Art Industry News: Saatchi Gallery Covers Up Two Artworks Muslim Visitors Deem Offensive + Other Stories

Plus, French citizens will have a say in Notre Dame's reconstruction and Ralph Rugoff picks five artists to watch from his 2019 biennale.

The Saatchi Gallery on London. Photo: © Matthew Booth 2009, courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery.

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 Monday, May 6.


A First Look Inside the US Pavilion – Six of the eight sculptures in Martin Puryear’s show at the US Pavilion, titled “Liberty/Libertà,” were already in progress when the artist was invited (a bit later than usual) to participate in this year’s biennale. Critic Holland Cotter, who visited the artist at his upstate New York studio ahead of the opening, says that it’s a mistake to “try to pin his work down to any one set of sources and influences.” But, if anything, the theme of darkness and light seems to pervade the sculptures on view. Outside the pavilion’s entrance, a large perforated screen blocks the view but lets the light in; obscured behind it is a menacing snake-like spiral. (New York Times)

The French Will Have a Say in Notre Dame’s Reconstruction – France’s culture minister has promised a “debate and large consultation” of the public ahead of any decision about how to proceed with the reconstruction of fire-ravaged Notre Dame. A poll released this week found that 54 percent of respondents say the cathedral should be built exactly as it was; only a quarter said the building should include a modern “architectural gesture.” (AFP)

Saatchi Gallery Covers Up Artworks Deemed Offensive – The London gallery covered up two paintings by the artist SKU after it received complaints from Muslim visitors, who described them as blasphemous. The works included an image of a nude woman (Ingres’s Grande Odalisque, to be exact) overlaid with text of the shahada, one of the pillars of Islam, in the pattern of the American flag. The artist himself suggested the gallery keep the works on view but cover them with sheets as a “respectful solution that enables a debate.” (Guardian)

Did Leonardo da Vinci Have a Paralyzed Hand? – Five hundred years after his death, the new revelations about Leonardo da Vinci keep on coming. A new study suggests that the Renaissance master may have been unable to finish the Mona Lisa after a fainting episode left him with “ulnar palsy, commonly known as claw hand,” according to surgeon Davide Lazzeri, who co-authored the study. Researchers previously believed Leonardo had suffered a stroke late in life, but a new examination of a self-portrait suggests an alternate diagnosis. (Independent)


High-Profile Consignors to May Sales Revealed – The consignors at this month’s megawatt New York auctions include financier David Martinez and Zozo CEO Yosaku Maezawa. At Christie’s, Martinez is selling Double Elvis [Ferus Type] (1963), which carries an estimate of $50 million to $70 million, as well as a rare black painting by Frank Stella, Point of Pines (1959), expected to generate between $25 million and $35 million. Maezawa, meanwhile, revealed on Twitter that he is the seller of works by Warhol and Ed Ruscha at Sotheby’s. (Bloomberg, Bloomberg)

Sotheby’s Opens Expanded Galleries – The auction house has overhauled the galleries in its Upper East Side headquarters with help from Shohei Shigematsu of OMA New York. The large, flexible galleries—the tallest is more than 20 feet high, while the smallest is 350 square feet—will offer a combined two acres’ worth of exhibition space. The galleries debuted last week with highlights from the upcoming May sales. (Press release)

Crunching the Guarantee Figures – Analysts at ArtTactic have analyzed guarantees—a form of financial security offered to sellers—ahead of the May auctions in New York. For this month’s sales, 47 percent ($361.7 million) of the total value of the auctions (based on works’ low estimates) already have guarantees. The artist with the highest guarantee value between 2015 and 2018 is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Andy Warhol, also known as the art market’s one-man Dow Jones. (Financial Times)

Blum & Poe to Co-Represent Harvey Quaytman – The Harvey Quaytman Trust is now co-represented by Blum & Poe in collaboration with New York’s Van Doren Waxter, which has shown the painter’s work since 2016. The late artist, whose made abstract paintings on shaped supports, will be the subject of an exhibition at Blum & Poe in LA this fall. (ARTnews)


Venice’s Accademia Shows Its First Living Artists – German artist Georg Baselitz is the first living artist to have a show in the prestigious halls in Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia. But another, lesser-known living artist has contributed a less conspicuous project, which opens May 12. Called “Aurale: Brusii per Audioguide (Aural: Rumbles for Audioguides),” the show by Italian artist Claudio Beorchia is an audio work made during his three-month residency at the museum. He surreptitiously recorded and observed viewers’ comments as they took in the gallery’s pre-19th century collection. (FT

Collector Ben Heller Dies at 93 – The influential New York collector and early embracer of abstract art (who also happens to be actress Kyra Sedgwick’s stepfather) advised many artists, collectors, and museums. In 1973, the news he had sold Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles to the National Gallery of Australia for $2 million—an astronomical price for a work of art at the time—caused an uproar in the art world and nearly brought down the country’s Prime Minister. (NYT)

Antony Gormley Comes to Delos – Greek authorities have taken the unusual step of commissioning sculptor Antony Gormley to create 29 iron sculptures of bodies that will be installed on Delos, the idyllic, tiny Greek island that is said to be the birthplace of Apollo. Talk about a rare opportunity: No artist has installed work in the open-air archaeological site for more than 5,000 years. The installation closes in October. (Guardian)


Latest Round of Whitney Protests Spotlights Students – The latest round of Nine Weeks of Art and Action, a series of protests led by the activist group Decolonize This Place, was co-organized with student organizations from universities across New York City. The students, who held a series of “teach-ins” in the museum’s lobby last week, said they see a connection between the impact of Whitney board co-chair Warren Kanders, who owns the defense manufacturer Safariland, and board members with controversial business ties at their own institutions. (Hyperallergic)

Thaw in Alaska Threatens Prehistoric Sites – As climate change accelerates erosion and melts permafrost, archeologists and local communities are racing against time to salvage prehistoric sites before they are washed away. In some places in the Arctic, the coastline has receded by more than a mile, erasing the histories of coastal-dwelling communities before they can be discovered and studied. (Art Daily)

Who Will Be the Big Cheeses in Rugoff’s Biennale? – Five artists, all born in the 1980s, are curator Ralph Rugoff’s picks for artists to watch in his 2019 Venice Biennale, which opens on May 9. These include Berlin-based artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan, who works predominantly with sound, and Jill Mulleady, a promising young painter from Switzerland and Uruguay who has made two series of paintings that take as their starting point Edvard Munch’s The Frieze of Life for Rugoff’s split-personality show(TAN)

Curator Will Plant 299 Trees Inside a Stadium – What if trees were so rare they could only be seen at a theme park or zoo? Artist Max Peintner imagined this dystopian vision in a 1970 drawing—and now, Basel-based curator Klaus Littmann wants to bring it to life. He is planting 299 trees at the Wörthersee football stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria, beginning on September 9, to create the country’s largest—and likely most unnerving—art installation. See a preparatory drawing for the project below. (TAN)

The Unending Attraction of Nature, hand-coloured by Klaus Littmann in 2018. Image: Max Peintner


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