Art Industry News: Fish and Swans Return to Venice’s Canals as Italy’s Lockdown Leaves the Water Uncannily Pristine + Other Stories

Plus, the art-finance industry is booming right now and Art Dubai cancels its scaled-down version in favor of an online-only edition.

A view of Venice's canals back in 2008. (Photo by Rob Scott/PhotoPlus Magazine/Future 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 on this Tuesday, March 17.


Kenny Schachter’s Inigo Philbrick Opus – Artnet News’s columnist shares his adventures with fallen art dealer Inigo Philbrick, who was often (but not always) the source Schachter dubbed Deep Pockets in his articles. The master art flipper was selling works by Rudolf Stingel and Christopher Wool, making tons of money for his clients and himself—until the whole ploy began to tank. Since late 2019, Philbrick has been in hiding as accusations of fraud pile up. “No one, in fact, wanted to admit to even knowing him, much less doing business with him, but they all did,” Schachter writes. “Philbrick’s unbridled hubris had a big hand in his implosion, which is slowly becoming apparent still.” (Vulture)

Prada’s CEOs Donate Funds to Build ICUs – In Italy, where doctors are reportedly having to make gut-wrenching decisions about who lives and who dies due to scarce medical equipment, the co-CEOs of Prada, Patrizio Bertelli and Miuccia Prada (who also founded the Prada Foundation in locked-down Milan), are donating six intensive care units to three Milanese hospitals. As of Monday morning, 1,809 people have died in Italy as doctors have begun the grim task of offering ICU assistance to those with the “best chance of success.” (The Cut)

Silver Lining? Venice’s Canals Look Cleaner – Here’s one thin silver lining amid Italy’s lockdown—the canals appear to be looking cleaner. As tourists leave Venice, museums close, and major events like the Venice Architecture Biennale are postponed, the city has begun to observe the return of wildlife. Photographs of fish swimming in clearer canal water and swans gliding along the surface have attracted thousands of likes on Facebook. Ironically, of course, the photographs have been taken by residents from their windows as they are self isolating at home. (The Art Newspaper)

UK Museums Association Calls for Emergency Funding – The Museums Association recently met with the UK’s department for digital, culture, media, and sport to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the museum, gallery, and heritage sectors. The director of the advocacy group says that money budgeted for the so-called “festival of Brexit” in 2022 should be diverted toward arts institutions under thread amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The £120 million in government investment that has been earmarked for the festival could instead “support museums at risk of permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus epidemic,” says Museums Association director Sharon Heal. (TAN)


Wealthy Collectors Are Taking Out Major Art Loans – The art market may have ground to a halt, but the business of art financing is booming. As the stock market enters a period of upheaval, collectors are looking to offset the cost of margin calls after borrowing against stock holdings. The art-financing division of the Fine Art Group has seen a twofold spike in inquiries over the past two weeks from clients looking to take out loans against objects including a $10 million Basquiat and some $30 million worth of diamonds. (Bloomberg)

Object & Thing Fair Postponed to November – In what looks like the first May fair to reschedule as a result of the ongoing health emergency, the inventive art and design event will postpone its second edition from May 7 to 10 until November 13 to 15. For a full list of arts-related postponements and closures, click here. (Press release)

Christie’s Shifts to Remote Working – Christie’s London employees will begin working remotely as of today for the next two weeks. (The office had been one of the only holdouts amid a closure of the auction house’s international locations.) A small team will stay in place at King Street to support this week’s sales in London. By Friday, March 20, all Christie’s employees worldwide will be working from home. (Press release)


Art Dubai Cancels Events – The Middle East fair—which had already scaled back to a local-only event—has now called off all live programming and will focus instead on digital content, including an online catalogue, a global art forum livestream, and an online performance program curated by Marina Fokidis. The virtual event will launch on March 23, 2020. (Press release)

Vermont-Based Artist Wolf Kahn Has Died – The artist Wolf Kahn has died at age 92. Born in Germany, he moved to the US as a teenager to escape Nazi persecution. After serving in the US Navy, he studied under painter Hans Hofmann thanks to the GI Bill. His Vermont landscapes are in the collections of major institutions as well as the private collections of Bill Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, and Henry Kissinger, among others.(VT Digger)


Philanthropist Falls Ill After Museum Fundraiser – Prominent Louisville philanthropist Christy Brown, who is in her 70s, has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is in stable condition. She attended the Speed Art Museum Ball on March 7.  Another other guest at the event who tested positive is symptom-free. The museum is now closed. (WFPL)

Islanders Will Create Textile Art in Self-Isolation – A community group on the remote Scottish island of Barra is urging people who are self-quarantined around the globe to contribute crocheted squares that can be combined to form a monumental work of textile art. The colorful squares will be linked to make “yarn bomb” Christmas trees in December, when the pandemic has hopefully subsided. (Times)

Daniel Arsham Reveals a Gun-Toting Dior Saddlebag – The American artist has offered an outtake from his recent collaboration with Dior on Instagram. The saddlebag—which appears to show the outline of a revolver on the front and an airplane seatbelt-inspired strap—never made it into production. “Maybe one day…” Arsham writes wistfully. (Hypebeast)

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