Art Industry News: The Smithsonian’s Lonnie Bunch Recalls an Awkward Visit by Donald Trump + Other Stories

Plus, a Chinese billionaire museum founder is arrested and Nan Goldin slams the Sacklers’ settlement proposal.

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Smithsonian Institution Secretary Lonnie Bunch after during a ceremony in July. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/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 Labor Day, September 2.


A Chinese Billionaire Museum Founder Is Arrested – The billionaire founder of one of Shanghai’s biggest private art museums has handed himself in to the police. Dai Zhikang, who is the chairman of Zendai Group, is under arrest following the collapse of his money lending company. After its online platform closed in June, representatives admitted to embezzling funds and said the company has no means of repaying investors, according to a police statement. Dai, who is also a property developer, opened the spectacular Shanghai Himalayas Museum designed by the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki in 2012. Several money lending moguls have been arrested or fled China after a government crackdown. (Financial Times)

Nan Goldin Slams the Sacklers’ Settlement Proposal – The activist-artist Nan Goldin has called the Sacklers’ proposal to surrender control of Purdue Pharma and contribute towards a possible $12 million settlement deal a “deeply cynical” move. She says that the sum mentioned “does not begin to pay back the damage,” referring to victims of the opioid crisis. The move comes as members of the family linked to the pharmaceutical giant attempt to head off multiple lawsuits in the US. Goldin says that she wants the Sacklers held responsible in the law courts, saying: “I’d rather [they] faced trial, and that their personal wealth was clawed back.” (The Art Newspaper)

Smithsonian Chief Recalls Trump’s Awkward Visit – Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, reveals in his forthcoming memoirs a fraught visit by Donald Trump. The then US President-elect was in a “foul mood,” Bunch was warned, and he did not want to see “anything difficult.” Bunch recalls how Trump seemed engaged, spending time studying a display about the Dutch role in the slave trade in particular. But the ex-museum director, who is now the Smithsonian’s secretary, was disappointed with the president’s response. Trump told Bunch: “You know, they love me in the Netherlands.” Trump’s team also wanted the museum to close to the public on Martin Luther King day, but he came on another day when that request was politely declined. (Washington Post)

German Art Activists Defy an Official Ban – The art collective Zentrum für politische Schönheit (Center for Political Beauty) vowed to place a tank in the center of the German city of Dresden as a protest against the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). The authorities have refused to give the art activists permission to place the decommissioned tank in front of Saxony’s state parliament but the Center for Political Beauty said it would defy the ban. Group member Philipp Ruch said the tank represented a “symbol of the defense of democracy and civil society.” It has previously placed a replica of Berlin’s Holocaust memorial outside the home of an AfD politician. The anti-immigration AfD made strong gains in Saxony, coming second according to exit polls.(DW)


Brothers Locked in Lawsuit Over Warhol Print – Two brothers in Minnesota have fallen out over the sale of two Warhol Moonwalk screenprints. Keith Donaldson is suing his brother Robert, claiming the sale was “unauthorized.” He now wants compensation for the $180,000 proceeds Robert Donaldson netted. (ARTnews)

Positions Fair Expands in Munich – The Munich art fair Paper Positions is expanding to include works in various media, and renaming itself Positions Munich Art Fair. The inaugural edition of the new fair will feature 37 international galleries, taking place from October 17 through October 21. (Art Daily)

Gallerist Joseph Nahmad Avoids Jail – Convicted after a drunken attack on his partner, art dealing scion Joseph Nahmad received a suspended prison sentence of 14 weeks and must attend 20 days of rehab. The 31-year-old member of the Nahmad dynasty, who runs Nahmad Projects in London, was sentenced after previously pleading guilty to causing actual bodily harm to 20-year-old Georgia Barry. (Daily Mail)   


A Controversial French Auctioneer Has Died – The French auctioneer Guy Loudmer has died, aged 86. Loudmer led the “sale of the century” in 1990, which totaled 509 million francs (€77 million or $84 million)—a record at the time. However, he was convicted of aggravated breach of trust after the major modern art auction. According to French media, he had an “Anglo-Saxon vision of the profession.” (Les Journals des Arts)

UK Museum Workers Strike Over Low Pay – Staff at the Science Museum in London, as well as the group’s sites across England, went on a 24-hour strike to protest low pay. Prospect, the union representing the striking Science Museum Group’s staff, says that because of inflation, workers have suffered a 13 percent pay cut since 2010. (Guardian)


Harvard Art Museums Reveals Paintings’ Dark Histories – Harvard is seeking to reveal dark histories long missing in its wall labels. Since February, the university’s art museums have enlisted graduate fellows and PhD candidates to update labels of famous works in the collection, including contextual information about problematic histories. For example, an 18th-century portrait of the Boylston family by John Singleton Copley now mentions how the Boston dynasty’s wealth was acquired through the slave trade. (Boston Globe)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Commissions Green New Deal Posters – Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the 14th district of New York in the Bronx and Queens, has unveiled a series of art posters to promote her Green New Deal plan. The posters, which reference 1930s New Deal-era graphics, highlight historic monuments, such as the Victory Memorial in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. (Hyperallergic)

Jeff Koons’s Tulips Arrive in Paris – The controversial sculpture by the American artist is being installed behind the Petit Palais in Paris. The idea for the work, called Bouquet of Tulips, was offered to France by Jeff Koons in 2016 as a gift. Meant to be a symbol of friendship, and to pay respect to the victims of the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the sculpture was met with its fair share of controversy before a final deal to install it outside the city’s Museum of Fine Arts was settled. (Getty)

Workers install Jeff Koons’s controversial gift to Paris, August 30, 2019. Photo by Ludovic Marin AFP/Getty Images.

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