Art Industry News: Top Los Angeles Art Patrons Donate $750 Million to Bankroll Climate-Change Research + Other Stories

Plus, the former head of BP steps in to fund the Turner Prize and Gagosian's new art advisory arm makes a high-profile hire.

Lynda and Stewart Resnick, photo by Steven Gomillion. Courtesy of the Hammer 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 Friday, September 27.


The British Museum Is Still the UK’s Best-Attended Art Institution – A sea change seemed to be afoot when news broke earlier this year that Tate Modern had surpassed the British Museum as London’s most-attended art institution in 2018. But it now appears that that report—released by the tourism organization Visit England—was based on incorrect figures. The British Museum said its numbers were suppressed by around 300,000 due to an error in its automated visitor counting system. The new figures put the BM’s attendance at more than 6 million, comfortably beating out Tate Modern’s 5.8 million. (The Art Newspaper)

Saudi Arabia Opens Up to Cultural Tourists – Saudi Arabia, which has multibillion-dollar plans to increase foreign visits to its historic sites as well as develop new museums, is launching a new tourist visa. The country is also relaxing its strict dress codes for female visitors. Tourism minister Ahmad al-Khateeb described the policy changes as a “historic moment” for the country, which is home to five Unesco World Heritage Sites. France and Russia are among the countries being wooed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to help develop its cultural infrastructure. In an attempt to rehabilitate his international image, he has also belatedly accepted “responsibility” for the murder of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. (BBC)

Los Angeles Patrons Donate $750 Million to Fund Climate Research – The billionaire philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick, who have a pavilion in their name at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, have pledged $750 million to the California Institute of Technology. Caltech will use the funds to build a center for environmental sustainability research, expanding the work of its existing Resnick Sustainability Institute. The gift is the largest ever for sustainability research and the second-largest donation to an American university in history. The Resnicks have previously donated $45 million to LACMA and $30 million to the Hammer Museum. (Artforum)

Ex-BP Chief Steps in to Fund the Turner Prize – The former BP CEO and ex-chairman of the Tate, John Browne, has helped fund this year’s Turner Prize. He stepped in after the Tate and Margate Contemporary were criticized for accepting sponsorship from a company that is owned by the Scottish businessman Brian Souter, who has campaigned against gay rights. The art museums proceeded to cut ties with Souter’s company, Stagecoach, leaving a gap in funding that Browne has volunteered to fill. The executive also backed Tate Britain’s queer British art show in 2017 and supported the British pavilion at that year’s Venice Biennale. (TAN)


An Artemisia Gentileschi Will Be Sold in Paris – A painting attributed to the in-demand female Renaissance artist is heading to auction in Paris on November 13. Artemisia Gentileschi’s portrait of Lucretia, which has been in a private collection in Lyon for the past 40 years, has a conservative upper estimate of €800,000 ($873,000). (The Art Newspaper)

Gagosian’s Advisory Arm Makes a High-Profile Hire – Bernard LaGrange, a Princeton-educated art historian, protégé of rainmaker Amy Cappellazzo, and a key player at Art Agency, Partners, Sotheby’s advisory arm, has left the auction house to join Gagosian’s art advisory, led by Laura Paulson. He will begin his new role after a six-month gardening leave. (Baer Faxt)

Lévy Gorvy Now Represents Tu Hongtao – The Chinese artist, whose work explores the relationship between landscape painting and abstraction, has joined the stable of Lévy Gorvy, which will represent him worldwide. The gallery will stage a solo show of the artist’s work in London in fall 2020. (Press release)

Hauser & Wirth Teams Up With the Fontana Foundation – The gallery and the artist’s Milan-based foundation are collaborating on three exhibitions, starting in Los Angeles in February. Lucio Fontana shows in New York and Hong Kong are due to follow in 2021. The gallery stressed that it is not currently representing the artist’s foundation. (ARTnews)


Pamela Joyner Gifts Seven Works to the Baltimore Museum of Art – Collectors Pamela Joyner and Alfred Giuffrida have donated works by to the Baltimore institution by Radcliffe Bailey, Zander Blom, Moshekwa Langa, Clifford Owens, Adam Pendleton, and Purvis Young. They have also promised two future gifts of large-scale works by Meleko Mokgosi and Angel Otero to celebrate the opening of the museum’s show “Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art.”(Press release)

Bangkok Art Director Is Fired, and Fighting Back – The director of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, Pawit Mahasarinand, is hitting back at the center’s board of directors after his contract was terminated last month following comments to the media about a lack of financial support from local authorities putting the institution at risk. Mahasarinand says he was “wrongfully terminated” for speaking out, although the official reason for his departure on September 30 was “unsatisfactory work performance.” (Artforum)

Former French President Jacques Chirac Dies at 86 – Chirac was a champion of the arts who founded the Musée du Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac in Paris and the Louvre’s Pavillon des Sessions. “Throughout his political career, Jacques Chirac, modest man that he was, never boasted of his tastes in culture in order to cast a favorable light on his character,” the Quai Branly’s president Stéphane Martin said in a statement. “For all that, and while cultivating a form of anti-conformism in this domain compared to his era, President Chirac proved to be a learned connoisseur of the non-Western arts and civilizations.” (TAN)

The Frick Pittsburgh Names New Director – The next director of the Frick Pittsburgh is Elizabeth E. Barker, who will take up the role December 1. Barker, who has curated at the British Museum and the Met, among other institutions, succeeds Robin Nicholson in the role, and is the first woman to direct the institution. (Art Daily


Pace Will Bring Picasso to Silicon Valley – Pace has teamed up with the Fundación Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso to bring a Picasso survey to Silicon Valley. The show will mark the fifth birthday of the gallery’s Palo Alto space and will be on view from November 2 through February 16. It will be the first ever Picasso show in the city, according to the gallery. (Press release)

Are Art Museums “Married to the Mob”? – The writer and Artforum contributing editor Rhonda Lieberman does not pull any punches in her deep dive into art museums’ addiction to toxic philanthropy. In a sweeping piece about recent art-world controversies, from the Nan Goldin-led backlash against the Sacklers to Warren Kanders’s stepping down at the Whitney, Lieberman declares that art museums are “married to the mob.” She also calls out the museum directors, curators, and artists who court the super-rich, calling them “toxic philanthropy’s enablers.” (New Republic)

How an American Cleric Amassed a Major Chinese Art Collection – A reverend in San Francisco, Richard Fabian, has amassed an impressive collection of Chinese art, including work by Zhang Daqian, Qi Baishi, and Xu Beihong. He now plans to sell 38 works at Bonhams Hong Kong on October 9. In an interview, Fabian opens up about how he fell in love with Chinese art when he was at Yale in the 1970s and ultimately became one of the field’s early Western collectors. (South China Morning Post)

Olafur Eliasson Brings His Little Sun to Fashion Week – For its spring 2020 fashion show, Missoni homed in on the climate crisis with looks inspired by nature and illuminated by Olafur Eliasson’s “Little Sun” solar lamps, which were  handed out to guests. The models also carried the lamps during their finale walk. “We are at a crucial point for our planet, and we need to take action,” Missoni and Eliasson said in a joint statement. “Join us in holding hands with the sun.” (WWD)

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.