This Week’s 10 Most Important Art News Stories

Catch up on the latest art news with our rundown of the 10 stories you need to know this week.

  •  The Little Mermaid bronze statue by Edvard Eriksen. Photograph: “Copenhagen—The Little Mermaid Statue—2013” by Avda-berlin.

01

On Monday, the tax fraud trial of art magnate Guy Wildenstein kicked off in France, only to be delayed on Wednesday until May on procedural grounds. The case against the famous art family heir is one of the largest in the nation’s history, with Wildenstein accused of hiding more than €550 million in assets—including multiple art galleries. Along with Wildenstein (who denies the charges), several family members, a pair of lawyers, two secret trust managers and even a notary found themselves in the dock after disgruntled relatives reportedly tipped off authorities about the alleged financial impropriety. Wildenstein faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. (via the Guardian)


02

To plug a €60 million ($65 million) budget shortfall that was supposed to be corrected by the end of 2015, Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro is floating a number of controversial proposals—including selling some prized works of art. The city’s canals make basic services like garbage collection highly costly, and it has few tax-paying residents in comparison to the millions of tourists who flood into the city each year. That Chagall and Klimt are potentially on the chopping block has provoked outrage, but Brugnaro is adamant that he would “sell the paintings rather than sit here and admire them while rain drips onto children’s school desks and public libraries have no toilet paper.” All this comes as Italy announces plans to invest 300 million euros in cultural projects over the next three years. (via the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times)


03

After nearly a 10-year period of relatively easy-going enforcement, New York State tax authorities have caused a stir among some collectors after reportedly ramping up efforts to look into whether they have been properly paying taxes on purchased works of art. Though refusing to confirm that an investigation is underway, New York state tax authorities are armed with electronic access to customs and tax records, allowing them to apparently cast a “wide net” in order to ensure that collectors are complying with tax law that mandates the payment of an 8.875% tax on works “first used” in New York or sold there. (via Barrons)


04

In yet another lawsuit brought against an appropriation artist, photographer Donald Graham has sued Richard Prince, Larry Gagosian, and Gagosian Gallery over Graham’s image of a smoking rastafarian, which Prince appropriated in one of his now-infamous Instagram paintings. In creating the work, which was first displayed at Gagosian in the fall of 2014, Graham alleges that Prince engaged in “blatant disregard of copyright law.” The lawsuit, which asks for monetary damages and to halt the distribution of the piece, comes after Graham sent unheeded cease and desist letters to the parties involved at the end of last year. (via Hyperallergic)


05

Following the November terrorist attacks in Paris, museums in the city are reporting a drop in attendance. The number of visitors to the Louvre in 2015 dipped by nearly 7% compared to last year, while the Musée d’Orsay noted a 1% drop in 2015, after years of steady increases. The decreases at least partly stem from a period of mandatory closure of museums in the wake of the attack, along with a large number of school group cancellations (the largest decrease in audience attendance was in French visitors). The museums are hopeful for recovery, however—the Musee d’Orsay reported normal levels of attendance in the final few days of 2015. (via the New York Times)


06

French artist Orlan has sued Lady Gaga in New York City over the body modifications the American pop star famously wore on the cover of her “Born This Way” single and accompanying video. At issue are prosthetic head-lumps, the idea for which Orlan alleges Gaga took from her “Carnal Art” project, which featured Orlan getting similar implants. The American lawsuit comes after Orlan sued Gaga in Paris in 2013 over the same issues. In that case, Orlan asked for 7.5% of the profits of Gaga’s album—some $31.7 million dollars. (via flavorwire)


07

North Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art fired director Babacar M’Bow following allegations of sexual harassment. The dismissal comes on the heels of damning investigation launched by the city into M’Bow following an incident in December that saw M’Bow allegedly defending a colleague who used derogatory language about a female vendor. While M’Bow, who was appointed director in April 2014, has denied the allegations against him, the report contains a number of shocking findings, including some of the sexually explicit comments M’Bow reportedly made to and about women staff members. (via the Miami Herald)


08

Though settled last month, the protracted legal battle between artist Danh Vō and collector Bert Kreuk over an undelivered work continues to create fallout. Three artists— Nairy Baghramian, Jutta Koether, and David Maljkovic—have declined nominations for the “Vincent Award” given by the Gemeentemuseum. Kreuk had an exhibition of his collection at the museum that was supposed to feature a newly created work by . When Vō didn’t deliver, Kreuk sued him for breach of contract. Baghramian, noted that, in her estimation, the museum sided against the artist and thus failed to take a neutral stance. (via artnet News)


09

A recent court ruling in France means that a Monet of dubious authenticity will remain excluded from the Wildenstein Institute’s catalogue raisonné of the artist’s works. The piece was the subject of an episode of the BBC’s “Fake or Fortune” show in 2011, and while the program found a good amount of evidence that attested to the work’s authenticity, the Institute continued to exclude the piece. The owner sued and on Thursday the court ruled against him, noting that it was not their responsibility to determine authenticity, but rather decide if the Wildenstein Institute must include a work they did not believe was by Monet. (via the Art Newspaper)


10

A member of parliament in Denmark was surprised when Facebook blocked her attempt to post an image of Copenhagen’s The Little Mermaid statue because it featured “too much bare skin or sexual undertones.” Though the social media giant eventually acquiesced, allowing Edvard Eriksen’s 1913 sculpture online, the event has focused attention on the platform’s often confusing image guidelines, which allow for nudity if it part of a painting or sculpture, but usually not otherwise. (via the Telegraph)

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