Art Industry News: A Wave of Blue-Chip Treasures Is Entering the Market at Low Prices as Collectors Hunt for Liquidity + Other Stories

Plus, the Kinkade Family Foundation offers emergency funding for curators and researchers are uncovering new secrets about Notre Dame.

Sotheby's is accused of withholding millions of dollars in tax revenue. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

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 23.


Benin Prince Asks UK Museum to Return Bronze – An African prince from Benin has called on a museum in the West of England to become a role model and return a looted bronze sculpture. Prince Edun Akenzua of the Royal Court of Benin wants the Bristol Museum to “blaze the trail” and restitute the work. Jon Finch, the head of culture at Bristol City Council, acknowledges the sculpture was stolen, notes the prince’s “impassioned plea,” and says it is “willing to explore” the option of returning the work, which would go a step further than most UK institutions. (BBC)

Arts Workers Struggle With Mixed Messages on Pay – Staffers and freelancers who work for New York’s museums, commercial galleries, and arts organizations are facing uncertain times. While staffers are being paid for now, it’s unclear whether they will be in in a few weeks’ time. Many freelancers have been laid off, or, at best, offered payment for existing bookings. The Guggenheim Museum has told employees who cannot work remotely that the museum would stop paying them at the end of March. The Met has pledged to pay its staff through April 4, but warned of furloughs and layoffs in the coming months. The Tate has promised to pay all of its staff through May. (ARTnews)

Fire-Damaged Notre Dame Reveals Its Secrets – Science magazine gets a front-row seat to witness the ongoing restoration of Notre Dame. Although the recovery efforts are currently on pause, the research is shedding new light on the history of the cathedral, as well as other aspects of medieval life. “We’ve got 40 years of research coming out of this event,” says Thierry Zimmer, assistant director of the Historical Monuments Research Laboratory. Scholars believe they can gain a better understanding of how and in what order elements of the cathedral were constructed and even discover the remnants of earlier churches on the site as they use ground-penetrating radar to check Notre Dame’s foundations. (Science)

Kinkade Family Foundation Offers Curator Grants – Sometimes, help can come from the unlikeliest places. The Kinkade Family Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the legacy of “painter of light” Thomas Kinkade, is launching a new emergency grant program for curators, offering them up to $5,000. Priority will be given to those who have already secured venues for their projects, but who have been impacted by recent closures and cancellations. (Glasstire)


“Panic Offers” for Art Start Coming – As collectors search for liquidity, many are preparing to sell artworks for a fraction of what they would have fetched just a month ago. Billionaire art collector Jeffrey Gundlach says he has received “panic offers” for pieces by Monet, Renoir, and Hopper on the (comparatively) cheap. Meanwhile, financier Asher Edelman is teaming up with a group of collectors, galleries, and others to buy major works at a 35 percent discount. He said he has already received $275 million in offers. (Bloomberg)

Sotheby’s Moves Spring Sales Online – Joining a wave of auction houses that have rejigged their schedules, Sotheby’s announced plans to move a selection of scheduled sales online only this spring, including its design, photographs, Contemporary Curated, and prints and multiples auctions. The house has yet to disclose whether it plans to reschedule its marquee May sale; Christie’s and Phillips have already moved theirs to June(Art Market Monitor)


The Pompidou Reopens in Shanghai – It seems the Asian art world is slowly beginning to return to normal after lockdown. The Chinese government has allowed the reopening of certain public institutions including the Centre Pompidou x West Bund Museum Project, which was inaugurated in November. Up to 500 visitors per day are allowed to see two of its exhibition halls. (Le Figaro)

Kahlil Joseph Wins Eye Art & Film Prize – The filmmaker Kahlil Joseph, whose video installation BLKNWS was a centerpiece of Ralph Rugoff’s Venice Biennale, has won the prestigious prize, which awards a filmmaker £25,000 ($29,030) to fund the creation of new work. (Press release)

New Hong Kong Museum of Reproductions Debuts – The Metropolis Museum is unabashedly filled with fakes. The new space dedicated to replicas of works by European masters like Claude Monet—whose bona fide paintings are rarely seen in East Asia—will premiere its first show today after a postponed opening. Groups of no more than 10 to 15 people will be able to tour the museum at one time. (South China Morning Post)


Performing Artists Feel the Squeeze – When America’s theaters shuttered, artists’ day jobs and night jobs disappeared at the same time. As hundreds of thousands of performers, musicians, and back-of-house staff struggle financially, the disparity between workers with full-time employment (at least, for now) and freelancers is starker than ever. A new website offering details about emergency funds, online platforms, and remote job listings received almost 160,000 page views in its first 48 hours last week. In Seattle, meanwhile, an emergency fund quickly raised $100,000, and soon had 200 applicants seeking urgent assistance. (New Yorker)

Prehistoric Horses Were the Stars of Cave Art – The skill of Europe’s Paleolithic artists has always enchanted the world. But new research has offered a fresh interpretation of their work. It seems they were obsessed with the image of the horse, which a newly compiled database of cave drawings reveals as the most consistently depicted creature. Researchers suspect that horses had a totemic or cosmological importance to hunter-gatherers. (Times)

The Whitney Donates Masks and Gloves to Hospitals – The Whitney’s chief curator Scott Rothkopf Instagrammed a very important package leaving the museum: boxes of gloves, masks, and Tyvek suits on their way to healthcare workers. The trend of museums donating these materials, which are commonly used by conservators, began last week at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, which has inspired an international response. (Instagram)

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