Art Industry News: Italy’s Far Right Is Using da Vinci Artworks as a Negotiation Weapon + Other Stories

Plus, MoMA PS1's art handlers protest low wages and Ross Bleckner is locked in a legal battle with his lover and former assistant.

The Louvre Museum. Photo by Ludovic Marin/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 Monday, November 19.


MoMA PS1 Union Members Protest “Unfairly Low” Wages – Members of the Local 30 union erected a giant inflatable rat in front of the museum on Sunday to protest its wage policies. The union argues that the rates for installers and maintenance workers are below industry standard and aren’t equal to those of colleagues at MoMA. Negotiations with management to raise wages are ongoing; the next meeting is slated for November 29. A rep for the museum says they are confident they will reach “an amicable resolution.” (ARTnews)

Ross Bleckner Locked in a Legal Battle With His Former Assistant – The New York artist is suing his former assistant and lover, Cody Gilman, for extortion. The pair met through a dating app and lived together for around a month at Bleckner’s home in East Hampton. In a dueling complaint, Gilman, 25, says he was “sexually harassed, coerced, and assaulted” by 69-year-old Bleckner and is seeking $2 million in compensation. The artist claims that any sexual activity was consensual. (Courthouse News)

Italy’s Far-Right Politicians Want to Renegotiate Louvre Loans – The junior culture minister for Italy’s far-right government, the Lega party, has said he wants to renegotiate a deal with the Louvre to loan all of Italy’s Leonardo da Vinci paintings to the museum for a megawatt exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of his death in 2019. Luca Bergonzoni says the terms reached by previous culture minister Dario Franceschini in 2017 were “unbelievable,” arguing that Italy shouldn’t be “on the margins of a major cultural event” and that the country’s “national interest cannot come second.” (AFP)

You Can Buy Hockney’s Childhood Home for a Fraction of His Art – Can’t afford a $90.3 million Hockney painting? You might still be able to buy his childhood home, which is on sale for £140,000 ($180,000) in Bradford, UK. Hockney lived there from ages 4 to 21 and painted portraits of his family in the house before moving to London to attend art school. (BBC)


Will This Drawing Repeat the Controversy Surrounding Salvator Mundi? – A small drawing of Saint Sebastian attributed to Leonardo da Vinci is expected to bring in more than $22.8 million at Paris’s Tajan auction house next June. But the Oxford art historian who also cast doubt on the authenticity of Salvator Mundi, Matthew Landrus, says some of the lines in the drawing appear to be by a “later hand.” (Guardian)

Phillips and Bonhams Find Strength in Middle of the Market – New York’s fall auctions are continuing to rely on sales of smaller lots as several top lots are shunned by buyers. At Phillips, a Jackson Pollock painting estimated at between $18 million and $25 million failed to find a buyer even at the below-estimate level of $17.5 million, and Bonhams also failed to unload a portrait by Max Liebermann. (The Art Newspaper)

Art From 1955 Comic Master Race Sells for $600,000 – Belgium’s Boon Foundation for Narrative Graphic Arts bought the original artwork for the comic from Heritage auctions last Thursday. Artist Bernie Krigstein illustrated the story about an encounter between a Nazi war criminal and a Holocaust survivor, which was developed by publisher William Gaines and writer Al Feldstein. (NYT)


MASS MoCA Extends Sol LeWitt Show Another Decade – To celebrate the long-term exhibition’s tenth anniversary, the Massachusetts museum announced that it will extend its beloved Sol Lewitt show another 10 years. The exhibition, which presents drawings made by the artist over 38 years across 27,000 square feet, will now run until 2043. Now you really have no excuse to miss it. (TAN)

The Launch of Trevor Paglen’s Satellite Is Delayed – SpaceX has put its next launch on hold in order to carry out further inspections. That means that the controversial satellite sculpture Orbital Reflector, created by Paglen in collaboration with the Nevada Museum of Art, will also not launch on schedule. (The work is one of several satellites catching a ride to space on the booster flight.) A new date has not yet been set. Paglen plans to send up a nanosatellite with a sheet of reflective plastic that can be observed from Earth. (Geekwire)

Missing Byzantine-Era Mosaic Is Returned to Cyprus – The art world’s very own Indiana Jones has recovered one of the last missing pieces of the St Mark mosaic, a work of important Byzantine art that was stolen from Cyprus in the 1970s. The 1,600-year-old mosaic, which is now worth around $10 million, was handed back this week by Dutch art investigator Arthur Brand. It had been purchased by a wealthy Monaco family who were unaware it was stolen. (Artdaily)


How the National Gallery of Art Restored Ghost – Experts at the National Gallery of Art had their work cut out for them when they set out to preserve Rachel Whiteread’s monumental Ghost (1990), a cast of a room in a London house. It took employees from nearly every department to preserve the nine-foot-tall by 11.5-foot-wide plaster installation, which consists of 86 plaster panels. The work is part of a 30-year survey of the UK artist’s work on view at the museum until January 13. (TAN)

Could Facial Recognition Help ID Civil War Photographs? – Computer scientist and history buff Kurt Luther has launched a free software program called Civil War Photo Sleuth, which uses facial recognition to identify soldiers from the American Civil War. The technology can identify a face from among 15,000 soldiers by analyzing physical appearance and tagged details such as military rank (which may be evident from the uniform). And the software isn’t confused by beards or sideburns, popular hairstyles at the time. (Daily Mail)

Hirshhorn and SAAM Jointly Acquire Breakout Work by Arthur Jafa – It’s the first joint acquisition between the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The video, Love is the Message, The Message is Death, was one of the most celebrated works of 2016. It was on view in the Hirshhorn’s recently closed exhibition “The Message: New Media Works.” (Press release)

Image: Installation view of Arthur Jafa, “Love is the Message, The Message is Death,” 2016 in “The Message: New Media Works” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Courtesy of Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/ Rome. Photo: Cathy Carver.

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