Recent stories of note:
The Inheritance Case That Could Unravel an Art Dynasty
Rachel Corbett, The New York Times Magazine
“All happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The unhappiness of the Wildenstein family, one of the world’s oldest and wealthiest art-collecting dynasties, has manifested itself in the following ways: telephones with a direct line to Picasso, missing Vermeers, concealed children, thoroughbred theft, vaults of masterpieces hidden in abandoned firehouses, phone tapping, free ports, Nazi plunder, men who are supposed to be in comas signing away fortunes, and tax evasion to the order of a billion dollars (give or take). And that only covers the last half century! The family deals in works by Old Masters as readily as they’ll deal in a cruelty that would have impressed Caligula, but their multigenerational, Medici-like misconduct might have finally caught up to them: the French government seems to have them on the hook for tax fraud dating back to the last century. This long read by Rachel Corbett details the Wildensteins’ maniacal history, and in doing so exposes the family’s culpability in transforming the art market into a trade that rewards con-artistry more than artistry.
There is something very funny about this article’s mere existence: when was the last time the appointment of a left-wing thinker to such a position was cause for headlines? A few years ago, the idea of someone with ideological inclinations in this direction heading up an event as important to the art world as the Venice Biennale would have sounded ludicrous, and yet Prime Minister Meloni looks posed to hand the role to Pietrangelo Buttafuoco, a right-leaning novelist and commentator. Perhaps this marks the beginning of some tidal shift in the waves of the art world; still, one can't help but be jealous of the days when a curator’s political predilections weren’t so important as artistic tastes.
Artist’s Murals Depicting Slavery Can Be Covered Up, Judge Says
Elaine Velie, Hyperallergic
This week, Saturn is devouring his children in Vermont. In the 1990s, the (white) artist Sam Kerson painted a series of murals for the Vermont Law and Graduate School (VLGS) portraying the history of abolition in the state, no doubt a noble subject. Across two eight-by-twenty-four canvases, Kerson depicts the culture of and the crimes committed against the enslaved population; the work was praised upon its unveiling. Now, thirty years later, VLGS has determined that these murals—meant to celebrate black emancipation and culture—are, in fact, deeply offensive. Perhaps they are. In any case, the school elected to paint over the murals. This act of iconoclasm, however, would have been in violation of the Visual Artists Rights Act (1990), the federal law protecting artists from having their work destroyed or modified, and Kerson successfully sued to stop the school. Undeterred, VLGS instead simply installed panels over the murals. Kerson sued again, arguing that this essentially annihilates the artwork, but his case fell on deaf federal ears. The slighted artist’s statement to the press reads like someone in the throes of a Kafkaesque crisis of identity—in an outburst of progressive shibboleths, he insists that he harbors no racist intent, but still the people for whom he created the work insist that he is, in fact, racist. For now, the piece remains hidden behind a façade of thin, white panels.