Wet Paint: MoMA Board Members Vie for Leon Black’s Spot, the Untold Story of Santiago Sierra’s Blood Flag, & More Art-World Gossip
What L.A. gallery show did Michelle Obama grace with her presence? Which artist shot Hailey Bieber for Pop magazine? Read on for answers.
Every week, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected].
BATTLE ROYALE FOR MOMA BOARD THRONE
An explosive Daily Beast exposé by reporters Lachlan Cartwright and Kate Briquelet published Tuesday is just the latest to detail what’s said to be the imminent departure of Leon Black—a close friend and business associate of Jeffrey Epstein who funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to the alleged child molester’s coffers—from his position as board chair of the Museum of Modern Art. Black shocked the world by stepping down as head of Apollo this week, and while the announcement didn’t mention MoMA, it’s accepted as fact that his days at the museum are numbered. The long-delayed board meeting will finally go down next Wednesday, and it sounds like the die is cast.
And now the real parlor game is, who will be named the next board chair? Insiders have dished to Wet Paint about a behind-the-scenes succession play among the board’s long-serving vice chairs, all of whom are vying for the top spot—the biggest kingmaking perch in American museumdom. Or perhaps it could even be a dark horse candidate from elsewhere on the board. Black’s ascension to the top spot had been assumed for years, but things seem a bit more up for grabs this time around.
Nearly every board chair in the last half century had been a long-standing member, often a vice chair. Former chairmen include David Rockefeller, Agnes Gund, and Ronald Lauder. The current vice chair list is stacked, as Sid Bass, Mimi Haas, Marlene Hess, Maja Oeri, Richard E. Salomon would all make good candidates—as would Ronnie Heyman, the current president.
Sources say that Bass, the descendent of Fort Worth oil billionaire Sid Richardson, would be a safe pick, as he’s served as vice chair for decades and has little to do with the family business since selling his family’s Permian fields to ExxonMobil for $6 billion in 2017 in a handshake deal with CEO Rex Tillerson just before his short-lived stint as Secretary of State.
Other say that a left-field pick from among the less-tenured board members would be a better palate cleanser after Epstein-tainted Black. Dark horse candidates include private equity billionaire Tony Tamer and AC Hudgins, an early collector of David Hammons who is one of the few Black museum board members of not just MoMA but any museum in the city.
MoMA declined to comment and Black could not be reached for comment through Apollo.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD FLAGS
The art story currently sweeping the globe concerns Santiago Sierra, an artist who long been known to court controversy. His latest provocation, however, was too much, even for an industry that usually finds a way to monetize the source of outrage rather than ban it. After a festival in Tasmania commissioned a Sierra work that involved dousing a flag emblazoned with the Union Jack in the donated blood of indigenous peoples, a firestorm erupted, prompting various groups to attack the work and the artist. The festival cancelled the commission, and the director is now fighting for his job.
But there’s a part of the story that’s never been told—at least not until it was revealed by sources to Wet Paint. This was not the first Santiago Sierra Blood Flag. Evidently, he already had the very same misguided idea years ago, and even though things went horribly wrong the first time, Sierra is apparently still gung-ho about gory flags in 2021.
Let’s flash back to the halcyon days of 2014, when Team Gallery, the former SoHo space that closed last year, was still in full swing. Former Team staffers told us that, while preparing for a show at the Wooster Street outpost, Sierra stumbled upon what he thought was the perfect symbol for the times: an American flag doused in the blood of indigenous people. The blood donors would not get anything for their time and hemoglobins, apart from the glory of having their DNA stain a Santiago Sierra work. To make matters worse, he insisted that Team Gallery staffers acquire the blood and fabricate the work themselves—a task that some said was among the lowest points of their professional careers.
First, phlebotomists were hired to extract the blood from the indigenous volunteers, and Team staffers in full yellow hazmat suits and helmets filled a tank with the blood, and then dunked an American flag in it to soak. But when not enough indigenous people felt like giving up blood for the artwork—the nerve!—Sierra blamed the Team staffers and cancelled the project. The half-dyed flag was sent to the dumpster.
Instead, Sierra staged a performance called The Flock (El Rebaño) (2014), which consisted of a bunch of sheep hanging out in a hay-filled space in the gallery.
Sierra didn’t respond to an email to his Mexico City gallery, Labor. Team founder José Freire, who has not been seen since he abruptly closed his gallery and skipped town, could not be reached for comment.
Last week’s quiz answer was Ed Ruscha’s Positive (1972), and it is in the UBS Collection. It was originally in the PaineWebber Art Collection, the mind-boggling trove of contemporary works amassed by the bank’s founder, Don Marron, and absorbed into UBS when the banks merged in July 2000.
