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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A Taipei Museum’s Valuable Hi-Res Art Scans Have Been Leaked Online + 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 Thursday, March 16.


Zurich Museum to Scrutinize Its Own Collection – The Kunsthaus Zurich is stepping up its efforts in provenance research to root out works held unlawfully as a result of Nazi persecution. Its new approach includes “improved transparency” and the appointment of an independent commission of experts on provenance, who will help investigate the origin of some 203 works on show at the museum. Research results are expected to be published in spring 2024. (Swiss Info)

Miami Art Dealer Sentenced for Ivory Smuggling – Eduardo Ulises Martinez was found guilty on nine counts of smuggling ivory sculptures without declaring them to the U.S. authorities, and one count of obstruction of justice. A federal judge sentenced Martinez to 51 months in prison, and ordered him to pay a $20,000 fine. The U.S. implemented a ban on elephant ivory trade in 2016, and Martinez was caught with ivory in his luggage at the Miami International Airport in 2021. (ARTnews)

Leaked Hi-Res Art Scans From Taiwan Museum Show Up for Sale – The National Palace Museum in Taipei confirmed that up to 100,000 high-resolution images of paintings and calligraphy from its collection of historic Chinese artworks have been leaked online. Some of them, which the museum had been licensing for between $98 and $850, were available for sale on mainland Chinese online shopping platform Taobao for less than $1.50. (CNN)

FBI Returns Cache of Stolen Guns to Museums – Authorities recovered at least 50 firearms and other historical artifacts that went missing for half a century hidden in an attic in Delaware. They have been repatriated to 16 museums. (Delaware Online)


Masterworks Acquires Arthena – The art investment platform specialized in fractionalization has acquired Arthena, a data collection, analysis, and pricing platform with expertise  in data engineering and machine learning infrastructure for the art market. (Press release

Columbus Museum of Art Names Director – The Ohio-based institution has named Brooke A. Minto as its next executive director and CEO. Minto served as the inaugural director of the Black Trustee Alliance for Art Museums, which was founded in 2020 to encourage dialogue between Black museum trustees. She begins her role on May 15, succeeding Nannette Maciejunes who retired in 2022 after two decades. (Press release)

Lio Malca Expands – The veteran art-world dealer and collector is moving his gallery space from Chelsea to the newly-minted gallery hub of Tribeca at 60 White Street. The multistory exhibition space, a 19th century building undergoing a facelift by design firm studioMDA, will launch this May with a show of Spanish painter Rafa Macarrón. (Press release)


Venus Williams and Adam Pendleton Organize Benefit – The tennis star and artist are teaming up to raise funds to restore Nina Simone’s North Carolina-based clapboard home, a project led by the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Artists including Julie Mehretu, Stanley Whitney, Cecily Brown, and Rashid Johnson are donating work for the sale, which will be held at Sotheby’s online from May 12-22, with a corresponding IRL gala hosted by Pace. (The Art Newspaper)

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Archaeologists Have Begun Digging in Unexplored Parts of Pompeii + 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 Thursday, March 2.


Investor Takes the Helm at French Auction House – Arnaud Montebourg, investor and former minister of economy and productive recovery under François Hollande, will now preside over the French auction house Pierre Bergé & Associés. Montebourg holds a 20 percent stake in the house, which sells furniture, art objects and spirits. (Le Monde)

Supreme Court Ruling on Appropriation Art – The U.S. Supreme Court will soon issue an opinion resolving a feud between the Andy Warhol Foundation and Lynn Goldsmith, over an image Goldsmith took of Prince that Warhol used in his art. An appeals court’s ruling before it had found that Warhol’s image did not constitute fair use, which had “a chilling effect,” and has rattled some museums who fear the implications the ruling could have for all works in their collections that incorporate others. (New York Times

Archaeologists Dig New Parts of Pompeii – Researchers have begun work on excavating an entirely unexplored city block. They are using drones and ground radar equipment to help scour the archaeological site for new treasures, bronzes, frescoes, and skeletons left after the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. (NY Post)

Stedelijk Recategorizes Malevich as Ukrainian – The Amsterdam museum has reclassified Kazimir Malevich as a Ukrainian. Malevich is typically described as Russian—he was born in Ukraine, when the city was a part of the Russian empire, to Polish parents. The move comes just after the Met reclassified artists Ivan Aivazovsky, Arkhyp Kuindzhi, and Ilya Repin as as Ukrainian. (The Art Newspaper)


