Artists Respond to Donald Trump’s Presidential Victory—and the 9 Other Biggest 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 Artists are responding to Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the United States presidential election.
(via multiple sources)
Since Tuesday’s election, tens of thousands of people—artists among them—have protested across the country against the xenophobic, racist, homophobic, and sexist rhetoric and policy agenda of President-elect Trump. While President Barack Obama and some Democratic leaders called for unity—a spirit captured by Hillary and Bill Clinton’s purple clothing worn during her concession speech—most artists were processing the results and gearing up for a fight. The Russian activist collective Pussy Riot took to Twitter as Trump’s victory became apparent, writing: “It’s like being arrested. Dramatic at the beginning. But then you start to figure out how to live and create in prison. You’ll overcome.” For other messages from artists, ranging from hope to fear to strength to resolve, read their statements on Hyperallergic, artnet News, The Art Newspaper, and ARTnews.
02 As the art market continues to cool, Sotheby’s reported a third quarter net loss of $54.5 million on Monday.
The loss comes during what is normally a quiet quarter for the auction house, though this year’s deficit is higher than the adjusted $17.9 million reported last year. The announcement came during an earnings call with Sotheby’s shareholders, in which CFO Mike Goss noted that the company has never reported a profit in the third quarter and that this year’s losses were exaggerated by shifting the sale schedule. In 2015, London summer auctions fell during Q3, providing an extra $197 million in revenue, while this year they were held during Q2. But as Nate Freeman reports, adjusting the numbers still show a decline of 8% year to year, while year to date sales are down 26% from 2015. Goss also stated that the next quarter is likely to witness a decline, even as the expectations for fall sales—including works from David Bowie’s collection and a few marquee lots—are cautiously positive. In addition, CEO Tad Smith reportedly spoke to the importance of Art Agency, Partners on the call. The auction house paid $17.2 million in performance payouts this quarter, which were a part of the deal made when purchasing the advisory company in January. Private sales were an area Sotheby’s looked to bolster with the expertise provided by AAP, and the near doubling of private sales from $84.9 million to $167.9 million over the course of the year was a bright spot. Also of note was the announcement that Sotheby’s will welcome a board member to represent Taikang Insurance Group—which took a 14% stake in the company’s shares in July—as part of a deal that will see the investor cap its stock purchase at 15%.
03 Austrian authorities have nabbed six suspects in Vienna attempting to sell Picasso forgeries, each with a multi-million-dollar price tag.
(via the New York Times)
Although the Bundeskriminalamt, Austria’s criminal intelligence service, announced the arrests on Monday, the bust actually took place this summer. After receiving a tip in early 2016, undercover agents posed as buyers and arranged a July meeting with the group at an airport hotel. The suspects—five Austrians and one Slovenian citizen—allegedly offered to sell the officials five Picasso works, each around $11 million. Upon further investigation, authorities found 14 additional fakes in their possession in Vienna (including paintings attributed to Picasso and Emil Nolde) and 66 artworks in Slovenia supposedly by artists including Gustav Klimt, Claude Monet, and Wassily Kandinsky. Officials say several of these fakes were put on the market by the Slovenian suspect in 2014, but, unable to find buyers, he eventually teamed up with the rest of the group. All suspects told investigators they believed the works to be genuine, and representatives of the artists’ estates are currently evaluating several of the works for authenticity.
04 Art dealer Guy Wildenstein, who currently faces charges of tax fraud and money laundering in France, and collector Hasso Plattner have announced the creation of an institute devoted to furthering the study of art history.
The foundation, dubbed the Wildenstein Plattner Institute (WPI), was publicly launched on Monday. Elizabeth Gorayeb, previously senior vice president and director of research in the Impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby’s, will serve as the first executive director. WPI plans to focus on digitization and increased online access of primary materials. In addition, it will inaugurate its publishing imprint with a catalogue raisonné of Jasper Johns’s sculpture and painting. The Wildenstein family has a lengthy history of publishing respected catalogues raisonnés for some of the most important artists of the last 200 years, including Monet and Edouard Vuillard. But since a 2011 raid by police investigators, the family’s secretive (and allegedly illegal) financial dealings have come to light. Guy Wildenstein has found himself on the receiving end of charges of tax fraud and money laundering in a case that wrapped up last month; he is currently awaiting a verdict.
05 The three-part auction of David Bowie’s personal art collection at Sotheby’s was a resounding success, setting numerous artist records and boasting a 100% sell-through rate.
The sales, which took place in London on Thursday and Friday, consisted of three auctions and featured over 350 works from the late rock star’s collection—all of which sold. On Thursday, at the first sale, forty-seven of those lots went up for sale, boasting a range of modern and contemporary art led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Air Power (1984). The sale brought in a total of £24.3 million, more than doubling the presale high estimate, and achieved records for 12 artists—11 of whom were 20th-century British artists, including Frank Auerbach, with his Head of Gerda Boehm (1965) selling for more than seven times the high estimate at £3.8 million. The pre-sale exhibition attracted some 37,000 visitors in total, making it Sotheby’s London’s best-attended pre-sale exhibition in history. “While the family have kept certain pieces of particular significance, now was the time for others to share David’s love for these remarkable works and let them live on,” a spokesperson for the Bowie estate noted. The second auction, which took roughly seven hours over the course of Friday afternoon, continued the success and brought in £7.2 million, well exceeding its high estimate of £2.5. The third and final auction fetched £1.4m Friday evening, beating the high estimate of £177,020.
