Art Industry News: How the Social-Distancing Era Could Permanently Change the Architecture of Cities + Other Stories

Plus, an Oxford museum removes its shrunken heads from view and Latinx art spaces are banding together in LA.

Tape marks social distancing guidelines at Gropius Bau museum on May 11 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Tape marks social distancing guidelines at Gropius Bau museum on May 11 in Berlin, Germany. Photo by Sean Gallup/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 Monday, September 14.


Oxford Museum Removes Shrunken Heads – Several shrunken heads have been removed from display, along with 120 other items made with human remains, at the Pitt Rivers Museum after 80 years of being on view. The museum acquired the 12 shrunken heads, called tsantsas, belonging to humans, sloths, and monkeys between 1884 and 1936 from Ecuador and Peru. Recent research at the museum has found that the displays of human remains were interpreted as evidence of cultures being “savage” or “primitive,” and that they “reinforced racist and stereotypical thinking that goes against the museum’s core values.” (The Art Newspaper)

Five Latinx Art Spaces in LA Band Together – A new website and organization is seeking to amplify the voices of Latinx artists in Los Angeles. The new Latinx Arts Alliance takes the form of a website that offers “one-stop” listings for events and exhibitions in the city. The alliance also wants to raise awareness about the funding disparity for Lantix artists: while 39 percent of the California population is Latinx, only 1.3 percent of philanthropic dollars go toward Latinx organizations. The group was founded by the Museum of Latin American Art; LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes; Self Help Graphics and Art; the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park; and the Social and Public Art Resource Center. (Hyperallergic)

How Social Distancing Is Changing Urban Architecture – Several architecture firms share their innovations for a world that’s rapidly changing its understanding of public space. From markers on the sidewalk to help children social distance to better aerated health centers, new designs try to imagine community and well-being in a new age. Michael Murphy, co-founder of the Boston-based nonprofit MASS Design Group, says the questions we ask ourselves have changed: “Four billion people on earth are going through a very similar spatial awakening… We ask ourselves, is this air contaminated? Is this surface contaminated? Do I go into this building?” (New York Times)

The New Museum’s Director Pens Poignant 9/11 Reflection – On the anniversary of September 11, Lisa Phillips, the director of New York’s New Museum, recalls in a personal essay her harrowing experience near ground zero that morning. She goes on to reveal that it was a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which had displayed information about the toxic particles released into the air, that prompted her to see a doctor who discovered her cancer. “The 9/11 Memorial Museum literally saved my life,” she writes. “It serves a powerful role, honoring and memorializing the victims of the attack while also contributing to the community in the present.” (Medium)


This Museum Is Buying Up Van Goghs – The Noordbrabants Museum in the Dutch city of Hertogenbosch recently bought Vincent van Gogh’s Head of a Woman for €1.6 million ($2 million) at Christie’s. The regional museum, located in a town where Van Gogh’s father was a vicar, has bought three other works by the artist in the past four years, including the 1884 Still Life with Bottles and Shell for €2.5 million ($3.2 million). (The Art Newspaper)

Taipei Dangdai Postpones Its 2021 Fair – The Taiwanese fair is delaying its third edition, originally slated for January 2021, until May 21-23 due to ongoing public-health uncertainty. “[S]hifting our dates will provide a much better context for our galleries, collectors and members of the art world to make meaningful connections in person once again,” said Taipei Dangdai co-director Robin Peckham. (ArtAsiaPacific)

Demand Grows for Art by Cassi Namoda – Los Angeles-based painter Cassi Namoda has become a rising star since the Swedish gallery CFHILL included her work in a show alongside other market darlings like Amaoko Boafo, and since her six paintings at the June art fair (this year held digitally on Hauser and Wirth’s website) sold out for between $4,500 and $14,000. (Art Market Monitor)


Berlin Collector Erich Marx Has Died – The art patron and collector Erich Marx has died at age 99. Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof museum was founded with Marx’s collection of Modern art, including works by Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, and Robert Rauschenberg, which remain on long-term loan to the city. (TAN)

Italy Names New Museum Directors – Italy’s culture minister has announced the names of 13 new directors of the country’s national museums. After uproar last year over the possibility that Italy would only open up these roles to Italian candidates, the new appointees were selected from an international pool. That said, Italians have been appointed to most of the vacant positions, with Stefano L’Occaso replacing the Austrian Peter Assman at the head of the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua among the announcements. (La Repubblica)


Photo Show Captures British Life Under lockdown – The National Portrait Gallery is unveiling a curated selection of 100 pictures taken during lockdown as an online exhibition. The works were selected from 31,000 submissions from the public. Some of the images will then travel to various towns around the UK. The gallery’s director, Nicholas Cullinan, who conceived of the concept for the project, says he hopes it brings “a sense of unity and an understanding of what we have all gone through.” (Guardian)

Could a 9/11 Tribute Become Permanent? – Organizers of New York’s annual Tribute in Lights art installation, which features two beams of light that represent the fallen Twin Towers, are pushing for the installation to become permanent. But the process would be very expensive, with the annual tribute costing around $500,000 each year as it is. Plus, the installation needs to be carefully monitored to ensure the lights are always pointed in the correct direction. (Observer)

Activist Removes Sculpture From Museum – A group of activists pushing for the restitution of African heritage from European museums have raided the Netherlands’ Africa Museum. The Congo-born activist Mwazulu Diyabanza, who orchestrated a similar stunt at Paris’s Quai Branly museum earlier this year, removed a sculpture with the intent to return it to Africa. He and four other activists were arrested, and the sculpture was returned to the museum. (Monopol)

Residents Divided on Spanish Lighthouse Makeover – Residents of the Spanish region of Cantabria are unhappy after local authorities commissioned artist Okuda San Miguel to paint a historic lighthouse in bright colors as part of an effort to boost tourism to the region. Opponents say the contemporary intervention on the 90-year-old lighthouse “does not respect Cantabria’s architectural heritage.” (Guardian)

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