Australian State Helps Win Aboriginal Art at Auction, Critic Calls for National Memorial to Gun Violence, and More: Morning Links for May 26, 2022

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The Headlines

A SURPRISE IN THE SALESROOM. Last week brought news that an Aboriginal heritage council in Australia had set up a GoFundMe in an attempt to raise funds to compete for two works by the 19th-century Wurundjeri artist William Barak that were coming up for auction at Sotheby’s in New York this week. That effort brought in about $118,000 (US$83,600), the Guardian reports—short of the works’ combined estimates. But right before the sale yesterday, the government of Victoria agreed to provide some AU$500,000 more (about US$354,000), which was enough to win the lots. “I feel pumped, I tell you,” a descendent of Barak, Ron Jones, told the paper. “We brought an ancestor’s relic back to Australia where it belongs.” An 1897 painting went for US$378,000, and a shield from the same year went for US$52,920.

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HUMAN RESOURCES. The Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., has tapped Randall Griffey to be its head curatorARTnews reports. Griffey is coming from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he is a curator in the contemporary and modern art department. His credits include co-organizing its Alice Neel show last year. The Palm Springs Art Museum in California has hired Luisa Heredia to be its chief education and community engagement officer; she currently holds a chair in public policy at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. And the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles will soon have a chief curator for the first time since 2018: It just named Clara Kim, senior curator of international art at Tate Modern in London, to the post, Maximilíano Durón reports in ARTnews . She starts September 1.

The Digest

“We need a National Memorial to Gun Violence, now,” art and architecture critic Philip Kennicott writes in a new column. One excerpt from his piece: “Our poets will say it better, so let them dress up words to this effect and chisel them on the frieze: Here we grieve those who died because we were impotent to help ourselves.” [The Washington Post]

Ouka Leele, who won acclaim in post-Franco Spain with photos that she overpainted with watercolors, died on Tuesday, after a long illness, at the age of 64. [The Guardian]

The Gallery Climate Coalition and Lloyds Market Association are collaborating to make it cheaper to insure art shipped by sea, which has a fraction of the environmental side effects of air transport. [Financial Times]

Thomas Heatherwick—the architect behind the Vessel in New York and the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town—has created a 70-foot-tall sculpture outside London’s Buckingham Palace to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee. It is called (in somewhat self-explanatory fashion) Tree of Trees. [Architectural Digest and Dezeen]

A plan is being considered to expand the cemetery in Buckinghamshire, England, that is the final resting place of author Roald Dahl. However, one report has stated that the effort “may harm” a medieval and Roman archaeological site located nearby. [BBC News]

This is not really an art item, admittedly, but if you ever see novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney at a gala, consider making friends with him. It turns out that he likes to bring beverages—and caviar!—to such affairs. “I often bring my own wine to these events,” he said. “Always enough for the whole table.” Very thoughtful. [Page Six]

The Kicker

THE NFT MARKET IS NOT EXACTLY ROARING RIGHT NOW, and so the Washington Post spoke with some people who have forked over huge sums for those beguiling tokens. One gentleman spent a cool $600,000 on an image from a series called CryptoKitties. For now, he is holding, rather than potentially selling it for less. “It’s more wait-and-see,” he told the Post. “If it becomes a historical artifact, then it’s going to be extremely valuable. If that doesn’t happen, then maybe it just fades away into where nobody knows or ever cares about it.” Only time will tell. [WP]


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