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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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6 of the Best Artworks at Frieze Los Angeles 2023, From a Jennifer Bartlett Masterwork to a Powerful Debut by a 24-Year-Old Rising Star

Ah, Frieze Los Angeles—it’s a pretty great art fair. There’s plenty to see, excitement in the (unseasonably chilly) air, the occasional frisson of a celebrity sighting, and excellent discoveries to be made from artists both young and old. Here are a few of the standout artworks in the fair this year.


Jennifer Bartlett
The Comedian as the Letter C for Max Gordon (1990)
Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York
Price: $675,000

Photo: Object Studies Copyright: © Jennifer Bartlett Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, and The Jennifer Bartlett 2013 Trust.

Photo: Object Studies. Copyright: © Jennifer Bartlett Courtesy Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York and Aspen; Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; and the Jennifer Bartlett 2013 Trust.

Those familiar with the artistically and intellectually potent work of Jennifer Bartlett, the painter who died last year at age 81, may be surprised by her work at the fair. Whereas she is best known for her rigorously structured, mathematics-derived canvases—the kind of work that led Roberta Smith, her great critical champion, to call her a “conceptual painter on vast scale”—the central painting on view at Boesky’s booth is explosive, frightening, almost cinematic. Stemming from a shift in which Bartlett transitioned away from her acclaimed aluminum-plate sequences of the 1970s toward a freer, looser hand, the artwork depicts a human skeleton standing in an abstracted domestic setting engulfed in flames, surrounded by sequences of playing cards, dominoes, wooden chests, game boards, and squares of tartan plaid.

Never before displayed in California, where Bartlett was born, this painting has doomy local resonance in a time when one year of massive wildfires has been replaced by one of cataclysmic rains. It wasn’t so different during the artist’s youth. As her friend Joan Didion wrote, “Children [in California] grow up aware that any extraordinary morning their house could slip its foundation in an earthquake…. Jennifer Bartlett’s most persistent imagery, her apprehension of the potential for disaster in the everyday, derives from her California childhood.” Of course, the artist’s interest in systems and pattern-making is present amid the chaos: the games and plaid strewn around the painting are instances of math made quotidian, things you can find around your home.

Today, Bartlett occupies a funny place in the art conversation. She’s not a household name, but she’s not exactly under-recognized. Her market has been evolving steadily. The January opening of her posthumous show of drawings at Boesky’s New York gallery was jam-packed with her artist and critic fans. But has she gotten her due? One almost hopes that someone from the tech community will see her paintings at the fair, recognize a kindred spirit in the pursuit of that quasi-mystical intersection of data and everyday life, buy some work, tell their friends, and make her into a real phenomenon.

Lee Bae
Issu du feu (1998)
Johyun Gallery
Price: $207,000

Photo: Andrew Goldstein.

With unaccountably luscious surfaces that darkly shimmer in the light, the artist Lee Bae’s charcoal paintings draw you in for closer inspection to discern how they do what they do—it’s no wonder that the dealers at Johyun Gallery have come to call them “people magnets.” The mystery somehow only deepens when you learn that these paintings are not made with charcoal, laying it down on paper or canvas, but rather from charcoal, with the artist slicing thick slabs of burnt pine and then inlaying it like black mother of pearl to create the surface.

Bae began working with charcoal as a signature material three decades ago when, living in Paris, he found lumps of it for sale in a store and realized that it not only reminded him of his native South Korea, where it is a staple of daily life, but that it was a cheap and plentiful material he could count on. Furthermore, its status as a tree that had become fire and then a carbonized relic ready to become fire again appealed to him as having a certain circle-of-life poetry to it. 

Now 67, Bae is a superstar in South Korea with long waiting lists for his work, but his gallery is intent on expanding his market into new territories. Last year, they brought his paintings to the Armory Show in New York, where one was bought by a “famous collector” right away. Here in Los Angeles, another one—and they range from $100,000 to $250,000—sold to a prominent U.S. collector in the opening hours of the fair. 


