In case you missed the news, here’s a roundup of headlines from the art world in the last two weeks.
TEXT: CoBo News
IMAGES: Courtesy of various
Encore Une Fois?
Amidst a slow rollout of inoculation, COVID-19 continues to batter France as a spike in cases attributed to the new variant hits the country. On 3 April, the country entered its third—albeit less restrictive—lockdown, which is expected to last until 2 May. At the announcement made by President Emmanuel Macron on national televised address, the president also announced the French government’s plan to roll out a gradual reopening calendar and guidelines for cultural venues and events.
The country’s cultural sector, clearly less than satisfied with the French government’s efforts in curbing the pandemic, has decided to take matters into their own hands. The Comité Professionnel des Galeries d’Art (CPGA), France’s gallery association, is suing the state for its allegedly unfair decision to close galleries—yet allow auction houses to remain open—in the latest round of lockdown. CPGA’s chairwoman Marion Papillon denounces the government’s decision as “a serious attack on the freedom of competition”. The trade association made its case at an administrative hearing before France’s Council of State on 8 April, arguing that galleries should be included in the list of establishments allowed to remain open to the public; a decision has yet to be made.
After the France culture ministry announced in January that it is closing down Centre Pompidou from the end of 2023 for a three-year, €200 million renovation, the fate of its vast 120,000-work collection and its staff remains in the air. Serge Lasvignes, the president of the institution, told The Art Newspaper on 1 April that the museum intends to circulate the Pompidou’s works throughout France “as much as possible” during the three-year closure. The museum’s curatorial teams will keep their jobs and be responsible for organising the off-site exhibitions. Lasvignes himself has been mandated a renewal of his contract by the French culture ministry, remaining at the helm for another three years (despite passing the age limit of 67 for presidents of public institutions in France) to overlook Centre Pompidou’s ambitious expansion plans.
The National Gallery in London is offering its first exhibition designed to be experienced on mobile phones. Reported by The Guardian on 31 March, the decision to offer the digital experience was prompted by the forced closure in December to curb the pandemic, which inhibited the public from an exhibition that featured Jan Gossaert’s 16th century masterpiece, The Adoration of the King. The mobile experience will allow people to zoom in on the details of the painting, which depicts the birth of Christ.
Fashion tech incubator The Mills Fabrica, owned by Hong Kong’s privately-held conglomerate Nan Fung Group, announced through a press release its plans for a new physical hub and its first international outpost in London. Set to open in early June 2021, the platform—which supports tech-driven companies and individuals who are actively taking steps towards sustainability in the fashion industry—will take over Cottam House, an expansive three-storey Victorian warehouse situated in the tech district of London’s Kings Cross, comprising a start-up incubator, an investment platform, high-spec labs, and a co-working space, alongside a curated programme of cultural and industry events, as well as an experiential retail space and café.
As the UK continues to ease COVID-19-related restrictions, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A)—which has suffered immensely following a year of stop-start closures and vast job cuts—has announced its plans to reopen on 19 May, with three exhibitions, new displays, and a transformed Raphael Court, home to the Raphael Cartoons.
Across the pond, activists assemble near The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to stage the first in-person protest of their “10 Weeks of Art, Action, and Conversation.”
After declaring his business at the brink of bankruptcy last summer, Takashi Murakami sets his eyes on the crypt-art craze. The blue-chip artist announced at the end of March that he would be auctioning off a set of minted digital works based on his signature smiley face flowers. The first “Murakami.Flowers” NFT, titled Murakami.Flower #0000, attracted a bid of 144 ether (ETH), which was valued at US$260,395 at the time, on the first day it hit the NFT marketplace OpenSea. However on 12 April, Murakami announced on Instagram that he has decided against his decision to offer NFT art, explaining that he needed more time to understand the blockchain technology and “further explore the optimal format in which to offer my NFT works” before moving forward.
Earlier in March, American late night comedy showcase Saturday Night Live ran a sketch explaining NFTs, which starred Pete Davidson as the rapper Eminem and was set to his music. Two weeks after it aired on 6 April, a segment of the sketch was minted and sold for US$365,000, or 171.99 ETH, on OpenSea, with proceeds to benefit the charity Stop AAPI Hate.
