Art Industry News: Hunter Biden Criticized for Plans to ‘Meet With Potential Art Buyers’ (A.K.A Attend His Exhibition Opening) + Other Stories
Plus, art-market confidence hits its highest level since 2014, and the National Gallery picks up an iconic piece of British history.
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, July 23.
Art Market Confidence Hits a New High – A new report from ArtTactic suggests that confidence in the art market is at its highest level since 2014. The firm surveyed 113 industry players and found their average confidence levels were at 80.6 percent, up from an all-time low of 6 percent (!) in May last year. The consensus seems to be that the transformations and innovations spurred by the pandemic have created “more resilient and innovative business models across the sector.” (Financial Times)
Does the MFA Houston Own a Bellotto Sold Under Duress? – The Monuments Men Foundation has identified a Bernardo Bellotto work in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as having been sold under duress during World War II. It has called on the institution to return the 18th-century marketplace scene to the heirs of German-Jewish collector Max J. Emden, who sold it to an art dealer who worked with the Nazis. The museum maintains the sale was “legitimate” and conducted voluntarily in 1938. (ARTnews)
Hunter Biden to Meet With Art Buyers – It’s customary for artists to attend the opening of their own shows… but what about when the artist is the son of the U.S. president? Ethics hounds are up in arms that Hunter Biden will attend the vernissage for his Bergès Gallery show in New York, where he will presumably socialize with potential buyers. The gallery previously arranged an agreement with the White House that the its owner, Georges Bergès, would keep the identity of the final buyers a secret from the public and the artist in order to guard against anyone trying to buy political influence. (CBS)
Teachers Boycott the Museum of the Home – Teachers in several London boroughs say they will boycott the Museum of the Home in a bid to pressure the institution into removing a statute of its founder, Robert Geffrye, who profited from the trade of enslaved people. The museum’s trustees blocked the statue’s removal after the U.K.’s culture secretary sent a message stressing the government’s “retain and explain” policy when it comes to controversial monuments. (Evening Standard)
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Venice Avoids World Heritage in Danger List – After Italy rushed to ban massive cruise ships from Venice’s lagoon, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee voted to keep the city and its waterways off its world heritage in danger list for the third year running. But Venice isn’t home free yet: The committee said Italy must submit an updated report on the state of the lagoon conservation before December 2022. (TAN)
Suzanne Cotter to Lead MCA Australia – Museum veteran Suzanne Cotter will take the helm of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in January 2022. She will succeed Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, who is stepping down after 20 years in the post. (Artforum)
National Gallery Nabs $12.7 Million Acquisition – London’s National Gallery will buy Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of Charles William Lambton, known as Red Boy, from a private collection for £9.3 million ($12.7 million). The artwork was the first painting to ever be featured on a British postal stamp and is famous for adorning tins of British toffee and shortbread. (ARTnews)
France Approves €5 Million to Support Artists and Culture Workers – The French government has approved the creation of a special fund to provide financial relief to artists, curators, and critics who lost work due to the pandemic. The minimum aid is €500 ($590); the max is €9,000 ($10,616). Those who experienced a loss of more than 40 percent of their typical income in the first half of 2021, as compared to 2019, will be eligible. (Press release)
FOR ART’S SAKE
Remember When Greek Police Dropped That Recovered Picasso? – In a slow news week like this one, it can be a fun exercise to look back at relatively recent events and consider why they were so delightful. One of those was the press conference celebrating the return of a Picasso painting nine years after it had been stolen from the National Gallery in Athens—only to have the canvas topple from its perch and be picked up by a gloveless bystander. The New York Times described watching the usual rules (“handle with care, proceed with caution“) be broken so casually as a “vaguely transgressive” experience. (New York Times)
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