Art Industry News: The Secret Buyer of Yoko Ono’s Basquiat Is Revealed + Other Stories

Plus, Austria admits to restituting a Klimt to the wrong family and a museum in London is accused of taking Saudi "blood money."

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Cabra (1981-82). ©2017 The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris/ARS.

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 Wednesday, November 14.


The Natural History Museum Is Accused of Accepting Saudi Blood Money – London’s Natural History Museum is under fire for accepting £23,700 ($30,700) to host a Saudi Arabia Day reception for the Saudi embassy last month, just over a week after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The government-sponsored museum, which will receive £176.9 million ($228 million) in grants between 2016 and 2021, has received heavy criticism in response to hosting the commercial event. Many are calling the revenue “blood money,” and a member of parliament says that “contractual obligations and commercial necessity do not let organizations… off the hook.” (Guardian)

Fearless Girl’s SHE Fund Is Bad at Promoting Female-Run Stocks – State Street Global Advisors installed the defiant statue in front of the Charging Bull on Wall Street last year in part to promote SHE ETF, its gender-lens portfolio. Now the initiative has been rated “mediocre at best” across a dozen indicators measuring commitment to gender diversity and balance in leadership, management, and workforce. The fund ranked 222nd out of 540 peer funds, according to a new online tool called Gender Equality Funds that was released by a shareholder advocacy group. (Impact Alpha)

The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Bought Yoko Ono’s Basquiat – The Louvre Abu Dhabi is now showing Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Cabra (1981-82), which Ono sold for $11 million at Sotheby’s New York in November last year. (She gave a chunk of the sale’s windfall to the Part of the Spirit Foundations, which she founded with her late husband, John Lennon.) A wall text at the museum has revealed the buyer, who was not identified at the time of the sale, to be the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. (ARTnews)

Austria Admits Klimt Restitution Mix-Up – Some 18 years ago, the Austrian government returned Gustav Klimt’s Apple Tree II (1916) to the heirs of its Jewish owners, from whom it was taken during the Nazi era. Now it appears that the government confused it with another Klimt, Roses Under Trees (1905), which currently hangs in the Musée d’Orsay. Provenance research reveals that Apple Tree II, currently owned by the Fondation Louis Vuitton, should have been restituted to the heirs of a different Jewish family. The painting has been pulled from view in an exhibition at the Leopold Museum until the dispute can be resolved. (The Art Newspaper)


New York’s Auction Week Features Work Ebsworth Pledged to a Museum – Christie’s sale of the Barney Ebsworth collection included Edward Hopper’s Chop Suey (1929), but the collector promised the work among 65 others to the Seattle Art Museum in 2007. The museum and auction house are keeping silent on the change in trajectory of the valuable collection, but the Seattle Times has a few theories about what might have happened. (Seattle Times)

Pace Gallery Teams Up With Christo – The gallery is presenting a series of five works by the celebrated artist at Art Basel Miami Beach this year. The works on paper relate to Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s “Surrounded Islands” series from the early 1980s. Pace is also organizing a major exhibition of their work in New York in 2020. (ArtFix Daily)

Instagram’s “Young Thug as Paintings” Is Coming to Basel – The Atlanta rapper Young Thug is the subject of an exhibition debuting at the SCOPE art fair titled “Young Thug as Paintings.” The show, inspired by a popular Instagram account of the same name by the Netherlands-based photographer Hajar Benjida, “pays homage to the cultural capital of Thug” by juxtaposing photographs of the rapper with classical paintings. (Complex)


Changes in EXPO Chicago’s Top Ranks – Founding editor-in-chief of The Seen and former EXPO director of programming Stephanie Cristello has been promoted to artistic director for the Chicago fair. Kathleen Rapp, who has been working for the fair for eight years, has been appointed managing director of VIP relations; Jeff Rhodes, a specialist in art fair logistics and operations, has been appointed managing director of operations and exhibitor relations. The indefatigable Tony Karman remains president and director of the fair. (ARTnews)

M+ Museum Establishes the Sigg Prize – Hong Kong’s preeminent center for contemporary art has created a new prize recognizing outstanding artistic practices in the Greater China region. The award inaugurates in March 2019; the winner will receive a cash prize of HKD500,000 ($63,830), and the five other shortlisted artists will each receive HKD100,000 ($12,770). (Press release)

New York Public Library Acquires Archive of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee – The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library has acquired the full archive of the activist-actor couple Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Spanning eight decades, the archive encompasses their careers, personal relationships, as well as their activities in the civil rights movements, including correspondence with Malcolm X. (Art Daily)


UK Museums Fundraising Efforts Fall Short – The closing of several major fundraising campaigns at 15 government supported institutions, including the British Museum and the Tate, shows that self-generated income has hit its lowest level since 2014. A government review concluded that obstacles to maximizing this income were outdated buildings, fluctuating visitor patterns and a dearth of commercially-focused staff. Donors and sponsors are also loathe to make up for cuts to government grants, and usually want to support visible projects, such as new galleries. (Arts Professional)

Germany Injects €140 Million Into Its Culture Budget – The federal government plans to spend €140 million ($158 million) more in 2019 on cultural projects, especially outside of the country’s major hubs. Up to €40 million ($45 million) will be dedicated to monument conservation and €3.5 million ($3.9 million) will go towards digitization within cultural and media fields. (Monopol)

Tomas Saraceno Installs Giant Orbs in a Baroque Church – The Argentinian artist has unveiled an epic installation called Aerocene in Karls Church in Vienna. Two larger-than-life, half-transparent, half-reflective spheres float overhead in the gilded cupola of the 300-year-old cathedral. The new project will be in place for a year, and is the first of the ambitious series to be installed indoors. (Monopol)

Aerocene by Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno on display at the Karlskirche church in Vienna, Austria. Photo: GEORG HOCHMUTH/AFP/Getty Images.

Aerocene by Argentinean artist Tomas Saraceno on display at the Karlskirche church in Vienna, Austria. Photo: GEORG HOCHMUTH/AFP/Getty Images.

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