Art Industry News: Roman Abramovich, the Putin-Tied Art Collector Involved in Ukraine Talks, May Have Been Poisoned + Other Stories

Plus, MGM Resorts goes on an art-buying spree after selling off its Picassos, and a French town re-illuminates its Claude Lévêque sculpture.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is seen on the stand during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in December 2015 in London. Photo by Clive Mason/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 Tuesday, March 29.


Restitution Activists Disrupt Sale of Gabon Mask – Protesters disrupted the sale of a carved mask at an auction house in Montpellier, France on Saturday, standing up in the salesroom and calling for the restitution of what they described as a “colonial ill-gotten good.” The mask, which was used ceremonially by the Fang ethnic people of Gabon in the 19th century and which the auctioneer said was “entirely legal” to sell, sold for €4.2 million ($4.6 million) after the protesters were escorted from the premises. (Expatica)

Ukraine Defense Minister Condemns Russian Attacks on Holocaust Memorial – Ukraine’s defense minister Dmytro Kuleba reported on Twitter that the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has been shelled by Russian forces. Images of damage to the memorial’s giant black menorah have been circulating online. Kuleba condemned the attack, which marks the second threat to a Holocaust memorial after Russian missiles struck targets near Kyiv’s Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial on March 1. (ARTnews)

Collector Roman Abramovich May Have Been Poisoned – Art collector and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich is reported to have exhibited symptoms consistent with poisoning after attending negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow in Ukraine. At least two Ukrainian negotiators were also reported to be experiencing red eyes, tearing, and peeling skin, although Ukrainian officials suggested the public should not trust “unverified information.” Abramovich appeared well when he was photographed recently at a subsequent round of talks in Istanbul. (Evening Standard, BBC)

French Town Switches Back on Its Claude Lévêque – The French council of Montreuil has decided to re-illuminate a contentious light sculpture by the alleged child abuser Claude Lévêque in the town of Bel Air. The sculpture entwining the city’s water tower, titled Modern Dance, was switched back on on March 21, with the assistant mayor Alexie Lorca telling residents that while turning it off was necessary to give some “breathing space” to the allegations, removing the sculpture was “out of the question.” “You don’t remove a work like that out of emotion, especially since it is now part of the neighborhood’s identity,” Lorca said. (Le Monde)


M+ Museum Names New Chair – Politician and businessman Bernard Chan has been named as the next chair of the M+ museum in Hong Kong, and will take up the role for two years beginning April 1. Chan is currently the convenor of the Hong Kong Executive Council, the city-state’s de facto cabinet office. (Artforum)

MGM Makes Major Acquisitions After Art Sale – In October, MGM Resorts in Las Vegas sold off $109 million worth of Picassos. Now, the company has invested a portion of the proceeds into works by such contemporary artists as Rashid Johnson, Sanford Biggers, Ghada Amer, and Jonathan Lyndon Chase. The aim, according to a statement from MGM, is “championing inclusion and ensuring that the collection more closely mirrors our diverse communities.” (Press release)

Toyen Gets a Show in Paris – The Surrealist artist Toyen, whose work has been having a market resurgence ahead of the artist’s inclusion in the forthcoming Venice Biennale, will be the subject of a solo show at the Musée d’art moderne in Paris. The show will run from March 25 through July 24. (Press release)


Humboldt Forum Hosts One Half of New Sculpture – Berlin has unveiled a two-part bronze sculpture of a flag at half-mast by artist Kang Sunkoo across two locations. Entitled Statue of Limitations, it references Germany’s colonial history. The upper half is in Nachtigalplatz, in the city’s Africa Quarter, while the lower half is in the stairway of the Humboldt Forum, which displays many of the country’s colonial-era acquisitions. (Monopol)


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