The . Art Art Market Recap: Major Museum Moves, NFT Platforms Necessary Pivots, and a Botched Nip/ Tuck of a Treasured Czech Clock this week

This week we have it all! Major Museum distances itself from Sackler name, Digital Art planting its flag at the Guggenheim, the recent Crypto Slump signals creative pivoting, destruction of relics in Dallas, and a restoration nightmare in Prague.
Cover image:Courtesy of Twitter @LanceUlanoff June 1, 2022

The Dulwich Picture Gallery is the latest U.K. institution to drop the Sackler name from the museum. The esteemed gallery has a long running history with the sorted philanthropic family, with support from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation for the director’s post, funding for the Sackler Centre of Arts Education at Dulwich, and partial funding by the Sackler Trust for Dulwich’s education program. Recently, public sentiment has turned against the family due to the link to the Purdue Pharma company (founded by Mortimer and Raymond Sackler) and the aggressive promotion of the painkiller Oxycontin which has contributed greatly to the ongoing opioid crisis. Purdue was formally dissolved in 2021 and the family agreed to pay $6 billion USD to settle legal claims against them, however, the family has not admitted any wrongdoing–as part of the settlement agreement– and has negatively affected their position in the art world’s reception of their philanthropy.

Post-modern artist Nan Goldin has lead the group P.A.I.N., pushing back on major institutions in the United States like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim to break away from the family’s gift-giving. Efforts seem to have paid off with the Met announcing that they would stop accepting donations from members of the Sackler family (2019) and the National Portrait Gallery refusing a £1 million donation towards major renovations. In 2021, Serpentine Galleries also dropped the Sackler name and rebranded one location as Serpentine North Gallery. In December 2021 the Tate also removed the Sackler name from five locations at its two London institutions and in March 2022, the British Museum followed suit. Last month the National Gallery also wiped the disgraced family from the entrance of one of its rooms. For now, the Victoria and Albert Museum is the only major UK art institution still prominently displaying the Sackler name.

The interior of Dulwich Picture Gallery in the London Borough of Southwark.

A man has destroyed several artworks including Greek artifacts and a contemporary Native American artwork in a Dallas Museum break-in. According to the Dallas Morning News, Brian Hernandez, 21, shattered the museum’s glass entrance with a metal chair after an argument with his girlfriend. Among the now damaged works are a 6th-century BCE Greek amphora, a ceramic vessel used to store liquids, and a Greek box dated from 450 BCE. Hernandez also destroyed a delicate bowl from ancient Greece decorated with vignettes of Heracles fighting the Nemean lion. A ceramic Caddo bottle depicting an alligator worth $10,000 was also pulled from its displayed case and shattered on the museum floor. About a dozen smaller objects also suffered minor damage.

In a statement, the museum said, “While we are devastated by this incident, we are grateful that no one was harmed. The safety of our staff and visitors, along with the care and protection of the art in our stewardship, are our utmost priorities.”

Hernandaz called police on himself, while still in the museum, after realizing the gravity of his actions. He confessed to police and is currently detained at the Dallas County Jail on a charge of criminal mischief. In addition to the collection of damaged pieces, he is also accused of causing tens of thousands of dollars of damage to museum property including display cases and furniture.

Two of the items that were damaged at the Dallas Museum of Art — a black-figure panel amphora, left, and a red-figure pyxis and lid, right — are ancient ceramics from Greece. Credit: Dallas Museum of Art

The Guggenheim is investing heavily in digital art and technology in an aim to diversify their collection holdings and award-giving initiatives with the LG Guggenheim Award. The award, administered by the Guggenheim Foundation, will recognize one artist every year for “groundbreaking achievements in technology-based art.” The award will be juried by an international panel of artists, curators, museum directors, and other art professionals, and carries an unrestricted prize of $100,000. The first recipient will be announced at next year’s Young Collectors’ Council Party.

Naomi Beckwith, museum deputy director and chief curator, said in a statement that by “promoting scholarship and public engagement, the LG Guggenheim initiative will provide essential support to the visionary artists who inspire new understanding of how technology shapes and is shaped by society.” The LG Initiative, the Guggenheim said, “will provide essential support” to the “mission to collect, preserve, and interpret the art of our time.”

