01 The world’s top architecture prize went to Balkrishna Doshi, an Indian architect and urban planner known for designing low-cost housing.
“It is a very wonderful thing that happened,” Doshi told the New York Times after winning the 2018 Pritzker Prize, becoming the 45th laureate and the first architect from India to receive the coveted award. Doshi’s work is at the forefront of community-conscious, low-cost housing, driven by a belief that architecture should serve the public good rather than the demands of a single client. Doshi worked with Le Corbusier in the 1950s, overseeing several buildings that were part of the Swiss architect’s radical urban plan for the Indian city of Chandigarh. In his work, Doshi draws upon traditional Indian architecture, such as for the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (1977–92), which was “inspired by traditional, mazelike temple cities in southern India,” according to the Times. Vastushilpa Consultants, the private practice Doshi founded in 1956, has worked on over 100 projects in total. Among the crowning achievements of the 90-year-old architect is the Aranya Community Housing in Indore, an affordable housing project designed to accommodate 80,000 residents, which features a series of interconnected homes and courtyards.
02 Christie’s, Sotheby’s and Phillips brought in a combined £345 million with fees across their Post-War and Contemporary evening sales in London.
Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary evening art sale in London pulled off an almost flawless performance to start the week on Tuesday, notching the highest-ever total for any contemporary art auction held in Europe, to the tune of £137.9 million, including buyer’s fees. Only five of the 65 lots offered failed to sell, for a stellar buy-in rate by lot of 92 percent. Primed with appealing and largely blue-chip offerings, the art market continued to show strength and stability at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening sale on Wednesday, bringing in £109.2 million after buyer’s fees with only three out of 58 lots going unsold. The tally, including fees, neared the high side of pre-sale estimates between £85.8 million and £118.7 million; the buy-in rate by lot was a slender 5.2 percent. The hammer total was £93.4 million. The evening total was roughly a 7 percent drop from last year’s £117.4 million result, including fees. Anchored by a stunning Picasso painting and a ravishing Matisse sculpture, Phillips’s 20th Century & Contemporary Art evening sale broke into the big leagues with the firm’s best-ever sale on Thursday night, which pulled in £97.8 million, nearly seven times its total from the previous spring sale in London. The hammer tally of £84.5 million, before fees, blasted past the high pre-sale estimate of £73.1 million. Picasso’s spare yet convincingly sensual La Dormeuse, executed on March 13, 1932, in oil and charcoal on canvas and capturing sleeping beauty of his muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, sold to an anonymous telephone bidder on the line with Marianne Hoet, deputy chairman of Phillips Europe, for a whopping £37 million (£41.8 million with fees), more than doubling its high estimate.
03 New U.S. government data shows that the arts contributed over $763.6 billion to the American economy in 2015.
The arts sector employed 4.9 million Americans in 2015, who together earned over $370 billion, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—a contribution to the U.S. economy great than both the agricultural and transportation sectors. Together, the arts comprised 4.2% of the U.S. GDP in 2015, with the sector expanding by an average of 2.6% between 2012 and 2015, the latest year for which data is available. The data was also broken down by state for the first time. Unsurprisingly, New York and California saw the most arts-generated economic impact, with the arts adding $114.1 billion and $174.6 billion to the two states’ economies, respectively. But Washington State and Utah saw the highest year-over-year growth between 2012 and 2015, averaging more than 5% annually. “The data confirm that the arts play a meaningful role in our daily lives, including through the jobs we have, the products we purchase, and the experiences we share,” NEA chairman Jane Chu said in a statement.
04 The director of Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts has been temporarily suspended amidst mounting scrutiny of an exhibition that experts say contained forgeries.
Catherine de Zegher was suspended Wednesday night by a board of directors that oversees the Belgian city’s cultural institutions—a decision she only learned of after being asked about it by a journalist, according to artnet News (citing Belgian paper De Tijd). The suspension will last until an investigation into the museum’s 2017 Russian avant-garde exhibition, which some experts believe was littered with fakes, is complete. This news comes amidst mounting criticism of how Zegher handled 24 works loaned to the institution by collector Igor Toporovsky, which were included in the exhibition on Russian modernism. The pieces were removed after experts raised authenticity concerns in The Art Newspaper in mid-January. Zegher claims that she had the collection examined and authenticated by two art historians, but both have since indicated that they had doubts about the works—one went so far as to label the Toporovsky works “fake.”
05 Artist Liv Wynter resigned as a Tate artist-in-residence in response to what she called “invisible inequalities” at the museum.
(via The Guardian)
Wynter resigned on Wednesday, just ahead of International Women’s Day, to bring attention to how the Tate and other arts intuitions are failing to combat sexual assault and to diversify, The Guardian reported. Wynter was particularly critical of Tate director Maria Balshaw’s comments, made last month to the Times, that she “was raised to be a confident woman who, when I encountered harassment, would say: ‘Please don’t’ ... or something rather more direct.” Wynter, who, according to The Guardian, identifies as a “queer working-class female artist,” is also a survivor of domestic violence. She said she felt “personal shame” working for Balshaw after the remarks. Balshaw later apologized for her comments on Instagram and in a meeting with Tate staff. “It is absolutely not my intention to say that women are in any way to blame,” she wrote on the social media platform. “To be clear, it is the perpetrators who are responsible for their behaviour and not the women who are subjected to it.”
06 The Guggenheim Foundation won a long-running legal dispute over the management of Peggy Guggenheim’s collection and former home in Venice.
