Art Industry News: Did This Museum Just Accidentally Auction Off a Genuine Rembrandt? + Other Stories

Plus, the Marciano Foundation lays off dozens amid a union drive and a sculpture once owned by Robin Williams sets a record in Poland.

Manner of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist. © Christie’s Images Limited 2019

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 6.


Is the Art World Cashing in on Kusama? – What’s behind the unstoppable rise of 90-year-old Yayoi Kusama? The veteran artist’s forthcoming exhibition at David Zwirner is anticipating a staggering 100,000 visitors, while her famous “Infinity Mirror” rooms continue to draw crowds at museums around the globe. While some are lauding the overdue attention to an older Asian female artist who for decades was scrubbed from the history books, others wonder whether the “Kusamania” has gone too far. Skeptics reckon the art world is cashing in on the artist’s popularity to attract visitors who will pay as much as $15 for a mere 60-second view of one of her popular installations. (New York Times)

Marciano Foundation Lays Off Workers Amid Union Drive – The Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles—the private museum established by Guess Jeans founders Maurice and Paul Marciano—has laid off all of its visitor services associates (as many as 60 people), citing low attendance. The move comes just days after dozens of its part-time employees announced a campaign to unionize. Following their departure, the foundation will remain closed to the public “until further notice,” according to a representative. (ARTnews)

Is This Painting Actually by Rembrandt? – Any time an unattributed Old Master sells for many multiples of its presale estimate, onlookers wonder whether it’s because the work might actually be by a famous artist. So when a painting of Rembrandt from the Bass collection in Miami attributed only as having been painted “the manner of Rembrandt” sold for 30 times its estimate at Christie’s New York last week, the rumor mill began churning. Some experts believe the painting, which achieved $675,000 on a $20,000 high estimate, could be by the master himself. But Jan Six, the Dutch art dealer behind a number of Rembrandt discoveries, maintains the work is by the artist’s pupil Isaac de Jouderville. Either way, the Bass is either celebrating its payday or having a bad case of seller’s remorse. (The Art Newspaper)

Australian Collective Decries Treatment of Indigenous Artists – An Australian art collective is sounding the alarm about allegedly abusive treatment of elderly Indigenous artists by unscrupulous art dealers. The group, APY Art Collective, has likened the treatment to “modern-day slavery.” They have written to the premier of South Australia demanding an investigation into allegations that at least three artists were being forced by dealers to pay off family debts by producing new paintings. Sally Scales, who is a member of the Pipalyatjara community, says that once an artist gains a high profile, the “carpetbaggers move in.” (Guardian)


Is Art a Good Investment? – Our executive editor Julia Halperin stopped by Slate’s podcast studio to discuss an evergreen question with host Felix Salmon: Is art really an asset class? The short answer is yes, but only if it fits a number of very narrow criteria. Crucially, art is not a particularly reliable place to invest your money until you are paying around $500,000 per work. (Slate Money)

Phillips Adds a Specialist in Switzerland – Phillips auction house has named Zurich-based art dealer and advisor Lori Specter as its new regional director for Switzerland. Specter will also serve as a senior international specialist in 20th century and contemporary art. (ARTnews)

Chakaia Booker Is Now Represented by Mark Borghi – The New York-based sculptor Chakaia Booker has joined Mark Borghi Fine Art of New York and Bridgehampton. She is best known for monumental works made of discarded construction materials and rubber tires. (Press release)

Robin Williams’s Abakanowicz Sculptures Smash Auction Record – Magdalena Abakanowicz’s installation Caminando, which used to belong to the late actor Robin Williams, sold for more than 8 million Polish zloty ($2.1 million) at auction in Poland. The price, achieved at DESA Unicum in Warsaw on October 29, sets a new record for a work sold at auction in the country. (Press release)


2020 Liverpool Biennial Releases Artists’ List and Concept – The Stomach and the Port is the title of the upcoming biennial, which is scheduled to run from July 11 to October 25. The group show will include American artist Judy Chicago, German painter Jutta Koether, and French artist Camille Henrot, among others, and will focus on the body and non-Western ways of thinking and connecting with the world. (Press release)

National Gallery Announces New Appointments – The recently appointed director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Kaywin Feldman, has filled two senior positions. Elisa Glazer, formerly the chief advancement officer at the Freer/Sackler Galleries, has been named external affairs and audience engagement officer, while Kate Haw, director of the Archives of American Art, will become the museum’s collections, exhibitions, and programs officer. Both begin their new jobs early next year as the new director shifts the museum to better focus on visitor experience. (Washington Post)

Taylor Wessing Prize Winner Announced – The Los Angeles-based photographer Pat Martin has won the London National Gallery’s £15,000 ($19,000) Taylor Wessing Prize. Two of his photographs from a series of portraits of his mother, who struggles with addiction, secured him the award, with judges lauding them as “sensitive, tough, and even humorous.” (Guardian)


LA Artists, Like Everyone Else, Are Worried About Affordability – A new survey carried out by the nonprofit Arts for LA has determined that the number one concern among artists in Los Angeles is gentrification and the rising cost of rent. Out of the 763 artists and 30 policy experts, culture workers, and artist advocates surveyed, 89 percent named housing affordability as a “very serious” concern and 90 percent cited worries about studio prices. (The Art Newspaper)

Guggenheim Plans Gego, Sarah Sze, and Joan Mitchell Shows – Work by the boundary-breaking sculptor known as Gego will fill the rotunda of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in the fall of 2020. The artist fled Nazi Germany as a young woman and settled in Venezuela, where she became a pioneer of geometric abstraction and kinetic art. Other major projects on the agenda: a Sarah Sze survey in the spring of 2021, a major Joan Mitchell show, and presentation of work by the YBA and Turner Prize-winner Gillian Wearing. (Press release)

Maurizio Cattelan Gives the Shirt Off His Back for Charity – Maurizio Cattelan has donated a shirt he made for the opening of the Yuz Museum’s exhibition “The Artist Is Present” to a charity auction to benefit the New York-based nonprofit Mister Artsee, which provides public schools with art supplies. Cattelan curated the exhibition that examines appropriation art, and the shirt riffs on Gucci’s logo (with permission: Gucci was a sponsor of the show). Bidding starts at $10,000 for the one-of-a-kind work, which carries an estimate of $40,000. The sale is live on Paddle8 through Friday. (Press release)

The Founder of Spanx Bought Olivia Newton-John’s Leather Pants – Sometimes a collector and an object are simply meant for each other. Such is the case with the billionaire founder of shapewear company Spanx, Sara Blakely, who has revealed herself as the buyer of the skin-tight black satin leggings worn by Olivia Newton-John during the finale of Grease. Blakely shelled out $162,000 for the pants, which were part of a charity sale of Newton-John memorabilia at Julien’s Auctions that raised $2.9 million for her Melbourne-based cancer center. The legendary leggings are now headed for display at the Spanx headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. (Daily Mail)

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