Germany Names Curator for Venice Pavilion – Çağla Ilk will helm the 2024 pavilion. The Turkish-born curator has been co-director of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden with Misal Adnan Yildiz since 2020.(Press release)

The Frick Extends Free Admission to Under-18 Set – Starting today, visitors between the ages of 10 and 17 can visit the Frick Collection’s temporary residence on Madison Avenue for free. The move comes amid the institution’s move to inject more contemporary perspectives to its storied Old Master collection to attract a younger audience. A major show of Barkley L. Hendricks’s striking portraits is slated to open in September.  (Instagram)

Coronation Chair Gets a Makeover – The 700-year-old oak chair that will serve as the literal seat of King Charles III’s coronation is undergoing intense conservation to help preserve its “extremely fragile” state. The ornately carved gold-flaked piece, considered the ” oldest surviving piece of furniture still used for its original purpose,” has survived a litany of abuses, including graffiti marks in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a fire in 1914. (BBC)


Rirkrit Tiravanija Gets MoMA PS1 Show – The contemporary outpost of the Museum of Modern Art is staging the largest-ever show dedicated to the Thai artist, featuring more than 100 works across mediums including ping-pong tables, performance, and pad thai. The show, curated by Ruba Katrib and Yasmil Raymond in collaboration with Jody Graf and Kari Rittenbach, is slated to run from October 12, 2023 to March 2024. (ARTnews)

dealer Gavin Brown, dealer Patrick Seguin, and artist Rirkrit Tiravanija during a performanceon October 17, 2019 in Paris, France. (No, this is not pad thai, but at least it captures the vibe?) Photo by Luc Castel/Gettyimages

dealer Gavin Brown, dealer Patrick Seguin, and artist Rirkrit Tiravanija during a performanceon October 17, 2019 in Paris, France. Photo by Luc Castel/Gettyimages

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In a Landmark Restitution, the U.S. Returns 200 Looted Antiquities From Top Museums and Private Collections to Italy

Painted jars, marble busts, ceramic figurines, and even an ancient Roman statue reportedly sold to Kim Kardashian are part of a trove of 200 objects confiscated by U.S. authorities that have landed in Italy as part of the largest-ever repatriation agreement between the two countries. The objects were surrendered by museums and private collections across the United States.

The haul, which traveled on a commercial flight to Rome on Friday, is estimated to be worth around $10 million. “For years, prestigious museums and private collectors across the United States prominently displayed these Italian historical treasures even though their very presence in America constituted evidence of cultural heritage crimes,” the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in a statement.

Around 160 of them are linked to a single antiquities dealer, Edoardo Almagià, a 70-year-old from Rome accused of running a 30-year smuggling operation. Due to statutes of limitations, he is unlikely to face criminal charges. But for Italy, the objects’ return is a victory in its own right.

Pithos with Ulysses, Head of a Maiden, and Baltimore Painter Krater, three of some 200 stolen artifacts the Manhattan D.A. is repatriating to Italy. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan D.A.

Pithos with Ulysses, Head of a Maiden, and Baltimore Painter Krater, three of some 200 stolen artifacts the Manhattan D.A. is repatriating to Italy. Photo courtesy of the Manhattan D.A.

“What is most important is that these very important archaeological findings come back that are part of our culture identity,” Italian police official Roberto Riccardi, who serves in a cultural heritage unit of the Carabinieri, told the New York Times.

Seven of the repatriated artifacts were from the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, including a 2,500-year-old wine cup. The San Antonio Museum of Art returned five Greco-Roman jars and plates and a selection of pottery fragments, while the Cleveland Museum of Art turned over three works.

Others came from galleries and private collections in New York City and Long Island. According to federal documents, Kim Kardashian was in the process of acquiring one of the works, an ancient Roman statue, when it was detained at the U.S. border in 2016. (A spokesman for the celebrity later told Midnight Publishing Group News that Kardashian had “never seen this sculpture,” leading to speculation that her ex Kanye West was behind the scuppered purchase.)

Nearly half of the illicit objects were from the Museum of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Art at Fordham University in the Bronx. The museum opened in 2007 at the school’s Walsh Library, which is named after alumnus and donor William D. Walsh, who gifted his alma mater his collection of 260 antiquities. He later donated an additional 40 objects to the museum, which has since made modest acquisitions of its own.

