This Week in Art News

A Divorce Worth 1,000 Warhols, “Art Supermarkets” & More

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Feb 8, 2019

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Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Each week, we scour the internet for the most significant, surprising, and outrageous art news—helping you stay informed (and sound smart). Have a suggestion? Let us know on social media (@meetmeural) with the tag #thisweekinartnews. (See all installments.)

Jeff Koons poses in front of his sculpture Seated Ballerina at the Ashmolean Museum | Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Jeff Koons is one of the most fascinating (and divisive) figures in contemporary art. His talent is not just for what goes on in the studio (an enterprise that has, in the past, employed more than a hundred people at one time), but outside of it. He’s a dealmaker, a student of the market, an innovator constantly remaking himself. In this piece from the BBC, ahead of a major retrospective at Oxford’s Ashmolean, we get a wonderful primer for the uninitiated, parsed into Koons’ different series. Broken down in this way, it becomes apparent how distinct his artistic periods are from one another—about as much as they are from what the rest of the art world is doing.

Libbie Mugrabi and her husband, David, are going through a divorce that threatens to expose the private dealings of one of the wealthiest families in the art world. Credit: Heather Sten for The New York Times.

Not just a buzzy story about a divorce involving “the 1 percent of the 1 percent”—David and Libbie Mugrabi—this tale is also a primer on the machinations of the art world. In order for the couple’s divorce settlement to proceed, “the Mugrabi family’s sophisticated structure of asset ownership by offshore corporations” must be exposed, offering “a rare window into how art-world titans like the Mugrabis shield their finances from public scrutiny.” The Mugrabi family’s art collection started with a Renoir landscape, bought in 1982 for a piddling $121,000. David Mugrabi is now estimated to be worth $5 billion. Over time, the Mugrabi’s, working as a team, have acquired a list of artists that might just be a who’s who of contemporary art: Damien Hurst, Jean-Michel Basquiet, George Condo, Jeff Koons, and Andy Warhol (of whom the family now owns 1,000 works).

Exterior view of The Museum of Modern Art on 53rd Street (courtesy MoMA, © 2017 Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

In a widely reported story, the Museum of Modern Art will be closed from June 15 to October 21, for significant renovation. The time will be used mainly to build additional space—40,000 square feet of it. The new real estate will help a new curatorial focus on overlooked, minority artists. The renovation is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and, to our eyes, looks like it has marked potential.

People at the Affordable Art Fair Beijing in one of the main gallery spaces at 798 Art Zone. Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images.

The words “affordable” and “art” aren’t frequent bedmates (except, of course, with the Meural Canvas), but this feature on Chinese “art supermarkets” meant for middle class shoppers paints a possible future for the rest of the world. At shops such as 798 Art Space, works can fall between $50 and $4,000. This isn’t pocket change, but certainly in reach for the 400 million households that constitute China’s middle class (defined as those making between $3,640 and $36,400 a year)—a number that’s likely to grow to 780 million by 2020.

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