New Picasso Museum to Open in France—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

01  Pablo Picasso’s step-daughter Catherine Hutin-Blay announced plans to transform a former convent into an expansive museum.

(via the Art Newspaper)

Hutin-Blay inherited some 2,000 works from her mother, Picasso’s second wife, Jacqueline Roque. Now, she plans to display a large portion of the collection in a new museum her company, Madame Z, is building in the south of France. As most works date between 1952 to 1973, the years spanning Roque’s involvement with Picasso, the museum is an homage to both Picasso’s oeuvre and her mother’s relationship with the artist. The site is a former convent located in Aix-en-Provence, a city of roughly 140,000 people where both her mother and Picasso are buried. The museum is expected to draw 500,000 visitors per year, and some residents are concerned with the environmental impact the rise in traffic will have on the area. “I hope that studies assessing the impact of a project of this scale on the neighbouring buildings will be conducted,” Charlotte de Busschère, a local politician, said, as reported in the Art Newspaper. In addition to Hutin-Blay’s collection, a research center and space for public workshops will be incorporated into the building, which is set to wrap up completion in 2021.


02  Feminist group We Are Not Surprised issued a statement once again criticizing Artforum’s response to sexual harassment allegations against former publisher Knight Landesman.

(via notsurprised.org and Artforum)

It had been three months since We Are Not Surprised (WANS) sent a letter challenging Artforum for the way it handled Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit accusing the magazine’s publisher Knight Landesman of sexual harassment. And on Thursday, WANS issued another statement, this time calling out the business side of Artforum for aggressively trying to dismiss Schmitt’s harassment lawsuit while the editorial arm of the magazine engaged in “sweet talk and empty politics” as it shifted toward a more open, gender-aware content mission. “Knight Landesman remains co-owner of Artforum, and while new editor-in-chief David Velasco and the editorial staff have been busy crafting ‘intersectional feminist’ content for the magazine, Artforum’s publishers and lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Amanda Schmitt’s lawsuit, calling the harassment she and other women suffered ‘irrelevant,’” the statement read. WANS called on the signatories of the first letter to boycott reading or purchasing ads in Artforum until Landesman is removed as co-owner and the motion to dismiss Schmitt’s lawsuit is rescinded. Those who endorsed the original statement include artists Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman, collectors Susan Hort and Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, museum directors Ellen Salpeter and Lisa Phillips, and directors from galleries such as Andrew Kreps, 303, Gladstone, and Marianne Boesky. Artforum defended its motion to dismiss in a statement on Friday, asserting the publication “must address the specific allegations against it as they stand before the court” and that “nothing the magazine has submitted to the court defends [Landesman’s] actions.” The statement also added that Artforum is “actively engaged in the process of recovering” Landesman’s shares in the company.


03  A missing painting found in a London flat is “the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years.”

(via the Guardian)

Ben Enwonwu was the first Nigerian contemporary artist to achieve global fame, and some of his most cherished works are his portraits of an Ike princess known as Tutu—an image that can be seen on posters that hang in many households in Nigeria. But the actual paintings were thought to have been lost to history until a Giles Peppiatt, the director of modern and contemporary African art at Bonhams, went to inspect a work found by a family in North London late last year. Peppiatt was expecting to see a print, but came across something much more rare. “It is a picture, image-wise, that has been known to me for a long time, so it was a real lightbulb moment,” he told the Guardian. The Nigerian novelist Ben Okri called it “the most significant discovery in contemporary African art in over 50 years.” The work will be offered at Bonhams in London on February 28th, when it will also be live streamed in Lagos. It is expected to sell for £200,000 and £300,000, which could make it the most expensive work by a Nigerian artist ever sold at auction.


04  Pablo Picasso’s The Actor will remain in the Met’s collection after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking its restitution.

(via the New York Times and the Art Newspaper)

Laurel Zuckerman—the great-grand-niece of Paul Friedrich Leffmann, who once owned the painting The Actor (1904)––sued the museum in 2016, seeking the painting’s return or $100 million, the work’s estimated value. Zuckerman’s suit asserted Leffmann, a Jewish art dealer and collector, sold the painting under duress as he attempted to flee Nazi forces. In 1937, Leffman left Germany for Italy, one of the few states accepting Jews at the time. But just one year later, as the country’s fascist government intensified its persecution of Jews, Leffmann decided to sell The Actor to a French collector for $13,200 to raise funds to travel to Switzerland. In her suit, Zuckerman argued that this persecution forced Leffman to enter into a disadvantageous sale, noting the price was below the $18,000 the work was insured for when loaned to the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, and less than the $22,500 it sold for in 1941. The work was subsequently donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While expressing sympathy with Leffmann’s persecution, Judge Loretta A. Preska dismissed the case, ruling that the transaction had, “occurred between private individuals, not at the command of the Fascist or Nazi governments,” the Art Newspaper reported. She ruled that because Leffmann sold the work due to the political circumstances in Italy, rather than being coerced through a concrete and specific threat, the transaction was legal. The Met welcomed the court’s ruling. Zuckerman’s attorney said they plan to appeal.


