Germany Votes for Onerous Restrictions on Its Collectors—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 On Friday, Germany passed a bill containing some of the world’s strictest rules concerning the import and export of cultural goods, prompting backlash from dealers and collectors.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Authorities hope the legislation will prevent black market trading of looted antiquities as well as place controls on blue-chip artworks leaving the country. More than 48,000 citizens signed an online petition opposing the proposed Cultural Property Protection Law, arguing for “the preservation of private collecting.” Under the new regulations, all objects with cultural significance that fit certain age and value specifications must receive permission from German officials before they can be legally exported. Additionally, artifacts designated for sale must have an export license from their native country. A group of museum directors cautioned that the impending legislation had already resulted in a series of valuable works being shipped out of the country, resulting in “enormous” damage that “cannot be reversed.” Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütters, has argued that the law is a necessary step in ensuring that the country “live[s] up to its responsibilities for mankind’s cultural heritage—nationally and internationally.”
02 Sotheby’s has tapped Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum for its latest hire, bringing on director Eric Shiner as senior vice president of its fine art division.
(via the New York Times)
Shiner will assume his role in September, joining Amy Cappellazzo and Allan Schwartzman as part of the newly-created department (Sotheby’s bought Cappellazzo’s Art Agency, Partners in January of this year for $85 million). Shiner’s focus will be private sales, which showed signs of growth between 2014 and 2015. Although he comes from a museum background, Shiner noted that there is “much more porosity in the art world now between the market, the collector base, galleries and the nonprofit world of museums. So it seemed like a natural transition.” The hire comes during a trough in the Warhol market, perhaps indicating that Sotheby’s has hopes of reinvigorating collector interest in the pop artist’s work.
03 Frieze New York announced Thursday that the 2017 edition of the fair will be shortened from five days to four.
(via artnet News)
The preview will shift from Wednesday to Thursday, May 4th, with the official fair dates running from the 5th to the 7th. Galleries have long complained that Frieze New York, located a ferry ride away on Randall’s Island, typically sees only one day of heavy traffic from art world denizens. This decision appears to be a response to that feedback, with fair organizers stating that the change “should create a very focused and dynamic event that is less demanding on the galleries participating.” Frieze director Victoria Siddall also announced a reduction in stand fees for participating galleries, a decision she termed “unprecedented” given that “most fairs are raising their stand prices.”
04 Vice Media bought a majority stake in arts and culture magazine Garage this week, marking the company’s entrance into the art world.
Garage was founded by Dasha Zhukova, wife of Russian business tycoon Roman Abramovich, and takes its name from the contemporary art museum she opened in Moscow in 2008. Centered around fashion, contemporary art, and culture, the glossy boasts an impressive roster of contributors—Damien Hirst, John Baldessari, Richard Prince, and Jeff Koons among them. Although Zhukova will remain in her current position of editor-in-chief, Vice said it plans to expand the magazine’s editorial staff and to create new teams around the world to produce local editions. Vice will also likely grow Garage’s online footprint, as it has for I-D, the fashion magazine the company purchased in 2012. This news follows a series of moves by Vice to expand the reach of its television channel, Viceland, making headway into markets like southeast Asia, New Zealand, and Eastern Europe.
05 Acclaimed South Korean artist Lee Ufan inspected several works thought to be counterfeits late last week and declared them genuine—despite the fact that a forger had already confessed to faking them.
Following a nearly year-long investigation into a series of Lee forgeries, a suspect was arrested in May after fleeing to Japan. The man charged—identified only by his surname of Hyeon—operated a gallery in Northeastern Seoul, from which he allegedly sold counterfeit Lee paintings and raked in some $1.1 million in the process. According to appraisers and forensic experts, the works in question were not genuine; even Hyeon admitted to forging the paintings when questioned by police. Authorities also requested that Lee confirm that the works were indeed counterfeits. Following a two-day inspection of the works, during which the artist looked over the pieces with a magnifying glass and compared them to catalogue records, he declared that he “found nothing wrong in all the 13 pieces. The use of color, rhythm and breathing are all mine.” Though artists have relatively robust powers to de-authenticate a work, it is rare for one to do the opposite and re-authenticate an allegedly forged piece. Normally, deference is given to the determination of the artist, but in this case police have said they will continue their investigation.
06 The Richard Avedon Foundation and two master printers who worked with the artist are mired in series of controversies related to the late fashion photographer’s legacy.
