$500 Million Private Deal May Break Record for Largest Art Sale Ever—and the 9 Other Biggest Art News Stories This Week

Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.


01  In one of the highest-priced private art deals ever, billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin reportedly paid David Geffen’s foundation around $300 million for de Kooning’s Interchanged (1955) and around $200 million for Pollock’s Number 17A (1948). 


This marks a record price for both Abstract Expressionist artists, and tops the previous record for a private sale—a $300 million purchase of Gauguin’s When Will You Marry (1892) supposedly made by the Qatar Museums. Both paintings have been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago since last September. (via Bloomberg)



02  UNESCO is teaming up with the Italian government to create a task force charged with preserving heritage sites in combat zones across the globe. 


The agreement, signed Tuesday, designates an initial 60-person group composed of conservation experts and members of an Italian police group focused on art crime. The group will serve to assist countries that are members of UNESCO in protecting their cultural sites and developing their conservation strategies. This comes as a direct result of an international meeting of 83 culture ministers in Milan last summer, where the group vowed to “condemn violence against world cultural heritage.” (via The Art Newspaper)



03  The fourth edition of Paris Photo Los Angeles, the West Coast version of the more established French fair, was called off on Monday by event organizers following poor sales at prior editions. 


Set to open on April 29th, the event’s exhibitor list had become increasingly local—a trend which boded poorly for its long-term prospects. Reed Exhibitions, the company behind Paris Photo Los Angeles, said in a statement that sales “[were] not sufficient to support such a fair and to offer our exhibitors the best conditions of return on their investment.” Reed further announced that it is ending its bid to create an LA edition of their eminent Paris’s fair, FIAC, which was originally scheduled to open in 2015 before being delayed to 2016. (via The Art Newspaper)



04  Collectors from mainland China were particularly active in last week’s London auctions, a phenomenon that may be linked to government restrictions on how much money individuals can transfer out of the country. 


The annual limit is $50,000, but as fears intensify about a drop in the value of the yuan, wealthy Chinese families are attempting to move money out of the country through different channels, including expensive purchases (which may offer an explanation for any increase in bidding from Chinese buyers). National policies regarding currency may be affecting the European art world, as well. Attempts to eliminate the €500 note—currently an effective way to store large amounts of cash outside a bank—may direct those looking for alternatives towards the art market, particularly easily identifiable works valued between $5,000 and $50,000, according to the Art Market Monitor’s Marion Maneker. (via Art Market Monitor)



05  A 1994 painting by Elizabeth Peyton is the latest subject of a copyright controversy. 


According to British photographer Dennis Morris, the work, titled John Lydon, Destroyed (1994) is too similar to his own 1977 photograph of Lydon. Though the photographer is still deciding whether to pursue legal action, the work was withdrawn from a recent Sotheby’s sale at the consigner’s request. This would not be the first time Morris and Peyton have tussled in court—in 2014, the photographer sued alleging that at least three of the artist’s works depicting Lydon and Sid Vicious infringed on his copyright. The two parties eventually settled. (via The Art Newspaper)



06  Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sport, proposed an amendment late last month that would slash government funding for any arts organization not “loyal to the state.”

Israel’s Brewing Culture War over Artists’ “Loyalty,” Explained

It’s the latest in a series of pressures placed upon artists by the increasingly conservative administration of Benjamin Netanyahu. Shortly after Regev unveiled the potential legislation, Israeli right-wing group Im Tirtzu posted an online blacklist of 117 left-leaning artists, writers, and performers it alleged were affiliated with “mole organisations that operate with foreign government funding.” These events are the latest evidence of a culture war brewing in Israel, with the country’s artistic community caught in the crossfire. (via Artsy)



07  Organizers of the Russian government’s Innovation Prize, the country’s most prestigious art award, rejected the nomination of performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky early this week—a move that prompted the resignation of several judges and, ultimately, the cancellation of this year’s prize. 


Pavlensky’s intense, politically-charged body of work includes sewing his lips shut in protest of punk band Pussy Riot’s imprisonment and nailing his scrotum to Red Square in protest of Russia’s complacent political culture. Pavlensky was nominated for his performance Threat. Lubyanka’s Burning Door. (2015), which set fire to the front door of Russia’s Federal Security Bureau (the KGB’s successor).



08  Although the case between Knoedler & Company, former gallery director Ann Freedman, and the De Sole family over a fake Rothko was settled last week, now a businessman alleged to be involved with the forgery ring may be extradited to the United States.

A Settlement Has Been Reached in the Knoedler Gallery Lawsuit over a Fake Rothko

The Spanish National Court ruled that Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz could be sent to New York for trial, but it may still be months before it happens—Bergantinos Diaz can appeal the decision, and Spain’s government must authorize the extradition as well. The court has not yet decided on extradition for Jesus’s brother, Jose Bergantinos Diaz, who has also been charged in relation to the forgeries but has requested a Spanish trial. (via Associated Press)



09  The Los Angeles County Museum of Art now owns a house, courtesy of California real estate investor James Goldstein. 


Designed in 1961 by leading Southern California architect John Lautner (a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright), the Los Angeles residence has been featured in movies like The Big Lebowski and Charlie's Angels and, more recently, hosted Rihanna’s 27th birthday party. Goldstein bought the house in 1972, and until Lautner’s death in 1994, the two worked side by side to tweak the original design—it now features movable glass walls, a tennis court, and even a nightclub. (via NPR)



10  A Lucio Fontana slash sculpture worth $196,000 was damaged by handlers en route to the 2015 edition of The Armory Show, according to a complaint filed last week by Lloyd’s of London against American Airlines and seven art handling companies. 


Lloyd’s, which insured the piece, argues the airline committed a breach of contract and was negligent to the tune of $116,000 in damages, plus additional legal fees. The complaint claims that Fontana’s work Concetto Spaziale (1955-60) was packaged in its Paris storage facility and then flown to New York City in February of last year; the damage was only discovered when the work was taken out of its packing at the fair. (via The Art Newspaper)



Make your weekend plans with our preview of exhibitions on view in cities across the globe.

Cover image: John Lautner’s Sheats Goldstein Residence. Photo by Andrew Seles, via Flickr.