Art Industry News: Madonna Has More Clout in the Art World Than You May Think + Other Stories

Plus, an artist takes aim at the British tabloid the Sun and Michael Stipe recalls his art-inspired lightbulb moment, aged four.

Madonna at the "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & the Catholic Imagination" Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 7, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

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 Friday, August 17.


National Portrait Gallery Buys a Painting of Dylan Thomas – A portrait of the poet at age 23 by Augustus John has been purchased by the London museum for £214,750 ($272,00) at Christie’s. The artist and the poet were drinking buddies, and remained so even after Thomas stole the heart of John’s younger lover, the chorus girl Caitlin Macnamara, eventually marrying her. In 2019, the National Portrait Gallery plans to lend the painting to Swansea, Thomas’s home city in Wales. (Guardian)

Artist Fined for Conan Copyright Infringement – A Spanish artist has been hit with a $21,000 copyright judgement from a federal judge this Wednesday (August 15). Conan Properties International LLC, the company charged with protecting the legacy of 1930s fantasy author Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, brought the lawsuit against Ricardo Jove Sanchez for making and selling miniature figures based on characters in the savage saga. (Courthouse News)

Madonna the Art Collector Hits 60 – As the world celebrates the Queen of Pop turning 60, W recalls the lesser-known art-world accomplishments that make her a bona fide “art world influencer.” In addition to pursuing innovative collaborations with living artists, the singer owns notable works by Diego Rivera, Man Ray, Weegee, Tina Modotti, and Fernand Léger, as well as a painting by Frida Kahlo that, according to W, “happens to be arguably one of the most amazing works Kahlo ever produced.” She would have had several Basquiats in her collection, too, if it weren’t for the fact that he destroyed them all when she broke up with him. (W Magazine)

The Assads Visits Rebels’ Tunnel Turned Art Gallery – Artists have transformed an underground tunnel used by Takfiri militants into an art gallery in an eastern suburb of Damascus, decorating it with sculptures and carvings. Syrian President Assad, who has been widely accused of horrific war crimes and human-rights atrocities, and visited the site with his wife on Thursday, saying it was tribute to “martyrs” from the Syrian Arab Army. (Press TV)


Gallery Fraudster’s Legal Troubles Worsen – The Art Collection Inc. filed suit on August 15 against art dealer Ezra Chowaiki for the return of two Dalí paintings and an work by Juan Gris. The Art Collection claims it consigned these works to the embattled dealer but has not received payment for them. Chowaiki pleaded guilty for defrauding dealers and collectors in May and faces up to 20 years jail time. (Courthouse News)

Portrait of Missing Lord Lucan Heads to Auction – A portrait of Lord Lucan painted by his gambling buddy, the artist Dominick Elwes, two years before the aristocrat’s mysterious disappearance is going to auction on October 3 at Bonhams. Lucan was never seen after the murder of the family’s nanny. Lady Lucan, who was also attacked the same night, kept the portrait until her death. (Guardian)

Trove of Pre-Raphaelite Papers Discovered – Letters belonging to a great 19th-century collector, including 17 written by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, have been unearthed and will head to auction on September 15 at Trevanion & Dean. The papers belonged to Constantine Alexander Ionides, who left more than 1,000 works of art to the Victoria & Albert Museum when he died. (Antiques Trade Gazette)


Titus Kaphar Wins the Rapaport Prize – The African American painter and sculptor has won the $25,000 prize awarded by the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts. The award supports outstanding New England artists. (Artforum)

Stephanie Cash Leaves Burnaway – The Atlanta-based nonprofit is looking for a new executive editor to succeed Cash, who is heading to New York. Former assistant editor Logan Lockner has stepped up to be the interim editor of the “voice of art in the South.” (Burnaway)

Merger to Create National Hub for Arts Data – The Dallas-based National Center for Arts Research at the Meadows School of Arts and DataArts in Philadelphia have joined forces to become the leading source of evidence-based insights on the nonprofit arts and cultural industry in the US. Bloomberg Philanthropies are backing the merger. (Press release)

Huntington Library Names Art Chief – Christina Nielsen is the new director of the Pasadena institution’s art collections. She leaves Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where she was a curator of the collection and exhibition program. (Pasadena Now) (Los Angeles Times)


Michael Stipe Recalls His Lightbulb Moment – The musician and artist gives a guided tour of his work now on show at Journal Gallery in Brooklyn. He explains the significance of lightbulb filaments: Stipe bit into a bulb aged four in a hazardous attempt to be one. Seeing a Brancusi at the Philadelphia Museum of Art was an epiphany. “I was like, ‘What the fuck—I’ve never seen anything like this!’ It knocked a hole through me,” he recalls. (ARTnews)

Artist Takes on Tabloid Terrorism Stories – In a swipe at a British tabloid papers’ coverage of terror attacks, the artist Darren Cullen has created a fake marketing campaign for The Sun newspaper. He is offering a premium rate for space to its advertisers to take space alongside a sensational headline. Cullen explains his thinking behind his Rapid Response Unit commission, which coincides with a terrorist ramming a car into cyclists outside Parliament this week. (Rapid Response Unit)

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