Art Industry News: Is This Video Installation by Ragnar Kjartansson the Best Artwork of the 21st Century? + Other Stories

Plus, Andy Warhol's "Athlete" portraits are coming to Christie's and France's culture minister hatches a plan to build 1,000 digital museums.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors Artes Mundi 6.

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 17.


Is the Middle-Class Collector a Thing of the Past? – Many look back with nostalgia at a time when collectors like Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, a librarian and postal worker, could assemble a world-class art collection on modest salaries. Today, the middle market has largely been hollowed out by growing income inequality, the rising cost of living, changing tastes, and speculators who gobble up lower priced work to make a quick profit. The phenomenon is confirmed by a new report, “Under Pressure: the Squeezed Middle Class,” published in May by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which found that the cost of living has risen for middle-class people while wages have stagnated. (The Art Newspaper)

France’s Culture Minister Wants to Send Art to the Regions – The French culture minister Franck Riester plans to introduce small-scale digital museums around France that will share high-resolution digital copies of works from the country’s 12 national public collections with people in remote urban and rural regions. Dubbed “Micro-Folies,” the small digital museums are expected to number 1,000 within three years. Riester has secured an extra €3 million ($3.3 million) for the project and promises that regional cultural authorities will be closely involved in its development. (France TV)

Is This the Best Art of the 21st Century? – The Guardian‘s art critics teamed up to tackle an impossible task: selecting the 25 best works of visual art from the 21st century. Among the selections are: Arthur Jafa’s White Album (2018), a video montage that tackles white identity, which comes in at number 18; Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project (2003), the installation that brought the sun inside Tate’s Turbine Hall, at number 11; and Pussy Riot’s Putin protest performance Punk Prayer (2012), in fourth place. The surprise number one pick? Ragnar Kjartansson’s melancholic, musical video installation The Visitors (2012). “The Visitors is a kind of extended farewell to romanticism, to which Ragnar is both drawn and deeply suspicious of,” critic Adrian Searle writes. (Guardian)

An Artist Says Hermès Ripped Off His Work – German artist Martin Wojciechowski has called out the luxury brand Hermès on Instagram, alleging that the company ripped off one of his works for a display in its airport shops in Japan and Korea. “Inspiration or plain copy?” he wrote on social media. “It’s actually really not flattering to see my works being reused for the background of boutique displays.” Page Six says Wojciechowski’s lawyer sent Hermès a cease and desist letter in June. (Page Six)


Andy Warhol’s Athlete Portraits Are Coming to Christie’s – The collection of the late businessman and dedicated Warhol collector Richard L. Weisman is hitting the block at Christie’s in a series of auctions this fall. Among the works on offer is the Pop artist’s “Athletes” series, executed between 1977 and 1979 and commissioned by Weisman himself. The top lot, a silkscreen of Muhammad Ali, is estimated to fetch between $4 million and $6 million on November 13. All told, the collection is expected to bring in around $15 million. (ARTnews)

Maximillian William Opens London Gallery – The formerly itinerant Maximillian William gallery is opening its first permanent space in London’s Fitzrovia neighborhood at 47 Mortimer Street. The inaugural exhibition of a new series of paintings by the gallery artist Reginald Sylvester II is titled “Nemesis,” and will run September 27 through November 7. (Press release)

Ed Dolman on the Flattening Art Market – Phillips CEO Edward Dolman says that the art market is much less “boom-and-bust” than it used to be, partly due to the introduction of the third-party guarantee system. “[The market has] been much more managed,” Dolman says. “The pricing is more stable, but the management of the market has led to slightly less vibrant activity in people’s tastes in the weeks or the days running up to the sales themselves.” That might be due to change soon, however: As you’ll read in the latest artnet Intelligence Report, guarantees are becoming less popular than they used to be. (ARTnews)


Americas Society Names New Director – Argentinian curator Aimé Iglesias Lukin has been appointed the new director and chief curator of visual arts at the Americas Society. The New York-based arts organization aims to foster an understanding of the political, social, cultural, and economic issues facing the Americas. Lukin is currently a PhD candidate at Rutgers University specializing in modern and contemporary Latin American art. (Artforum)

Yuki Kihara to Rep New Zealand at the 2021 Venice Biennale – This year’s Venice Biennale isn’t over yet, but at least one country has already chosen its artist for the next edition. New Zealand has tapped Samoan artist Yuki Kihara to represent the country at the 2021 Biennale. The first artist of Pacific descent to represent the country, Kihara examines the effects of colonialism through photographs, video, and performance. (ARTnews)


Officials Deny Reports That Prince Philip’s Statue Will Displace the Fourth Plinth – Contemporary art fans were dismayed to read a report in the Sunday Times that a memorial statue of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, might displace the beloved series of sculptural commissions that began 10 years ago atop the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. The rumor was that the sculpture of the Duke, who is turning 98 this year, would be commissioned after his death. But city authorities have denied the plan. “There are currently no plans for a permanent statue or sculpture of any description to occupy the plinth,” said Justine Simons, London’s deputy mayor for culture and creative industries. (TAN)

Charles Ray Tries His Hand as a Curator – The sculptor Charles Ray is dabbling in curating: He will organize the exhibition “Three Christs, Sleeping Mime, and the Last Supper / Pagan Paradise” at the Hill Art Foundation in New York, which runs from September 28 to February 15. Bronzes from the Renaissance and Baroque periods drawn from J. Tomilson Hill’s celebrated collection will be displayed alongside Ray’s sculpture. The show will also include never-before-seen work from Ray’s personal holdings. (Press release)

Charles Ray’s Mime (2014). Courtesy the artist and Matthew Marks Gallery.

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