Art Industry News: Gagosian Borrowed a Rembrandt Self-Portrait, and Roberta Smith Thinks It’s ‘Obscene’ + Other Stories

Plus, Yemen tries to halt the trade of its looted artifacts and journalists name the most influential art critic.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-portrait with Two Circles (c.1665). English Heritage, The Iveagh Bequest (Kenwood, London). ©Historic England Photo Library.

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 Thursday, March 7.


Yemen Tries to Stop the Trade in Looted Artifacts – The culture minister of Yemen traveled to the New York to lobby the Trump administration to issue an emergency order that would ban the import of Yemeni artifacts lacking watertight documentation. He denounced the looting of the country’s cultural heritage during the ongoing civil war. The Houthis faction has recently been accused of plundering manuscripts and Islamic relics from the historic library of Zabid. In the past, the US government has issued emergency bans on artifacts arriving from Iraq and Syria. (New York Times)

Who Is the Most Influential Art Critic? – American arts journalists who took part in a Nieman Foundation survey overwhelmingly named Roberta Smith of the New York Times as the most influential art critic working today (her husband, Jerry Saltz, came in second). Our own Ben Davis was the top-ranked critic at a web-only publication and the one not working for a major newspaper or magazine to crack the top five. Nearly half of the survey’s respondents write for web-only outlets; only a third write for a daily newspaper, marking a sharp fall over the past decade. (Nieman Reports)

How Gagosian Got Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait – Gagosian is borrowing a Rembrandt self-portrait from Kenwood House in London that is usually only lent to major museum shows. How did they swing it? In return, the gallery is supporting English Heritage, the tax-funded organization that runs the historic building. Gagosian is paying for conservation of the painting’s frame—and that’s just the beginning. Future collaborations will include “exciting juxtapositions between our collections and the gallery’s Modern and contemporary program,” according to English Heritage’s curatorial director, Anna Eavis. Rembrandt’s self-portraits will hang alongside those by by Picasso, Bacon, Freud, and Damien Hirst at a Gagosian show opening in London next month. So far, not everyone is on board: In a tweet, critic Roberta Smith called the arrangement “obscene.” (The Art Newspaper)

Museum Organization Condemns Director’s Firing – The international museum ethics watchdog, CIMAM, has expressed “deep concern” over the unexplained firing of museum director Ralf Beil from the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg. The museum is a private entity financed by Volkswagen, but the committee notes in an open letter that it still operates in the public realm and writes that his “abrupt” termination a year ahead of the expiration of his contract is “another manifestation of the increasing pressure being exercised by governing bodies on museum directors and curators.” (Open Letter)


Galerie Lelong to Represent Leonardo Drew – The Brooklyn-based artist Leonardo Drew has left New York’s Sikkema Jenkins & Co. gallery to join Galerie Lelong, of New York and Paris. The artist’s Madison Square Park commission is due to be unveiled in June. (Press release)

Old Masters Dealer Heads to the Venice Biennale – Jorge Coll of Colnaghi gallery is opening a show of Old Master paintings, drawings, and sculpture in Venice during the biennale. The selling show will be held in a former abbey on the Grand Canal once owned by Barbara Hutton and Cary Grant. (TAN)

Investors Stung by Art-Lease Scheme – The Art Futures Group of Hong Kong offered investors a guaranteed return with its art-purchase-lease-back scheme of Chinese art. But when the lease contract expired, collectors found that their paintings were worth a fraction of the price they had paid AFG. Lucette d’Angelique says she lost around $25,000 on a work by Hou Qing. AFG did not respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment. (Bloomberg)


MoMA Names New Painting and Sculpture Curator – The museum has named Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi as the Steven and Lisa Tananbaum Curator, a newly created role in the painting and sculpture department. He will start on July 22. Ann Temkin, the department’s chief curator, says the accomplished scholar and curator of African art “will bring an important perspective as we expand our collection holdings and gallery presentations in new directions across the museum.” (Press release)

LACMA Acquires Major Fanzhi Painting – The Los Angeles museum has bought a monumental abstract painting by Zeng Fanzhi with funds from patrons Dominic and Ellen Ng. The acquisition of the untitled work from 2018 is part of a concerted effort to add Chinese art to the museum’s contemporary holdings. The work will be displayed later this month in the Ahmanson Building. (ARTnews)


Museo del Prado Airplane Takes Off – The Spanish airline Iberia has teamed up with the Prado Museum to celebrate its bicentennial by renaming a new plane, the Airbus A350-900, the “Museo del Prado.” Customers on long-haul flights will be provided videos about the works of Hieronymus Bosch, Velázquez, and Goya, and the in-flight magazine will feature a long read about the national museum. (Express Info)

Peruvian Graves of Sacrificed Children Found – Archeologists made a shocking discovery in Peru when they uncovered the skeletons of around 140 children who appear to have been ritually sacrificed in the 15th century. Their hearts look to have been removed and their bodies are buried alongside more than 200 young llamas in what looks like a ritual following a heavy rain or flood. “This archaeological discovery was a surprise to all of us—we had not seen anything like this before,” says anthropologist John Verano. He says the discovery opens a new chapter on the practice of child sacrifice in the ancient world. (Independent)

See Martin Parr’s Portraits of Brexit Britain – With the March 29 deadline to leave the European Union looming, the Magnum photographer known for his striking portraits of ordinary life has turned his lens on Brexit Britain. In a new exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery, “Only Human” (on view through May 27), his photographs explore national identity in the fallout from the divisive vote. Images of working life and leisure are mounted alongside portraits of famous people including the artists Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry. (Independent)


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This Thursday, 7th March, marks the launch of the incredibly talented @martinparrstudio’s new exhibition – Only Human – at the @NationalPortraitGallery. • • #OnlyHuman will feature never seen before Parr #photography across all his bodies of work. The exhibition focuses on people and national #identity including celeb portraits of Tracey Emin, Paul Smith, Cara Delevigne, Vivienne Westwood – the list goes on! • • The London living team were lucky enough to visit the preview last night – check out our insta story for a #sneakpeak. • • Visit the #NationalPortraitGallery 7 March to 27 May to see Only Human: Photographs by Martin Parr. • #celebrity #photography #martinparr #fashion #portraits #MartinParrNPG #nationalportraitgallery#martinparrfoundation #whatson #whatsonlondon #onlyhuman#contemporaryart#contemporaryphotographer#nationalportraitgallery #snapshot#fineartphotography #martinparr#martinparrfoundation #photographer#masterofphotography #portraitphotography#weareallhuman #londonart #londonexhibition #londonliving #exhibition

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