Art Industry News: A New Study Says the Size of the Illegal Antiquities Trade Has Been Wildly Overstated + Other Stories

Plus, the UK's Artes Mundi Prize is postponed to 2021 and Virgil Abloh and Mercedes-Benz team up for a mobile art project.

Iraqi antiquities recovered from smugglers along the Syrian-Iraqi borders. Photo LOUAI BESHARA/AFP/Getty Images.

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, July 28.


Artist Saul Fletcher and Curator Rebeccah Blum Die in Apparent Murder-Suicide – The Berlin-based artist and freelance curator died last week in an apparent murder-suicide. According to local media, Fletcher’s daughter called police to report that he had confessed to the murder of a woman who is believed to be curator and former Aurel Scheibler director Rebeccah Blum. (Blum’s identity has not been confirmed by law enforcement, but was affirmed by Fletcher’s galleries.) Fletcher was later found dead on his property just outside Berlin. He was represented by Anton Kern, Grice Bench in Los Angeles, and Knust Kunz Gallery in Munich at the time of his death. (ARTnews

Debate Erupts Online Over the Met’s Labeling of a Religious Artifact – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York posted what it described as “a sixth-century amulet from Egypt” on Twitter over the weekend. But some followers say it is in fact a piece of tefillin, the leather boxes and straps used in Jewish prayer, and are asking for a correction. The debate has sparked conversation about how museums catalogue religious objects; the Met has not yet commented on the matter. (Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

A Report Says the Trade of Illicit Antiquities Has Been Overstated – A new report from the American research organization RAND suggests that the actual size of the trade in illicit antiquities may be “much smaller” than widely believed. Perhaps more controversially, the report blames “bloggers, journalists and advocacy groups” who pen sensational headlines for perpetuating the distortion. ln a recent op-ed on Artnet News, antique trade organization head Erika Bochereau argued that a recent study into the illicit trade of antiquities in Germany was based more on suspicion rather than scientific research. (The Art Newspaper)

French Photographers Petition Macron for Relief Measures – More than 400 photographers and photojournalists have signed an open letter urging French president Emmanuel Macron to launch specific measures to aid the sector in the wake of a speech in May in which he pledged to inaugurate a major program of public commissions. The signatories are calling for a kind of “photographic new deal” to employ photographers to document France during this historic moment. (TAN)


Uccello Painting Sold Under Duress Heads to Sotheby’s – A work by Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Uccello is heading to Sotheby’s “From Rembrandt to Richter” sale with an estimate of £600,000 and £800,000. Battle on the Banks of a River belonged to the Jewish collector Friedrich Gutmann, who died in a concentration camp in 1944. The profits of the sale will be split, as per an agreement, between Gutmann’s heirs and the new owners of the painting, who bought it unaware of its dark past. (Guardian)

Phillips’s Editions Sale Nets $5.4 Million – Phillips’s editions and works on paper sale raked in $5.4 million across 232 lots. The top seller was Pablo Picasso’s Portrait de jeune fille, d’après Cranach le Jeune (Portrait of a Young Woman, After Cranach the Younger), which sold for $590,000 after a competition among four bidders. (Art Market Monitor)

Eva Chimento Closes Her Gallery – Los Angeles’s Chimento Contemporary will close after five years in business and 45 exhibitions. Owner Eva Chimento will join Telluride Gallery of Fine Art in Colorado as director. (Press release)


Virgil Abloh and Mercedes-Benz Hatch an Art Project – The omnipresent artist and designer is working with the car company to create a new art-inspired automobile. Called “Project Geländewagen,” the reinterpretation of Mercedes’s G-Class model will be unveiled on September 8. A one-of-a-kind model replica will also be auctioned off to raise funds for an arts charity. (Hypebeast)

ICA Miami Expands Research Initiatives – The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is expanding its research department thanks to a $2 million grant from the Knight Foundation back in 2018. The renamed Knight Foundation Art + Research Center is in the midst of developing a new online platform for digital scholarship and an academic partnership with the University of Miami’s Africana Studies program. (Press release)

Artes Mundi Prize Postponed to 2021 – The UK’s biggest art prize, the £40,000 ($51,544) Artes Mundi award, has been pushed back to next spring. The biannual prize and exhibition was initially slated to launch in October, but will now be held from February 3 through June 6 across three venues in Cardiff, Wales. (The Art Newspaper)


Police Confiscate Roman Vases Found in Seafood Shop – Spanish authorities have seized 13 Roman amphorae from a seafood shop in Alicante. The owner’s son claims that he found the vessels on fishing trips and was using them to decorate the store. An investigation of both men is underway; if the objects are confirmed to have been looted from shipwrecks, they could be charged with “crimes against historical heritage.” (Smithsonian)

Magnum Launches Print Sale to Benefit the NAACP – Magnum Photos is holding a print sale of more than 100 archival photographs to raise money for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The 6×6-inch prints featuring images of Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali, and other prominent Black figures are available for $100 each. (Colossal)

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