Art Industry News: Did the Met Sell Off a Rubens for Millions Less Than It’s Worth? + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, activists protest at the Brooklyn Museum and the US returns hundreds of Hobby Lobby's looted artifacts to Iraq.

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Clara Serena, copyright 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 this Tuesday, May 1.


Poland Removes Hundreds of Soviet-Era Statues – A bronze statue of a Red Army soldier shaking a Polish soldier’s hand is one of hundreds of Soviet-era monuments being removed in Poland with government funds. But some object to the right-wing Law and Justice party’s decision to rewrite the country’s Communist past, which includes renaming streets and removing or rededicating memorials. (Art Daily)

Protestors Target the Brooklyn Museum – The activist group Decolonize This Place staged a demonstration over the weekend at the Brooklyn Museum to protest its decision to hire a white woman as its consulting curator for African art. Protesters have demanded the museum work to diversify its curatorial staff and replace certain board members with artists and community organizers. (ARTnews)

Red Faces at the Met as Rubens Portrait on Sale for $5 Million – Did the Met offload a Rubens portrait on the cheap? A painting that the New York museum deaccessioned in 2013 for $626,000 is coming up for sale at Christie’s London on July 5 with a $3 million to $5 million estimate, having been re-attributed to Rubens. Experts now believe it’s a portrait of Clara Serena, the artist’s first child and only daughter. The Met insists it is merely a portrait by a follower of Rubens. (Financial Times)

US to Hand Back Looted Iraqi Artifacts – Hundreds of ancient cuneiform tablets looted from Iraq and ultimately purchased by Hobby Lobby, the craft-store chain owned by the American collector and Museum of the Bible founder Steve Green, will be returned to their country of origin at a ceremony in Washington, DC, tomorrow. They were among thousands of Iraqi artifacts American authorities seized from the company last year. (Live Science)


Lord Mayor’s Looted Dutch Painting to Be Sold – Sotheby’s will sell Jacob Ochtervelt’s painting The Oyster Meal, which has been hanging in the Mansion House, the official home of the Lord Mayor of London, for the past three decades. The work was recently returned to the family of its original owner, Joan Hendrik Smidt van Gelder. The Dutch doctor hung the painting, which was looted during World War II, in his waiting room. (Guardian)

Lehmann Maupin Pays Top Dollar for Chelsea Space – Who says bricks-and-mortar galleries are a dying breed? Lehmann Maupin just paid $27 million—a grand total of $4,400 per foot—for its new space at the Getty development in West Chelsea. The 6,100-square-foot facility stretches across the building’s first and second floors. The developer contends it is a record price for the neighborhood. (Real Deal)

Hauser & Wirth to Represent Szapocznikow’s EstateThe estate of the Polish artist, who died in 1973 at age 47 after surviving three concentration camps, will be represented by the mega-gallery along with Galerie Loevenbruck in Paris. Szapocznikow, who previously worked with the now-shuttered Andrea Rosen Gallery, will get a solo show at Hauser & Wirth’s Upper East Side space in 2019. (ARTnews)

Sean Kelly to Interview Collectors at Frieze – The dealer will record interviews with collectors Ron Pizzuti and Greg Miller at his Frieze New York booth tomorrow during the fair’s VIP preview. The conversations, which visitors will be able to listen in on, will ultimately end up in a new podcast series developed by Sean Kelly called “Collect Wisely.” (ARTnews)


Judith and Gerson Leiber Have Died – The celebrated handbag designer Judith Lieber and her husband, the painter Gerson Lieber, have died within 24 hours of each other at ages 97 and 96, respectively. They met in Budapest after World War II, when Gerson was a GI. In 2008, they opened the Leiber Collection in East Hampton and recently held a joint show there. (New York Times, NYT)

Public Art Fund Names New Curator – Katerina Stathopoulou will join the New York public art nonprofit on May 7 as assistant curator. She previously served as an assistant curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art and has also worked at New York’s International Center of Photography and the Averof Museum in Greece. (ART news)

LAPADA Hires Replacement CEO – The London-based antiques trade association LAPADA, which runs a fair in the city each fall, has moved swiftly to find a new CEO. It has appointed Freya Simms, a public relations specialist, to succeed Patricia Stevenson, a former magazine executive who left after just three months. (Antiques Trade Gazette)


Zadie Smith Focuses on Deana Lawson’s Portraits – The novelist explores what makes the work of the Rochester-born photographer, whose grandmother cleaned the home of Kodak founder George Eastman, so captivating. “Outside a Lawson portrait you might be working three jobs, just keeping your head above water, struggling,” Smith writes. “But inside her frame you are beautiful, imperious, unbroken, unfallen.” (New Yorker)

Fire Damages the Grand Egyptian Museum – A fire broke out at the long-delayed, still-under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum near the pyramids of Giza. Although photos posted to social media showed smoke rising high above the scaffolding, Egyptian officials say there were no major injuries or serious damage. (AP)

Tony Cragg Donates a Sculpture to Tehran – The Germany-based, British-born sculptor has given a monumental marble to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. Cragg, who had a show at the institution last year, said at the unveiling that he leaves the sculpture “as a reminder of friendship, tolerance, and my visit to Iran.” (Financial Tribune)

Virgil Abloh Reveals His IKEA Range – Kanye West’s former collaborator and the new menswear supremo at Louis Vuitton wants to help millennials furnish their first home. So he’s teamed up with Swedish flat-pack giant IKEA to design a collection called Markerad with a bit of a self-conscious flair. Get a sneak peek here. (Complex)

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