Art Industry News: How Van Gogh’s Cryptic Handwritten Notes Got Sliced Up and Scattered Around the Globe + Other Stories

Plus, the Andy Warhol Foundation offers artists $1.6 million in relief grants and Columbia's MFA students want a refund.

Vincent van Gogh (1889). National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Photo: VCG Wilson/Corbis via 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 Thursday, April 2.


A Community Museum Gets Going While Shuttered  – Los Angeles’s Underground Museum remains a beacon of community engagement in its mainly working class neighborhood during the lockdown. Co-founded by the late Noah Davis and his partner, the artist Karen Davis, the small but vibrant institution has not laid off any staff, though its gallery and garden has been forced to shutter. Staff are helping deliver food, continuing the museum’s weekly meditation program via Instagram, and working to support local residents. “The Underground Museum has an energy that we are desperately missing during this quarantine period,” says LACMA curator Christine Y. Kim. (New York Times)

Columbia MFA Students Demand a Refund – Students in Columbia’s MFA program, which costs around $68,000 per year, are the latest to demand tuition refunds after their classes were moved online. In a pointed open letter, nearly 60 students asked administrators to create an additional free semester for those who cannot attend their studio courses because of the lockdown and asked that their degree shows be rescheduled for the fall. “With its price tag, people understood that they were paying for programs like mentor week, multiple exhibitions, and access to top facilities,” one student said. “Without these things, the entire degree is compromised. Our classes cannot be translated through a screen.” (ARTnews)

How Van Gogh’s Handwritten Notes Ended Up Around the World – Six poems and texts copied by a young Vincent van Gogh for his landlady were cut up with scissors and distributed to various owners, according to a new investigation. Half of the texts—which were dismembered to maximize their financial value—ended up at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. The texts came from an album kept by Annie Slade-Jones, Van Gogh’s landlady in Isleworth, to which she would invite friends to contribute. After the book sold at auction in 1980, an unidentified person removed the Van Gogh pages and cut out the individual texts. Some were later purchased by  Alistair McAlpine, a British Lord who later sold much of his manuscript collection to the Getty. (The Art Newspaper)

Warhol Foundation Offers $1.6 Million in Relief Grants – The Andy Warhol Foundation has launched a $1.6 million emergency fund for artists affected by the coronavirus crisis. The organization has teamed up with its Regional Re-granting Program partners to offer $100,000 to organizations in 16 American cities that can be used to help artists cover living expenses, including food and rent. “Artists are reporting an average loss of $3,500 in the next 30 to 60 days,” says Louise Martorano, the director of Denver’s RedLine Contemporary Art Center, one of the foundation’s partners. Artists in cities including Houston, Denver, New Orleans, Cleveland, and Baltimore are eligible to apply. (The Art Newspaper)


Blum & Poe Adds Asuka Anastacia Ogawa to Roster – The LA-based gallery will represent the young Japanese-Brazilian artist, whom it has exhibited previously and who already counts Mark Grotjahn, Henry Taylor, and other blue-chip artists among her collectors. Blum & Poe will preview online the painter’s new work from a forthcoming solo exhibition at its currently-closed Tokyo space. (Press release)

König Galerie Scoops Up Chiharu Shiota – The Japanese artist known for her immersive installations of interlocking threads has joined Kӧnig. Her first solo show will be held at its Berlin space in January 2021. She was formerly represented by Blain/Southern, the international gallery now in administration. (Press release)


Art Collector and Politician Patrick Devedjian Dies of COVID – The French politician and museum director has died at age 75 after becoming infected with COVID-19. Devedjian was due to serve as director of a planned museum about Louis XIV in Saint Cloud, Le Musée du Grand Siècle; his death throws into question the future of the institution. (Bilan)

Layoffs Hit San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora – MoAD is the latest museum to lay off staff amid the coronavirus crisis. The small San Francisco institution has laid off seven members of staff and reduced the hours of all 11 other employees. “We have been forced to temporarily close our museum, impacting our already limited operating funds,” the museum’s director Monetta White explained in an email to supporters. (KQED)


National Trust Furloughs Thousands of Staff in England – The heritage conservation charity has furloughed 80 percent of its more than 14,000 employees in response to the public health crisis, which has caused a drop in the Trust’s usual sources of tourist-related income. The remaining employees of the charity will continue to work on conserving important buildings and collections. (Press release)

Art Project Captures City Sounds During the Outbreak – A project called Cities and Memories is documenting how the soundscape of various cities around the world has transformed under lockdown conditions. The project leader, Stuart Fowkes, has been recording city sounds for five years, and has created an interactive map where you can listen to field recordings from various locations. “This is a really unique time when the world is sounding like it’s never sounded before,” Fowkes says. “In none of our lifetimes has the world ever sounded like it does right now.” (Guardian)

Museums Share Art to Honor Healthcare Workers – Museums and galleries including the MFA Boston, the Bass Museum, and Dayton Art Institute are doing what they can to spread a little cheer and appreciation for the hardworking healthcare workers in their communities by posting artworks from their collections dedicated to the profession on social media. From Sheila Hicks’s installation inspired by nurses’ blouses to Horace Pippin’s painting of a doctor making house calls, see a selection below. (Observer)

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