Art Industry News: Why the Salvator Mundi Sale Ensures a New Era of Stunt Auctions + More Must-Read Stories

Plus, the European capital of culture’s plans ignite the far right and Monet's glasses sell for more than 30 times their estimate.

A woman holds up a paddle with the likeness of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" at Christie's. Photo courtesy Timothy A. Clary/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 27.


Cancellation of Max Stern Exhibition Stirs Scandal – The mayor of Düsseldorf’s abrupt cancellation of an exhibition about the Jewish art dealer and his collection, which the Nazis forced him to sell, has ignited international controversy. The city says it decided to pull the plug on the Stadtmuseum show because of “restitution claims in connection to Max Stern,” whose art still hangs on public gallery walls. (Globe and Mail)

European Capital of Culture’s Plans Ignite the Far Right – The 2020 European capital of culture—Rijeka, Croatia—wants to restore Josip Broz Tito’s 80 year-old-boat as a symbolic centerpiece of its €30 million plans for cultural regeneration. The initiative has enraged far-right nationalists, who are eager to bury the Yugoslav leader’s Communist ties in favor of reviving the country’s nationalist movement. (New York Times)

How Children Change the Way We Process Art – Rumaan Alam says that you should take your child to the museum—not for her sake, but for your own. Drawing on the ideas of John Berger, Alam notes that children’s sense of wonder gives them a better attention span than most adults in certain situations (and less cell phone addiction). Further, the act of explaining a work to a child can clarify one’s own thinking. (New Yorker)

Suspects Charged in Brazen Botero Theft – Two suspects have been charged in the bronze theft that occurred beside the presidential palace in Paris on November 4. Captured on camera, a man in his 50s has been charged with aggravated theft for pilfering Botero’s Maternity, worth an estimated $490,000. The other suspect is a relative, a lawyer who has been charged with receiving stolen goods. (AFP)


Will ‘Salvator Mundi’ Change the Market? – In the wake of the record Leonardo, some predict that auction houses will race to inject sales with more and more “isolated examples” that fall outside traditional categories. Without them, the experts say, these much-hyped events are destined to become a procession of predictable names sold for predictable prices. (NYT)

Zao Wou-ki Painting Sets a Record – At Christie’s Asian auction in Hong Kong on Saturday, a beige abstract painting titled 29.01.64 by the late Chinese-born, France-based artist Zao Wou-ki sold for HK$202 million (more than $25 million). The sale set a new record for the artist, who died in 2013. (Art Market Monitor)

Monet’s Specs Sell for $51,000 – Claude Monet’s wire-rimmed spectacles were snapped up by an Asian buyer for $51,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong, far above the pre-sale estimate of $1,000–1,500. All told, the sale of the French Impressionist’s personal belongings brought in $11 million. (Straits Times)


Photographer Shahrokh Hatami Dies – The prominent Iranian photojournalist, who covered everything from his country’s revolution to the Beatles’ early days, has died at age 89. (AFP)

Michigan University Museum Names New Director – Christina Olsen, formerly of the Williams College Museum of Art, began her five-year term as director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor earlier this month. (AP)

New Director of Bergen Kunsthall Appointed – Axel Wieder will join the Norwegian institution in February from the Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm. He will take over from Martin Clark, who took up directorship of London’s Camden Arts Center earlier this year. (Press release)


Bid to Save McDonald’s First Burger Bar – A small midwestern community sprung into action after McDonald’s announced plans to demolish “Store No. 1,” a replica of the franchise’s first restaurant built on the site of the original outside Chicago. The Volo Auto Museum has volunteered to look after the building in an effort to save it from the scrap heap. (Art Daily)

Rare Hitler Painting Donated to Dutch Institute – The Dutch national institute for wartime documentation has been given a rare watercolor painting by Adolf Hitler, believed to be the only one in the country. The donor, a woman who did not want it in her home and could not sell it, chose to remain anonymous. Her father had apparently picked it up at a market for 75 cents, not realizing it was the handiwork of the dictator. (AFP)

San Francisco’s ‘Comfort Women’ Statue Upsets Japan – The mayor of Osaka has threatened to cut ties with its twin city San Francisco because of a new memorial to the World War II “comfort women” of occupied Korea, China, and Philippines, who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military. (NYT)

Kehinde Wiley on Painting Michael Jackson – The artist remained tight-lipped about the process of painting Obama’s portrait for the Smithsonian. (He copped to having shot “thousands and thousands” of images of the former president, but then demurred: “I’ve already said too much.”) Wiley did open up about painting Michael Jackson, who had to call the artist multiple times before Wiley believed it was really him. (Guardian)



Gerhard Richter
Untitled (Comic Strip), 1962
To be auctioned at Lempertz Cologne
2 p.m. Saturday, December 2nd
Estimated at €100,000-120,000

In 1962, inspired in part by the work of the great artist and New Yorker illustrator Saul Steinberg, Gerhard Richter created a 145-page “comic book” of his own. Executed in India ink and decorated with fine handwriting, some of it decipherable but most of it merely ornamental, the book recounts the misadventures of a shadowy, broad-hatted protagonist, whose figure is rendered through a series of stamps. The extraordinary result is unlike anything most of Richter’s aficionados have ever seen—an ingenious, witty, and personal treasure from this great artist that is sure to captivate connoisseurs. Lempertz, meanwhile, will also be offering a painting by Richter, Teyde-Landschaft (Sketch) (1971), with an estimate of €800,000-1,000,000.



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