Veronica Fernandez
I Don’t Want to Die (2023)
Sow & Tailor Gallery, Los Angeles
Price: ranging from $14,500 to $26,000

Courtesy of Sow & Tailor Gallery, Los Angeles.

As an artist, Veronica Fernandez is something of a miracle: she is only 24 years old (she was born in 1998), has only been painting for about three years, and is clearly a supercharged talent, using the brush both gesturally and with precision to create riveting, dreamlike scenes. And, in an art world filled with nepo babies (and grandbabies), Fernandez experienced an impoverished upbringing, spending much of her youth changing homes and facing eviction in New Jersey with her family—and still, through her talent, was able to earn a BFA from the School of Visual Arts last year and now has come to a place where her work is for sale at the Frieze art fair.

The paintings on view here meld her talent and story. Based on poems she wrote about her family’s ordeal and photographs from her and her sister’s childhood, the scenes show her conjuring an imaginative space of comfort and home amid instability: making a play fort in one painting, riding a barren mattress like a gondola through a sea of colorful disco balls in another, or here, in this one, cheerfully riding her bike amid barking dogs and unsavory characters as her family members watch with concern. (Its title, I Don’t Want to Die, is chilling.)

Fernandez paints quickly and with urgency, laying down her memories and imaginings in a way that creates a definite mood. In her largest canvas at the fair, figures of adults and children trudge through a wasteland, tied together by ropes looped around their waists. They are on a long trek, the ones in the front carrying forward the ones behind. Maybe Fernandez’s art can lighten the load.


Joana Choumali
Silence, Too, Is an Answer (2022)
Sperone Westwater, New York
Price: $45,000

Photo: Andrew Goldstein.

Based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Joana Choumali used to go to the beach resort of Grand-Bassam with her family as a child. After a 2016 attack at the resort left 19 people dead, unsettling the shaky peace following the country’s civil wars, she returned there to make art in an attempt to make sense of the atrocity, memorialize the victims, and heal wounds. The resulting series consists of photographs that she took of lonely figures in desolated settings and then printed on canvas, allowing her to embroider the figures and their surroundings with lustrous threads, imbuing the scenes with a colorful feeling of hope. Called “Ça va aller,” or “It’s Going to Be Okay,” the body of work won her France’s prestigious Prix Pictet in 2019. 

This caught the attention of Angela Westwater, the fabled dealer and cofounder of Sperone Westwater Gallery, which is best known for its work with Bruce Nauman and postwar Italian artists like Carla Accardi, but which in recent years has been bringing on a younger generation of talents. On a trip to London, Westwater saw a magnificent triptych by Choumali in a 2021 group show at the Royal Academy. That piece, plus the fact that the Victoria & Albert Museum had acquired a work, led to a series of Zoom calls with the artist and now gallery representation—despite the fact that Westwater and Choumali have not yet met in person, a lingering product of the pandemic.

At the fair, the artwork on display by Choumali has wow factor to spare. Stemming from iPhone snapshots the artist takes on early-morning walks in Abidjan and then prints onto canvas, this surface is then enlivened by a solitary portrait she cuts out of a separate shoot and then stitches on top, painstakingly overlaying the lines of her imagery with thread before finally covering the whole composition with a diaphanous piece of tulle. The gauzy effect comes across well in a photo, but in person it’s hypnotizing. Next up? Another Zoom call between Westwater and Choumali, and then, if all goes well, a show at the New York gallery by the end of the year.


Carroll Dunham
Untitled, 3/29/22, 3/30/22 (2022)
Gladstone Gallery, New York
Price: $50,000

Photo: Andrew Goldstein.

That the painter and printmaker Carroll Dunham is one of the greatest artists of his generation still seems to be something of a secret, which is funny because he has all the hallmarks: an instantly recognizable hand, distinctive subject matter that provides timeless pools of mysterious reflection, and a career’s worth of work that shows continual evolution. In recent years, he has been working with an enigmatic male figure dubbed “the Wrestler” (the successor to the female “Bather” of his earlier work), who has a habit of engaging in primeval combat with doppelgängers of himself but also getting lost in what appears to be deep, philosophical thought. 

