Art Industry News: Murakami Says Even Famous Artists Feel ‘Like Crying for Help’ Sometimes + Other Stories

Plus, how art star Njideka Akunyili Crosby stays grounded and new questions raised over the authenticity of Robert Indiana's late work.

Takashi Murakami. Portrait of the artist, 2018. ©2018 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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 this Monday, September 24.


Did Robert Indiana Really Make BRAT? – The plot thickens in the ongoing debate over how much artist Robert Indiana was truly in control of his late work. His assistant claims Indiana created BRAT, a twist on his iconic LOVE sculpture commissioned by Johnsonville Sausage in Wisconsin. But the artist’s former publicist smells something fishy, pointing to what appears to be a doctored photograph of Indiana sitting next to materials for the piece. Shelly and Ralph Stayer, who own the sausage company, are confident that the artist designed the work himself. (New York Times)

An Art Star Seeks to Regain Control – Kelly Crow recounts the meteoric rise of artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby, whose work has gone from selling for $3,000 apiece to almost $3 million at auction in just a few years. In an attempt to keep her prices from swirling out of control, the artist has sought to gather careful records about who owns her works and has even gotten into a legal dispute with one of her galleries. “My friends tell me I should just be happy my works are selling, and I am,” Crosby said. “It’s scary how vulnerable I still feel.” (Wall Street Journal)

Murakami Chokes in Hong Kong – The Japanese artist suffers for his art. A tiny acrylic painting at the entrance to his new Gagosian Hong Kong show stands in for a monumental piece he failed to finish on time. Murakami wrote on it, “Right at this moment, as I write this text on this painting…I feel like crying for help.” He tells the South China Morning Post about the pressure he feels at all times: “I can get the big project, big money, but every month I’m”—he clutches his throat—“kind of choking.” (South China Morning Post)

Opponents Accuse Natural History Museum of Bullying – Although the American Museum of Natural History is fighting a court battle with opponents of its $383 million expansion, the New York institution has already started preparing the site on city-owned land. Activist Laura Messersmith condemns the move as a “bullying tactic.” (WSJ)


The Elephant in the Art Market – Economists have updated the so-called “elephant” graph of income distribution, estimating that, from 1980 to 2016, the global one percent saw their income grow twice as much as the bottom 50 percent. It’s not surprising, then, that the middle-class collector is cutting back, while the value of art soars as a trophy for the super-rich. For most professionals, the disposable income and desire to collect is not what it used to be. (NYT)

Christie’s to Sell American Collectors’ Picasso Muses – The real estate developer Sam Rose and his wife, Julie Walters, spent years acquiring Picasso’s portraits of his four muses: Marie-Thérèse Walter, Dora Maar, Françoise Gilot, and Jacqueline Roque. The paintings are expected to sell for a total of $28 million at Christie’s New York on November 11. (Press release)

Palace of Versailles Buys Chinese Jug – The Palace of Versailles has shelled out an undisclosed sum for a rare 17th-century Chinese silver ewer in a private sale orchestrated by the auction house Beaussant Lefèvre. The item is the only surviving piece of silverware from a gift presented to Louis XIV by the King of Thailand (then known as Siam) during a diplomatic mission in 1686. (Antiques Trade Gazette)


Pablo Escobar Museum Shut Down – A joint raid conducted by the Medellin mayor’s office, the vice ministry of tourism, and Colombian migration authorities has shut down the unofficial museum dedicated to the “King of Cocaine.” Owned by Escobar’s brother, the museum was charging tourists $30 to see Escobar’s classic cars and motorcycles as well as a fake wall he once hid inside. (AFP)

Stedelijk Curator to Depart – Bart van der Heide will leave his position as chief curator at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum on November 1. He previously held positions at Kunstverein Munich, London’s Cubitt Gallery, and Rotterdam’s Witte de With. (Artforum)

MOCA Cleveland Names New Curator – Courtenay Finn has been appointed chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland. Finn joins the team from her previous post as senior curator at Colorado’s Aspen Art Museum. (Artforum)

Nordic Pavilion Announces Venice Artists – The Nordic Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale will present the work of artist duo Janne Nabb and Maria Teeri from Finland; Ane Graff from Norway; and Ingela Ihrman from Sweden. The group will come together for the Nordic Pavilion’s “Weather Report: Forecasting Future.” (Artdaily)


Sean Scully Gets Political – Ahead of his exhibition at London’s Blain|Southern titled “Uninsideout,” the New York-based, Irish artist has turned away from his typically abstract compositions to create a flag painting in response to the spate of police shootings of unarmed black people in the US. “When I saw that little boy Tamir [Rice] shot at point blank [range], I thought, this country is beyond repair,” he says. He is now considering moving back to the UK and living among “artistic philistines” for the sake of his son. (Financial Times)

Atlanta Gets a Grant to Diversify Museums – Spelman College, the historically black women’s liberal arts school in Atlanta, has received $5.4 million from the Walton Family Foundation to establish the Atlanta University Center Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies, with the aim of creating an educational pipeline to museum leadership. The grant also will position the Atlanta University Center as an incubator for African American museum professionals. (Press release)

A Podcast on Our Recent Data Project – Julia Halperin (executive editor, artnet News) and Charlotte Burns (executive editor, In Other Words) discuss their joint investigation into the representation of African American artists in museums and the art market over the past decade. They found that progress was much smaller, narrower, and more recent than popularly perceived. Here, they discuss how they approached their research. (In Other Words)

Views From Warsaw Gallery Weekend – The Polish capital city’s art world opened its doors this weekend to international VIPs for the annual Warsaw Gallery Weekend. Highlight exhibitions included Zuza Golińska at Piktogram, Robert Anton at Foksal Gallery Foundation, and Joanna Piotrowska at Dawid Radziszewski gallery. See a sampling below. (Instagram)

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