From the Schoolteachers With the Stolen $160 Million de Kooning to the Razing of Ai Weiwei’s Studio: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week

Catch up on this weeks news—fast.

Jerry and Rita Alter. Photo courtesy of YouTube/WFAA. Police sketch of the robbers at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Image courtesy of the Boston Police.


Thanks a Million – Perhaps fearing that a generation of budding scholars is learning ersatz art history through Google Image searches, an anonymous donor gifted the College Art Association $1 million to allow art-history students and their professors to actually go see exhibitions around the world.

The Mother of Art Collections – Beyoncé and Solange aren’t the only ones with a passion for art in the family, as we learned when musical matriarch Tina Knowles Lawson opened up her home to show off her extensive and impressive art collection.

David Zwirner Bets on Digital – In keeping with recent trends, the mega-gallerist has brought on millenial influencer Elena Soboleva to lead its online sales arm. Soboleva was previously at Artsy, where she worked with collectors and as a specialist in contemporary art.

Pussy Riot Member Dodges Travel Ban – Maria Alyokhina, formerly of activist group Pussy Riot, has evaded a temporary hold banning her from leaving Russia. Details are sketchy, but according to a Facebook post from the group, Alyokhina snuck out of the country to attend the Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival.

documenta Exec Is Exonerated – The former CEO of documenta, Annette Kulenkampff has been cleared of wrongdoing in the quinquennial’s massive deficit scandal from 2017.

In His Own Words – The late artist Jack Whitten’s journals were published by Hauser and Wirth, and give insight to his long, often painful, and inspiration-filled process of pursuing a career in the art world.

Return to Thailand – Twelve ancient artifacts are going back to Thailand after an American collector turned the looted antiquities in to the Thai Embassy in Washington, DC. The Thai government is calling for looted cultural objects to be returned from museums all over the US.

The Whitney Rights an Oversight – Following a protest by the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, the Whitney Museum has added wall text acknowledging artist David Wojnarowicz’s involvement in the group. The museum’s current show, “History Keeps Me Awake at Night,” documents Wojnarowicz’s career.



Is QAnon an Activist-Art Prank? – Ben Davis unpacks the possibility that QAnon, the right-wing conspiracy-theory group that believes Donald Trump is secretly working to take down a centuries-old pedophilia ring from the Oval Office, could be a left-wing conceptual art project. It all goes back to an early-’90s Italian media-jamming movement that used artwork as a weapon against the mass media. This one is definitely worth a read.

A Schoolteacher Couple’s BIG Secret? – A mild-mannered husband and wife may have carried out a brazen museum heist more than 20 years ago and then kept Willem de Kooning’s $160 million Woman-Ochre hidden in their bedroom for decades, with the truth coming out only after they had both died.

Ai Weiwei’s Studio Was Utterly Destroyed – The Chinese artist’s studio in Beijing’s ZuoYou (“Left Right”) Art District was demolished by the Chinese government this week without any warning, according to an Instagram post from Ai.

MoMA Union Members Rise Up – Members of the museum staff are fighting for amended contracts, and staged a protest in the museum’s lobby on Monday during their lunch break.

Sotheby’s Numbers Sink – The auction house’s quarterly financials show a business model mired in trouble, due to, among other things, heftily guaranteed artworks that underperformed at auction.

China’s Art Market Is a Mess – According to the sixth annual edition of the Global Chinese Art Auction Market report, produced by artnet and the China Association of Auctioneers (CAA), buyers have paid for less than half the purchases made though China’s auction system last year.

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