Big Shakeups at The Armory Show—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
01 On Friday, The Armory Show announced the most significant set of changes to its structure and program in over a decade.
Among the highlights are a greater focus on optimizing the fair for young galleries, the dissolution of the separation between the Modern and Contemporary sections of the fair, and a rejiggering of the Focus section from concentrating on a region to presenting solo shows or curated group presentations. Former artnet News editor-in-chief Benjamin Genocchio, who took the post as director at the 22-year-old fair this January, made no secret of the fact that he had big changes in mind in the lead up to this year’s edition. Just a few weeks into his new position, ahead of the fair’s opening, he told Artsy, “It’s a New York institution. It just needs, you know, maybe a little work.” So while the month after a fair’s run usually sees some downtime for staff, this year The Armory Show’s offices were abuzz with change, as tweaks were being added to the fair’s new face up until the final weeks before Friday’s release.
02 The UK-based Museums Association is examining the relationship between several major British museums and commercial sponsor BP to determine if it violated their code of ethics.
The investigation was sparked by the activist group Art Not Oil, which claims that BP unduly influenced curatorial decisions and compromised the independence of the museums it sponsors (the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum among them). Numerous documents and internal emails provided to the Guardian by Art Not Oil reveal that BP allegedly had the “last word” on whether or not a specific work would be included in an exhibition, solicited details about resistance within museum unions to art sponsorship by fossil fuel companies, and convinced museum staff to attend a counter-terrorism seminar it organized. The museums in question have emphatically denied these claims, with the British Museum asserting that “corporate partners of the British Museum do not have any influence over the content of our exhibitions.” BP stated that it “invited, not pressured, our arts partners to a knowledge sharing event hosted in our offices by the Met police.” The investigation comes after the recent decision by the company to end their relationship with Tate Britain and the Edinburgh International Festival, though BP cited financial reasons rather than political pressure exerted by protests.
03 Two donors have pledged a combined $75 million to the construction of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) new building project.
(via the New York Times)
Taken together, the gifts amounts to the largest-ever single donation to a Los Angeles cultural institution, according to LACMA director and chief executive Michael Govan. The total cost of LACMA’s ambitious plan—which will see four of the institution’s seven buildings replaced—is $600 million. Taking into account this week’s record-breaking pledges, about $275 million has been raised, including $125 million from the city. The rest of the funds are to come from the private sector. The two donations—$50 million from Elaine Wynn, of Wynn Resorts, and $25 million from A. Jerrold Perenchio, former chairman and CEO of Univision—may reassure those who doubted the project would ever be fully funded. Plans for the new buildings, which will house the museum’s permanent collection, remain on schedule, with construction of the Peter Zumthor-designed campus to begin sometime in 2018 and slated to take roughly five years.
04 The fourth edition of Istanbul fair ArtInternational, originally set for September of this year, will be postponed until 2017.
Co-founder Sandy Angus made assurances that the fair would return, explaining that the event “is on hold until we can put together something all the stakeholders and shareholders can buy into.” The roster for last year’s fair featured 87 galleries hailing from 27 countries—only 13 of which were from Turkey. Recent terrorist attacks in Istanbul, most notably the 2015 suicide bombing at a peace rally in Ankara that killed almost 100 people, may discourage out-of-town collectors from making the trip to Turkey. However, Angus did note that security was “not the only reason” for postponing the fair. Last month, MCH Group announced a plan to expand its portfolio by buying up regional art fairs, confirming that it was in conversation with Angus Montgomery (the company that operates ArtInternational, as well as Art16, India Art Fair, and Photo Shanghai). Although there has been no official word on whether these fairs will be folded into the Swiss group’s portfolio, the discussions between MCH Group and Angus Montgomery may have played a part in the decision to postpone.
05 English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner will replace economist Adam Smith on the next version of the £20 bill, the first time an artist has been featured on a British banknote.
