Art Industry News: Auction Sales Spike a Staggering 230 Percent Across the Top Auction Houses in the First Half of 2021 + Other Stories

Plus, police nab four more people suspected of aiding the Green Vault art heist and Sylvia Plath's belongings hit the auction block.

Auctioneer Adrien Meyer fields bids during Christie's 20th Century evening sale. Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

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 Thursday, July 8.


How AOC Uses Visuals to Win Fans and Influence People – Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a knack for using visual language, graphic design, fashion, and social media to get her messaging across. Her bold and colorful campaign branding took inspiration from revolutionary posters of the past, while her new visual backdrop—courtesy of design firm Tandem NYC—echoes the aesthetic of New Deal-era national parks posters to champion one of her key initiatives, the Green New Deal. (LA Times)

Seattle Art Museum Workers Protest Treatment of Unhoused Neighbors – Staff at the Seattle Art Museum are protesting what they have described as the introduction of hostile architecture to prevent people experiencing homelessness from sleeping near the museum. Arguing that stone bollards, barricades, and perimeter security checks illustrate a “policy of hostile deterrence against our unhoused neighbors,” employees have collected nearly 400 signatures on a petition aiming to dissuade management from implementing the changes. (Real Change News)

Auction Sales Double in the Year’s First Half – In other end-of-Q2 news, sales from the Big Three auction houses are up 230 percent in the first half of 2021, according to data from Pi-eX. Phillips, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s combined $5.8 billion in sales suggest that recovery is well underway; in fact, the figure is up $30 million from the equivalent pre-pandemic period in 2019. (Financial Times)

Police Identify Four Suspected of Aiding Green Vault Heist – German police say they have identified all four people suspected of scoping out Dresden’s historic Green Vault ahead of a spectacular jewelry heist in 2019. The four suspects—two Germans (ages 28 and 35), a 37-year-old Pole, and a 24-year-old dual national—are now under investigation for aiding and abetting serious gang theft, and for their connection to five other suspects accused of carrying out the crime. (Press release)


NFTs Generated $2.5 Billion in Sales This Year – A new report from NFT tracker Nonfungible claims that sales of NFTs generated $2.5 billion in the first half of 2021. Contradicting reports that demand has slowed, Nonfungible says June has been a banner month, with NFTs generating $150 million on OpenSea alone. (New York Observer)

Sotheby’s to Sell Sylvia Plath’s Personal Effects – Sotheby’s will sell a trove of letters, photographs, and personal items that belonged to Sylvia Plath on Friday. The treasures include love letters to Plath’s husband, the poet Ted Hughes, and a photo album featuring 92 images of the author’s family life, estimated at $27,530 to $41,295. (Observer)


Academy Museum Announces Opening Plans – The much-delayed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will finally open in Los Angeles on September 30. Tickets will be available for purchase from August 5 online and via the museum’s app. General admission costs $25, with under 17s going free thanks to an endowment from the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation. (Deadline)

The Blanton Receives $5 Million for New Sound Gallery – Philanthropists Sarah and Ernest Butler have gifted the University of Texas’s Blanton Museum of Art $5 million to build an outdoor space dedicated to sound art. Construction on the Butler Sound Gallery is expected to be complete by late 2022; it will open with an installation by Bill Fontana incorporating field recordings of Texas wildlife. (Glasstire)


A Defense of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden Redesign – The D.C. museum’s former deputy director Kerry Brougher pens an op-ed in favor of artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s hotly debated plan to redesign the Hirshhorn’s sculpture garden. Not only does it make “the garden more accessible,” he writes, but it “gives it a sense of weightlessness and playfulness while maintaining the intimacy of the submerged parcel.” (The Art Newspaper)

Simone Biles Fan Art Goes Viral Ahead of Tokyo Olympics – A video celebrating U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has taken the internet by storm. Artist Rudy Willingham created the stop-motion work using 100 paper cutouts of Biles performing her signature flips against the soundtrack of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. Watch it below. (News18)


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