Art Industry News: MIT Media Lab Director Steps Down Over Ties to Jeffrey Epstein + Other Stories

Plus, the multibillion-dollar Sackler settlement talks break down and Tom Ford recalls the day he met Georgia O'Keeffe.

Former MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito at the WIRED25 Festival in 2018. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25 )
Former MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito at the WIRED25 Festival in 2018. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25 )

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 Monday, September 9.


Nazi-Era Design Show Sparks a Controversy – Holland’s Museum of Design in Den Bosch has opened a controversial exhibition about Nazi-era art and design—but has banned photography of many of the exhibits, including sculpture by Hitler’s favorite artist, Arno Breker, in an attempt to deflect criticism that it is glorifying the regime. The museum’s director, Timo de Rijk, said his staff was making every effort to treat the ideologically tainted displays with sensitivity. Some of the loans come from Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum, which has a vast collection of Nazi-approved art and propaganda that is mostly kept in storage. (Guardian)

Why a Calder Mobile Is So Precious for Tom Ford – The fashion designer and film director gave Vogue a tour of the Los Angeles home he has created with his husband, the writer Richard Buckley, providing glimpses of artworks on display by Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, Morris Louis, Lucio Fontana, and Cindy Sherman, among other artists. One piece Ford would never consider selling? An Alexander Calder mobile that once belonged to Georgia O’Keeffe, who was often photographed with the sculpture. Ford says that his grandfather once introduced him to O’Keeffe herself when he was a boy one memorable day in Santa Fe. “I thought she was the strangest person I’d ever met in my life,” Ford recalls. (Vogue)

MIT Media Lab Director Steps Down Over Jeffrey Epstein Ties – The director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, Joi Ito, has resigned following revelations that he solicited funds from the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein for the lab and his own projects. Ito had attempted to conceal the extent of their relationship, claiming he was not aware that Epstein had been convicted of sexual abuse of young women when they first met. MIT president L. Rafael Reif, who ordered the investigation into how Epstein’s money was still welcome although he was disqualified on its donor database, called the situation “deeply disturbing.” (AP)

Sackler Settlement Talks Break Down – Talks between members of the Sackler family and US state attorneys have reportedly run aground, and the attorneys general involved in the negotiations with the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, now expect the company to file for bankruptcy protection soon. If it does, members of the Sackler family linked to the opioid crisis could still be personally sued. Under the proposed “structured bankruptcy” deal, $10 billion to $12 billion—including at least $3 billion from the Sacklers—would have gone toward reaching a settlement with claimants. Critics of the proposed deal, including the artist-activist Nan Goldin, want the Sacklers to be taken to court. (Guardian)


Photographer Lee Friedlander Gets Added Representation – New York-based Luhring Augustine has joined forces with photography specialist Fraenkel Gallery to represent the American artist. Luhring Augustine will present a solo show of Friedlander’s work in fall 2020. (Press release)

Why P.P.O.W. Is Moving to Tribeca – P.P.O.W gallery has joined a growing Chelsea exodus to set up shop in the rising gallery hub of Tribeca. Gallery co-founder Wendy Olsoff says the move, which will be complete next fall, allowed the gallery to open in a “beautiful space in a neighborhood we felt comfortable in…. Chelsea just got to be too corporate for us and our identity. It just didn’t match anymore.” (ARTnews)

Xavier Hufkens Will Represent Zhang Enli The Chinese artist best known for his abstract compositions and paintings of everyday containers has a new gallery in Xavier Hufkens of Brussels, where he has a solo show on view through October 19. Zhang will continue to be represented by Hauser & Wirth. (Art Daily)

PULSE Announces New Fair Director Cristina Salmastrelli has taken over as the director of PULSE after Katelijne de Backer quietly stepped down. Salmastrelli is the US regional managing director of Ramsay Fairs, PULSE’s parent company, and director of sister outfit the New York Affordable Art Fair. (Press release)


Kara Walker’s Calliope Is Coming to New York – For one day only, the steam-powered organ and keyboard known as Katastwóf Karavan that Kara Walker originally conceived for Prospect 4 in New Orleans will be on view in New York. The instrument will be featured in a performance as part of musician, composer, and artist collaborator extraordinaire Jason Moran’s upcoming solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art this fall. Moran will play the instrument at an event on October 12. (ARTnews)

Earliest Known Footage of Miles Davis Is Discovered – The France National Audiovisual Institute posted a rare, newly uncovered Christmas Day broadcast of Miles Davis this week. The footage, which was recorded December 7, 1957 and is therefore the oldest known recording of the jazz great, was found during a recent inventory. It shows Davis with four French musicians recording the soundtrack to a Louis Malle crime classic. (AFP)

Doug Aitken Unveils a Giant Wind Chime – Doug Aitken’s installation Sonic Mountain (Sonoma) is the newest addition to Donum Estate, a vineyard and sculpture park in California. The site-specific artwork reacts to its surroundings in a eucalyptus grove and creates sound as wind moves through it. “With Sonic Mountain (Sonoma), I wanted to create a living artwork, a piece that would change continuously and be performed by the natural environment,” Aitken said. (Art Daily)


How This Gallery Is Welcoming Disabled People – After Tate Modern and artist Olafur Eliasson apologized for including an installation in his London retrospective that was not accessible to visitors in a wheelchair, the conversation about how to make art museums more welcoming to disabled people is growing. Now, a new gallery called “Being Human” at the Wellcome Collection in London has just opened with step-free access to all exhibits. (Guardian)

LACMA Conservator Is on a Quest to Save ’60s Art – A conservator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is trying to reverse-engineer Day-Glo colors that appear in a number of works from the ’60s and ’70s, including Andy Warhol’s “Flowers” series, F-111 by James Rosenquist, and Frank Stella’s Bampur (1965). To make matters more difficult, some of the paints used at the time were created using recipes that remain secret today. “It’d be like giving you the formula for Coke,” says Tom DiPietro, Day-Glo’s vice president of research. (Los Angeles Times)

Rineke Dijkstra Takes on the Night Watch The Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra’s new film installation, Night Watching, is now on view at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The video triptych shows 14 groups of people observing Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, though the painting itself never appears. (Sounds sort of like the marketing ploy Christie’s used for Salvator Mundi, no?) The Dutch Old Master’s famous painting is currently being restored in public at the Amsterdam museum. (Press release)

Rineke Dijkstra Night Watching (2019). Courtesy the Rijksmuseum.

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