06 Amid skyrocketing renovation costs and lengthy delays that have kept its prize Pergamon Altar shrouded from public view, Berlin’s Pergamon Museum has announced plans to build a temporary exhibition space.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Last week, news broke that the institution’s large-scale renovation project, which began in September 2014, was €216 million over budget and several of its most prominent galleries would be shuttered until 2023. The new date amounts to a four-year delay, exacerbated by the discovery of a concrete pumping system under the construction site. As a result, this week the institution disclosed plans to build a temporary exhibition space across from Berlin’s Museum Island, not far from the Pergamon Museum itself. Historically, the museum has drawn the highest attendance in Germany, thanks in large part to its crown jewel, the Pergamon altar, which has been hidden behind scaffolding since work on the building commenced. The temporary space, scheduled to open its doors in the spring of 2018, will host elements of the altar, including its well-known Telephos Frieze, along with a 3D representation by Berlin-based artist Yadegar Asisi of the full altar and a panorama of the city where the artifact originated. Wolf Gruppe, the construction company captaining the museum’s renovation, will build the temporary space at their own expense on land the German government is offering free of charge.
07 Sharbat Gula, the “green-eyed Afghan girl” from the famous 1985 National Geographic magazine cover, has been deported from Pakistan for using fraudulent identity documents.
(via Al Jazeera)
Gula, who had resided in Pakistan since the mid-1980s, was taken by Pakistani officials to the border earlier this week and transferred into the custody of Afghan authorities. Photographer Steve McCurry, who took the ubiquitous photo for National Geographic, said Gula was the “face of Afghan refugees, in fact of all refugees around the world, for more than two decades. And now she appears to be the symbol of unwanted migrants around the world.” Indeed, Gula is one of 2.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, which is increasing pressure on them to return home. But for many, Afghanistan is a birthplace, not a homeland. “I had decided to live and die in Pakistan but they did the worst thing with me. It’s not my fault that I born there [in Afghanistan]. I am dejected. I have no other option but to leave,” said Gula, who will be flown to Kabul, where Afghan president Ashraf Ghani will host an event honoring her.
08 The chief curator of South Korea’s Ilmin Museum of Art will resign following allegations of sexual harassment.
Youngjune Hahm, the chief curator of Seoul’s Ilmin Museum of Art since May 2015, will step down after receiving a slew of sexual harassment complaints against him. In October, fashion photographer and artist Soma Kim described Hahm making sexual advances toward her and, on more than one occasion, molesting her. Her story spurred other victims to come forward. In response, Hahm issued two statements admitting to the claims and apologizing to his victims. In one, he acknowledged the hypocrisy of the feminist positions he has taken in his curatorial role. As outrage continued and art students protested outside the museum, Hahm posted a third statement on Facebook, this one on October 24th, conceding that he had abused his position and would seek counseling. News of his resignation comes amid a number of reports from young women on social media alleging that public male figures, including novelist Park Bum-shin and poet Park Jin-seong, committed sexual abuses. The Ilmin Museum of Art has not issued a statement about Hahm’s resignation.
09 The Toledo Museum of Art has been blacklisted by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities after sending ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts to the auction block.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The Ohio museum has received backlash from officials in both Egypt and Cyprus after deaccessioning 68 pieces from the countries, including valuable antiquities, in order to buy new artworks. The sale, brokered by Christie’s New York, took place last month in two sessions, on October 25th and October 26th. Upon receiving news of the sale, Egypt’s minister of antiquities banned all collaboration with the Toledo institution, which the ministry believes to have violated the code of conduct for the International Council of Museums. Meanwhile, the Cypriot ambassador to the USA, Leonidas Pantelides, encouraged the museum to cancel the sale, making reference to widespread “unspeakable destruction and illicit looting of cultural heritage” in recent times and citing his fear that the objects “may disappear into private collections and never surface again.” Despite these impassioned protests, the auctions went forward, fetching a total of about $800,000. On October 24th, the Toledo Museum responded to the outcry with a letter published on its website, explaining that the works sold were of subpar quality and rarely exhibited: “Quality has always been the outstanding attribute of our collection, and the objects being sold are not of the quality of our permanent display collection; have been on display rarely; have not been sought out by scholars.” While Christie’s released a statement claiming two of the 66 sold works went to museums, the buyers of the remaining 64 lots remain undisclosed.
10 While attempting to take a selfie, a visitor to Lisbon’s National Museum of Ancient Art knocked over an 18th-century Portuguese sculpture.
An image of the smashed work posted on Twitter shows the sculpture—a polychrome wooden depiction of the archangel Saint Michael—broken into multiple pieces on the museum floor. José Alberto Seabra Carvalho, deputy director of the National Museum of Ancient Art, called the situation “deplorable,” saying, “The statue is very affected in the wings, in one arm and mantle. The damage is severe but reversible.” The museum wrote on Facebook that a conservation team will assess the damage and detail a report about possible efforts made to repair it. Little is known about the selfie-snapping perpetrator, except that he was a Brazilian tourist. One doesn’t need to look far to find another instance of someone destroying a piece of art while trying to take a selfie: In May, a tourist climbed the facade of Lisbon’s Rossio train station to snap a picture with a 126-year-old statue and instead knocked it to the ground, shattering it.
Cover image: Photo by Rhododendrites, via Wikimedia Commons.