After a string of heated sales across February and March, the NFT marketplace seems to be showing signs of cooling off. Reported by Bloomberg on 3 April, the average price for an NFT collected has plummeted from its peak at US$4300 on 22 February to about US$1400, a near 70% drop.
But whether this signifies a change of course for NFT history, or simply a whiplash remains to be seen, as leading auction houses are gearing up to match Beeple’s history-making sale at Christie’s New York last month.
After Sotheby’s announced a sale with the anonymous digital artist Pak, Phillips also tapped into the NFT art arena, offering a new work by Mad Dog Jones, one of the top-selling digital artists in the NFT world. The art, titled REPLICATOR, features a ground-breaking crypto concept that allows the digital artwork to generate new artworks and “replicate” every 28 days. It is now available for online sale until 23 April, with bidding starting at US$100.
Art Market Showdown
Reported by artnet on 6 April, the 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse), 30 October 1932, is estimated to fetch up to US$55 million at the upcoming Christie’s 20th century evening sale, which will be held in New York on 11 May. The portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s muse and lover, was last on view to the public at the 2017–18 exhibition “Picasso, 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy” at London’s Tate Modern and the Musée Picasso in Paris. The estimate means that this canvas could possible beat prices fetched by any Picasso work brought to market in 2020, even possibly surpassing Versus Medici, the 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting estimated to sell for US$50 million at Sotheby’s upcoming auction.
Phillips announces the inaugural sales dates at its new New York headquarters. The New York Sales of 20th Century and Contemporary Art is set to take place on 23–24 June at the recently completed 432 Park Avenue sire, a 35,000-square-foot modernist structure designed by multi-disciplinary studio studioMDA. Among the auction highlights are Amy Sherald’s It made sense…mostly in her mind (2011) and Vija Celmins’ Untitled (Ocean) (1987-88).
The Art Fair Industrial Complex Cracks
While the prospect of international travels remains fragile, art fairs around the world are looking for alternative formats and schedules to the convention centre-packed and champagne-soaked affairs we were used to.
Art Basel Hong Kong announced on 8 April that 104 galleries will be participating in its upcoming 2021 edition, which is slated to take place at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) from 19 to 23 May. For this significantly downsized edition, some galleries have opted to share booths, and 56 galleries whose physical attendance is not possible will take part via the newly introduced “satellite booths”, which will be staffed by a local representative appointed by Art Basel.
Over in America, despite the country’s steady recovery from the devastations of COVID-19, uncertainty still looms large for the prospects of its art scene. Announced on 6 April, TEFAF’s New York spring event will return to the Park Avenue Armory from 7 to 10 May 2022, nearly two full years since it was last held. However, TEFAF New York Fall, normally held in October and focused on historical art and antiques, has been permanently cancelled.
Frieze Los Angeles has made the decision to cancel its 2021 fair. It had already been postponed previously from February to July and was scheduled to run in a nomadic format in the week beginning 26 July. In addition, the fair’s next edition in 2022 will be moved from Paramount Studios to a tent on Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills.
Amidst a surge of COVID-19 cases in Italy and with travel bans still in place across Europe, Venice Architecture Biennale, one of the world’s most important biannual architecture events, decided to push through, announcing at a press conference held earlier this week that the event would “open to the public from Saturday 22 May through Sunday 21 November 2021”. However organisers of several national pavilions taking part in the Biennale have cancelled their physical opening events. While the organisers of the Swiss, Dutch and Singaporean pavilions said they intend to host “silent openings” or virtual vernissage as a safer alternative to physical events.
Rotterdam’s museum and institute for architecture, design and digital culture, Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI), has named Aric Chen as its new general and artistic director. Chen, who is currently curatorial director of Design Miami and formerly curator-at-large for Hong Kong’s M+ museum, will take up the position from 1 May.
Announced on 7 April, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) has hired Eunice Bélidor as its new curator, a historical appointment that will make Bélidor the first Black full-time curator in MMFA’s 161-year history. Bélidor is an independent curator, writer, and researcher, and has previously served as director of FOFA Gallery at Concordia University in Montreal.