Category Archives: Art and Entertainment

Court Orders Antiques Dealer to Pay

A court has ordered antiques dealer Jack Shaoul to pay gallerist Alex Komolov $1.1 million over the sale of a fake Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting.

According to Page 6, Komolov, who owns the Alskom Gallery in Manhattan, was awarded the amount he paid for the fraudulent canvas in 2010. The decision concludes a bizarre trial in which the defendant claimed in his testimony, among other things, that he bought the painting from a dead man called Joe Levy who briefly came back to life for two months, before dying again.

Additionally, Shaoul’s legal team attempted to use Komolov’s nationality to portray him as dishonest by pointing out that he’s from Russia—a baldfaced attempt to take advantage of the climate of distrust stemming from Vladimir Putin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 American presidential election.

“Attempts to smear Alex with his Russian heritage were weak at best and deplorable at worst,” Komolov’s crisis manager Wendy Feldman told Page 6.

Komolov’s attorney, Phil Chronakis, of the law firm Budd Larner, also pointed out that Shaoul already served time in prison for art fraud. He explained, “As Alex’s lawyer, my focus is on collecting this judgment, which will be $1.8 million, because of the seven years of interest that comes with the verdict.”

Meanwhile, the painting’s fate hangs in the balance, and Chronakis said it should be given to the district attorney to take it out of the marketplace and prevent future fraud from occurring in connection with the canvas.

The Art Newspapers Museum Attendance Report

Cultural institutions are facing a host of challenges according to a 2016 attendance survey from the Art Newspaper. Falling tourism against the backdrop of international terrorism, increased competition from the private sector, and rising overheads, are all issues that museums must contend with.

Terrorism knocks museum attendance in Europe

Terror attacks weighed on tourism and had a knock-on effect on museum visitors to European institutions. French institutions in particular, were negatively affected. Although the Louvre still topped TAN‘s survey with 7.4 million visitors in 2016, it was nonetheless a drop of 1.2 million people compared to the 8.6 million visitors recorded in 2015. The Musée d’Orsay also saw visitor numbers fall, to 3 million attendees in 2016, a sizable deficit compared to the 3.4 million visitors it recorded in 2015. However, at the Centre Pompidou, which is less reliant on visitors from overseas, numbers were up by 275,000 to 3.3 million.

In Belgium, terror attacks in Brussels last March also affected attendance at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique which encompasses several venues throughout the Belgian capital. Numbers dropped by a third, falling from 776,000 in 2015 to 497,000 in 2016.

Publicly accessible collections funded by private collectors and benefactors are becoming a force to be reckoned with. The current crop of private mega-collectors have resources and budgets at their disposal that most institutions can only dream of, which is reflected in the growing visitor numbers of these privately-owned museums. Mexican telecommunications billionaire Carlos Slim’s Museo Soumaya in Mexico City topped the world’s private museums, attracting 2.2 million visitors. Bernard Arnault’s Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris attracted 1.2 million visitors, while Eli and Edythe Broad’s Broad museum tallied 753,000 visitors.

Art Dealer Perry Rubenstein

Los Angeles art dealer Perry Rubenstein has pleaded no contest to two felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement for failing to pay clients including Hollywood tycoon Michael Ovitz, reports the Los Angeles Times. Art collector Michael Salke also claimed Rubenstein defrauded him.

Rubenstein could get up to 180 days in jail when he’s sentenced on May 22, and he’ll have to pay restitution. Variety reports that the judge will order Rubenstein to pay some $1.14 million, but that he’s expected to pay just $167,500.

At the heart of the case were works by Takashi Murakami and Richard Prince.

Rubenstein sold two Prince works for Ovitz, one for less than the agreed minimum, and kept the payment. Ovitz took insurer Chartis Property Casualty to court to get reimbursed $2.5 million for an untitled Prince painting and $1.6 million for Nobody’s Home, per court papers consulted by the LA Times.

