Art Industry News: Rihanna Went Shopping at Art Basel and Somehow No One Even Noticed + Other Stories

Plus, what Sotheby's sale means for art-market transparency and heiress and artist Gloria Vanderbilt dies at 95.

Sneaky, sneaky, Rihanna! (Photo by JP Yim/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 this Tuesday, June 18.


Cairo’s Egyptian Museum Gets a Major Revamp – Egyptian authorities have launched a development project to transform Cairo’s historic Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. The ministry of antiquities hopes to get the museum onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. The three-year project is phase one of a multi-pronged strategy to expand the museum supported by the European Union, which includes collaboration with Turin’s Egyptian Museum, the Louvre, the British Museum, Berlin State Museums, and the Leiden Museum in the Netherlands. (Egypt Today)

Artist Laure Prouvost Wants Help Digging a New Channel Tunnel – To mark the debut of a new commission of posters across London’s subway system on Thursday (which boast cryptic phrases such as “You Are Deeper Than You Think”), the London-based French artist is asking commuters to pick up a shovel and help her dig a tunnel to Europe. She asked something similar of visitors to the French pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year. Prouvost explained she wanted to make a statement about Brexit as a “foreigner” in London. “Europe is still so young, and it’s not so long ago that there were terrible wars. It’s a shame to not try to make it work,” she said. (Guardian)

Somehow Almost Nobody Noticed Rihanna at Art Basel – Rihanna managed to make an extremely incognito visit to Art Basel in Switzerland on Friday, three days after the fair’s VIP preview. Accompanied by her boyfriend, Saudi businessman Hassan Jameel (whose family is behind Dubai’s Jameel Arts Centre), she browsed Gagosian and David Nolan‘s booths, and even stopped to take a photo of a wooden sculpture by Richard Artschwager. But several cryptic tweets and one hastily shot photograph are all that remains of her visit. (W Magazine)

Fatboy Slim Is Curating an All-Smiley Face Exhibition – The British musician and DJ is displaying his extensive collection of yellow smiley faces in a new exhibition titled “Smile High Club.” Cheery ephemera on view include watches, shoes, ashtrays and prints, all as a tribute to the inventor of his favorite Smiley Face symbol, Harvey Ball. The design, which the DJ sees as a symbol of “happiness, goofiness, stupidity and unconditional life,” was first commissioned in 1963 by a life insurance company to boost employee morale. Fatboy Slim’s exhibition opens June 21 and runs through July 21 at Underdogs Gallery in Lisbon, Portugal. Just don’t call the symbol an emoji. “I don’t recognize emojis as smileys—they’re something completely different,” Fatboy Slim says. (Guardian)


Sotheby’s Deal Makes the Art Market Less Transparent – One effect of French billionaire Patrick Drahi’s deal to purchase the 275-year-old auction house? A major shift in art-market transparency. As a private company like its rival Christie’s, Sotheby’s will no longer be required to disclose quarterly results, which offered a bellwether for the art market. “That all goes underground now,” says Evan Beard, an art service executive at Bank of America. “It’s a transparency shift.” (Bloomberg)

Swann Galleries Launch Pride Sale – To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, Swann Auction Galleries in New York is holding its first annual Pride sale on June 20. The auction will offer works by members of the LGBTQ+ community, including Nan Goldin and Robert Mapplethorpe. The house hopes that capitalizing on the trend of curated auctions will help boost the “underserved, if not under-appreciated” market for LGBTQ+-focused work. (The Art Newspaper)


LACMA Board Adds Lucas Museum Co-Founder – Mellody Hobson is one of three new additions to the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. She is the co-founder of LA’s forthcoming Lucas Museum of Narrative Art with her husband, filmmaker George Lucas. Television producer Colleen Bell and investment banker Robbie Robinson have also joined the LACMA board. (Press release)

Heiress and Artist Gloria Vanderbilt Dies at 95 – The heiress and art collector, who used her famous name to build a jeans empire worth $100 million, has died at age 95. Vanderbilt, who was described in the press as America’s “poor little rich girl” due to her father’s early death and the tumultuous custody battle that followed, was variously an artist, model, poet, playwright, actress, fashion mogul, and writer. After marrying and divorcing three men, she entered into a relationship in her later years with photographer Gordon Parks, who died in 2006. She was also the mother of the TV journalist Anderson Cooper, who confirmed her death. (New York Times)

Artist Martin Roth Dies at 41 – The artist Martin Roth, who used plants, birds, and snails in his elegiac work, has died of unknown causes. He was 41 years old. Last year, Roth created an installation of plants from the garden of the shooter who killed 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas in 2017. (ARTnews)

Creative Capital Awards Expand – The arts organization Creative Capital is marking its 20th anniversary by expanding its multidisciplinary awards to an annual cycle from its previous, more irregular schedule. The grants offer awardees $50,000 in project funding, plus an additional $50,000 toward career development. (Press release)


Inside Former New York Post Sex Columnist’s Art-Filled Apartment – Elizabeth Hayt, a 60-year-old former New York Post sex columnist and art critic, is now a visual artist who turns Nazi and Maoist memorabilia into camp installations with the help of her assistants. “I think of myself as Jeff Koons; I weigh in at the end,” Hayt quips. Her debut show, “Gilded Asylum,” is open at her Upper East Side duplex by appointment. (GARAGE)

The Whitney Extends Summer Hours – New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art will remain open all week—including on Tuesdays, when the museum is normally closed—during July and August. The extended hours coincide with the Whitney Biennial and a new hang of works from the collection from 1900 to 1960. (Press release)

Rare Photograph of Albert Einstein at Sea Is Discovered – The former director of the Rijksmuseum, Wim Pijbes, has taken on a new role: art detective. While conducting research in the archives of the Center for Jewish History in New York, he came upon a rare photograph of Albert Einstein. The image was taken on the physicist’s first transatlantic voyage. In the candid shot taken on deck, Einstein is accompanied by Chaim Weizmann, who became the first president of Israel. Pijbes discovered the unpublished image while conducting research for Rotterdam’s planned museum of migration, the Fenix. (Art Daily)

Huma Bhabha’s Giant Arrives in Yorkshire – The sculptor Huma Bhabha has installed a monumental new work, her first in the UK, in Wakefield in the North of England. Called Receiver, the giant figure has been commissioned by the inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International, which opens this weekend. Sculptures by David Smith and Damien Hirst, among others at the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park, form part of the exhibition, which also extends to the city of Leeds. (Wakefield Express)



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