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IN WHAT HAS TO BE ONE OF THE MOST PECULIAR ART HEISTS to come to light in recent memory, Italy’s public broadcaster, RAI, said that some 120 artworks have been stolen from its offices at various points over the past half-century, including prints by Modigliani, Monet, and other noted artists, the AFP reports. Officials apparently became aware of the issue earlier this year, when a painting supposedly by the Italian artist Ottone Rosai fell off the wall and was identified as a copy. Police found the man who swapped it in for the original in the ’70s, and he confessed to selling the vintage piece, but the statute of limitations has run out, the Guardian reports. Authorities think most of the works were taken in the last 25 years by others. Fakes took the place of some while others vanished.
AFTER THREE YEARS OF LEGAL JOUSTING, part of the war over Robert Indiana’s legacy is coming to a close. The estate of the “LOVE” artist and a company that has the rights to reproduce some of his works, Morgan Art Foundation, have officially reached a settlement, the Associated Press reports. The company had claimed that a New York–based publisher was making unauthorized Indiana pieces in the last years of his life, while the estate said the company was not properly paying royalties to the Maine-based artist. Everyone involved rejected the allegations. The settlement, first floated months ago, is not public. The New York Times notes that the publisher, Michael McKenzie, is not a part of the settlement, and has ongoing disputes with the parties. “I can take this apart,” he told the Times of the agreement. The AP also writes that Maine’s attorney general has accused the estate of paying millions in excessive legal fees, a charge it denies. Indiana’s estate is said to be worth at least $80 million; his will called for a museum to be created in his home on the remote island of Vinalhaven.
Artist Dorothea Rockburne is suing her upstairs neighbors (a former Twitter CEO and his wife) in the SoHo building she has long called home for $2 million, alleging that water that leaked from their apartment damaged more than 176 of her works—25 to the point that they cannot be salvaged. Ginia Bellafante reports. [The New York Times]
What should become of the racist mural by artist Rex Whistler in the basement restaurant at Tate Britain in London, which became a subject of heavy public criticism last July? The museum said it will review what to do beginning this summer, with the end of the year as a deadline. Activists say the museum has been too slow to act. [The New York Times]
A news story you do not see every day: The model and photographer Penny Lancaster (who is married to rocker Rod Stewart) is working as a London police officer, and apprehended a man urinating on a Richard Serra sculpture (in a bizarre echo of David Hammons’s performance peeing on a work by the famed sculptor, as captured by Dawoud Bey). [The Sun]
The artist Phyllida Barlow was named a dame by Queen Elizabeth II, artists Edmund de Waal and Martin Parr were made CBEs (Commanders of the Order of the British Empire), and dealer Sadie Coles was given an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire). [The Art Newspaper]
Writer Nicole Rudick surveyed the wide range of art that has been inspired by Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952). [T: The New York Times Style Magazine]
The U.S. Postal Service has released stamps honoring the Cuban-American artist Emilio Sanchez. [The Miami Herald]
Artist Peter Blake (CBE)—who created the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) album, and so much more—has kindly offered up his recipe for beans on toast. [Wallpaper]
A PAINTING BY DAVID BOWIE THAT WAS PURCHASED at a Goodwill shop three hours north of Toronto for CA$5 (about US$4.10) last year will be offered at auction later this month with an estimate of CA$9,000 (about US$7,400), the Globe and Mail reports. It’s a portrait of a somewhat spooky spectral head. While such astounding thrift-store finds often involve serious detective work on the part of buyers, Rob Cowley (of the Toronto house Cowley Abbott , which is handling the sale) said that the anonymous seller “was taken by the painting itself at first. Then she saw the printed label on the back that identified it as a work by David Bowie.” Good eye! [The Globe and Mail]
Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.
