This Week’s 10 Most Important Art News Stories

Artsy Editorial
Jan 22, 2016 11:24PM

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


Economics professors at the University of Luxembourg believe that the international art market is currently in a “mania phase,” one that closely mirrors the bubble of 1990. Their report, which analyzes 36 years of auction records, indicates the possibility of an approaching “severe correction” in the post-war, contemporary, and American segments of the market. While these findings come as no surprise to many advisors and traders, they reinforce fears that global economic issues may soon bleed into the art market. (via The Guardian)


Last spring, the Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled plans for a new addition, designed by British architect David Chipperfield, that will house its modern and contemporary collection. Additional details about the project surfaced this week, including its size—a roomy 180,000 square feet that will stand no taller than the museum’s existing buildings and feature a rooftop terrace. The Met’s collection of contemporary art will additionally be shown at the former home of the Whitney Museum when it reopens as the “Met Breuer” on March 18th. (via the New York Post)


British museums are in dire financial straits following cuts in public funding, according to a survey conducted by the Museums Association last year. One in five museums were either forced to shut down a portion of their gallery space in 2015 or will have to do so this year. Since 2010, funding cuts have additionally forced a total of 44 museums in the United Kingdom to shutter completely. Even as money dries up, however, attendance appears to be on the rise, with the survey indicating that the number of museum visitors has increased by 61% since 2010. (via Artforum)


This morning, Sotheby’s reported a fourth-quarter net loss between $10 million and $19 million, a result of the company’s recent employee buyout program and the $515 million guarantee offered for the collection of former chairman A. Alfred Taubman. The company also announced plans to eliminate its decades-old quarterly dividend, and increase its stock buyback program to a $325 million cap. Sotheby CEO Tad Smith also reported lower estimates for the auction house’s February Impressionist and Contemporary sales, in what has been read as further indication of a continued softening art market in 2016. (via Bloomberg and Art Market Monitor)


French-Moroccan photographer Leila Alaoui died Monday night, a victim of last week’s attack by Al Qaeda in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso that killed at least 30 people. Alaoui, whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Vogue, was considered to be one of her generation’s rising photographers. Her photographs examined people crossing borders, both geographical and cultural. Alaoui was in Burkina Faso to shoot a project on women’s rights for Amnesty International. She was 33. (via The New York Times)


Police arrested performance artist Deborah de Robertis for posing nude alongside Manet’s Olympia (1863), currently on display in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay’s exhibition “Splendour and Misery: Images of Prostitution, 1950-1910.” After spending close to two days in a cell, De Robertis appeared in court on Monday, where a judge dismissed the charge of public indecency. The artist denounced the museum’s actions as “total hypocrisy,” claiming that by calling the police the institution had censored her artistic performance. This was not the first time De Robertis had shocked the Musée d’Orsay—in 2014 she sat down and exposed her vulva in front of Gustave Courbet’s Origin of the World (1866), mimicking the painting’s close-up view of female genitalia. (via The Guardian)


Morgan Stanley’s private bank recently loaned an unknown amount to billionaire and investor Steven A. Cohen, who secured the loan using several works of art as collateral. Cohen, one of the world’s most prominent collectors, has previously taken out loans to fund purchases, including works by Pablo Picasso, Damien Hirst, and Jeff Koons. Cohen’s loans have not always been approved—in 2009, Deutsche Bank backed out of a loan when his former hedge fund, SAC Capital Advisors, pled guilty to insider trading charges. Now, he’s reached a civil settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and appears ready to further grow his art collection, estimated to be worth $1 billion. (via The New York Times)


Following a four-year term as chairman of Arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette has announced he will step down in January 2017. As chairman, Bazalgette successfully stemmed budget cuts recommended by the conservative government’s austerity program. His 2013 appointment was initially met with some trepidation—as a former television producer and creator of “Big Brother,” some critics held him responsible for “tarnishing the standards of broadcasting.” (via The Guardian)


The $31.8 million sale of air rights above its Manhattan headquarters in 2014 has sparked a lawsuit between the Art Students League and nearly 300 of its members, who claim the voting process for the deal was deceptive. (The sale will allow for construction to begin next door on one of the world’s tallest residential buildings.) Now the 140-year-old nonprofit school, which counts Mark Rothko and Georgia O’Keeffe among its former students, faces another standoff between leadership and voting members. The league’s board wants to revise the school’s constitution, a move which opponents have decried as a power grab. (via The New York Times)


After what the auction house describes as a “saleroom fight,” Christie’s New York broke two major auction records this morning with the sale of William Edmondson’s Boxer (c. 1936). At $785,000, the selling price both tripled the previous record for the artist and edged out the previous category record for Outsider Art. Bidding for Edmondson’s sculpture, the top lot at Christie’s inaugural Outsider Art sale, lasted a whopping five minutes. The sale took place as the Outsider Art Fair welcomes visitors to the Metropolitan Pavilion. Edmondson’s previous auction record was $263,000 for his piece Mother and Child, which sold at Christie’s New York in 2014. The previous record for a work of Outsider Art was held by Henry Darger’s Sans titre, which sold for $745,076 at Christie’s Paris in 2014. (via Christie’s)

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Artsy Editorial