Art Industry News: A Hacker Just Went on an NFT Theft Spree on OpenSea—and Then Tossed Some Back + Other Stories

Plus, Getty staff protest the dissolution of their pension plan, and Spanish police recover a missing Flemish tapestry.

The OpenSea logo seen displayed on a smartphone. Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket 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 this Tuesday, February 22.


U.S. Revises Law Governing Repatriation of Indigenous Remains – The U.S. Department of the Interior is revising a 1990 statute, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. New elements include the appointment of a civil penalties investigator to evaluate federally funded museums that fail to conduct a full inventory of their holdings of Indigenous human remains and burial objects, and the addition of guidelines that make it easier for tribes to affiliate their ties to ancestors and cultural objects in order to facilitate their return. (The Art Newspaper)

Getty Staff Protest Dissolution of Pension Plan – Retired employees of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles have hit out against the museum’s decision to sell its “defined benefit” pension plan to an insurance company. Former employee Christopher Hudson says that, when the plan is terminated this summer, pensioners will lose federal protections from insurer bankruptcy, “so the potential devastation is worse for us.” (TAN)

Ambivalent Hacker Steals Dozens of NFTs – A mysterious thief stole NFTs from 32 OpenSea users, including some pricey Bored Ape Yacht Club and Mutant Ape Yacht Club NFTs. The platform’s CEO says those affected were victims of a phishing attack, but some victims contend the thief exploited a flaw in OpenSea’s system. The plot thickened when the hacker returned some of the NFTs to their original owners, and inexplicably sent one victim 50 ETH ($130,000). (Kotaku)

Cape Town Art Fair Feels European Absences – Dealers on the ground at Investec Cape Town Art Fair said they felt the impact on sales of fewer international collectors willing to travel or quarantine for the fair. While lower-priced work by emerging artists sold well—such as Feni Chulumanco’s figurative paintings under $10,000—sales of more expensive works were slow to come through. (TAN)


A New Hong Kong Gallery Focuses on Conceptual Art – Writer Ysabelle Cheung and her husband Willem Molesworth, the former director of de Sarthe gallery, have opened a new space in Hong Kong. Called Property Holdings Development Group (which shortens to PHD Group), its conceptual art-oriented programming aims to champion the work of Asian women and queer artists. (South China Morning Post)

Spanish Police Find Tapestry Missing for Decades – Spanish police have recovered a long-lost 17th century Flemish tapestry that was stolen from a church in northern Spain in 1980. The lawyer of art thief Rene Alponse van den Berghe, who became known as “Erik the Belgian” after he died in 2020, returned the tapestry—one of six that was stolen—to authorities. (UPI)

Moai Returns to Rapa Nui – A giant Moai sculpture, one of Rapa Nui’s iconic stone head monuments, is on its way back to the island. The 715-kilogram sculpture was removed in 1870 and taken to Santiago, Chile. It is being returned as part of the Chilean ministry of culture’s effort to repatriate ancestral remains and sacred objects to the island. (Guardian)


North West Makes Very Emo Art – In a video for Vogue’s “Objects of Affection” series, Kim Kardashian showed off some of her daughter North West’s art. In addition to the Bob Ross-style landscape that angered the internet, there’s a charcoal drawing of a floating head with dead eyes and a snake-like tongue flicking out. “Maybe that was just her emo mood,” Kardashian said. Celebrity children…they’re just like us! (The Cut)

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