Art Industry News: Sotheby’s Is Selling the U.S. Constitution in Its Contemporary Art Evening Sale for Some Reason + Other Stories

Plus, Mexico moves to halt a German sale of pre-Colombian artifacts and the new director of the Musée d'Orsay lays out his vision.

The Official Edition of the Constitution, the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution. Photo Credit: Ardon Bar-Hama

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 Monday, September 20.


Mexico Attempts to Halt German Sale of Artifacts – The Mexican government is trying to block a sale in Munich of 74 pre-Colombian artifacts that it has designated as national heritage belonging to its people. The Mexican culture secretary wrote to auction house Gerhard Hirsch Nachfolger seeking the return of the works, which she says are of archeological importance and are suspected of having been removed from the country illegally. (The Art Newspaper)

Prominent L.A. Mural Gets Repainted – A prominent mural at the Ambassador School of Global Leadership in Los Angeles has been reimagined following criticism from some Korean Americans who said that the sun rays projecting from the profile of actress Ava Gardner looked like the rising sun from the Japanese imperial battle flag. The mural now includes additional elements that honor the surrounding Koreatown community. “I genuinely hope this saga can serve as a constructive example of how to balance the input of local stakeholders with creative free expression in public art,” artist Beau Stanton said. (Los Angeles Times)

Rare Copy of the U.S. Constitution Comes to Auction – Sotheby’s will sell one of 11 surviving first copies of the U.S. Constitution—and the only one that remains in private hands—in its modern and contemporary art evening sale in November. Yes, the connection to art is tenuous, and even Sotheby’s acknowledges that, with David Galperin, the contemporary art head of the Americas, saying simply, “A document as significant and meaningful as the Constitution deserves to be presented on the world’s biggest auction stage.” The object, estimated to bring in $15 million to $20 million, comes from the collection of New York philanthropist Dorothy Tapper Goldman; proceeds from its sale will go to her educational foundation. (ARTnews)

Is Regulation Coming for NFTs? – After web sleuths busted a high-profile exec on the NFT marketplace OpenSea for using their position to purchase works set to be featured on the company’s website before that information was publicly available, the platform has introduced new policies intended to prevent insider trading. The company has officially forbidden its employees from using confidential information to trade NFTs on its platform or any other. The move comes as U.S. government officials are moving to introduce new rules surrounding cryptocurrencies to bring the market under control. (ARTnews)


Phillips to Sell Peter Schamoni’s Max Ernst Trove – Phillips will sell more than 80 pieces from the German filmmaker’s collection of work by his friend, the Surrealist master Max Ernst. “Maximiliana” lots will be spread across the house’s 20th century and contemporary sales in London in October and those in New York in November. (Press release

The Musée d’Orsay’s New Director Lays Out His Vision – The incoming director of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Christophe Leribault, says the museum can no longer be a “tourist factory.” He wants to prioritize repeat visits from young audiences who have rediscovered museums during lockdown in the absence of foreign tourists. “The idea is not to ‘do Orsay’ once and for all,” he said, but to come back often, to feel at home, and it is a museum that lends itself perfectly to this familiarity.” (Le Point)

Politician Defends Swiss Museum Director – Geneva’s administrative councillor Sami Kanaan has come to the defense of Marc-Olivier Wahler, director of the city’s Musée d’art et d’histoire, after more than 117 art historians and scholars called for him to be removed from his post. Wahler’s critics say he should not stay on after his two-year probation period is up because his programming has prioritized his own interests in contemporary art over the museum’s scientific collections. Kanaan has defended Wahler’s vision of “a museum of the future” and is expected to officially appoint him this fall without reservation. (Le Temps)


Monumental Violin Goes Down Venice’s Canal – Now here’s a sight to behold: A 39-foot-long violin floated down Venice’s Grand Canal on Saturday carrying a string quartet playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Called “Noah’s violin,” the performance was intended as a sign of hope as Venice re-emerges from the pandemic. (New York Times)

The violin shaped boat is towed into the yard at the end of the parade on September 18, 2021 in Venice, Italy. Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images.

The violin-shaped boat is towed into the yard at the end of the parade on September 18, 2021, in Venice, Italy. Photo by Stefano Mazzola/Awakening/Getty Images.

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