Salke sold the Murakami work via Rubenstein. The buyer, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, had paid $825,000 for the piece, but Rubenstein told Salke that the foundation had paid just $630,000. The facts came out, as it happens, after Salke brought suit when Rubenstein tried to add $20,000 to his commission, reported the LA Times at the time. Rubenstein was arrested in April 2016.

His eponymous Hollywood gallery, opened in 2012, filed for bankruptcy in 2014, indicating that the gallery’s assets were up to $1 million but that its liabilities were as much as $10 million. The dealer, who owed money to the IRS, street artist Shepard Fairey, and the powerful New York attorney Aaron Richard Golub, assured artnet News at the time that he intended to resolve his credit issues.

Rubenstein had his beginnings in New York, where he had worked as a dealer beginning in the 1980s, and opened a gallery on 23rd Street in 2004. He worked with artists including Kamrooz Aram, Iwan Baan, Zoe Crosher, Georg Herold, Richard Woods, and Amir Zaki.

The Art World This Week in One Minute

In a conversation with artnet News, Whitney Biennial co-curator Christopher Lew offers a spirited defense of artist Dana Schutz‘s contested painting of the disfigured corpse of Emmett Till: “I don’t think there is any blame to be laid, period.”

We’ve gotten some new glimpses of the radically dark pigment Vantablack, which eats lasers and flattens reality. Also this week in Vantablack news, in the latest installment of an ongoing feud, artist Stuart Semple sells his own super-dark artist material, which is available to all artists—unlike Vantablack, to which Anish Kapoor has the exclusive rights.

Ai Weiwei fans living in New York will be thrilled to know about an ambitious outdoor project the Chinese artist is undertaking with the city’s Public Art Fund.

Planning some museum visits this spring? Don’t miss these 25 must-see shows.

She wasn’t just Rodin’s girlfriend and muse—Camille Claudel was an artist in her own right, and now she’s getting her own museum.

In a case that pitted an art dealer against Hollywood royalty, Perry Rubenstein has pleaded no contest to charges of defrauding Michael Ovitz in a sale of two Richard Prince paintings.

Also this week in art and crime, Robert “the cook” Gentile, whom investigators have long had their eye on in the investigation of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, pleaded guilty in an unrelated guns charge, which he says is just a way of pressuring him in the museum investigation.

New Yorkers lost a chance to see the offerings of the first-ever Iranian gallery slated to participate in the AIPAD photography fair, taking place this week; Ag Galerie dropped out due to President Donald Trump’s executive order on travel and immigration from six majority-Muslim nations.

Set more than a decade ago

The Upper East Side mansion of art heir David Wildenstein has just set a real estate record for a New York City townhouse at a cool $79.5 million, according to real estate newspaper The Real Deal. The previous record of $53 million was paid for the Harkness mansion, sold in 2006.

News of the sale follows several years of false starts including a failed deal with Qatar, and two separate lawsuits. The report describes the buyer as “an entity affiliated with Roy Liao, CEO of HNA Holdings Group, the same company behind the $2.2 billion deal to buy 245 Park Avenue.”

As reported by artnet News and others, in early January, billionaire investor Len Blavatnik sued David Wildenstein for $10 million, claiming that Wildenstein reneged on the sale of the townhouse. Wildenstein’s attorneys argued it was an informal handshake deal rather than a binding sale agreement. In early March, a judge dismissed Blavatnik’s suit according to Curbed, a move which appears to have paved the way for the latest deal to move forward.

The Wildensteins first tried to offload the property in 2014, arranging a $90 million deal with the Qatari royal family, who reportedly sought to use the building as a consulate. When that deal fell through, the Wildensteins sued the royal family.

Last August the family put the mansion pack on the market—with an additional $10 million tacked on to the price tag—clearly a price buyers deemed too lofty. Despite that the reported $79.5 million ($3,180 a foot) is a Manhattan real estate record, it is still more than $20 million below the latest re-listing price.

HNA’s press office did not immediately respond to artnet News request for comment. Carrie C. Chiang of Corcoran real estate reportedly represented the Wildenstein family. She did not immediately respond to artnet News’ request for comment.

