Art Industry News: The New Museum’s Bronx Ideas Festival Lasted Less Than an Hour Before Activists Shut It Down + Other Stories

Plus, Olafur Eliasson becomes the UN's first climate change goodwill ambassador and Steve Martin champions a little-known art movement.

The New Museum. Photo: Dean Kaufman courtesy of the New Museum.

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 23.


Olafur Eliasson Is Now a UN Climate-Change Ambassador – The artist and environmentalist Olafur Eliasson has been named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador of its development program. In the new position, Eliasson will work with the UN to raise awareness and mobilize support for action against climate change. In a statement, he said: “Life on Earth is about co-existence—among people, non-human animals, ecosystems, and the environment. The fact is, we’re in it together. That’s why we all have to take the climate emergency seriously.” (ARTnews)

Art History Professor Accused of Assault – Two former students of Gary Xu Gang, a former art history professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a former curator of the Shenzhen Biennale, have filed a complaint against him for sexual assault, physical abuse, harassment, and forced labor. Xu was removed as curator of the biennale when the allegations against him surfaced online earlier this year. Xu has until October 1 to respond to the complaint. He has previous strenuously denied claims of sexual assault. (The Art Newspaper)

Activists Shut Down a New Museum Event in the Bronx – The New Museum cancelled a one-day festival in the Bronx less than an hour after it began following protests from locals. Several grassroots organizations that had been slated to participate pulled out of IdeasCityBronx, a daylong series of artist talks, performances, and workshops to address the impact of climate change on local Bronx communities. The New Museum said it cancelled the event “out of respect for those who raised objections” and due to “concern for the safety of the audience and participants.” Tiara Torres, from the activist group Hydropunk, claimed the New Museum’s commitment to the Bronx was superficial, adding that the next time its staff visited would probably be for a New York Yankees game. (Hyperallergic)

Steve Martin Champions a Little-Known Art Movement – The actor and art collector reveals he is a big fan of the relatively little-known abstract art movement Synchromism. Martin has made a BBC radio documentary in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art about two American artists, Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell, who separately developed their ideas in Paris about visual art inspired by music. Martin’s discussion of their colorful oeuvres forms part of a series called The Way I See It, in which 30 guests respond to works in the New York museum’s collection. (Guardian)


A Saber-Tooth Cat Skull Could Fetch $1 Million – Do you love cats and skulls and have a lot of disposable income? It’s your lucky day. A rare fossilized saber-tooth cat skull—one of the largest ever recorded—is the top lot of Dallas-based Heritage Auctions’ forthcoming nature and science auction on September 28. It has an upper estimate of $1 million. (Press release)

Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ Heads to Auction – The controversial work that helped ignite the Culture Wars of the 1990s is heading to auction at Bonhams in New York on October 2 with an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. The 1987 photograph of a crucifix floating in urine is one of the original edition of 10. Piss Christ‘s current owner purchased it in 1989 from Andreas Serrano’s first New York dealer, Stux Gallery. (Press release)

Two Early Van Goghs Sell for a “Bargain” – An early watercolor of flowers and another of a jug by Vincent van Gogh sold for $240,000, and $153,000 respectively at Kiggen’s Auction House in Ghent. The Belgian buyers have promised to keep the 1883 works in the country, as the seller requested. (Art Daily)

Art Düsseldorf Announces Exhibitor List – The latest edition of the German art fair will run from November 15 through 17 with more exhibitors, bringing the total number of participants to 100. Fair director Walter Gehlen says the regional art fair is enjoying a growing international profile. The fair has new partners after Art Basel’s parent company sold its stake to fair organizers Sandy Angus and Tim Etchells(Press release)


Northern Trust Purchase Prize Awarded – The financial-services company Northern Trust awarded its annual prize to two galleries participating in Expo Chicago’s Exposure section for young galleries: NOME of Berlin and Shulamit Nazarian of Los Angeles. Works from both galleries—four of Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s archival inkjet prints from NOME and artist Summer Wheat’s Extinguisher from Shulamit Nazarian—will be gifted to the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. This marks the first time that multiple artworks and galleries have received the award in the same year. (Press release)

The Slovenian Artist Behind the Trump Statue of Liberty Wants to Move It – Tomaž Schlegl, the artist behind the Statue of Freedom depicting the US president in Sela, Slovenia that became an international media sensation, has launched a Kickstarter to move the sculpture to a new location after locals complained its presence would turn their town into an international laughingstock. So far, it has raised $406 of its $21,466 goal. (Kickstarter)

Two Artists Win Prizes at the Toronto Biennial – The Bogota-based artist Abel Rodríguez is the first winner of the biennial’s Art Prize, while Istanbul-based Hera Büyüktaşçıyan has won the Emerging Artist Prize. Each artist will receive 20,000 Canadian dollars, or about $15,000. The Toronto Biennial of Art opened to the public on September 21. (ARTnews)

Bienal de São Paulo Announces Participants – Next year’s Bienal de São Paulo will take on a new format: it will offer a series of related solo exhibitions opening in the months leading up to the main exhibition. The first one kicks off in February, with Peruvian artist Ximena Garrido-Lecca presenting work about her home country and its relationship to colonialism and globalism. Clara Ianni will open a show in April, followed by Deana Lawson in July. (ARTnews)


Marina Abramović Opens Her Homecoming Show at Dawn – How early would you get up to spend time with Marina Abramović? The artist invited journalists in Belgrade to a pre-dawn opening of her retrospective, Abramović’s first solo show in her hometown in four decades. The symbolic “cleansing” took place at 4:23 am on Saturday at Belgrade’s Contemporary Art Museum. “It’s very emotional for me to be here, and it’s not easy,” the superstar Serbian artist said. Responding to questions from the press, Abramović added that while she is not a politician, she hopes the exhibition, titled “The Cleaner,” will show Serbian politicians the value of investing in culture. (Press release)

Banksy’s Climate Change Art in Westminster Gets Protection – The street artist’s work at Marble Arch in central London, which Banksy created during the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations earlier this year, will, fittingly, be protected against the elements. Westminster City Council in London has covered the work, which is located on a pedestrian underpass, in Plexiglass. (Press release)

Sneak Peek of JR’s Epic New York Mural – The street artist’s newest mural, called The Chronicles of New York City, goes on view October 4 at the Brooklyn Museum to coincide with his major solo exhibition. The massive work, which is nearly 21 by 32 feet, includes the narratives of 1,128 New Yorkers doing all manner of New York things: taking selfies, waiting for public transportation, getting a haircut, and walking with a rolled up carpet on their shoulders. (Guardian)

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