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The Little Ivory Chess Piece That Sold for Almost $1 Million

Plus, last week’s case of who bought the maybe-Caravaggio painting has apparently been solved, and the Fyre Festival island is up for sale.

The recently discovered Lewis Chessmen piece (photo courtesy Sotheby’s)

At a Sotheby’s sale on July 2, one of the famous Lewis Chessmen pieces sold for £735,000 (~$927,423) — 55 years after it was first purchased for £5 (~$6). It was recently found hidden in a desk drawer belonging to a family in Edinburgh.  Carved out of walrus ivory, the chess pieces were first discovered in 1831 on the Scottish Isle of Lewis, though their exact origins are unknown.

A Christie’s sale of Old Master and British Drawings and Watercolors topped out at £3,374,125 (~$4,243,974) across 246 works. Bartolomeo Cincani, Il Montagna‘s “A woman standing on a grassy knoll, holding a fruit” outstripped all of them, selling for £1,091,250 (~$1,372,574) — more than a million dollars higher than the second highest lot, Adriaen van de Velde‘s “Cattle by a fence in a water meadow,” which sold for £193,750 (~$243,698).

Using proceeds from its $50.1 million sale of a Mark Rothko painting at Sotheby’s in June, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art just purchased 11 works by 10 artists in a push to diversify its collection. The new artists coming to the SFMOMA are Rebecca Belmore, Forrest Bess, Frank Bowling, Leonora Carrington, Lygia Clark, Norman Lewis, Barry McGee, Kay Sage, Alma Thomas, and Mickalene Thomas. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Datebook has a good rundown of the pieces being added to the collection.

Caravaggio, “Judith Beheading Holofernes” (circa 1607), (image courtesy Cabinet Turquin)

The mystery buyer of a work attributed to Caravaggio has apparently been revealed by the New York Times: J. Tomilson Hill, the American hedge fund manager and art collector worth $1.7 billion. While the painting, “Judith and Holofernes” (1607) is under dispute as a true Caravaggio, it was still expected to net a sale price of at least $110 million at auction — higher than any other European auction for artwork ever. How much Hill likely agreed to pay for the painting has not been disclosed.

The Springfield Art Museum has just made its first big purchase using insurance money obtained following the theft of its Andy Warhol prints: a Nick Cave “Soundsuit.” The vibrant, sculptural Soundsuits series of costumes, more than 25 years after he started making them, are Cave’s signature work. He once told Hyperallergic what it was like to put one on.

The financially troubled Utah Museum of Contemporary Art has sold off “a substantial portion” of its permanent collection, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported. The museum’s cash-flow problems date back to at least the ’80s, and it has been mired in debt in recent years. This report comes just months after Laura Allred Hurtado took the executive director job at the museum.

The Art Miami fair group, operator of art fairs across the the country, has been sold to Informa Markets for an undisclosed sum, Artnet reports. Now in its 30th year, Art Miami is the city’s largest art fair and the group’s umbrella also covers the fairs CONTEXT, Aqua Art Miami, Art Wynwood, Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary, and Art New York. Informa is a business intelligence firm worth $2.37 billion with 56 offices around the world.

Saddle Back Cay, as seen in a screenshot from the Fyre Festival announcement video

Saddle Back Cay, the Caribbean island that hosted the doomed, widely derided 2017 Fyre Festival — which promised to throw a party touting “the best in food, art, music and adventure” and catastrophically failed — is now on sale for $11.8 million. Tickets to festival went for as much as $49,000 a pop before it was revealed in social media posts, news reports, and subsequent documentaries, to be little more than a misbegotten scam that screwed over not just attendees but  Bahamian workers contracted to help put it together. The real estate listing for the island is nonetheless exuberant about the perks of living in the Bahamas, saying the island’s location “guarantees some compelling views over one of the best seascapes in the world!”

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