A settlement was announced this Monday, although which party actually ended up with the sculpture Bust of a Woman (1931) remains a mystery. The case first made headlines in January, with reports that Picasso’s daughter, Maya Widmaier-Picasso, had backed out of a $47 million sale of the work to an agent of the Qatari royal family. Instead, she sold the bust for for $106 million to Larry Gagosian who, in turn, planned to sell the work to billionaire financier Leon Black. Although the case brought to light the inner workings of a transaction between some of the art world’s most powerful players, the deal’s conclusion remains shrouded in secrecy—so far, neither side has commented on the arrangement.
03 A nine-minute video installation on a Hong Kong skyscraper has been pulled by organizers and officials after the work’s political undertones were highlighted by its artists.
Titled “Our 60-Second Friendship Begins Now,” the piece covered the facade of the International Commerce Center—Hong Kong’s tallest building—for just six days before being axed. Created by artists Sampson Wong and Jason Lam, the work mostly displays seemingly apolitical words and phrases in Chinese and English. But on May 18th, the creators revealed that the the illuminated nine-digit sequence of numbers that occurs towards the final moments of the video is a countdown clock indicating the number of seconds until semi-autonomous Hong Kong is transferred fully to mainland Chinese rule. That date of July 1, 2047 is one rife with anxiety for some in the former British colony, with many residents concerned that complete rule by the Chinese mainland will erode civil liberties. The political undertones of the clock may well have gone unnoticed had the two artists not pointed them out, earning the ire of government officials and organizers of the public installation alike. Ellen Pau, the chairwoman of the organizing council that commissioned the piece, chided the artists for not being forthright and claimed to support artistic freedom even as the work vanished from view.
04 The forensic accountant charged with managing the daily operations of Los Angeles’s Ace Gallery has found millions of dollars sent to private accounts and 60 works of art transferred to a private facility.
The accountant, Sam Leslie, was appointed by a court after Ace Gallery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Leslie’s findings, delivered in a status report compiled as part of the proceedings, prompted him to terminate the relationship between the gallery and its founder Douglas Chrismas. According to Leslie, “significant sums of money were diverted by Chrismas to affiliates of Douglas Chrismas, ie, ACE Gallery New York Corporation and ACE Museum.” Through his lawyer, Christmas denied that the funds had been improperly diverted (the diversion of funds from a bankrupt estate is potentially a criminal act depending on intent). Leslie also alleges that Chrismas asserted ownership over some 60 pieces of art transferred into private storage one day before Leslie took over operations. When asked to back up those claims, Chrismas reportedly asserted that he’d taken ownership of them in the 1970s and 1980s. But, as Leslie notes, “none of these pieces, including one of significant value, were listed in the bankruptcy petition he personally filed in 2004.” It is unclear whether there is currently any criminal investigation of potential wrongdoing.
05 An emergency meeting was held at the Smithsonian, with attendees calling on French authorities to halt the imminent sale of sacred Native American objects at a Paris-based auction house.