Art Industry News: Leveraged-Buyout Tycoon Leon Black and His Wife Debra Give MoMA $40 Million + Other Stories

Plus, a previously unknown—and saucy—fresco is discovered in Pompeii and a Houston museum director makes a surprise move.

Debra Black and Leon Black. Photo Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan.

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, November 20.


A Dutch Seascape Painting Returned to Heirs of Max Stern – The Düsseldorf auction house Hargesheimer Kunstauktionen has restituted an 18th-century painting by Johannes Hermanus Koekkoek to the estate of the Jewish art dealer Max Stern, who was forced to flee Nazi Germany. Auctioneer Frank Hargesheimer decided to return the work as a “moral duty” even though he was not legally obligated, and compensated the consignor of the painting. Storm at Sea is the 18th work recovered by the Max Stern Restitution Project, set up by the three universities to which Stern bequeathed his collection. (The Art Newspaper)

Stop Cheering for Record-Setting Auctions, Critic Says – After David Hockney’s Portrait of an Artist (Pool With Two Figures) (1972) made more than $90 million at Christie’s last week, the Post’s art critic Philip Kennicott explores why he and his fellow critics hate it when art sells for stratospheric prices. “There goes the neighborhood,” he writes, likening the way the market can alienate art lovers from what was once “accessible common property” to the phenomenon of gentrification. (Washington Post)

The Blacks Give $40 Million to MoMA’s Expansion – The museum’s board chair, Leon Black, and his wife, Debra, announced plans to donate $40 million to MoMA’s ongoing expansion project last night at its annual film benefit gala. To honor the donation, MoMA is creating the Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center over two floors of the building. “As a lifelong lover of film, my family and I are honored to have our name associated with the Film Center of this great institution,” Black, the founder of Apollo Global Management, said in a statement. The gift is the latest in a string of eight- and nine-figure gifts to the museum’s ambitious capital project. (New York Times)

Sexy Fresco Discovered in a Pompeii Bedroom – Archaeologists have discovered a saucy fresco in an ancient bedroom while working on ruins in Pompeii. The “sensual” work depicts the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan. As the site is not open to the public, the director of Pompeii Archeological Park, Massimo Osanna, says he is considering relocating the work to a place where it “can be protected and shown.” (Guardian)


Acquavella Is Launching a Podcast, Too – Acquavella Galleries has become the latest art dealership to launch a podcast series. This one is called The Picture: Conversations with Acquavella Galleries. It will feature Acquavella family members, directors, as well as curators, art historians, and artists—all with an introduction by new hire Philippe de Montebello. The first episode, which premiered this month, is a conversation between Bill Acquavella and author David Dawson about their friend, the artist Lucian Freud. (Press release)

Ex-Houston Museum Director Becomes a Gallerist – The former director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Bill Arning, is joining Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art in Houston. He will be curator and artist liaison for special projects. Arning was snapped up as soon as he made the surprise announcement in October that he was stepping down from the museum after nine years at the helm. (PaperCity)

LACMA Gets a Jonas Wood Trove – The Los Angeles museum has received Wood’s 24-panel Tennis Court Drawings from donors Masahiro and Yoshimi Maki. The collectors will exhibit the work in Tokyo during 2020 Summer Olympics at their new private museum before donating the promised work to LACMA by 2025. (Unframed)


First Glimpse Inside the Revamped Ford Foundation HQ – After a two-year, $205 million revamp of the foundation’s New York headquarters is almost complete. Rechristened the Ford Foundation for Social Justice, it includes a public art gallery, abstract tapestries by Sheila Hicks, and a Dan Kiley-designed garden. (NYT)

Helsinki’s Ateneum Names New Director – The Finnish National Gallery has named Marja Sakari as its new director. She moves to the Ateneum Art Museum from the nearby Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, where she served as chief curator of exhibitions. (Art Daily)

Virginia MOCA Announces New Executive Director – Gary Ryan has been named the director of the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach. She heads there in January, having previously served as interim director of the Katonah Museum of Art in upstate New York. (ARTnews)


Gavin Turk Arrested at Climate-Change Protest – The British artist Gavin Turk was among 82 people arrested on Saturday as thousands of demonstrators staged a coordinated occupation of five London bridges. The event, organized by Extinction Rebellion, aimed to compel governments to take action on climate change. Turk was detained for a few hours and then released. “It was an incredibly peaceful demonstration,” he said. (Guardian)

Judy Chicago Will Bring Feminist Fireworks to Miami – Chicago is bringing an updated version of her 1968 feminist pyrotechnics Atmospheres to South Florida to coincide with her survey at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami. Meanwhile, Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami is presenting photographs documenting the original firework performance, which was held in Pasadena. (Vulture)

How the Guggenheim Restored its Early Internet Work – John F. Simon, Jr.’s pioneering internet work, Unfolding Objecthas been conserved by the Guggenheim, which commissioned the piece in 2002. Simon used code that is now obsolete, making the work inaccessible to today’s browsers. The code has now been migrated with the help of NYU students. (Guggenheim Blog)

Eric Yahnker Satirizes the Cult of Celebrity – The cast of Friends, Ivanka and Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin rub shoulders in Yahnker’s new work on view at The Hole gallery in New York. The Southern California-based Yahnker calls himself a “40-something, Jewish, West Coast progressive artist and political satirist, who not only deems himself a red, white, and blue-blooded patriot, but is also a newly-minted father to a badass little girl that I’ll have to one day tell the story of Trump to (without vomiting).” (Press release)


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