Art Industry News: A Billionaire Buys a Dan Colen at Auction to Benefit the ‘Harvard of Nursery Schools’ + Other Stories

Plus, at stolen Willem de Kooning masterpiece returns to view and Budi Tek's Yuz Museum may be expanding even further.

A young scholar, not affiliated with the 92nd Street Y's nursery school, celebrating something fun. (Photo by Ken Lubas/Los Angeles Times via 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 this Wednesday, March 13.


LACMA Undertakes an Unprecedented Reorganization – In a major move for a museum of its size, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has combined its American art and European painting and sculpture departments in to one mega-department. The move is part of director Michael Govan’s vision for a non-departmental art museum. But the critic Christopher Knight says he is “less confident than ever” about the idea after seeing a test-run exhibition about Rome at the museum’s Resnick Pavilion. Dubious of the competence of newly-appointed mega-department head Leah Lehmbeck, Knight fears the museum is headed towards pandering to a general public that favors “infotainment,” which he deems a disservice to its loyal core audience. (Los Angeles Times)

Larry Ossei-Mensah on His Journey to Detroit – The former independent curator and entrepreneur from the Bronx opens up to the Times about his transition to full-time museum work since becoming senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit. The 38-year-old rising star says organizing institutional shows has taught him patience as he strives to make everything “weirder, more tactile.” In Detroit, he’s looking to open up the art-world gates, focusing on sniffing out “people who are looking to instigate a conversation that might not be in the mainstream, voices that might not always have a platform.“ (New York Times)

The “Harvard of Nursery Schools” Sells a Dan Colen – The tony New York kindergarten at the 92nd Street Y, known as the Harvard of nursery schools, held a power-packed fundraising auction over the weekend. Among the offerings: a raffle to skip the line at morning drop-off and a painting by Dan Colen that was estimated to sell for a six-figure sum. The work, which is a bit larger than a postcard (and came with a studio tour), was donated by the artist and purchased by the billionaire Gregg Hymowitz for $85,000. (Page Six, artnet News)

University Art Museum Celebrates Return of Stolen De Kooning – At long last, the University of Arizona Museum of Art will display its the recovered Willem de Kooning painting, Woman-Ochre (1954–55), which was stolen over 30 years ago and recovered in 2017. The public has been waiting to see the work for more than a year after a good samaritan found it at an estate sale and returned it. An FBI investigation of the theft kept the work under wraps until this month, when it will be shown at a ticketed gala event on March 17 before disappearing yet again for conservation. The results of the FBI’s investigation, which closed in January, have not been made public. (Daily Wildcat)


Collectors Host a Joint Show of Contemporary Art in Italy – Italy’s art-rich collectors are pledging their support for contemporary art after the country’s right-wing government slashed arts funding. Initiated by the Turin-based mega-collector Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, 12 private spaces across six cities are hosting a joint show called “Grand Tour Contemporaneo.” The exhibition, which opens April 15, hopes to “serve as a rich map to the current landscape of Italian art.” (The Art Newspaper)

Mary Obering Joins Bortolami – The New York-based painter known for her layered “drop” paintings has joined Bortolami’s roster and will have her first solo show as part of the gallery family in October. Obering’s other gallery, Los Angeles’s Kanye Griffin Corcoran, will share representation. (ARTnews)


Artist Sheela Gowda Wins the 2019 Maria Lassnig Prize – The Indian artist has received the second edition of the award, which comes with a prize of €50,000 (about $56,300) and an institutional solo exhibition. Hers will be held at the Lenbachhaus museum in Munich, Germany. (ARTnews)

Native Artists Finally Getting Their Due – America’s only professional print house on a Native American reservation is expanding thanks to new grant funding from the NEA and a growing endowment fund. The nonprofit Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, on an Umatilla reservation in Eastern Oregon, has become an important seat for contemporary Native American artists. The paradigm-shifting institution is working to break down stereotypes and dismantle the othering of Native art. Big names in indigenous contemporary art, including Rick Bartow, Jeffrey Gibson, Kay WalkingStick, and Wendy Red Star, are among the alumni of its printmaking residency program. (NYT)

Cleveland Museum Names Contemporary Art Curator – Emily Liebert has been promoted from her current position as associate curator of contemporary art to curator of contemporary art at the institution. She first joined the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2017. (ARTnews)


Is Meow Wolf’s Expansion to Phoenix a Good Idea? – The art collective known for its “psychedelic, Burning Man-esque” installations is growing rapidly. In addition to projects in Las Vegas, Denver, and DC, it recently announced plans to open an art-themed hotel and exhibition space in the middle of Downtown Phoenix’s arts district. But the curator Erin Joyce says the Meow Wolf hotel could end up pushing out local artists and small galleries in the gentrifying neighborhood. “The decision feels more driven by customer service than a curatorial vision,” she writes. Meow Wolf, Joyce claims, disguises “a supreme act of late-stage capitalism” beneath an unassuming facade suggesting that they are underdog artists. (Hyperallergic)

What’s Going on With Budi Tek’s Yuz Museum? – The Chinese collector Budi Tek, who is battling cancer and in the final stages of negotiating an unprecedented collaboration with LACMA, may be considering branching out his Yuz Museum further—onto Chongming, China’s second largest island. He posted a picture of himself on Instagram yesterday appearing to examine a massive space there. Sources say that the expansion is in its early stages. (TAN)

What Thieves Targeted at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Freeman House – During renovations to the historic Freeman House in Los Angeles, some of its furniture was stolen from a storage room. Police have now released images of the missing pieces: two floor lamps designed by Wright, worth $50,000 to $70,000 each, and a folding chair and tea tray designed by Rudolph Schindler. (Curbed)

Patti Smith Pays Tribute to Robert Mapplethorpe – The musician said she could feel the presence of her late best friend as she performed on March 8 at the Guggenheim, where his retrospective, “Implicit Tensions: Mapplethorpe Now,” is currently on view. Thirty years earlier, on March 8, 1989, Smith and Mapplethorpe saw each other for the final time—he died of an AIDS-related illness the next day. The first part of the Guggenheim’s exhibition, intimate and archival, is on view until July 10; the second half, focused on his contemporary legacy, opens on July 24. (ARTnews)

UPDATE, March 18: A previous version of this article, citing Page Six, noted that the Dan Colen painting was purchased by its consignor. In fact, the painting was consigned by Colen himself and purchased by Gregg Hymowitz. 

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.