Art Industry News: Ai Weiwei Says He Moved Out of Germany Because Germans Can Be ‘Very Rude’ + Other Stories

Plus, a former Italian diplomat is sentenced to 15 years in prison for antiquities smuggling and the Portland Art Museum gets its largest gift ever.

Ai Weiwei stands with his sculpture Tree at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/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 Wednesday, January 22.


Former Italian Diplomat Convicted in Cairo for Antiquities Smuggling – A criminal court in Cairo has convicted the former honorary consul of Italy in Luxor, Cav. Ladislav Otakar Skakal, for smuggling Egyptian antiquities out of the country. He has been embroiled in the smuggling of 21,855 artifacts from the port of Alexandria, which were uncovered in a diplomatic shipping container. Skakal, whose whereabouts are unknown, was not present for the trial in which he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. (ARCA Blog)

Artist Ann Hirsch Accuses Vimeo of Censorship – The feminist artist Ann Hirsch has called out the video-sharing platform Vimeo for deleting her channel. Hirsch says Vimeo told her that her videos were deleted because they contained content that provided “sexual stimulation.” She had more than 50 art videos on the site, which often contain representations of women and sexuality in the digital realm. The story has a reasonably happy ending, however: Yesterday evening, Vimeo restored her account. “Excited that Vimeo is still a friend for artists and especially women artists,” Hirsch wrote on Twitter. (ARTnewsTwitter)

Ai Weiwei Slams Germans’ Bad Manners – The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has left Germany, the country that gave him asylum after he fled China in 2015, and has been living in Cambridge in the UK for the past four months. In a new interview, he explains why he relocated: He found Germany to be intolerant, bigoted, and authoritarian. He expressed his unhappiness at having been urged to speak German in Germany. “In Britain they are colonial,” Ai said. “They are polite at least. But in Germany, they don’t have this politeness. They have been very rude in daily situations. They deeply don’t like foreigners.” (Guardian)

Alleged Bronzino Seized in Old Master Forgery Scandal – A work owned by the Alana Collection in New Jersey has been seized by French authorities from an exhibition at the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, where the painting was on loan. Saint Cosmas dates to around 1544 and is thought to be by Italian painter Agnolo di Cosimo, better known as Bronzino. But the work is suspected to have been owned by French art collector Giuliano Ruffini, who is at the center of a forgery scandal that has embroiled a number of Old Masters now under investigation. The painting was purchased by the Alana Collection in 2011 for an undisclosed sum. (The Art Newspaper


Koenig & Clinton Gallery Closes – The Brooklyn-based gallery owned by Leo Koenig and Margaret Liu Clinton, which has worked with artists including Olivier Mosset, American Artist, and Maria Hassabi, is closing after seven years. In an email sent to friends and clients, the partners say they have decided to pursue independent endeavors. Leo Koenig Inc. will continue to focus on secondary market activities though the gallery Century Pictures. (Press release)

CalArts Alumni Contribute to Fundraising Initiative – The artists Tony Oursler, Carrie Mae Weems, and the late John Baldessari have contributed art to help fund student scholarships at their alma mater, the California Institute of the Arts. The university has recruited 50 alumni to make work that will be sold to finance an endowment dedicated to scholarships. The works will be produced as limited editions and released 10 at a time over the next five years. (The Art Newspaper)

Christie’s Modern British Sale Totals $10 Million – Christie’s Modern British Art sale in London generated $10.1 million, selling 76 percent by lot. The auction house says there was a particularly “spirited” response to works from the Dr. Jeffrey Sherwin Collection, the Jeremy Lancaster Collection, and the Richard L. Weisman Collection. (Press release)


Portland Art Museum Gets the Largest Gift in Its History – Philanthropist Arlene Schnitzer has gifted the Portland Art Museum $10 million, the largest personal donation ever made to the institution. The money will go toward the construction of the Rothko Pavilion, a glassed-in area that will connect its two main buildings. (Portland Tribune)

Museu de Arte São Paulo Acquired 296 Works by Women Last Year – The Brazilian institution dedicated its entire program last year to women artists (sound familiar?) with shows including a survey by Laure Prouvost and thematic exhibitions on women in art history. During that time, it also acquired 256 artworks by artists who identify as female, including Ruth Buchanan and Leonor Antunes. (Artforum)

Francis Alÿs Honored by the Whitechapel – The Belgian artist was honored as the 2020 Whitechapel Gallery Art Icon at a benefit dinner last night. Ticket sales for the event helped raise £235,320 ($307,215) for the institution’s education and community programs. There was also a silent auction of works by artists including rising star Alvaro Barrington, William Kentridge, and Alÿs. (Press release)

New Director of MUAC Announced – Amanda de la Garza will lead the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s University Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City. De la Garza joined MUAC—Mexico’s first museum dedicated solely to contemporary art—as an adjunct curator in 2012. (Artforum)


A German Court Will Rule on Appeal to Remove Anti-Semitic Relic – A court in Naumburg, Germany, has suggested that it will probably rule against a bid to have an anti-Jewish relief removed from the side of a 14th-century church and placed into a museum context. The court said the public is unlikely to view the relic as an expression of the church’s current beliefs. The relief, called “Jewish Pig,” depicts a rabbi looking inside a pig’s rectum and Jewish people suckling on its teats. (Courthouse News)

US Supreme Court Delays Guelph Treasure Appeal – The court has delayed deciding whether to hear an appeal from Germany’s state museums against the descendants of a group of German Jewish art dealers who claim they are the rightful owners of the Guelph Treasure, which is valued at around €200 million ($222 million). The items are currently at Berlin’s Applied Arts Museum. The Berlin state museums maintain that because the Jewish dealers negotiated the sale with Germany for over a year, the pieces were not sold under duress, and therefore their ownership is not a matter of international law. (The Art Newspaper)

KFC, Panda Express, or Frieze LA? – Los Angeles arts reporter and filmmaker Eric Minh Swenson got some laughs on social media for his sarcastic query: Los Angeles out-of-towners (particularly those from outside the US), what are you most excited about: the upcoming Frieze art fair or fantastic fast food? (Facebook)

Which of these do you look most forward to?

Posted by Eric Minh Swenson on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.