From the Best Vermeers Ever to Trump’s Bogus Renoir: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week

Catch up on the week's art news—fast.

Donald Trump says the Renoir on his plane is real—but experts disagree. Trump photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images; Renoir courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago)

Another week, another avalanche of art news. How to make sense of it all? Here, we walk though the high- and lowlights of the week that was.




Good News From the Paris Fairs – Dealers reported strong sales at FIAC, attributing the upbeat mood and art-market confidence to a “Macron Effect”; meanwhile, the indie Paris Internationale, freshly relocated to Sartre’s old newspaper building, looked pretty fun too.

Art and Sex in France – The esoteric French attitude toward sexuality and eroticism was on florid display in two instances this week, with a French court deciding that a performance artist who displayed her vagina at the Louvre did so in a non-sexual manner (their explanation is hilarious), and with a giant sculpture of two buildings engaged in intercourse appearing outside the Pompidou—although the artist, Joep Van Lieshout, told us the work was somehow “misunderstood.”

The Vatican May Pay You a Visit – Under the leadership of newish Vatican Museums director Barbara Jatta, the holy repository of Renaissance art is planning to send recreations of the Sistine Chapel and the Stanze di Raffaello out to cities around the world, and also will take up the Pope’s pet art project.

Black Abstract Artists in the Limelight – Ben Davis traveled to DC and raves about the new “Magnetic Fields” show celebrating the too-long-overlooked work of black female abstract artists, and over in New York the Metropolitan Museum of Art is gearing up to welcome a solo show of the great abstract painter Jack Whitten next year.

Are These the Greatest Vermeers of All Time? – Margaret Carrigan ranks the 10 best artworks by the Dutch master, giving the top slot to his most majestic unpeopled painting, though I may have included The Astronomer at the Louvre and maybe even the mysterioso Allegory of the Catholic Faith at the Met. Disagreeing is part of the fun!

Unconventional New Opportunities for Artists – So what if cultural patronage in the private sector is dwindling—we’ve still got Nike, says the curator Neville Wakefield, who argues that brands may be the real Medici of the 21st century. If that doesn’t appeal to some artists, they can always take a residency in New York City’s Department of Corrections.

The Art of Being a Genius – Brian Boucher spoke to the rising-star artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby about how she makes the photo-collage paintings that won her a MacArthur “Genius” grant. (Hint: she does a lot of Google Image searches.)



After the Flames – The wildfires that have swept through California destroyed the Santa Rosa home of late Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and wrecked tremendous financial and psychological harm to the living artists whose studios it ravaged, but as Sarah Cascone found out, some artists are already making powerful work out of their ordeal.

A Rapid Fall From Grace – The week began with the stunning news that Beatrix Ruf, the widely respected curator who has led Amsterdam’s Stedelijk since 2014, stepped down from her post amid questions over some fishy acquisitions that led many to accuse Ruf—who, amazingly, also runs an art advisory firm—of a conflict of interest.

The Huuge Problem With Trump’s Renoir – After reports came out that Trump bragged about a famous Renoir painting he kept in his private plane, Brian Boucher took the logical next step by consulting with art historians to determine that, yes, it’s a fake copy, with the one hanging on the walls of the Art Institute of Chicago being the genuine article. That painting is so well-known, hilariously enough, that it even stars in a classic Parker Brothers board game.

Omer Fast Throws Fuel on the Fire – The acclaimed video artist has blasted back at critics who say his transformation of James Cohan’s LES gallery into a decrepit version of a stereotypical Chinatown storefront was culturally offensive, saying he would expect such a reaction from “right-wing trolls carrying tiki-torches.” Somehow that may not repair the breach.

Beware the Museum of Ice Cream! – Julia Halperin dug into a recent study that suggests if art institutions aren’t careful, widespread cultural trends may force them to become mindless immersive Instagrammable “experience”-atoriums like the Museum of Ice Cream.

A Reckoning for the Culture Industry – As the long-overdue redressing of gender imbalances in the arts continues apace, Catherine Opie told Lorena Muñoz-Alonso that her experience as an art professor has made the misogyny of the art market painfully apparent, and Collier Schorr spoke out about the culture of sex abuse in the creative fields, declaring that “This fantasy is over.”

Museums May Have an Oxycontin Problem – We learned that the billionaire Sackler family that has lavished important funding on more than a dozen art museums, often winning naming rights for wings and plazas, get a huge chunk of their money from the highly addictive drug at the root of the opioid epidemic.

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