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Jeff Koons’s Gazing Ball Smashed to Pieces

In further news: art dealer and Warhol friend killed in Trump Tower fire; UK arts organizations’s gender pay gap revealed; Pussy Riot sell activist clothing

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints), 2014–15, oil on canvas, glass, aluminum. Courtesy: the artist

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints), 2014-15, oil on canvas, glass, aluminum. Courtesy: the artist

Jeff Koons, Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints), 2014-15, oil on canvas, glass, aluminum. Courtesy: the artist

An unlucky visitor to the final day of Jeff Koons’s exhibition at Amsterdam’s 15th-century Nieuwe Kerk accidentally smashed one of the artist’s works from his ‘Gazing Ball Paintings’ series. The work, Gazing Ball (Perugino Madonna and Child with Four Saints) (2014–15) consisted of a delicate blue glass ball juxtaposed with a handpainted replica of an altar work by the 16th-century Italian artist Pietro Perugino (producing a mirroring effect; allowing the visitor to ‘enter’ into the artwork). Or as the artist said in a recent interview, ‘you become part of the painting and the painting becomes part of you’. But when the overly curious visitor took Koons at his word, to the point of actually touching the glass ball, it shattered into pieces.

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Swiss artist Carol May’s McDonald’s Happy Meal-inspired Unhappy Meal (2018) also met an unfortunate end last week after cleaners mistook it for rubbish and threw it away. May’s artwork, an inverted version of the classic fast food children’s meal deal box, sporting a frown, was included in Hong Kong’s Harbour Art Fair. But cleaners at the Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel ended up binning the cardboard sculpture. ‘Initially I didn’t find it funny at all,’ the artist said. ‘But later I realized it meant my imitation had been a success.’

UK arts organizations are still afflicted by a sizeable gender pay gap, according to newly released government statistics. The discrepancy was particularly pronounced in major auction houses where women are paid 22–37% less than men. Public sector outfits proved better – there was a median pay gap of 10.9% for the British Council, 7.2% at the V&A, and 2.6% for Arts Council England. Meanwhile, at the British Museum and Tate, women out-earn men by 4% and 2.4% respectively, according to a report in the Art Newspaper.

Art dealer and friend of Andy Warhol, Todd Brassner, has died in the fire that broke out in New York’s Trump Tower over the weekend. Brassner, who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, is reported to have become a recluse in recent years – it is not known if his artworks (which include a 1975 portrait of himself by Warhol) have survived the fire. Brassner ‘loved fast cars, electric guitars, expensive watches and making long, erudite pronouncements about art and art history,’ according to the New York Times. The cause of the fire is also unknown at the time of reporting.

The Terra Foundation for American Art and Art Bridges (Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton’s non-profit) have joined forces, awarding USD$2.4 million to the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to support touring exhibitions – part of a wider programme that seeks to create a network for art-sharing for US museums.

The troubled German quinquennial art exhibition documenta, in Kassel, has appointed Wolfgang Orthmayer as its interim CEO. Orthmayer, a former Sony Music executive, succeeds Annette Kulenkampff who stepped down after the 2017 edition of documenta 14 accumulated a deficit of EUR€5.4 million, attracting heated criticism and much debate. Kulenkampff’s departure was ‘by mutual decision’, according to the city of Kassel.

Meanwhile, in a dramatic bid for film industry influence, Netflix is threatening to pull its films from Cannes over the festival’s rules that competition films must have a French theatrical release. Cannes screened Netflix films Okja and The Meyerowitz Stories in last year’s competition, which proved unpopular with the French – artistic director Thierry Fremaux later declared that future competition films must have a theatrical release in France. Netflix’s threat puts several films in danger of not receiving festival attention, including Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma and Paul Greengrass’s Norway.

Nancy Ireson has been appointed deputy director of collections and exhibitions and chief curator at Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation. Ireson is currently the Tate’s curator of international art, a post which she has held since 2016. Recent exhibitions include the ‘Picasso 1932’ show which runs until 9 September. She begins in the new role in August. She succeeds Sylvie Patry who has returned to Paris’s Musée d’Orsay.

Feminist art collective Pussy Riot have released an activist clothing line – the proceeds from the sale of colourful balaclavas, sweary t-shirts and rainbow socks go towards funding independent journalism by Mediazona, an investigative ‘free-of-censorship’ media platform started by Pussy Riot in 2014.

A billboard artist project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has triggered an outcry over censorship. The Last Billboard invites artists (including in the past, Laure Prouvost and Pablo Helguera) to create messages for a billboard display. But the latest work by Pittsburgh artist Alisha Wormsley, whose message says ‘There are Black People in the Future’ first provoked the landlord of the building to ask the project to remove the artwork. After protests over censorship, the work has been reinstated. The artist said she was ‘comforted by how my Pittsburgh has stood up.’

And finally, Interpol’s Art Theft Database has some interesting revelations about what kind of art is most stolen, and where – several targeted hotspots are in Europe, with 20th century art and sculptures proving the most popular, according to the data.

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