Fordham has been forced to turn over a cache of about 100 Greco-Roman artifacts valued at close to $2 million, all but two of which come from Almagià. The museum’s holdings still include some 200 antiquities.

Authorities maintain that Walsh, who died in 2013, was unaware of Almagià’s illicit actions, but news coverage of the museum’s opening noted the potential for looted art.

“It’s a slightly imprudent act on the part of the university, because a lot of it is not provenanced,” Richard Hodges, the director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, told the New York Times at the time.

For his part, Almagià denied and attempted to minimize the allegations against him when reached by the Times. Investigations into his actions date back to at least 1996. In 2000, he was caught with stolen frescoes from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum at New York’s Kennedy Airport.

He left the U.S. in 2006 and authorities raided his Upper East Side apartment, finding six looted artifacts. An Italian court acquitted Almagià in a 2012 smuggling case, but the ruling acknowledged he had helped illegally move Italian antiquities.

The Manhattan D.A.’s office believes that other museums around the country still hold artifacts once owned by Almagià, so additional restitutions may be forthcoming.

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Bug Infestations at Museums Surged During Lockdown. Here’s How They Are Fighting Back to Defend Their Art From Pesky Critters

What’s a museum conservator’s greatest enemy? If your mind went straight to men in ski masks, disorderly visitors, or even climate-related threats, you’d be wrong. A much more banal threat haunts these experts’ nightmares: bugs.

And the problem has only gotten worse lately. Many pests are most active in the springtime. Thus, conservators were alarmed when museums were forced to lock down at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

“The combination of spring breeding season and dark, undisturbed galleries with no visitors as a result of lockdowns created favorable conditions for pests to thrive,” Madeline Corona, assistant conservator, decorative arts and sculpture conservation at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, told Midnight Publishing Group News recently. “It’s no surprise that museums all over the world saw an uptick in pest activity during this time.”

At the Getty, shortly after lockdown began in the spring 2020, routine pest monitoring revealed an uptick in the number of webbing clothes moths in some of the decorative arts galleries. Having located the unwelcome guests hiding around one of the South Pavilion decorative arts galleries’ most popular works—the pink 18th-century French day bed—the museum embarked on a year-long project to deep clean the galleries.

This level of intense concern about infestation is hardly unique to L.A. As Corona puts it, “Pests are a constant, inherent challenge in collections care worldwide.”


Bugs Everywhere

According to a spokesperson for the British Museum, the biggest threat it sees is from webbing clothes moth Tineolla bisselliella, which “can pose a risk to collections with a high organic content.” These common moths will munch through clothes, tapestries, even carpets.

Other pests that pose significant threats to museum collections, especially in the U.K, include bugs like silverfish, which eat books, paper, and cotton, and carpet beetle larvae, which munch on silk, wool, fur, and feathers. 

Silverfish in three pieces on the torn cover of an old book.

Silverfish in three pieces on the torn cover of an old book.

Even at museums that don’t have original textiles on display or organic objects in the collection, like London’s quirky cabinet of curiosities, Sir John Soane’s Museum, clothes moths still pose a threat. “They are a threat to reproduction textiles such as wool curtains and carpets and are more active here than other pests such as carpet beetle and silver fish,” the museum’s conservator Jane Wilkinson explained. 

Fortunately, many of the U.K.’s institutions had carefully thought-out procedures in place to avoid infestation during lockdown. Neither the British Museum, Sir John Soane’s Musuem, nor the Victoria & Albert Museum, which looks after an impressive 14,000-piece collection of garments from the last five centuries, reported any increase in pest activity during lockdown—in fact, the V&A reported a decrease in pest infestations.

But experts at all three museums attributed this to rigorous cleaning processes, as well as official IPM (Integrated Pest Management) policies and procedures which allowed them to keep the necessary expertise on the ground at all times, monitoring insect traps, inspecting collections, and doing environmental checks.


Gameifying Pest Control

Not all institutions have been able to keep eagle eyes on site at all times during the pandemic. With limited numbers of expert museum staff on the ground, it became more important than ever to ensure that frontline workers—from cleaners to security staff—were educated about how to spot pests that may look harmless but that could have devastating effects on collections.

