filmmaker and author Paola Mendoza, says it was designed to help people grieve in the absence of any official national moment of mourning. “The second purpose,” she added, “was to be together in community to spark a political reckoning that will be felt come November.” (Hyperallergic)

Palm Springs Will Sell a Helen Frankenthaler – The Palm Springs Art Museum has become the latest institution to take advantage of the Association of Art Museum Directors’ temporarily relaxed rules surrounding deaccessioning. The museum will sell Helen Frankenthaler’s Carousel (1979) at Sotheby’s this fall, where it is expected to fetch between $2.5 million and $3.5 million. The museum says the proceeds will be used for both collection maintenance and future acquisitions. (ARTnews)

V&A in Talks to Return Ethiopian Treasures – London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is in discussions with the Ethiopian embassy to return objects that were looted during the 1868 capture of Maqdala (then Abyssinia). Ethiopia has been campaigning for the restitution of these objects, which include a gold crown and a royal wedding dress, for years. British museums hold hundreds of important artifacts from Maqdala, and the V&A’s deputy director, Tim Reeve, says the talks—which are currently focused on a long-term loan, rather than full restitution—are part of a wider effort to “decolonize” its collections. (Guardian)

Company Behind the Sekhemka Valuation Speaks Out – The advisory company that valued an ancient Egyptian statue that was controversially sold at Christie’s in 2014 has spoken out about what really happened behind the scenes. “The public need to know the truth of what went on,” Art & Antiques wrote in a statement published online. The company said that it had initially valued the Sekhemka sculpture for the Northampton Museum Service at £8 million for insurance purposes. When it found out it would be sold, it made “extensive efforts” to ensure the sculpture stayed in the public realm, including by attempting to rally British museums to buy it. After their efforts failed, the sculpture sold to an American buyer for £15.8 million, who moved the sculpture out of the country. (The Art Newspaper)


Frank Bowling Joins Hauser & Wirth – The 86-year-old semi-abstract painter has left his New York gallery, Alexander Gray Associates, and will now be represented by mega-gallery Hauser & Wirth. Bowling will still be represented in Los Angeles by Marc Selwyn Fine Arts. The artist is currently locked in a legal battle with his former gallery, Hales, for allegedly withholding some $18.5 million in paintings. (ARTnews)

Amy Sillman Is Having a Major Breakthrough – The New York painter Amy Sillman has been hard at work during lockdown, and the fruits of her labor are now on view at Gladstone Gallery in her latest show, “Twice Removed.” The show represents a fraction of her creative output this year, which includes hundreds of abstract paintings. (New York Times)

Artnet Auctions’ Premier Prints & Multiples Sale Nets Nearly $1 Million – The sale reached nearly $1 million in total sales, with the average lot sold exceeding $23,000. The top lot of the sale was Jasper Johns’s screenprint Target (1974), which sold for $216,000—the highest result for the print since 2013. The Johns work is the second print sold on Artnet Auctions this year for more than $200,000. (Artnet Auctions)


Hong Kong’s M+ Museum Is Delayed—Again – The West Kowloon museum dedicated to visual culture has pushed its opening date back back yet again, from early 2021 to autumn 2021. The Herzog & de Meuron-designed building’s price tag has soared from HK$21.6 billion ($2.8 billion) to HK$70 billion ($9 billion). It was originally due for completion in 2017. (The Art Newspaper)

Newfields Replaces Contemporary Art With an Interactive Light Show – The museum, which made a data-driven decision to focus on art experiences two years ago, will open The Lume, an installation that will take over the entire fourth floor with floor-to-ceiling digital projections that aim to bring paintings to life. The project begins with an exhibition on Vincent van Gogh in June 2021. (Indy Star)


Cai Guo-Qiang’s Latest Fireworks Display Is Inspired by Cognac – The gunpowder artist unleashed his first daytime fireworks display from the water outside of Maison Hennessy in Cognac, France. “A World Odyssey” was his first-ever livestream event. The firework show launched off of cognac barrel on the Charente River. (Press release)

MFA Boston’s New DEI Chief on Her Role – Rosa Rodriguez-Williams, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s first “senior director of belonging and inclusion,” opens up about her new role. Joining the museum after an investigation of the institution by the state attorney general following a racist incident, she has been “doing a lot of listening” and learning about everyone who works there. “I am prioritizing visitor experience by working alongside colleagues on everything from exhibitions to learning programs to cultivate a sense of belonging,” she says. “I want everyone who visits the MFA Boston to feel seen, valued, and respected.” (Art in America)

Gagosian Resurrects Part of the Met Breuer’s Richter Show – A portion of Gerhard Richter’s Met Breuer show—which was on view for only nine days before lockdown—is getting a second life. The artist’s “Cage” series from 2006 will be on view at Gagosian Los Angeles from December 3 to January 30 before traveling to the New York gallery from February 25 to April 10. Richter will also present a new group of drawings he made in summer 2020 (the artist has announced he is done with painting). The artist is not represented by Gagosian. (Press release)

Gerhard Richter working on one of his "Cage" paintings, Cologne, Germany, 2006. Artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (05102020) Photo: © Hubert Becker, Courtesy Gagosian.

Gerhard Richter working on one of his “Cage” paintings, Cologne, Germany, 2006. Artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (05102020) Photo: © Hubert Becker, Courtesy Gagosian.

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