Art Industry News: The Royal Academy of Arts Is Cutting 40 Percent of Its Staff as London Museums Make Widespread Layoffs + Other Stories

Plus, a New Museum employee starts a Twitter row with Jerry Saltz and artists call on the Whitney to make reforms.

Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photo by Mike Peel, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.
Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photo by Mike Peel, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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 Friday, September 18.


Artists Pen Open Letter Calling For Reforms at the Whitney – After coming under fire for an exhibition of artistic responses to the Black Lives Matter protests, in which the museum had acquired works from charity benefits for discount prices, some 45 of those 80 artists have penned an open letter asking for “a year of action” at the museum. In response to the criticism, the museum canceled the show, but its authors say it should have listened and responded instead. “How will you take less and give more to historically excluded communities? How will you institute ethical guidelines in future acquisition practices?” they write. The letter was released on the day of the scheduled opening. (New York Times)

How Contemporary Monuments Address the Past and Look to the Future – A new outdoor show in Long Island City, Queens, is exploring new ways to conceive of monuments. Called “Monuments Now,” the show at Socrates Sculpture Park offers works that bring more nuance to past monuments, like Nona Faustine’s In Praise of Famous Men No More, a large billboard with murky imagery of two famous presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, trying to better show the nuance of their legacies. (New York Times)

Royal Academy Plans to Cut 40 Percent of Staff – The London institution plans to cut 150 jobs in order to reduce its annual costs by £8 million ($10.3 million). The Royal Academy, a 250-year-old institution, said that it was reliant on ticket sales, membership, commercial activities that had cratered. The Tate is planning 313 redundancies, and the Southbank Centre has 400. “Although the RA reopened to the public as soon as possible following the easing of lockdown, social distancing reduces capacity and revenue by 75 percent, and we continue to incur substantial losses.” (Guardian)

Further Raids Relating to Green Vault Heist Carried Out in Berlin – Further commercial premises were searched in Berlin on September 16 as the hunt continues for the jewel thieves who made off with priceless diamonds from the Green Vault in Dresden last year. A site was searched where it is suspected that the burglars had foil-wrapped their getaway car, an Audi S6. Investigators looked through and partially secured business documents from the sites. (Press release)


More Galleries Move to Cork Street – Sadie Coles HQ, Lisson Gallery, Stephen Friedman Gallery, and Frieze Live will take over gallery spaces on Cork Street and Old Burlington Street in London during Frieze week, which begins October 5. The new spaces will likely be temporary, but the galleries seek to join forces to make an epicenter for the arts that’s fueled by growing solidarity between dealers. (Press release)

Goodman Gallery Takes on Paul Maheke and Naama Tsabar – Performance and video artist London-based Paul Maheke and Israeli-born, New York-based sculptor and performance artist Naama Tsabar will now be represented by the South Africa- and London-based Goodman Gallery.  (Press release)

Edward Sheriff Curtis Vintage Platinum Prints find New Life in Digital Era – Artnet Auctions’ sale of an exceptional selection of turn-of-the-century vintage platinum prints depicting the traditions and cultures of Native Americans achieved $230,000, with a sell-through rate of 79 percent by value. The sale featured intense competitive bidding. Top lots included Before The Storm (The Storm) – Apache, which achieved $33,600 against a $12,000 low estimate, and The Three Chiefs – Piegan, which achieved $26,400 against a $12,000 low estimate.


Fotografiska Kills Plans for London Complex – The Swedish company behind the Fotografiska photography museum has cancelled its plans to build an outpost in London’s East End. In a statement, the company blames the UK’s twin torments—Brexit and the lockdown—for making it impossible for a “London-based licensee to establish a franchise at this time.” (The Art Newspaper)

Japanese Artist Noriyuki Haraguchi Dead at 74 – The Japanese artist Noriyuki Haraguchi has died at age 74. Haraguchi was known for his contributions to the postwar art landscape in Japan, specifically as part of the 1960s Mono-ha movement, in which artists harnessed industrial materials—Haraguchi produced many works using machine oil—for their work. (ARTnews)

Mellon Foundation to Bail Out Midsize Museums – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is giving out $24 million in emergency grants to rescue midsize museums that are financially struggling. Its Art Museum Futures Fund will be providing grants to 12 midsize museums followed by a round of $3 million grants for small museums. Beneficiaries include San Francisco’s Asian art Museum, and The Brooklyn Museum, El Museo del Barrio, Queens Museum, and Studio Museum in New York. (ARTnews)


New Museum Employee Calls Out Jerry Saltz – A New Museum employee took a swipe on Twitter at New York art critic Jerry Saltz after he tweeted about not being allowed into the museum, writing in a since-deleted post: “[T]hey would not let me in because I had not pre-booked. My bad. There wasn’t a soul in the lobby. Wanted to say ‘Do you know who I am?’ but thought it sounded dickish.” The employee tweeted in response: “I already knew who he was and he took off his mask to speak to me,” adding, “It’s almost as if some people think rules don’t apply to them.” Saltz responded, saying he was wrong to remove it briefly, but added that he was 15 feet away and that he would never put anyone in danger intentionally, given that his wife is immuno-compromised. (Observer)

Kanye West Shows Off His Fontana – In his latest twitter storm, Ye shared a photograph of a room in his white minimalist Axel Vervoordt-designed house with a Lucio Fontana slash canvas hanging over the mantlepiece. He captioned it: “only museum quality boys,” which has led some in the art world to question which art bros told him that. It could also be read as a coded reference to the American rapper Hit-Boy, with whom Ye currently has beef, who is from Fontana, California. Who really knows at this point? (Twitter)

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