Art Industry News: How the High Line Became a Vulgar ‘Mirage’ of Its Cultural Promise + Other Stories

Plus, a French street artist hides Bitcoin inside a mural and the Prado's director says the era of blockbusters is over.

Visitors stroll the first section of the High Line Park, over the 18th Street crossing, in 2012. Frank Gehry's IAC building is in the background. Photo by Dansnguyen, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

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 Tuesday, January 8.


The New Yorker Goes Long on a Notorious French Art Thief – Jake Halpern profiles the burglar Vjeran Tomic, nicknamed “Spider-Man” by the French press for his incredible talent at scaling buildings. In 2010, the art-loving criminal stole five paintings worth a combined $70 million from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, including works by Matisse and Picasso. Tomic sent the New Yorker a total of 20 letters from prison, where he is serving an eight-year sentence. (New Yorker)

Singapore’s Activist-Artist Goes to Jail (Again) – The Singaporean activist-artist Seelan Palay has been repeatedly jailed, most recently in October for a performance outside the country’s parliament building. One of the few artists in Singapore openly protesting abuses of power and limits to freedom of expression, Palay was held in solitary confinement for two weeks. A judge also ordered that his work be destroyed. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

How the High Line Ruined Itself – Architecture critic Justin Davidson chronicles how developments around the High Line have transformed the elevated park since its launch in 2009. The views are gone. Today, the area is stacked with luxurious, unoccupied apartments that constitute what the author calls a “social club for celebrity architects, who compete by pretending that their fellow members simply don’t exist.” The author laments the overcrowding, although he gives some exception for the late Zaha Hadid’s building at 520 West 28th Street. (New York)

Billionaire Japanese Collector’s Cash Offer Smashes Twitter Record – A New Year’s tweet by the billionaire Japanese art collector Yusaku Maezawa offering one million yen ($9,200) to 100 of his followers was retweeted more than 5.4 million times in 48 hours, becoming the most-shared tweet of all time. The fashion mogul, who bought a $110 million Basquiat in 2017, has come up with a number of novel ways to spend his fortune: Last year, he announced plans to send a group of artists to the moon on an Elon Musk rocket. (Maybe taxes in Japan should be higher?) (Observer)


Sotheby’s Announces a Rockefeller Design Sale – Rare works in porcelain will be on sale alongside other eclectic property from Nelson and Happy Rockefeller’s collection. The sale, which includes unusual Chinese exports from the Qing dynasty and items from the renowned 16th-century Meissen “Swan” service, begins during this year’s Americana Week on January 11. (Press release)

Anatole Shagalov Sues Paul Kasmin Gallery – The art dealer Anatole Shagalov claims that New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery falsely claimed to own an interest in a painting by Frank Stella that Shagalov says he owned in full. As a result, Shagalov’s lawyer claims, the gallery “knowingly defamed Shagalov, it negatively impacted the value of the painting itself by baselessly casting doubt on its title, and it interfered with Shagalov’s contractual relations with a key lender.” Shagalov is involved in a number of ongoing lawsuits that allege he defaulted on art purchases. (The Art Newspaper)


Marc-Olivier Wahler Steps Down – The Swiss-born director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, Marc-Olivier Wahler, has resigned for family reasons. Wahler has led the university art museum since July 2016. Before that, he served as director of the Palais de Tokyo. (TAN)

Nicolaus Schafhausen Heads to Munich – The outgoing director of the Kunsthalle Wien, Nicolaus Schafhausen, has been tapped for a leading position at the Nazi Documentation Center in Munich. Schafhausen had said he resigned from his post at the prestigious Vienna institution due to the political situation in Austria. (Der Standard)

The Swiss Gallerist Ruedi Tschudi Has Died – The veteran Swiss gallerist has died at age 79. In 1985, he co-founded Galeri Tschudi with Elsbeth Bisig in Glarus. In 2002, they opened a second space in the Engadine Valley in a medieval building in Zuoz. The gallery represented artists including Ricard Long, Not Vital, and Andrea Büttner, among others. (Press release)


US Court Won’t Hear Nazi Loot Case – The US Supreme Court ruled that it will not hear a case brought by the heirs of a Jewish collector against the Hungarian government. Baron Mor Lipot Herzog’s family is still pursuing a case in the US against three Hungarian museums and a university to reclaim their ancestor’s art, including works by El Greco and Francisco de Zurbarán. The heirs first filed suit in Washington, DC, in 2010. (AP)

The Prado’s Director on the Museum’s Future – The Madrid museum will celebrate its 200th birthday by transforming the Salón de Reinos (Hall of Realms) into a $51 million new annex. It will also mount high-profile exhibitions of work by Vermeer and Rembrandt, as well as shows of overlooked female artists from Renaissance Italy, Sofonisba Anguissola and Lavinia Fontana. The museum’s director, Miguel Falomir, says he prefers focused exhibitions—and that the era of the blockbuster is over. (TAN)

Linda Nochlin on Degas’s Anti-Semitism and the Dreyfus Affair – Tablet magazine reprints a 1987 article by the late American art historian in which she details how Degas supported the French establishment during the Dreyfus Affair. While Emile Zola fought against the unjust life imprisonment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, Degas was openly antisemitic and became a “violent nationalist and uncritical supporter of the army.” (Tablet)

Not a good look, Degas. (Photo by adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images)

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.