Art Industry News: Only Art Fairs Can Solve the Gallery Crisis, Says a New York Times Op-Ed + Other Stories

Plus, the Prado secures funding for its ambitious expansion and the untold story of how Salvator Mundi resurfaced in the US.

It's not easy getting out of bed during an art-fair week. An artwork by Eva Kot'atkova at the 2018 opening of miart in Milan. (Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/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 Wednesday, September 19.


Prado Secures Government Funding for Expansion – The Spanish government has pledged more than €30 million over four years to expand its national museum; the Prado will be tasked with raising an additional €10 million. Architects Norman Foster and Carlos Rubio are designing the expansion, which will give the gallery 27,000 additional square feet of exhibition space. (El País)

How Salvator Mundi Ended Up in the US – New information has surfaced about the 50 years the $450 million Leonardo painting spent in obscurity in the US. An unwitting family in Louisiana, the Hendrys, lived with the painting for decades without knowing its true worth. The family’s patriarch inherited the work from his aunt, Minnie Stanfill Kuntz, who with her husband is likely the mysterious Kuntz buyer who purchased the work from Sotheby’s London in 1958 for £45 (around $120). In 2005, the Hendrys sold the painting for $10,000 to two Old Masters dealers, Robert Simon and Alexander Parrish, who pushed for its re-authentication. (Wall Street Journal)

A Call to Arms to Stop the Gallery Crisis – In a new op-ed making waves in the art world, the University of Amsterdam sociology professor Olav Velthuis has taken to the New York Times to sound an alarm bell about the gallery crisis—“Now that the new art season has begun, one question on everyone’s mind is: How many more galleries will close by next summer?”—and to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the art fairs for changing the nature of the business in a way that prices out small-to-midsize galleries. He also says that “fairs are in a unique position to break the current deadlock,” by following the example set by Art Basel in announcing a sensible tiered pricing system and by relaxing their criteria of only including brick-and-mortar galleries. This is not enough though: Velthuis says there should also be safeguards to protect smaller galleries when ascendent blue-chip operations poach their stars. (New York Times)

Pussy Riot Member Was Probably Poisoned – Doctors in Berlin have concluded that it is highly likely that Pyotr Verzilov was poisoned after drug tests came through negative. The Charité clinic, where the activist was airlifted after falling ill in Russia, has been unable to identify the substance or the source of the poison. The attending doctor says “it might have been medicines or some natural causes,” but is confident Verzilov will recover. (The Art Newspaper)


Victors in the Financial Crisis Are Opening Museums – Billionaire Mitchell Rales scooped up Jeff Koons’s monumental flower sculpture Split-Rocker during the 2008 financial crisis, along with 50 other works by artists including Cy Twombly, Brice Marden, and Yayoi Kusama. Other active buyers at the time included Eli Broad, Leon Black, Paul Allen, Bernard Arnault, Dmitry Rybolovlev, and members of Qatar’s royal family. Many went on to open private museums, showcasing works that probably wouldn’t have come up for sale if not for the credit crunch forcing desperate collectors to part with their treasures. (Bloomberg)

Carpenters Workshop Expands to San Francisco – The design gallery will open its 9,000-square-foot space inside the city’s newly renovated former Saint Joseph’s Church on October 1. The inaugural show will feature a chandelier by Studio Drift among other functional sculptures by Wendell Castle, Nacho Carbonell, and Johanna Grawunder. (ARTnews)

Tiffany Lamp Sells for $200,000 – The newly opened Andrew Jones Auctions in Los Angeles sold a Tiffany Studios drophead Dragonfly lamp in its inaugural sale for $200,000, far overshooting the object’s $40,000 to $60,000 pre-sale estimate. All told, the sale was 99 percent sold by lot. (Artfix Daily)


David Adjaye Will Design Princeton’s New Art Museum – The star architect has been tapped to design a large new art museum for the New Jersey university. Adjaye’s plan includes exhibition and office space, art conservation facilities, and several object-study classrooms. The school’s current museum is expected to close in 2020 for about three years while the new facility is built. (ARTnews)

Pinault Family Acquires Fashion Brand Courrèges – Majority shareholders Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting have sold their stake in the late designer Andre Courrèges‘s brand to the Pinault family’s holding company, Artémis, which previously owned just 30 percent of the company. Earlier this year, Christina Ahlers, a former executive of the Swedish brand Acne, was hired as general manager to revive the company. (Le Monde)

For the First Time, the Frick Invites a Living Artist In – The British artist Edmund de Waal will create eight new porcelain works to populate the historic galleries of the Frick next May. His project marks the first time a contemporary artist has been invited to show work in the Upper East Side museum’s pristine galleries. (TAN)

African Art Scholar Mary Nooter Roberts Has Died – Roberts, who helped redefine the way non-Western art was curated in Western museums, died on September 11 from breast cancer at age 59. From 2011 onward, Roberts was a consulting curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where she established its first gallery for African art. (NYT)


Meet Damien Hirst’s Favorite Taxidermists – A new book traces the rise of Dutch taxidermist duo Jaap Sinke and Ferry van Tongeren, who have become darlings of the interior design world. Damien Hirst, who knows his way around taxidermy, even bought the pair’s entire collection in 2015. The 304-page volume, “Our First Book,” will be released in late September. (LA Times

Artist Pauses Her Show After Museum Director’s Firing – Artist lauren woods (who spells her name in lower case) has halted her installation about police brutality, American Monument, which was set to open this past Sunday at the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach. Six days before the show, the museum’s director Kimberli Meyer was fired. Meyer had been woods’s key collaborator on the project—and so, in a surprise move, she released a statement and turned off the records that were set to play audio clips related to 25 deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. (Hyperallergic)

Tracing the History of Blue – A new exhibition at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem explores the history of the color blue and its significance in the ancient Near East. It also recounts how an unlikely crew of researchers came together a decade ago to identify the particular blue hue mentioned 49 times in the Bible. (Los Angeles Times

20,000 Schools Get Artist-Designed Political Posters – Street artist Shepard Fairey is part of a group of artists who have been commissioned by the nonprofit Amplifier to design political posters for schools. Their portraits of youth activists will be sent to roughly 20,000 classrooms in 1,000 school districts across the 50 states for the project “We The Future.” (Observer)

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