Art Industry News: A Thief Casually Walked Out of a Russian Museum With a $1 Million Painting + Other Stories

Plus, a Venice Biennale art installation will take on climate change and advocates protest the Whitney Museum at a town hall.

Moscow's State Tretyakov Gallery. Photo by A.Savin, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic license.

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 28.


Johns Hopkins Buys Newseum Building – Johns Hopkins University—which recently came into $1.8 billion thanks to a historic gift from former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg—purchased the struggling museum’s building in Washington, DC, for $372.5 million to expand its presence in the capital. The Freedom Forum, the foundation behind the museum dedicated to the history of the press, said the decision to sell was “difficult” but “responsible.” The museum will remain open until the end of the year and hopes to eventually move to a new, smaller-scale space in the DC area. (New York Times)

Advocates Hold a Town Hall to Protest the Whitney – Activists from the “Decolonize This Place” group protested the museum board’s vice chair, Warren B. Kanders, and other problematic board members at a town hall at Cooper Union on Saturday. Joined by the groups Chinatown Art Brigade and W.A.G.E., as well as artists, curators, and art workers, they discussed how to oust Kanders in the wake of the controversy surrounding his company Safariland, which made tear gas canisters used against migrants at the US-Mexico border. Participants discussed the idea that artists invited to contribute to the 2019 Whitney Biennial might withhold their labor and art and set up an alternative exhibition until the museum changes its position on Kanders. (ARTnews)

Is This the Most Casual Theft Ever? – A man stole a painting worth an estimated $1 million in broad daylight from Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery on Sunday. He waltzed up to Ai-Petri. Crimea, a painting of a mountaintop by Arkhip Kuindzhi, lifted it off the wall, and walked out. Onlookers assumed he was an employee. Before long, police arrested a 31-year-old suspect and recovered the undamaged painting at a building outside Moscow. The museum said it planned to outfit its temporary exhibition galleries where the work was on view with sensors and alarms moving forward. (Independent)

A Venice Biennale Art Installation Will Target Climate Change – The American artist Melissa McGill is installing 50 traditional Italian sailboats on the waterfront in Venice during the biennale. Each of the boats in Red Regatta will be hand-painted a different unique shade of red to remind people about the threat of rising sea levels to the city. More than 250 Venetians and the New York-based Magazzino Art Foundation are helping out with the project, which will be on view from May through November, with four full regatta events held over the summer. (ARTnews)


Supreme Skate Decks Sell for $800,000 – The only complete archive of all the skateboard decks produced by the streetwear brand Supreme from the past 20 years sold at Sotheby’s in an online sale for $800,000. The Los Angeles collector and skateboard enthusiast Ryan Fuller assembled the collection of 280 decks over 13 years. The set was originally estimated to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million, making the final price on the low end of expectations. (Press release)

The Art Fund Field Consolidates – The Fine Art Group has bought the art-lending company Falcon Fine Art for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, the group said it purchased more than 10 loans with “borrowers in the EU stretching as far as Australia, with collateral in a major American institution.” The high-profile deal is another example of the ongoing consolidation of the art-finance industry. (The Art Newspaper)

Another Gallery Is Moving to Tribeca – New York’s Denny Dimin Gallery is decamping from the Lower East Side to a bigger space in Tribeca. At a time when more and more galleries are moving to the downtown neighborhood, the six-year-old space will open down the street from the future homes of Canada and Andrew Kreps Gallery. The gallery will open this spring with a solo show of work by the New Zealand-based photographer Ann Shelton. (ARTnews)


Blaffer Museum Names Director  The Houston, Texas museum has tapped Steven Matijcio as its new director and chief curator. Matijcio is currently the head of the curatorial department at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center. He will begin his new position on March 11. (Glasstire)

MAD Museum Chief Curator Resigns – Shannon R. Stratton has stepped down from her role at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design after overseeing more than 30 exhibition for the New York institution. “It is not a decision I took lightly, but have concluded with the change in leadership that my curatorial vision for the museum is no longer in step with its future,” she wrote in a letter. Christopher Scoates took over as director of the museum last summer after the previous director, Jorge Daniel Veneciano, served in the role for just five months. (ARTnews)

California Art Booster Lyn Kienholz Dies – The tireless advocate for California art and artists, who was known for hosting epic dinner parties with politicians, curators, artists, and writers, died last week at age 88. Several years after her divorce from artist Ed Kienholz in 1973, she established the California/ International Arts Foundation, which helped develop exhibitions of work by California artists and send them around the world. Her example was a guiding inspiration for the first Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time. (Los Angeles Times)


Are Singapore’s Brutalist Buildings Too Ugly to Be Saved? – Singapore’s skyline is populated by slick glass and steel skyscrapers, save for a few token concrete buildings from the 1960s, when Brutalist modernism became a popular architectural trend. Now that some of these controversial pieces of history have fallen into disrepair, a national debate is underway over whether they are worth saving. (NYT)

Memed Viktor & Rolf Dress Goes to Dutch Museum – The Dutch designers’ new collection, filled with princess-like frocks emblazoned with phrases fit for Millennials, made waves on the internet last week. Now, a museum wants to give this digital fashion moment a place in history: the collector (and avid supporter of Viktor & Rolf’s work) Hans Nefkens bought a dress with the words “I Want a Better World” right off the runway and is donating it to the Boijmans Van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam. (Monopol)


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