Art Industry News: Fox News Owner Rupert Murdoch Is Reportedly Angling to Buy Nearly a Third of Art Basel’s Parent Company + Other Stories
Plus, the inaugural sale on Loïc Gouzer's new art-auction app sets a record and the Dutch institution Witte de With drops its name.
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 Monday, June 29.
Dealer Who Sold Coffin to the Met Charged With Money Laundering – Mediterranean archaeology expert Christophe Kunicki and his husband and business partner Richard Sampaire were charged in Paris on Friday with gang fraud and money laundering. Kunicki sold a gold-gilded sarcophagus to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for $3.5 million in 2017, but the museum returned the item to Egypt after it learned that it had been fooled by a fake provenance report and the artifact had actually been stolen during the Arab Spring in 2011. (The Art Newspaper)
Art Institute of Chicago Staff Raises Concerns Amid New Layoffs – More than 100 staff members from the Art Institute of Chicago have signed a letter criticizing the museum for lack of transparency, accountability, and equity in its decision-making amid the shutdown. The letter comes after the museum announced a new round of layoffs on a Zoom call last week, affecting 51 people. In response to criticism that the cutbacks disproportionately affect BIPOC staff, an AIC spokesperson said that “decisions prioritized maintaining our commitment to our mission and are in keeping with our stated goals around anti-racism.” (ARTnews)
“Fair” and Balanced? Murdoch May Be Eyeing Art Basel – Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, is in talks to invest in MCH Group, Art Basel’s parent company, according to a Swiss media report. The embattled conglomerate MCH has been searching for new investment, and Murdoch’s son, James Murdoch, is reportedly negotiating on behalf of his father for a share of up to 30 percent. Murdoch isn’t alone: Swiss investor Annette Schömmel, who runs the finance firm XanaduAlpha, also wants to put together a consortium to buy 70 percent of MCH’s holdings, including Art Basel. A spokesperson for the company, which owns trade shows like Baselworld hard hit by the shutdown, declined to comment. (Bloomberg)
Will Anyone Bid $60 Million for a Painting Online? – We will find out the answer this evening, as Sotheby’s brings Francis Bacon’s 1981 painting Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus to market with a $60 million estimate. The work is being put up for sale by a foundation connected to Norwegian shipping billionaire Hans Rasmus Astrup. The market will be closely watching the sale to see how the first big-ticket item fares in a totally digital and remote-bidding world. (Wall Street Journal)
Art-World Heavyweights Commit to Promote Green Dealing – A letter originally released on Earth Day calling for New York City galleries to take a stand on the climate emergency is gaining traction—and signatures from the likes of David Zwirner, James Cohan, Marilyn Minter, and Anicka Yi. Signatories pledge to evaluate the climate impact of their operations and to encourage their colleagues, vendors, and clients to do the same. (ARTnews)
Loïc Gouzer’s Inaugural Sale Nets a Record – The former Christie’s rainmaker reports that his new auction platform Fair Warning‘s inaugural sale, of Steven Shearer’s painting The Synthist, generated $437,000 with fees. That’s considerably above the pre-sale estimate of $180,000 to $250,000 and well over the artist’s previous auction record of about $164,000. (Instagram)
Patrick Drahi’s Cheddar Will Livestream Sotheby’s Sale – “Get your wallets ready!” tweeted Cheddar, the millennial-targeting media site run by Altice USA, which is owned by Patrick Drahi, the billionaire who bought Sotheby’s in 2019. In an example of what 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy would call “synergy,” the website is going to be live-streaming the auction house’s hybrid IRL-online marquee summer sale on Monday night. (Twitter)
COMINGS & GOINGS
Cincinnati Dealer Carl Solway Dies – The veteran Ohio dealer behind Carl Solway Gallery has died at age 85, from cancer. During his 50 years in the business, the gallerist helped boost the careers of trailblazing figures including John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Ann Hamilton, and Nam June Paik; he was also a staunch supporter of the Midwestern art scene. (ARTnews)
SCAD Closes Hong Kong Campus – The American private art school Savannah College of Art and Design has officially closed its Hong Kong campus. Students received an internal email in March about the planned closure. Now, they can opt either to transfer to the Atlanta or Savannah campuses or to complete their degrees remotely, but they will not receive a reduction in tuition. (Hong Kong Free Press)
Brazil’s New Culture Minister Sparks Controversy – The actor Mário Frias is Brazil’s new culture minister, becoming the fifth person to hold the role within the past 17 months. Like his predecessors appointed by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, he has no political experience but has been outspoken in his support for the current administration. (TAN)
Australia’s New Powerhouse Museum Is an “Embarrassment” – The new site for Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum, dedicated to the applied arts and sciences, is prompting outcry. A fancy building located on a flood plain, it will have 25 percent of the exhibition space of its former home and no storage on site. Though the new museum is planned to open 2024 to 2025, the old location has already closed. (Sydney Morning Herald)
FOR ART’S SAKE
Witte de With Has Officially Dropped Its Name – The esteemed Dutch institution formerly known as the Witte de With is officially nameless. The museum has accelerated the change after outcry following its announcement that it would drop the name on January 27, 2021. Its former title recognized the Dutch naval officer Witte Corneliszoon de With, who was a proponent of the colonial projects of the Dutch West India and the Dutch East India companies in the 17th century. (Press release)
Should the Term “Old Masters” Be Replaced? – Leading art-world figures, including Tate Modern’s Frances Morris and Frieze’s Victoria Siddall, are questioning whether the term “masters” should be replaced with another word that has less male and pale associations. “It could be argued that the word has become non-gendered over time—Artemisia Gentileschi is indisputably an old master,” said Siddall, who helped found the fair Frieze Masters. But, she added, “equally if a new term emerges we’d happily adopt it.” (Guardian)
Simone Leigh Creates Bronze for Color of Change – The esteemed artist is selling 25 editions of a new bronze sculpture, Sentinel IV, beginning June 30 via her gallery Hauser & Wirth. The works are priced at $25,000 each and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit Color of Change, which Leigh has been involved with since 2015. (ARTnews)
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