Popular Mural in Rome

A large-scale frieze created by the South African artist William Kentridge on the bank of Rome’s River Tiber has been vandalized with graffiti.

Kentridge told AFP that he couldn’t understand why the authorities in Rome had not removed the graffiti as soon as they started to appear.

The mural—which depicts the history of Rome and is called Triumphs and Laments—was created by Kentridge by removing the dirt building up on the walls lining the Tiber, across 550 meters (1,800 feet), using a technique called “reverse stenciling.”

Located in on the right bank of the Tiber in the Trastevere district, close to St. Peter’s Basilica, the frieze was inaugurated in April 2016 and has since attracted widespread interest by tourists and locals.

Yet, since its launch, graffiti—most of them simple “tags” featuring names and initials—have been consistently appearing in the blank spaces between the images outlined by the artist.

It seems his plea has worked. According to AFP, that same day, Luca Bergamo, Rome’s deputy mayor, ordered a team from the city’s refuse department to clean the frieze and erase the graffiti, calling the vandals “stupid.”

Get Their Day in Court Over Destruction of Murals

A judge’s order will send to trial a suit by a group of graffiti artists against a real estate owner who destroyed their murals at the 5Pointz site in Queens, New York. After a four-year battle, Senior US District Judge Frederic Block’s order, filed March 31, grants the 5Pointz graffiti artists’ right to sue under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990.

At issue is the former site of giant graffiti murals that covered a city block’s worth of warehouses in Western Queens, across the street from MoMA PS1. They attracted tourists by the busload and featured works by artists from as far away as Australia and Japan. Graffiti artists had been plastering the walls with their works since 1993.

Curated by a graffiti artist named Meres One (Jonathan Cohen) since 2002, the colorful murals were a reminder of a grittier past in a gentrified neighborhood bustling with new high-rise construction. The owner, G&M Realty’s Gerald Wolkoff, also rented out space to artists there at low cost.

When Wolkoff resolved to destroy the buildings to make way for a new residential development, artists brought suit to stop him in order to preserve their artworks, asserting a claim under VARA as well as “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” conversion, and property damage. Their case was thrown out, and, without warning one night during November 2013, the owners whitewashed the murals, erasing, as the artists’ spokeswoman told the New York Times, the work of at least 1,500 artists. The abrupt erasure allowed the artists no time to document or preserve their work.

A group of 17 artists brought another federal suit in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York in June, 2015, claiming that their work was protected under VARA, which provides for damages if the works are of “recognized stature,” typically determined by expert witnesses. The plaintiffs’ witness put forth corporate commissions and celebrity clients of some of the street artists, as well as museum professionals’ opinions and the artists’ online presence and press coverage, among other factors.

Why this prize is different from the rest

Last Friday, the City Hall of Porto, Portugal, announced the finalists of the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize, featuring a shortlist of 48 artists chosen by a top-tier network of international curators, writers, and museum directors.

Elena Filipovic, of the Kunsthalle Basel; Nancy Spector and Pablo León de la Barra, of the Guggenheim; Venus Lau, of OCAT Shenzhen; and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the Serpentine Galleries, are among 16 curators chosen by an initial jury of four.

That jury includes curator and writer João Laia; artist Julião Sarmento; choreographer and dancer Meg Stuart; and curator, and former Tate director, Vicente Todolí.

They were selected by the Culture Department of the City Council of Porto, and in turn, handpicked four curators each from around the world, who selected three artists each as grand finalists for the prize.

“The prize is different from the others because it is a kind of networked model. It functions with successive nominations in a loop. The jury nominates curators who nominate artists, and then the shortlist goes back to the jury to choose the winner,” Laia told artnet News. “It is absolutely transparent, which is great.”

The 48 nominated artists include Olga Balema; Paul Maheke; Ian Cheng; Eva Koťátková; Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa; Njideka Akunyili Crosby; and Christine Sun Kim, who was actually nominated by two curators, Nancy Spector and João Riba.

Laia told artnet News he is happy with the gender distribution of the artists and curators.

