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 Friday, January 3.
Meet the Art World’s 20 Least Powerful People – At the top of Hyperallergic’s annual list of the least powerful people in the art world are adjunct professors, who suffer from low pay and job insecurity, often earning just a few thousand dollars for teaching a whole course. People who call out sexual harassment come in at number two, who have seen little concrete consequences for those they have accused more than two years after the start of the MeToo movement. Also highly placed on the list are the feminist artists fighting Instagram censorship and workers laid off by the now-shuttered Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles. (Hyperallergic)
Can a Perspex Flood Barrier Save St. Mark’s? – St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice wants to build a transparent flood barrier to protect its medieval facade. The church’s governing body is working on a plan to erect a two-meter-high Perspex wall, with sink sheet piles planted four meters deep into St. Mark’s Square. The project’s budget has not been revealed, though the the cost to repair the damage to the church following catastrophic flooding in November is estimated to be around $3.4 million. (TAN)
Does the Museum Model Work? – Jezebel asks a variety of curators, art workers, and activists a provocative question: who does the existing museum model serve? Chaédria LaBouvier, who organized the exhibition “Basquiat’s ‘Defacement’: The Untold Story” at New York’s Guggenheim Museum last year, says she was shocked by how the institution struggled to engage with “an empowered person of color.” Izzy Johnson, a former docent and organizer at the Marciano Art Foundation, thinks that you still need to independently wealthy or have some other source of income to afford to work in an art museum. New Museum union organizer Dana Kopel puts it more bluntly: the whole museum model in the US is “unethical and unsustainable,” she writes. (Jezebel)
Remai Modern’s Former Director Removed From Harassment Complaint – Gregory Burke, the former director of Remai Modern in Saskatoon, tweeted his relief that a Canadian judge had suspended a harassment complaint made by a former staffer in 2015. Judge Brenda Hildebrandt ordered Burke’s name be removed from the complaint to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, writing that a 31-month-long investigation had resulted in “significant prejudice” against the director. Burke resigned from the Canadian museum last year and was due to take the helm of the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand, but withdrew from the post when the harassment allegation surfaced. “I look forward to resuming my career in 2020,” he tweeted. (ARTnews)
Demand for US Freeports on the Rise – As the US imposes new tariffs on art and antiques, demand is spiking for New York’s first freeport art storage facility. Arcis in Harlem has found particular success with its viewing rooms, which allow international sellers to show work to prospective buyers without ever having to pay import taxes (though they will need to pony up once the work leaves the facility—unless the buyer has space at Arcis, too). (The Art Newspaper)
COMINGS & GOINGS
Hong Kong Artist Cheung Yee Has Died – The Chinese artist has died in Los Angeles at the age of 83. Cheung Yee, who came to prominence in Hong Kong in the 1960s, is best known for his sculptural bronzes, which combine Western and traditional Chinese aesthetics. (Artforum)
Brooklyn Museum Curator Heads to Cleveland – Kristen Windmuller-Luna is the Cleveland Museum of Art’s new curator of African arts. She previously served as African art curator at the Brooklyn Museum, where her hire sparked controversy in 2018 over whether the institution should have hired a white academic for the job. (ARTnews)
Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye Will Become a Museum – The influential Modernist architect’s masterwork, Villa Savoye, will become a museum and library dedicated to Le Corbusier. Work to turn the house in Poissy, on the edge of Paris, into a museum could begin in 2024, with a public opening scheduled for 2027. (Le Parisien)
FOR ART’S SAKE
Damien Hirst Sculptures Get a Facelift Ahead of Retrospective – The British artist is preparing for a retrospective by sprucing up some of his older works. Several large-scale bronzes surfaced outside his Gloucestershire studio complex last week, including Charity (2002–3), The Virgin Mother (2005–6), and Temple (2008). A spokeswoman confirmed they “are currently being worked on for a retrospective exhibition.” (The Art Newspaper)
Princeton’s Newest Portraits Honor Blue-Collar Workers – The Ivy League university typically hangs portraits that honor (almost entirely white) founders, presidents, and donors. But Princeton’s latest display is different: a new series of 10 portraits by Mario Moore honors workers from across campus, including those in the facilities, dining, and security departments. Moore said he wanted to put the predominantly African American workers “in positions of power.” Some of the works will now enter the Princeton University Art Museum’s collection. (CNN)
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The LA Art Show Returns With an Environmental Focus – Surface Magazine
Environmental issues have taken on a particular urgency in the past year. Climate scientists have warned that if nations fail to immediately pivot from fossil fuels, catastrophic consequences await. Artists frequently reckon with this grim reality, with many expressing skepticism—if not outright anger—at climate inaction, which has resulted in the destruction of coral reefs, intense wildfires, rising sea levels, and the extinction of beloved animal species. The issues surrounding climate change have become top of mind for The LA Art Show, which is kicking off the city’s eagerly anticipated 2022 art season with a newfound ecological lens thanks to the return of DIVERSEartLA.
