Art Industry News: Scholars May Have Uncovered the Sad Truth About Leonardo da Vinci’s Legendary Lost Masterpiece + Other Stories

Plus, the Baltimore Museum's curators defend the institution's controversial sell-off and one lucky man got Machu Picchu all to himself.

Peter Paul Rubens, Copy after the Battle of Anghiari by Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1603). Collection of the Louvre Museum.

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, October 14.


Baltimore’s Curators Respond to Deaccessioning Controversy – Curators at the Baltimore Museum of Art have defended the institution’s controversial decision to sell works by Clyfford Still, Brice Marden, and Andy Warhol to free up funds for equity initiatives, including “free admission to all exhibitions; providing evening hours; DAEI programs to restructure the museum’s staffing; and salary equity across the institution.” In a joint op-ed, curators Asma Naeem and Katy Siegel write that viewing the decision as opportunistic betrays a “fundamental misunderstanding—or rejection—of the equity-based vision” that underpins it. “Equity and diversity make history fairer, more accurate, and more meaningful in the present,” they write. (The Art Newspaper)

This Lucky Tourist Got a Personal Tour of Machu Picchu – The world-famous heritage site—which has been closed for months—opened up for just one special visitor last week. The local tourism authority made the exceptional decision for a Japanese tourist who has been stranded in the country since March after restrictions on travel indefinitely extended what was meant to be just a three-day trip. The lucky tourist, Jesse Katayama, has shared images and videos of the “super special opportunity” on social media, calling the once-in-a-lifetime moment “truly amazing.” (Courthouse News)

Did Leonardo’s Lost Masterpiece Ever Exist? – Leading art historians claim that the reason no one has ever found Leonardo da Vinci’s “lost masterpiece” The Battle of Anghiari is because it never existed. While some believe that the artist’s version of famous scene—which exists only as preparatory studies as well as in a famed copy by Peter Paul Rubens—is hidden behind a wall in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, a group of historians presented evidence at a roundtable last week that suggests that the painting technique Leonardo had planned for the fresco would not have worked. “Since the process to prepare the wall was not successful, Leonardo never painted on it,” art historian Francesca Fiorani argued. “This means that Leonardo’s battle existed only as a cartoon, never as paint on a wall.” (ARTnews)

EU Agrees to Common Travel Guidelines – Attention, art-industry travelers: EU countries have approved a series of new guidelines aimed at facilitating movement across the bloc. Member states agreed to provide public-health data to Europe’s Center for Disease Control, which will be used to create a color-coded map based on the test positivity rate. Those traveling to or from “green” areas will be permitted to move freely. Those traveling from “red” or “orange” areas may be subject to quarantines or mandatory testing. (Courthouse News)


What Art Collectors Bought During Lockdown – Not even a global shutdown can stop determined collectors from buying art. Among the most popular emerging artists entering top collections, according to an ARTnews survey, is Gisela McDaniel, whose work was acquired by Michael Ovitz, Darlene and Jorge M. Pérez, and Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani. São Paulo-based collectors Andrea and José Olympio Pereira recently began buying the work of Jaider Esbell (Makushi), an Indigenous artist based in the northern Brazil city of Boa Vista. (ARTnews)

Rediscovered Van Dyck Heads to Auction – Christie’s Old Masters sale on Thursday will include Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Lucretia from the Brooklyn Museum and Hendrick ter Brugghen’s Ill-Matched Lovers from the collection of billionaire banker Joseph Safra. A new addition to the offerings is a rediscovered 17th-century portrait by Dutch painter Anthony van Dyck. Portrait of John VIII, Count of Nassau-Siegen is expected to sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million. (Art Market Monitor)


The Getty Acquires Cache of Dutch Drawings – The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired 39 Dutch drawings by artists including Rembrandt van Rijn, Jacob Ruisdael, and Gerrit van Honthorst, as well as an early Dutch watercolor by Piet Mondrian from 1901. “This major acquisition dramatically enhances our Dutch drawings collection, increasing it by a third, and placing it among the most important museum holdings in the United States,” says the Getty Museum’s director Timothy Potts. (Press release)

Performing Art Spaces Lobby New York to Reopen – The directors of the Park Avenue Armory and The Shed are among several large performing arts organizations lobbying New York to allow them to resume indoor shows for socially distanced audiences. The venues are pushing for state regulators to consider the architectural advantages that allow them to adapt more easily to social distancing than traditional theaters. (New York Times)

Photographer Chris Killip Has Died – The influential British documentary photographer has died at 74 after a battle with lung cancer. Killip was best known for his important work capturing industrial decline in England’s North-East in the 1970s and ’80s. (Guardian)


Columbus Museum of Art Lays Off 39 – The Columbus Museum of Art has cut 39 positions and carved out 30 percent from its $12.7 million annual budget to counteract a lockdown-induced shortfall. The staff reductions—a combination of retirements, voluntary departures, layoffs, open positions left unfilled, and furloughs—amount to a 31 percent cut to the museum’s full-time staff. (Columbus Business First)

Shutdown Threatens Program Offering Art Classes in Lieu of Jail Time – Project Reset, the New York City program that allows minor offenders to take an art course in lieu of jail time and a court appearance, is in danger of shutting down after the city council slashed its budget for next year. The program, co-sponsored by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the New York Police Department, has helped thousands who were arrested on minor offenses. (Hyperallergic)

This Adorable Tiger Picture Wins the Wildlife Photo of the Year Award – Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov has won the wildlife photographer of the year award for an image of a tiger hugging an ancient Manchurian fir tree in a forest deep in Siberia. Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who is a patron of the Natural History Museum in London, which runs the award, announced Gorshkov’s image as the winner. (Guardian)

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