— THE BIG STORY —
The talk of the art world this month has been the fate of the Detroit Institute of Arts, which by some accounts is now on the chopping block due to the former industrial powerhouse's recent bankruptcy filing. Although the provisions of Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy technically shield the city from being forced to sell any asset, a mixture of alarmism and rational fear of a populist campaign—to find revenue wherever possible to pay pensioners and other creditors—has led a wide array of observers to wonder how much money, exactly, could be squeezed out of the encyclopedic museum's vast holdings. And no wonder: there's an abundance of riches in that neoclassical art piggybank.
Reports have widely pegged the DIA's collection as worth about $2 billion, but that is almost certainly undervalued—the Detroit Free Press has paneled a group of experts who suggest that 38 paintings, including major works by van Gogh, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Breugel, van Eyck, and others would be worth about $2.5 billion on their own. Christie's quietly visited the museum to appraise the collection in June, but even seasoned experts may not be able to fully anticipate how much a masterpiece like van Gogh's Self-Portrait With Straw Hat could achieve at auction in these superheated days of ever more gargantuan record sales. Also, how does one value an irreplaceable classic of American painting like John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark?
What's certain, though, is that if any of these works were to be sold, it would vastly and definitively reduce the museum's ability to function, sapping morale in the city's art community, strongly discouraging patronage and donations, and sparking a likely exodus of its remaining stalwart administrators.
DIA's director, Graham Beal, says that "if there are any attempts made to sell parts of the collection, we will fight it with all legal means at our disposal." That prospect, however, he insists is strictly academic. This Thursday, he previewed an exhibition of work by Diego Rivera that he plans to put on view at the museum two years from now, sanguinely saying, "We think it’s going to be business as usual in 2015."
— QUOTE OF THE WEEK —
"In art, there is always [risk of sensationalization or spectacle]. But the most important is the attitude of the artist himself. How this sensationalism affects him. If the artist understands this is just a side effect and not the main aim of his work, then he can handle it. Otherwise, the sensationalism can destroy himself and the art." — Marina Abramovic talking to fans in an uncommonly revealing and blunt "Ask Me Anything" forum on Reddit, in which she also touched on her feelings about death and why she broke up with her longtime collaborator and lover Ulay on the Great Wall of China (he made her translator pregnant).
— MUST READ —
Time Transfixed — Performa has announced "About Time," a series of commissioned photographs that will appear as an ongoing feature in Performa Magazine. The first commissioned artist is David Gilbert. (Press release)
Lichtenstein Largesse — Dorothy Lichtenstein, president of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation and the artist's widow, donated $1 million to Stony Brook Southampton's graduate arts programs. (Artforum)
Whitney to Bring Downtown Uptown — Performance curator Jay Sanders is gathering together a historic collection of ephemera, sets, and documentation from the performances that occurred in New York's alternative spaces between 1970 and 1980, a period that has not yet been as fully treated as the era of Fluxus and the Happenings. (NYT)
Hank Willis Thomas Brings Du Bois to Chelsea — The artist, whom we once interviewed about his riveting art exploring thorny issues of race, has a five-channel video installation on view at Jack Shainman Gallery that surveys 150 black men about issues at the heart of W.E.B. Du Bois's "double consciousness." (NYT)
Italy's Art Foe Takes on Daniel Buren — Controversial art pundit Vittorio Sgarbi, an noted antagonist against contemporary art, has ginned up opposition to a new pizza in Genoa designed by the conceptual artist Daniel Buren, which will include mirrored archways leading through an orange grove. (TAN)
Art Stars and Regular Stars Swanned at Watermill — This year's Watermill Benefit, done in concert with Artspace, lured an impressive crowd including Lady Gaga (who won a heated bidding war for a Marina Abramovic work), Josephine Meckseper, Cindy Sherman, Winona Ryder, and others. (Artinfo)
"Their Vitality Is Palpable" — So says critic Adrian Searle about Thomas Scheibitz's paintings on view at the Baltic Art Center, whose ambiguities are "not made to be deciphered. You think you've got the key, then he changes the locks." (Guardian)
Matthew Barney's New Movie to Show in NYC — In a hot tweet, our own columnist Walter Robinson revealed the news that the artist's long-awaited operatic epic River of Fundament will go on view at the Park Avenue Armory next year. (Gallerist)
— ART MARKET —
Saatchi Sells Big — The English supercollector Charles Saatchi will auction 50 large-scale artworks in a selling exhibition at Christie's London during Frieze Week. (TAN)
New Miami Fair — The new Brazil ArtFair is set to debut with 40 galleries this year in Miami during December's Art Basel Miami Beach. (Artinfo)
Pinault's Prizes — François Pinault plans to stage the first-ever exhibition of works from his private art collection during at Paris's Conciergerie, set to coincide with the FIAC fair. (AFP)
— IN & OUT —
Argentine conceptual artist Leon Ferrari, a 2007 Golden Lion winner at the Venice Biennale who is best known for his provocative artworks that led a direct, furious attack against Catholicism (including the current pope, when he was the head of Argentina's church), has passed away at age 92. (NYT)
The Guggenheim has hired London-based Pablo León de la Barra to become its new curator overseeing Latin America for its expansive UBS Map Global Art Initiative, a $40 million undertaking that will engage innovative curators from all corners of the Earth to do shows and arrange acquisitions for the museum. (NYT)
Creative Time will give this year's $15,000 Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change to both Khaled Hourani, a Ramallah-based artist who has shown at Documenta, and Laurie Jo Reynolds, an artist whose work deals with the prison system. (Gallerist)
Bravo has confirmed that "Gallery Girls" will not be renewed for a second season, joining "Work of Art" in the pile of well-meaning art-world reality shows that failed to connect with a larger audience. (Gallerist)
The Met has announced that next April it will host a new Global Museum Leaders Colloquium, gathering together over a dozen museum directors from Africa, Latin America, and Asia to discuss developments and challenges in the field. (NYT)
New York's School of Visual Arts plans to debut a new curatorial studies program next month that will be chaired by art journalist Steven Henry Madoff and count such big names among its instructors as White Columns director Matthew Higgs, Drawing Center curator Claire Gilman, and supercurator Hou Hanru. (Gallerist)
Hou Hanru, meanwhile, has also been named artistic director of Rome's Maxxi museum, joining the contemporary art institution next month. (TAN)