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PERFORMERS WERE THE STARS OF YESTERDAY’S INAUGURAL ACTIVITIES, with singers like Lady Gaga, Jon Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen participating in the celebration of President Biden and Vice President Harris, and poet Amanda Gorman delivering an address that stole the show, but visual art is playing a symbolic role in the transition of power, as well. Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey and photographer Bill O’Leary got a look inside Biden’s Oval Office, and found that a portrait of Benjamin Franklin had taken the place of one of President Andrew Jackson (a favorite of President Trump). The presence of Franklin, who was an inventor, writer, scientist, and more (really a jack of all trades), is “intended to represent Biden’s interest in following science,” Linskey writes. Also present: busts of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, a moon rock, and a 1917 Childe Hassam flag painting that President Obama also displayed in the office. (Trump had it on view for a stretch, but eventually removed it.) As it happens, historian Jon Meacham, who’s known to have Biden’s ear, used another Hassam for the cover of his 2018 book, The Soul of America.
PRESIDENTS CAN BORROW ART FROM THE SMITHSONIAN TO DECORATE the White House, as Smithsonian magazine detailed in 2009. Obama’s picks included pieces by Ed Ruscha and Glenn Ligon. It’s not known yet what the Bidens may have picked, but Alex Greenberger reported in ARTnews that First Lady Jill Biden did help select a landscape by the pioneering Black painter Robert Duncanson to serve as the official painting of the inaugural. The work is owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in D.C., and its inclusion signals “a new administration with an insightful understanding of art’s potential power,” Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight writes in a column. It was not the only painting getting some special attention. Olaf Seltzer ’s 1927 painting Lewis and Clark with Sacajawea at the Great Falls of the Missouri, 1804 was printed in the inaugural’s official program, Tulsa World reports. It’s in the collection of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, and was just put on view yesterday in an exhibition called “Americans All!”
One last Inauguration-related item: street artist Adrian Wilson was responsible for transforming a New York subway sign at 46th Street in Queens to read “46th Joe”—an image that spread quickly around the world. [Gothamist]
Collector Roberto Polo, a “financier whose roller-coaster career included a major art fraud scandal that landed him in prison,” is showcasing his holdings in new art spaces in Toledo, Spain, Raphael Minder reports. [The New York Times]
Australian artist Adrian Jones has died at the age of 63. The cause was pancreatic cancer. [ArtAsiaPacific]
Ruben Suykerbuyk has been tapped by the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to be its new curator of Old Masters . . . [Press Release]
. . . and collectors Laurens Vancrevel and Frida de Jong have donated a number of Surrealist paintings and publications to the museum. [The Art Newspaper]
The Hyundai automobile company is partnering with the digital-art group Rhizome on a series of projects, online and off. [Aju Business Daily]
Canon has launched a website that allows users to take photographs of space via satellite technology. [Hong Kong Tatler]
Since many art museums are closed in the United Kingdom amid lockdown restrictions, The Guardian is taking a tour of their collections in a series of articles. Today’s focuses on a Rose Wylie work. [The Guardian]
The New York home that artist Sarah Sze shares with her family is stocked with art by Kara Walker, Richard Serra, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and many more. [Architectural Digest]
Musician and artist John Lurie is the subject of a new show, which “is like an apprenticeship with a crotchety bohemian Yoda,” James Poniewozik writes. [The New York Times]
Curator Robert Storr has a new compilation of essays out—and he is as pugnacious as ever in a new interview. [Artnet News]
Hong Kong–based artist Phoebe Hui Fong-wah has been working on a new project with curator Kwok Ying that has involved collaborating with NASA. Sadly, though, just when she was about to see moon dust at one of NASA’s buildings in Houston—she was in her hotel room there!—officials told her not to come, citing coronavirus precautions. “I basically refused to leave until Ying convinced me to fly back,” she tells the South China Morning Post. “I didn’t want to bullshit. I wanted to see moon dust myself. I was gutted. But, of course, we managed in the end with Zoom and emails.” [South China Morning Post]
Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.