Met Director Thomas Campbell Resigns under Pressure—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.
01 Thomas Campbell, the director of New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum of Art, resigned Tuesday.
(via the New York Times)
Campbell was thought to have tendered his resignation under pressure from museum trustees following complaints from staffers and the deterioration of the museum’s finances despite record attendance. Campbell began his job in January 2009 and, during his eight-year tenure, oversaw the expansion of the museum’s digital presence and staff, as well as the takeover of the former Whitney Museum’s Marcel Breuer building on nearby Madison Avenue. That site has already surpassed the former Whitney in annual attendance, according to the Times. But Campbell’s ambitions crashed into a rising deficit, one that forced the digital team to be scaled back, buyouts and layoffs in other departments, as well as the postponement of several physical expansion plans. Daniel Weiss, a former college president who is the Met’s president and chief operating officer, will serve as interim chief executive. Campbell will serve until June, the end of the fiscal year
02 A revamped Armory Show opened this week, welcoming 210 galleries from 30 countries to Manhattan’s west side.
The fair’s 23rd edition sees significant changes to its floorplan, thanks to the new leadership of director Benjamin Genocchio. Thanks to widened aisles and more spacious booths, The Armory Show now has one of the most seamless traffic patterns of any art fair its size. It also newly embraces the industrial character of the piers, something earlier editions have tried to gussy up. The intent is clear: The Armory Show is forging a new identity. Energy and early sales showed that the changes are already having a tangible impact. One of the main additions to the floor plan is a central space occupied by a freshly-commissioned installation by Yayoi Kusama. The work, presented by Victoria Miro, is among 13 large-scale installations scattered across Piers 92 and 94, part of the inaugural Platform sector curated by Eric Shiner. Merely an hour into The Armory Show’s preview, one edition of the installation had already found a home with an international collector—for a price in the region of $1 million.
03 Bomb threats were called into Sydney’s Jewish Museum and London’s Jewish Museum, prompting evacuations.
(via artnet News)
The museums were each evacuated after anonymous callers phoned in bomb threats earlier this week. When subsequent police searches of both institutions uncovered no explosives, the threats were deemed hoaxes. “We take the safety of our staff and visitors extremely seriously,” said London’s Jewish Museum director Abigail Morris, noting that two school groups were successfully evacuated at the time of the alert. Jewish community centers across the United States are also reporting a significant uptick in bomb threats, and many are worried about a resurgence of anti-Semitism across the globe. “This incident underlines how vital our work is,” Morris said, adding, “We challenge prejudice and combat anti-Semitism by breaking down barriers and building bridges.”
04 The Syrian army has retaken the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS.
The military made the announcement on Thursday, acknowledging the aid of Russian warplanes in their campaign. ISIS has occupied the city multiple times over the course of the Syrian civil war. Most recently, they captured Palmyra after a surprise advance in December. Despite global condemnation, ISIS militants have intentionally destroyed ruins and artifacts within the city during their repeated occupations of Palmyra. Fighting in and around the city has also taken a heavy toll on the archaeological sites located nearby. Even when not specifically targeting the cultural heritage of Palmyra, military efforts to retake the city have caused collateral damage its historical ruins.
05 A work by René Magritte at Christie’s and another by Gustav Klimt at Sotheby’s broke records during a strong set of London auctions.
Many feared that the auctions of Impressionist, modern, and Surrealist art would reflect the ongoing sense of uncertainty in the market. But sales Tuesday night at Christie’s assuaged concerns early on, netting £136.9 million with fees on a sell-through rate of 92%. Magritte’s La Corde Sensible (1960), went for £14.4 million with fees, which managed to break a record for the artist, despite coming in under the low estimate. Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, currently embroiled in a long-running lawsuit against former freeport magnate Yves Bouvier, consigned four works to the sale. Together, they went for $43.7 million—roughly $130 million less than what Rybolovlev originally paid. At Sotheby’s the next evening, Klimt’s Bauerngarten (1907) went for £48 million with fees to a German-speaking phone bidder, setting a record for the artist. Overall, the Sotheby’s auction achieved an 89% sell-through rate and brought in a total of £194.8 million, compared to £93.7 million at the same sale last year.