In Los Angeles, Gladstone Gallery has transformed its office space into a showroom for a series of monoprints in the latter, contemplative vein, while the the base canvas for the series is on display at the fair. It shows the Wrestler from a rear three-quarter view, colored green like some ancient chthonic entity, long hair and beard falling from a body that is limned with thick, decisive lines. His brow is furrowed and his gaze trained on the center of a red vortex in the background. Around him is a Bacon-esque cage—are those red lines below him are flames?—the lines and squiggles give the setting a pulsating feel, like he’s traveling between dimensions.

Who is this green Wrestler, and what is he up to? A clue, apparently, is that Dunham has a longstanding interest in science fiction. What’s certain is that he furnishes a perfect opportunity for the artist’s formal explorations, and the series of prints that arose from this base canvas—produced at Two Palms press in SoHo—are wonderfully weird, with blottings of diluted ink creating a hallucinatory effect. Right now, Dunham’s prints are also the subject of a major survey at the National Gallery in Oslo (where the Queen is an avid printmaker herself), and this May, Gladstone will unveil a new series of drawings in New York that will introduce a never-before-seen formal element to his work. What adventures will our friend the Wrestler embark on next? Stay tuned.


Ernie Barnes
Protect the Rim (1976)
Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York
Price: $1.25 million

Photo: Andrew Goldstein.

It was in the early, scary, lonely days of the pandemic when the art dealer Andrew Kreps was googling some artists he was interested in and fell down a rabbit hole of overlooked American painters that led him, search query by search query, to Ernie Barnes. A fascinating figure whose life story strikes as movie-ready today but which didn’t quite make sense to the art establishment of his time, Barnes had wanted to be an artist ever since he was a kid, but as a Black child in segregated Durham, North Carolina, that path was not really open to him—whereas football was a path that, as a gifted athlete, he could run down at full speed. So he got a full athletic scholarship to attend the all-Black North Carolina College, where he majored in art while dazzling scouts on the football field, leading him to a pro career first with the Baltimore Colts, then the New York Titans, then the San Diego Chargers, then the Denver Broncos. Throughout his football career, Barnes made art, sketching even during team meetings—something his Denver coach would fine him $100 for when caught—and earning the nickname “Big Rembrandt” among his teammates. (He and the Dutch master share a birthday.)

After playing for five years, Barnes became eligible for a pension and quit to do art full time, painting in a style inspired by Thomas Hart Benton, Andrew Wyeth, and other midcentury American regionalists that he dubbed “Neo-Mannerism.” That expressive, elongated style is on full display in this painting of two basketball players leaping into a sky reminiscent of a brighter El Greco, framed by raw wooden planks that somehow manage to simultaneously evoke a southern shack and a Renaissance icon. He quickly found success—his first post-retirement show in New York sold out, he became the “official artist” of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, he won celebrity collectors in the Black entertainment world like Richard Roundtree and Berry Gordy, and his art was featured in seminal pop-culture contexts from a Marvin Gaye album cover to (most famously) the set of the TV show Good Times. But, during his lifetime—he died in 2009—the fine art world kept its distance.

Suffice to say, all that has changed. In 2020, the UTA Artists Space in L.A. gave Barnes a solo show, Kreps mounted a show in 2021, and momentum began to grow behind his market until, bang, his 1976 painting The Sugar Shack woke everyone up when it sold for $15.3 million at Christie’s in May 2022. Since then it’s been off to the races, and Kreps’s booth at Frieze was the equivalent of a touchdown dance in the end zone, with the artist’s family hanging around in “Team Barnes” sweatshirts and stars like Lionel Richie and Tyler the Creator coming by to pay respects among artworks ranging from $2.2 million (for a painting titled Street Song) to works on paper in the $60,000-to-$125,000 range. And just think: UTA, the eminent talent agency that brought Barnes into the present-day spotlight—and which is currently displaying Sugar Shack at its West Hollywood art space—is mainly interested in his life rights for film and TV projects. Expect Barnes’s fame to only grow from here.

