Art Industry News: A Houston Museum Says It Removed Former Director Bill Arning for ‘Improper’ Relations With Artists + Other Stories

Plus, a "lost" Jackson Pollock painting is hitting the auction block and the Guggenheim makes staff cuts ahead of its reopening.

Former Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning. Photo: Max Fields.
Former Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Bill Arning. Photo: Max Fields.

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 Thursday, September 17.


Layoffs Hit the Guggenheim as It Prepares to Reopen – The Guggenheim has reduced its staff by 11 percent ahead of its reopening on October 3, a decision that affected some 30 employees. Ahead of the announcement, a group called A Better Guggenheim, claiming to represent nearly 200 current and former employees, sent a letter calling for the resignation of three of the museum’s top officials, including director Richard Armstrong, COO Elizabeth Duggal, and chief curator Nancy Spector. (New York Times)

LACMA Board Member Criticized for Prison Phone Investment – Two activist groups have sent a letter to the director of the LA County Museum of Art, Michael Govan, asking that private equity magnate Tom Gores lose his seat on the museum’s board. Gores’s firm has acquired Securus Technologies, one of the largest prison phone companies. “While people across the nation demand racial justice, Tom Gores continues to amass wealth and benefit from a system that exploits Black people and profits from our pain. Put simply, Tom Gores is a prison profiteer and has no place on the board of a prestigious public museum like the LACMA,” the letter said. (LA Times)

Houston Gallerist Bill Arning Accused of Sexual Harassment – An Instagram account airing allegations of sexual and racial discrimination in the art world, @cancelartgalleries, has been publishing posts alleging that the former director of the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Bill Arning, has made numerous unsolicited sexual advances on people in the art community, as well as an artist who participated in a show curated by the museum’s Teen Council. The museum has responded to the allegations, stating that Arning was removed as director in 2018 following improper “but not illegal” communication and actions with artists, as well as a relationship with an adult who was formerly on the Teen Council. (Glasstire)

Uli Sigg Speaks Out About Hong Kong – Art collector and champion of Chinese art Uli Sigg has weighed in on Hong Kong’s new highly controversial national security law. The collector says he is still planning to donate more than half of of his collection to Hong Kong’s M+ Museum. While it is unclear how the national security law will be interpreted and if it will restrict the museum’s activities, Sigg says that officials had assured him that “artistic freedom will always be respected.” (Journal des Arts)


Lisson Gallery Plans a Pop-Up – Lisson Gallery is opening a six-month pop up in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, beginning during Frieze week this October. It will be showing a group exhibition that executive director Alex Logsdail has said will be “like a substantial art fair booth.” (Financial Times)

A ‘Lost’ Pollock Landscape Reappears at Auction – A long missing landscape by Jackson Pollock will be sold in a single-owner sale of works from Philadelphia art collectors Henry and Fannie Levine. Freeman’s Philadelphia will sell the painting on October 5, and is expecting between $60,000 and $100,000 for it. (Art Market Monitor)


A Muslim Museum in India Gets a Hindu Overhaul – A museum planned for the city of Agra, which broke ground in 2016, was supposed to celebrate the lives and riches of 16th- to 18th-century Mughal rulers and their culture. Now, in the midst of a nationalist revival in the country that is seeing its Muslim population under increased threat, officials say the museum will do a 180-degree turn and be renamed for a Hindu warrior-king and look instead at Hindu history. (New York Times)

A Former Gavin Brown Director Joins Zwirner – Starting October 15, Kyla McMillan, formerly a director at the recently shuttered New York gallery Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, will take up a new post at David Zwirner Gallery, where she will handle sales and artist management. (ARTnews)


Artist Reinvests Earnings to Diversify Museum Collection – Haitian-Canadian artist Manuel Mathieu donated the profits from the sale of his work to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to create a fund that would enable the institution to collect more under-represented artists, called the Marie-Solange Apollon Fund. Mathieu’s first solo show at the museum opens today. (NPR)

Rabkin Foundation Announces Awards for Nine Nonprofit Art Journals – The Portland, Maine-based Dorothea and Leo Rabkin Foundation, which usually awards individual journalists with its annual prize, is this year instead giving $20,000 each to nine arts journals. The recipients include ARTS.BLACK (Detroit), BOMB (Brooklyn), the Brooklyn Rail, Burnaway (Atlanta), Bmore Art (Baltimore), Glasstire (Houston), the Maine Arts Journal (Portland), The New Art Examiner (Chicago), and X-TRA (Los Angeles). (Press release)

Indian ‘Banksy’ Has His Government-Skeptic Work Defaced – The anonymous Tyler Street Artist has had his Walk of Shame street art project defaced in Mumbai. The work depicted the names of Indian officials who “spread hate and fake propaganda.” Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party have covered up the work in a video recorded and shared online and demanded the “immediate arrest” of Tyler. (The Art Newspaper)

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