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Arts In Brief

Top stories in the art world and Chicago this week.

By Arts & Culture


illustration by Sophie Lucido Johnson

illustration by Sophie Lucido Johnson

Cultural icon David Bowie dies at 69

Singer, songwriter, and innovative performer David Bowie died of liver cancer on Monday. Statements released on his social media accounts claim the singer passed peacefully surrounded by his family. Heralded as a patron of misfits, Bowie was well known as a musical innovator who constantly reinvented himself. Among those reinventions were Ziggy Stardust, Thin White Duke, Major Tom, and Halloween Jack. Bowie was a pioneer of glam rock and some of his work even inspired the compositions of classical composer, Philip Glass. In September 2014, the Museum of Contemporary Art hosted a David Bowie retrospective detailing his influences on “art, design, theater, and contemporary culture,” and his work with “collaborative work with diverse designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theater, and film.”

Sotheby’s buys consulting firm for over $50 million

According to artnet News, Sotheby’s purchased a two year-old startup arts consulting company called Art Agency Partners for $50 million with up to $35 in performance incentives. CEO Tad Smith said of the move, “The principals of this firm bring with them to Sotheby’s over sixty years of art world experience, spanning every facet of the industry — from curation to art criticism and art dealing and advising.” The acquisition points to a change in direction for Sotheby’s from a more  traditional auction experience to one that provides client centered options — a change that Smith has spearheaded for some time now. Artsy reported that “creating a vertically integrated art buying, selling, and financing experience for collectors could prove competitive where profitability is concerned against the favorable business terms and guarantees of Sotheby’s privately-held rivals (read: Christie’s).”

Ariell Johnson, first black woman to own comics store on the East Coast

Ariell Johnson, the owner of the Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse located in Philadelphia, has become the first black woman to own a comic book store on the East Coast. In an interview with, Johnson said that her initial draw to comics was her interest in the character Storm from the X-Men series. In the series, Storm is a mutant descended from African princesses and has the ability to manipulate weather. Johnson said of opening the store, “I was hyper aware that comic books are dominated usually by white men, but when I was creating the store, I wasn’t really thinking about myself [or] about being first.” She continued, “To not see yourself ever represented as the hero or the protagonist does start wear on your self esteem and your self worth because it’s like you’re not valued enough to learn more about or write a story about.” Johnson explained that diversity in comics should reflect the diversity of the world. “It’s healthy to see other people represented because it helps you relate to people,” she said.

“Rights Lab” premiering at High Concept Labs

Scrappers Film Group along with are presenting a web series that highlights issues around surveillance and civil liberties at High Concept Labs on January 16. The first installment, Can the Government Spy on My Phone? uses film to explore legal and social questions on telephone surveillance. In addition to the screening, the event will feature a panel discussion with civil liberties lawyer Jerry Boyle, BYP 100 member, Todd St. Hill, FOIA activist Freddy Martinez, and music by Radio Trio. The screening is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at High Concept Labs Studio A on 2233 S. Throop St. in Chicago.

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