Art Industry News: 93-Year-Old Artist Betye Saar Will Paint MoMA the Color Purple + Other Stories

Plus, Kate Moss teams up with a museum director and Ai Weiwei is in London as Boris Johnson purges his Brexit opponents.

Betye Saar in her Los Angeles studio (2015). Photo by Ashley Walker; courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles.

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 Thursday, September 5.


Kemper Museum Trustee Under Fire for ICE Jail – Pressure is growing on the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, to remove a controversial trustee, Mariner Kemper, who has become the latest museum backer to wind up in the crosshairs of activist critics because of his business links. Kemper’s UMB Financial Corporation has a stake in a detention center accused of inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants, and artists and activists including Carmen Moreno, Sarah Ray, Molly Crabapple, Alex Martinez, and Kiki Serna have been speaking out after it emerged that UMB has a financial interest Wyatt Detention Facility, a jail in Central Falls, Rhode Island, that has been used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Observer)

How Safe Are African Artifacts in European Museums? – European museums’ lackluster caretaking of African artifacts stored in their basements is under scrutiny as they face growing calls for restitution of cultural heritage from source countries. The German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung found that many of the objects destined for Berlin’s Humboldt Forum have been kept in substandard conditions for decades. While officials at Berlin’s Ethnological Museum denied reports of flooded storerooms, they admit that aging buildings and lack of resources are problematic, confirming that ceilings sometimes leak and that researchers wear protective gear because of toxic dust from chemical treatments that were used on artifacts in the past. Museum expert Dirk Heisig claims the directors of some German art institutions have a Darwinian approach to their collections: “You put an object in the depot for 10 or 20 years, and you look to see if it has survived the depot situation,” then you might display them, he says. (New York Times)

Betye Saar Will Paint MoMA the Color Purple – The 93-year-old artist who has two major exhibitions, one at MoMA in New York and the other at LACMA, has now gotten a New York Times profile, too. “It’s about time,” she tells Holland Cotter, referring to the shows. The Watts-born artist— who has always lived in Southern California, or, in her own words, “The other side of the planet”—gave Cotter a tour of her home and studio, which is full of her assemblages, watercolors, and, of course, found objects. Big reveal: Saar says that for her MoMA show the normally white gallery walls will be painted purple, “for the first time ever.” (NYT)

Kate Moss Teams Up With Museum Director – The supermodel has gotten a new makeover, this time as a fashion curator. Kind of. Kate Moss has teamed up with Jorge Yarur Bascuñán, the director of the Museo de la Moda in Santiago, Chile, to publish a book featuring items in its collection and pieces from her wardrobe plus fashion tips. Called Musings on Fashion and Style: Museo de la Moda, the lavishly illustrated book (published by Rizzoli) is due out this month. Bascuñán seems to have casual approach to deaccessioning surplus items. Moss tells Harper’s Bazaar magazine: “The museum has a lot of 1930s tea dresses, and Jorge actually gave me one from his collection,” adding, “They’re very feminine—perfect for a garden party.” (Harper’s Bazaar


Katherine Martin Appointed Head of New York’s Asia Week The managing director of Scholten Japanese Art, Martin has been named the new chairman of Asia Week New York, which takes place over 10 days every March. (Artfix Daily)

Nina Katchadourian Joins Pace Gallery – The Brooklyn- and Berlin-based artist best known for her whimsically art historical self-portraits in airplane bathrooms, has joined Pace, which will share representation with her San Francisco gallery, Catharine Clark. (ARTnews)

German art dealer Angela Gulbenkian Denies Art Theft – The German art dealer and socialite, who married into the Gulbenkian dynasty, has denied stealing more than £1 million ($1.2 million) in art belonging to Hong Kong-based Art Incorporated Limited. A judge in London has set Angela Gulbenkian’s trial date for early May. (Guardian) 


Museo Tamayo Names New Director – The curator Magalí Arriola has been named the director of the Mexico City museum. A former curator there, she has organized shows at the Museo Jumex among other institutions. She is also organizing Art Basel Miami Beach’s new section of large-scale works. (ARTnews)

Amy Sadao Resigns From ICA Philadelphia – The director of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Amy Sadao, is stepping down. Over the past seven years Sadao has championed the work of numerous overlooked artists. (Artforum)


Romania Will Open an Anti-Communist Museum – A long-planned museum will be created to commemorate the crimes of the Communist era in Bucharest. The state-funded institution will be housed in part of Nicolae Ceausescu’s former “people’s palace,” a vast building in the center of the city. (Podcastjournal)

Paris’s King Tut Show Sets a New Attendance Records – The blockbuster show at Paris’s Grande Halle of La Villette featuring 150 treasures from the boy pharaoh’s tomb has been a box-office hit. More than 1.3 million tickets have been sold, its organizers have announced. The touring show heads next to London’s Saatchi Gallery. (AFP)

A Bust of Hitler in the Basement Surprises French Politicians – Many senators were surprised to discover that a metal bust of the German dictator and a Nazi flag are kept in a basement store room in the upper chamber of the French parliament. The newspaper Le Monde’s revelation was initially rejected as “fake news” but the senate’s chief architect admitted that the relic of the German Occupation existed but stressed: “It’s never been taken out.” (Times)

Ai Weiwei Wins an Award on a Politically Charged Night – The Chinese activist-artist was at Tate Modern on Tuesday, September 3, to accept the GQ magazine Artist of the Year award—and he used the glitzy occasion to remind the audience of police violence against pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, which has claimed the sight in one eye of a young female demonstrator. At the same event the former Conservative minister Rory Stewart received the magazine’s Politician of the Year Award. He tweeted that he accepted it less than an hour after rebelling against Boris Johnson’s hard-Brexit government. Johnson purged Stewart and 20 other rebel MPs from the parliamentary Conservative Party the same night with a ruthlessness that has been called Stalinist. (Evening Standard)



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