Art Industry News: Kara Walker’s Offer to Show the Sugar Sphinx at Turbine Hall Was Rebuffed by the Tate + Other Stories

Plus, King Tut's coffin gets a long overdue cleaning and Gagosian fights back against a hedge-fund billionaire's Koons lawsuit.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Kara Walker: Starting Out." © Art21, Inc. 2014.

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 Tuesday, September 24.


Spain’s Greatest Private Art Collection Opens to the Public – The House of Alba’s Madrid palace is opening its doors to the public for the first time this Thursday. The Palacio de Liria houses the aristocratic family’s magnificent art collection, as well as a historic library. Highlights include Goya’s portrait of the Duchess of Alba de Tormes as well as works by Titian, El Greco, Rubens, and Velázquez. The 18th-century building was gutted by fire during the Spanish Civil War, but the Duke of Alba was able to rescue his art and keep it safe by storing it in the Prado museum, the Bank of Spain, and, by calling in a favor, the British Embassy in Madrid. (El Pais)

An Eight-Month Restoration Begins on King Tut’s Coffin – The boy pharaoh’s gold coffin has been fumigated and is now ready to be conserved as part of a painstaking restoration project. This marks the first time in almost 100 years that the coffin has been removed from its royal tomb. After restoration, it will be reunited with Tutankhamun’s two other coffins at the new Grand Egyptian Museum. The two outer coffins are made of wood, while the inner one is made of gold. (Daily Mail)

Kara Walker Drops Big Hints About Her Epic Tate Work – The American artist will unveil her highly anticipated Tate Modern commission next week in its vast Turbine Hall. Kara Walker does not give much away, although she says the project will “weave the intersections of the common themes” between black Americans and black Britons. The American curator Bolanle Tajudeen reveals that the Tate work will also include water and, like much of her oeuvre, “deals with the transatlantic slave trade.” There is a deeper connection between Walker’s work and Tate: Henry Tate, part owner of the sugar company Tate & Lyle, funded the first Tate gallery in the 19th century. But when Walker suggested to an unnamed former Tate director that her giant sugar sphinx would be just the thing for the Turbine Hall, she recalled (mimicking his British accent) that he told her dismissively: “We only commission original projects.” (Guardian)

The Priest Who Knew Who Stole a Caravaggio Masterpiece – Previously unseen testimony from a priest who tried to recover a Caravaggio stolen from a church in Palermo 50 years ago reveals that the painting hung in the home of notorious mafioso Gaetano Badalamenti for years. In an interview filmed in 2001, but locked away in a drawer, the now-deceased priest reveals that the mafia sliced off a portion of the painting in a failed extortion attempt. The unedited interview with the late Rocco Benedetto, the former parish priest of the Oratory of San Lorenzo, will be screened in Palermo on October 15. (Guardian)


Gagosian Fights Back Against Collector in Koons Lawsuit – Gagosian’s legal battle with the billionaire collector Steven A. Tananbaum over the gallery’s alleged failure to deliver three Jeff Koons works is raging on. Gagosian plans to appeal a decision made late last month that allowed key elements of the suit to proceed. (ARTnews)

A Major Charles White Painting Comes to Christie’s – The American artist’s 1976 painting Banner for Willie J, which was included in White’s well-reviewed traveling retrospective in 2018, carries an estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. When the painting hits the block at Christie’s New York on November 13, it stands to at least double his current auction record of $509,000, set last year. (ARTnews)

Independent Releases Exhibitor List – The Independent art fair is returning to New York during Armory Week in March 2020. Leading galleries making their debut at the fair at Spring Studios in Tribeca include new neighborhood transplant P.P.O.W, Eva Presenhuber, Corbett vs. Dempsey, and Marianne Boesky. (Press release)


Berkeley Museum Director to Step Down – The longtime director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Lawrence Rinder, is stepping down next March after almost 12 years in the role. Rinder, who oversaw the museum’s move to a $112 million Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed building in 2016, is leaving the California institution after 13 years to spend time working on a novel, volunteering, and “enjoying nature.” (ARTnews)

Deadwood Is Getting a Brothel Museum – A local nonprofit is opening a museum in Deadwood, South Dakota—the town made famous by the HBO show of the same name—dedicated to capturing the history of the city’s brothels. The museum, run by Deadwood History, Inc., will open on the site of a former brothel called the Shasta Room in mid-2020. (Smithsonian)

Former Otis President Dies at 73 – The founder of SITE Santa Fe and former president of Otis College of Art and Design, Bruce W. Ferguson, died aged 73 at his home in Los Angeles on September 14. The cause was cancer, according to his family. Over the course of his career, he collaborated with artists including Kara Walker, Francis Alys, and Eric Fischl. (Los Angeles Times)


An Ancient Palmyra Sculpture Gets a Makeover – A team of Danish researchers have been working with Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum to reconstruct how a tomb from ancient Palmyra unearthed in 1928 would have originally looked. As part of the initiative, they have digitally reconstructed missing fragments from a half-length portrait of an unknown woman dubbed The Beauty of Palmyra, filling in her lips, nose, and left hand, and adding rich pigment to the sculpture. (TAN)

Josef Albers’s Famous New York Mural Returns to New York – Josef Albers’s enormous Manhattan mural has returned to the lobby of the former MetLife building. The mural was a central part of the Modernist lobby of the Walter Gropius-designed building on Park Avenue, and there was widespread public outcry when it was removed during a renovation in 2000. It has now been recreated in a project led by architect Raúl de Armas’s New York firm, MdeAS. (TAN)

London’s Wallace Collection Will Lend Its Old Masters The Wallace Collection is joining the big leagues of international museum lenders after its trustees and lawyers reconsidered its founder’s will. In a historic U-turn, they have now decided that its treasures, which include paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto, Titian, and Velázquez, can travel after all, ending more than a century of loan prohibition. (Press release)

Moschino’s Runway Brings Picasso to Life – The fashion house’s Jeremy Scott transformed Moschino’s spring 2020 runway show into a tribute to Picasso. Models were decked out in painterly prints reflecting different periods of the Spanish master’s oeuvre, from Bella Hadid’s “Rose Period” to Kaia Gerber’s abstract guitar look. (Fashionista)


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