Art Industry News: One of the World’s Most Famous and Beloved Paintings Is Starting to Fade Away + Other Stories

Plus, the Metropolitan Museum of Art could be harboring a notorious painting and Spain loses a major philanthropic gift.

Edvard Munch, The Scream (1910). Collection of the Munch Museum, Oslo.

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 Tuesday, February 10.


Ella Fontanals-Cisneros Withdraws Big Gift to Spain – The collector had planned to gift 400 works by Latin American artists to Spain, but withdrew the donation after having a falling out with its new culture minister. Ella Fontanals-Cisneros took exception to the government’s querying which works would be part of the gift, as well as its decision not to put them in a museum but in an exhibition space. The Cuban-born philanthropist says the proposed home of her donation, a former tobacco factory in Madrid, was a “disastrous” venue. (ARTnews)

Does the Met Own a Nazi-Looted Painting? –  The Met is belatedly researching the provenance of an Old Master painting it acquired in 1984. New research into court records shows it could have been sold under duress by the mother of a German Jewish art dealer who was forced to flee Nazi Germany. Siegfried Aram tried unsuccessfully to reclaim The Rape of Tamar (ca. 1640), attributed to Eustache Le Sueur, after World War II but it remained in the family of the German businessman Oskar Sommer. When his family sold it at Christie’s London they omitted any mention of Aram’s legal claim. (New York Times)

Here’s Why The Scream Is Fading – Why are the angsty oranges and yellows of Edward Munch’s most famous painting now white? Scientists are examining the work to try to understand the causes, and to learn more about the transformation of pigments over time. In the case of The Scream, it turns out that nanocrystals are growing on the painting, which is not good news. There is serious degradation near the figure’s mouth, in the skies, and on the water. (NYT)

‘Parasite’ Makes Oscars History – The South Korean film Parasite scooped up four Academy Awards. The first non-English language film to win the best picture Oscar features a suseok or “scholar’s rock,” which helps change a Korean family’s fortunes. Boon Joon-ho’s comedy drama defeated Sam Mendes’s heavily fancied war film 1917which was filmed near Stonehenge. Meanwhile, the actor and art collector Brad Pitt won an Oscar for best supporting role in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood(CNBC)


Houses Reschedule Hong Kong Auctions – Christie’s has moved its 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale and its wine sale in Hong Kong from March to May because of the outbreak of the coronavirus. It has also pushed back its Asian Art Week sales in New York from March to June. (Antiques Trade Gazette)

Volta Prepares for a 2020 Relaunch – The Volta art fair returns to New York after canceling its 2019 edition amid safety issues at the Manhattan pier that housed it. Around 50 galleries are due to take part in the slimmed-down fair, which is due to open March 4 through March 8 at Metropolitan West, near its former home on one of the Armory piers. (ARTnews)

Future Fair Names Exhibitors – The inaugural Future Fair in New York, which promises galleries a cut of any profits, has announced 36 exhibitors. It is due to run from May 7 to 9 at Canoe Studios in West Chelsea, coinciding with Frieze New York. (ARTnews)

Sean Kelly Pens an Op-Ed on Collecting – The New York dealer praises collectors who do not chase and then hoard trophy art. He says that many collectors still believe in investing in artists who have something to say and in sharing their art with the wider public. Role models of Kelly’s include Pamela Joyner, the “activist collector” who has long championed African American artists who are not in high demand from US museums. (Financial Times)


Cooper Hewitt Director Resigns Abruptly – Caroline Baumann, who had been the director of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in Manhattan since 2013, abruptly resigned on Friday. It is not yet clear why Baumann, who led the $91 million renovation of the museum, stepped down. (New York Times)

Art in General Names a New Director – The much-loved New York institution has named Irene Mei Zhi Shum as its new director. She will lead the space through its 40th anniversary celebrations in 2021. (Press release)

Academy Awards Museum Will Open in December – The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures took the opportunity last night at the Oscars to promote its upcoming opening date, December 14. The museum, which has experienced several delays, will be dedicated to the art of filmmaking. (LA Times)

American Airlines Donates to Miami Museum – The Pérez Art Museum Miami received $100,000 from the airline company on behalf of  Alberto Ibargüen, who recently stepped down from the American Airlines board of directors after 11 years at the helm. (Artforum)


Agnes Gund Is Receiving a Major Award – Two years ago, Agnes Gund sold one of her most valuable works, a Roy Lichtenstein painting worth $165 million and then put $100 million of that toward supporting US prison reform. She set up the Art for Justice Fund, which works together with the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors, and has been a vocal advocate pushing for the closure of Riker’s Island. This week, Gund will receive a lifetime achievement award, the inaugural Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Woman of Leadership Award, from the Getty, delivered by Ginsburg herself. (Financial Times) (ARTnews)

South African Architects to Design Serpentine Pavilion – The South African architecture firm Counterspace has earned this year’s prestigious Serpentine Galleries pavilion commission. The 20th annual pop-up structure in London’s Kensington Gardens will be based on “gathering spaces and community places around the city,” according to the Serpentine. Counterspace will also design smaller components that will be installed in neighborhoods across London. (The Art Newspaper)

Mentors Named for Rolex Art Initiative – Composer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, filmmaker Spike Lee, artist Carrie Mae Weems, and director Phyllida Lloyd were announced as the new mentors for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. The program, which has seen previous names like David Hockney and David Adjaye as mentors, pairs cultural figures with emerging talents. (NYT)

Pussy Riot Video Shoot Interrupted By Police – St. Petersburg police broke up Pussy Riot’s video shoot for their new song “БЕСИТ / RAGE” yesterday, accusing the band of “gay propaganda,” “extremism,” and “making an illegal video,” according to the video translation. The police cut off electricity and then prevented to film crew from bringing in a rented electric generator to continue filming. “It infuriates me that everything that you cherish and everything that is dear to you is washed into powder,” said member Nadya Tolokonnikova.

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