Art Industry News: A Bernini Sculpture’s Finger Has Mysteriously Gone Missing in Rome + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, Ai Weiwei is leaving Berlin and a collector sues Sotheby's to stop the sale of a $30 million Basquiat.

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 4.


The Dark Side of Blockbuster Shows – Is the backlash to the blockbuster mounting? After artnet News’s Tim Schneider penned a takedown of the form, Felix Salmon has added his voice to the chorus. He argues that shows of Kusama and Bowie may boost box-office income—but the “sugar high” comes at a cost. Only the biggest museums can afford to feed the addiction once visitors become hooked. (Slate)

Ai Weiwei Says Goodbye to Berlin – The exiled Chinese artist has said he will be leaving Berlin, the city he has called home since his release from house arrest in 2015, in part due to the persistent language barrier. But he will keep a studio in the German capital. The globetrotting activist did not say where he might be based next. (Deutsche Welle)

Bernini Sculpture Damaged in Rome – A finger on the right hand of Bernini’s sculpture of Saint Bibiana has disappeared. Exactly when the digit went missing remains a mystery, though the work recently returned from a rare loan to the city’s Galleria Borghese. The damage was spotted by a visiting art historian, who immediately alerted the authorities. One theory is that it was damaged during reinstallation. (La Croix)

Norton Simon’s Grandson Kicked Out Over Cranach – Eric Simon was voted off the board of the Norton Simon Foundation, which owns some of the artwork at Pasadena’s Norman Simon Museum. He claims he was booted because of his longstanding campaign to support the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker, who have been in a protracted battle with the museum over the rightful ownership of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s paintings of Adam and Eve. (Pasadena News) ​


Collector Files Suit Over Basquiat – Hubert Neumann has sued Sotheby’s in an effort to block the sale of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting estimated at $30 million. The collector claims he was shut out of his late wife’s will in 2016, but should be entitled to a third of her estate. Furthermore, the work should be preserved for New York City, he argues, and not shipped off to the highest bidder. Sotheby’s says the suit is “without merit.” (New York Daily News)

Art Chengdu Launches With Brisk Sales – The inaugural fair in the Sichuan capital drew mainland China’s “coastal elite,” plus collectors and dealers from Hong Kong and Taiwan. They were were curious about Chengdu’s burgeoning art scene and, apparently, in a buying mood at the new fair. (The Art Newspaper)

Mary Obering Gets a New Gallery at Age 81 – The veteran American abstractionist will be represented by Kayne Griffin Corcoran. The Los Angeles gallery is showing her work at its Frieze New York booth this week. (ARTnews)

Frieze Frame’s Winner Is Cooper Cole – The Toronto-based gallery won the Frame Prize for its solo booth dedicated to the work of self-taught artist Tau Lewis. The prize honors a memorable display in Frieze New York’s section for emerging galleries eight years old or younger. (Press release)


Berkshire Lawyer Leaves Museum Association – Mark S. Gold, the attorney who helped the Berkshire Museum drive through its controversial sale of art, has stepped down from his role as officer and director of the New England Museum Association. Gold said he is concerned that his work with the Berkshire was impacting the association’s reputation. (Berkshire Eagle)

Pioneering Museum Donor Dies at 106 The Texan collector Margaret McDermott has died. She was an “unparalleled” donor at the Dallas Museum of Art, giving the institution more than 3,000 works of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art and serving as a trustee for a staggering 57 years. (ARTnews)

New Curator of Time-Based Art at the Smithsonian – Saisha Grayson has been named the first curator of time-based art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where she has been working in the film and media arts department. Previously, Grayson was assistant curator at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. (ARTnews)


What Is It Like to Date a New York Museum? – The New Yorker has personified the city’s museums as potential suitors in its newest satirical column. Take the Met, that guy who turns the tables on you a few weeks in: “…[A]ll of a sudden, he finds out you’re from Kentucky and says that you have to start paying full price for dates.” (New Yorker)

Look Inside a Museum of Lost Art – In his latest book, Noah Charney examines the famous art and artifacts that have been destroyed or lost due to theft, war, or other catastrophes, including works by Vermeer, Manet, and Caravaggio. This hypothetical “Museum of Lost Art” would boast more masterpieces than the Louvre, the Met, and the Prado combined, he says. (Bloomberg)

Naked Trump Statue Heads to Spooky Las Vegas Museum – The paranormal investigator who recently purchased the statue of a naked Donald Trump for $28,000 will display it at the Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. The work is part of a series of replica statues titled “The Emperor Has No Balls”—though most of the others have been confiscated or destroyed. (Press release)

See Adam Pendleton Raise His Activist Flag – A monumental version of the artist’s Black Dada Flag (Black Lives Matter)—originally made for the Venice Biennale in 2015—is now flying on Randall’s Island. Raised during Frieze New York, it will remain on view for six months in a spot once known as Negro Point (now Scylla Point) between Harlem and the South Bronx. (NYT)



The late art dealer Hudson. Image courtesy of UOVO.

This week, in Frieze New York’s special “For Your Infotainment / Hudson and Feature Inc.” section curated by Matthew Higgs, gallerists have banded together for a tribute to a late art dealer who had an outsize impact on the art scene of his time. Joining these dealers in celebrating Feature Inc. founder Hudson, the premier art storage company UOVO—the official services partner of Frieze New York for the fifth year running—has supported a booth for the Feature Hudson Foundation (FHF).

“Our partnership with Frieze dates back to the first New York fair, so it was important for us to support this exciting evolution of the fair’s programming,” said UOVO founder and chairman Steven Guttman, an art collector himself. “Preserving art history and our shared cultural legacies is a guiding principal for UOVO, so we are proud to support the FHF’s valuable work at the fair.”

Installing the FHF booth. Image courtesy of UOVO.

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