Art Industry News: Activists and Artists Unite in a Call for MoMA and Board Member Larry Fink to Divest From Prisons + Other Stories

Plus, how Banksy's merchandising ploy could backfire + Nan Goldin and other activists escalate their protest of the Purdue bankruptcy deal.

BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink leaves after a meeting about climate action investments with heads of sovereign wealth funds and French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 10, 2019. (Photo credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)
BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink leaves after a meeting about climate action investments with heads of sovereign wealth funds and French President at the Elysee Palace in Paris on July 10, 2019. (Photo credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

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, October 11.


How Banksy’s Trademark Play Could Backfire – Why is the artist known at Banksy trying to enforce his trademark by displaying a shopfront full of merch rather than by suing for copyright infringement? In the past, the world-famous street artist has claimed that “copyright is for losers,” but the real reason may be that if he does take the issue to court, his real identity could be revealed in the legal proceedings. Launching a range of Banksy-branded goods to establish his trademark might backfire, however. Rivals could challenge it is a token move and argue that “the trademark is not capable of being perceived as such by consumers, as the artwork is used so intensively and commonly by a multitude of entities that sell products reproducing Banksy’s art,” so it might fail in a British court. (Conversation)

Nan Goldin Scatters Purdue “Blood Money” and Pill Bottles Outside US Courthouse – The artist Nan Goldin and fellow activists from the groups P.A.I.N. and Truth Pharma threw “blood-soaked” dollar bills outside the court where the Sackler-owned Purdue Pharma is filing for bankruptcy. They also scattered pill bottles with a warning label saying: “Side effect: Death.” Goldin helped stage the protest in upstate New York because campaigners believe the Sacklers’ lawyers are trying to shield billions of dollars the family made from the profits of OxyContin. The pharmaceutical company argues that filing for bankruptcy will pave the way for a billion-dollar settlement that will help opioid victims. (The Art Newspaper)

Call for MoMA and Trustee to Stop Investing in Prisons – MoMA’s critics are raining on its $400 million reopening parade. More than 220 artists, curators, and academics have sent a letter to the museum to protest its financial links to private prisons, and those of one of a billionaire trustee. The letter from the New Sanctuary Coalition wants MoMA’s pension fund to divest from the company Fidelity. It also claims trustee Larry Fink has financial stakes in prison companies, “the war machine,” and “the destruction of the global environment.” Signatories to the letter that condemned toxic philanthropy and unethical museum investments include the artist and academic Andrea Fraser, art critic Hal Foster, and the activist group Decolonize This Place. (Artforum)

Getty Badass Tour Champions Female Artists – The unofficial Bad Ass Bitches of the Getty tour is attracting millennials as well as other visitors interested in learning about female artists who challenged the patriarchy. Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes (around 1612-13) is a highlight—but finding works by other female artists is tricky, however. “Renegade” tour guide Kylie Holloway estimates there are only two in the sculpture garden and three on display in the Getty’s galleries. A Getty spokeswoman would not confirm the statistics, saying the center does not keep track of artists’ gender. She did note that the photography and archival collections contain many more works by women than the painting and sculpture collections. (LA Times)


New Record for Elizabeth Catlett’s Sculpture – Swann Auction Galleries in New York sold the African American sculptor’s Seated Woman (1962) for $389,000. The sale is a new auction record for the late artist. (ARTnews)

FIAC Director on the Fair’s Future – FIAC director Jennifer Flay reveals her frustration that the Paris fair does not run the week after Frieze in London to make a European trip for US collectors more convenient and kinder on the planet. “I’m not responsible for any rivalry between FIAC and Frieze. I think we can coexist, that’s always been my aim,” Flay says. She confirms that during the Grand Palais’s revamp, the fair will move to a temporary venue near the Eiffel Tower for its 2021 and 2022 editions. (Financial Times)


Photographer Jill Freedman, Who Documented NYC, Has Died – Freedman was a prolific photographer who dramatically captured the margins of American life, from circus folk to strippers to gun-toting children. She passed away at age 79 due to complications with cancer. (New York Times)

Louvre and Swatch Launch a Mona Lisa Watch – The French institution is ramping up its partnerships these days (others of note include Airbnb). The watch company Swatch will launch four new watches inspired by masterpieces from the museum’s collections, with Guido’s Reni’s cupid from the 1620s on one watch face and another with the Mona Lisa herself on the arm band. (ArtMixSix)

Bertille Bak Wins Mario Merz Prize – The French artist has been named the winner of the Mario Merz Prize in Spain, after being selected by a jury that included artist Lawrence Weiner and New Museum’s Massimiliano Gioni. The prize comes with a solo exhibition at the Fondazione Merz in Turin. (Controluce)


Another Review of the New MoMA Reopening  The major revamp of the MoMa does not see an end to the architecture of “late modern corporate ennui” that plagued it, according to a critic in FT who wishes the architects at Diller Scofidio + Renfro had pushed boundaries in their expansion as much as the curators did in their rehang. “From the point of view of coherence it makes perfect sense, but it also falls back on a version of architecture that now feels a little too smooth, too friction free. This is corporate space for big art, offering no resistance, no grain, no attitude,” writes architecture critic Edwin Heathcote. (Financial Times)

Mellencamp Meets Rauschenberg – ACA Galleries in Manhattan will show a selection of works by rocker John Mellencamp alongside those by his stylistic antecedent, the late artist Robert Rauschenberg. The show juxtaposes Mellencamp’s portraits and sculptural assemblages alongside Rauschenberg’s mixed media collages and paintings. The exhibition “Binding Wires” will be on view at ACA Galleries from Thursday, October 24 through Saturday, December 21. (Press release)

Katy Perry Skates (and Bails) at the Milwaukee Art Museum – The pop star lost her perfect poise while roller-skating around the entranceway of the Milwaukee Art Museum with fellow “American Idol” judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan on Wednesday. Perry tripped on a floor sticker before she had another near-crash that was narrowly prevented by a crew member. The institution was hosting local auditions this week ahead of the upcoming season of the singing competition. (Journal Sentinel)

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