Art Industry News: Art Collector Yusaku Maezawa Is About to Become the Next Billionaire to Go to Space (and He’s Filming It) + Other Stories

Plus, a BTS star stops by the KIAF art fair in Seoul, and a U.S. law firm drops Hong Kong University after it pushed to remove a statue on campus.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa at the SpaceX headquarters and rocket factory. Photo: DAVID MCNEW/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 Monday, October 18.


Law Firm Stops Representing HKU Over Sculpture Row The U.S. law firm Mayer Brown says it will no longer represent the University of Hong Kong following its push to remove The Pillar of Shame, a sculpture commemorating Beijing’s 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt. (Although the university demanded that the sculpture, which has been on campus for nearly two decades, be removed by October 13, it remains in place following public outcry.) The law firm has been facing pressure from U.S. lawmakers; in retaliation, the former Hong Kong leader CY Leung called on Chinese companies to boycott Mayer Brown. (Washington Post, Financial Times)

Art Institute of Chicago Gets Rid of Docents (and People Are Not Happy About It)  The Art Institute of Chicago has overhauled its voluntary docent program. Around 100 docents (the majority of whom are wealthy white women) who have worked for the institution for an average of 15 years each were notified in a September 3 email that the institution wanted to switch to a more “professional model” while allowing “community members of all income levels to participate.” The move came under fire from some quarters for being a “self-defeating overcorrection” and “egregiously anti-civic.” (Wall Street JournalChicago Tribune)

Art Collector Yusaku Maezawa Is Prepping for Space Flight – Tech billionaires aren’t the only billionaires who want to go to space. Japanese fashion retail kingpin Yusaku Maezawa—who also happens to be one of the world’s most acquisitive art collectors—is prepping for his own sojourn this winter. He will blast off on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on December 8 with film producer Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin in tow. Maezawa is currently soliciting ideas from the public for activities to do on his 12-day mission (badminton is already on the agenda, so don’t suggest that). (Courthouse News)

Study Shows Correlation Between Confederate Monuments and Lynchings – Researchers at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville used data mapping to identify a correlation between the number of Confederate monuments in regions of the U.S. and documented lynchings of Black people. Rather than being emblems of “Southern pride,” as defenders of Confederate monuments claim, these monuments “reflect a racist history, marred by intentions to terrorize and intimidate Black Americans,” according to the study. (Hyperallergic)


Shipping Issues Delay Sculpture’s Arrival to Frieze  A monumental sculpture by Daniel Arsham has finally arrived in London—four weeks after Frieze Sculpture opened. The holdup was due to COVID and Brexit-related shipping delays (and it’s just one work of many suffering this fate). The sculpture was finally installed in Regent’s Park just in time to catch Frieze London, and is on display until October 31. (The Art Newspaper)

Artist Chosen to Design Windrush Monument  Basil Watson has been selected to design a monument commemorating the Windrush pioneers who arrived in Britain from Caribbean countries after World War II. Backed by £1 million ($1.4 million) in government funding, the sculpture—which features a man, a woman, and a child symbolizing dreams, ambition, and courage—is expected to be unveiled in Waterloo next year. (The Guardian)

Inaugural Oberlander Prize Awarded  Landscape architect Julie Bargmann has been named the inaugural winner of the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Oberlander Prize, a new biennial award worth $100,000, which also comes with a series of public engagement activities to publicize Bargmann’s work for two years. (TAN)

BTS’S V Made Low-Key Appearance at KIAF Seoul  V from the K-pop sensation BTS was spotted browsing artworks at KIAF Seoul, the South Korean art fair held at the Coex Convention Center last week. Dressed in a cap and a jacket, V initially denied his identity but later acquiesced to fans’ inquiries. He then bowed—and dashed out. (The Korea Herald)


Hernan Bas Makes China Debut  American artist Hernan Bas, whose market has reached new heights this year, will be making his debut in China with a solo exhibition titled “Choose Your Own Adventure” at the Yuz Museum in Shanghai. The retrospective (on view October 28–January 9, 2022) will examine the artist’s career over the past two decades through his paintings and rarely seen video installations. (Press release)

Hernan Bas, Pink Plastic Lures (2016). Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Private collection, Korea.

Hernan Bas, Pink Plastic Lures (2016). Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul, and London. Private collection, Korea.

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