Objet: Candles Inspired by Classical Sculptures
Scrolling through the Instagram postings of American influencers whose brands rely on a certain adjacency to European culture, I’ve noticed that the standard fare of empty Diptyque glasses, Matisse cutouts, and starburst mirrors is now being complemented by sculptural candles. In the past few years, we’ve seen pastel-hued candles shaped like geometric solids, candles speckled…
Scrolling through the Instagram postings of American influencers whose brands rely on a certain adjacency to European culture, I’ve noticed that the standard fare of empty Diptyque glasses, Matisse cutouts, and starburst mirrors is now being complemented by sculptural candles. In the past few years, we’ve seen pastel-hued candles shaped like geometric solids, candles speckled with bright colors looking like they’re straight out of Splatoon, and candles in the form of cereal bowls, pastries, and sneakers. But what this new wave of creators are displaying on their shelves and coffee tables are miniature versions in wax of famous Classical statues.
The most viral brand in this regard is New York–based Anaïs Candle, which was founded around a year ago. One of the owners, Kat, who declined to give her full name because she doesn’t want to take the focus away from the products, has had a lifelong fascination with the Venus de Milo. Soon after the launch of the Venus candle, which appeared in highly aestheticized Instagram photos, either in rows of four or solo in elaborate tableaux where it was flanked by champagne flutes, flower arrangements (roses and peonies, mainly), high-end beauty products, or latte art, there was, Kat says, a demand for a male equivalent. Anaïs Candle opted for the head of Michelangelo’s David. “There were already a lot of candles depicting the male body,” she says. On the site, the head is known simply as “Man.”
While Anaïs maintains a neutral color palette, with candles available in off-white, stone gray, calcite blue, and black, other independent candle makers are melding Classical art with a Gen-Z color palette. Forget Millennial Pink and its buddy Marigold Yellow; what about a bust of Artemis in ultramarine blue, or a David in lime green or bubblegum pink? Néos Candle Studio, based in Costa Mesa, California, gave their versions of Venus and David, as well as a candle inspired by the Diana of Versailles, just such a contemporary spin. Says Néos founder Sonia Marcinek, “A David or Artemis candle in a neon color creates the exact eclectic aesthetic I had in mind when I envisioned my candles.”
There is a whole pantheon of deities, heroes, and comely mortals to draw from, though, and Cody Bennett, founder of the Australian company The Busted Gentleman, is doing so. “So many brands have done versions of David and Venus,” he says. “I wanted to show that there are other Greek gods just as beautiful.” His candles depict gods of the arts, including Apollo and Orpheus.
The Busted Gentleman
All of these candles have two to six hours’ worth of burning time, but customers often won’t light them. Yet, the candlemakers maintain, that’s part of the experience. “We would say that when our candles burn, it’s actually even more aesthetic,” says Kat.
Auction Sales Rebound to Pre-Pandemic Levels with Boost from Asia: Report
According to a report published by London-based art market analytics firm Pi-eX, auction sales are once again at pre-pandemic levels after a tumultuous year of financial strain. Despite an abrupt shutdown that forced the industry to adapt overnight, data from the second quarter of this year suggests the auction market is back in full force.…
According to a report published by London-based art market analytics firm Pi-eX, auction sales are once again at pre-pandemic levels after a tumultuous year of financial strain.
Despite an abrupt shutdown that forced the industry to adapt overnight, data from the second quarter of this year suggests the auction market is back in full force. According to the report, the top three public auction houses—Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips—saw a 405 percent year-over-year increase in sales during the second quarter of 2021 between the months of April and June.
Whereas the houses brought in $900 million during the second quarter of 2020, during the second quarter of this year, they brought in $4.6 billion, slightly exceeding numbers from the same period in 2019. In the second quarter of 2020, these houses weathered the worst year-over-year drop-off since the 2008 financial crisis.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg Markets, Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti said that auction houses struggled in 2020 because “there was very strong demand, but the supply was more challenging.” In other words, art collectors were more reluctant to sell their works during the embattled financial period. Buyers, on the other hand, were likely to go after opportunities to collect during the economic lag.
Now, things have changed. A boost from Asia-based clients fueled the market’s return to its pre-pandemic level. They increased auction sale results in China, boosting them to $1.2 billion this year—a sum that’s up 69 percent from the $734 million generated in the second quarter of 2019.
