Art Industry News: A Generous Portuguese Art Patron Is Now Said to Be a Trickster With $1 Billion in Debt + Other Stories

Plus, an art dealer says her client wants to buy 25 percent of the Bitcoin market and a rarely seen Léger is hitting the block in London.

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 Friday, May 31.


Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Beacons Will Unite the US and Mexico – The Mexican-Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer hard at work on Border Tuner, a project that will extend across the US border and connect the sister cities of El Paso, Texas, and Juárez, Mexico. The spectacular light and sound work, due to launch this fall, will feature 18 powerful searchlight beams visible from a 10-mile radius and tuning stations that will allow people to share stories and music across the border. The project is picking up speed just as Donald Trump has announced his intention to impose a five percent tariff on all goods coming into the US from Mexico. (Borderzine)

Are More Museums Going to Do Away With Admission Fees? – There is a growing divide between American museums that charge admission and those who are working to do away with the practice. On the heels of MOCA’s announcement that the Los Angeles museum will go free thanks to a $10 million donation from a board member, other museums are pondering whether it is possible to do the same. A spokesperson for the institution says the loss of admission revenue amounted to $1.3 million annually. However, admissions typically amount to a fraction of an institution’s total income—on average, only 7 percent. (Observer)

Mega-Collector José Berardo Faces $1 Billion Debt – Three Portuguese banks are suing museum founder José Berardo and his companies to recover debts totaling $1 billion. Berardo’s vast collection of modern and contemporary art and design was used as collateral for the loans, though the collector insists that “he has no debts.” Many works from his blue-chip collection are on loan to the Belem Cultural Center in Lisbon; his own private museum, the Museu Berardo, is one of the most-visited museums in Portugal. Now, there are allegations that he doesn’t even own the artworks—and that the “only property in his name” is a garage in Madeira. The country’s Prime Minister António Costa is reportedly “shocked” by the entrepreneur’s attitude. (The Art Newspaper)

Art Dealer Says Her Client Wants a Quarter of the Bitcoin Market – The gallerist Eleesa Dadiani, whose platform Dadiani Syndicate auctioned 49 percent of a Warhol silkscreen using bitcoin, now claims she is working with a client who wants to buy 24 percent of all bitcoin currently available. She did not name the billionaire who would need north of $38 billion to make the purchase, but she stressed that she doesn’t deal with people who are not customers of “reputable banks.” (ChepiChap)


Léger Leads Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Sale – The auction house will offer Fernand Léger’s Femme dans un fauteuil (1913) at its Impressionist and modern art sale in London on June 18. Although the work does not have a public estimate, reports suggest it is expected to fetch around £25 million ($31.5 million). The painting, from the artist’s “contrasts of forms” series, has not been seen by the public since 1974. (Art Market Monitor)

How to Start Your Own Photo Collection – Photo Basel’s director Sven Eisenhut shares some tips for new collectors looking to get into photography. First, buy with your eyes and heart (not your ears). Second, reach out to galleries ahead of the fair. If a new collector has a €1,000 budget, Eisenhut suggests they go for “a vintage print to fall in love with, with the possibility that it will increase in value.” (Elephant)

Lévy Gorvy Names a New Director – Lévy Gorvy has poached Sharis Alexandrian from White Cube, where she worked as a director for the past seven years. Alexandrian will now serve as Lévy Gorvy’s London-based senior director. (ARTnews)

Marianne Boesky Taps New Sales Director – Bradford Waywell, currently a director at Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, will rejoin Marianne Boesky Gallery, where he worked as a sales director from 2011 to 2012. In his new role as senior director of sales and acquisitions, he will work to help expand Boesky’s secondary-market business. (ARTnews)


Longstanding Vancouver Museum Director Steps Down – Kathleen Bartels is leaving her post after 18 years, during which she helped boost both the size and status of the Canadian museum. But she was embroiled in a controversy earlier this year over staff strikes and had strained relationships with the west coast city’s two most prominent collectors, Bob Rennie and Michael Audain. (Vancouver Sun)

Texas Biennial Will Return in Fall 2020 – The upcoming edition aims to “illustrate the current story of Texas’ artistic landscape across its regions, and reveal the shared cultures between Texas and its bordering states.” The project has received a $25,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. (Glasstire)

National Portrait Gallery Names Director of History – Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, who currently serves as undergraduate chair and associate professor of art history at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named the National Portrait Gallery’s director of history, research, and scholarship. She is the first woman to hold the position at Smithsonian museum. (Art Daily)


Commemorating Stonewall at 50 – Critic Holland Cotter digs into the stories behind several exhibitions in New York that commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. He takes readers on a tour of “Art After Stonewall, 1969–1989,” a two-venue show at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and the Leslie-Lohman Museum; a trio of small archival shows at the New-York Historical Society; and “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall” at the Brooklyn Museum. (New York Times)

Annie Lennox Unveils Mass MoCA Installation – In her new exhibition, singer, songwriter, and artist Annie Lennox has created a “mound” made up of hundreds of personal artifacts culled from her collection of memorabilia, found objects, and other items. The intimate show asks, in Lennox’s words, “What will we leave behind? Who will remember us—and for how long?” (Art Daily)

Greta Thunberg Gets a Street Art Mural – Street artist Jody Thomas has unveiled a large mural in Bristol celebrating the 16-year-old schoolgirl and climate activist from Sweden. The 50-foot-tall mural adorns the side of the city’s Tobacco Factory building. Thomas said only one person approached him during his two weeks of installation who did not recognize his subject. “They thought it was Bjork,” he said. (Huffington Post, Twitter)

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