Art Industry News: Experts Clap Back Against Claims of a Rediscovered da Vinci Drawing, Calling the Image ‘Clumsy’ + Other Stories

Plus, the director of the Liverpool Biennial steps down after clashing with the board and Berlin's top museum job is split into three.

This newly discovered drawing of Jesus is said by some to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Could it be a study for the real Salvator Mundi? Photo courtesy of the Leonardo da Vinci International Committee.

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 Wednesday, November 25.


Liverpool Biennial Director Departs Over Disagreements With Board –In a development emblematic of the unprecedented tensions and challenges facing biennials in the social-distancing era, Fatos Üstek has resigned from her post after 17 months following a dispute with the board of the Liverpool Biennial. The biennial’s chair, Kathleen Soriano, reportedly presented trustees with a letter from staff members this fall outlining concerns about Üstek’s steering of the organization through lockdown. Two trustees, artist Fiona Banner and lawyer Jon Sharples, stepped down in support of Üstek. The organization has appointed Samantha Lackey as interim director while it searches for a replacement. (The Art Newspaper)

Remai Modern’s Legal Saga Comes to an End – The Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission has abandoned its appeal in a gender discrimination case against Gregory Burke, the former CEO of the Remai Modern museum. The announcement brings to an end a five-year-long dispute that led Burke to withdraw from his new role as director of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki after the case went public. Remai Modern has also reached an undisclosed financial settlement with a former employee, but has not admitted any wrongdoing. “I did not settle with the complainant and would not have if I had been party to the proceedings,” Burke said in a statement. (Art Asia Pacific)

That Leonardo Drawing Might Not Actually Be by Leonardo – A scholar’s claim that she had discovered a previously unknown drawing by Leonardo da Vinci that served as the real model for the famous Salvator Mundi has been called into question by other experts. Leonardo expert Pietro C. Marani says he considers the attribution “unlikely,” in part because the composition would not be typical of an artist who draws with their left hand. Professor Andrea De Marchi claims the work could be “categorically excluded even on the basis of a photo alone,” calling it “clumsy and unreliable.” (Finestre sull’Arte)

Berlin’s Top Museum Job Will Now Be Split Into Three – Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütters, has made an important decision for the capital’s state museums: the Nationalgalerie and its five institutions will no longer be helmed by one person. A director will be hired to lead the Old National Gallery and the Friedrichswerdersche Church; one for the New National Gallery and the future Museum of the 20th century; and another will lead the Hamburger Bahnhof. All the institutions had previously been overseen by one director, Udo Kittelmann, who announced he would retire after 12 years. The news follows a major report recommending the disbandment of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which includes these museums in its portfolio. (Press release)


London Heritage Society Warns It Might Sell Its Collection – The Society of Antiquaries in London, located at Burlington House near Piccadilly Circus—the same building as the Royal Academy—complains that has seen a 3,100 percent rent hike since 2012 and warns that it may have to sell parts of its 170,000-work collection and move to stay afloat. According to the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, the institution currently pays around 30 percent of market rent and won’t pay full market rent until 2085. (TAN)

Artnet Auctions’ Select Editions Sale Exceeds Estimates – The editions sale saw strong prices for Banksy (whose Rude Copper achieved $204,000, more than double its low estimate), Roy Lichtenstein (his Reflections on Minerva realized $78,000), and Julian Opie (Yellow Green White Black sold for $33,600). The average value of lots sold exceeded $25,000. Robert Rauschenberg’s Flirt tripled its low estimate after a battle of 24 total bids. (Artnet Auctions)


Masterpieces Return After Getting Stuck in Lockdown – More than 100 masterworks on a prolonged loan from the Israel Museum to the Hangaram Art Museum in South Korea have finally been returned. The works, by artists including Renoir and Monet, were on loan for more than a year after the first shutdown in South Korea meant that few visitors were able to enjoy the exhibition. After the initial loan was extended for two months, a second lockdown grounded flights and forced the loan to be extended a second time. (Times of Israel)

Prom Portraits Win Taylor Wessing Prize – Portraits of disappointed teens who were unable to attend their proms this year won the £15,000 ($20,000) Taylor Wessing Prize. Artist Alys Tomlinson named her black-and-white photos of North London teenagers dressed up for the cancelled school event “Lost Summer.” Speaking about the series, Tomlinson recognizes a “sadness” in the images, but adds, “the kids were really mature and reflective and rationalized what they had been through and were all very hopeful about what they can do and achieve in the future.” (Evening Standard)

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges – The OxyContin-producing pharmaceutical company founded by the Sackler family of art patrons has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges relating to the company’s role in the opioid crisis. During a hearing on Tuesday, Steve Miller, the board chairman of Purdue Pharma, admitted on behalf of the company to paying doctors in an effort to get them to prescribe more drugs and hindering the DEA’s efforts to fight the crisis. Members of the Sackler family, who reached a $225 million settlement to address civil claims against them last month, are not facing criminal charges. (Courthouse News)


Margaret Thatcher’s Hometown Isn’t Sure They Want Her Statue – Residents of Grantham, the English hometown of Maggie Thatcher, are divided on the town’s decision to erect a bronze statue of the divisive former prime minister. It is expected that when the Iron Lady memorial goes up next year, it will be vandalized by those critical of her politics. “If you’re a Conservative,” one resident says, “you want a statue, and you want her recognized. But if you’re not, there’s a lot of people who—not to put a fine point on it—hated her.” (New York Times)

The Mystery Monolith Both Is and Isn’t a John McCracken? – As if the story of an enigmatic Minimalist sculpture randomly appearing in the Utah desert (which may or may not have been placed there by aliens) wasn’t bizarre enough, the gallery of late US sculptor John McCracken, David Zwirner, has thrown a Schrödinger’s cat situation into the mix. As writer Felix Salmon pointed out on Twitter, the gallery is divided over whether McCracken is the author of the mystery work, with the official line being that it is not a McCracken, but head honcho David Zwirner himself telling the New York Times that he believes it is “definitely” by the artist. (Twitter)


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