(via The Art Newspaper)
The family of Sandro Rumney, the son of Peggy Guggenheim’s daughter, sued the Guggenheim Foundation in France in 2014. The impetus was the organization’s decision to accept 83 works from another collection and, as a result, place several works from Peggy’s collection (on view in her former Venice home) in storage to make room for the resulting exhibition. When she died, Peggy bequeathed her house and her collection to the Guggenheim Foundation in New York. The Rumney family argued that the recent removal of work from view violated both her wishes and a prior 1996 settlement reached between the the family and the foundation. But France’s highest court disagreed, ruling on Wednesday that the terms of the settlement didn’t prohibit the exhibition of work from another collection, and that the Rumneys had failed to prove that the display “damaged the reputation” of Peggy’s historic collection. The court also ruled against the family’s claim that the foundation had disrespected Peggy’s burial site and ordered the Rumneys to pay the foundation €3,000. The Guggenheim Foundation said it was “pleased that these meritless lawsuits and appeals have now come to an end,” in a statement to The Art Newspaper. A statement from the family said that Peggy’s collection should be treated as its own intellectual work, not to be changed through the display of outside pieces.
07 Piet Mondrian’s heirs have laid a claim to four of the artist’s paintings currently held by the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld, Germany.
(via the New York Times)
Heirs of the famous modernist painter claim they are the rightful owners of the works, which Mondrian left behind when he fled Europe in the 1930s. Over three years, a team of experts hired by the heirs—led by provenance researcher Monika Tatzkow—investigated the pieces and found that the works were first exhibited in 1929. They were then loaned to the museum in Krefeld, along with four additional paintings by the artist, an account seemingly backed up by a 2010 email from a now-retired curator at the museum. But the disputed works didn’t show up in an official museum inventory until 1954, under what the then-director called “mysterious circumstances.” Although the Wilhelm has since claimed that Mondrian gifted them the works, “it has been unable to buttress that claim with evidence,” the New York Times reported. Tatzkow told the Times it seems unlikely that Mondrian would gift works at such a perilous moment, and that if they were donated, they should have been inventoried. “The theory that these were a gift is completely absurd,” she said. The museum has also argued that any legal claim by the heirs is time-barred by the statute of limitations governing the dispute.
08 French president Emmanuel Macron has appointed two experts to formulate a strategy for the repatriation of African artifacts.
(via the New York Times)
Macron announced the appointments of art historian Bénédicte Savoy and the Senegalese writer and economist Felwine Sarr on Monday. This decision marks the most concrete step yet in the long process of fulfilling Macron’s bold pledge that the “temporary or permanent” restitution of African artifacts held in France would be a top priority for his administration—a pronouncement he made during a speech in Africa in November. The promise, a major reversal from previous French administrations, was generally met with cautious enthusiasm. Some, however, were doubtful that Macron would (or could) follow through. Savoy and Saar will present their plan in November. Curator Simon Njami, who is critical of restituting artifacts and skeptical it will ever occur, told the New York Times it would be difficult to decide which nation should receive the restituted work, considering the haphazard manner in which colonial powers divided up Africa in the 19th century. Others have read Macron’s actions as a bit of deft cultural diplomacy, an effort to increase goodwill on a continent where China is becoming increasingly influential. For her part, Savoy praised Macron’s pledge in a piece written shortly after the president’s November speech. “It suggests that sharing is possible,” she wrote, adding that the decision represents a generational shift towards the issue.
09 Defendants charged by U.S. prosecutors in a $50 million stock scam hoped to use a London art dealer to launder money.
(via Bloomberg News)
In a recorded conversation, one of the alleged perpetrators in the international securities fraud scheme suggested to an undercover FBI agent that he should use a $9.2 million Pablo Picasso painting to launder illicit profits, boasting that the art market is the “only market that is unregulated,” Bloomberg News reported. According to Bloomberg News, “The alleged perpetrators range from a U.K. stockbroker with hundreds of millions of dollars under management to a bank in Budapest.” The defendants are accused of having “conspired to conceal the ownership and control of publicly traded companies in the U.S. and manipulated the price and trading volume of the stocks,” in what are known as “pump-and-dump” scams. The undercover FBI agent had asked employees of the brokerage firm Beaufort Securities Ltd. to help him launder money from an earlier scam, for which they suggested buying Picasso’s Personnages (1965) through Mayfair Fine Art Ltd., a London dealer. Mayfair’s owner Matthew Green, who was charged in the case, agreed to arrange the sale, which was stopped before its completion. U.S. prosecutors filed the case against six defendants on Friday in a Brooklyn court, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a related civil lawsuit in Brooklyn.
10 The French High Court annulled the conviction of Pablo Picasso’s electrician and his wife, who possessed 271 works allegedly stolen from the artist.
(via The Art Newspaper)
In 2016, a court ruled that Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec––Picasso’s former electrician and his wife––must return the works, and handed them a two-year suspended prison sentence. But on February 28th, the French High Court annulled the conviction after determining that “handling stolen goods only stands if the theft itself can be demonstrated.” Now, the couple will receive a new trial focusing on who committed the theft of the works worth an estimated €70 million, with Picasso’s chauffeur, who is also Pierre Le Guennec’s late cousin, a primary suspect. The Le Guennecs claimed that Picasso’s wife, Jacqueline, gave them the artworks in 1971 or 1972, later claiming that Jacqueline (who died in 1986) gifted them a sack of pieces for their help in hiding several bags of work from Picasso’s son. “The couple’s defence lawyer, Antoine Vey, intends to develop this version, which had been discarded by the judges for lacking credibility and consistency,” The Art Newspaper reported.
Cover image: Photo by Sam Panthanky/AFP/Getty Images