Art Industry News: Is the $450 Million ‘Salvator Mundi’ Sale Very, Very Bad News? + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, another New York dealer is accused of fraud and a forgotten Banksy resurfaces in New Orleans.

A woman takes in the vast and unsettling implications of the Salvator Mundi at Christie's. (TOLGA AKMEN/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 Friday, November 17.


New York Gallery Accused of Duping Clients – Dealer Ezra Chowaiki is accused in several lawsuits filed this week of defrauding clients and collecting payments for works he did not own. He is the president of Chowaiki and Co. Fine Art Ltd., the Park Avenue gallery that filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago. The alleged victims’ attorney estimates that the losses amount to “many millions of dollars.” (Bloomberg)

A Banksy Resurfaces in New Orleans – To coincide with Prospect New Orleans, a real estate developer is unveiling a Banksy that was sprayed on one of his properties after Hurricane Katrina. The piece of wall bearing the stencil, which shows two National Guard officials looting electronics, was removed and conserved—but, as one local says, it still shows off the “patina of New Orleans.” (New York Times)

Times Editorial Board Tackles da Vinci – In a rare art-focused editorial, the New York Times takes on Christie’s record-shattering sale of Salvator Mundi. And they’ve found it more than just a little distasteful. “The price paid for the Leonardo testified to something gone wrong in the balance of value and values,” the editorial board writes. “It reflects a world in which the minute sliver of the obscenely rich see nothing untoward in parking hundreds of millions of dollars on a rare but unexceptional painting that may well spend the next several years in a tax-free storage facility.” (NYT)

Which US Cities Have the Most Artists? – Only about 1.4 percent of employed adults in the US work as professional artists. They are most likely to live in Manhattan, where they represent 7.4 percent of all employed people (and likely a much higher percentage of residents with rent-controlled apartments); San Francisco (4.4 percent of employed people) and Brooklyn (4.1 percent). (Quartz)


Sotheby’s Fails to Sell 37-Carat Diamond – Looks like diamonds are not an auction house’s best friend. The Raj Pink, a 37-carat pink diamond with a $30 million estimated value, went unsold at Sotheby’s, while a blue diamond ring with an $18 million estimate was sold privately immediately after the sale in London. (Bloomberg)

Aboriginal Painting Sells for $1.6 Million – Earth Creation I, a celebrated painting by the late Aboriginal Australian artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye, set a record for a female Australian artist at auction when it sold for £1.2 million ($1.6 million) at Fine Art Bourse. The buyer was Tim Olsen, who recently set up a gallery in New York. (Art Daily)

Toyin Ojih Odutola Repped by Stephen Friedman The Nigerian-born, US-based artist will be represented by London’s Stephen Friedman Gallery. The artist’s solo show of large-scale, fictional portraits is on view now at the Whitney Museum in New York through February 25. (ARTnews)

World Record for Harry Potter First Edition Muggles really know how to spend. A first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, signed by the author JK Rowling, sold for a world-record price of £106,250 ($142,000) at Bonhams in London, more than double its estimate. (Art Daily)


North Carolina Museum Director to Step Down – Lawrence J. Wheeler will retire after 24 years as director of the North Carolina Museum of Art in November 2018. During his tenure, the museum added major works by Rodin, Ellsworth Kelly, and Milton Avery to its collection. (ARTnews)

Zona Maco Taps New Leaders – Independent curator Tania Ragasol and fair co-ordinator Marisol Barbosa have respectively been appointed artistic director and managing director of the Mexico city art fair. (Artforum)

Bard College Announces Curatorial Excellence Award Winner – Lia Gangitano of the Lower East Side nonprofit space Participant Inc took home the 2018 Audrey Irmas Award, which comes with a $25,000 prize. The curator will join the ranks of previous winners Kasper König, Nick Serota, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. (ARTnews)

Tavares Strachan Joins RISD Board – The multidisciplinary artist will join the Rhode Island School of Design board for a three-year term through May 2020. Meanwhile, the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Boston announced Strachan as one of five new appointments to its advisory committee. (Press release)


‘Downton Abbey’ Show Comes to New York – Do you miss “Downton Abbey”? Never fear: A dedicated exhibition, full of recreations of the lush sets, will open on Saturday in a Victorian-era building in Manhattan (through January 2018). As Louis Bayard notes, “It gives ‘Abbey’ addicts both the short-term injection they need, and the reassurance that nothing from their favorite show has ever been thrown away. (NYT)

SITE Santa Fe Announces 2018 Details – The curatorial team for the 2018 edition of the SITElines biennial will include LACMA special projects curator José Luis Blondet, independent curator Candice Hopkins, and MoMA PS1’s Ruba Katrib, with MCA Chicago’s Naomi Beckwith serving as an advisor. The exhibition runs August 3–January 6, 2019 and focuses on art from the Americas. (ARTnews)

A New Gaudí Museum Comes to Barcelona – Casa Vicens, the first home designed and built by Gaudí, opened to the public as a museum yesterday. The 19th-century building is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and has undergone a three-year, €4.5 million restoration. (The Art Newspaper)

Watch Out For Dragonfly Men in Shanghai – Work by the Chinese artist Li Shan is on view at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art until November 26. Among the art that might give you nightmares is Deviation (2017), a swarm of 60 half-human, half-dragonfly sculptures that considers the potential of gene splicing to create new lifeforms. The human halves are cast from the artist’s own body—although a carefully placed loincloth leaves some things to the imagination. (ArtAsiaPacific)

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