Art Industry News: MoMA, Just Like You, Is Four Months Late on Its Electricity Bill—and Now It’s Facing a $200,000 Lawsuit + Other Stories

Plus, a former Hauser & Wirth director plans a new gallery in Paris and ARCO Madrid postpones its 2021 edition.

The entrance to MoMA. Photo: Lucie Rebeyrol.

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 25.


With $20 Million Raised, Artist Relief Extends Its Run – The Artist Relief Fund, which formed after lockdown to offer unrestricted $5,000 grants to artists, will now operate through the end of 2020. To date, the fund has raised $20 million and has given out $13.5 million to 2,700 creatives whose livelihoods have been affected by COVID-19. The current funding cycle is open for applications through October 21. (Artforum)

Insurers Fight Claims Over Seized Modiglianis – American dealer Joseph Guttman is trying to claim hundreds of millions of dollars from six European insurance companies for a group of paintings attributed to Amedeo Modigliani and Moïse Kisling that were confiscated from an exhibition by Italian police in 2017 on suspicion of being fake. Now, the insurers have filed a countersuit against Guttman arguing that the case should be heard in Europe. Guttman alleges that the insurance companies are holding out on providing coverage in case the Italian government rules the works are indeed fake. (TAN)

MoMA Has Not Paid Its Electric Bill – A lawsuit filed with New York’s state court on Wednesday has revealed that the Museum of Modern Art owes some $200,000 in unpaid electricity bills. The museum—which has already laid off 85 contractors and plans to slash its budget by $45 million due to the pandemic—is behind on payments to its former electricity provider, East Coast Power, which exited the electricity market in May. According to the claim, MoMA has neglected to pay its remaining balance for four months. For its part, MoMA just thought its roommate was taking care of the utilities. Museums—they’re just like us! (Crain’s)

Student Flash Mobs in Thailand Target Male-Dominated Art Scene – Women artists and art students in Thailand are on the front lines of the country’s pro-democracy protests, staging flash mobs and demonstrations criticizing the monarchy and the military-backed government. On September 12, some 2,000 art students occupied the Bangkok Art and Culture Center to protest the “elite old men” who run the Thai art scene. As activist artist Mit Jai Inn put it, artists celebrated by the establishment “have mostly aligned with the military and monarchy.” (TAN)


White Cube to Represent Takis’s Estate – The British gallery has won representation of the estate of the Greek artist Takis. The pioneering sculptor, painter, and musician who used magnets to create kinetic art will be the subject of a solo show at White Cube’s Hong Kong outpost opening November 21. (Press release)

Former Hauser & Wirth Director Opens Paris Gallery – Vanessa Guo, the former director of Hauser & Wirth’s Asia operations, has teamed up with French gallerist Jean-Mathieu Martini to form a new gallery. (In this economy? Apparently, yes!) Called Galerie Marguo—a mash up of both their names—the space will open in the city’s Marais district in October with a solo show of work by the Shanghai-based millennial painter Zhang Yunyao. (ARTnews)

Keith Haring’s Personal Collection Hits the Virtual Block – The highly anticipated sale of more than 140 objects from Keith Haring’s personal collection begins at Sotheby’s online today and runs through October 1. The auction, which includes works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, will raise funds for the Center, New York’s LGBT community center. The offerings will be on view IRL at Sotheby’s New York from September 26–30. (Hyperallergic)


ARCO Madrid Postpones 2021 Edition – ARCO Madrid, the major international art fair based in Spain, has become one of the first to preemptively postpone its early 2021 event. Organizers will move the next edition, normally held in February, to July. The hope is that the later date will attract a more international audience. (Press release)

The Archibald Prize Names First Aboriginal Winner – Vincent Namatjira has won the annual Archibald Prize, Australia’s most prestigious award for portraiture, for a canvas that depicts the artist with champion Aboriginal Australian rules footballer Adam Goodes. It is the first time an Aboriginal artist has won the prize in its 99-year history. (BBC)

Uffizi Claims TikTok Doubled Its Number of Young Visitors – While the US government prepares to block the video-sharing platform starting this weekend, Italy’s Uffizi Galleries reveals just how indispensable TikTok has been in engaging a younger audience. Since the museum launched its account this spring, it has accrued 54,000 followers. When it reopened this summer, its percentage of young visitors doubled. (TAN)


New Public Art Project Brings Videos to Piccadilly Circus – A giant electronic billboard in London’s Piccadilly Circus will take a pause from its usual programming of advertisements to feature art every evening beginning October 1 at 8:20 p.m. Europe’s largest billboard will get a nightly two-minute takeover by artists including Ai Weiwei, Daniela Ortiz, and Eddie Peake. The project is the brainchild of CIRCA, a new platform for showcasing art in public places and online. (TAN)

Artist Calls for Americans to Send the Names of COVID Dead to Trump – The Los Angeles artist Susan Silton is planning a protest in the form of mail art. She is asking participants to write the name of someone who has died from COVID-19 on a piece of paper and send it to the White House in an envelope that says “Mayday!” The work, MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!, seeks to criticize the administration’s failure to manage the virus amid a death toll that just passed 200,000 in the US. Names of the deceased will also be registered on Silton’s website. (LA Times)

Rosa Parks’s House Is in Italy – The onetime home of US civil rights activist Rosa Parks is on display (as art) until January 6 at the Royal Palace of Naples in Italy. The roving project by Berlin artist Ryan Mendoza also includes a looping soundtrack that is eight minutes and 46 seconds long, the length of time that police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck. (Press release)

Photo: Lucas Deschle.

Photo: Lucas Deschle.


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