The LG initiative is a significant step forward for the Guggenheim to innovate it’s programming and align with global institutional leaders in digital art like The Whitney, The New Museum and Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

The Guggenheim Museum during the YCC party 2022. Courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum

NFT platforms are pivoting in the wake of the recent crypto slump. Major NFT platforms like Foundation, SuperRare, and OpenSea have announced major changes to their operations. Foundation had announced in May 2022 that they were moving away from the ‘invite-only’ strategy and instead gravitating towards the more democratic Web3 (an internet experience built off of decentralized technologies like blockchain). The tight curation and focus on unique single edition works on the platform set it apart from other competitors like OpenSea, however, the high-exclusivity of the platform may be limiting the potential for scaled growth that it needs to survive in the context of the crypto downturn. The platform is focusing more on a new operating system initiative called Foundation OS, whose motto is “The building blocks for a new internet.”

“SuperRare represents trust,” CEO John Crain told ARTnews. However, Crain said that the company knew it had to try something new. “Just having a marketplace isn’t something novel anymore. Creating an NFT isn’t something to write about. So this moment is really pushing people to add value and push boundaries,” He said.

Similar to Foundation, SuperRare was a place to discover artists selling unique works, as opposed to the collectible-type PFP NFTs. Furthermore; SuperRare has never been a secondary market. Now, SuperRare is exploring both PFPs and the secondary market. In partnership with Async Art, an NFT platform that specializes in creating big, generative projects, 1,000 NFTs were minted by Async and then sold on the secondary market through SuperRare. Tightly controlled, the release helped widen the rage of offerings without flooding its own market.

Finally, OpenSea is starting to open up its marketplace to NFTs minted on a cryptocurrency called Solana. Whereas competitors followed the strategy of exclusivity, OpenSea focused on getting the highest volume of users on the platform, which often meant sacrificing the quality of their service from the perspective of crypto-enthusiasts. Solana is also valued much lower than Ethereum. Its peak price was around $200 and is now worth about $40. By offering Solana NFTs on OpenSea, the platform is enticing NFT collectors to keep buying without having to make the larger investments implicit in trading in Ethereum-based NFTs.

Restoration of an iconic Czech clock that has been the centrepiece of Prague’s Old Town Square for more than 600 years has sparked a potential legal battle. In 2018, the Orloj astronomical clock had been unveiled after extensive restoration work totalling over $2.6 million USD and immediately furrowed the brows of Prague. Of its central paintings, a depiction of the months of the year as the zodiac signs has been heavily reworked to the point of unrecognition of the original work painted by the 19th-century Czech artist Josef Mánes. Milan Patka, a member of the monuments preservation organization Club for Old Prague, has filed an 18-page complaint with the Czech Ministry of Culture. Within the document, Patka argues that the artist who was contracted for the restoration diverged so far from the original painting that many faces have changed hairstyle, hair colour, and even gender and is a ‘botched job’ of a restoration. In one case, a scene depicting a man with auburn hair in a green coat transformed into a man with black hair and a new bushy moustache; a dog in the scene that was once black is now a brown-and-white shepherd.

“I want to know if [Jirčík] was trying,” Patka told the Guardian, noting that there are “many sketches of the original work, so it is certainly possible to do a copy.” Jirčík has not responded to requests for comment from Artnet News, but experts who spoke to the Czech website Deník N said it was so clearly not a faithful reproduction that it might be a joke. The culture ministry is currently investigating Patka’s complaint.

Orloj Astronomical Clock (detail)

Prague astronomical clock is seen in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Lukas Kabon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Examples of the original painting and the new version. Courtesy of Prague City Hall.

Katlin Rogers
Katlin Rogers
Katlin is a Toronto-based fine art specialist and appraiser. She holds a Master’s in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London and enjoys writing on topics surrounding the globalization of the art world, politics and ethics in art, and post-colonial theories in contemporary art.