Mexico City Art Community Rallies to Aid Earthquake Victims—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  Members of the Mexico City arts community put a long-planned gallery weekend on hold and dove into recovery efforts following the devastating earthquake that struck Mexico on Tuesday.

(Artsy)

Mexico City’s Art Community Joins Recovery Efforts—Here’s How You Can Help

As of Friday morning, the quake has left at least 270 people dead, including at least 19 schoolchildren (a figure that was initially reported to be as high as 30), and turned many buildings into rubble. Gallery Weekend Mexico City, which was inaugurated in 2013, was due to kick off Thursday evening. Organizers said they, as well as the staff and artists from participating galleries, were all safe and accounted for. “The arts community is completely into the rescue and support efforts,” said Ricardo Porrero, the director of Gallery Weekend Mexico City. “Galleries such as Alterna, LABOR, Marso, and Páramo, and Fundación Alumnos, among others are operating as collection centers for supplies. Gallery staffs as well as ours have volunteered to aid quake victims.” Porrero said on Wednesday night that some artworks may be affected, although the gallery buildings were not. Many galleries sent out communications to announce the suspension of programming until further notice, and encouraged people to donate to relief efforts. Brett Schultz of BWSMX had planned an opening of work by Fabiola Menchelli for Wednesday night, but also postponed the event. “I think nearly everyone I know is out on the streets right now directly assisting in the relief efforts, be it at the collection centers, the rescue sites, or helping to move supplies around,” Schultz said. “There has been an incredible outpouring of civic action and support city-wide.”


02  Documenta 14’s multimillion-dollar deficit primarily resulted from overspending in Athens, an interim audit shows.

(via artnet News)

The mayor of Kassel and board chairman Christian Geselle, and Hessian minister for science and art, Boris Rhein, gave a joint press conference Thursday in which they detailed the quinquennial’s budget and identified where financial discrepancies arose. The €34 million budget of Documenta was to be paid half by Hesse and Kassel, and half with funds raised by the organizers through merchandising, ticketing, and sponsorship. According to Geselle, Documenta saw a €5.4 million loss during the period the exhibition was in Athens with both revenues and losses exceeding expectations during that time. The mayor emphasized that Documenta would remain in Kassel and take place again in five years’ time. The city and the state of Hesse recently guaranteed a loan for €8 million to cover an expected total shortfall of €7 million. “Artistic freedom does not mean freedom from the business plan,” Rhein added.


03  State attorneys general are stepping up enforcement actions against art collectors who have been avoiding taxes, lawyers involved in the cases say.

(via the Wall Street Journal)

The Journal reported that state revenue departments and AGs “monitor art sales through data mining that includes examinations of declared items coming through U.S. Customs, regular audits of major art galleries, reviewing news about art buying in the media, searches of interstate shipping logs and sharing of information with other states,” according to a New York City art lawyer. The focus is not solely on art; other luxury purchases such as jewelry and boats are also under scrutiny. But tax regulation around art buying is complex, with different tax levies at work depending on where the art is bought, sold, and “used,” meaning seen and enjoyed. Several high-profile tax probes have focused on buyers mislabeling works as designated for resale when they were actually slated for display or “use” in the buyer’s home, therefore rendering them subject to sales tax.


04  Just 25 artists account for nearly half of post-war and contemporary auction turnover, a new analysis has found.

(via artnet News)

The analysis by artnet Analytics and artnet News showed that concentration at the top end of the art world is even more extreme, perhaps, than some expected. “In the first six months of 2017, work by this small group of elite artists sold for a combined $1.2 billion—44.6 percent of the $2.7 billion total generated by all contemporary public auction sales worldwide,” artnet News reported. The concentration is attributed to “increasingly wealthy buyers compet[ing] for a shrinking supply of name-brand artists,” a phenomenon on display in recent high-profile sales such as Yusaku Maezawa’s $110.5 million purchase of a 1982 untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. The phenomenon tends to intensify after market crashes, when collectors make “safer” purchases of known artists instead of taking chances on younger artists. “Almost all artists on the 2017 list are white and male. Thirteen, or just over half, of the top 25 are American,” artnet News reported. Yayoi Kusama and Agnes Martin are the only women. Art Basel and UBS Wealth Management’s The Art Market | 2017 report, released in March, also highlighted growing inequality in the art market. “The concentration of values and spending in a narrow segment of the art market puts the market at risk of becoming polarized and creates prices out of tune with fundamental values and the scope” of the broader population of art market participants, wrote economist Clare McAndrew, the author of the report.


05  The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has come under intense criticism over a report on American intervention in Syria.

