Art Industry News: Fooled by Fake Paperwork, the Met Bought a Stolen Egyptian Coffin for $4 Million + Other Stories

Plus, Nan Goldin threatens to boycott the National Portrait Gallery and the Louvre wants to show Salvator Mundi despite an expert's doubts.

The gilded coffin of Nedjemankh, which was returned to Egypt last year. Photo courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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 Monday, February 18.


The Louvre Does Want to Borrow Salvator Mundi – The Louvre in Paris has dismissed the claim by a French expert that showing Salvator Mundi would be “scandalous” because of doubts about its attribution to Leonardo da Vinci. Jacques Franck, who has been consulted by the Louvre in the past, claimed that that senior Louvre staff know the painting is not by Leonardo da Vinci. A Louvre spokeswoman distanced the institution from the scholar’s allegation. She confirmed that it has requested to borrow the painting from Abu Dhabi for its Leonardo show in the fall. (Daily Mail)

Nan Goldin Threatens to Boycott London Gallery Over Sackler Gift – The artist-activist has stepped up the pressure on London’s National Portrait Gallery to turn down a $1.3 million gift from the Sackler Foundation. Goldin says the museum approached her about organizing a retrospective. She will refuse to take part if the institution accepts Sackler money for its planned revamp because of the foundation’s links to Purdue Pharma, the maker of the the controversial painkiller, OxyContin. (Guardian)

The Met Returns Prized Coffin Because It Was Stolen – The Metropolitan Museum of Art was fooled by a fake provenance report when it bought a gilded Egyptian coffin from a Paris dealer in 2017. New evidence shows that the high-ranking priest’s coffin was looted in Egypt in 2011. The museum’s new director, Max Hollein, has promised to lead a review of its acquisition procedures. The museum will now try to recover the around $3.9 million purchase price from the dealer. It has had to close a show starring the stolen antiquity earlier than planned. (New York Times)

Are Big Museum Patrons a Dying Breed? – The days of David Rockefeller-style arts philanthropy could be numbered. US art museums and cultural institutions are worried as younger donors are moving away from arts and culture in their philanthropy. Like Bill Gates, they prefer humanitarian causes, such as preventing illness. Research also shows the next generation of donors are less likely to make big-ticket gifts to any charitable cause. So when David Geffen pledged $100 million to revamp a hall at the Lincoln Center, smaller donors did not follow his lead. (Wall Street Journal)


What It’s Like to Go to a Glossy Art Fair as a Critic – LA Times art critic Christopher Knight is no fan of brash art fairs, so when Frieze Los Angeles pitched its tent in the Paramount backlot, he was never going to be easy to please. The quality of the art might have been “quite good,” Knight concedes, but “Frieze emphasizes commerce in an inhospitable context for people whose highest priority is social—a party, preferably with paparazzi in attendance.” Will it be a commercial success? Knight says the hurdle is high, though he admits, “LA does love retail.” (Los Angeles Times)

Frank Stella Is Selling Art at Christie’s – The veteran US artist is selling works from his personal collection because, he says, “it’s nice to have some liquidity.” Works going under the hammer at Christie’s London on February 27 and in New York in May include David Hockney’s A Less Realistic Still Life (1965); a 1959 Helen Frankenthaler abstract; two Dutch Old Masters by Jan Sanders van Hemessen, plus two of his own works. They have estimates of $1.5 million to $7.5 million. (NYT)


The Met Gets a Significant Peter Doig – Art collector George Economou has gifted Doig’s Two Trees (2017) to the Met in New York in celebration of the museum’s upcoming 150th birthday next year. The 11-foot-long painting featuring three figures is now the third work by Doig in the Met’s collection. (ARTnews)

LACMA Acquires Major Early Kerry James Marshall – Art collectors Steven and Deborah Lebowitz have donated Marshall’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) to LACMA. Painted when the artist was just 25, the work will be on view through September 15 at the LA museum’s satellite space at Charles White Elementary School. (LA Times)


Is This New Movie the Animated Thomas Crown Affair? – A new film titled Ruben Brandt, Collector, could be the next obsession of the art world. Created by the Hungarian filmmaker Milorad Krstic, the animated flick follows the story of a psychotherapist who joins a ring of art thieves to steal 13 paintings from famous museums. The paintings, by artists including Botticelli, Hopper, and Manet, then come to life in Brandt’s nightmares. The score features Weimar versions of hit pop songs by artists including Britney Spears. (Entertainment Weekly)

Havana Biennial Urged to Protest Cuba’s New Law – Cuban artists are campaigning for participants in the upcoming 13th Havana Biennial to take action to oppose the government’s oppressive Decree 349, which strictly controls artistic activity in Cuba. Artists including Tania Bruguera are asking participants “to find ways to include the artists who are going to be marginalized,” for example by wearing “No to Decree 349” T-shirts or sharing exhibition space with them. (Hyperallergic)

Has a Banksy Been Defaced and Dissed? – A vandal has painted over a work of street art in Edinburgh thought by some to be a Banksy, adding a scathing review that reads: “Trite, boring, dull, badly painted. 0/10.” The work featuring a young girl in the style of Banksy’s stencil art first appeared at the end of January after a performance by Massive Attack in the Scottish city. (Scotsman)

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