Christie’s Poised to Sell Most Expensive Collection Ever—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  Christie’s will auction selections from David Rockefeller’s estate next spring.

(via The Wall Street Journal)


The auction house announced Tuesday it had won the right to what will likely be the most expensive estate sale in the history of the industry. Christie’s will have roughly 2,000 pieces available to sell, from an estate valued in Rockefeller’s will at over $700 million, according to The Journal. Rockefeller, a billionaire banker born into one of America’s wealthiest families, was an avid art collector whose tastes “initially leaned toward heavyweights like Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro, but over time…[included] a broader array of artists, from American painters like Andrew Wyeth to post-war mainstays like Willem de Kooning,” according to The Journal. Some significant works from the collection are already pledged to the Museum of Modern Art, which was founded with the help of his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. A family spokesman told The Journal that proceeds from sale of the estate will go to a dozen charities, universities and cultural institutions.

02  The second half of documenta 14 in Kassel, Germany, has received less-than-glowing reviews ahead of its public opening this weekend.

(Artsy)

Documenta 14 Struggles to Make a Statement about Our Uncertain Times

The show, which is split between two cities for the first time in the quinquennial’s six-decade history, unveiled its first half in Athens in April. Roughly two months later, “Learning From Athens” debuts in documenta’s historic German home of Kassel this weekend. Curated by Adam Szymczyk, the show—featuring more than 160 artists spread across 35 venues—has met with mixed reviews. “To call the exhibition scattered doesn’t quite capture the disjointed, often haphazard assortment of artworks that visitors find,” writes Artsy’s Tess Thackara, concluding, “but if there’s one idea that documenta 14 does put forth with success—the meaning that we can draw from all of this—it’s precisely that of the collective experience of being subject to power, and doing our best to refuse it, wherever we live.”

03  Two people have been charged with involuntary manslaughter over the fire that engulfed the Oakland arts venue “Ghost Ship,” killing 36 late last year.

(via the Los Angeles Times)


Property manager Derick Ion Almena was responsible for transforming the warehouse into a concert venue and residence for artists, while “creative director” Max Harris organized the show that took place the night of the fire. Prosecutors claim the two men “knowingly created a fire trap” by allowing up to 25 people to live in the warehouse illegally, when it lacked fireproofing measures or clear exit paths. Court documents also note that Harris blocked off a second stairwell in advance of the concert, limiting attendees to a “single point of escape.” Both Almena and Harris have been arrested with each facing 39 years in prison, according to officials. They declined to comment on whether or not others, including the building owner, will face charges related to the deadly blaze.

04  An Arizona auction house announced the potential discovery of a Jackson Pollock painting, which was uncovered in a local homeowner’s garage.

(via the Arizona Republic)


The Sun City, Arizona, resident first called Josh Levine, owner and founder of J. Levine Auction & Appraisal LLC, about a collection of sports memorabilia signed by basketball star Kobe Bryant. But when Levine visited the home, he also found a chest of artworks—including one that seemed to be an iconic Pollock drip painting. (Others appeared to be the work of artists Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Cora Kelley Ward.) To determine if it was genuine, Levine said he spent more than $50,000 to trace the work’s provenance. Investigators determined that the homeowner’s sister, Jenifer Gordon, was a friend of both art critic Clement Greenberg and collector Peggy Guggenheim. A forensics report also proved that no paint had been added to the work after the artist’s death. “I'm brave enough to call it a Jackson Pollock and put my entire reputation on it,” Levine said, though no art historian has yet weighed in. The question remains if collectors will buy the backstory when the work goes up for auction on June 20th; Levine estimates it will sell for at least $10 million.

05  A London art dealer is facing extradition to the U.S. over accusations that he was defrauding his clients.

(via the Daily Mail)


Dealer Timothy Sammons could serve 25 years in an American jail following years of civil proceedings in both the U.S. and U.K. Sammons served as head of the Chinese art department at Sotheby’s before leaving to set up his own advisory firm in 1995, handling works by artists including Picasso and Chagall. Now, American prosecutors have charged Sammons with grand larceny and fraud, alleging that he failed to turn over proceeds from sales he made on collectors’ behalf while also taking out major loans against their pieces. Accusing him of running a “ponzi scheme,” the New York County District Attorney’s Office—which filed the extradition request—claims that Sammons would use the proceeds from a sale of one work to pay a separate collector money owed from a prior sale. According to the Daily Mail, a judge in the U.K. has approved Sammons’ extradition, and he will face trial in New York unless the Home Secretary intervenes.