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What You Need to Know About the Art World’s New Reality TV Show, Lucas Zwirner and Elizabeth Peyton’s Friendship Sparks Chatter, and More Juicy Art World Gossip

Every week, Midnight Publishing Group News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops. If you have a tip, email Annie Armstrong at [email protected].


The new and inventive ways that enterprising artists go about getting museum recognition is ever-expanding. One particularly unique way—which worked for such artists as Kymia Nawabi and Abdi Farah during the two-season run of “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist” back in the early 2010s, and more recently worked for Deborah Czeresko, the glassmaker who won “Blown Away” in 2021 and now shows with Hannah Traore Gallery—is to go on national television and compete against your peers on a reality show. This past summer I reported on rumblings about a new art reality show in the works, which apparently tried and failed to recruit artists like Chloe Wise, Peter Zohore, and Jamian Juliano-Villani to compete on national TV, with the prize being a solo show at D.C.’s Hirshhorn Museum. Now, Wet Paint can exclusively reveal which artists did take the bait. 

Come March 3, art lovers will be able to tune in to MTV right after RuPaul’s Drag Race at 9 pm and watch “The Exhibit,” a paint-splattered battle royale where artists Jamaal Barber, Frank Buffalo Hyde, Misha Kahn, Clare Kambhu, Baseera Khan, Jillian Mayer, and Jennifer Warren will duke it out for that sweet, sweet solo show in our capital city. 

Pretty stacked cast, if you ask me! Among these artists you have a sculptor whose worked with Dries Van Noten (Kahn), a video artist whose had a solo show at Pérez Art Museum (Mayer), a painter with the golden ticket of a Yale MFA (Kambhu), and a rising star with a High Line commission underway (Khan), just to drop a few names. And the list of judges is no slouch, either. Alongside Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu you’ve got sociologist and Seven Days in the Art World author Sarah Thornton, arts educator Sammy Hoi, collector/Hirshhorn trustee Keith Rivers, and… two of my favorite voices in the art world: high-powered art consultant JiaJia Fei and on-again-off-again-and-now-on-again Midnight Publishing Group News columnist Kenny Schachter. (I guess they had to cast a Simon Cowell type! Schachter told me that his signature Adidas track pants are covered by a piece of gaff tape in each episode, which reminds me of Juliano-Villani’s proposed idea for the show). Rumor has it that Nathaniel Mary Quinn was set to be a judge, but bowed out at the last minute. 

So why did these folks decide to go the reality route? “When Melissa approached me, I was honored that we are able to give an artist a real pathway forward,” Rivers told Wet Paint, adding, somewhat ominously, “This feels like a critical juncture, both for the institution and the artists in front of us.”

Chiu elaborated further on the museum’s decision to proceed with the show: “The television series is a continuum of the Hirshhorn’s radical approach to expanded accessibility to the art and artists of our time.” She also slipped it in that recent popular exhibitions, like “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” have doubled their annual attendance up to a million visitors. (Compare that to season one of “Work of Art,” which reportedly drew 1.12 million viewers in 2010.)

Let’s see if a decade and a third of explosive art-industry growth can make an art reality show an actual mass phenomenon (or not).


Elizabeth Peyton
Photo via: zimbo

I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this—because it’s kind of my whole raison d’être here at Midnight Publishing Group News—but it always shocks me how much a mere rumor can turn the art market’s wheels. For the past week, I’ve been sleuthing out some well-sourced chatter that painter Elizabeth Peyton, who has shown with Gladstone Gallery since 2007, is moving south to the kingdom of David Zwirner. After numerous unanswered calls and emails to everyone involved, all parties remained silent on the matter, and the rumor is still unconfirmed, floating around nebulously, but not powerlessly. 

Let me explain what I mean. 

When I first heard this rumor, it has come with some eye-popping details. For one thing, there’s been talk that Peyton is switching for David Zwirner because she’s been dating the beloved bibliophilic playboy heir, Lucas Zwirner. (They have been hanging out a lot.) On the other, I can confirm that at least one powerful art-market dealmaker has already been speculatively snapping up works by Peyton in case the whispers turn out to be true. Welcome to the art world, people. And the rumor mill is still whirring on high steam.