Eligible to artists under 40 who have had, at most, one solo exhibition at an institution with an “international reputation,” the PCS Prize seems to agree with the idea that “emerging” equals “young.” In contrast, the Turner Prize, previously limited to artists under 50, announced an expanded rule last week, that will now allow artists of any age to win.

The winner of the Porto-based prize, to be announced in June, will receive a cash award of €25,000 ($26,700). Their work will also be the focus of a show at the Galeria Municipal do Porto, a public contemporary art space, to take place in 2018.

“[The prize] is a tribute to Paulo Cunha e Silva. He had a crucial important role in establishing Porto as a hub for culture in Portugal and in linking the city and the country to larger international flows of thinking,” Laia told artnet News.

“It is also part of a larger dynamic taking place now in Portugal, where culture and art have been given a renewed attention, and at the same time, the international scene is also looking at Portugal as an interesting art and culture platform. This award comes at the right time in the right place in terms of the Portuguese context.”

Learning Apprentice to LA Art Star Thomas Houseago

That’s one way to cope. On the heels of his divorce from Angelina Jolie, actor Brad Pitt is honing his art skills under the tutelage of British sculptor Thomas Houseago, according to the British tabloid the Daily Mail.

The 53-year-old actor is reportedly spending marathon sessions of up to 15 hours a day in Houseago’s Los Angeles studio, staying long after the artist’s assistants have called it a day.

“Art is a way for him to concentrate on one thing, taking his mind off everything else,” an unnamed source hypothesized to the Mail, adding that Pitt is “learning at a fast pace.”

The tabloid speculates that Pitt was inspired to become a sculptor himself after attending a conversation between Houseago and Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea, in which Houseago spoke of his own personal difficulties. (The event was at the Broad art museum, and is archived on Facebook Live.) Evidently, Pitt and Houseago live near each other in the same “exclusive compound” and “have been friends for some time.”

Pitt’s newfound passion for sculpting has even taken precedence over Hollywood’s annual award season. Aside from a brief appearance at the Golden Globes in January, Pitt blew off all other ceremonies and galas. He even skipped the Oscars despite being one of the producers of Best Picture winning film “Moonlight.”

But Pitt’s interest in art is long-standing.Two years ago, he was spotted visiting Berlin gallery Sprüth Magers to see Ed Ruscha’s “Metro Mattress” exhibition, which featured drawings of discarded mattresses to invoke Los Angeles’ urban landscape. Together, Pitt and Jolie amassed a collection that has been estimated to be worth $25 million. Prior to the couple’s well-publicized split, they acquired pieces from artists such as Marcel Dzama, Banksy, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Neo Rauch.

Celebrating an important centennial

If you thought the Nordic and Baltic regions couldn’t get any busier in terms of art events, think again: Latvia has just joined the pack, and will launch the inaugural edition of the Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art (RIBOCA) in June 2018.

RIBOCA is an initiative of the Riga Biennial Foundation, a commissioning body founded and directed by Agniya Mirgorodskaya with the aim of championing contemporary art in the region.

For each edition of the biennial, a significant proportion of the commissioned and participating artists will either have been born in, or live and work in, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

“Our exciting new commissions, in carefully selected sites, will make up over 50 percent of the works included, and a significant proportion of Baltic and Nordic artists will be represented,” Mirgorodskaya told artnet News.

Although the theme and curatorial concept of this first edition won’t be revealed until later this year, the Riga Biennial Foundation has announced that Katerina Gregos will be the chief curator.

In her curatorial work, the Greek-born curator, writer, and lecturer (and former artistic director of Art Brussels) often focuses on themes of human rights and personal histories of migration—issues that could also be featured in the inaugural edition of the Riga Biennial, as 2018 marks the centenary for the Restoration of Independence of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The Baltic region will mark the date with a series of cultural events, including the 13th Baltic Triennial which will coincide with RIBOCA.

“We are so delighted to finally announce our plans for the Riga Biennial. One of our primary objectives is to grow and diversify the audiences for international contemporary art—and that the biennial is sensitive to its location in Riga,” Mirgorodskaya told artnet News.