Art Industry News: Actually, ‘Salvator Mundi’ May Not Be by Leonardo da Vinci After All, Curators at the Prado Say + Other Stories

Plus, academics pen an open letter criticizing BP's sponsorship of the British Museum, and museums get creative in wall texts.

Leondaro da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, ca. 1500. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.
Leondaro da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, ca. 1500. Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

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 on this Thursday, November 11.


Open Letter Criticizes BP Sponsorship at British Museum – Dozens of academics and museum workers have signed an open letter decrying the British Museum’s continued sponsorship by oil giant B.P. and petitioning the institution to rethink the relationship as the deal comes up for renewal. “Refusing further sponsorship from BP would send a strong signal that fossil fuel corporations—like tobacco and arms companies—are no longer welcome in cultural life,” the letter states. (ARTnews)

Museums Look to Outside Voices to Interpret Their Art – Museums seeking to present more inclusive perspectives on their collections have recruited unorthodox contributors to advise on wall texts. The New-York Historical Society, for example, consulted a Central Park carriage driver on a painting of a carriage scene, while Vermont’s Middlebury College Museum of Art invited students to rewrite existing labels to edit out stereotypes and “biases in curatorial writing.” (New York Times)

Prado Museum Downgrades Salvator Mundi – Curators at the Prado have downgraded Salvator Mundi, which was sold at Christie’s in 2017 for $450.3 million as a genuine Leonardo da Vinci (and has not been seen publicly since). The Prado buried its determination in the index of the catalogue for its current exhibition “Leonardo and the Copy of the Mona Lisa,” including Salvator Mundi in the lower category of “attributed works, workshop, or authorized and supervised by Leonardo.” It represents the most critical institutional response to the work since its record-setting purchase by the Saudi culture minister. (The Art Newspaper)

Georgia’s Art Museum Caught Up in Political Clash – Staff at the Shalva Amiranashvili Museum of Fine Arts in Tbilisi, Georgia, say its 139,000-work collection will be at risk if renovations to its 1838 classical building proposed by the country’s culture minister go ahead. There are reports that the government, influenced by the lead investor in the city’s $500 million urban development plan, actually intends to demolish, not refurbish, the building. Preservationists and museum staff are protesting the plan to remove the collection, fearing it may never return. (TAN)


Meet the Buyer of the Latest Beeple – If you read our report on Christie’s 21st century sale on Tuesday, you already know that Swiss venture capitalist Ryan Zurrer was the buyer of Beeple’s hybrid NFT and physical sculpture Human One (2021). So who is Zurrer, exactly? A vocal proponent of NFTs, he is the founder of Swiss venture capital firm Dialectic and Vine Ventures, a fund that invests in companies dealing in psychedelics. His collection includes work by Refik Anadol, Maxim Zhestkov, and Federico Clapis. (ARTnews)

Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art Names New Director – The director of Beirut’s blast-damaged Sursock Museum, Zeina Arida, has been tapped as the next director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar. She will take the helm this month, succeeding Abdellah Karroum. (Artforum)

Morgan Library and Museum Adds New Leadership – New York’s Morgan Library and Museum has tapped Elizabeth Abbarno as director of exhibition and collection management, and historian Jesse Erickson as curator and department head of printed books and bindings. Abbarno previously served as assistant director at the Jewish Museum; Erickson worked in special collections at the University of Delaware. (ARTnews)

U.K. Arts Organizations Get $1 Million for Equity Initiatives – The Freelands Foundation in London has given £800,000 ($1 million) to the Wysing Arts Centre and the University of the Arts London’s Decolonizing Art Institute as part of a $4 million funding drive to address racial inequality in the U.K.’s cultural sector. The funds will support a residency program that will invite 120 artists of color and 30 domestic museums and galleries to collaborate. (Guardian)


Joy Labinjo Unveils New Work for Brixton Station – The British-Nigerian painting sensation has created a new public work for Brixton Underground Station in London. Called 5 more minutes, it depicts the interior of a hair salon, a center of community for the artist, many Black British women, and the surrounding Afro-Caribbean community. (Press release)

Joy Labinjo, 5 more minutes (2021). Brixton Underground station. Commissioned by Art on the Underground. Courtesy the artist and Tiwani Contemporary. Photo by Angus Mill, 2021.

Joy Labinjo, 5 more minutes (2021). Brixton Underground station. Commissioned by Art on the Underground. Courtesy the artist and Tiwani Contemporary. Photo by Angus Mill, 2021.

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