(via the New York Times)

The 193-page report examined the response of former President Barack Obama’s administration to the conflict in Syria, gaming out some 25 hypothetical scenarios to gauge the success or failure of different levels of American involvement. The report found that President Obama’s decisions were better than some and worse than others, concluding that “no single American action would have guaranteed a significant reduction in the violence there,” according to the Times. But intense criticism from some of the museum’s backers and conservatives, who charge the report serves to exonerate the former President’s often maligned response to the Syrian crisis, prompted the museum to pull the report from its website, a move reported by Tablet Magazine earlier this month. The museum has not released a public statement on why it sponsored and then subsequently removed the report, but according to the Times, the institution was “caught off guard by the impact and furor that its own report would have.”


06  A team of amateur archaeologists discovered a major Roman mosaic in Suffolk, England, but were forced to re-bury it due to a lack of funding.

(via the New York Times)

A team of 55 amateur archaeologists came across the the mosaic near the village of Boxford last month, towards the end of a three-year dig supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, a national charity funded by lottery receipts. Joy Appleton, who leads the Boxford History Project, first saw the traces of the red tiles that form the mosaic, which dates back to near 380 AD. The mosaic depicts Bellerophron, a mythical Greek figure said to have killed a fire-breathing monster, along with other heroes. Experts hailed the mosaic’s inventive nature. Anthony Beeson, a specialist in classical art, noted that he could not think of “another Roman mosaic in this country that is as creative as this one.” The cost of removing the mosaic would easily reach six figures. But should additional funding for excavation be secured, the mosaic would be excavated next year. Until then, given that mosaics quickly deteriorate, the work was re-buried, though some fear that it could be damaged by treasure hunters if its location becomes more widely known.


07  The Association of Art Museum Directors, joined by over 100 individual institutions, filed an amicus brief opposing President Trump’s travel ban in the Supreme Court.

(via SCOTUSBlog and artnet News)

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Trump v. Hawaii next month. The case will determine the legality of the President’s March executive order preventing the resettlement of refugees, as well all travel to America, by individuals from Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Libya, and Yemen lacking a “bona fide” connection to the United States. Individual museums, as well as a host of other arts organizations representing museums, curators, and teachers, filed the brief opposing the executive order, which critics have dubbed a “Muslim ban.” The brief argues that the travel ban harms the American public by “preventing or discouraging many artists, lenders, curators, and scholars from traveling to the United States.” The Guggenheim originally initiated the briefs in March, according to artnet News, filing them in two appeals courts that were then separately considering the constitutionality of the ban. The President’s initial travel ban in January was met with widespread criticism and protest within and beyond the art world, prompting institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art to take a stand by hanging the work of artists from the impacted countries.


08  A New York judge dismissed a $30 million lawsuit seeking the return of an allegedly stolen Henri Matisse painting from London’s National Gallery.

(via Reuters)

Three grandchildren of the titular subject of Matisse’s Portrait of Greta Moll (1908) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. against London’s National Gallery in September. The suit claimed that the work was stolen from owner Greta Moll in the years following World War II, invalidating the ownership of anyone who possessed it since, and thus rightfully belonging to Moll’s heirs. But in a 28-page ruling issued Thursday, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni found that the heirs waited too long to bring their claim. The court also ruled that the National Gallery, which enjoys sovereign immunity as part of the British government, cannot be sued under U.S. law. A lawyer for the heirs declined comment to Reuters, while Sarah Andre, a lawyer for the museum, said that the National Gallery is “particularly pleased with the district court’s recognition that this case does not involve a taking in violation of international law.”


09  Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing has unveiled her design for a statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett to appear in London’s Parliament Square.

(via The Guardian)

The public sculpture comes after feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez had gathered 85,000 signatures calling for a statue of a woman to be built there for the first time. The design of the statue was unveiled on Tuesday and its construction “was granted conditional approval by Westminster city council,” The Guardian wrote. “A detailed model of the monument shows Fawcett holding a sign that reads ‘Courage calls to courage everywhere,’ taken from a speech she gave after the death of fellow campaigner Emily Wilding Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby,” The Guardian reported. The artist borrowed and scanned one of Fawcett’s actual brooches to incorporate it into the statue’s design. Wearing will be the first female artist to create a statue of any gender for the square.


10  Theaster Gates was named the first American winner of the Nasher Prize for Sculpture, which comes with a $100,000 honorarium.

(via Dallas News)

Director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Jeremy Strick, announced Gates’s victory on Tuesday at the Rachofsky Warehouse in Texas. Gates’s art, which often tackles issues related to civil rights and incorporates aspects such as gospel music and African American film caches, “reflects powerfully his personal experience and that of the broader African American community,” Strick said. Known for his work on social justice and race, Gates “is a fitting choice at a time when the United States has immersed itself in a re-examination of race and the divisions it spawns in American Society,” wrote Dallas News. Strick, who moderated jury discussions held in London this summer, sang Gates’s praises and said that he was “truly thrilled by the choice.” Gates follows in the footsteps of Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo and French artist Pierre Huyghe, who previously won the for the world’s largest prize exclusively for sculpture.


—Artsy Editors

Cover Image: Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt. Image via AFP/Getty Images