06 Sotheby’s reported a rise in fourth-quarter earnings, but an overall drop for 2016.
(via the New York Times)
The publicly traded auction house said earnings in the fourth quarter had risen to $65.5 million, compared with a $11.2 million drop the same quarter a year ago. But 2016 was still a slower year than 2015, with adjusted net income down roughly 30 percent to $99.6 million. President and chief executive officer Tad Smith noted that the most recent auction season had neither big-ticket masterpieces nor a sale of a major private collection, which can swing a single quarter’s results dramatically. But he maintained the auction house was well-positioned to take advantage of a comeback in the art market, and stock market gains and potential pro-growth economic policies in the U.S. as factors that could help drive growth. “Collectors responded enthusiastically to the great collections and works we secured for sale,” he said.
07 A selfie-snapping visitor broke a pumpkin work inside of a Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirror on view at the Hirshhorn Museum, museumgoers report.
(via the New York Times)
Days after Kusama’s exhibition “Infinity Mirrors” opened to the public, several visitors reported seeing someone trip and fall into a patch of glowing Kusama pumpkins while taking a selfie. Museum staff confirmed that a piece had sustained “minor damage” and that the room was temporarily closed to address the situation. “When the room reopens, it will have increased security and visitor services staff,” a Hirshhorn spokesperson said. The yellow, polka-dotted sculptures are the highlight of the Japanese artist’s newest mirror room, Infinity Mirrored Room — All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016), one of six rooms on display for the show. The exhibition welcomed visitors again on Tuesday after being rearranged following the removal of the damaged pumpkin, with a replacement already on the way. This is just the latest example of a worldwide selfie smashing phenomenon—last November, for example, a Brazilian tourist knocked over an 18th-century sculpture at a Lisbon museum and severely damaged the work.
08 Artist, curator, and community organizer Ingrid LaFleur plans to run for mayor of Detroit.
LaFleur announced her candidacy this Tuesday, in the midst of a party held at the headquarters of art collective O.N.E. Mile. She must gather 500 signatures to enter the primary, where she would join four other candidates, including current mayor Mike Duggan. Noting that her “experiences as a creative” influenced her decision to run, in her speech Tuesday LaFleur urged Detroiters to “come together and ensure that our city is not simply known as an arts leader, but a leader in innovation, education, and creativity in every field.” LaFleur grew up in Detroit and later moved to New York, where she attended NYU and worked at a series of museums and galleries; she returned to her hometown in 2010. Her artistic resume includes establishing a residency in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Museum and spearheading AFROTOPIA, a Detroit-based project that organizes workshops and exhibitions dealing with social issues.
09 The online auction house Auctionata has closed after failing to find an investor.
(via artnet News)
The company, known in full as Auctionata Paddle8 AG, filed for insolvency in January. It continued to seek funding to remain operational, but no such financing was forthcoming, artnet News reported Tuesday. The company will “cease its German operations under the Auctionata brand,” according to a statement. Subsidiary companies Paddle8 and ValueMyStuff have been sold and thus will continue to operate independently of Auctionata, the statement added. As of Tuesday, Auctionata had an ongoing sale of wine, men’s watches, and other accessories viewable on its site. Of the approximately 170 employees, 30 to 40 will stay on staff to wind down operations. The company had planned a public offering, but ran into trouble in 2016 amidst findings by an outside auditor of trade violations.
10 An Argentinian curator was denied entry at the U.S. border after a trip to Buenos Aires, despite residing legally in the country for the past decade.
Juan Garcia Mosqueda called the experience “dehumanizing and degrading” in a public letter detailing the events of Friday, Feb. 24th. Mosqueda, who helms Chelsea-based design gallery Chamber NYC, describes a “thirty-six hour nightmare” that included him being denied legal counsel at the border by police. After questioning and allegedly threatening Mosqueda with a five-year entry ban, U.S. border agents put him on a flight back to Argentina. “Although I am not an American citizen, Chamber is an American product that I hope adds to the cultural landscape of the country,” he wrote. It remains unclear why, exactly, Mosqueda was barred from returning to the country—an aspect of the ordeal that is not elaborated upon in the letter. As a result, Mosqueda was unable to attend the Thursday opening of Chamber’s most recent show.
Cover image: Photo by Min Liu, via Flickr.