Art Industry News: Hedge-Fund Manager Ken Griffin Just Bought a Basquiat From Peter Brant for More Than $100 Million + Other Stories

Plus, a scammer who used a fake identity to buy blue-chip art is sentenced to 54 months in prison, and Helsinki plans a new museum.

Kenneth C. Griffin, Citadel Founder and Chief Executive Officer, at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference in NYC. Photo: Heidi Gutman/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank.

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, June 4.


What a Time to Start a New Job as an Arts Leader – A new generation of directors is taking over arts institutions across the US at an unprecedented time. Rather than simply introducing themselves to their audiences and staff, these green leaders must answer questions of how and when to reopen, how to manage financial losses, and how to address communities convulsed by protest and unrest. (They also must figure out how to do all of this over Zoom.) “Nobody really knows how to deal with this,” said Sarah James, who specializes in cultural executive searches at the firm Phillips Oppenheim. (New York Times)

Scammer Who Bought Art Using a Fake Identity Is Sentenced – A court has sentenced the Florida-based designer Antonio DiMarco to 54 months in prison for buying artworks from galleries, auction houses, and private collectors using a stolen identity. DiMarco impersonated a wealthy octogenarian to win a Mark Rothko painting at Sotheby’s in November 2017 and, according to the New York district attorney, continued to fraudulently buy art until at least October 2018. (TAN)

Ken Griffin Buys a $100 Million Basquiat – The art market has always seemed to operate in its own universe, somewhat disconnected from the reality of the rest of the world—and right now is no different. According to the industry newsletter Baer Faxt, hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin purchased a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat privately for more than $100 million. (The news comes as New York’s major spring auctions have been rescheduled and activity at the top of the art market has been quiet.) The seller was reportedly Peter Brant, Griffin’s new neighbor in Palm Beach, who mounted a glitzy display of the artist’s work at his private museum in Manhattan last year. Basquiat’s public auction record is $110.5 million, set at Sotheby’s in 2017. (Baer Faxt)

Helsinki Plans a New Museum as Part of Lockdown Relief – As part of its recovery plan following the public-health lockdown, the Finnish government is funding the construction of an architecture and design museum in Helsinki. The country’s €1.3 billion supplementary budget includes €60 million for the museum, which will be built in the city’s South Harbor. The museum is expected to open in 2025. “We strongly believe that the new museum can empower everyone to take an active part in the new solutions of the future,” the museum’s directors said in a statement. (dezeen)


Artissima Launches an Online Platform Ahead of November Fair – As art fairs around the globe work to flesh out their online offerings, the Italian fair has created a digital platform called Fondamenta, which launches tomorrow and runs until July 5. Each participating gallery will show works by one selected artist. Galleries will receive 100 percent of the profits from any sales. (Press release)

The Musée d’Orsay Bought an Early Manet at Christie’s – The Paris institution purchased a painting by Édouard Manet for €95,000 ($106,716) from a recent online sale. The famous Impressionist created the work, based on a portrait by Filippino Lippi, when he was just 21. The acquisition is the 30th work by Manet in the museum’s collection. (Le Figaro)

Auction Sales Tumble By 97 Percent – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips saw sales fell by 97 percent year-over-year in May, a month that is usually the high season for auction houses. Sales fell from nearly $2.9 billion in 2019 to just $93 million last month, according to data from Pi-eX. It is the lowest public auction total recorded since 2007, when the company began keeping records. Last month, the major auction houses all held sales strictly online due to ongoing lockdowns. (Financial Times)


First Tallinn Biennial Will Open in July – Estonia’s capital has launched its own biennial in an effort “to fill the gap, geographically and institutionally, between the Kaunas, Riga, and Helsinki Biennials,” organizers say. The inaugural Tallinn Biennial will run from July 2 through 30, with the opening taking place during Tallinn’s Art Week. (Press release)

CAS Reveals Museum Acquisitions From Its Rapid Response Fund – The art-buying organization Contemporary Art Society has revealed the first acquisitions made on behalf of museums as part of its Rapid Response Fund. By selling limited edition artist-designed masks, the fund has raised more than £200,000. The first grant recipient is Reading Museum, which will be gifted a new commission by artist Eleanor Lakelin memorializing Oscar Wilde using timber from chestnut trees outside of Reading Gaol. (Press release)


A Mysterious Sculpture Appeared in Bremen – A mysterious bronze sculpture of a downtrodden figure pushing a shopping trolley appeared overnight in a park in Bremen, northwest Germany. The city is buzzing about where it came from, and is letting it stay put for now, as technical documents about the sustainability of its materials were anonymously delivered to city authorities after it was installed. (Monopol)

Gladstone Gallery Raises $30,000 – Art galleries including Galerie Lelong and Gladstone Gallery are offering to match donations to causes and organizations fighting racial injustice. Gladsone raised more than $30,000 in less than 24 hours after it announced that it would match $100 donations up to $15,000. (Instagram)

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