Art Industry News: Could Patrick Drahi’s Sotheby’s Offer Spark a Billion-Dollar Bidding War Over the Company? + Other Stories

Plus, experts say the British Museum is in denial over looted artifacts in its collection and Amy Sherald unveils a six-story mural in Philadelphia.

Sotheby's contemporary evening sale in New York, November 2018. Image courtesy of Sotheby's.

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 Monday, June 25.


Experts Say the British Museum Is In Denial Over Looted Artifacts – The authors of the radical Macron-commissioned report on colonial-era artifacts in French museums are now turning their attention to the British Museum. Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy said the UK museum and its trustees “can’t hide themselves any longer on the issue” and compare their attitudes to an ostrich with its “head in the sand.” They dismissed the museum’s offer to lend disputed objects to museums in Africa, arguing that stolen objects should be restituted permanently. The experts also condemn the “European arrogance” inherent in the assumption that African museums cannot properly care for their collections. (Guardian)

Claes Oldenburg Says Goodbye to His Archive – The 90-year-old artist gives the Times a bittersweet tour of his longtime SoHo home and studio before his extensive archive is shipped off to Los Angeles’s Getty Research Institute, which acquired the trove. The collection includes scrapbooks he began making at eight years old, daily logs, and unrealized designs for sculptures. The archive was sold at “below market price” to the Getty, and it seems his home may be for sale in the future, too. His daughter, Maartje Oldenburg, tells the Times that preserving the archive inside the five-story space “didn’t appeal to her or her father.” Of all the change, the artist is tranquil: “I’m at a stage where I can accept that sort of thing,” he says. (New York Times)

Sotheby’s May Attract More Bids – Are other potential buyers circling Sotheby’s? After Patrick Drahi’s bombshell bid to buy the auction house last week, the New York Post reports that the house could get competing offers. A group of wealthy collectors and investors—including hedge-fund manager Alexander Klabin and Taikang Asset Management, Sotheby’s largest shareholder—are among those considering whether to make a higher bid. Under Drahi’s offer, investors receive $57 in cash per share of Sotheby’s stock, a 61 percent premium to its closing price before the bid. If Sotheby’s accepts another offer, Drahi will walk away with a termination fee of more than $100 million. (BloombergNew York Post)

German Museum Returns Looted Roman Sculpture to Italy – The University of Muenster’s Archaeological Museum in Germany has returned an ancient bust that disappeared from Italy between 1944 and the early 1960s. The second century sculpture was repatriated without any request from Italy, something that Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli called “a highly symbolic act.” (The Local)


A Long Unseen Velásquez Work Heads to Sotheby’s – Diego Velázquez’s long-lost portrait of the woman known in 17th-century Rome as the “Lady Pope” could fetch more than $3.5 million at Sotheby’s Old Masters sale in London on July 3. The sellers had no idea that the portrait of Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj—the sister-in-law and reputed lover of Pope Innocent X—was by the Spanish master before they took it to be valued at the company’s Amsterdam branch. (Guardian)

Olivia Newton-John’s Grease Jacket Heads to Auction – The black leather jacket and skin-tight pants that Olivia Newton-John famously wore as Sandy at the end of the film Grease is the star lot at Julien’s Auctions’ ICONS & IDOLS sale, which runs from November 1–2 in Los Angeles. The outfit carries an estimate of $100,000–$200,000. (Press release)

Allan Stone Projects Ends Its Exhibition Program – New York’s Allan Stone Projects—which started in 1960 as Allan Stone Gallery and has shown work from the late pioneering dealer’s collection for the past six years—is getting out the exhibition business. President Dorothy Goldeen will operate the space privately after the current exhibitions close on June 29, but aims to keep Stone’s legacy alive through digital projects and pop-ups. (ARTnews)


Curator and Historian Peter Selz Dies at 100 – The forward-thinking curator, art historian, and founding director of the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has died. A Jewish-German immigrant who fled Nazi Germany for the US in 1936, Selz went on to become curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in 1958 and founded the Berkeley museum in 1965. (ARTnews)

NURTUREart Closes in Brooklyn – After 22 years, the nonprofit organization is shuttering at the end of its current season. In a letter, the Brooklyn-based arts center, which offered performances, readings, educational programs, and exhibitions, explained that “due to a confluence of resource challenges and a shifting environment for non-profits, we find ourselves unable to continue serving our communities in our ideal capacity.” (Press release)


Acropolis Museum Opens New Extension as Experts Issue Climate-Change Warning – Greece’s Acropolis Museum has opened a new section to house the remains of an ancient Athens neighborhood. The ruins include baths, hot water systems, and homes. At the same time, experts gathered in the Greek capital to discuss the threat of climate change on ancient sites. The Acropolis director says the dangers posed to ancient monuments are accelerating. (AFPAFP)

Artist’s Daughter Helps Derail Boris Johnson’s Prime Minister Campaign – Boris Johnson’s chances of becoming the next UK Prime Minister suffered a setback when police were called to a domestic dispute at the South London apartment of his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds. In an attempt to discredit the neighbors who called the police and alerted the Guardian, the Daily Mail has dug into their backgrounds. It turns out that the playwright Eve Leigh, Johnson’s neighbor who called the cops, and the politician himself have something surprising in common: Both of their mothers are successful artists. New York-based Abby Leigh is an abstract artist with work in the Guggenheim and Whitney collections, while London-based Charlotte Johnson Wahl is a professional portrait painter who also creates dynamic landscapes and cityscapes. Her son had a runaway lead in the race to become PM before the incident. (Daily Mail)

Amy Sherald Unveils a Massive Mural in Philly – Michelle Obama’s portrait is still drawing crowds at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC—but the artist behind it, Amy Sherald, has moved on to bigger projects (literally). Last week, Sherald unveiled a six-story mural on Sansom Street in Philadelphia that depicts local teen Najee Spencer-Young in a chic coat and hat. “I met her, and probably within 15 minutes, I knew that I wanted to paint her,” Sherald said. (NPR)

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.