Art Industry News: Will the Divorce of Power Couple Libbie and David Mugrabi Expose the Art World’s Biggest Secrets? + Other Stories

Plus, the shortlist for France's most prestigious art prize is out and conservators examine Van Gogh's wilting Sunflowers.

Libbie Mugrabi and David Mugrabi in April 2018. Photo by Patrick McMullan, ©Patrick McMullan.

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, January 14.


Wales Seeks to Save Banksy Mural – The arrival of a work by the famous street artist in a tiny industrial Welsh town was a surprise to local residents, not least the owner of the garage Banksy used as his canvas. But the popularity of the mural is proving a bit much for Ian Lewis, who might end up selling it to a collector who would take it out of town. Meanwhile, local residents are campaigning for it to stay in Port Talbot, and the local government is paying to secure it while it tries to make a deal with Lewis. (Guardian)

El Museo del Barrio Cancels Plan to Honor Conservative Princess – The New York museum dedicated to Latino art has rescinded its offer to honor Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis at its 50th anniversary gala. Many supporters of the museum objected to the choice of the 58-year-old socialite, who is known for her connections to arch-conservative Catholics and has complained that Pope Francis I is too liberal. Princess Gloria said that her conservative religious views “have absolutely no impact on my open mind on cultural diversity and inclusion.” (New York Times)

The Mugrabi Divorce Gets Ugly – The art world loves drama, and the nasty divorce between art-world power couple Libbie and David Mugrabi is going to offer more than enough to keep voyeurs enraptured in 2019. The wealthy and influential family’s private dealings could be exposed as Libbie Mugrabi’s lawyers evaluate the billionaire Mugrabi clan’s assets, including the world’s largest collection of Warhols in private hands. Libbie, who is currently “subsisting” on $200,000 a month, spoke to the Times about life at the epicenter of the elite art market. Now, she’s wants out—and is ready for a fight. “I feel great every time I’m in court,” she said. “I love court.” (NYT)

Shortlist for the Prix Marcel Duchamp Announced – The shortlisted artists for France’s most prestigious art prize are the video artist Eric Baudelaire, sculptors Katinka Bock and Marguerite Humeau, and duo Ida Tursic and Wilfried Mille, whose paintings reflect the frantic flow of images today. The winner of the €35,000 (around $40,000) 2019 Prix Marcel Duchamp is due to be announced in October. (ARTnews)


Thaddaeus Ropac Expands Asia Team – Kyu Jin Hwang, who previously led a private collection in Europe and worked at Gallery HYUNDAI in Seoul, has been named associate director of Asia for the gallery. Based in London, she will work with the gallery’s Asia director Nick Buckley-Wood to develop key relationships in the region, particularly in Korea. She will begin by manning the gallery’s booth at the inaugural Taipei Dangdai art fair in Taiwan this week. (Press release)

What Defines Taiwanese Art Collectors? – Georgina Adam asks whether the inaugural Taipei Dangdai art fair will help  reinvigorate Taiwan’s art scene, which just two decades ago had a larger share of the global art market than mainland China. During the rapid industrialization of the island, Taiwan saw the rise of many collectors who specialized in the work of domestic and Chinese artists and who are now taking an interest in Asian names from the wider region. (FT)

LX Art Gallery Opens on the Upper East Side – The new space founded by real estate developer Louis Buckworth and directed by Cecilia Weaver opened on January 10 at 60th Street and Park Avenue. Its debut show, “I Don’t Believe in Art, I Believe in Artists,” is on view through March 10 and includes work by Shoplifter, Aaron Curry, Thornton Dial, and Faith Wilding, among others. (Art Daily)


Kemper Museum Names New Director – Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art has lured Sean O’Harrow from Hawaii to be its next director. O’Harrow has led the Honolulu Museum of Art for the past two years and before that, the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art. The hedge funder-turned-curator starts his new post in February. (Press release)

Pérez Museum Offers Free Admission to Government Workers – The Miami art museum is offering free admission to furloughed workers during the ongoing US government shutdown, which is now the longest in the country’s history. The Pérez is also encouraging workers to send in their resumes and apply for part-time jobs. Director Franklin Sirmans said in statement that the museum is proud to offer a hand where we can.” (Hyperallergic)

Acclaimed Botanical Artist Jessica Tcherepnine Has Died – The British-born, New York-based watercolorist died on December 31 at age 80. An award-winning botanical artist, Jessica Tcherepnine won two gold medals from the Royal Horticultural Society and painted the plants in Prince Charles’s garden at Highgrove House. (NYT)


Van Gogh’s Sunflowers Get an Urgent Check Up – The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has taken its Sunflowers off view to study how its light-sensitive chrome yellow pigment is changing color. Conservators will examine the canvas in the museum’s lab until February 22, when they are due to announce their findings. The petals’ discoloration is currently impossible to spot with the naked eye. (Independent)

Performance Art Piece Tries to Reverse Brexit – The Swedish artist Jonas Lund tried to “reverse” the Brexit referendum result in a four-day workshop at London’s Photographers’ Gallery. With help from an expert team including a former campaign photographer for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Lund aimed to expose how online manipulation shaped the vote. (Guardian)

Anthony McCall’s Solid Light Dazzles New Yorkers – The New York-based artist describes the birth in the 1970s of his solid-light works, which are now on view at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York (through January 26). The works, he explains, are not just for looking at; spectators need to engage with the projected beams as they change and mutate. “You need to engage in a slow dance,” McCall says. (Instagram) 

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