06  On Wednesday, The Armory Show announced the curators for the New York art fair’s 2018 edition, plus a curatorial summit.

(via The Armory Show)


Gabriel Ritter, curator and head of contemporary art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), will oversee the fair’s Focus section (helmed this past year by Jarrett Gregory), which is dedicated to solo and duo presentations of “today’s most relevant and compelling artists,” according to the press release. Jen Mergel, formerly the senior curator of contemporary art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, will oversee Platform (previously curated by Eric Shiner), which brings large-scale, site-specific works to The Armory Show’s piers. The fair also announced a curatorial summit, chaired by Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago curator Naomi Beckwith, which will bring together roughly a dozen of the “world’s most prominent curators” for a day of forward-thinking discussions on the curatorial landscape’s present and future.

07  Plans to ceremonially burn Sam Durant’s Scaffold have been put on hold, allowing Dakota elders additional time to determine the fate of the controversial sculpture.

(via the New York Times)


Durant’s 2012 work—which references the gallows used by the U.S. government to hang 38 Dakota men, among others—set off protests when it was recently installed at Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center. The artist apologized for the way his work was received, signing the intellectual property rights for the sculpture over to the Dakota people last week. At that time, the elders announced their intention to dismantle and then burn Scaffold in a healing ceremony. Although the sculpture has since been taken down and transported to a local park facility, Dakota elders have postponed plans to burn the remains until additional members of the tribe can meet. “The elders may decide that the wood from the sculpture should not be burned and instead should be used/disposed in some other way. Or they may choose to proceed,” a mediator wrote in a statement Wednesday. “But this decision will be made [in] their way and their time at the site of their choosing.”

08  Artist Dale Chihuly, who was sued last week for using unpaid studio assistants, has responded with a counterclaim that frames the lawsuit as blackmail.

(via the New York Times)


The suit was filed last Friday by Michael Moi, a former contractor who said he first worked for Chihuly doing construction jobs. Later, Moi said, he began participating in “myriad clandestine painting sessions” for which he was promised some measure of compensation that never materialized. The suit asks that Moi be designated as co-author on several works and be given a stake in ownership. Chihuly’s counterclaim, which the New York Times described as “unusually detailed,” states that the artist has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and that Moi has possession of certain documents which reveal sensitive details about Chihuly’s deteriorating mental state. “Under the thin guise of this litigation, Mr. Moi is threatening to make such documents public as purported ‘evidence’ in his lawsuit unless Dale, his family, and Chihuly Inc. pay him $21 million for his silence,” wrote the artist’s lawyers. The countersuit also acknowledges that Chihuly has worked with studio assistants for years, but rejects Moi’s claim that he was among them.

09  Museums across London have instituted additional security measures in the wake of recent terrorist attacks.

(via The Art Newspaper)


Following Sunday’s attack on the London Bridge—which killed seven and injured dozens—12 cultural institutions near the area issued a joint statement pledging to remain “safe, open and welcoming to all.” Among them were the Tate Modern and the Hayward Gallery. Museums across London—including the Royal Academy, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate—have increased security measures following Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to raise the country’s threat level to “critical.” In addition to increased bag searches, the British Museum will no longer allow large containers, such as suitcases, on the premises. A spokeswoman for the National Gallery told The Art Newspaper that “the safety and security of our visitors are our absolute priorities—particularly following these recent tragic incidents.”

10  Banksy ceased offering limited-edition prints to U.K. voters who opposed the Conservatives in Thursday’s election after authorities warned him the scheme could invalidate results.

(via The Guardian)


The famous street artist announced the promotion—for those who voted against Conservatives near Banksy’s home of Bristol—in the lead-up to the general election on Thursday. But shortly after the scheme went public, police and the country’s Electoral Commission cautioned that it was illegal to offer goods in return for votes. In a statement posted to his website on Tuesday, Banksy announced: “I have been warned by the Electoral Commission that the free print offer will invalidate the election result. So I regret to announce this ill-conceived and legally dubious promotion has now been canceled.” In the end, Banksy’s prints weren’t necessary: A massive youth vote helped Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party deal a shocking blow to the Conservatives, resulting in a hung parliament.


—Artsy Editors

Cover image: Peggy and David Rockefeller, May 1973. Photo: Arthur Lavine/Rockefeller Estate. Courtesy of Christie’s.

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