Here are the first 10 to respond correctly. Art advisor Alex McClave; Brussels-based curator Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte; artist Mitchell Anderson; patron Scott Lorinsky; Alex Benrimon, director of sales at David Benrimon Fine Art; Brian Balfour-Oatts, director of postwar and contemporary art at Archeus / Post-Modern; American Public Media Group’s Gregory Smith; Los Angeles dealer Harmony Murphy; Katharine Overgaard, director at Franklin Parrasch Gallery; and Cyprien David, exhibition coordinator at Gagosian Zurich. Congrats to all!
Here’s this week’s clue. Name the artist, the artwork, and the owner!
Send your guesses to [email protected]. The next batch of hats is apparently here…
Bode, the beloved clothing concern started by Emily Adams Bode, will be opening Bode Tailor Shop (it opens today at 2:00 p.m., in fact!) right next to its Hester Street boutique, in what used to be longstanding lunch counter Classic Coffee Shop—the former proprietor gave Bode and her partner, Green River Project LLC co-founder Aaron Aujla, his full blessing to take the space, and it will still serve strong cups of joe … Speaking of Hester Street, the new chair of the Seward Park co-op board is unexpectedly giving the boot to the Hester Street Fair, the long-running summer event that’s nurtured dozens of Lower East Side food purveyors and galleries—naturally locals are up in arms, and a petition is aiming to get the fair reinstated (more than 5,000 have already signed) … Fanelli Cafe will be launching indoor dining next week, allowing for a few more tables at the eternally wonderful but newly hip SoHo spot …
… Matt Sweeney—who is about to release an incredible album, Superwolves, with Will Oldham AKA Bonnie “Prince” Billy, featuring cover art by Harmony Korine and Peter Doig—is trying to save his beloved East River Park, which is set to be demolished due to a massive redevelopment plan … The duo behind How Long Gone, the only podcast that matters, sold one of the gimmicky internet image things that everyone can’t shut up about, and it was filmed by The Cobrasnake …The Paris Review, the essential literary and art journal, has a new editor in chief, and it is the great Emily Stokes … Two Bridges art bar Mr. Fong’s reopens April 1 ….
… Timothy Taylor’s New York presence is expanding—it’s adding a big pop-up across the street from its Chelsea townhouse to host a group show of young British artists, and it has made its New York director Chloe Waddington a global partner in the gallery … Issy Wood‘s large painting Super Star was donated to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta—the same week Wood made her auction debut, with Over Amour (2019) selling for an impressive $344,827 at Christie’s … Dr. Clark’s is recruiting footballers for its soccer team, FC Clark, aspiring players inquire about tryouts at the Chinatown boite … The rising young painter Chase Hall will finally have his New York solo show debut, and it will be at Clearing, the Bushwick-based powerhouse run by Olivier Babin …
*** Michelle Obama hanging out with Amy Sherald at Hauser & Wirth L.A., where Sherald’s show opened this week *** Country music superstar Jason Isbell in Dimes Square, sauntering by Cervo’s with GQ editor in chief Will Welch and fellow staffer Sam Hine *** Speaking of GQ, there’s a big profile of the painter Sam McKinniss in the next issue, written by Rachel Tashjian, and in it McKinniss reveals plans for a solo show at Mike Ovitz’s Los Angeles compound *** Steve Harvey in a very awesome Dior shirt with a big loud Amoako Boafo face on it ***
*** Keith McNally at the grand dame of his restaurant empire, Balthazar, which reopened Wednesday after an entire horrible year without trips to Balcatraz—the owner gave every patron a glass of champagne on the house *** Writer Emma Cline interviewed by Bill Powers in the new issue of Autre magazine, revealing how her next novel incorporates the art scene in the Hamptons and talking about parties at Larry Gagosian’s house out east—as the brilliant Cline puts it: “The art world is so much more fun than the literary world. The characters can be so extreme and that’s such a delight. Everyone’s sort of going towards the edge, which I enjoy.” ***
*** Torbjørn Rødland shooting Hailey Bieber for the cover of Pop magazine *** Per Skarstedt and Tico Mugrabi at MoMA, going around discussing the hypothetical prices for the works on the walls *** David Lynch checking out the John Russell show at Bridget Donahue *** Matthew Higgs pointing out two examples of actresses going on television from home with art behind them: Chloë Sevigny in front of a Rita Ackermann and Olivia Munn in front of an Ed Ruscha ***
*** Kardashian-adjacent figure Jonathan Cheban—AKA Foodgod—at a private preview of Superblue in Miami Wednesday, keeping it classy Pace Gallery *** A license plate so Duchampian it could be called a readymade ***
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