To this end, Helena Jaeschke, a conservator at the Southwest Museums Development consultancy in the U.K., even developed a card game called Save the Museum. The deck has 26 cards, each featuring life-sized silhouettes of common pests with more information about the damage they inflict on the reverse of the card. 

Save the Museum card deck. Image via Conservation Resources.

Save the Museum card deck. Image via Conservation Resources.

“You can flick through the cards to learn details about pests and possible treatments whilst having a coffee break, or else challenge each other with a game,” Jaeschke said in a statement. “It’s a great way for everyone to become more confident in identifying and dealing with pests and protecting our heritage.”

The cards are available to buy online. Decks have been delivered to some 138 museums in the southwest that signed onto the region’s Pest Partners initiative, along with kits designed to help museums identify, trap, and track pest activity.


Counting Moths at the Met

Teamwork and proactive examination is also very much a part of the battle plan at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “We have a comprehensive integrated pest management program,” said Lisa Pilosi, conservator in charge of objects conservation at the Met. “Even through there are specific people dedicated to that program, it’s kind of a museum-wide responsibility to think about this.”

Though the museum has one IPM program administrant and research scientists focused on preventive conservation issues including identifying pests and working on mitigation, “we sort of fan out from there, where every curatorial and conservation department has at least one person who’s assigned to the moth monitoring process.”

This includes maintaining moth traps throughout the building, “especially in areas we think might be problematic. These assigned staff members check them on a regular basis and we keep a museum-wide record of where we’re finding moths. So it’s a matter of where is it ticking up.”

Adult Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella). ©Historyonics.

Adult Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella). ©Historyonics.

In addition, Pilosi says, “Our guards are super observant and they are always looking at the collection and what’s going on.”

A few days after the shutdown in March 2020, a group including the leaders of the collections emergency team met and came up with a list of about 30 staff who have collections responsibility, who were either in walking distance of the museum or who were close enough to come in with their car. They identified everywhere there was art or an important archive, whether on display, in storage, or in libraries. “We made a roster so that every two or three days a team of three from this larger group would walk through some of those spaces… so we had eyes on everything.”


Experimenting With Micro-Wasps

Some U.K. institutions are pushing the practice even further with the use of scientific experimentation. The National Trust, which is a heritage charity that looks after more than 500 historic properties—including castles, ancient monuments, gardens, parks and nature reserves around the U.K.—is trialing an inventive way to crack down on its uptick in pests. 

“There’s no doubt lockdown suited our resident bugs,” assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis said. The problem was compounded by mild winter conditions followed by a particularly warm spring, and the result was that 173 of National Trust properties reported record numbers of insects, representing an 11 percent total increase in pests from the 2019 report. 

Blickling Hall in Norfolk, a historic property believed to have been where Anne Boleyn was born, was particularly affected by clothes moths, which caused damage to some of its collections, including a tapestry of Peter the Great that was gifted to the property owner by Catherine the Great in the 1760s.

A card dispenser, containing c. 2,400 parasitoid wasps, in an oak drawer. ©Historyonics.

A card dispenser, containing c. 2,400 parasitoid wasps, in an oak drawer. ©Historyonics.

Following scientific research, it decided to experiment with a natural pest-control method by releasing microscopic wasps that are clothes moths’ “natural enemy.” 

Called Trichogramma evanescens, these tiny parasitic wasps are just 0.5 mm in length and nearly invisible to the human eye. They are supplied in small card dispensers containing up to 2,400 wasps that can be discreetly hung or placed around the property. Without being harmful to humans or other animals, the wasp parasites seek out moth eggs and lay their own eggs inside them to hatch new wasps. After laying eggs, they die naturally and disappear “inconspicuously into house dust.” 

The trial also includes the deployment of specially prepared female moth pheromones, which could disrupt adult mating by confusing the male moths.

The National Trust began the trial in February 2021, and Jarvis reported limited early results at the most recent Pest Odyssey conference earlier this month, joining organizations like the U.K. Pest Odyssey Network for support and advice from specialists in heritage pest control. Early data after six months suggest a greater drop in moths when the wasps were used in combination with the pheromone disruption, compared with just using pheromone disruption on its own. But Jarvis said these numbers should be looked at with caution: the warmer weather and lockdown surge in pests in 2020 boosted comparable figures, which could give a false impression of the extent of the drop. 

The trial continues, and given the stakes, museums around the world are watching.

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