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Week in Review: Museum of Chinese in America Begins to Salvage Archives After Fire; Triennial Postponed Over Coronavirus Concerns

Also, the official Obama portraits will tour the United States, new murals commemorate Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and more.

Conservation experts retrieving boxes from the collection of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) after a fire consumed the top floors of a building in New York’s Chinatown (courtesy of MOCA)

Week in Review is a weekly collection of news, developments, and stirrings in the art world. Subscribe to receive these posts as a weekly newsletter.

Recovery efforts are underway following a five-alarm fire that ravaged the building housing the collection of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York’s Chinatown district last week. Museum president Nancy Yao Maasbach announced that parts of the collection are “very much salvageable.”

The CAFA Art Museum in Beijing has postponed its Techne Triennial exhibition of media art in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has now declared a global emergency. Meanwhile, institutions are shuttering in response to the epidemic, and galleries are calling on Art Basel Hong Kong to cancel this year’s fair.

The sculpture “Head with Horns,” formerly attributed to Paul Gauguin (photo by Thad Zajdowicz / Flickr)

“Head with Horns,” a wood sculpture in the collection of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles formerly attributed to Paul Gauguin, was misattributed. The museum had purchased the work for an estimated $3 million from the New York-based gallery Wildenstein & Company in 2002.

The Palestinian photojournalist Attiya Darwish, who was hit while covering protests at the Gaza Strip in 2018, has lost all vision in his left eye. He is the second Palestinian photojournalist to lose an eye from an Israeli military attack in the last three months.

The 27 African objects recently donated to a museum in Benin by a group of French dealers had been removed from an auction in Nantes following an intervention by Pan-African activists. The artifacts were acquired in a post-sale deal by the gallerists, who acted as “sponsors” for Benin.

In Los Angeles, new murals have cropped up commemorating former Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and his 14-year-old daughter Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash.

The Asheville Art Museum will digitize the more than 3,000 materials in its Black Mountain College Collection, thanks to a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. The museum plans to host a version of the collection on its website and create an “Interconnective Timeline,” giving the public access to previously unseen archival documents and works of art and helping to preserve the legendary school’s legacy.

Left: Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley (2018) (image © 2018 Kehinde Wiley, courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution); right: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama by Amy Sherald (2018) (image courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

In June 2021, the official portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama will leave the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC and tour to five institutions across the country: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the High Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Artists are rallying after Mexican artist and women’s rights activist Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre was murdered in downtown Juárez, Mexico. It’s a terrifyingly common story for Juárez, which has been plagued with femicides for decades.

PEN America has released a five-point guide for US border crossings for writers and journalists after Iranians and Iranian-Americans reported increased scrutiny at US border crossings following the killing of Qasem Soleimani.

Anne Collier, “Aura (John Baldessari 2003)” (2018), C-print, 11 × 14 inches (image), 13 × 16 inches (sheet), 14.0625 × 17 inches (framed), edition of 15 with five APs. Published for CalArts by Lisa Ivorian-Jones. (copyright Anne Collier, courtesy of the artist)

CalArts commissioned work by 50 artist alumni, including John Baldessari and Carrie Mae Weems, ahead of its 50th anniversary. The works will be released in groups of 10 over a five-year period and sold to benefit a new scholarship endowment for the university’s School of Art.

Administrators of the Instagram account @herdsceneand, who were sued for defamation by Indian artist Subodh Gupta after posting accusations of sexual harassment against him, have given their first statements in the Delhi High Court. They defended their right to anonymity and described Scene and Herd’s role as a “whistleblower” that “provides a neutral platform for carrying and sharing incidents of sexual harassment.”

Visual artists have taken on a preeminent role in documenting the ongoing National Strike in Bogota, Colombia, in particular the violent confrontations between police, ESMAD, and demonstrators.

A Jeff Koons Dolly Parton meme by @jerrygogosian (courtesy of @jerrygogosian)

And on a much-needed lighter note, we rounded up our favorite art-themed #DollyPartonChallenge memes. Musée d’Orsay, Sotheby’s, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston were among the institutions to poke fun at their LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter personas.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, “Madonna of the Rosary with angels” (1735), oil on canvas (courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Sotheby’s continues to deliver on its promise to make Old Masters paintings hip again. The first day of its annual Masters Week in New York raked in $76.2 million and saw the highest sales total for a Sotheby’s Old Masters drawing auction ($15.1 million; $11.7 million of which came from Andrea Mantegna’s “The Triumph of Alexandria,” which set the record for the most expensive Old Master drawing ever sold in the United States.) Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s “Madonna of the Rosary with Angels” led the house’s painting sale, selling for almost three times the artist’s previous record at auction.

These and other notable sales and acquisitions are chronicled in our latest Transactions story.

This Week in the Art World

“Avaritia—Silent Greed” (2015) by Cheuk Wing Nam, who will be included in the inaugural edition of the Asia Society Triennial (courtesy of the artist and Asia Society Hong Kong Center)

The Asia Society has released its list of more than 40 artists and collectives participating in the inaugural edition of the Asia Society Triennial. | Artforum

Independent Curators International has appointed Frances Wu Giarratano as its new Deputy Director | via email announcement

The Boca Raton Museum of Art has received a $1 million donation to its 70th Anniversary Education Fund from Board Chair Jody Harrison Grass and her husband Martin Grass. | via email announcement

The Italian film producer Roberto Cicutto has been named the new president of the Venice Biennale. | via Artforum

Sarah Laursen has been appointed the new curator of Chinese art at the Harvard Art Museums, effective June 15, 2020. | via email announcement

The Joan Mitchell Foundation has announced the 37 artists who will participate in its Artist-in-Residence program at its Center in New Orleans this year. | Joan Mitchell Foundation

The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation has pledged $2.5 million to doctoral art history programs at the City University of New York, Harvard University, New York University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago. | via email announcement

The Pérez Art Museum Miami has appointed Emma Heald as Director of Development and René Morales as Director of Curatorial Affairs and Chief Curator. Within existing staff, Marie Vickles will become the museum’s Director of Education and Mark B. Rosenblum its Chief Operating Officer. | via email announcement

Timothy Taylor Gallery has announced Tarka Russell and Chloë Waddington as new directors. | via email announcement

In Memoriam

Harriet Frank Jr. (1923-2020), screenwriter and producer | Variety 

Franz Mazura (1924-2020), Austrian opera singer | NYT

Santu Mofokeng (1956-2020), South African photographer | NYT

Jason Polan (1982-2020), artist who set out to draw everyone in New York City | NYT

Bill Ray (1936-2020), Life magazine staff photographer | NYT

Hugo Urquijo (1944-2020), Argentine theater director | Clarín

Wes Wilson (1937-2020), artist and designer of psychedelic posters | NYT

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