Art Industry News: How Russian Oligarchs Helped Larry Gagosian Build His Gallery Empire + Other Stories
Plus, the MFA Houston picks up a $4 million Diego Rivera at auction, and Ukrainians assemble to protect their cultural heritage.
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, March 14.
Ukraine’s Architectural Treasures Caught in the Crossfire – As the Russian Federation continues its assault on Ukraine, the country’s wealth of historic buildings, artworks, and monuments are being decimated. Russian missiles attacked near the memorial site of Babyn Yar, and multiple landmarks in Kharkiv have been directly hit, including the city’s Freedom Square. Ukrainians are assembling to protect heritage from the line of fire, including moving statues to bomb shelters and wrapping others in fireproof insulation. (New York Times)
Dasha Zhukova Is Distancing Herself From Roman Abramovich – The Garage Museum cofounder Dasha Zhukova has distanced herself from ex-husband Roman Abramovich, a billionaire oligarch with close ties to Putin, after he was officially sanctioned by the British government last Thursday. In a statement, Zhukova said she had “moved on with her life” and denounced the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine as “brutal,” “horrific,” and “shameful.” “As someone born in Russia, I unequivocally condemn these acts of war, and I stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” she said. (NYT)
How Russian Oligarchs Helped Larry Gagosian Build His Empire – Is Larry Gagosian, as one art-world source put it, “the official art dealer to the Russian oligarchy”? The mega-dealer has sold work by the likes of Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst to now-sanctioned oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Mikhail Fridman. He also has cultivated relationships with others by hosting exhibitions in Moscow from as early as 2007, and built close ties to the State Hermitage Museum and its longtime director and Putin ally Mikhail Piotrovsky. (New York Post)
Belgium Cuts Budget for Art Crime Policing – Belgium has shuttered its police art crime unit after years of unstable funding. It announced that the theft and trafficking of works of art would “no longer be monitored at central level,” its database would no longer be updated, and the exchange of information with foreign police “will no longer be ensured.” The nonprofit Belgian National Committee of the Blue Shield decried the decision in an open letter. (The Art Newspaper)
MOVERS & SHAKERS
U.K. Culture Institutions Get £48 Million for Improvements – The U.K.’s department for digital, culture, media, and sport has announced £48 million ($62.6 million) in funding for 63 regional galleries, museums, libraries and other culture venues. The money is part of its “leveling up” mission to improve access to culture and power economic growth outside London. (Standard)
MFA Houston Picks Up a Major Diego Rivera at Auction – The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, has revealed itself as the buyer of a $4 million Diego Rivera painting at Christie’s Latin American art sale last Friday. La Bordadora (The Embroiderer) (1928), an interior scene of two women, has never been exhibited publicly. It sold for more than five times its $700,000 estimate. (ARTnews)
Viennese Gallery Halts Sale of Mexican Artifact – Following an appeal from the Mexican ministry of culture, Vienna’s Galerie Zacke has agreed to repatriate a representation of the Aztec earth god Tlaltecuhtli from Veracruz, which it was intending to sell for around $8,700 at auction. The gallery said the U.S.-based consignor agreed to repatriate it “in a gesture of compassion.” (ARTnews)
Ukraine Sets Up Emergency Art Fund – The producers of the Ukranian pavilion in Venice are promoting an emergency art fund established by the Naked Room gallery, the MOCA NGO, and independent media outlet Zaborona. “We can’t silence artillery, but we can amplify the voice of Muses by helping those who make art here and now,” it said in a statement. (Instagram)
FOR ART’S SAKE
This Wild Photo Won the Top World Nature Photography Award – The winner of the 2021 World Nature Photography Awards is this absolutely terrifying shot of a leopard seal about to gobble up a gentoo penguin. Taken by the U.S.-based photographer Amos Nachoum, it’s titled Facing Reality and feels, err, kind of prescient. (Colossal)
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