The .ART Art Market Recap: Marilyn’s Moment at Christies, A New Museum of African Art for Senegal, New Light Shed on Syrian-Anatolian Narratives in Turkey, and More!

This week we have it all; Warhol’s record Breaking Auction Night, A new Senegal Museum of African Art, Instagrammable NFTs, A Lost Dali Found, Ancient Syrian-Anatolian Artwork Found By Looters in Turkey, and More!
Cover Image: Christie’s auctioneer claps after ending the auction of Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol, which sold for $170m plus fees. Photograph: Sarah Yenesel/EPA

If you’ve been following our recent Art Market Recaps, you will be familiar with the buzz around Andy Warhol’s 1964 “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” offered at Christie’s New York saleroom on May 9th, 2022. As the epilogue to this hot story, the iconic work sold for $195 million (USD) at Christie’s, becoming the second-highest price achieved for a painting at auction, eclipsed only by Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi ($450 million [USD]Christies, 2017). The pop piece came full circle and was sold to Larry Gagosian, who had originally sold the work in 1986 to Thomas Ammann.

All the proceeds from the Ammann sale, including this Warhol work, will benefit charities providing urgent medical and educational care to children, according to Christie’s and represents the largest philanthropic sale since the Rockefeller auction in 2018. Gagosian also has the opportunity to nominate the charities to which 20 percent of the Warhol proceeds will be allocated, pending the foundation’s approval. It appears this spring auction season has started with a bang with more to come as the weeks unfold.

Andy Warhol’s 1964 Shot Sage Blue Marilyn sold for $195 million at Christie’s. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Starting this week, Instagram will be testing digital collectibles with select US creators and collectors to share NFTs that they have created or bought. Once connected, creators and collectors will have the ability to choose which NFTs from their wallet they would like to share on Instagram. Also, in a step towards artist credit transparency, both the creator and collector can be automatically attributed in the digital collectible post, subject to privacy settings in each party’s account, and can display public information, such as a description of the NFT. Instagram will collect and organize public data from open blockchains, such as Ethereum and Polygon, to provide this feature. There will be no fees associated with posting or sharing a digital collectible on Instagram.

The Albers Foundation is planning on opening a museum near Kaolack, Senegal in 2025 to showcase African art and help facilitate the repatriation of objects from the West. The new museum and culture centre, named Bët-bi, which means “the eye” in Wolof, will showcase contemporary and historical African art. Focused on special educational programming, local curators and museum professionals will will also participate in guest curator programs with other institutions in Africa and internationally, building relationships and giving voices to talent.

Nicholas Fox Weber, executive director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and founder of Le Korsa, which oversees the foundation’s philanthropic initiatives in rural Senegal, said, “people who may never before have entered a museum as well as international visitors will have the chance to enjoy art that relates to the culture of the Sahel.”

Portrait of Mariam Issoufou Kamara © Rolex / Stéphane Rodrigez Delavega.

Architect Mariam Issoufou Kamara has been selected from a shortlist of four candidates to design the museum, and was inspired by the ancient stone monoliths that are typical of the local Kaolack region. She remarks, “For far too long our region has been a place where cultural wealth is pillaged to profit museum collections. This project is an opportunity to design a new type of space that is inspired by the roots and spiritual legacy of the region…It is a chance to push the boundaries of what defines a museum in the 21st century.”

A wax sculpture by Salvador Dalí now valued at between $10-20 million (USD) and long believed to have been destroyed, was unveiled at Harte International Galleries on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Completed in 1979, a decade before Dalí’s death, the curious sculpture depicts Christ crucified above a body of water, and is loosely based on a 1951 painting by the artist. Both works are known as “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” The work was originally used as a model for hundreds of platinum, gold, silver, and bronze editions, however, experts assumed the original wax carving had been destroyed given the fragile nature of the materials.

“Harte International Galleries has sold a number of the Christ of St. John of the Cross bas-relief sculptures throughout our history, but no one thought the original work—done by a senior Dalí in wax—still existed,” the galleries’ co-owner, Glenn Harte, said in a statement.

For the last four decades, the work has been kept in the vault of a private collector close to Dalí, and housed in the original plexiglass casing the artist designed for it. Harte and his team had been in touch with the collector, who wishes to remain anonymous, about acquiring an art book, when they learned about the existence of the sculpture late last year. The gallery purchased the work, titled it “Lost Wax”, and now plan to exhibit it for the first time since Dalí himself was alive. Although, the gallery has stated that the work is not for sale.

Salvador Dali with his wax sculpture, Christ of St. John of the Cross and “Lost Wax”. Courtesy of Harte International Galleries.

Nicolas Descharnes, a Dalí expert, supports the work after consulting with Carlos Evaristo, an iconography expert. Harte states, “Following the discovery of the Lost Wax, Harte Galleries met with Descharnes and Evaristo in Avila, Spain, which is where St. John of Spain, a 14th-century monk, was inspired to draw the first impression of Christ on the cross from a heavenly view…Evaristo was passionate that the sculpture was a three-dimensional representation of the evolution of Christ’s crucifixion, and therefore given the same name as the most important religious work ever created by Dalí, Christ of St. John of the Cross, which was painted in 1951, 28 years before the molding of the sculpture.”

Ancient art dating back to the Iron Age has been discovered by looters beneath a house in Turkey before archaeologists carried out a rescue mission. Found in a hidden tunnel complex under a residential home in the village of Başbük, in south-eastern Turkey near the Syrian border, the works have been carved into the stone walls of the tunnel and depict eight Syrian-Anatolian deities. Archeologists have dated the tunnel to the first millennium BC—probably between 900 and 600 BC when the area, and much of the Near East, was controlled by the Neo-Assyrians.

The artwork is incised across a 3.96m-long rock wall panel, with the outlines filled in with black pigment. The artwork shows a procession of eight Syrian-Anatolian deities including the storm god Hadad, the main goddess of Syria, Atargatis, the moon god Sîn, and the sun god Šamaš, followed by others that are still being researched to accurately identify. One Aramaic inscription may bear the name of a known Neo-Assyrian official, Mukīn-abūa, who possibly controlled the region.

“[This rock wall panel] is the first known example of a Neo-Assyrian-period rock relief with Aramaic inscriptions, featuring unique, regional iconographic variations and Aramean religious themes,” the team writes in the research paper, published in the journal “Antiquity”.

The works appear unfinished with only the heads and upper bodies and archeologists speculate that a variety of reasons may have stopped the competition of the work, ranging from political unrest to other impending deadlines of the artists. “The processional panel, which would have greeted visitors in the upper gallery, has yet to yield all its secrets,” the team writes. “Başbük’s rock wall panel is among the few such reliefs found since the mid-nineteenth century and future excavations may uncover more.”

The Başbük divine procession panel with superimposed interpretative figure drawings. © M. Önal, C. Uludağ, Y. Koyuncu; courtesy of Antiquity Publications Ltd.

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.