Art Industry News: Meet the Crypto Bros Who Are the Mega-Collectors of NFT Art (and, Yes, They’re All Men) + Other Stories

Plus, the Prado scoops up the earliest known work by Francisco Goya and a performing arts chief departs the West Kowloon Cultural District.

Nine CryptoPunks being offered at Christie's 21st Century Evening sale on May 13, 2021. Courtesy of Christie's.

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Friday, April 16.


An Oat Milk Company Is in Hot Water for Pasting Ads Over Street Art – Minor Figures, a plant-based milk company from London, is under fire for pasting over a street art mural in Philadelphia as part of a promotional campaign. “Minor Figures is very presumptuous to come to our city and cover works of art in such an offensive manner,” Mural Arts executive director Jane Golden said. The damage cannot be easily undone due to the type of adhesive used, and some are now calling for a boycott of the oat milk company. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

The Prado Buys Goya’s Earliest Work – The Madrid museum now owns the earliest known artwork by Spanish artist Francisco Goya, Aníbal vencedor que por primera vez mira a Italia desde los Alpes, which translates to “Victorious Hannibal Who for the First Time Looks at Italy from the Alps.” The piece, which dates to 1771, was acquired by the Friends of the Prado Foundation for €3.3 million (nearly $4 million) and then donated to the museum. The artist had submitted the work to a competition early in his career—and take heart, struggling artists: he did not win! (ARTnews)

Meet the Leading NFT Collectors – Bloomberg identifies some of the biggest and most active early collectors of NFTs. They include Eric Young, a fin-tech businessman, who has invested more than $1 million on around 350 NFTs and recently won an artwork by Pak in Sotheby’s high-profile sale. Pablo Rodriguez and Colborn Bell, meanwhile, started up a shared art collection some years ago and established the first online museum of crypto art. There are, notably, no women collectors on this list. (Bloomberg)

The Riddle of the ‘Original Old Master’ – Is it problematic that auction houses have a financial incentive to authenticate Old Masters? In a column about the business of authenticity, John Gapper notes that while a painting does not physically change based on its attribution, “in reality, the pleasure we gain from a painting is deeply bound up with what the art philosopher Denis Dutton called its ‘expressive authenticity.'” (Financial Times)


Pilar Corrias Will Open Another London Space – The tastemaking contemporary art dealer plans to open a second space in London, at 2 Savile Row, on May 25. It will debut with an exhibition of work by the American artist Tala Madani. (Press release)

What’s Inside the Art + Tech Report – A newly published survey of 380 collectors looks at how tech is affecting buying habits. It found that 80 percent of those surveyed had bought art online at least once. Nine out of 10 said that being able to see prices was favorable. Two-thirds answered that they want some kind of real-time communication when shopping. (Art + Tech Report)


West Kowloon Cultural Leader Is Decamping to the U.S. – Alison Friedman has resigned as artistic director of performing arts at the West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong. She says she is returning to the U.S. to be near to her aging parents, but the move raises eyebrows as it comes just as Hong Kong faces new attacks over the M+ museum in West Kowloon, which pro-Beijing critics say could “incite hatred” for China. (South China Morning Post)

Artist and Holocaust Survivor Walter Spitzer Has Died – The artist and concentration camp and death march survivor Walter Spitzer has died at age 93 in Paris from COVID-19. He drew portraits of other prisoners as well as soldiers in exchange for supplies. (Le Monde)


Sydney’s Museums Fear Major Funding Cuts – The Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Australian Museum, and the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences are among the arts institutions pleading for funds from the Australian government. A new budget is being handed down on June 8, and many predict deep cuts to much-needed arts funding. Currently, the treasury is proposing to eliminate $9 million annually from the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s budget as it reallocates funds to the Sydney Modern, which is under construction. (Sydney Morning Herald)

This MVP Basketball Star Became a Quilter – Michael C. Thorpe, a 27-year-old former basketball star at Emerson College in Boston, traded a potential career in pro sports for one in art. His art quilts are the subject of an exhibition at LaiSun Keane, a gallery in Boston, and were also featured in a recent commercial for Dove soap celebrating Black athletes who have expanded their careers outside of sports. (Boston Globe) 

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