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MoMA Purchases 56 Gordon Parks Photographs; David Hockney’s “The Splash” Sells for $29.8M

Also, a donation agreement between Spain and Cuban collector Ella Fontanals-Cisneros went sour, Art Basel Hong Kong was canceled, and more.

Gordon Parks, “Raiding Detectives, Chicago, Illinois” (1957), Pigmented inkjet print, printed 2019, 11 7/8 x 17 15/16″ (30.1 × 45.6 cm) (The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Family of Man Fund. © The Gordon Parks Foundation)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York purchased 56 photographs by acclaimed photojournalist Gordon Parks from the artist’s 1957 “The Atmosphere of Crime” series. Made on assignment for LIFE magazine, for which Parks was the first African American staff photographer, The Atmosphere of Crime explores America’s criminal justice system. The acquisition comprises 55 modern color inkjet prints — made using Parks’s negatives — and one rare vintage gelatin silver print. Select photos will be included in a collection installation this May as part of the museum’s seasonal rotation of the collection.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California acquired the Walking Purchase archive. The 75 colonial-age documents refer to a 1757 investigation into a historic land swindle executed 20 years prior, when Thomas Penn defrauded the Lenni Lenape people, or Delawares, out of a massive tract of land by rigging a walking competition. The Huntington also acquired the Black Ship Scrolls, three handscrolls which document, from a Japanese perspective, Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s expeditions to Japan in 1853 and 1854; a photo album of the Kentucky State Guard at Camp Boone in 1860; and the archive of author Jeanette G. W. Kelsey, including a 435-page illustrated manuscript memoir of her relationship with author Julia Clara Pitt Byrne.

Detail from a scroll depicting US Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s first expedition to Japan, ink (brush and wash) in red, blue, black, and brown, on paper recently backed. Japan, after 1853. (The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens)

The Sotheby’s London Contemporary Art Evening Auction this past Tuesday suggests that the UK art market is in fine fettle in the wake of Brexit, despite fears to the contrary. The sale had a 93% sell-through rate and garnered $119.8 million, led by David Hockney’s “The Splash” (1966), a guaranteed work that sold on the low end of its estimate for $29.8 million. Works by younger artists Julie Curtiss and Nicole Eisenman both soared over their estimates, a testament to the power of high-end gallery representation (Curtiss and Eisenman recently joined the rosters at White Cube and Hauser & Wirth, respectively).

In New York, art dealer and real estate investor Robert Blumenthal sued artist Derek Fordjour for a cool $1.45 million, claiming that the artist owes him two paintings and five works on paper. In 2014 when Fordjour was a fledgling MFA student, Blumenthal gave him $20,000 for 20 works; Fordjour only handed over 13. As the artist’s career has taken off, the market value of these undelivered works has soared — ergo the hefty price tag. Fordjour’s first major solo museum exhibition, SHELTER, opened at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis last month. 

A donation agreement between Spain and Cuban collector Ella Fontanals-Cisneros has gone sour after over nine years of negotiations. Fontanals-Cisneros has one of the definitive private collections of Latin American art; pieces from her 3,500-work collection reside in a number of museums such as the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Tate Modern in London, and el Museo del Barrio in New York. The collector had agreed to donate around 400 artworks and loan about 600 additional artworks to the country. In return, Spain would establish a new museum, the Contemporary Art Collection of the Americas, at the Tabacalera complex in Madrid. However, negotiations have broken down, culminating in a letter from Minister of Culture José Guirao stating that the Spanish state could no longer meet the terms of the agreement.

As Hyperallergic reported on February 6, Art Basel Hong Kong has canceled its 2020 edition — due not to pro-democracy protests but to the coronavirus outbreak, which was officially declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30. The fair will refund exhibitors 75% of their booth fees and keep the remaining 25%. A few hours after Art Basel Hong Kong made its announcement, Art Central, a concurrent art fair in Hong Kong, announced that it too would be calling off this year’s edition; Gallery Week Beijing announced that it would either delay or cancel its event, with updates to come on March 15.

Meanwhile, the highly anticipated sophomore edition of Frieze Week Los Angeles is upon us. It’s certainly worth checking out the fairs held in conjunction with Frieze, such as Felix and Spring/Break, as well as the concurrent exhibitions, events, and performances at local museums and galleries.

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