By comparison, the U.S. failed to bounce back to its 2019 level during 2021’s second quarter, however, with saw a 16 percent drop in sales from the same period in 2019.
In a report on the first half of 2021, Christie’s said Asian buyers accounted for a historic high of 39 percent all bids across fine art and luxury categories, spending $1.04 billion in total. Phillips likewise found success in the region, seeing the highest increase in sales between the second quarters of 2019 and 2021. The 34 percent uptick can be attributed to the London-based house’s collaboration with Chinese auction house Poly for its modern and contemporary art evening sales. This spring, Phillips and Poly made $122 million across four consecutive white-glove sales over the course of a week.
Meanwhile, across sales in all regions, Sotheby’s saw a 16 percent increase in the second quarter of 2021 over the second quarter of 2019. Christie’s, which led by market share in 2019, however, saw its Q2 2021 sales dip by 9 percent.
The second quarter of this year also saw the return of another crucial auction format: the single-owner collection sale, which brings major holdings amassed by the world’s wealthy elite to the open market, often after decades of secrecy. The estate of French advertising tycoon Francis Gross sold his Surrealist works at Christie’s, for example, and luxury footwear mogul Stuart Weitzman parted ways with rare stamps at Sotheby’s. According to the Pi-eX report, these auctions helped boost the houses’ sales by a significant margin, signaling a return of confidence among the art world’s high-profile sellers. The sales generated $489 million in Q2 2021, about five times the amount made in the second quarter of 2020.
A new focus on non-traditional collectible categories, such as crypto art, attracted millennial buyers this year and played a role in the market’s rebound. NFT sales are now a $2.4 billion global market according to a recent Dapp Industry report. Following the $69 million sale of a Beeple work in March, NFTs dominated the first quarter of 2021. The pace of NFT buying slowed between April and June this year, accounting for just $50 million, or around 1 percent of Christie’s, Sotheby’s, and Phillips’s total sales.
Venice Avoids UNESCO’s ‘In Danger’ Designation After Cruise Ship Ban
After banning large cruise ships from traveling through its lagoon, Venice has avoided being designed an “in danger” UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO made the announcement on Thursday, a week after the Italian cabinet declared the city’s waterways a national monument. The historic move aimed to preserve the embattled ecosystem from damage by the ships,…
After banning large cruise ships from traveling through its lagoon, Venice has avoided being designed an “in danger” UNESCO World Heritage site. UNESCO made the announcement on Thursday, a week after the Italian cabinet declared the city’s waterways a national monument. The historic move aimed to preserve the embattled ecosystem from damage by the ships, which had begun to return to Venice following a break necessitated by the pandemic.
The World Heritage Committee, the governing body of the heritage sites, has given the Italian government until next December to further detail its efforts to preserve Venice’s ecosystem and heritage. Italy’s Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, said in a statement that “attention on Venice must remain high” and emphasized the city’s need to find a “sustainable development path.”
Environmentalists have been campaigning for a decade to ban oversized tourist vessels from the lagoon, citing the large waves caused by ships. These waves destabilize the underwater ecosystem and could harm the city’s already fragile foundation. In recent weeks, protestors have staged demonstrations, flying flags reading “No big boats.”
In 2019, UNESCO warned the Italian city about the problems associated with cruise ships passing through the Venice lagoon. Those cruise ships, which brought millions to Venice each year prior to the pandemic, will now be banned from entering the Basin of San Marco, the Canal of San Marco, and the Giudecca Canal as of August 1.
Non-governmental watch groups claim that the ban does not address the many issues the city faces, such as over-tourism and the management of natural resources. The groups also say that the temporary decision to moor cruise ships in the industrial port of Marghera still puts the lagoon at risk.
“The persistent issues afflicting the precarious state of conservation of Venice and its lagoon has long been associated with a complex and ineffective governance framework,” Stephan Doempke, chairman of World Heritage Watch, told the UNESCO committee. “It lacks a long-term vision and a strategy involving the local community.”