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Claude Monet’s Haystacks Painting Breaks Records at Auction & More Art World Headlines

May 20, 2019

Authors: Jana S. Farmer, Brian P. Mangan

artpost521The following are summaries of news reports pertaining to art law and art markets, organized by geographic regions for your browsing convenience. Wilson Elser’s Art Law practice team will transition this service to our new Art Law Blog, due to launch in the near future.

UNITED STATES

Claude Monet’s Haystacks Painting Sets a New World Record for the First Impressionist Work to Sell for More than $100 Million at Auction
The Meules (Haystacks) painting (1890), part of the Haystacks series by the celebrated French Impressionist Claude Monet, is one of the most recognized images in art history. Last week, the work sold at an auction in New York, breaking records for the most expensive work by the artist ever sold and for the most expensive Impressionist painting. 

California Judge Rules That Spanish Museum Has Good Title to Disputed Pissarro Work
A Los Angeles court has ruled, after a 15-year legal battle, that Spain’s Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection can keep a Camille Pissarro work, Rue Saint-Honoré, Après-midi, Effet de Pluie (1897), claimed to have been stolen by the Nazis. The painting’s original owners had traded the painting for their visa to escape Nazi Germany in 1939. The court, applying Spanish law, determined that the museum had obtained good title to the work because there was no way that the museum could have known that it was stolen.

Virginia Court Rules that Two of Charlottesville’s Confederate Statues Are War Memorials
In 2017, Charlottesville’s City Council voted to remove a statue depicting Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a decision that sparked a protest rally in Charlottesville that turned deadly and a national debate as to the fate of Confederate monuments. Since the protest, the City Council voted to remove the statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. A lawsuit challenging the City Council’s decisions followed; one of the arguments raised was based on a 1904 law giving the power to remove war memorials to the state as opposed to local governments that may have authorized the building of the war memorial. In ruling on a motion for a partial summary judgment, the court held that the statues are protected by the state’s law as war memorials. Other legal issues raised by this litigation remain unresolved, including the constitutionality of the state law in question. The matter is set for trial in September 2019.

Art Collective Meow Wolf Endeavors to Become the Disney of Experiences
Meow Wolf, an art collective started six years ago with a handful of artists, has broken ground on a $60 million flagship project in Denver, Colorado, with more art exhibit space than the Guggenheim; a 75,000-square-foot permanent installation in Washington; and a 50,000-square-foot section of AREA15 in Las Vegas − an "immersive bazaar," “experiential retail and entertainment complex," and a place where "artists are front and center." Boosters claim that Meow Wolf will be the Disney of the 21st century, offering fresh, surprising, immersive experiences bound to lure consumers from behind their computer screens.

Judge Allows Claim against Knoedler Gallery’s Former Owner to Proceed
The art world was rocked a few years ago when it was revealed that fake art purported to be the works of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning were allegedly sold for millions of dollars through the Knoedler Gallery, a venerable and respected gallery in existence since 1846. In a lawsuit filed by two collectors against the gallery and its former owner, the court dismissed the claims sounding in fraud and racketeering as against the individual defendant but allowed the claims based on the "piercing of the corporate veil" theory to proceed.

The Dia Art Foundation to Break Ground on Upgrades to Dia:Chelsea
The Dia Art Foundation is merging three buildings it owns in Chelsea into a single art venue totaling 32,500 square feet. The new space will dedicate 20,000 square feet to exhibitions, programming, and a new bookstore. The renovated Dia:Chelsea is scheduled to reopen in fall 2020.

Bronx Photographer Known for Documenting 1970s-1980s Alternative Culture Gets First Retrospective on 50th Anniversary of Stonewall Riots
For eleven years, Bronx-born photographer Alvin Baltrop documented the alternative culture that emerged in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. This summer, the Bronx Museum of the Arts will exhibit Baltrop’s photographs, including many that have never been made public, at the late artist’s first-ever retrospective. The exhibition is one of several for the Stonewall 50 Consortium, which is organizing programming in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the events known as the Stonewall Riots, one of the precursors to the international rise of the Gay Liberation and LGBTQ+ movements.

EUROPE

The Hermitage Is Sending Two Leonardos to Italy
Amidst the intense competition among museums to borrow works by Leonardo da Vinci during the 500th anniversary of his death, Hermitage’s Benois Madonna (1478-80) and Litta Madonna (1490-92) will return for brief shows to the artist’s country of birth. Only around 15 of da Vinci’s autograph works survive and they rarely travel. It remains to be seen whether either work will travel to the Louvre later this year for the museum’s own blockbuster show previewed for this fall.

Photo London Works to Rescind Partnership with Brunei Following Protests
The annual photography fair Photo London is working to distance itself from a partnership entered into earlier this year with the Dorchester Hotel and 45 Park Lane, two London hotels owned by the Sultan of Brunei, following a backlash and the potential threat of boycotts of the fair after Brunei recently enacted laws that make extramarital or homosexual sex punishable by death by stoning.

German Court Holds That Dismissal of Scientologist from Munich Art House Was Unjustified
Munich’s Labor Court held that the dismissal of the personnel director of the Munich Haus Der Kunst (House of Art), who had his relationship with the well-known institution terminated after more than 20 years due to his Scientology membership, was unjustified under the religious freedom law. Following the court’s decision, parties resolved the matter by settlement.

Experts Discover Image of Cupid Under the Surface of One of Vermeer’s Greatest Paintings
Laboratory tests have determined that Johannes Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, currently hanging in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, contains an image of Cupid that had been covered up. For many years, the painting originally pictured a woman reading a letter at a window in front of a blank wall. It had been thought that Vermeer had covered up Cupid himself. However, x-ray, infrared reflectology, and microscopic analysis has revealed that the painting had been over-painted at least several decades after the artist’s death. The museum plans to restore the work according to Vermeer’s original intention.

ASIA

Looters Are Selling Stolen Syrian and Iraqi Art on Facebook
Facebook reported that it has removed 49 groups after a BBC investigation discovered a statue from the ancient city of Palmyra and a complete Roman mosaic from Aleppo among the artifacts listed for sale. Archeologists believe that Facebook has barely scratched the surface of banning these networks, some of which claim more than 120,000 members.

British Artist Will Become First Foreign Artist to Show at Beijing’s Forbidden Palace
Box-office-record-breaking British artist Anish Kapoor has been given permission to install monumental works in Beijing’s Imperial Ancestral Temple, on the doorstep of the Forbidden Palace. While other Western artists have exhibited their works in China, none have installed their works so close to the Forbidden City. Kapoor recently opened a show in Santiago, Chile, and in the fall he will return to New York with his first show in Lisson Gallery.

AFRICA

Ghana Exhibits at Venice Biennale
This year’s Venice Art Biennale featured the first-ever Ghana pavilion, which contained works by such artists as the Turner-prize-nominated painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Nigeria-based Ghana-born El Anatsui. The pavilion was designed by architect Sir David Adjaye, who also designed the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is titled Ghana Freedom, after ET Mensah’s song composed when Ghana was established in 1957.

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