Art Industry News: A Fugitive Hong Kong Billionaire Is Unmasked as the Seller of a $26 Million Hockney Painting + Other Stories

Plus, a controversial show from the Aichi Triennale is heading to Taiwan and star curator Zoé Whitley will lead London's Chisenhale Gallery.

David Hockney, The Splash (1966). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

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 Friday, January 17.


Taiwan Will Host Censored Aichi Triennial Show – A museum in Taiwan will restage the highly publicized exhibition that was part of the Aichi Triennial last year. The show, which chronicles works of art that have been censored in Japan, closed after just three days following threats of violence over the inclusion of a sculpture by Korean artists Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung of a so-called “comfort woman.” The director of the Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art, Li-Chen Loh, says his version of the show will also include works that have previously been censored in Taiwan. (The Art Newspaper)

Sackler Gift Stirs Controversy at Vermont Museum – A proposed donation of art from a foundation affiliated with the Sackler family has caused a stir at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, a town that has suffered the highest number of opioid overdoses in the state. After some soul-searching, the museum decided to accept the transformative gift of 300 objects collected by the late Arthur M. Sackler and donated by the foundation overseen by his widow, Elizabeth Sackler. (Arthur died in 1987, before his estranged brothers developed OxyContin.) “We have not and will not accept any gifts from anyone who has profited from the opioid crisis,” the museum’s director Danny Lichtenfeld said. “Many of us have had this crisis touch our lives personally.” (VT Digger)

Russian Collecting Couple Released From Jail – The Russian couple who lent a Ghent museum a trove of allegedly fake avant-garde Russian paintings has been released by Belgian police. No charges have been made against Igor and Olga Toporovsky, but the pair remain under investigation. The lawyer who filed a criminal charge against the Toporovskys on behalf of a group of international art dealers says that the investigation will be led by a judge who will decide whether or not to prosecute the couple. The director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent, Catherine de Zegher, remains suspended following the the controversial show, “Russian Modernism,” which experts fear included as many as two dozen fakes. (TAN)

Did a Dentist Try to Pass Off Fake Picassos? – A German dentist has been accused of trying to pass off 20 fake Picassos as the real thing. Although he had not officially attempted to sell them before being caught, the man is accused of the “unauthorized exploitation of copyrighted works and the use of fake certificates.” His hearing is in Dusseldorf on January 28. According to the prosecution, the 52-year-old met with representatives of several auction houses at a hotel to show them the works, claiming that handwritten notes on the back were from one of Picasso’s sons. (Monopol)


Fugitive Real-Estate Mogul Is Revealed as Hockney Seller – The fugitive Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau has been unmasked as the anonymous seller of David Hockney’s The Splash, which could fetch between $26.2 million and $39.3 million (£20 million to £30 million) at Sotheby’s London on February 11. Lau was convicted of bribery and money-laundering in Macau in 2014, but he has avoided imprisonment by not traveling there. He is believed to have bought the Hockney at Sotheby’s in 2006 for a comparatively modest $5.4 million—now, he stands to make a nearly 630 percent profit. (Bloomberg)

Jill Soloway Teams Up With Judy Chicago at Felix – The TV producer has selected works by Judy Chicago for a special project at Felix LA, the upstart hotel fair that runs alongside Frieze Los Angeles in February. The feminist artist’s work will be presented by Jessica Silverman Gallery of San Francisco. For the first time, the hotel fair will ask visitors to pay $20 admission. (Los Angeles Times)

Royal Abdication Coin Sells for £1 Million – A rare King Edward VIII gold sovereign sold for a record £1 million ($1.3 million) to a private UK buyer. The coin is one of a trial set that was never actually released, since the king abdicated the British throne in 1936 to marry the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. (Guardian)


Zoé Whitley Will Lead Chisenhale Gallery – Whitely, the star curator who helped organize “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power,” will succeed Polly Staple at the helm of the East End London nonprofit in late March 2020. Whitely most recently served a short stint as senior curator at Hayward Gallery in London; she has also held top roles at Tate Britain and Tate Modern. (Press release)

Howard University Gifted African American Art Trove – The historically black university in Washington, DC, has received a collection of African American art valued at $2.5 million from Patricia Walters, the wife of former dean of the school’s political science department, Ronald Walters. The trove consists of 152 pieces from notable eras, including the Harlem Renaissance. (WTOP)

Cristina Iglesias Wins Architecture Prize – The Spanish artist has won the third annual Royal Academy Architecture Prize for her contribution to architecture. Iglesias is known for her public artworks that offer a site for gathering and often use water to create a sense of respite from the surrounding urban environment. (e-flux)

Park West Gallery Supports Suicide Prevention – Park West Gallery, best known for selling art by the Pop artist Peter Max on cruise ships, has donated $250,000 to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in memory of Mary May, Max’s wife, who died by suicide last year. (Press release)


Preservationists Fight to Save the Frick’s Music Room – While the beloved garden at the Frick Collection was saved from destruction in a revamped expansion plan, the museum’s historic music room faces the same fate as part of the updated $160 million renovation. An online petition to protect the music room in its current state has received 6,000 signatures. (Gothamist)

Claudia Rankine Plans New Work for the Shed – The acclaimed author, poet, and MacArthur fellow’s new theater work Help will premiere at the Shed in New York from March 10 through April 5. Directed by Taibi Magar and starring Roslyn Ruff from Marriage Story, Rankine’s piece follows a woman as she encounters white men in airports and airplanes and asks them what they think of their privilege. (Press release)

Nicholas Cullinan Defends Closing the National Portrait Gallery – The director of the National Portrait Gallery has responded to criticism about the museum’s three-year closure, pushing back against Bendor Grosvenor’s article last year in The Art Newspaper that criticized the “secretive” decision to close starting in June. “The project is the most transformative since our building opened in 1896, the first to consider it as a whole and is much needed,” Cullinan writes in an op-ed. “It will see us refurbish all of our galleries and rehang and re-interpret the entire collection from top to bottom.” (TAN)

Hong Kong Protest Sculpture Heads to Copenhagen – A Danish sculptor has modified his work, Pillar of Shame, to include portraits of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters ahead of its arrival outside Danish parliament. Jens Galschiøt’s work originally commemorated the victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It now includes the faces of Hong Kong demonstrators wearing helmets, goggles, and gas masks. (Hong Kong Free Press)

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