Art Industry News: DNA Evidence Leads Dutch Police to a 59-Year-Old Man Accused of Serial Art Thefts Worth $20 Million + Other Stories

Plus, architects withdraw from Chicago's Architecture Biennial and Latin American art sales draw diplomatic opposition.

District Chief of Alblasserwaard Bart Willemsen showing the recovered painting Two Laughing Boys by Frans Hals which was stolen from the Leerdam Museum in May 2011. (Photo by Ilvy Njiokiktjien/ANP/AFP via 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 on this Wednesday, September 22.


Sales of Latin American Cultural Heritage Draws Opposition –Diplomatic cables have been abuzz with back-and-forths over disputed sales of Mexican and pre-Colombian artifacts. In Germany, one auction went ahead yesterday despite opposition from eight Latin American countries; almost half the works failed to sell. Meanwhile, the Mexican government successfully negotiated the cancellation of a smaller sale of what it called “stolen cultural patrimony” at Rome’s Casa Bertolami Fine Arts. (The Art NewspaperPress release

Protesters Storm MoMA With Palestinian Flags – Protesters from the activist coalition Strike MoMA returned to the museum last Friday bearing Palestinian flags and banners that read “Globalize the Intifada” and “This Is Class War.” They marched to various locations around Manhattan including Columbus Circle, Rockefeller Center, the Ford Foundation, BlackRock, and the City University of New York, splashing red paint at some sites. Protesters carried spoons, a symbol of resistance, and a marching band followed closely behind. (Hyperallergic)

How Police Caught a Serial Art Thief Suspect – How does an art thief get caught? According to Dutch police, a suspect by the name of Nils M. left behind DNA evidence on a broken picture frame and a heavy-duty strap that linked him to the brazen theft of paintings by Van Gogh and Frans Hals. Their DNA database led them to Nils M., who had previously served a five-year sentence for stealing a gilded silver church vessel. The paintings, estimated to be worth as much as a combined $20 million, have not been recovered. The suspect has denied the charges. (New York Times)

France Launches Islamic Art Shows to Combat Islamophobia – The French government is organizing exhibitions devoted to Islamic art in 18 cities across the nation to combat Islamophobia. The Louvre is lending 60 works, which will be presented alongside objects from national and local museums in November. “The idea is to show that Islam has been part of French cultural heritage since the Middle Ages,” said Yannick Lintz, the head of the Louvre’s Islamic department. (The Art Newspaper)


Architects Withdraw From the Chicago Architecture Biennial  Three Black female architects have withdrawn from the 2021 edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, citing “a lack of honest investment” and “patterns of entitlement to Black women’s labor” on opening day of the event’s fourth edition. In an open letter titled “Available to Who?,” the signers, who are members of the group In Care of Black Women, condemn organizers for “over-promising and under-delivering.” (Hyperallergic

Walker Art Center Names Board President – Seena Hodges has been elected to serve as the next president of the board of trustees at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Hodges, who runs a DEI consulting firm called Woke Coach, is the first African American and the first person of color ever to fill the role. (ARTnews

Colchester Gallery Firstsite Wins Museum of the Year – The Essex art gallery has won the coveted award, which comes with a £100,000 ($136,360) purse from the Art Fund. Judges praised the 10-year-old museum for its community work, which has included distributing free meals to children and displaying art in public parks. (BBC)


TeamLab Is Coming to Germany – Immersive art enthusiasts rejoice. The wildly popular exhibition “teamLab: Borderless” is coming to Hamburg’s brand new Digital Art Museum in 2024 with more than 7,000 square meters of exhibition space under soaring 33-foot-high ceilings. The Tokyo-based immersive installation welcomed 2.3 million visitors in a single year, and was named one of TIME‘s greatest places in the world to visit. (Press release)

teamLab, "Borderless: Hamburg" is coming to the city in 2024. Courtesy of teamLab.

teamLab, “Borderless: Hamburg” is coming to the city in 2024. Courtesy of teamLab.

teamLab, "Borderless: Hamburg" is coming to the city in 2024. Courtesy of teamLab.

teamLab, “Borderless: Hamburg” is coming to the city in 2024. Courtesy of teamLab.

teamLab, "Borderless: Hamburg" is coming to the city in 2024. Courtesy of teamLab.

teamLab, “Borderless: Hamburg” is coming to the city in 2024. Courtesy of teamLab.

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