$210 Million Gauguin Masterpiece Embroiled in Legal Dispute—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
01 A legal battle over a $210 million Gauguin masterpiece highlights the art world’s “handshake deals.”
(via The Telegraph)
Swiss art dealer, curator, and auctioneer Simon de Pury is suing Ruedi Staechelin, a former Sotheby’s executive described as an “old schoolfriend” of de Pury’s, for a $10 million commission on the $210 million sale of Paul Gauguin’s painting Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) (1892). The work was sold to Guy Bennett, a former Christie’s expert who now directs the collections and acquisitions for Qatar’s museums. When de Pury first approached Staechelin about selling the painting, he claimed he was verbally promised a handsome commission if he secured the sale, although Staechelin set the price at $250 million, and negotiations ground to a halt. In 2014, they resumed, with Staechelin claiming de Pury offered $230 million, despite knowing the Qataris would max out at $210 million. Staechelin’s lawyer, John Wardell QC, said that constituted “a clear breach of fiduciary duty and all commission has been forfeited if any right ever existed.” The case is ongoing.
02 London’s June post-war and contemporary auctions came to a close this week, and the results indicate the market is on a solid, steady upward trajectory.
The post-war and contemporary evening sales kicked off Wednesday at Sotheby’s, which brought in £62.3 million with fees (£52.6 million without), falling between the estimates of £44.3 million and £60.6 million with a 95% sell-through rate by lot. That represented a 15% increase from last summer’s evening sale, but was still less than half the 2015 total for the same sale. In a pair of short and well-managed contemporary evening sales, both Phillips and Bonhams performed extremely well in the absence of Christie’s, which canceled its June auctions, notching the same sell-through rate of 94%. At Phillips, photographer
03 The first Arts Council England grant since Sir Nicholas Serota took over will increase funding to regions outside the capital.
The new grants program is the first to be announced since Serota, the former director of the Tate, became the Council’s chairman in February. It consists of £409 million in annual National Portfolio grants, which will go to 831 local arts organizations, and an additional £213 million in other arts grants, for a total spending increase of 12% over the current financial year. In an effort to correct a regional imbalance, “England’s four largest recipients (Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre, Royal National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company) have accepted an average 3% reduction, with these savings mainly being channelled to smaller organizations outside London,” The Art Newspaper reported. The share of spending in the regions will rise over the next four years to 60% from 56% now. Of the annual £409 million in funding, £45m, or 11%, will go to the visual arts and £37 million, or 9%, to museums. The remainder is earmarked for theatre, music, dance, and other arts programming. The council also said it is concerned over the limited progress in diversity of museum leadership.
04 The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case on whether a group injured by a 1997 bombing in Israel can seize Persian artifacts held in Chicago museums due to Iran’s alleged role in the attack.
The U.S. citizens behind the suit want to take ownership of the ancient works as part of a $71.5 million default judgement against Iran, which was found to have sponsored the terrorist group responsible for the attack. The pieces, including ancient tablets and pottery, are held in Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute. Previously, an appeals court found that some of the survivor’s claims were barred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which limits when disputes with sovereign foreign governments can be adjudicated in U.S. courts. Other aspects of the plaintiffs’ claims were also tossed out because Iran does not assert ownership to some of the works, though the plaintiffs claim it is the rightful owner because the pieces were illegally smuggled out of the country. When the Supreme Court takes up the matter in its fall term, the eventual ruling is likely to have implications for other FSIA cases, notably those in which the sued foreign government does not directly engage in commercial activity in the United States.
05 Designs have been released for New York’s first official monument to the LGBTQ community.
In the wake of last summer’s shooting at Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo formed the LGBT Memorial Commission. The commission began calling for designs in October for a memorial to the attack and a monument to LGBTQ rights. On Sunday, on the tail of Pride Week celebrations, it was announced that sculptor
06 Salvador Dalí’s remains will be exhumed in order to settle a long-running paternity case.
(via The Guardian)
For a decade, tarot card reader and fortune teller Pilar Abel has been working to prove that she is the
07 The family of late Austrian sculptor Franz West has won a legal fight over the rights to his estate.
Representatives of the West family argued that they possessed the rights to
08 A number of small- and medium-sized galleries in New York and around the world are shutting down due to a variety of mounting struggles.
High rents, the costs of doing art fairs, and a diminished appetite for emerging artists have hastened the decline of small- and medium-sized art galleries, the New York Times reports. Dealers such as Lisa Cooley, On Stellar Rays’s Candice Madey, and Andrea Rosen lamented the changing economics and culture of the art market, which they said leaves them unable to work closely with their artists, unable to pay their bills, or both. The trend is also indicative of, or a casualty of, the broader trend of economic inequality, which has created some thriving global “mega-galleries” serving the collecting needs of the world’s wealthiest consumers, while their smaller peers are finding fewer collectors “willing to gamble on the emerging artists represented by small and midsize galleries,” the Times reported. If this trend continues, it is unclear who or what will help discover and sustain the next generation of artists, industry insiders fear.
09 Germany’s Bundeskunsthalle has provided an early glimpse of some of the roughly 250 works recovered from Cornelius Gurlitt’s trove of Nazi-looted art that will go on view for the first time this fall.
The show, which features works by the likes of
10 New discoveries related to a Tintoretto altarpiece formerly owned by David Bowie have emerged ahead of a planned return to its hometown for the 2019 Venice Biennale.
A jewel among the late musician’s collection, the portrait of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by
Cover image: Paul Gauguin, When Will You Marry?, 1892. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.