Art Industry News: Experts Debunk the Theory That Leonardo da Vinci Had a Rare Eye Condition + Other Stories

Plus, a Cambridge college is returning a looted Benin bronze and Yayoi Kusama's balloon takes flight during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Leonardo da Vinci, Self-Portrait (1512-1515). Photo by DeAgostini/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 on this Thursday, November 28. Happy Thanksgiving!


Theory About Leonardo da Vinci’s Sight Defect Is Debunked – Experts have rejected the theory that Leonardo da Vinci had a squint in a new study. The study also refutes the claim that Rembrandt shared the rare eye condition known as exotropia, a type of eye misalignment in which one eye turns outward. “Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Leonardo da Vinci probably had straight eyes,” the researchers concluded in a letter published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. The artists may have had a dominant eye but their artistic genius did not depend on being able to see the world from a unique angle. (CNN)

Collector Gordon Sondland Denies Sexual Impropriety – The art collecting hotel magnate and US diplomat, who is a key witness in President Trump’s impeachment hearings, faces allegations of sexual impropriety. Sondland, who is major museum patron, has denied three women’s claims. One of them, Jana Solis, worked in hotel risk management. She alleges that in 2008 Sondland invited her to his Portland home to evaluate his art collection. On the visit, she says he took off his pants in a pool house and suggested they could “have some fun.” The magazine editor Nicole Vogel said that in 2003 Sondland made indecent proposals when she was seeking investment in a new magazine about Seattle’s arts, culture, and food scene. Sondland says the timing of the allegations has been coordinated “for political purposes.” (ProPublica)

A Cambridge College Will Return its Looted Benin Bronze – Jesus College in Cambridge will return a bronze cockerel, which was looted by the British army in the 19th century, to Nigeria. The sculpture, which was donated to the college in 1905, was removed from display in 2016 after students protested. The master of the college, Sonita Alleyne, backed the restitution recommendation made by its working party on the legacy of slavery. The Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor describes the decision as a “huge step.” He is a member of the Benin Dialogue Group, which includes European and African institutions. Ehikhamenor also called on museums, especially ones in Britain, to follow the college’s example “without any excuses or delays.” (Guardian)


Why David Zwirner Is So Upbeat About the Art Market in Hong Kong The gallerist was surprised and relieved at the commercial success of a Carol Bove solo show in Hong Kong despite the violent anti-government protests. The show sold out within days, with top pieces going for $1 million. “The art market is very much alive and well,” Zwirner says. (ARTnews)

Antiquities Dealer Is Charged With Trafficking Looted Artifacts – The Thailand-based, British, dealer Douglas Latchford has been charged by US authorities with the illicit trade in Cambodian antiquities. Over five decades, numerous antiquities passed through Latchford’s hands that are now in museums and private collections in the US and Europe. In 2013, the Metropolitan Museum of Art returned three pieces of looted art to Cambodia that had been either donated or partially donated by Latchford. (Press release) (NYT) (Arca)


The Performa Prize Is Awarded – The artists Nairy Baghramian and Maria Hassabi have won the McLaren Award at New York’s performance art biennial, Performa. They took the prize for their work, Entre Deux Actes (Ménage à Quatre), a presentation of Hassabi’s slow choreography against the backdrop of Baghramian’s sculptures. The $5,000 prize is funded by the streetwear brand Supreme. (ARTnews)

New President of Monuments Men Foundation – Anna Bottinelli has been named the new president of the Monuments Men Foundation, which focuses on locating and returning artwork and cultural heritage that was looted during World War II. Bottinelli has been with the foundation since 2014, most recently as director of research and a trustee. (Artfix Daily)


Museum Buys a YSL Sunflower Jacket for €382,000 – Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria has purchased a jacket by the designer Yves Saint Laurent for €382,000 ($420,855) at Christie’s Paris. The embroidered piece inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, which was part of YSL’s spring/summer collection in 1988, soared past its upper estimate of €120,000 ($132,029). (Guardian)

See Yayoi Kusama’s Balloon Take Flight at Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade – Yayoi Kusama’s balloon artwork for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has joined the fleet of fun and fancy balloons in this year’s celebrations. The 30-foot-long balloon, which is titled LOVE FLIES UP TO THE SKY, takes the form of a polkadot sun from Kusama’s “My Eternal Soul” paintings. (Artnet News)

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