Art Industry News: Art Dealer in Jeffrey Epstein’s Circle Likened Him to a Modern-Day ‘Maharaja’ + Other Stories

Plus, luxury brands can't get enough of working with street artists and Las Vegas wants an art museum to rival its casinos.

The art and antiques dealer Leah Kleman in 2010. (Photo by MAX RAPP/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Art Industry News is normally 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 Wednesday, July 24.


Will Las Vegas Finally Get an Art Museum? – Las Vegas’s art scene has long lagged behind those of other midsize US cities—but ambitious plans for a new contemporary art museum are now underway. After a failed experiment with the smaller Las Vegas Museum of Art, supporters are rallying behind the new project, with funding available from the state budget, city grants, and philanthropists. Local art historian Heather Harmon and the director of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, David Walker, have begun fundraising for naming rights and searching for an architect. The duo is hard at work to raise the $250 million needed to materialize the project within the next five to seven years. (ARTnews)

Luxury Brands Are Now Commissioning Street Art – Christian Louboutin is the latest brand to commission street art to advertise its luxury wares. Brands and advertising agencies are recruiting artists to create murals from Shoreditch in London to Mexico City, hoping they will go viral on social media. “Nobody takes a photo of a billboard,” says David Speed, of the street art collective Graffiti Life. Street-art purists, however, consider the artworks to be no different from any other ad. (Business of Fashion)

Art Dealer Leah Kleman Among Jeffrey Epstein’s Circle – New York magazine delved deep into Jeffrey Epstein’s “little black book” and previous interviews with the financier, who was charged this month with sex trafficking, to paint a portrait of his elite New York social circle. Among his acquaintances, according to the magazine, is Leah Kleman, a dealer who sells art and antiques out of the Manhattan Art and Antiques Center. She told Vanity Fair in 2003 that Epstein lived like a modern-day “maharajah” and described his haggling over artworks as “something like a scene out of the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.” (New York)

Andy Goldsworthy Threatens to Walk Away From His Masterpiece – The artist says his Hanging Stones sculpture trail, which he describes as his “most important work,” may remain unfinished if permitting authorities in Yorkshire do not allow him to build stone constructions on the ruins of historic buildings in North York Moors National Park. Goldsworthy has already finished building four of them, but has threatened to walk away from the project if he cannot complete the rest within the next five years. The committee is torn. Some are concerned about the impact of too many visitors on the landscape, but one member said, “I wonder if Michelangelo or the Egyptian pyramids had gone to planning what we would have lost.” (Gazette and Herald)


B.B. King’s Beloved Guitar Is Coming to Auction – The famous Blues musician’s favorite guitar, nicknamed “Lucille,” is heading for the auction block. The custom black Gibson ES-345 will be sold among other items from his estate at Julien’s Auctions beginning September 21. The guitar is estimated to fetch between $80,000 to $100,000. (AP)

Seattle Art Fair Renews Frye Museum Partnership – The Seattle Art Fair, which runs August 1–4, has renewed its partnership with the Frye Art Museum, which is working to expand its contemporary art holdings and build ties with Seattle’s younger art collectors. The fair will offer the institution $25,000 to acquire new work at the event. (Seattle Weekly)


Norman Foster Will Expand Bilbao’s Other Art Museum – The architect is returning to the city where previously designed a metro system to expand the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts. Foster & Partners will add 2,000 square meters of open-plan gallery space and transform the entrance of the museum in the Basque city better known for the Guggenheim Bilbao. Foster & Partners will work with the Basque architect Luis María Uriarte on the $20 million project. (Art Daily)

A Wisconsin Museum Aims to Become the Most Open Museum in America – The University of Wisconsin’s Chazen Museum of Art will have the longest opening hours of any museum in the US starting in September. It will open its doors from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, as it aims to boost attendance and diversify its audience. (ARTnews)

Warhol Foundation Names Research Fellows – Five curators will receive up to $50,000 each from the Warhol Foundation to support the development of new shows. Among them is Olga Viso, the former director of the Walker Art Center, who will organize an exhibition of work by Cuban artist Juan Francisco Elso and his contemporaries at New York’s El Museo del Barrio. The other research fellows are: Peter S. Briggs, Jaime DeSimone, Polly Nordstrand, and Catherine Taft. (Artforum)

Chicago’s Artadia Awards Announced – The nonprofit Artadia has announced that the artist Bethany Collins and 2019 Whitney Biennial participant Brendan Fernandes are the winners of its latest award for deserving artists working in Chicago. They will each receive $10,000. (Artforum)


Photographers to Seek Out at Arles – The New York Times flags six younger photographers to look out for at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles photography festival, including Pixy Liao, David Denil, and Laurence Aëgerter. Also of interest is the Swiss photographer Christian Lutz, who documented members the International Christian Fellowship but later had to redact their faces after the evangelical church in Switzerland sued to prevent the photographs’ publication. (New York Times)

The Netherlands Establishes a Fund at MFA Boston – Scholars and students from the Netherlands will be able to study Dutch art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which became a hub for Dutch Golden Age art following a major gift in 2017The Dutch government is helping to fund the museum’s forthcoming Center for Netherlandish Art, which is due to launch in 2020. (Press release)

Olafur Eliasson Remembers Iceland’s Lost Glacier News that a memorial will be installed in Iceland to commemorate the first glacier lost to climate change was especially poignant for the Danish-Icelandic artist. On Instagram, his studio posted an image of the plaque and a photo of Okjökull in better days. Today, the mass of ice has shrunk so much that it has lost its official status as a glacier. The memorial—a bronze plaque that warns coming generations that only they will know if other glaciers were saved—is due to be unveiled on August 18. (Instagram)




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.