Art Industry News: Damien Hirst Got a $21 Million Loan From the U.K. Government’s Pandemic Relief Fund + Other Stories

Plus, Los Angeles announces its first-ever gallery weekend, and Obama's former ethics chief says Hunter Biden's art sales are "grifty."

Damien Hirst. Photo by Oli Scarff/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 Friday, June 25.


Ethics Chief Says Hunter Biden’s Art Prices Are Fishy – Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. office of government ethics under President Obama, said that Hunter Biden’s art sales seem “shameful and grifty” because the buyers are anonymous. (Welcome to the art market, Walter!) He worries people could be paying for access to his father’s government through the purchase of his son’s paintings, which, as Artnet News reported, are priced at up to $500,000. (Fox)

Jess de Wahls’s Work Returns to the R.A. Store – The artist whose work was pulled from London’s Royal Academy gift shop, Jess de Wahls, has accepted the institution’s apology. The embroidery artist’s work has returned to display after it was withdrawn in light of accusations of transphobia linked to comments she made in a 2019 blog post. But students at the R.A. are not happy about the resolution, saying in a statement that “the Royal Academy has chosen to give legitimacy to transphobia.” (Evening StandardThe Art Newspaper)

A Peek Inside Damien Hirst’s Finances – The British artist earned a £15 million ($20.9 million) loan from the U.K. government’s pandemic emergency fund despite the fact that he owes more than £100 million to his parent company, Science, according to public records. The man is definitely keeping his accountants busy: Two of Hirst’s companies, Science (which covers his own art) and Prints and Editions (which concerns his personal art collection), are guarantors on bank loans worth £36 million. Records estimate that business is expected to “decrease significantly” until at least June 2022 in light of the pandemic. (TAN)

Why Pinault’s Paris Museum Isn’t a Foundation – The new Bourse de Commerce is a commercial company and not a foundation, though its billionaire founder François Pinault does not seem to mind when the media calls it the latter. Sources say the designation, while unusual, is a wise financial choice given that the space can help offset loses from the stock exchange to reduce tax payments. Plus, Pinault has more flexibility to pass down ownership in a private company to his heirs. (Le Monde)


Los Angeles Launches Its First Gallery Weekend – The sprawling city will hold its first gallery weekend—a growing trend in fair-starved markets—from July 28 through August 1. The event, organized by Los Angeles’s gallery association, will coincide with the Felix fair. (New York Times)

Canadian Auction Sees High Prices for Female Artists – Modernist Emily Carr’s canvas Tossed by the Window sold for C$3.1($2.5 million) at Heffel Auctions this week, and 92-year-old Rita Letendre saw a new record for her work, which fetched C$289,250 ($235,000). Carr’s painting Swirl (1937) realized C$2.3 million ($1.9 million). (TAN)


Architect Richard Meier Is Retiring – The 86-year-old founder of Meier & Partners is retiring, leaving the reins to George Miller, Ana Meier, and Dukho Yeon. The founder, who stepped back from day-to-day operations after facing allegations of sexual harassment in 2018, designed the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. (Architectural Record)

Limited Edition Peace For Palestine Benefit T-Shirt Sells Out – Palestinian American artist Michael Hambouz raised $1,500 to benefit the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund and Jewish Voices for Peace with the sale of a t-shirt collaboratively designed by artists including Maya Hayuk, Phillip Niemeyer, and Morgan Blair. (Instagram)


The Cost of Tourism to Venice – A cruise ship sailed into the lagoon of Venice despite a ban, prompting further outcry from the city’s 50,000 residents. It is “time to focus more on quality tourism,” said the head of the tourism department. It is not yet clear if the art-loving visitors to the Venice Biennale qualify as “quality tourists.” (Financial Times)

Guggenheim Bilbao Crowdfunds for Koons’s Puppy – The Basque museum has set up a crowdfunding initiative to #BringPuppyToLife in hopes of raising €100,000 to help restore Jeff Koons’s 1997 floral sculpture Puppy. The funds will be used to strengthen the steel skeleton of the lush pup. (TAN)

Heidi Klum Is a Painter Now – While vacationing on the Italian island of Capri, the model revealed her newest passion: painting. She worked on a small-scale oil portrait of her husband Tom Kaulitz, the guitarist in Tokio Hotel. It gives off slight Elizabeth Peyton vibes, no? (Monopol)

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