Art Industry News: Russian Art Collector Tied to Shadowy Payments to Trump’s Lawyer + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, Piers Morgan did not at all enjoy the Met Ball and the School of Visual Arts removes instructors amid misconduct allegations.

Viktor Vekselberg (L) and Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev (R). Photo: ALEXANDER ASTAFYEV/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 this Tuesday, May 9.


Why Artists Love Mexico – Mexico’s contemporary art scene is booming—and now, artists and dealers are taking their show on the road. Over the next few months, they will have major shows in Buenos Aires, Dallas, Saskatoon, and Singapore, as well as a presence at major international fairs like Art Basel. Commentators note that the country’s rich history of Modernism has given rise to a new generation of internationally engaged, outstanding artists. (Financial Times)

Piers Morgan Criticizes Met Gala – Some conservatives and Roman Catholics—including the talk-show host—have taken offense at the Met Gala’s religious theme, deeming the outfits and the Costume Institute’s new show “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” as sacrilege—despite the fact that it had the Vatican’s seal of approval. “This year’s Met Gala crossed a line and was openly, brazenly disrespectful,” Morgan wrote in an op-ed. (SF Gate, Daily Mail)

Russian Art Collector Tied to Michael Cohen Payments  The New York Times has uncovered unreported payments to a shell company used by President Trump’s lawyer—including $500,000 from an investment firm in New York with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. (A lawyer for the firm described it as a “consulting fee.”) Vekselberg also owns a pricey collection of Fabergé Imperial eggs and sued Christie’s in 2010 over its sale of a fake work said to be by the artist Boris Kustodiev. (New York Times)

Art School Removes Instructors After Alleged Misconduct – Two teachers in the film and animation department of Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts have been dismissed after students complained about improper sexual conduct. Robert Haufrecht was suspended in March and his contract will not be renewed, while Roy Frumkes has been suspended pending an appeal over his termination. (NYT) 


Buyer Offers a Surprise Gift to Dakota Tribe – An anonymous buyer recently bought a sacred wooden pipe linked to the US-Dakota War of 1862 at auction for $40,000, despite attempts from The Lower Sioux Indian Community to block its sale. But as it turns out, the buyer—who remains unknown—bought it explicitly to return to the Dakota people in Minnesota. (MPRnews)

LA Gallery Takes a Summer Trip to London – Looking for a more lasting model than the art fair or gallery share, Jenny’s gallery is moving to London for the entire summer. The arrangement allows the gallery to skip the slow pace of LA’s summer season and be closer to the Liste fair and other European events. Jenny’s is also planning to organize a series of exhibitions down the street from Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery. (ARTnews)

Trove of Scottish Colorist Paintings Go on Sale – Around 30 works by the Scottish Colorists could sell for almost $7 million at Sotheby’s in London next month. The works have never been seen by the public. The surviving relatives of collector and Glasgow shipping magnate Major Ion Harrison are behind the sale. (Scotsman)

Samurai Art Expo Launches in the Netherlands  A Japanese art and antiques expo is due to launch in June in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The event will focus on the history of the samurai and bring together art dealers, craftsmen, and swordsmiths (yes, it turns out that is still a job). (Antiques Trade Gazette)


Nicolas Bourriaud to Curate the Istanbul Biennial – The French curator and co-founder of Paris’s Palais de Tokyo will organize the 16th edition of the biennial, which runs from September 14 to November 10, 2019. More details on the program will be revealed this fall, but expect plenty of communal activities. This is, after all, the man who coined the term “Relational Aesthetics.” (Press release)

Austria Picks a Feminist Artist for Venice – The veteran feminist artist Renate Bertlmann, known for her playful and explicit work, vows to take risks when representing Austria at the Venice Biennale. The pavilion will be organized by curator Felicitas Thun-Hohenstein, who leads the department of art and cultural studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. (ARTnews)

Artist and Gallerist Paul Bloodgood Has Died – The artist, teacher, and adventurous gallery owner has died from early onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 58. The founder of AC Project Room, he continued to make art after a violent assault in 2010 resulted in a a brain injury. New York’s White Columns is planning an exhibition of his work this summer. (ARTnews)

Baselitz Gets Venice Honor With Gagosian’s Help – The veteran German artist Georg Baselitz will get a major solo show at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, making him the first living artist to receive the honor. Due to open in May 2019 during the Venice Biennale and supported by Gagosian Gallery, the show will explore the impact of Italy, where Baselitz has a studio, on his work. (Art Daily)


Spencer Tunick Heads Back to Melbourne – The photographer will stage Return of the Nude in Melbourne this July, 17 years after his first mass portrait of naked volunteers in the Australian city. Tunick says the venue, Chapel Street, reminds him of the East Village, Sunset Strip, and Haight-Ashbury “all combined into one juggernaut.” (Concrete Playground)

Marlene Dumas’s New Paintings Get Mythic – Half of the 61 works in the artist’s solo show at David Zwirner in New York were painted in the last three months. The works explore eroticism, power, and violence and are inspired by a copy of Shakespeare’s early poem “Venus and Adonis.” “Maybe for me the most shocking reality around this new body of work is that they’re extremely political by not being overtly political,” Zwirner said. (NYT)

Artist Protest the Decline of Creativity in UK Schools – Around 100 artists including Bob and Roberta Smith, Rachel Whiteread, Mark Wallinger, and Tracey Emin have signed a letter published in the Guardian to protest the exclusion of art and creative subjects from the planned English baccalaureate for secondary school children. (Guardian)

Breuning’s Clouds Cross the Atlantic – Olaf Breuning’s bright blue clouds—last seen at the entrance to New York’s Central Park—have arrived at the Cass Sculpture Foundation in South England. The timing couldn’t be better: New research by Arts Council England has confirmed the rising popularity of sculpture al fresco. Yorkshire Sculpture Park has seen attendance rise from 350,000 to 500,000 over the past three years, while Cass’s has doubled. (Frieze, BBC) ​

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