Art Industry News: A Smooth-Talking Art Thief Gives Advice on Where to Hide Your Loot + Other Stories

Plus, Ai Weiwei creates 10,000 face masks for charity and Sotheby's will offer a 19th-century African sculpture in its contemporary sale.

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 Thursday, May 28.


Baltimore Museum Redirects Funds to Local Galleries – The Baltimore Museum of Art is redirecting funds totaling $100,000 from a cancelled speaker series to boost the local community. Money from the series will be diverted to three new initiatives designed to aid galleries, artists, and its audience. BMA Salon invites 20 local galleries to present a weeklong exhibition on the museum’s website; BMA Screening Room will offer 50 artists a licensing fee in exchange for the right to screen their work for four months online; and BMA Studio will distribute 1,400 art-making kits to members of the community. (The Art Newspaper)

Ai Weiwei Creates 10,000 Masks for Charity – The Chinese artist and activist has printed 10,000 face masks emblazoned with images of his best-known artworks to be sold for charity through eBay. The masks, which were silk-screened by hand at Ai’s Berlin studio (the artist is based in Cambridge, UK), will be sold for $50 each, $300 for a pack of four, and $1,500 for a collection of 20. All the proceeds will go to coronavirus humanitarian efforts led by Human Rights Watch, Refugees International, and Médecins Sans Frontières. (Guardian)

An Art Thief on Where to Hide Your Loot – Octave Durham, who went to prison for stealing two paintings by Vincent van Gogh in 2004, served 25 months behind bars before the works he stole were found inside a kitchen wall near Naples. “My no. 1 rule is talk smooth, be cool, have a fast car, and never touch anyone,” Durham says. He did not have a buyer before he stole the works, though he quickly found interested parties. “It’s not like doing a bank job… I understand now that people really like art and if you steal it people are going to get mad and get hurt. I understand that now, even if I still don’t have that feeling myself.” (New York Times)

P.A.I.N. Offers to Help Opioid Crisis Victims File Claims Against Purdue –  The artist Nan Goldin and her activist group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) have launched a new initiative,, to help victims of the opioid crisis file claims with US Bankruptcy Court against the drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma. The goal is to increase the number of personal injury claims filed against Purdue in an effort to provide aid to victims and capture the impact of the damage caused by Purdue. (TAN)


This Boston Dealer Started a Gallery During Lockdown – Dealer LaiSun Keane opened her eponymous gallery this April—a bit of an unusual move. The art dealer had recently split with former business partner Lucy Lacoste and did not want to wait to launch her new venture. Her gallery’s virtual-forward approach includes online receptions as she runs the business from her house outside of Boston until the global health situation subsides. (Boston Globe)

Sotheby’s Offer African Sculpture in a Contemporary Sale – Continuing the trend of mixing genres in contemporary sales, the auction house will include a Fang-Betsi reliquary head alongside postwar masterpieces by Francis Bacon and Richard Diebenkorn in its June 29 auction. The reliquary, from the holdings of prominent New York collectors Sidney and Bernice Clyman, is estimated at $2.5 million to $4 million. Other works from the Clymans’ African art collection will be offered in a dedicated sale on June 30. (Art Market Monitor)

Chart Art Fair Plans a Socially Distanced Event – Denmark’s Chart Art Fair is planning a decentralized format for its eighth edition, to be held from August 28 to 30. The 28 participating galleries in Copenhagen and across four other Nordic capitals—Helsinki, Oslo, Reykjavik, and Stockholm—will install their planned booths in their galleries instead of at the Kunsthal Charlottenborg. (The difference between this and regular gallery shows is… still slightly unclear.) In another novel move, the fair will direct galleries to show only work by women artists, an effort to address the ongoing gender imbalance in the art market. (Financial Times)

Hauser & Wirth Snaps Up the Estate of Sophie Taeuber-Arp – The Swiss avant-garde artist will be the 30th estate to be taken on by the gallery. Known for her role in the Dada and Surrealist movements, she has long been overlooked due in part to her status as Hans Arp’s first wife and her early death from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning at age 53. A major retrospective of her work is planned for March 2021 at Kunstmuseum Basel before traveling to Tate Modern and MoMA. (Financial Times)


Sculptor Peter Alexander Has Died – The Los Angeles-based artist Peter Alexander has died at age 81. The sculptor was best known for the captivating work he made as part of the 1960s California Light and Space movement. “Whether through resin sculpture or velvet painting, Alexander actively sought to capture light through environmental sensation,” his galleries said in a statement. (ARTnews)

The High Museum Reveals Reopening Plans – The High Museum of Art in Atlanta will reopen to the public on July 18 with exhibitions dedicated to the Ghanaian fantasy coffin-maker Paa Joe, female artists in the collection, and European prints. Before that, it will offer special access to its members and frontline workers from July 7 through 17. (Press release)


Canada Announces Curator for Its Venice Biennale Pavilion – The Vancouver- and Los Angeles-based artist Stan Douglas, who was previously selected to represent Canada at the (now 2022) Venice Biennale, has chosen curator Reid Shier to organize the exhibition. The director of Polygon Gallery has worked with the artist on various shows since the ’90s. (North Shore News)

Art Dealer Donates €5 Million Painting to the Rijksmuseum – The art dealer and collector Bob Haboldt has donated a painting by a Flemish Old Master to the Rijksmuseum in memory of the victims of coronavirus. The work by the 16th century painter Bartholomeus Spranger, called Dead Christ Supported by Angels (1587), is estimated to be worth around €5 million ($5.5 million). (Le Figaro)

Artist Behind the 13-Foot Kookaburra Sculpture Explains Himself – The artist who made a giant sculpture of a laughing Kookaburra during lockdown explains why he did it. Farvardin Daliri’s creation has stolen the hearts of Twitter users (including New York Times art critic Roberta Smith). The artist, who is an Iranian immigrant, said he views birds as a symbol of arrival in a foreign land. “This is the common ground,” he said, “the land and habitat, owned by indigenous people for thousands of years. That’s what it is. In this land, birds laugh at us.” The work will soon be shown at the Townsville Cultural Festival in Australia. (The Cut)

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