Art Industry News: Did a German Software Billionaire Buy Monet’s $111 Million Haystacks? + Other Stories

Plus, SFMOMA's donors are under scrutiny and art students at Cooper Union and CalArts unite to oppose rising tuitions.

Hasso Plattner, who is co-founder of German software maker SAP and a financial backer of the Barberini Museum, poses in front of the painting of the french impressionist Monet titled Water Lilies during a press preview on January 19, 2017 in Potsdam, Germany. The art museum will have a permanent collection from Plattner's foundation that focuses on 20th century German art, both from West and East Germany. The museum opens to the public on January 23 with an exhibition on Impressionist landscapes. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images) Local Caption *** Hasso Plattner; Ortrud Westheider.

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, May 16.


Czech Culture Minister to Resign Amid Uproar – Czech Culture Minister Antonin Stanek will step down on May 31 amid a wave of protests over his abrupt dismissal of Jiri Fajt, the director of Prague’s National Gallery, which many regarded as politically motivated. Fajt’s departure on May 7 was criticized by locals as well as international museum executives such as Max Hollein at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Maria Balshaw at Tate, and Hartwig Fischer at the British Museum. (The Art Newspaper)

Scrutiny Falls on SFMOMA’s “Toxic” Donors – As museums across the US come under fire for the source of their funding, a new investigation shines a spotlight on donors at SFMOMA. Mission Local found that at least 13 SFMOMA trustees or their spouses are senior figures at firms invested in military contractors and arms dealers. Donor James Coulter, who is married to museum trustee Penny Coulter, owns a “significant stake” in the largest provider of satellite bandwidth to the US military, which enables lethal hardware, such as Reaper drones. With the Whitney’s Warhol show heading to San Francisco, protest in New York against Warren Kanders may inspire campaigners on the West Coast. “SFMOMA is in debt to some very dangerous people,” says Dena Beard, the executive director of the city’s alternative art space The Lab. (Mission Local)

Did Hasso Plattner Buy That Record Monet? – The art-market newsletter The Canvas reports that the buyer of Monet’s record-setting Meules for $110.7 million at Sotheby’s Impressionist and modern art sale on Tuesday was none other than Hasso Plattner, the German software billionaire. Plattner is reportedly also the buyer of two other works sold that evening: another Monet, La Prairie fleurie (1885), for $4.93 million, and Gustave Caillebotte’s La Rue Halevy, vue du sixième étage (1887) for $13.9 million. (The Canvas)

Indigenous Women Protest at the Whitney – The activist group Indigenous Womxn’s Collective briefly crashed a Whitney Biennial opening event yesterday evening to join the ongoing protest against the US museum’s controversial vice chair Warren Kanders and his link to a company that produces tear gas and other weapons.  The group gathered beneath banners by artist Jeffrey Gibson, who is of Choctaw and Cherokee descent, banged drums, and blew whistles as they unfurled their own banner with the slogan, “Demilitarize Our Art / People Over Profit.” (ARTnews


A Court Upholds Simon de Pury’s $10 Million Commission – A court in London has rejected Swiss collector Rudolf Staechelin’s attempt to overturn a court’s decision to award Simon and Michaela de Pury a $10 million commission for assisting with the 2015 sale of a $210 million painting by Paul Gauguin. Staechelin had argued that the advisors failed to inform him of higher possible offers for the painting. (ARTnews)

Photo London Opens Under a Brexit Cloud – The fifth edition of the photography fair opened on a sunny day yesterday in London, but looming Brexit cast a cloud over many dealers’ booths. Michael Mack of Mack Books and gallerist Michael Hoppen said they have had to move stock out of the UK because of fears of a no-deal departure from Europe. (TAN)


New Orleans Museum Grows Its Sculpture Garden – The museum’s newly expanded sculpture garden includes monumental site-specific commissions and 26 new acquisitions by artists including Frank Stella, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Teresita Fernández, and Yinka Shonibare. The $15 million project sits on public land, the New Orleans City Park, which had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina. (TAN)

Veteran Dealer Virginia Zabriskie Has Died – The gallerist, who was a quiet force in the New York art world from the late 1950s to ‘90s, died on May 7 at age 91. Zabriskie, whose gallery became one of the first to embrace photography as a major art form, operated spaces in Paris and New York in the ’70s. Over the years, she employed a number of dealers who would go on to start their own spaces, including Leslie Tonkonow and Larry Shopmaker. (Press release)


Staff Trouble at Castello di Rivoli – Workers at the Castello di Rivoli Museum near Turin are threatening to strike due to months-long delays in receiving their salaries. A similar issue occurred last year with the institution’s cleaning staff and now concerns the museum’s guides. “Unfortunately we note that, despite the progress made in the past, now the problem has become entrenched, and persists strongly within the reality of an important museum,” a union representative explains. In a statement, the museum says its personnel and contractors have been regularly paid. (La Stampa)

CalArts and Cooper Union Students Team Up to Fight Rising Tuition – Students at the two prestigious art schools have joined forces to protest rising tuition at the California art academy. The CalArts group’s immediate goal is to put pressure on the college to make their decisions more transparent. Cooper Union alumni active in the movement to keep their college free traveled across the country to participate in demonstrations. “It feels like something very large is tangibly at stake,” says Cooper Union graduate and activist Victoria Sobel. (Hyperallergic)

Crazy Rich Asians Dress Donated to the Smithsonian – The blue Marchesa gown worn by Constance Wu in the film is being donated by the designer Georgina Chapman (Harvey Weinstein’s ex-wife) to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington. The “Cinderella” dress, which has come to symbolize the first major Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast, will be presented to the museum at a party celebrating Asian Pacific Americans in LA on Saturday. (LA Times)

A New Installation Lets You Nap at the Palazzo Strozzi – The museum in Florence has installed a giant, colorful hammock in its courtyard by the Brazilian art collective Opavivará! You can hang out (and maybe nap?) in the art installation, which brings a Rio vibe to the global search for an antidote to museum fatigue. (Instagram)

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