Art Industry News: Two Bungling Thieves Broke Into the MFA Houston and Made a Dramatic Escape With Exactly Nothing + Other Stories

Plus, Sotheby's ponders accepting cryptocurrency for physical art and London's National Portrait Gallery pledges to add more women to its walls.

The Bayou Bend estate in Houston, Texas, which was targeted unsuccessfully by thieves. Photo by Postoak, public domain.

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 Thursday, March 18.


The Hermitage’s Director Responds to Fabergé Controversy – Mikhail Piotrovsky has finally responded to claims made by art dealer Andre Ruzhnikov (first published in Artnet News) that the Hermitage’s recent exhibition of Fabergé art is full of “tawdry fakes.” Piotrovsky said the museum will carry out “technical analysis” and additional research on the objects, with results to be published later. Ruzhnikov, who helped billionaire collector Viktor Vekselberg assemble his collection of Fabergé eggs, targets the loans from Alexander Ivanov, a collector who opened a Fabergé museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. Ivanov told Russian media that he plans to sue Ruzhnikov. (The Art Newspaper)

Parisians Line Up to See the “Lost” Van Gogh at Drouot – Museums may be closed, but Parisians can still see one Van Gogh, at least. Since Tuesday, the city’s Drouot auction house has drawn long lines of viewers vying for the chance to commune with the artist’s long-hidden Street Scene in Montmartre (1887). The work, which has been held in a private collection out of public view since 1920, goes on sale on March 25 and is expected to fetch between €5 million and €8 million. (Le Parisien

MFA Houston Affiliate Targeted by Thieves – Today in bungling art theft news, two suspects attempted to break into the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, which is run by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on Tuesday night. After sneaking in through a grate covering a basement window, the man and woman were spooked by the alarm and escaped empty-handed onto a motorized fishing boat. They navigated the boat to a storm drainage tunnel, where they abandoned it—and successfully evaded the security guards hot on their heels. Police said no art was damaged or removed. (Houston Chronicle)

Sotheby’s Considers Accepting Crypto – The art world is continuing to reckon with the crypto gold rush following Christie’s $69 million sale of a work by Beeple. Now, Sotheby’s is considering whether to eventually let bidders use digital currencies to pay for physical artworks. “Maybe we accept crypto for paintings and then pay the consignors in cash, or maybe sellers will want the cryptocurrency as well,” said Sotheby’s CEO Charles Stewart. “That’s all coming, if managed well.” (Wall Street Journal)


Paris Biennale Is Reincarnated as Ex.Paris – After ditching its old name and structure in a bid to reinvent itself following a series of scandals, the former Paris Biennale has been christened with a new name, Ex.Paris. It will open in late November 2021 at the Grand Palais. (Press release)

SETAREH Gallery Is Expanding – The Düsseldorf gallery has announced that it will open a new space in the German capital during Berlin Gallery Weekend, which takes place at the end of April. (Press release)


Sculptures Removed From NYC Housing Authority Complex – Art historians were outraged that a construction crew had removed all but the legs of 18 horse sculptures by Italian modernist Costantino Nivola installed outside the Wise Towers, a New York City Housing Authority complex. A spokesperson for the authority says the works were removed due to a water main issue and that they will be “restored and highlighted” by next summer. (NYT)

The Restaurant at the Whitney Is Shutting Down – Untitled, the Union Square Hospitality Group restaurant attached to the Whitney Museum, is permanently closing after a decade, and will be converted into a pop-up grab-and-go food spot called the Whitney Cafe. The new venture will be run by Union Square Events. (Eater)


Bridgerton Actress to Play Pioneering Female Ceramicist in New Film – Phoebe Dynevor, who played Daphne in the hit Netflix series Bridgerton, will take on the role of the 1920s Art Deco ceramics pioneer Clarice Cliff in forthcoming film The Colour Room, which tells the story of one of the UK’s most celebrated ceramicists. (BBC)

London’s National Portrait Gallery Pledges to Feature More Female Artists – The National Portrait Gallery has promised to significantly increase the number of women represented in its collection through a three-year initiative to improve representation of both female sitters and artists. There is a lot of work to do: Only 25 percent of the portraits in the gallery’s permanent collection are of women, and only 12 percent of its artists are women. (Guardian)

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