Art Industry News: Is the Era of the ‘Art Boy’ Over? Beloved Couple Sienna Miller and Lucas Zwirner Call It Quits + Other Stories

Plus, Western museums come under fire for their partnerships with China and another Matthew Wong shatters expectations at auction.

Sienna Miller and Lucas Zwirner attend a gala dinner at the 58th Venice Biennale on May 8, 2019 in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/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, September 1.


Museums Grapple With China Partnerships – Museums including Tate and the Pompidou are facing renewed scrutiny over their lucrative partnerships with state-owned companies in China in light of the country’s human rights record. While the museums argue that such partnerships can increase global understanding, critics—including artist Ai Weiwei—say they can also be interpreted as a sign that the international community is indifferent to Beijing’s repression. “I would urge all our public institutions and museums who have partnered with the Chinese state to rethink these relationships,” says Benedict Rogers, the co-founder of advocacy group Hong Kong Watch. (The Art Newspaper)

SFMOMA Furloughs Employees – The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is furloughing all full-time and some part-time employees on Fridays from the end of September onward. In a statement, the museum stated that it has lost 90 percent of its revenue over the past six months and sought other options before coming to the decision. The museum has laid off 186 staff members since March, when its director Neal Benezra also agreed to a 50 percent pay cut for the rest of the year. It received a $6 million loan from the Paycheck Protection Program in April. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Sienna Miller and Lucas Zwirner Split – One of the celebrity couples that spawned the “Art Boy” phenomenon has reportedly called it quits. The actress and gallerist, who oversees the publishing arm of his father’s eponymous gallery, were said to have gotten engaged in January, although they never publicly confirmed the betrothal. “They were most recently photographed together last month, running errands,” according to Page Six. Citing “a source” (who is definitely completely unconnected to Sienna Miller), the gossip column also reports that “Miller broke off the relationship with Zwirner, who is nine years her junior, though it’s unclear why.” At least we still have Jennifer and Cooke. (Page Six)

Hartwig Fischer Defends the British Museum’s Loot – In a new interview, the British Museum’s director Hartwig Fischer pushes back against observers who have characterized the museum’s encyclopedic collection as a trove of looted objects. Fischer contends that much of its holdings were legitimately acquired through sale, exchange, or donation. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, the museum is taking new steps to illustrate these acquisition histories in its displays. “We all understand and acknowledge that we have different views on this, and this conversation will be ongoing,” Fisher says. “I think it is a great simplification to simply say that the British Museum is a place of loot and stolen goods.” (Telegraph)


Zao Wou-Ki, Sanyu Dominate Hong Kong’s 2020 Sales – Hong Kong’s Modern and contemporary art sales in July brought in $341 million, with French Chinese artists Zao Wou-Ki, Sanyu, and Chu Teh-Chun accounting for 48 percent of the total. Zao Wou-Ki’s work alone generated more than $79 million. (Art Market Monitor)

Fair Warning’s Matthew Wong Sells for $575,000 – Loïc Gouzer‘s Fair Warning auction app sold the late artist Matthew Wong’s Far Away Eyes (2017) for $575,000 on August 27. The saturated landscape, which is the sixth by Wong to appear at auction (and the fifth since July), soared past its high estimate of $150,000. (Instagram)


Basel Opens New Culture Hub – An old motor factory has been converted into a new cultural venue in the Swiss city. Kulturstiftung Basel H. Geiger, founded by philanthropist Sibylle Piermattei Geiger, will offer free entry and free catalogues. Its first show, which opened on August 27, features artists from the Caribbean and its diaspora. (TAN)

VMFA Teams Up With Chase to Boost Diversity Initiatives – Chase Bank is underwriting a series of programs at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to expand its community programs and engagement initiatives, including its annual African American Read-In events. Chase’s partnership will also provide 3,000 VMFA art-supply kits to children in local public schools. (RVA Hub)

Simone Leigh’s High Line Sculpture Will Stay Put ‘Til 2021 – The High Line announced that Simone Leigh’s monumental public work Brick House will not come down in September as originally planned. Instead, it will remain on view through spring 2021. (Press release)


Human Relics Dated Back to the Bronze Age – Human remains uncovered across the British mainland have been traced to Britain’s Bronze Age using radiocarbon dating and CT scanning technology. The 4,500-year-old remains include a human femur that had been fashioned into a musical instrument and some bones that bore signs of being hung up and displayed. The discovery has shed new light on some Bronze Age burial rituals and suggests a much less squeamish relationship with the dead than exists today. (Courthouse News)

Kehinde Wiley Weighs in on Confederate Statues – The artist Kehinde Wiley has weighed in on the ongoing debate in the US surrounding Confederate monuments. Wiley says the statues should be removed from public space and displayed in a “hall of horrors” where Americans can reflect on the country’s history. “It’s less about should it be in existence but should it be deified,” Wiley says. “Take it off the stage and put it back where it belongs.” The artist adds that he hopes to see real movement toward racial equity—such as prison and education reform—alongside these more symbolic gestures. (Observer)

Greek Wildfire Spares Key Archaeological Site – The ruins of Mycenae, one of Greece’s most important archeological sites, escaped serious damage after a wildfire ripped through the area. It blackened the 3,250-year-old stone Lion Gate with smoke but spared the majority of the ancient city. (Courthouse News)

Nasher Acquires Window Series Art – The Dallas museum has acquired works by North Texas artists Xxavier Edward Carter and Kristen Cochran that were part of its recent series of street-facing window exhibitions, which aimed to offer locals a taste of art while the Nasher Sculpture Center was closed during lockdown. (Press release)

Kristen Cochran. Courtesy Nasher Sculpture Center.

Xxavier Edward Carter. Courtesy Nasher Sculpture Center.

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