This is also the first time public opinion has been taken into account when deciding whose face will grace British currency. The Bank of England put out a general call for nominations in the field of visual art; they received almost 30,000 submissions and 590 different eligible candidates, including
06 Artist Anish Kapoor has said that an addition to his Olympic Park sculpture was “foisted” on him by outgoing mayor Boris Johnson.
07 On Wednesday, billionaire collector François Pinault announced that he would be opening a new museum in Paris that will display his collection.
The announcement comes after months of discussions with the city council and marks the culmination of a long held aspiration of the French businessman to have a museum in the country’s capital. The new space, which will also put on contemporary art exhibitions, will be located in an 18th-century building that once housed a commodity stock exchange and is relatively close to the Louvre. Pinault will be covering 100% of the museum costs and the opening is currently slated for the tail end of 2018. A “new entity” will be created by Pinault to manage the new museum along with his other institutional spaces, the Palazzo Grassi and the Punta Della Dogana. “I have long nurtured the dream of an international network, based in Europe, where works, projects, ideas, and views could be exchanged,” Pinault said. “With this new site, my dream is on the way to becoming reality.” The new museum is yet another example of private individuals opening private museums, though Pinault is no stranger to managing such institutions.
08 Following the Guggenheim’s dissolution of negotiations with the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC) earlier this month, a GLC-affiliated activist group responded by projecting a string of critical messages onto the facade of the Upper East side museum.
During the almost year-long series of talks between the two groups, the GLC suspended all public protests against the Guggenheim. But that moratorium ended Wednesday night, when the Guggenheim’s distinctive exterior was lit up by a series of projections—phrases like “ULTRA LUXURY ART/ULTRA LOW WAGES”and “1%,” interspersed with images of the museum’s trustee members and an accusatory message reading “YOU BROKE TRUST.” The van containing the 12,000-lumen projector eventually drove to Park Avenue, flashing a similar message onto the exterior of the apartment building that William L. Mack, chairman of the Guggenheim board of directors, calls home. GLC’s protests were originally sparked by reports of substandard living conditions for the workers helping to construct the institution’s Abu Dhabi satellite. The Guggenheim responded to Thursday’s protests in a statement: “This latest action by Gulf Labor is another example of their willingness to attack the Guggenheim for easy publicity versus pursuing a program of thoughtful advocacy. Their demands are not only beyond the Guggenheim’s direct line of influence but beyond the influence of any single arts institution.”
09 Gagosian Gallery and Lisson Gallery lent works by two artists to a Tehran gallery this month, a move that marks a significant vote of confidence in the burgeoning, post-sanction Iranian art scene.
While Gagosian and Lisson have been in the spotlight recently as they gear up to open strategic new gallery spaces in the U.S. this May, it’s only just come to light that the galleries have developed ties with Tehran gallery Ab-Anbar. On April 15th, the gallery opened “Mass Individualism: A Form of Multitude,” an exhibition of nine Iranian artists, including Louvre and The State Hermitage Museum in recent months.
10 Lego is now calling the company’s decision to prevent artist Ai Weiwei from ordering the toy bricks in bulk an “internal mistake.”
In an interview, company vice chairman Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (who is also the grandson of Lego’s founder) rejected had refused to sell the bricks to the Chinese dissident out of a fear it might jeopardize business interests in the country. Instead Kristiansen pinned the blame on a very low-level employee in the customer service department who, he says, misunderstood the company’s policy to remain politically neutral. Kristiansen’s son also added that he recognized Lego’s refusal to sell the bricks to Weiwei could, itself, be construed as a political position. The admission comes after Lego inadvertently set off a firestorm in October when it denied Weiwei’s request for a bulk order of Lego pieces to use in an art exhibition. Outraged fans subsequently sent Weiwei millions of blocks from across the world. In January, Lego announced that it was dropping the neutrality requirement previously placed on bulk orders, instead only mandating that it be made clear Lego is not endorsing the project the bricks are used for.
—Abigail Cain, Alexander Forbes, Isaac Kaplan, and Casey Lesser
Cover image: The Armory Show, 2016. Photo courtesy of The Armory Show.