Art Industry News: Banksy’s Valentine’s Day Mural Is Vandalized With an Unromantic Insult + Other Stories

Plus, Raphael's tapestries return to the Sistine Chapel and why the Marciano brothers really shuttered their art museum.

Banksy's vandalized Valentine's Day message in Barton Hill, Bristol. Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images 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 Monday, February 17.


Cooper Hewitt Director Forced Out Amid Wedding Inquiry – Reasons have finally emerged as to why the director of the Smithsonian’s design museum stepped down earlier this month. It turns out that Baumann was dismissed over allegations that the discounted cost of her dress and the venue for her wedding in 2018 presented a conflict of interest. The Smithsonian’s inspector general’s office declined to comment on its inquiry or how Baumann may have used her position to pay $750 for a designer frock and use a Buckminster Fuller dome for free for her wedding last year. The departure came as a shock to trustees who were not consulted. Some are now considering their positions. Trustee Judy Francis Zankel is appalled at the harsh decision and has raised the matter with the Smithsonian’s secretary Lonnie Bunch. (New York Times)

Russian Artist Pyotr Pavlensky Is Arrested – A controversial Russian performance artist given asylum in France has been arrested. Officially he has been detained for an alleged brawl but it comes days after he released a sex tape to shame a politician who hoped to be Paris mayor. Pyotr Pavlensky leaked the video of Benjamin Griveaux. The artist accused him of “political hypocrisy” for having an extra-marital affair. Griveaux, who is a member of Emmanuel Macron’s political party, blamed the “vile attacks concerning my private life” for his decision to drop out of the campaign. (The Art Newspaper)

Banksy Valentine’s Mural Is Vandalized – Someone has vandalized Banksy’s Valentine’s Day street artwork within days of it appearing in his home city. The attacker added “BCC wankers”—seemingly an insult aimed at the Bristol City Council—and a love heart in pink spray paint to the street artist’s work featuring a girl who has fired a slingshot full of roses. One resident of the Barton Hill area of Bristol in the West of England said of the vandalism: “It’s a real shame, but it was always going to happen, unfortunately.” (Guardian)

Inside the Meltdown of the Marciano Foundation – The Marciano brothers are refusing to respond to questions about why they abruptly closed their Los Angeles art museum in November. They blamed low attendance. Insiders say it was more complicated than that, claiming the Marciano Art Foundation was in trouble from the beginning, due to a lack of organizational structure, and long-term planning. Maurice Marciano’s passion for the project seemed to have waned rapidly. (Paul always thought it was excessive). When front-of-house staff objected to low wages and wanted to unionize, the brothers closed their doors. Running a private museum is expensive, especially when its glitzy launch party reportedly cost $500,000. The former Masonic building on Wilshire Boulevard is now shuttered, but their blue-chip art is believed to remain inside, so the Marcianos now own a rather expensive art storage facility. (Los Angeles Times)


David Geffen Buys Back His Hockney Splash  – The media mogul reportedly bought the 1966 painting of an LA swimming pool that he had sold in 1985. This time Geffen splashed out $30 million when making the only bid at Sotheby’s last week for the Hockney. (Bloomberg)

Takeaways From the London Auctions – The auctions totalled $522 million, down nearly a quarter from the 2019 sales. The hangover from Brexit uncertainty was partly to blame, as consigners held back works and buyers remained wary of overpaying at the high end of the market. Phone bids on behalf of younger Japanese collectors were notable, however, and work by female artists continued to surge, with an auction record for Jordan Casteel. (Wall Street Journal)

Artists Accuse Unseen Amsterdam of Nonpayment – The bankrupt photography fair left the artist London-based artist Felicity Hammond unpaid. She has written an open letter criticizing the Unseen Foundation for being complicit in the debacle. Art Rotterdam is now in talks to buy Unseen Amsterdam although it is unclear if debtors like Hammond will be paid. (Artforum)

NADA Names New York Open Exhibitors – The second edition of NADA’s New York Gallery Open will include 60 exhibitors ranging from A.I.R. Gallery, and Pioneer Works, to False Flag, and Rachel Uffner Gallery. It is due to run March 5 through 8 to coincide with the Armory Show. (Artforum)


Fugitive Art Dealer Hunted in Germany – Art collector Angela Gulbenkian is wanted by the police after failing to appear in court in London at the beginning of February. She is believed to be in Germany after fleeing charges of fraud totalling £1.1 million ($1.4 million), a case involving her allegedly selling a fake Yayoi Kusama polka dot pumpkin sculpture to Mathieu Ticolat. (Times

Dallas Museum Names Contemporary Art Curator – Vivian Crockett will join the Dallas Museum of Art as assistant curator of contemporary art. She currently serves as a Joan Tisch teaching fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and will begin her new post on March 9. (Artforum)

Egypt Sentences Ex-Minister’s Brother for Artifact Smuggling – An Egyptian court has sentenced Raouf Boutros-Ghali, the brother of a former finance minister, to 30 years in prison and fined him 6 million Egyptian pounds ($382,000) after he was convicted on two separate counts of trafficking antiquities out of the country. The cases began in 2017 when Italian police seized smuggled goods from Egypt that included five burial masks, 11 vessels, 151 small statues, and thousands of coins from different eras. (AP)


FBI Restitutes 450 Artifacts to Haiti  Some 450 cultural and historical artifacts will be returned by the United States to the Republic of Haiti after being discovered within a trove of 7,000 items held in a private collection, the largest recovery of cultural property in FBI history. The return marks the largest repatriation of art from the United State to Haiti to date. (Press release)

The Getty Buys a Painting Rejected by English Heritage – recently discovered masterpiece, Two Boys With A Bladder by the 18th-century painter Joseph Wright of Derby, will head to the Getty Museum in LA after English ­Heritage rejected the chance to buy the £2.5 million ($3.3 million) painting because of its condition. Expert Peter Barber is sceptical that the cost of conservation was the real issue and fears English Heritage is more concerned with the upkeep of Kenwood House in London than adding to its art collection. (Camden New Journal)

Street Artists Auctioned to Benefit Australia’s Fire Recovery – An auction organized by leading street art collectors Sandra Powell and Andrew King raised AUD$300,000 ($202,380) for relief for those affected by the wildfires. There were works by Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, and Ron English. (TAN)

See Raphael’s Tapestries Return to the Sistine Chapel  For one week only the Renaissance master’s ten tapestries will hang again in the Vatican’s chapel as they did in the 16th century. The Vatican Museum has posted a video of their historic return to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death. The display unveiled today will end on Sunday when they return to their permanent home in the museums. (Instagram)


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