This year’s edition, which kicks off today at the Los Angeles Convention Center, sheds light not only on how artists represent the environment in their work, but how humanity’s role factors into the equation. “DIVERSEartLA 2022 will encourage visitors to confront the complex challenges of our global climate crisis and imagine potential solutions,” says Marisa Caichiolo, the show’s curator, who encouraged participating art museums to partner with science and environmental institutions. “This topic is at the heart of a growing number of art narratives, including exhibitions built with high-tech innovations designed to inspire artistic appreciation and the desire to respond to environmental challenges, reinforcing the value of translating environmental advocacy into art.”
Among the programming highlights is “Our turn to change,” a worry-inducing video installation by Andrea Juan and Gabriel Penedo Diego and presented by the Museum of Nature of Cantabria Spain that awakens viewers to melting polar ice caps that are causing sea levels to rise drop by drop. The Torrance Art Museum, meanwhile, presents “Memorial to the Future,” a collaborative piece curated by Max Presneill that centers Brutalist architecture as a failed model of idealism while highlighting the immediate need for environmental action. And in “The Earth’s Fruits” by Guillermo Anselmo Vezzosi, waste unexpectedly takes on a dignified second life.
The LA Art Show opens at the Los Angeles Convention Center, South Hall, from Jan. 19–23.
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At Art Basel, FLUF Haus Breaks Barrier Between Metaverse And Physical World – Forbes
Last month, while the cultural elite wrapped up Art Basel with the usual lavish purchases of Keith Herring paintings and Daniel Arsham decayed sculptures, a different crowd had gathered just a couple blocks down the South Beach coastline. The world’s first “Metaverse star” was about to perform.
FLUF Haus, the first in-person gathering for a community of virtual 3D Rabbits (known as Flufs), was hosting a concert for the music star known as “Angelbaby”—a large tattooed pink rabbit whose identity, appearance, and music had been created entirely on the metaverse.
Despite Angelbaby’s entirely virtual existence, some 600 people—largely stakeholders in the NFT community, FLUF World—had flown from across the globe to witness the in-person debut. A projection screen overlooked the dance floor where guests including Trinidad James and Boyz Noise commingled amidst fire breathers and models. Screens scattered throughout the venue displayed various Fluf avatars, broken up by animated scenes from FLUF World.
The event—which felt like a bit of a coming out party for newly created FLUF World—underscored a crucial, often overlooked detail of the booming NFT space: community.
“The most important thing to me with FLUF World was the Discord.” said Robert Hellauer, a 33-year old financial analyst who became a Fluf holder in September. “I went to all the Discords, and all the metaverses have a different vibe…And you could just feel the energy with this one.”
Like the notorious Bored Apes or CryptoPunks, the value of a Fluf isn’t just as a piece of digital art, but as a digital identity. Much like how Supreme or Thrasher did for skaters, NFTs codify culture into appearance, branding one’s allegiance to virtual clans and online subcultures. Buying into a community, literally, helps carve out one’s metaverse identity. FLUF World recognized this early on, and decided to intentionally avoid the toxicity present in many virtual worlds, instead focusing on creating a dynamic and inclusive world to house their digital animal characters.
This appeal of intentional community has seemingly paid off, as many at Fluf World expressed having previous interest in the metaverse, but hadn’t yet found a space that appealed to them.
“These guys think about things other guys don’t,” says Tom Soler, a software manager attending the event. “Decentraland launched way ahead but it feels very empty. These guys have thought through what is the most engaging way to create a community for people who want to hang together.”
