Art Industry News: Was Alice Walton the Buyer of That Record $89 Million Rauschenberg Painting? + Other Stories

Plus, George RR Martin takes on a new role with art collective Meow Wolf and Dede Wilsey steps down at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco.

Robert Rauschenberg, Buffalo II (1964). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.
Robert Rauschenberg, Buffalo II (1964). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

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 this Wednesday, June 5.


Portugal Can’t Find Its Art – Portugal’s minister of culture is under pressure to explain how 170 state-owned works of art by some of the country’s leading artists have gone missing. Graça Maria da Fonseca Caetano Gonçalves denies that the works are lost—she says instead that the government simply doesn’t know where they are at the moment. Works are often loaned out and their locations “need to be more accurately recorded,” she explained. Authorities have started taking inventory to track down the missing works by Júlio Pomar and Helena Almeida, among other artists. (AP)

Meow Wolf Teams Up With George RR Martin – The author of Game of Thrones will become “chief world builder” for Meow Wolf as the collective expands across the US. Santa Fe-based Martin is already a fan of the collective’s immersive experiences. In 2015, he pledged $2.7 million so that Meow Wolf could transform a former bowling alley in Santa Fe into “The House of Eternal Return.” Martin will now help the company roll out its successful formula in Las Vegas, Denver, Washington, DC, and Phoenix. This man will do anything to procrastinate finishing the “Game of Thrones” books, huh? (Albuquerque Journal)

Did Alice Walton Buy That $89 Million Rauschenberg? – The art-market newsletter The Canvas has reportedly unmasked the buyer of Rauschenberg’s monumental silkscreen painting Buffalo II (1964), which sold at Christie’s for a record $88.9 million, as Walmart heiress and museum founder Alice Walton. A spokeswoman for the billionaire’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art denied to Canvas that the museum had purchased the work, but stayed mum about whether Walton bought it for her personal collection. The Canvas previously reported that German billionaire Hasso Plattner bought Monet’s $111 million haystack painting during the same week—but Plattner’s office has staunchly denied the report. (The Canvas)

Inside Kehinde Wiley’s Lavish Dakar Residency – The American artist wants to “spoil” fellow visual artists, writers, thinkers, and filmmakers who come to work at Black Rock, his sumptuously designed studio complex in Dakar, Senegal. Wiley takes the New York Times on a tour, where highlights include a bathroom “as big as a New York apartment,” stunning sea views, and an in-house chef. The first round of residencies drew 700 applicants (and the artist admits he is a bit behind on sifting through them). The decked-out space is a “jarring departure from the neighborhood where struggling families live in unpainted concrete homes,” the author notes. But for Wiley, the lavishness is intentional. “What happens if for one night Dakar becomes the most glamorous city?” he asks. “That’s revolutionary.” (New York Times)


Perrotin and Nahmad Will Represent the Georges Mathieu Estate – Nahmad Contemporary and Perrotin will jointly represent the estate of the French abstract painter Georges Mathieu, who often created his dynamic compositions in front of a crowd. Emmanuel Perrotin and Joe Nahmad said in a statement that their partnership “will reinvigorate Mathieu’s legacy internationally.” (Press release)

Gavin Brown Closes Its Downtown Gallery – Gavin Brown’s enterprises is leaving the Lower East Side. The gallery will vacate the space where it has presented an adventurous mix of shows on the third floor of 291 Grand Street since 2014. Its main headquarters remain in Harlem. (ARTnews)


SF Fine Art Museums’ Controversial Board Leader Steps Down – The philanthropist Dede Wilsey will step down from her position as president of the board of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco after a lengthy tenure that has been marked by controversies, including allegations of financial misdealing in 2016, resignations of board members, and staffers who complained about her management style. Financial manager Jason Moment will take over the post; Wilsey will become chair emerita. (San Fransisco Examiner)

Harvard Art Museums Names Drawings Curator – Joachim Homann is Harvard Art Museums’ new curator of drawings. Currently curator of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Brunswick, Maine, Homann will take up his new role on August 19. (Art Daily)

The Cairo Biennial Is Back After a Hiatus – The Cairo International Biennial is returning after an eight-year gap. Some 80 artists from 50 countries will participate in the upcoming exhibition in the Egyptian capital, which will be held across four institutions from June 10 to August 10. (Egypt Today)


Two Artists Deported From Havana – Two Mexican artists, Jesus Benitez and a colleague who prefers not to be named, were deported from Havana back to Mexico after six hours of questioning by Cuban police. They had opened an unofficial exhibition that ran concurrently with the 13th Havana Biennial, which opened on May 10. Both were accused of intending to subvert the biennial. (Hyperallergic)

A New Pop-Up Takes on Climate Change – An experiential pop-up in Manhattan is inviting visitors to take some sparkly selfies while learning about ocean sustainability (and, of course, the fast-approaching end of the world caused by climate change). The five rooms of “Ocean Cube,” on view until August 18, explore various aspects of underwater life—including an ocean of plastic bottles. The Instagram-ready show has “touches of activism,” according to one designer. (NYT)

A Billboard by Felix Gonzalez-Torres Returns to New York – To mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, the Public Art Fund has installed a 1989 work by Cuban-born American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, a central figure in the gay rights movement, across the street from the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. The artist originally created the billboard, which contains references to the AIDS crisis and the struggle for gay rights, for the Gay and Lesbian Liberation Day March in 1989. It will be on view until June 30 to coincide with LGBTQ Pride Month. (Art Daily)

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