As I said before, no one will confirm or deny any of this to me, no matter how hard I press. All I have for you is what I hear from those close to the matter at hand. 

“Oh, that rumor has been going around for months now, but no, it’s not true,” one prominent New York gallerist, who is close to both parties, told me in reference to the romantic aspect of the Peyton-Zwirner combine. “They hang out, they go to museums together, but no, I do not think they’re dating.” Though, it would be kind of ironic if they were dating and that’s what brought Peyton into the fold. If you’ll recall, Lucas’s romantic entanglements have been bandied about as one reason why his gallery lost representation of Harold Ancart to Gagosian about a year ago. (Ancart has been dating Zwirner’s ex, Dianna Agron, since he left the gallery.)

As far as Peyton’s gallery future, however, anyone’s guess is as good as mine. Again: neither gallery responded to my requests for comment. But Peyton’s work is hot-hot-hot, as she made her auction record this past November at Sotheby’s “The Now” auction, wherein Nick With His Eyes Shut sold for more than double its low estimate of $1 million, bringing in $2.4 million. So, for whoever she’s showing with going forward, well done.


That Baffler Magazine has tapped Matthew Shen Goodman, former editor of Triple Canopy, as its new editor-in-chief… Jessica Silverman has picked up representation of St. Paul-based artist Julie Buffalohead… The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum has tapped architect Eduardo Andres Alfonso as its associate curator… Peter Doig has been having some fun with Harry Styles’s clowncore outfit for this year’s Grammy Awards… Yudai Kanayama, owner of the beloved art-world watering hole Dr. Clark’s, finally met his hero, sculptor Tyler Hays, as evidenced by a very endearing Instagram post… A high-ranking employee at Simchowitz suggested that a collector, instead of selling their Shaina McCoy piece to the gallery at the current primary price, bring the artwork to auction instead … As prophesied in last week’s column, a selection of work by Ernie Barnes will be on display jointly by Ortuzar Projects and Andrew Kreps at Frieze Los Angeles next week…


Monsieur Zohore offered up a painting in exchange for Beyoncé tickets on his Instagram *** The annual Fifteen Percent Pledge’s gala hosted a real who’s-who, like Alteronce Gumby, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, Hannah Bronfman, Thom Browne, and Tyler Mitchell *** Stefan Bondell’s opening at Vito Schnabel Gallery was also quite the see-and-be-seen scene, with Zac Posen, Arden Wohl, Anthony Haden-Guest, Jeanette Hayes, and David Rimanelli roaming around the gallery before an afterparty at the fabled Palazzo Chupi *** Alison Roman, Susan Alexandra, Naomi Fry, and pretty much every cool downtowner at 56 Henry’s opening for sculptor Ohad Meromi *** Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Harold Ancart, Nicolas Party, and Ewa Juszkiewicz at Ninę Orchard for RxArt‘s annual gala *** Olivia Smith, Carlo McCormick, and Aleksandar Duravcevic enjoying some dry-aged prime rib at Balvenera in the Lower East Side to fête Alex Sewell’s new show at TOTAH *** 


It seems to come with the job of museum director to be well-heeled. Last week, I asked readers who the most stylish museum director is, and here’s what people said:

Thelma Golden is it, hands down.” said collector Suzanne McFayden Smith. She wasn’t the only one to write in Golden, as Claire de Dobay Rifelj, associate director of Sprüth Magers, also volunteered her name with “no competition,” and Louis-Philippe Van Eeckhoutte, director of dépendance gallery in Brussels, also agreed. According to artist Lynn Hershman, the accolade goes to the Tate Museum’s Maria Balshaw. Arthur Peña, gallery liaison with Penske Media, wrote in: “Although not tied to a physical museum, if we consider the city itself as an institution (and don’t we??) I think Justine Ludwig, director of Creative Time is a clear winner. I mean, have you seen her nails at any given moment?” 

My question for my readers next week: Will I see you at my party in Los Angeles? Send in your RSVP and I’ll see you next week.


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