05  A co-founder of L.A. gallery Moran Bondaroff has resigned following sexual misconduct allegations.

(via artnet News)

On Sunday, the singer and model Dana Wright posted a screenshot to her Instagram account of a conversation between the Los Angeles art dealer Aaron Bondaroff and mutual friend Jeff Potocar that showed Potocar calling Bondaroff out for past sexually aggressive behavior. In her caption below the screenshot, Wright wrote, “@moranbondaroff you attacked me in your car about 4 years ago in the back of your gallery in LA and sexually assaulted me OUT OF NOWHERE. It was terrifying, violent and painful.” Other women began to accuse Bondaroff of sexual assault in the comments section, and on Monday, Wright told Rachel Corbett at artnet News that while sitting in the backseat of a car, Bondaroff ripped her bodysuit and stuck his hand down the front, groping her. “The whole thing was very violent,” Wright said. When asked by artnet News for comment, Bondaroff said he had resigned from the gallery, but maintained that all encounters were consensual. The gallery was started as OHWOW in 2008, and was originally a more amorphous art and publishing outfit founded by Al and Mills Moran alongside Bondaroff, before pivoting in 2015, when it started representing artists such as Jacolby Satterwhite, Lucien Smith, and Eric N. Mack. The Moran brothers have said they will continue the gallery following Bondaroff’s departure, but will have to once again change the name.


06  Researchers discovered a massive Mayan city hidden in the Guatemalan jungle, indicating that millions more people lived in the area than previously thought.

(via the Associated Press)

Last week it was announced that a team from Guatemala, the U.S., and Europe discovered the remains of  a sprawling ancient city hidden beneath the jungle treeline of the country’s Petén region, having used advanced light detection technology to scan 810 square miles. The vast expanse of houses, pyramids, and walls indicates that roughly 10 million people lived in the Mayan lowlands—between two and three times the previous estimates. Scans also found evidence of a complicated infrastructure that could support and feed such a big population, including irrigation systems and agricultural fields, suggesting that the Maya were able to efficiently produce food on a large scale. “Their agriculture is much more intensive and therefore sustainable than we thought, and they were cultivating every inch of the land,” Francisco Estrada-Belli, an assistant professor at Tulane University, told the Associated Press. The peak of Mayan civilization lasted nearly 2,000 years, from 1000 BC to 900 AD, with their territory stretching from what is today Southern Mexico down through Central America.


07  Last year marked the first time that Chinese big spenders chose Western Old Masters over Asian artists at auction.

(via South China Morning Post)

Chinese collectors have traditionally leaned toward spending their fortunes on Chinese art and artifacts, but in 2017 non-Asian artists appeared to hold the most cachet. The scales were tipped by a work by Vincent van Gogh that sold to a Hong Kong collector at Christie’s in New York last November—the depiction of a ploughman in his field went for $81.3 million, the second highest price for a van Gogh sold at auction. Rebecca Wei, who is the president of Christie’s Asia, secured that masterpiece for a client on the phone, and told the South China Morning Post that these buyers aren’t necessarily veteran collectors. “I guess this is a world where the rich are getting richer,” Wei said. “We are seeing new buyers from mainland China, mostly, who skip the day sales and pick up masterpieces from evening sales as their first purchases.” The surge in Chinese buying could hit a fever pitch this March, Wei said, as some of world’s mega-galleries are opening up outposts in Hong Kong’s H Queens building to coincide with the region’s biggest picture-buying bazaar, Art Basel in Hong Kong.


08  The artist Mark Grotjahn declined to be honored at MOCA’s annual gala, citing a lack of diversity amongst honorees.

(via the Los Angeles Times)

Grotjahn had previously accepted the invitation to be honored, and invitations with his name on them had already gone out in the mail for the May 12th fundraiser for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. But he changed his mind, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, noting that previous honorees had all been straight, white men—Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, and John Baldessari. The Times reviewed portions of an email Grotjahn sent about three weeks ago to MOCA board co-chair Maurice Marciano. It read, in part, “Since the day you extended your invitation to me, our country and the world have changed in ways that were difficult to anticipate. There is a new urgency to change the power dynamic and we have an opportunity to do so.” MOCA Director Philippe Vergne expressed respect for the artist’s choice, saying that he told Grotjahn, “We decided to honor you before and it’s our duty and pleasure, now, to honor your ideas.”


09  Egypt’s antiquities ministry announced the discovery of a 4,400-year-old Egyptian tomb covered in rare wall-paintings.

(via BBC News)

The tomb was discovered on the outskirts of Cairo and belonged to the high official Hetpet, according to a government announcement last Saturday. The tomb’s connection to Hetpet––priestess to Hathor, goddess of fertility, joy, music, and dance––was largely inferred through wall-paintings covering the site. These rare works included images “depicting Hetpet standing in different hunting and fishing scenes or…receiving offerings from her children,” announced Egypt’s antiquity ministry, according to BBC News. Alongside these renderings of Hetpet are scenes of music, dancing, and animals, such as one image that features a monkey performing before an orchestra. The colorful wall-paintings are in good condition for conservation and mark the ministry’s first archaeological discovery of the year. The site, which is located nearby the Great Pyramid of Giza, is supposed to have housed multiple officials from the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty (which dates back to between the 25th and 24th centuries BC) and the ministry has said it will continue excavations within the area.


10  A rare exhibition will feature hidden Leonardo Da Vinci drawings revealed using infrared technology.

(via the Telegraph)

Subtle indentations on an otherwise blank page first allerted scholars to the numerous studies of hands Leonardo drew in the 15th century using ink that since faded. Infrared technology first revealed the studies, believed to be for his c. 1481 work Adoration of the Magi, in the 20th century. Now, two pages featuring the hands will go on view for the first time as part of an exhibition of roughly 200 drawings by the famed artist at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace. The works are so fragile and sensitive they can only be shown at at what the Telegraph called “rare intervals”—so rare that, for many, this is the only chance to see these works during their lifetimes. Experts believe the studies faded because Leonardo drew using metalpoint, allowing the the copper left on the page from the artist’s metal stylus to react with the outside environment and, over centuries, become transparent.

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