Nike Said It Is ‘Deeply Concerned’ By the Allegations Against Tom Sachs + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this March, 17.


Covid Impact on London Museums – Museums are still trying to get their attendance figures back to what they were in 2019. The British Museum reported 4.1 million visitors in 2022 which, while being more than three times higher than in 2021, is still more than a third down from its 2019 number of 6.2 million. Similarly, Tate Modern reported 3.9 million visitors, down 36 percent from 2019. The Victoria and Albert Museum had 2.4 million visitors, down 40 percent. (The Art Newspaper)

Tribe Weighs Final Home for Restituted Cultural Objects – Members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, of Wounded Knee, are deciding via consensus what to do with 130 objects and human remains that have been restituted from the Founders Museum in Massachusetts. There is consensus that human remains should be buried; when it comes to objects, including funerary items, some think they should be buried or burned according to spiritual practices. Others hope they will go to a tribe-run museum. The institution agreed to the return last fall. (New York Times)

Fallout From Tom Sachs Expose – Nike has responded to allegations made about artist Tom Sachs’s studio workplace environment. The company said it was “deeply concerned by the very serious allegations” and is looking into the matter. An investigation by Curbed cited former employees who alleged that Sachs made comments related to sex and employees’ appearance, called people offensive names, threw objects across the room, and walked around in his underwear. Nike may have already had some hints as to Sachs’s vibe—apparently, the company altered the packaging for a sneaker collaboration with artist Tom Sachs in 2017, which had the phrase “work like a slave” on it. (Complex, ARTnews)


The Gallery Merry-Go-Round Spins On – Gladstone Gallery has announced it’s bringing the late Robert Rauschenberg’s $1 million work Maybe Market (Night Shade) to the upcoming Art Basel in Hong Kong fair to mark its formal representation of the artist’s estate along with Thaddaeus Ropac and Luisa Strina. Lehmann Maupin is showing newly added artist Sung Neung Kyung’s Venue 2 (1980), available for $150,000-$200,000. Meanwhile, Almine Rech now represents the wildly popular Madagascar-born artist Joël Andrianomearisoa. (Financial Times) (Press release)

Culture & Partners With Sotheby’s Institute of Art – The debut Culture& and Sotheby’s Institute of Art Cultural Leaders Program will launch in September 2023 to “empower and nurture the next generation of diverse leaders.” Three full scholarships for the 2023-24 and 2025-26 school years will be available to students from under-represented communities for the schools’ Masters programs in contemporary art; fine and decorative art and design; and art business. (Press release)

Liste Art Fair Names Exhibitors – The Basel-based contemporary art fair is set to return this June 12–18 with 88 galleries hailing from 35 countries around the world. Returning galleries include the likes of Tehran-based Dastan, Brussels-based Super Dakota, Los Angeles/New York-based François Ghebaly, Berlin-based Sweetwater, and Paris-based Parliament. (Press release)


The Artist Who Survived the Holocaust – Actor Emile Hirsch has joined the cast of the forthcoming film Bau: Artist at War, which tells the story of the artist who was imprisoned at Plaszow camp and used his creative skills to save hundreds of prisoners by forging IDs. The wedding of the artist and his wife Rebecca at the camp was dramatized in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. (Variety)

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City Officials Are Conducting an Audit of the Gwangju Biennale Following Allegations of Worker Mistreatment

The Gwangju Biennale, one of Asia’s most high-profile art exhibitions, has become engulfed in controversy following the tumultuous departure of its leader amid allegations of employee mistreatment. 

Sunjung Kim, president of the foundation behind the Gwangju Biennale, will step down from the position this month after Gwangju city officials declined to renew her contract. The news, first announced in late May, came amid allegations from the biennial’s labor union that Kim had verbally abused and unfairly fired employees.

Now, Kim is speaking out against the union’s claims. According to ArtAsiaPacific, which first reported the news, the former biennale president released a statement on Thursday that referred to the allegations as “unfounded claims and factual distortions.” She described her tenure as one in which she implemented “long overdue systematic changes.”

“I have tried my best to oversee the administrative process and organizational structure of the foundation with fairness and due responsibility,” Kim said. “I also did not hesitate to reform outdated practices where necessary.”

Gwangju’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, as well as the South Korean Ministry of Employment and Labor, are currently conducting an audit of the foundation and the allegations put forth by the union, including privatization and the unfair dismissal of management-level staff. Kim said the foundation is cooperating fully with the investigation. 

The Gwangju Biennale Foundation did not immediately respond to Midnight Publishing Group News’s request for comment. 

In May, a representative from the Gwangju Biennale Labor Union told Korean newspaper Jeonnam Ilbo that the staff had suffered from “the president’s lack of leadership, the lack of principles and transparency in operations, as well as the abandonment of duty and abuse of authority by the head of the HR team.”

The union’s former chairman, who also served as head of the biennial’s exhibition team, resigned on May 1 after claiming he was harassed for speaking out against Kim. Another union member departed on May 5 for the same reason. 

The biennale’s union has filed two complaints with Gwangju’s Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, according to Art Asia Pacific—one about the mistreatment of staff and another about alleged retaliation against those who complained.

Kim was appointed president of the biennale in 2017, five years after serving as co-curator of the ninth edition of the event in 2012. As president, she served as chief curator of the 2018 Gwangju Biennale and played a part in organizing the (delayed) 2020 edition, which sought to break new ground amid the international lockdown. The next iteration is due to open in September 2022. 

The foundation said last month that it would convene a committee to search for a new head. In a statement to the South Korean news agency Newsis, the Gwangju’s minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jun-young said the process of appointing a new foundation president “will be done transparently, fairly, and objectively.”

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