This engagement is reflected in Fluf World’s 42,000 member Discord where “#new-fluffers are greeted with a reminder to “treat each other with respect”, and after searching through the Fluf Radio and sales channels can navigate to the “Above Ground” section, to find channels such as #health-and-wellness, and #time-to-talk.
That’s not to overlook the draw of Fluf World’s impressive technology and artistic detail. Rather than use 8-bit images or 2D cartoons, Fluf World features fully 3D characters designed by animators who’ve worked on projects including Avatar and the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Characters hover over customizable, multi-dimensional environments—which include both personalized character music and location based-backgrounds that range from a desert to futuristic city (collectively known as “scenes and sounds”).
Along with the 10,000 original rabbit ‘Flufs’, FLUF World introduced their second line of characters —known as Party Bears— of which all 10,000 sold out in under 10 minutes. Beyond avatars, stakeholders can also purchase virtual real estate known as “burrows”, and even AI-brained spiders (known as “thingies”) which use pattern recognition to create and mint their own new virtual art. All of Fluf World’s characters constantly evolve, and often contain hidden attributes that develop and reveal themselves over time.
Together, this technology, art, and community channels weave together a digital world that shows promise of true depth; an online space with the potential to create a self-perpetuating cycle of growth based on bottom-up user participation.
“When it comes to other [metaverse] platforms, it’s all about roadmaps,” says FLUF World superfan Nick Synodis, (who goes by the handle Knux). “Fluf is in a league of its own. Its competitor is Spotify. It’s Facebook.”
A Record Label For The Metaverse
One of the most promising examples of FLUF World’s potential to be a truly dynamic multi-channel world is their partnership with NFT music collective, Hume.
Described by co-founders Jay Stolar and David Beiner as the “Web3 version of a record label,” Hume is the NFT music minting service that allows Flufs to commercially own and display exclusive music snippets in their character environment. With a tagline of “we are hume. we are many,” Hume has the most active twitter following in the Fluf World community, acting as both differentiator and hype builder for the virtual world.
“We’re creating music-driven Metastars,” says record producer Gino the Ghost, the event’s emcee and Hume evangelist. “The next Billie Eilish or Drake is gonna be in the metaverse.”
Asked what made him interested in migrating his experience from the traditional music realm, Gino (who has composed music for the likes of rapper Saweetie) expressed both an ardent fascination with FLUF World, as well as sharing a commonly held frustration with the revenue structure of the music industry.
”What I primarily do, I work with the pop side, the rap side, the dance side —and they all want to know, ‘How do I get into NFTs?’ All these creatives are so tired of the labels and the royalties—and music NFTs are a way out that isn’t cash-grabby.”
With the creation of their metaverse star Angelbaby, Gino and the founders at Hume are optimistic that Web3 could create a paradigm shift not just in how artists generate revenue, but how fans can benefit from their artist loyalty. In this case for instance, by financially supporting Angelbaby’s origin story (which involved being lost in the desert after being transported 1000 years back in time), fans received some of Angelbaby’s original minted music. This music in turn grows in value as Angelbaby’s popularity rises.
“People who helped Angelbaby in the desert, now they all own a piece of their song that is worth $400-500. Over time this increases the value of their own NFT,” says Beiner.
Gino explains the relationship a bit more simply: “It a way for fans to make fucking money supporting their favorite artists.”
World Competition, or Synergy?
As Gino’s introduction wraps up and Angelbaby’s giant character is projected onto a screen in front of a sea of cellphone recordings, one aspect of FLUF Haus becomes immediately clear: it’s surprisingly normal.
For all the talk of Web3 and NFTs the metaverse, the event feels much like any other concert—with people dancing in close quarters, and having a good time with people they know. Save for the fact that the performing artist is a 13-foot tall pink rabbit with no known human identity, you’d be hard pressed to know this was an NFT event.
And in a way, that’s kind of the point. As virtual representations of ourselves continue to grow—and the metaverse becomes increasingly populated—so too inevitably will our online identities. But that doesn’t mean we will forgo our personalities in the physical world. Like gamertags, or bitmojis or animal crossing islands, spaces like FLUF World will add another layer onto our beings that enhance, not replace our existing lives. FLUF Haus was trying to demonstrate that connection to the world.
“The meta verse is going to be this amazing digital space,” says Knux. “But the ultimate goal of it is to live in both worlds.”
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