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The news coming out of the art world was truly international in scope this week, with stories popping up all over the globe--not least the dramatically vigorous contemporary art auctions in New York. Read on for ArtWeLove’s news digest, now also available in email form—bringing a comprehensive roundup of the week’s art developments to your digital doorstep. If you aren’t signed up, click here. As always, we welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In London, Tate Britain has named Penelope Curtis, now curator of the Henry Moore Institute, as its new director. The first woman to lead the venerable museum, Curtis will be responsible for overseeing the annual Turner Prize exhibition—and for trying to take back some of the spotlight from Tate Modern, which has attracted much more attention in recent years. The outgoing director, Stephen Deuchar, will become head of the U.K.’s Art Fund. In Italy, meanwhile, Kazuyo Sejima of the Japanese architecture firm Sanaa has been named director of the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale; she is also the first woman to hold the post.
Speaking of architecture, the city of Rome has soft-opened Maxxi (a.k.a. the National Museum of the XXI Century Arts), a multidisciplinary contemporary art center in the ancient capital's Flaminio district. Designed by Zaha Hadid, the vast, curvaceous building is already drawing extravagant praise—though some say it remains to be seen how the high-concept Pritzker Prize winner’s elegant design will work as a living, breathing museum. Another ambitious project is now underway in Copenhagen, where the city has asked artist Olafur Eliasson, a native of the Danish capital, to follow up his 2008 Waterfalls installation in New York with a different aquatic endeavor: a winding pedestrian bridge across the Christianshavns Kanal that will engage with viewers’ perceptions of land and water. A less popular architectural initiative was announced by Germany’s Museum Schloss Moyland Foundation, which wants to renovate the castle containing the Joseph Beuys Archive. A petition signed by 64 prominent figures in the art world, from Matthew Barney to Larry Gagosian, protests that the plan entails inadequate conservation facilities for the visionary artist's work.
Another place in need of repair, King Tut’s tomb, is about to get some relief. Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities has announced a five-year campaign with the Getty Conservation Institute to restore the site--the latest in a series of high-profile moves by Zahi Hawass, the council’s larger-than-life power broker. Hawass’ achievement was somewhat dulled, however, by last week’s New Yorker profile, which skewered him as a well-intentioned but anti-academic treasure hunter. “Egyptology,” according to the profile, “has as its international spokesman someone for whom all discourse tends toward propaganda.” Finally, in Oslo, a thief used a rock to smash the display window of a gallery and steal a lithograph by Edvard Munch, Norway’s most voguish art-theft target. Despite the crime—and the other Munch heists in recent years—the country does not make the Art Loss Register’s top-15 list of art-swiping hot spots. (Britain holds the top position by a large margin.)
In New York, the week’s news was dominated by a sweep of contemporary art auctions that suggested the art market, that mystical, irrational, slow-to-trickle-down exchange, is back in a big way--at least at the very top. Sotheby’s came in first with a jaw-dropping $134.4 million sale, twice the evening’s high estimate; Christie’s ran a healthy yet relatively meager $74.1 million auction; and Phillips de Pury showed with a respectable $7.1 million from its small sale. But the real winners of the week were a pair of artists, Andy Warhol and Peter Doig. At Sotheby’s, a classic Warhol silkscreen print from 1962, 200 One Dollar Bills, sold for $43.7 million—the second highest price for a work by the Pop artist ever. Rumor has it that the piece was bought by Greek shipping heir Philippe Niarchos, who coincidentally also owns the number one highest-priced Warhol, Green Car Crash (1963). Then, at Christie’s, Doig—the Scottish-born artist who was briefly the most expensive living European painter when his White Canoe (1990-91) sold for $11.3 million in 2007—personally witnessed his Reflection (What Does Your Soul Look Like) (1996) sell for $10.1 million, his second best price.
Lastly, in assorted U.S. news, the New York Times and Jerry Saltz weighed in on the mushrooming scandal over the New Museum’s ethically problematic plan to show work from the collection of a trustee, Dakis Joannou, in an exhibition curated by Jeff Koons. Amid weeks of critical press--with Saltz a rare yet powerful defender of the show--the museum also announced the finalists for the Ordway Prize, two $100,000 awards given yearly to an artist and a curator—a reminder of the institution’s foundational role of promoting the unheralded and new.