Your Weekly Art News: From the Margins to the Headlines (Oct. 9-16)

In this week’s news, a controversial work attributed to Banksy is restored in London, Trump withdraws from UNESCO, and weak sales reports from Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Sale…

Fast’s seemingly derelict interpretation of Chinatown businesses has drawn ire from local groups.

The exhibition has angered other community members, including the Chinatown Art Brigade (CAB), a collective of artists and activists working with the Chinatown Tenants Union and CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities. CAB has released a statement condemning the exhibition that reads in part:

“The conception and installation of this show reifies racist narratives of uncleanliness, otherness and blight that have historically been projected onto Chinatown. We cannot underscore enough how offensive this is to the people who live and work here. The artist’s choice to ignore the presence of a thriving community filled with families and businesses reduces their existence to poverty porn. This has a real and negative impact on how Chinatown is perceived by non- residents, politicians and developers who view low-income communities as wastelands ripe for investment and exploitation.”


Exterior view of Omer Fast’s August, at James Cohan Gallery (image courtesy Chinatown Art Brigade)

  • Art market slumps as Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Sale falls short of target, led by Francis Bacon’s Study of Red Pope (1962) that fails to garner bid

A hush fell over a packed Christie’s salesroom tonight at its evening postwar and contemporary sale as its star lot of Frieze Week, Francis Bacon’s Study of Red Pope (1962), failed to elicit a bid. It had been estimated to fetch as much as £60 million. “People were in the room who had expressed interest,” said department head Francis Outred afterwards, “but none of them wanted to break the ice.” He added, hopefully, “I am sure we can still sell it.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Red Skull (1982) being sold at Christie’s “Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction” in London. Image courtesy Christie’s.

  • London’s Shoreditch gets controversial Banksy back, but questions remain over it’s authenticity

A uniformed policeman on his hands and knees.

But far from forensically fishing for clues at a crime scene, this particular officer of the law is engaging in an altogether different line of inquiry.

The mural, stencilled on an East End toilet block under the cover of darkness in 2005 and showing a policeman apparently sniffing cocaine, garnered instant intrigue and notoriety.

Having been hidden from view for a decade, it is now back on the beat in its original location after a painstaking restoration process.

Chris Bull and his team worked for several months to restore the piece which had “seen better days,” image courtesy BBC

  • Trump drops out of UNESCO citing “Anti Israel Bias”

The United States has withdrawn from the United Nation’s covenant on the protection of world heritage sites and cultural artifacts, saying that it’s unfair to Israel, which has bailed on the convention too.

The key issue, as with many US-UN disputes, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In October 2011, UNESCO admitted the Palestinian territories to the organization as an independent member-state called Palestine. This triggered a US law which cut off American funding for any organization that recognized an independent Palestine. The US had previously paid for 22 percent ($80 million) of UNESCO’s annual budget.

Finally, in 2013, after the US missed several rounds of payments to UNESCO, the organization suspended US voting rights in its core decision-making bodies. So the US hasn’t been a real UNESCO member for a while. Trump is just making that status official — and scoring a domestic public relations coup with pro-Israel, anti-UN conservatives in the process.

Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images

  • Former Directors of Artist Pension Trust cite “deep disappointment” with new contract

Could a push to charge artists a $6.50 storage fee completely hobble one of the art market’s most ambitious experiments in financial engineering?

The Artist Pension Trust is as closely watched a gambit as any in the art industry. Now, however, APT is under mounting pressure, with a group of very vocal artist-critics lawyering up to beat back an unpopular policy change, and a high-profile group of former Trust directors publicly speaking out against their former employer.

Since its founding in 2004, the Trust has signed up some 2,000 artists to donate works yearly, with the idea that pooling the proceeds from sales of the art will allow for a steady stream of revenue to be returned to participants, akin to a pension. Art careers are highly variable, with long-term success being hard to predict. The APT’s driving hypothesis was that, over time, the big winners would compensate for the many less successful artists, thereby providing some financial security for artists as a whole.


The recent wave of anger from artists in the Trust was triggered by a new rule requiring participants to pay for storage of the art they have contributed to the fund ($6.50 per month, per artwork). A source told artnet News that artists were originally informed that they had 21 days to vote on the amendment, but also that any non-response would be regarded as consent. If they declined, artists were told that they would be required to house the work elsewhere at their own expense.

Your Weekly Art News: From the Margins to the Headlines by Dorian Batycka (Associate Editor, D/Railed Contemporary Art Mag)

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