Art Industry News: Trump Was Busy Giving Out Two National Medals of the Arts Amid His Historic Second Impeachment + Other Stories
Plus, the Orange County Museum of Art names a new director and an art collector is quickly becoming a frontrunner in New York's mayoral race.
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, January 14.
How Biden Can Help the Arts – The arts are facing an unprecedented crisis as unemployment continues to rise. But the incoming president has a viable opportunity to “build back better” with a New Deal-style approach, argues Jason Farago. What could that look like? Bring artists on board for infrastructure projects; create a “White House Office for Culture”; offer funds to keep artists on payroll; and re-establish the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “A respiratory virus and an insurrection have, in their own ways, taken the country’s breath away,” Farago writes. “Artists, if they are still with us in the years ahead, can teach us to exhale.” (New York Times)
Wonder Woman Is Not Believable as Museum Worker – The new Wonder Woman film, WW84, follows Diana Prince as a curator of cultural anthropology and archaeology at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. But the character fails to convince. “WW84 ruined Christmas by using the museum merely as a backdrop,” real-life museum worker Sanchita Balachandran writes. While the film accurately captures the way museums cow-tow to donors, it was a bit too optimistic in its depiction of a thoroughly diverse staff: “Clearly, the screenwriters had done no research on current museum demographics.” (Hyperallergic)
Amid Impeachment, Trump Awards National Medal of Arts – The same day Donald Trump became the first US president in history to be impeached twice, he busied himself by handing out the country’s highest award for the arts at the Oval Office. Country music star Toby Keith and bluegrass singer Ricky Skaggs each received a National Medal of the Arts. Keith performed at Trump’s 2017 presidential inauguration. Previous winners of the honor during the Trump administration include the actor Jon Voight and every musician who has served in the US military. (The Hill)
Art Collector Raises $5 Million for New York Mayoral Bid – Raymond J McGuire, an ex-Wall Street executive and devoted art collector, has quickly become a fast-fundraising favorite in the New York City mayor’s race. The collector, who has served on boards of the Whitney Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem, has raised money from a whopping 20 billionaires, from owners of sports teams to heirs of fortunes dating back to the Ottoman Empire. His art-collecting donors include Michael Ovitz and Leonard Lauder. (NYT)
Authorities Seize Thousands of Looted Artifacts in Israel – Officials uncovered thousands of ancient artifacts in multiple raids in the country. Pieces dating back to the first millennium, including coins, jewelry, and an Egyptian sarcophagus, are thought to have been looted from graves in Israel, the Mediterranean region, Africa, and South America. The art dealers offering the works were arrested but the thieves remain at large. (Smithsonian)
People Are Actually Buying AR Art – Would you pay for an artwork that only existed through a screen? Collectors are apparently snapping up limited-edition AR art, from a $10,000 edition of 25 KAWS “Companions” (now sold out) to a five-edition Bjarne Melgaard work (priced at $7,000 each) offered by the company Acute Art. (Financial Times)
COMINGS & GOINGS
Former Aspen Museum Director to Lead California Institution – Heidi Zuckerman, who served as director of the Aspen Art Museum for 14 years, has been named the new head of the Orange County Museum of Art. She will be tasked with overseeing the completion of its new building, scheduled to open in mid-2022. She begins her role on February 8. (Press release)
National Gallery Names Curator of African American Art – Kanitra Fletcher, formerly of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has been named associate curator of African American and Afro-diasporic art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. It is one of three newly created positions at the museum, including a chief diversity, inclusion, and belonging officer, taken up by Mikka Gee Conway. (Glasstire)
FOR ART’S SAKE
TikTok Reviewer Cracks Down on MoMA’s Restrooms – An intriguing TikTok account has been rating sinks and faucets in public bathrooms across New York City. The latest target of a scathing review? The Museum of Modern Art’s post-renovation washrooms. “Like a painting that doesn’t connect with you, I feel I’m left cold by these,” the account says of the Dyson Airblade faucets. (Hyperallergic)
Liverpool Biennial Announces Artist Bursaries – As part of its public programming, the Liverpool Biennial is offering five support and research bursaries of £1,500 ($2,044) each to artists. Awardees will also be provided dedicated time with biennial staff and assistance from the marketing team as they plan their projects for the 2021 edition of the UK event. (Press release)
Swedish Stamp Honors Greta Thunberg – A new stamp series by Swedish illustrator Henning Trollbäck depicts the 18-year-old climate activist dressed in a yellow raincoat, looking over a vista as swifts fly around her. The new series for Sweden’s postal system is called “Valuable Nature.” (Guardian)
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