Art Industry News: Will Crashing Oil Prices Dash Saudi Arabia’s Dreams of Becoming a Culture Hub? + Other Stories

Plus, Paddle8 sells off its contact list as part of ongoing bankruptcy proceedings and the San Francisco Chronicle’s art critic steps down.

Outside of the Qasr al-Farid tomb (The Lonely Castle) carved into rose-coloured sandstone in Madain Saleh, a UNESCO World Heritage site, near Saudi Arabia's northwestern town of al-Ula. Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP/ 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 on this Friday, May 29.


Bankrupt Paddle8 Is Selling Its Client List – The defunct online auction house is selling its intellectual property as part of ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. Offerings include its domain name, platform architecture, social-media accounts, as well as its newsletter subscribers and data—a testament to the fact that even when you’re out of money, there is still value in who you know. “This is a truly unique opportunity to acquire a turnkey art brand with a captive audience, or any of its valuable individual brand assets,” a representative of the consultancy group that is advising the auction house says. “The customer list—chock full of prominent collectors from the art and business worlds—would be a tremendous asset on its own.” (Artfix Daily)

Will Hong Kong’s New Law Threaten Political Art? – Experts fear that the political climate in Hong Kong under Beijing’s new national security law could make it impossible for artists to create the radical works that have historically galvanized pro-democracy protests. Earlier this week, 1,500 arts and cultural workers signed a petition describing the “incalculable” damage the law could do to Hong Kong’s free speech and role as a cultural hub. Under the law, passed yesterday, works like the now-famous Lady Liberty sculpture, depicting a female protester who was shot in the eye by authorities, might become a thing of the past. (CNN)

Falling Oil Prices May Hamper Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Ambitions – As oil prices tumble amid the global shutdown, some are questioning the future of Saudi Arabia’s elaborate cultural programs, which include festivals in the desert and a multibillion-dollar development of archaeological sites. While the official line is that all plans are proceeding on schedule, some sources suggest that the Ministry of Culture is postponing programs and intends to shift its focus, at least for the medium term, from generating international tourism to catering to domestic audiences. (The Art Newspaper)

Developers Are Commissioning Custom Art to Sell Real Estate – Real estate agents are commissioning original artwork to make their property listings more attractive to high-end clients. Instead of hunting for the perfect piece to style the home, agents have started paying artists to create new works tailored to the existing décor in luxury homes. “Custom art can be a great tool to attract buyers as it adds to the allure of originality and exclusivity,” one agent tells the WSJ, adding that “original pieces stand out in a crowded sea of sameness.” (Wall Street Journal)


Sotheby’s Holds a Silent Auction Series – The auction house mounted a $45 million silent auction series directed by its Asia chairman, Nicholas Chow, including lots by Yoshitomo Nara, Yayoi Kusama, and Zao Wou-Ki. The hybrid format between a private sale and live auction, which took place over the course of two days out of Sotheby’s Hong Kong headquarters, could mark the beginning of a new brand of sale for the house. (Art Market Monitor)

Lévy Gorvy Appoints a Senior Director in Italy – Elena Bonanno Di Linguaglossa has been appointed senior director for Italy at Lévy Gorvy, where she will work in Milan to develop relationships with the region’s artists, collectors, and institutions. The director has 20 years experience in the field, with particular expertise in 20th-century Italian and American art. (Press release)

Artnet Auctions’ Postwar and Contemporary Sale Hits a New High – The sale, which closed on Thursday, achieved a total of $1.7 million, 129 percent more than the equivalent sale last year. As a sign of buyers’ increased willingness to spend more online, the sale’s average transaction value also increased 28 percent year over year, to $49,400. Top lots include Tom Wesselmann’s Blue, which achieved $288,000, and Eddie Martinez’s Clown Amoeba, which sold for $156,000. (Artnet Auctions)

Night Gallery Represents Tomashi Jackson – The New-York based artist, best known for making layered textiles that were a breakout hit at the most recent Whitney Biennial, is now represented by Night Gallery in Los Angeles. Jackson will be included in the gallery’s 10-year anniversary exhibition, titled “Majeure Force,” opening in June. (Press release)


Momus Launches a Residency for New Art Writers – If you are an aspiring critic, editor, or publisher, you have through Sunday to apply for the first Toronto edition of the Momus Emerging Critics Residencies, hosted by the Ontario College of Art & Design and running from August 17 through 28. With a focus on the realities of digital-age writing, workshops by Nora N. Khan, Casey Beal, and Momus publisher Sky Goodden, among others, will teach the art of “pitching, editing, podcasting, budgeting, collaborating, hustling, and getting published.” (Momus)

Creative Capital’s CEO Steps Down – Susan Delvalle will step down as the head of the nonprofit, a position she has held since 2016, in September. She will continue to serve in an advisory role for the remainder of 2020. A search for her replacement is already underway. (Artforum)

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Art Critic Steps Down – After five years on the job, Charles Desmarais—a museum director turned art critic—is calling it quits at the California newspaper. “I can’t bear spending precious time in a holding pattern, waiting for art to come back on public view,” he said. (Twitter)


The UAE Turns Lockdown Art Into Murals – Art Painting Lab, a studio in Dubai, is asking artists to share their lockdown art on social media. The studio plans to turn the submissions into a series of public murals across the United Arab Emirates. As of May 28, 600 artworks have been submitted. (New York Observer)

Mark Seliger Auctions Off 25 Portraits for COVID-19 Relief – The celebrity photographer is teaming up with Christie’s and RAD (Red Carpet Advocacy) to sell his star-studded photographs to raise money for COVID-19 relief organizations. Notable portraits on offer include shots of Jennifer Aniston, Barack Obama, Kendrick Lamar, Lin-Manuel-Miranda, Oprah Winfrey, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Billie Eilish. (Complex)

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