Wet Paint: Zwirner Fires Back at Flipper, Art Basel Offers Coupons to Dealers Who Brave Hong Kong, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Which top artist is also an avowed Brexiteer? Which museum plans to invite every living artist in its collection to a blowout birthday bash? Read on for answers.

A performer interacts with Taiwanese artist Chou Yu-Cheng's Refresh, Sacrifice, New Hygiene, Infection, Clean, Robot, Air, Housekeeping, www.agentbong.com, Cigarette, Dyson, Modern People at Art Basel Hong Kong on March 29, 2018. (PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

Every Thursday afternoon, artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected].



The New York auctions last week were roiled by the actions of a super-secret Japanese art flipper who put up for sale three large works after purchasing them new from galleries as early as 2018. Now, we know his name: Takumi Ikeda. Before this month, few knew who he was—many prominent dealers did not recognize the name, and Google searches revealed scant clues as to where he got his money. But when Wet Paint revealed Ikeda as the consignor of Dana Schutz’s Shooting On The Air, which he bought from Berlin gallery Contemporary Fine Arts in 2015 only to sell it at Christie’s last week for $1.1 million. From there, some further details about him surfaced: He’s based in Tokyo but also has a business registered in Florida and has been known to collect works by Danh Vo, Ai Weiwei, and Takashi Murakami.

Josh Smith, NO SOUND (2018). Photo courtesy Sotheby’s.

Then, word came that Ikeda was also flipping two works in Sotheby’s day sale: Josh Smith’s No Sound (2018), which sold for a mid-estimate $162,500, and Lucas Arruda’s Untitled (2018), which sold for $312,500, more than doubling expectations. Both of the works were bought from David Zwirner last year, and the speed with which Ikeda took them to the block caused the salesperson who put the deal together to lose their commission. Understandably, the gallery is pretty miffed—so much so that our tipster was none other than a rep for Zwirner itself, a rare instance of a seller offering up the identity of a client unprompted, on the record, and presumably without their permission. “You can note that a spokesperson from the gallery provided it,” the email read. Attempts to reach Ikeda to ask about his reasons for selling—and what he’s parting with next—were unsuccessful.



With no sign of the unrest in Hong Kong abating, Art Basel is taking extra precautions to ensure that galleries who have signed on will not pull out en masse as we get closer to the March opening date with violence still raging in the streets. On Thursday, Artnet’s Kenny Schachter posted to Instagram a screenshot of an email sent to all current exhibitors offering up a host of perks, including special orders for booths, discounted hotel rooms, a battalion of art handlers—and even discounts at a few restaurants in town. It’s just the latest way the fair has tried to assuage fears about holding the event in a city where clashes between police and protesters have gotten worse, not better, each month. (One advantage the fair has: if a gallery backs out now that the exhibitor list is final, it loses the deposit put down for the booth.)

Art Basel Hong Kong. Photo courtesy MCH Group.

In the letter sent to exhibitors, Art Basel’s Asia director Adeline Ooi said she and her team have been traveling to key cities in the region to secure support from galleries, press, and collectors. In a statement to Artnet News, a representative for the fair confirmed that Art Basel remains “committed to Hong Kong… It is impossible to predict today what the situation will be like in March. We are standing by Hong Kong because the art scene there is standing by us and because our galleries and collectors from the region support this decision.” Meanwhile, Schachter also pointed out that next month’s Art Basel Miami Beach may have a crisis as well: Miami-Dade County has issued an alert for Dengue Fever. Watch out for blood-sucking mosquitoes!



Many artists have come out against Britain’s planned departure from the European Union. Among those who have made anti-Brexit art—in addition to public statements vehemently protesting to the move—are Tacita Dean, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, and Wolfgang Tillmans. Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller even designed shirts that said, simply, “Fuck Brexit.”

But surprisingly, one extremely prominent British artist is an avowed supporter of the UK’s split from the EU: Bridget Riley. Sources say that the elder op-art stateswoman is one of the rare artists pushing for the historic shift, which the English public will vote on in a general election scheduled for December 12. Emails to her studio were not returned.



Changes are afoot at the Met. One year into Max Hollein’s tenure as the director, he’s hired a new curator, Dr. Denise Murrell, the talent behind the celebrated exhibition “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today.” There are a number of other influential positions open at the moment, too: chief digital officer, deputy head of events, and—most intriguingly—”managing horticulturalist.” Somebody’s gotta water the plants! On the board side, new members include the Indian philanthropist Nita Ambani and Gabrielle Sulzberger, who runs an investment firm and sits on the boards of Mastercard and the Ford Foundation. Sulzberger is married to Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the former New York Times chairman whose father served as board chair of the Met for over a decade. As for the current chair, Daniel Brodsky, sources say he’s ready to step down, as at 75 he’s well passed what used to be the mandatory retirement age for a Met board chairman. And all this in anticipation of 2020, when the museum will celebrate its 150th anniversary with special programming, an exhibition about the history of the Met, and a party where every living artist in its collection will be invited.



The Tuesday night of Art Basel in Miami has long been the evening when the masses descend upon the Design District, the boutique-filled neighborhood across a causeway from the beach. To avoid getting stuck in debilitating traffic, fairgoers usually head over the bridge and stay for a while, hitting the Rubell Collection, the de la Cruz Collection, the ICA Miami, and the annual Larry Gagosian and Jeffrey Deitch exhibition—which this year holds the title of “The Extreme Present.” Well, Art Basel organizers have thrown a wrench in that plan by scheduling the splashy opening of its much-anticipated new sector, Meridians, at the exact same time—and it will take place in the convention center on Miami Beach, a long surcharged Uber away from all the action in the Design District. Galleries with artists in Meridians, which offers large artwork akin to the Unlimited sector that’s long been a highlight of Art Basel in Basel, are scrambling to book dinner late enough that collectors can make it back from the mainland.



… that Adam Driver, looking to spend some of his Star Wars salary on works by Yayoi Kusama, was asking for a price sheet at David Zwirner earlier this week … that the MCA Chicago raked in a record-breaking $6 million during its 2019 Benefit Art Auction, with 40 percent of the work in the sale by female artists, as Larry Gagosian, Ken Griffin, and Sandy Heller looked on … that the Germany- and Vermont-based collectors Christine and Andrew Hall bought Malcolm Morley’s Landscape With Horses at Phillips last week, paying $412,500 for it … that Zwirner now represents Barbara Kruger alongside her longtime gallery Sprüth Magers.



*** Simone Leigh at the Chateau Marmont penthouse for a party in her honor thrown by Garage magazine, where she posed with cover star Zendaya *** James Murdoch at the Dia Fall Night in Chelsea *** Dan Colen and Nate Lowman at the opening of the first boutique for Bode, the much-acclaimed menswear line designed by Emily Adams Bode *** Katherine Bernhardt at Coalition for the Homeless’s ARTWALK, where she donated 20 hand-signed plates that sold for $1,000 each *** David Lynch stopping by his show of new work at Sperone Westwater with Kyle MacLachlan, who played Agent Cooper on Lynch’s Twin Peaks.



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