Qataris Poised to Snap Up "The Scream," Ai Weiwei Sues Chinese IRS, and More Must-Read Art News

Qataris Poised to Snap Up "The Scream," Ai Weiwei Sues Chinese IRS, and More Must-Read Art News
Edvard Munch, "The Scream," 1895 (detail)
(Courtesy Sotheby's)

– Qataris Preparing for "Scream" Sale: After their blockbuster purchase of Cézanne's "Card Players" last year for a quarter-of-a-billion dollars, the royal family of Qatar was dubbed "the world's biggest buyer in the art market." Now, the Middle Eastern royals are said to be preparing to move their massive sand dunes of cash to make a play for for the last privately-owned version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" when it heads to auction at Sotheby's on May 2. For rival collectors lusting after the Expressionist trophy, such rumors are sure to provoke some angst. [Arabian Business]

– Ai Weiwei Sues China's Tax Authorities: The dissident artist-activist Ai Weiwei announced on Friday that he is suing China's tax authorities for fining the company that produces his work 15 million RMB ($2.4 million) for tax evasion following his arrest and 80-day detention last year, without showing him any evidence or witness testimony. In dealing with Beijing Fake Cultural Development, Ai alleges, Chinese authorities' "actions were illegal and violated regulations." [Reuters]

– Nobel-Winning Novelist Opens Real Fictional MuseumOrhan Pamuk, the outspoken Turkish novelist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2006, released his eighth novel "The Museum of Innocence" two years thereafter. Now he's putting the finishing touches on an institution in Istanbul of the same name. The new Museum of Innocence, which opens April 27, features cabinets corresponding to the novel's 83 chapters, filled with related artifacts. [FT]

– David Hockney Defends Smoking, Again: Full-time artist and part-time cigarette evangelist David Hockney has stepped back into the limelight to defend cigarette companies' right to decorate their own packets. In a letter to the Daily Mail, he calls the proposal "a draconian measure of which Stalin's censorship police would have been proud" and notes that "it is a dangerous thing to try to diminish the right of expression." Plus, he says, "I don't believe the second-hand smoke stuff." [Daily Mail

– Guy Jennings Returns to Christie's: Call it auction house musical chairs: as longtime Impressionist and modern art chairman Thomas Seydoux prepares to leave Christie's, the company has announced that Guy Jennings will become deputy chairman. Jennings returns to Christie's after years working as a private dealer with partner Simon Theobald. [FT]

– New York Public Library Defends Renovation: Library traditionalists are up in arms over the NYPL's proposal to reimagine  its Fifth Avenue flagship to the tune of $300 million. The Norman Foster-designed overhaul would include converting the building from a reference operation to a circulating library. [NYT

– Thomas Kinkade Battled Alcoholism: Though the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of wildly popular painter Thomas Kinkade remain murky pending autopsy results, the 54-year-old artist had relapsed into alcoholism shortly before his death, according to his brother. (Previously, a recording of the call by rescue workers who found his body indicated that the painter had been "drinking all night.") [Mercury News]

– Kraftwerk's Founder Speaks: How private is electro-pop band Kraftwerk? Though Kraftwerk's founding member Ralf Hütter divulged in a rare interview that a new album is in the works, the location of its Düsseldorf studio is a secret, and its mail is said to be returned unopened. Even curator Klaus Biesenbach, who organized Kraftwerk's MoMA retrospective, is under a strict gag order. "I'm not allowed to talk about it," he said of his visit to the band's studio. [NYT]

– New York's Russian Auctions ShrinkingSotheby's and Christie's offerings of Russian art and artifacts, once rich, have dwindled in recent years. For the first time in half a decade, neither house's decorative arts sale, to be held this week, includes the usually competitive Russian painting category. [Businessweek]

– James Franco Fans Flock to MOCA: Actor and artist James Franco held a lecture and book signing over the weekend at Los Angeles's MOCA, which will host the upcoming and long-delayed Franco-curated exhibition "Rebel." Jeffrey Deitch's gratitude was palpable in his generous introduction, which addressed the expanding definitions of art: "No one embodies this aspect of what art is becoming better than James Franco." Lord help us. [LAT]

– ArtSway Closing After 15 Years: In the UK, the ambitious art center in a converted stable in New Forest, Hampshire, announced that it will close its doors due to lack of funds. Founded in 1997, ArtSway has exhibited many emerging artists — including Christopher Orr and Gayle Chong Kwan — and mounted exhibitions of resident artists at four consecutive Venice Biennales. [Art Review]


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