New Reports on Threats to UK Art Market, Rise of Private Museums & New Director Appointed for the Venice Biennale

Just the 5 art world updates you should know this week.

1. Venice Biennale Names New Director for 2017 Edition

On Friday, The Venice Biennale’s board appointed Christine Macel as the fair’s Director of the Visual Arts Sector, making her responsible for curating the 57th International Art Exhibition in 2017.

Christine Macel (Venice Biennale)

Macel joins the Biennale after serving as chief curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris since 2000, during which time she founded and oversaw the museum’s department of contemporary art. She stood out as a candidate for the position as the board attempts to recover from Okwui Enwezo’s divisive 56th edition of the biennale. Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale, explained: “In the wake of the Biennale Arte directed by Okwui Enwezor, centered on the theme of the rifts and divisions that pervade the world, and aware that we are currently living in an age of anxiety, La Biennale has selected Christine Macel as a curator committed to emphasizing the important role artists play in inventing their own universes and injecting generous vitality into the world we live in.”

2. UK Dealers Cite Rising Rents as Biggest Threat to British Art Market

On the eve of its January 20 opening, the London Art Fair surveyed British dealers to assess the state of the UK art market. And 37% of the 53 galleries who participated in the survey indicated rising rents in Britain as the largest threat to the UK’s major position in the international art market.

Inside the London Art Fair (London Calling)

With rents in London rising 17.9% in the last four years, it’s no wonder that the city has seen an exodus of artists moving towards cheaper urban centers. Following the price of real estate, 21% of dealers citied government cuts to arts funding (12% of British museums will have to begin charging admission this year to make up for budget deficits and 44 others have closed since 2010) as the largest threat, with another 12% pointing toward rising costs and reduced availability of studio space and 10% indicating an educational system that degrades arts in favor of STEM subjects.

3. Eight Egyptian Museum Employees Investigated for Damage to King Tut’s Mask

Eight former employees from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo — including the former director and chief of restoration — are facing an emergency disciplinary tribunal regarding their recent handling of and damage to King Tut’s more than 3,300-year old funerary mask.

King Tut’s funerary mask (Class Connection)

In August, 2014, when the beard fell off of King Tut’s mask as it was being moved, the team of eight rushed to reattach it using epoxy glue but left a “visible crust” of adhesive substance on the artifact. The staff’s following attempts to remove the remnants of glue only caused greater damage to the historic piece and they have since been removed from their posts, pending the results of the ongoing investigation into the incident. The prosecution in their disciplinary hearing is arguing that the eight staff members exhibited “gross negligence and blatant violation of scientific and professional” regulations in their handling of the piece. However, the German conservator Christian Eckman, who spent more than two months restoring the mask after this incident in Cairo, has noted that the beard’s falling off is not unheard of. In fact, it was Howard Carter, who found King Tut’s tomb, that noticed the beard was loose upon his discovery and removed it himself.

4. New Report Examines Growing Sector of Private Museums Worldwide

Larry’s List has teamed up with a Chinese research center to publish The Private Art Museum Report, an in depth look at the growing sector of privately funded museums around the world.

(Larry’s List)

The study found that there are 317 private contemporary art museums across the globe, with 1/5 of those institutions opening in the last five years and 70% of them founded after 2000. South Korea emerged as the country with the most private institutions (45 museums), with 13 in Seoul alone. The United States ranks behind South Korea with 43 museums and is followed by Germany with 42 and China with 26. However, after Seoul, Berlin and Beijing are tied for cities with the most museums (9 each), after which come Miami with 8 museums and Athens with 7. The study also found that the traditionally more innovative marketing strategies and larger budgets of private museums allow the institutions to draw sizable audiences, with 1/3 of the museums attracting more than 20,000 visitors a year. Amid museum cutbacks and government budget crises, the new wave of private museums may promise the pubic greater and more constant access to art. (Click here for more stats and analysis)

5. Knoedler Forgery Trial Begins in New York

Monday marked the beginning of the lawsuit into the alleged forgery committed by Knoedler & Company, a 165-year old New York City gallery that specialized in modern and contemporary masters.

The former Knoedler Gallery on the Upper East Side of New York City (artnet News)

However, after allegedly selling dozens of fake paintings purported to have been painted by the like of Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, the gallery was forced to close its doors in 2011. In reality, the paintings were being created at the request of art dealer Jose Carlos Bergantiños Diaz by a painter living in Queens, who has since fled the country for China. “It’s amazing to think that this institution never stopped for 165 years. It didn’t stop during the Civil War, World War I, World War II,” commented the gallery’s former director and president, Anne Freedman, who has maintained her innocence in the scheme, even purchasing some of the fraudulent pieces herself. The case will delve into once of the most major incidents of art forgery in recent memory (and for anyone looking for some more background info, artnet has compiled the 8 Key Points to Know).

This post was written with the help of Alice Mahoney, from

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