Art Industry News: Roman Abramovich, the Putin-Linked Art Collector Involved in Ukraine Talks, May Have Been Poisoned + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily summary of the most important developments in the art world and the art market. Here’s what you need to know this Tuesday, March 29.


Restitution activists disrupt sale of Gabon mask – On Saturday, protesters halted the sale of a sculpted mask at an auction house in Montpellier, France, rising up in the auction room and calling for the return of what they described as ‘colonial property ill-gotten”. The mask, which was ceremonially used by Gabon’s ethnic Fang in the 19th century and which the auctioneer said was ‘completely legal’ to sell, sold for 4.2 million euros ($4.6 million) after protesters were escorted off the scene. (Expatica)

Ukrainian Defense Minister condemns Russian attacks on Holocaust memorial – Ukrainian Defense Minister Dmytro Kuleba reported on Twitter that the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial near the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv had been shelled by Russian forces. Images of damage to the memorial’s giant black menorah have circulated online. Kuleba condemned the attack, which marks the second threat to a Holocaust memorial after Russian missiles hit targets near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv on March 1. (ART news)

Collector Roman Abramovich may have been poisoned – Russian art collector and oligarch Roman Abramovich reportedly showed symptoms consistent with poisoning after attending negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow in Ukraine. At least two Ukrainian negotiators also reportedly had red eyes, tears and peeling skin, although Ukrainian officials have suggested the public not to trust “unverified information”. Abramovich appeared in good health when he was pictured during a round of talks in Istanbul recently. (evening standard, BBC)

The French city reconnects with its Claude Lévêque – The town hall of Montreuil has decided to re-illuminate a controversial light sculpture by alleged pedophile Claude Lévêque in the town of Bel Air. The sculpture hugging the city’s water tower, titled Modern dance, was re-lit on March 21, with Deputy Mayor Alexie Lorca telling residents that while turning it off was necessary to give the allegations “breathing space”, removing the sculpture was “out of the question”. “You don’t remove a work like this out of emotion, especially since it’s now part of the neighborhood’s identity,” Lorca said. (The world)


M+ Museum names a new chair – Politician and businessman Bernard Chan has been named the next chairman of the M+ museum in Hong Kong and will assume the role for two years from April 1. Chan is currently the Chairman of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, the de facto cabinet city-state. (art forum)

MGM Makes Major Acquisitions After Art Sale – In October, MGM Resorts in Las Vegas sold Picasso for $109 million. Today, the company has invested part of the profits in works by contemporary artists such as Rashid Johnson, Sanford Biggers, Ghada Amer and Jonathan Lyndon Chase. The goal, according to a statement from MGM, is to “promote inclusion and ensure that the collection more closely reflects our diverse communities.” (Press release)

Toyen gets a show in Paris – The surrealist artist Toyen, whose work is experiencing a resurgence in popularity before its entry into the next Venice Biennale, will be the subject of a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The show will run from March 25 to July 24. (Press release)


Humboldt Forum hosts half of a new sculpture – Berlin has unveiled a two-part bronze sculpture of a half-mast flag by artist Kang Sunkoo in two locations. Entitled Statue of Limitations, it refers to the colonial history of Germany. The upper half is on Nachtigalplatz in the city’s African quarter, while the lower half is on the staircase of the Humboldt Forum, which features many acquisitions from the country’s colonial era. (Monopoly)

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Norma D. Ross