Art Basel Miami Beach has come to a close, and the 269 galleries in attendance can pack up their booths and head home. The highlight of the fair was, of course, Maurizio Cattelan’s “Comedian,” a $120,000 banana duct-taped to a wall. Perrotin Gallery was able to sell three editions of the work before the original was eaten in an intervention by performance artist David Datuna, who clarified that he is “not a banana eating person.” In the long shadow of the fruit, sales reports indicate that the top-grossing painting, a Marc Chagall, was sold by Hammer Galleries for over $2 million, and the top sculpture, Georg Baselitz’s large bronze “Sing Sang Zero” (2011), was sold by Thaddaeus Ropac for $3.8 million.
In Miami, New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) and Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) announced their selection for the third annual NADA Acquisition Gift. Funded by ticket sales from NADA Miami, this year’s gift to PAMM is “New Hat” (2019), an oil, acrylic, and flashe work by New York-based Dominican-American artist Kenny Rivero, from Charles Moffett. In entering the museum’s permanent collection, “New Hat” joins an array of modern and contemporary art committed to exploring the US Latinx experience, the African diaspora, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami received a donation of three new works by artists Jadé Fadojutimi, Dalton Gata, and Shara Hughes, and acquired a new video commission by Wong Ping. (Recall that the museum announced its acquisition of more than 100 works in late November.) The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, received a gift of more than 1000 photographs and a collection of Asian scholars’ rocks, also known as gongshi, from Stanton B. and Nancy W. Kaplan. The donation includes photographs by Eugène Atget, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston, as well as images currently on view in the museum’s solo exhibition of work by Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo. The Kaplans also donated funding to endow the Ringling’s Photography and Media Arts program and a curatorial position in the photography department.
Acquisitions were not limited to the sunshine state. In New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem acquired “Topography,” a 2016 appliqué fabric work by textile artist Christopher Myers, from Fort Gansevoort. In London, the National Portrait Gallery announced a new addition — Mark Mattock’s photographic portrait of Stormzy, a Croydon-born British musician known for having the first Grime album to top UK charts. (This isn’t the first portrait of Stormzy in the museum’s collection; the musician is also the subject of two National Portrait Gallery photographs by Olivia Rose.)
Meanwhile in Amsterdam, Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen and his husband Henk van Dijk donated 24 photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe to the Rijksmuseum. The museum has 150,000 photographs in its collection, but prior to the new donation, only one of those photographs was by Mapplethorpe.
In New York, “GAME CHANGERS,” the third annual watch auction hosted by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo, grossed $20.2 million with a tidy 100% of the 74 watches selling. Auction records abounded: five timepieces passed the $1 million mark and world record prices were set for a Rolex GMT-Master ($1.95 million; previously Marlon Brando’s), a Rolex Day-Date ($1.22 million; formerly golfer Jack Nicklaus’), a rare pink gold Patek Philippe Reference 1518 ($2.3 million), and a yellow gold second series Patek Philippe Reference 2499 ($2 million). Proceeds from several of the sales went to charities including the Brando Fischer Foundation, the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation, the National Geographic Society, United Way of New York City, One Drop, and Random Act Funding.
Across the pond at Kerry Taylor Auctions in London, several dresses previously owned by Princess Diana went to the auction block. While a Katherine Cusak evening gown sold for around $63,300 and a navy Catherine Walker outfit went for about $36,900, the blue velvet dress that Diana donned as she famously danced with John Travolta at a 1985 White House dinner reception failed to sell. It had been estimated at $330,000–$450,000.
At the High Court of Justice in London, several years of litigation over a disputed Frans Hals came to a close. In 2011 Sotheby’s privately sold a painting attributed to Hals, “Portrait of a Gentleman,” for $10.8 million. Five years later the auction house identified modern pigments in the work and declared it to be a forgery. Sotheby’s repaid the buyer, Seattle-based property developer and collector Richard Hedreen, and petitioned for reimbursement from the sellers. A $4.2 million settlement from one of the sellers, art dealer Mark Weiss, came earlier this year; now, the auction house has also been reimbursed by Fairlight Art Ventures.
In repatriation news, University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology returned fragments of 387 ancient clay tablets to Iraq, where they will reside in the Baghdad Museum. The cuneiform-inscribed fragments, which date to around 2000 BC, are among thousands excavated during expeditions involving Penn and the British Museum from 1922 (the same year that Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened in Egypt) to 1934. They had been shipped to Penn Museum for study and translation.
The Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris will return a fragment of a maro ‘ura, or 18th century Polynesian royal feathered belt, to the Museum of Tahiti and the Islands in 2021 on a three-year renewable loan following the belt’s inclusion in a Quai Branly exhibition. The return of the maro ‘ura, which would have been worn by chieftains during coronations and ceremonies, comes as part of President Emmanuel’s pledge to repatriate objects taken without consent in the colonial period.
As arts communities around the world experience a time of challenge and change, accessible, independent reporting on these developments is more important than ever.
Please consider supporting our journalism, and help keep our independent reporting free and accessible to all.