Art Industry News: Meet the American Banker Who Just Bought Banksy’s $1.6 Million Brexit-Themed Work at Sotheby’s + Other Stories

Plus, MoMA acquires an important trove of Gordon Parks photographs and police question the widow of a gallery owner in the case of a stolen Klimt.

Banksy, Vote to Love (2018). Courtesy of Sotheby's Images Ltd.

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, February 12.


Police Question Gallery Owner’s Widow in Klimt Theft – The widow of a former gallery director in Italy is under investigation after Klimt’s Portrait of a Lady resurfaced in a nearby garden 22 years after it was stolen. Prosecutors are questioning Rossella Tiadina, the widow of Stefano Fugazza, who was managing gallery Ricci Oddi at the time. The painting was found hidden in a wall behind the gallery in January. In a diary entry uncovered by investigators, Fugazza wondered if he should steal the painting to promote a Klimt show he was planning. But later, after the theft, he wrote: “The Lady has gone for good, and damned be the day I even thought of such a foolish and childish thing.” (Guardian)

Authorities Reject Plans for London Holocaust Memorial Museum  Proposals for London’s planned Holocaust memorial have suffered a major setback as Royal Parks, the charity that oversees its site in the central London park in Millbank, said it was opposed to the move. The new memorial, which would also feature a learning center, had been due to be erected in Victoria Tower Gardens, but the organization said that it could not support the project “given the impact it will have on a popular public amenity space in an area of the capital with few public parks.” (Guardian)

Buyer of Banksy’s Brexit Work Unmasked – The buyer of Banksy’s sardonic, Brexit-themed work Vote to Love (2018), which sold on Tuesday night at Sotheby’s for £1.2 million ($1.6 million) with fees, has been identified as Bartow Morgan, the CEO of Brandbank, a Georgia-based banking company. Why would an American want to own a work about Brexit? “We’ve got Trump,” he said simply. But he also had more personal motivations: “What can I say, my kids love it.” The work, a Vote to Leave in which the “Leave” is replaced by “Love,” was first shown in the Royal Academy’s 2018 summer exhibition. (The Art Newspaper)

A $5 Van Gogh Could Sell for $16 Million – In 1967, Peasant Woman in Front of a Farmhouse was sold at  auction for just £4. But now, it could fetch more than £13 million at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, where it will be offered by the British gallery Simon Dickinson. After its initial sale in the late 1960s, the work was subject to X-rays that uncovered a sketch underneath of a man ploughing with oxen. The composition was similar to another famous work by Van Gogh, which allowed experts to identify it as the handiwork of the 33-year-old artist. TEFAF opens on March 7. (Daily Mail)


Chile Declines Invitation to ARCOmadrid Amid Political Unrest at Home – The Chilean Ministry of Culture has declined an invitation to participate as a guest nation at the 2021 edition of ARCOmadrid, citing “social unrest” at home. The decision has prompted an outcry from the local artistic community, who see the move as a way to silence artists who might speak out through work they show abroad. “There is no doubt that the measure of declining ARCO’s invitation is the result of the same repressive policy by the government, which wants to posit itself as focused on real solutions to the problems of the local crisis,” a group of Chilean artists wrote in a collective statement. The country has seen ongoing anti-government protests since October. (Hyperallergic)

Berlin Gallery Weekend Improves Gender Imbalance – After last year’s event was criticized for its lack of gender balance, Berlin Gallery Weekend’s newly released artist list for 2020 seems to have improved. The ratio is 29 female artists to 31 male artists. Among the highlights: Loie Hollowell will show at König Galerie, Kaari Upson will present works at Sprüth Magers, and Stanley Whitney will curate a group exhibition at Nordenhake. (Monopol)

Asia Week to Proceed as Scheduled in New York – The Asia Week New York Association has confirmed that 37 of its shows, including gallery talks and events, will take place as planned between March 12 and 19. Asia Week’s auction house partners have, however, rescheduled their March Asian art auctions to June due to the outbreak of the novel 2019 strain of coronavirus. (Artfix Daily)


MoMA Acquires Gordon Parks Trove – New York’s Museum of Modern Art has bought 56 works from Gordon Parks’s 1957 “The Atmosphere of Crime” series. As the first African American staff photographer for Life magazine, Parks took the images of crime scenes, police stations, hospitals, and morgues for a photo essay addressing issues of race relations, poverty, urban life, and the criminal justice system. A selection of the works will go on view at the museum in May. (Artforum

The Rothko Chapel Will Reopen in June – The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, has announced that it will reopen in June. The chapel commissioned by patrons John and Dominique de Menil contains 14 monumental paintings by Mark Rothko, and has been undergoing a $30 million renovation. (Artforum)

Desert X Names Co-Curator for Its Next Edition – The 2021 edition of the Desert X biennial in the Coachella Valley will be co-organized by curator César García-Alvarez. The Mexico-born, LA-based curator is the founder of the LA nonprofit The Mistake Room. The sculpture biennial is slated to run from February 6 to April 11, 2021. (Artforum)


Madrid Will Open a Jewish Museum – Spain’s capital city, Madrid, is getting its first Jewish Museum, which aims to cover 3,000 years of Jewish history. Until the 1492 expulsion of Jews, the country had the largest Jewish community in the world. The museum will open in 2022. (Jerusalem Post)

Uli Sigg Shows His Chinese Art in Turin – Turin’s Castello di Rivoli will show selection of works from the collection of Uli Sigg, the first entrepreneur to travel to China in 1979 after the declaration of the Open Door Policy. “Facing the Collector: The Sigg Collection of Contemporary Art from China” will run February 25 through June 21. (Press release)

Behind the Scenes of JR’s Oscars Shoot for TIMEStreet artist JR photographed stars celebrating their Oscar wins at an afterparty thrown by Madonna and her talent manager, Guy Oseary, for TIME. The party, officially dubbed (what else?) “The Party,” had a strict no-social media policy, so the French artist’s photos of celebrities hanging out with life-size black and white portraits of themselves are the only shots of the event. (TIME)

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