Art Industry News: Oops! A Crypto Collective Paid $3 Million for a ‘Dune’ Book Because of a Basic Misunderstanding + Other Stories

Plus, Smithsonian guards say staff shortages are putting its collections in danger, and a public Banksy mural is sold privately.

Frank Herbert, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Jean Giraud, Dune (1975). Photo courtesy of Christie'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 Tuesday, January 18.


Dispute Rages Over Villa With Caravaggio Fresco – Villa Aurora, a Roman villa with a ceiling mural by Caravaggio, goes under the hammer today as part of an inheritance battle between Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi and the sons of her late husband Prince Nicolò Boncompagni Ludovisi. A judge ruled that the villa should be auctioned off after they could not come to an agreement on ownership. The princess hopes the Italian government will buy it, but with a a starting bid of €471 million ($536 million), it is unlikely the state will be able to stump up the cash. (Guardian)

Smithsonian Museums Suffer From Staff Shortage – As museums across the United States suffer pandemic-related staff shortages, the Smithsonian Institution has shifted to a new schedule. Beginning today, many of its most popular museums—including the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)—will be open five days a week indefinitely. Some employees say that even this is not enough to counteract the risks, citing an intruder entering NMAAHC when no guard was posted at the door. (WTOPWashington Post)

A DAO Bought a Dune Book at Auction—But Didn’t Think It Through – A crypto group called Spice DAO bought a rare copy of a book detailing director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s efforts to produce an ambitious adaptation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune in the 1970s. After spending $3 million on it at Christie’s Paris, the group planned to splice and sell the book as NFTs before burning the physical copy. (The book’s high estimate was just under $40,000.) There’s just one problem: they did not realize that purchasing the book did not grant them ownership of the copyright, which is what would actually enable them to produce the NFTs. (The Art Newspaper)

Public Banksy Mural Sold to Private Buyer – A mural of a child with a bucket hat that Banksy painted as part of his summer “spraycation” last year has been sold privately after it was pulled from public sale at Julien’s Auctions. The owners of the electrical store it was painted on in Lowestoft removed the mural in November, disappointing locals who had been enjoying the tourism boost. (TAN)


Tate Liverpool Plans Renovation – Tate Liverpool is seeking an architect to oversee an ambitious $34 million restoration project. It is accepting proposals until February 4; the revamp is expected to take three years. (Artforum)

Desert X AlUla Names Participating Artists – The artist list for the second edition of the sculpture exhibition in the Saudi desert city of AlUla has been revealed. Serge Attukwei Clottey, Claudia Comte, Dana Awartani, Alicja Kwade, and others will present work inspired by the themes of oasis and mirage. (Press release)

Phillips Launches a Fiduciary Service – Phillips has launched a new business arm, Phillips Fiduciary Services, to provide legal, financial, and art-market advice. The list of services includes structuring financial arrangements, problem-solving questions relating to authenticity, restitution, and copyright, and offering valuation advice. (Press release)

UAE Announces Venice Artist – The UAE will present an installation by Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim at its national pavilion in Venice. Curated by Maya Allison, the project, called Between Sunrise and Sunset, comprises human-sized, abstract, and organic sculptural forms referencing the artist’s mountain hometown of Khor Fakkan. (Press release)


See Xu Bing’s NFT Project for the Trees – Chinese artist Xu Bing has combined 100 kids’ drawings with his own calligraphy in a new work called Metaverse Forest. The piece builds off his 2008 Forest Project, in which he taught children around the world to draw trees in his Square World Calligraphy style. Metaverse Forest will be minted as a limited NFT series on the eco-focused Polygon blockchain priced at 0.15 ETH each for 150 unique editions. Proceeds go to NGOs planting trees around the world. (Press release)

Project Metaverse. Courtesy Xu Bing.

Metaverse Forest. Courtesy Xu Bing.

Project Metaverse. Courtesy Xu Bing.

Metaverse Forest. Courtesy Xu Bing.

Project Metaverse. Courtesy Xu Bing.

Metaverse Forest. Courtesy Xu Bing.


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