1. Report on Museum Attendance in 2015
This week The Art Newspaper published its annual report on annual museum visits, with shows in Paris, New York and Taipei topping the list.
12,000 people per day visited Taipei’s National Palace Museum last year, making for a record setting year of Taiwanese museum visitation and placing the museum at the top of the list for the most attended museums in 2015. However, Paris’ Louvre remains the world’s most visited museum (despite attendance dipping to 8.6 million from 9.2 last year). Jeff Koons also set records in Paris, as his touring retrospective — organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art — became the most visited exhibit in Paris when it arrived at theCentre Pompidou. Meanwhile in New York, the Whitney also held the most attended show in its history with the inaugural exhibit of its permanent collection and the Metropolitan Museum of Art held the city’s most crowded show, China: Through the Looking Glass (6,581 visitors per day). However, the Museum of Modern Art continues to dominate the NYC art landscape, organizing 14 of the city’s 20 most attended shows.
2. Qatar Opens First Auction House
Yesterday, a month after Qatar’s first auction house — AlBahie — opened, it began its first ever sale, which focused on “Islamic and Oriental” art.
The sale is expected to bring in roughly $1 million overall, with individual pieces valued up to $180,000. Qatar’s royal Al-Thani family founded the house, years after publicly declaring their desire to have an international auction house in their country. The venture is directed by Canadian art historian, Corinne Lefebvre, who is assisted by Alexandra Bots, joining AlBahie from Christie’s Amsterdam. HE Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Hamad Al-Thani said in a statement that, “the goal behind opening this auction house was to contribute to the revival of Islamic culture and support authentic Arab and Islamic heritage.” Describing itself as “a first in Qatar and in the region,” the auction house hopes to lead the Middle Eastern market for “Antiques, Paintings, Watches and Clocks, Motor Cars, and Jewelry.”
3. Demand for Art Remains Strong in China, Setting New Auction Records
A recent Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong saw the highest sums ever paid for a painting and piece of jewelry at auction in Asia.
The painting in question was Peach Blossom Spring, a 1982 hanging scroll work from Zhang Daqian. After more than 100 bids within 50 minutes, the work finally sold to Shanghai’sLong Museum, a private museum founded by Liu Yiqian and Wang Wei — the same collecting couple that grabbed Modigliani’s Reclining Nude for a record-setting $170.4 million last year. Mere hours later, a 10.10-carat blue diamond from de Beers sold for HK$248.29 million ($32 million), the highest price ever paid for a piece of jewelry at auction in Asia. The historic sales come amid international concern regarding the durability and solidity of the Asian art market. However, as CEO of Sotheby’s Asia, Kevin Ching, commented on the sales: “It proves that the general economy isn’t a predictor of the art market.”
4. Ex-Director of Pompidou Pleads Guilty To Misuse of Funds
Agnès Saal, former managing director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, has pleaded guilty to misuse of public funds.
Last April, Le Figaro revealed that Saal had spent €40,000 ($45,000) on taxis during a 10 month period while director of France’s National Audiovisual Institute (INA). It then came to light that she had spent an additional €38,000 ($43,000) between January 2013 and April 2014, while director at the Pompidou. She resigned 48 hours after the report’s publishing and was barred from working in civil service for 18 months. Saal will face two hearings in April but by pleading guilty she avoids a public trial. In her defense, Saal has claimed that she did not know there was a limit on the number of taxis she could take; however, as €6,700 ($7,639) of the €40,000 spent was used by her son and marked as an “emergency,” many critics see Saal’s defense as indicative of corruption in French civil service and would like to see her answer for her actions on trial.
5. An Increase in Calls for British Art Institutions to Drop BP Sponsorship
Just weeks after BP announced that it would no longer be funding the Tate art gallery, the British public is placing mounting pressure on its other cultural institutions to sever ties with the petroleum company as well.
This weekend, The Guardian published a letter signed by over 100 prominent figures, calling on the British Museum to cease accepting funds from BP. The British Museum is receiving particular attention because it recently announced a five-year sponsorship deal with BP worth £10 million ($14 million), coinciding with the arrival of its new director, Hartwig Fischer. However, activists are making similar demands of the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House. BP blamed its inability to continue to fund Tate on a “challenging business environment,” pointing to low gas prices and recent layoffs. However, activists believe that public criticism and a rising awareness of climate change were at work instead and hope to provoke similar responses from the UK’s other art institutions.