Art Industry News: Experts Reveal How the Romans Really Used a 2,000-Year-Old Wooden Phallus + Other Stories


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 Wednesday, February 22.


Smithsonian Agrees to Custody Looted Yemeni Objects – Following a request from the Yemeni Embassy, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has agreed to temporarily take care of 77 cultural objects that had been illegally smuggled out of the Middle Eastern country but are in the process of being repatriated. War has raged in Yemen since 2015, affecting the country’s ability to immediately receive the objects. (Washington Post)

Sean Connery’s Kupka Heads to Auction – Best known for his role as James Bond, the late actor Sean Connery was also a passionate art collector. A painting he acquired in 2016 by the Czech abstract painter Frantisek Kupka is hitting the auction block at Sotheby’s London’s modern and contemporary evening sale on March 1 with a hefty estimate of more than £2 million ($2.5 million). (Yahoo)

Roman-Era Wooden Object Likely Sex Toy – The wooden object unearthed in 1992 at the Roman fort of Vindolanda in Northumberland, England, was initially catalogued as a darning tool. At about six inches, the object is roughly lifesize, setting it apart from the smaller phallus-shaped pendants and accessories popular in the Roman era and sparking wide-ranging speculation about its original purpose. (Guardian)

Florida College Bans “Diversity” From Exhibition – An annual exhibition staged by the nonprofit organization Embracing Our Differences has cancelled a stint at the State College of Florida after the university apparently requested the removal of a work over its use of the terms “diversity” and “inclusion.” The traveling show’s director said “we needed to stand strong and not let our artists be censored.” ()


Phillips to Unveil Its Hong Kong HQ in Spring – Expanding its presence in Asia, Phillips will open its brand new 52,000-square-foot headquarters at the WKCDA Tower in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District on March 18. “Phillips held our first auction in Hong Kong in December 2015 and has since become a significant participant in the market,” said CEO Stephen Brooks. “This year, we are celebrating our eighth year of operations in Asia and are expanding our offerings considerably.” (Press release)

Rubens Portrait Hits the Block – A 17th century portrait by Peter Paul Rubens from the collection of Fisch Davidson will headline Sotheby’s Modern evening sale this May, and could fetch up to $30 million. Portrait of a Man as the God Mars is on view now in Brussels for the first time in 200 years. (Press release)

BAMPFA Names New Cohort of Curators – The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has named three new curatorial hires: Margot Norton, Victoria Sung, and Anthony Graham, to work at the California institution. Norton, who worked at the New Museum in Manhattan for 12 years, will serve as chief curator, with Sung and Graham each taking on the roles of senior curators. (ARTnews)

UOVO Prize Winner Announced – The Brooklyn Museum has announced that filmmaker Suneil Sanzgiri is the winner of the fourth annual UOVO Prize, which includes a $25,000 cash grant, a public commission at UOVO’s facility in Bushwick, and a solo show at the museum. Sanzgiri’s work probes the history of colonialism and migration across the Global South. (The Art Newspaper)


Super Bowl Painting Swap Revealed – Following the Kansas City Chiefs victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl earlier this month, the details of a pregame museum wager have been revealed. The directors of the Nelson-Atkins Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art agreed that the institution based in the losing city would send a curatorial delegation to loan a painting to the winner, and so, Thomas Eakins’s Sailing will travel to the Nelson-Atkins just in time for the NFL draft in April, where the Philly crew will be welcomed and treated to “fantastic barbecue.” (TAN)

Thomas Eakins, Sailing (ca. 1875). The Alex Simpson, Jr., Collection, 1928. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Thomas Eakins, Sailing (ca. 1875). The Alex Simpson, Jr., Collection, 1928. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here