Artists Raise Concerns About Sotheby’s Response to Controversy In Glitch Art Sale

This past March, Sotheby’s postponed a sale of Glitch art after an outcry over the lack of female and trans artists involved. The sale was then reorganized this month under the title “Glitch: Beyond the Binary,” with a new artist list with a balanced gender makeup. But the trouble did not end there.

Amid the controversy in March, artist Patrick Amadon quit the auction in solidarity with the female and trans artists who were left out of the original sale. However, Amadon was not invited to the new sale, and his work wasn’t among the lots available for sale. The reasons why aren’t clear.

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Artist James Bloom, who was included in both sales, told ARTnews that Amadon was left out of the reorganized sale by “mutual agreement” between “the whole Sotheby’s team, all the male artists [except Amadon], and the female and nonbinary curators of the sale,” Dawnia Darkstone and Dina Chang.

Darkstone, who was a vocal critic of the original sale, disputed Bloom’s version of events. “I never agreed to or knew about that,” Darkstone told ARTnews in a Twitter direct message. “I figured it was some gripe between Sotheby’s and Patrick.”

Sotheby’s declined to respond to a list of queries sent by ARTnews but confirmed that Amadon’s withdrawal was decided by various stakeholders involved in the sale.

Bloom and another artist who asked to remain anonymous told ARTnews that the male artists included in the original auction were blindsided when Amadon suddenly pulled out of the auction without informing the others. Bloom said it put the artists in an awkward position, as they had been collectively considering options for how to ameliorate the situation. In a message to the male artists’ group chat, Amadon apologized to the other artists and said he had the “utmost respect” for all of them, regardless of how they decided to move forward.

Amadon told ARTnews he was not informed that he would not be invited to the new Sotheby’s sale until April 12th, the day the sale relaunched with newly announced exhibitions and panel discussions. (Bidding for works ran through yesterday.) He said Sotheby’s sent back his piece on April 14; an Ethereum transaction confirms as much. He recalled that he had heard that this might be the case beforehand, but that it was still a surprise, since the Sotheby’s team had called him in late March asking him to rejoin the sale.

In communications to Amadon after the reorganized sale began, Michael Bouhanna, head of digital art and NFTs at Sotheby’s, chalked up Amadon’s absence to a miscommunication, not a deliberate decision.

Amadon said he was aware that some of the male artists were unhappy with him.

“One artist actually told me they couldn’t drop out also because I’d already done it,” Amadon said in a direct message on Twitter. “I just did what I felt was the right thing to do. I don’t get a few artists’ obsession [that] I should have told them first. We’re supposed to be all about individual choice. They were free to make their own choices.”

Female and nonbinary artists included in the show said they hoped not to get in the middle of a feud between male artists. They had been insulted by their exclusion from the show to begin with, especially considering how pivotal female and trans artists have been to the development of Glitch art. At this point, some said, they wanted to focus on making sure that the newly involved artists found success in the sale.

“I’ve had to put in a lot of work to make sure my collectors were onboarded so they could bid, and I know I’m not the only one who has had to put in a lot of footwork to get collectors for the show,” Empress Trash, one of the artists in the sale, told ARTnews. Overall, though, she said she is appreciative that Sotheby’s made the changes that they made but “gives the flowers” to the female and trans artists who organized to make it happen, like Rosa Menkman and OONA.

As far as Amadon’s situation, Empress Trash said that there was a lack of transparency about why his work didn’t make the final cut.

“It wasn’t a publicity stunt—he really did want the show to be inclusive,” said Empress Trash. Referring to his choice not to be vocal about his exclusion from sale, she added, “It’s a testament to him that he’s been mindful to step aside from the narrative.”

She remained optimistic about the sale overall, saying, “There is no better way for us to get into an auction house than disrupting an auction, and that’s what glitch art is, disruption. I view everything that happened with this as art in itself.”

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