(via the New York Times)
Ruedi Hofmann, who served as both the technical supervisor of Avedon’s commercial practice and the master printer for the 1985 series “In the American West,” currently owns 126 prints from the project. He says these works served as payment for the long hours and late nights he spent working on the series, but all of them lack a signature—and now, more than a decade after the artist’s death, the Avedon Foundation refuses to authenticate the prints. A vintage print by Avedon can go for almost $1.2 million at auction; Hofmann hopes to sell the collection of prints for much more. No auction house is willing to sell them until the dispute has been resolved, however. Another master printer, Gideon Lewin, previously attempted to publish a book of his own photographs depicting Avedon in his studio. Claiming these photographs were actually property of the foundation, the Avedon Foundation and Lewin engaged in a series of suits and countersuits that have since been settled. However, continuing copyright issues have further postponed publication.
07 Parviz Tanavoli, Iran’s best-known living artist, had his passport confiscated by authorities at a Tehran airport last Saturday, effectively preventing him from leaving the country.
(via the Guardian)
The 79-year-old sculptor was scheduled to fly to England for a talk at the British Museum to mark the release of his new book, European Women in Persian Houses. Officials gave no reasons for barring Tanavoli’s departure; the artist said he could not guess their motivation, either. “I have no idea why they did it. I have not done anything wrong,” he told the Guardian. “I’m not a political person, I’m merely an artist.” Tanavoli, best known for his bronze sculptures of the word heech (or “nothing” in Persian), is the priciest Middle Eastern artist at auction. He has clashed with Iranian authorities before—in 2014, several of his artworks were seized and damaged during a raid on his home in Tehran, the result of a decades-long legal battle with the local government.
08 A former corrections officer is suing Peter Doig in an attempt to force him to authenticate a painting that the artist says is not his.
(via the New York Times)
The convoluted case is among the stranger in art authentication law and would set a shocking precedent should Doig lose. Robert Fletcher, the former corrections officer, owns a work he claims he bought from Doig four decades ago, and—though it is signed “Peter Doige”—it exhibits formal traits characteristic of Doig’s practice. Doig, however, says that he has found the real Peter Doige, now deceased, whose biography matches aspects of Fletcher’s story about how he came to own the painting. To prevail in court, Fletcher must prove the work is Doig’s, in which case the artist may have to pay damages. Regardless, it is unlikely the work would fetch the multi-million-dollar figures the artist has seen in the past, given that the art market places great weight on an artist’s word when it comes to disavowing a work. Indeed, given the robust legal protections artists have when it comes to the attribution of an artwork, one of the more surprising aspects of this case is that a federal judge allowed it to proceed at all.
09 Allegations of theft have kept a cache of drawings and photographs linked to sculptor Alberto Giacometti languishing in museum storage for the past two years.
Swiss officials boxed up the collection in February 2014, after Paris’s Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation claimed the works had been stolen years earlier. Who, exactly, is thought to have snatched the works remains unclear—court documents describe a “prosecution against [an] unknown person” by authorities in France, and the foundation has said it will refrain from speaking publicly until the case is resolved. The Swiss museum where the collection currently resides had the works on loan from local real estate mogul Remo Stoffel. Giacometti, a Swiss-born artist who died in 1966, currently holds the record for most expensive sculpture sold at auction. The contested collection includes 16 sketches by the sculptor himself, as well as a series of photographs by the likes of Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson that documented Giacometti’s life.
10 Settling a tug-of-war that lasted years, a Danish museum will return Italian artifacts to their native country after conceding they were looted.
(via the New York Times)
The settlement, which prevents further political and legal deadlock, followed anxious and lengthy negotiations between the art museum Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen and the Italian Ministry of Culture. Under the terms of the arrangement, the Glyptotek will repatriate the Italian artifacts, which it now recognizes as having “been unearthed in illegal excavations in Italy and exported without license.” Among the pieces in question are the contents of a major tomb excavated north of Rome in the 1970s. In return for the objects, the Italian government will send several significant pieces to the Denmark under a long-term loan arrangement. This settlement exemplifies the tricky nature of such repatriation disputes, even though both parties often feel they have a clear-cut claim. Long-term loans arrangements are one tool in a negotiator’s arsenal when looking to avoid protracted legal battles, and the use of such compromises illustrates that give and take is often required to repatriate allegedly looted pieces under amicable terms.
Cover image: Photo of Germany’s Bundesrat by Andrea Puggioni, via Flickr.