Art Industry News: California’s Easy Fire Destroys a Historic Midcentury Architectural Gem + Other Stories

Plus, LACMA plans ambitious collaborations with museums in Asia and the Middle East and why fractional art ownership is a bad idea.

A firefighter looks on as homes burn and wind blows embers during the Hillside Fire in the North Park neighborhood of San Bernardino, California on October 31, 2019. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
A firefighter looks on as homes burn and wind blows embers during the Hillside Fire in the North Park neighborhood of San Bernardino, California on October 31, 2019. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP) (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via 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 Wednesday, October 31. Happy Halloween!


Paris Will Build an Outpost for the Grand Palais During Renovations – Rest easy, French art lovers! While the major museum is closed for a three-year renovation beginning in 2021, an outpost near the Eiffel Tower will serve as a temporary exhibition space. As the Grand Palais undergoes construction in the run-up to the Paris Olympics in 2024, the so-called Grand Palais Éphémère will host cultural and art events for the interim. The institution’s culture chief, Chris Dercon, says that the Grand Palais will also use its itinerancy as an opportunity to collaborate with other Paris-based organizations like the Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac and UNESCO. (The Art Newspaper)

A Fight Over a Diamond Puts Christie’s in the Crosshairs – A trial kicking off this week in New York pits an Italian family against Christie’s. Some members of the family have accused the auction house of selling the Princie diamond—a pink, 34.65-carat gem valued at $40 million—despite accusations that it had been stolen by their stepbrother. The diamond was purchased by Sheikh Jassim Bin Abdulaziz Al-Thani of Qatar, who is the husband of Sheikha al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the chairwoman of the Qatar Museums. Christie’s maintains it had the authority to sell the diamond, and describes the current battle as an “inheritance dispute among family members.” (New York Times)

California Wildfires Destroy an Architectural Gem  The Getty Center may be safe—for now—from the ongoing California fires, but a new blaze, named the Easy fire, ripped through Ventura County yesterday, edging close to the Reagan Presidential Library before firefighters fought back the flames. A beloved midcentury Modern home designed by architect Craig Ellwood was not so lucky. Called the Zack House, the 1952 hillside home has been reduced to charred rubble, as seen in images captured by photojournalist Christian Monterrosa. Historian Alan Hess called it a “real loss to the architectural heritage of Los Angeles.” (LA Curbed, NYT)

LACMA Teams Up With the Yuz and Qatar – Speaking of Qatar, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is continuing plans for ambitious international collaborations with its announcement that it will jointly develop and share exhibitions and programs with the Yuz Museum Shanghai and Qatar Museums. The inaugural shared exhibition, “In Production: Art and the Studio System,” will explore how the production of studio art and film have evolved over the past 20 years. The museums will also share upcoming shows of work by Zhang Daqian and Yoshitomo Nara. (Artforum)


Meet the Longest-Serving Man in the Art Fair Business Over the past 40 years, 80-year-old Sanford Smith has produced a whopping 130 art fairs. And in that time, he’s amassed quite the collection of antiques, design objects, Modernist painting, and furniture, including Thornton Dial works he picked up for about $100 a pop when he launched the Outsider Art Fair in 1992. His next fair, Salon Art + Design, returns to New York’s Park Avenue Armory next month for its eighth edition. (New York Times)

The Problem With Fractional Art Ownership – Heads turned when, in 2018, the start-up Maecenas sold 31.5 percent of an Andy Warhol work via cryptocurrency for $1.7 million. However, fractional ownership has yet to really take off in the art market—and for good reason. “The high prices are for a tiny fraction of works, and to imagine that all art is a good investment is simply wrong,” Georgina Adam writes. “The lack of homogeneity between different artworks is another obstacle and a Warhol can be worth ten, or 100, depending on a number of factors: art is not a fungible asset like gold or stocks.” (TAN)

Independent Teams Up With Object and Thing – OBJECT & THING, New York’s affordable art and design fair that debuted earlier this year, will be back for a second edition in May, but first, it will have a booth of its own at the Independent in March. Founder Abby Bangser and artistic director Rafael de Cárdenas will curate a presentation featuring work from galleries including R & Company, Salon 94 Design, and Friedman Benda—the first time design galleries have had a presence at the Independent. “There is a natural synergy between OBJECT & THING and Independent,” said Bangser, citing the fairs’ “supportive commercial environment for galleries.” (Press release)


Cooper Hewitt Names Board Chair – The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York has appointed Jon Iwata as chair of its board of trustees, taking over for Elizabeth Ainslie. Iwata is a veteran of IBM, where, before his retirement last year, he served as chief brand officer, leading the company’s global communications arm. He’s served on Cooper Hewitt’s board since 2014. (Artforum)

GES-2 Complex Gets an Opening Date – The Russian billionaire Leonid Mikhelson’s Renzo Piano-designed contemporary art center in Moscow, GES-2, is opening in September 2020. The vast complex is a redesign of a turn-of-the-century power plant that includes exhibition halls, a theater, a concert hall, and a workshop space. (TAN)

Abstract Painter Matthew Abbot Dead at Age 54 – The English painter, whose compositions incorporate labyrinthine images with numeric titles that are both confounding and poetic, died earlier this month. Although he was born in London, Abbott was based in New York and was represented by the Lower East Side’s LMAKgallery, where his most recent show was held in 2016. (ARTnews)


Rothko Chapel Reopening Delayed – When renovations began on Houston’s Rothko Chapel in February, the space was expected to reopen at the end of this year. But engineers found that there isn’t any steel reinforcement in the structure’s concrete masonry walls, a precaution against hurricane-force winds that is now required due to changes in local building codes since the chapel was first built. Rectifying the situation will cost an extra $1.1 million and take an extra four months, pushing the reopening back to late spring 2020. (TAN)

Researchers Examine the Science Behind Pollock’s Abstract Style – Scientists at Brown University’s School of Engineering analyzed the action painting of Jackson Pollock by watching videos of him at work and recreating the effect using a syringe to distribute the paint onto a canvas laid flat from various heights and angles. From their research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, the scientists noted that although Pollock’s style is often called a “drip” technique, that’s actually a misnomer, since his paint application was more continuous and less splattered than the word implies. His paintings lack what is called coiling instability, which is evident when a fluid is poured. (CNN)

That Salvator Mundi Coming to Italy Is a Copy by an Artist – Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, director of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Turin, Italy, has been hinting that the museum was poised to show Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, unseen since its record-breaking $450 million auction in 2017. Instead, it’s a tiny copy by German-Turkish artist Taner Ceylan, who previously recreated Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo’s 1901 painting Il Quarto Stato (The Fourth Estate) for Christov-Bakargiev’s 2015 Istanbul Biennial. (Press release

Taner Ceylan’s take on the famous painting. Image: Antonio Maniscalco, courtesy Castello di Rivoli,

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