"Masterpiece," by Roy Lichtenstein (1962). Photo by Lindsey Davis, via Creative Commons

“Masterpiece,” by Roy Lichtenstein (1962). Photo by Lindsey Davis, via Creative Commons

Art collector and patron Agnes Gund has sold the 1962 artwork “Masterpiece” by Roy Lichtenstein for $150 million – the bulk of which she’ll use to fund the creation of the Art for Justice Fund. In addition to supporting organizations working toward criminal justice reform, the Art for Justice Fund will finance a select number of artistic initiatives aimed at addressing mass incarceration. Currently president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, Gund will work with the Ford Foundation – whom she’s partnered with to administer the fund – in hopes of encouraging other art collectors to follow her lead and doubling her $100 million seed money over the next five years. The peer pressure appears to be working: at least four additional “founding donors” are selling some of their holdings to contribute to the fund. Among them is Laurie M. Tisch, a chairwoman of the board at the Whitney Museum, who donated $500,000 to the Fund with proceeds from a Max Weber painting.

Snapchat gets in the original content game. The media giant Time Warner recently signed a $100 million deal to produce content exclusively for the social media platform Snapchat. Running no more than seven minutes, the made-for-Snapchat mini-shows are designed to assure Snapchat’s advertisers that its users are spending plenty of time engaging with the platform, while the benefit to Time Warner is unfettered access to market its other holdings – including HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. – on the app. Time Warner’s $85 billion deal with AT&T last year is expected to go through by the end of 2017 (despite President Trump’s intentions of blocking the deal), meaning Snapchat is potentially getting in bed with the largest media company in the nation. The deal is yet another example of service providers following Netflix and Hulu’s leads by developing original content for streaming (see also: Apple, The Onion, Sony and Buzzfeed).

Shakespearean depiction of Trump prompts outrage and debate. A recent performance of Julius Caesar depicting the authoritarian Roman dictator in the image of Donald Trump has sparked a wide-ranging debate about free speech in the arts. The show was staged in Central Park by New York’s Public Theater, whose artistic director Oskar Eustis, among others, defended the provocative production as a commentary on current events. Despite theater critics’ appeals to free speech rights and reminders that the play does not condone assassination, right-wing activists have vehemently opposed the Caesar/Trump parallel, rushing the stage at a performance, threatening other theater companies performing Shakespeare (even ones that had nothing to do with Julius Caesar), and speaking out online in conservative-leaning media. In the wake of the controversy, corporate sponsors Bank of America and Delta Airlines withdrew their funding of the production (though a 2012 production of Julius Caesar funded by Delta in Minneapolis depicting a likeness of president Obama as Caesar got to keep the check), while the City of New York and the lead sponsor Jerome L. Greene Foundation have stood by Eustis and the Public Theater.

Malaysian film company in hot water over money laundering scandal. Associates of the film production company Red Granite are under investigation for embezzlement after allegedly diverting $4.5 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund. Red Granite was co-founded by Jho Low and Riza Aziz, who is stepson of Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak. Razak established the 1MDB fund to promote economic development in the country, and several top officials in the government are accused of participating in the scheme by stashing its money in offshore accounts. As part of the investigation, the U.S. Justice Department is seeking the rights to two films funded by Red Granite: Dumb and Dumber To and Daddy’s Home. Additionally, Leonardo DiCaprio has agreed to hand over three pieces from his art collection (including a $3.2 million Picasso) that are tied up in the scandal, which had been gifted to DiCaprio after the production of another Red Granite film, The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio had intended to auction the artwork for his charity, but instead they are now en route to the FBI, which is attempting to recover an additional $100 million worth of art thought to be acquired by Jho Low with 1MDB money. Works by Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, Yves Klein and Roy Lichtenstein are among those on the list.

Facebook hate speech rules are under scrutiny. Facebook’s stringent policies regarding images – specifically its hard line against nudity – have long been a topic of conversation in arts circles, with artists and journalists whose work depicts nakedness or content otherwise deemed offensive by Facebook unable to present their work on the world’s biggest social media platform. Now, a ProPublica investigation of internal documents at Facebook is shedding new light on the company’s hate speech policies. Giving equal weight to all races, ethnicities and religions in defining what constitutes “protected groups,” Facebook’s policy is an attempt to create a more unilateral approach that might be perceived as fair across the world, rather than guided by the norms around free speech and political expression prevalent in the United States. But these rules can counterintuitively favor white men (because race and gender are both “protected” categories) over marginalized groups who may be more likely to experience threatening or inflammatory speech online. To make matters worse, content is reviewed by actual people, and therefore subject to human biases; many exceptions to the rules – such as when then-candidate Donald Trump got a pass on exclusionary statements about Muslims, a violation of Facebook’s written policy, at the behest of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – have been granted. Another concern: Facebook’s lack of transparency about what is and isn’t allowed on the platform presents potential barriers to artists, who rely on free access to the network’s two billion users as one of their most effective tools for promoting and selling their work.

MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS:

  • Upheaval continues in the print publication world: after a late-May announcement that the staff and board of the arts-focused publication Brooklyn Rail would be dissolved, longtime publisher/editor Phong Bui says it will relaunch with a bigger staff and no planned break in the publication schedule. Meanwhile, publisher Louise Blouin – whose publications include Art + Auction and Modern Painters – has terminated all of her full-time employees, giving them the option to re-apply as contract freelancers.
  • Christine Morse has announced her retirement as CEO of Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. She will stay on as the organization’s board chair and will be CEO Emeritus through January 2018. The foundation’s current president, Paul Busch, assumed the CEO role on July 1.
  • The president of New York’s F.B. Heron Foundation, Clara Miller, will step down in December.
  • Cleveland-area arts leader Tom Schorgl recently announced he will retire from the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture ‏at the end of the year.
  • DataArts president and CEO Beth Tuttle announced she will step down from her role October 6 to become president of the American Horticultural Society.
  • The executive director of Alternate ROOTS, Carlton Turner, is likewise stepping down to lead the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production.
  • The Montana Arts Council announced Tatiana Gant as its new executive director. Gant was previously executive director for the Illinois Arts Council.
  • Kansas City’s Mid-America Arts Alliance has secured its interim director Todd Stein for the permanent position. Stein has filled the director role since Mary Kennedy’s retirement in August 2016.
  • SueEllen Kroll has been named the Barr Foundation’s program officer for arts & creativity.
  • Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo joins the Oakland-based Akonadi Foundation as its new program officer.
  • Louise Bernard, former director of exhibitions at the New York Public Library, has been named museum director for Chicago’s future Obama Presidential Center.
  • American University is seeking Arts Management faculty for the 2017-18 academic year.

NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE: