Art World Roundup: reaching the community during COVID-19, Hong Kong petition signed by hundreds of artists, and P.A.I.N. continues to help opioid victims

Art World Roundup: reaching the community during COVID-19, Hong Kong petition signed by hundreds of artists, and P.A.I.N. continues to help opioid victims
Joan Mitchell, "Straw," 1976 - part of Ginny Williams' collection which will head to Sotheby's for auction over the next year. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

In this week’s Art World Roundup, we take a look at more ways that artists, organizations, and even JK Rowling are reaching out to the community during COVID-19, the petition signed by hundreds of creatives in Hong Kong, a year of auctions featuring the collection of Ginny Williams at Sotheby’s, and P.A.I.N.’s continued support of those affected by the opioid crisis.

BMA creates three new initiatives to support their community

During the first weeks of June, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) will roll out three new initiatives aiming to support artists and galleries in the BMA community. The new projects will use funding – around $100,000 – originally earmarked for The Necessity of Tomorrow(s), a talk series meant to highlight the intersection of the arts and issues of social justice. The new programmes, BMA Salon, BMA Screening Room, and BMA Studio, will roll out during the next two weeks to “actualize” the purpose of The Necessity of Tomorrow(s).

BMA Salon will provide 20 Baltimore area galleries and collectives with space on the BMA’s The Necessity of Tomorrow(s) digital platform as well as $2,500 to help them organize their vision. Any items sold through the platform will go entirely the gallery or collective. The BMA Screening Room is a new video platform that will showcase up to 50 Baltimore artists, providing them with exposure during these unprecedented times. Participating artists will be paid a “modest” licencing fee of $500-$750. Finally, the BMA is launching BMA Studio, a programme that will provide 1,400 art kits to community centres, food banks, neighbourhoods, and families that have restricted access to digital outputs, like those the museum is already providing for free, online. “Baltimore is a city rich in creative innovation and artistic experiences. As part of our mission of civic engagement, we felt it was incumbent upon us to develop new opportunities to support the cultural fabric of our community, especially as artists, art organizations, and the public face different but very real challenges during the coronavirus pandemic,” said BMA director Christopher Bedford.

Baltimore Museum of Art. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


Hundreds sign petition as Hong Kong protests begin again

“Shock, worry, and anger” are the most prevalent themes in a petition that began circulating in protest to new security measures that were approved yesterday in China that would tighten restrictions in Hong Kong. New laws of extradition were proposed last year and set off a series of protests in Hong Kong, which reignited earlier this week as legislation in Beijing moved forward. The petition was originally circulated by ArtAsiaPacific and has been signed by hundreds of artists and cultural workers in Hong Kong and elsewhere. The semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong and China have operated on a “one country, two systems” principle since 1997, when the UK formally handed the Hong Kong territory back over to China. During this time, Hong Kong residents have been allotted freedoms that those in China are not privy to, which is why so many have opposed the new laws, which could lead to restricted civil liberties.

Protestos in Hong Kong in late 2019 carrying umbrellas and wear masks. Courtesy Flickr Commons.


Sotheby’s to auction Ginny Williams collection in series of sales

Over the course of her life, gallerist and collector Ginny Williams, who passed away last year, amassed significant and trailblazing personal collection of art. Now, more than 450 of the works from her collection will be sold through Sotheby’s in a series of auctions planned for the next year. During the week of June 29th, an auction dedicated to Williams’ collection, which bolstered female artists, will be held, followed by a series of auctions that will highlight works from her collection. Major artists represented in Williams’ collection that will head to the auction block include Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler, Louis Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Tina Modotti, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annie Leibovitz, and Edward Weston. In total, Sotheby’s estimates the collection to bring in more than $50 million in sales.

Helen Frankenthaler, “Royal Fireworks,” 1975. Est. $2 million–$3 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s


Harry Potter author calls for (child) artists to illustrate new book

JK Rowling, author of the iconic Harry Potter series, is releasing a new children’s book called The Ickabog. While Rowling wrote the book years ago, she’s revisited the story during her time in lockdown and is releasing the book a chapter at a time on her website. She’s also put a call out for children to illustrate the book. “I thought how wonderful it would be if children in lockdown, or otherwise needing distraction during the strange and difficult time we’re passing through, illustrated the story for me,” wrote Rowling on her website. “I want to see imaginations run wild! Creativity, inventiveness, and effort are the most important things: we aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!” Rowling has asked parents and guardians to submit the illustrations their kids come up with on Twitter using the #TheIckabog hashtag. The artists whose works are selected (not by Rowling but by Ickabog publishers) will be included in the hardcopy of the book to be released this autumn. More details on entering your child’s art can be found here. The competition is garnering a lot of attention and has been both praised and criticized by the public. Some are excited by the competition while others has condemned the author for using free illustrations that could be used by the publisher, Scholastic, without any royalties.


P.A.I.N. launches programme to further help victims of opioid crisis

Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, artist Nan Goldin’s activist group commonly known as P.A.I.N., has launched a new initiative that will support victims of the opioid epidemic in their battle for compensation. is helping those who survived overdose and former opioid addicts file proof of claims through the US Bankruptcy Court seeking compensation in relation to Purdue Pharma – the pharmaceutical company that manufactured and promoted OxyContin and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September of last year.

OxyContin is a highly addictive opioid that was created by Purdue Pharma and aggressively marketed by the company despite known health risks, including severe addiction. Purdue Pharma has been the center of ongoing legal battles, filed by thousands of plaintiffs, in the US including some states as a whole. P.A.I.N., alongside other protests and calls, have also pushed many museums to cut ties with the Sackler family, who founded the pharmaceutical company, and now wants to go further by empowering those most affected by the drug. “While it’s unlikely that any person will be awarded the full value of their claim, it is essential that it be recorded to measure the impact of the Sacklers’ opioid empire,” said P.A.I.N. in a statement. “It is our duty to accurately reflect the damage done to America as a whole.”


Artist creates large-scale tribute to those affected most by COVID-19

Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada is a Cuban American artist creating an artwork paying homage to the invisible victims of the pandemic that will be visible from satellite. Commissioned by SOMOS Community Care, a health network that works with Latinos and immigrants, the painting is taking shape in the parking lot of the Queens Museum in New York. Titled Somos La Luz (We Art Light), Rodríguez-Gerada’s 20,000-square-foot mural depicts a masked doctor wearing a head covering whose eyes are the only visible feature. The eyes painted by Rodríguez-Gerada will be those of Ydelfonso Decoo, a doctor and SOMOS secretary, who gave his life while treating those suffering from COVID-19. The portrait not only highlights those who are fighting the virus but also the fact that death rates have been significantly higher in black, Latino, and working-class New York neighbourhoods. “I wanted to create a place to mourn, where we can contemplate the difficulties that so many people are going through, after losing so many loved ones,” Rodríguez-Gerada told Artnet News. “It’s a place that, in a political climate where there is more division than ever, we can find a way to bring ourselves back together as a community and as a nation.”

Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, “Somos La Luz”(2020), in progress. Courtesy of GreenPoint Innovations, Eduardo Amorim, via Artnet News.