New Role for Klaus Biesenbach at MOCA LA, $31 M. Basquiat Could Shatter Record, and More: Morning Links from February 12, 2021

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The Headlines

BIG NEWS ON THE MUSEUM DIRECTOR FRONT. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles said that its current director, Klaus Biesenbach, will take on the role of artistic director, with a focus on curatorial initiatives, and hire an executive director to manage operations and long-term planning, the Los Angeles Times reports. Ocula delivers the news that Shai Baitel, cofounder of Mana Contemporary, has been tapped to be the artistic director of the Modern Art Museum in Shanghai. In Victoria, Canada, the Royal British Columbia Museum announced that its CEO, Jack Lohman, is departing; the Art Newspaper writes that a recent public report termed the institution a “dysfunctional and toxic workplace.” Finally, “Alex Rich is going to need a bigger business card to accommodate all of his titles,” the Ledger quips, of the director fo the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College in Lakeland who is also its chief curator and the chair of the school’s art history and museum studies department. The 39-year-old’s chair has now been funded by the George C. Forsythe Family Foundation, which named it the George and Dorothy Forsythe Endowed Chair. The Polk is currently hosting a Toulouse-Lautrec print show, and you can read more about the artist in an Art in America primer.

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ROBERT ‘BOBBY THE COOK’ GENTILE, whom some law enforcement officials reportedly believe has information about the 1990 heist of $500 million worth of paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, has given his first television interview. Gentile denies knowing anything and told WTNH/News 8 of the theft, “Never, never, never even knew about it until the cops came to my house.” In the resulting search, police found a handwritten list of the missing paintings along with their possible values, as well as drugs and weapons. He says the investigation has ruined his life, and on previous occasions has remarked that if he knew anything, he’d say so, with the aim of snagging the $10 million reward that has been offered for the recovery of the art. The Gardner theft occupies the top slot in Alex Greenberger‘s list of the 25 all-time greatest art heists, just published by ARTnews.

The Digest

A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat from 1982—his prime year—is set to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Hong Kong next month with a low estimate of $31 million (and a third-party guarantee), positioning it to become the most expensive work by a Western artist ever sold in Asia. [ARTnews]

A museum for the collection of dealer and collector Helga de Alvear, who was involved in founding the ARCO Madrid fair, will soon open in Cáceres, Spain. De Alvear has donated her holdings to the Extremadura region. [Artnet News]

Leslie E. Robertson, the World Trade Center’s structural engineer, who also assisted on the installation of many of Richard Serra’s formidable metal works, has died at 92. [The New York Times]

Painter Angel Otero has transformed a former church in Malden-on-Hudson, in Upstate New York, into a studio. Alice Newell-Hanson paid him a visit. [T: The New York Times Style Magazine]

The Silver Eye Center for Photography, in a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University and the Black List, has put together what it calls the Silver List, which aims to bring attention to 47 early career photographers. [Vanity Fair]

It seems that few landlords in Southampton, New York, are abiding by a new rule that they display art in vacant storefronts. Noncompliant real-estate owners face fines of $1,000 to $2,500. [The Real Deal]

A collector has reportedly purchased Kanye West’s teenage artworks. The news comes days after a landscape by his daughter North West became a topic of internet conversation. [Page Six]

The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston has distributed 1,200 art-making kits to local students while it has been shuttered in recent months. [WBUR]

A 1954 cut from the Art Review archives features Henri Matisse writing that an artist “has to look at life as he did when he was a child.” Which recalls that famous line from his great rival, Pablo Picasso: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” [ArtReview]

The Kicker

RESTAURANT CRITIC ADAM PLATT MOURNS THE CLOSING of Flora Bar, the eatery in the basement of the Met Breuer in Manhattan, in Grub Street. “I’m thinking about the house croquettes, which, unlike any museum food I can remember, were stuffed with potatoes and deposits of melted raclette,” he writes. “There were curls of Iberico ham as stiff as ribbon candy, and a famously round, open omelette made with two kinds of caviar and a little quenelle of sour cream.” R.I.P. The Frick opens in the building in March, and a Joe Coffee will be on offer there, according to the New York Times[Grub Street] [The New York Times]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you on Monday.


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