Teen Schools the Met in Art History, Putin Poisons Russian Art Market, and More Must-Read Art News

Teen Schools the Met in Art History, Putin Poisons Russian Art Market, and More Must-Read Art News
Vladimir Putin
(Courtesy Getty Images)

Met Gets History Lesson from 13-Year-Old: During a recent visit to the Metropolitan Museum 13-year-old Benjamin Lerman Coady noticed a glaring omission: parts of Africa and Spain were missing from a map of the 6th century Byzantine Empire. Despite the incredulity of both his mother and front desk attendants, he filled out a comment card — and low and behold, five months later (!), Met curator Helen Evans wrote him back: "You are of course correct about the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire. You are the first person to recognize the mistake and we thank you for bringing it to our attention.” Though he seems a shoe-in for a career in art history, the lad's ambitions lie eslewhere: “I want to move to Greenwich and open a modern exotic car shop." [NYDailyNews]

Russian Art Market Recoils From Putin: With Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term, many of Russia's biggest art collectors are fleeing the country, dealing a potentially fatal blow to a domestic art market that relies on the conspicuous consumption of the super-rich. With wealthy but austere bureaucrats holding much of the country's capital, local galleries are having to adapt; already international fair circuit regulars Gelman Gallery and XL Gallery are converting from commercial to non-profit models and looking for state support — which in turn is affecting the often-critical tone of the art they exhibit. [Reuters]

Behind Every Record Auction is a Cool-Headed Auctioneer: On Wednesday night Sotheby's auctioneer Tobias Meyer appeared impervious to the hoopla as he brokered the sale of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" for a record $119.9 million. How does he do it? "When the atmosphere gets very tense, so to speak, I strangely have the reverse mechanism that I become very calm," Meyer says. "Somebody once said that's a little bit like a Formula One driver, because they're in that space and they're very happy about it and they need to make these split-second decisions." [WSJ]

 Koch Funds Dinosaur Hall Renovation: Yesterday, on his 72nd birthday, billionaire businessman, arts patron, and Tea Party backer David Koch donated $35 million to the American Natural History Museum for its hall of dinosaurs. His gift will cover all but $10 million of the gallery's renovation, which is scheduled to begin in 2014 and continue through 2019. The gift was the largest ever received by the AMNH, and the fifth-largest in Smithsonian Institute history. It's far from the largest donation Koch has made, though; in 2008 he donated $100 million towards the renovation of Lincoln Center. [WaPo]

— The Saint-Exupery Code: Lost pages from Antoine de Saint-Exupery's beloved "The Little Prince" are set to go on sale at Paris auction house Artcurial on May 16, the world's only pages besides the original copy in New York's Morgan Library — and they may unlock a secret political meaning to the classic children's text. In the lost passage, we meet a mysterious character, an "ambassador of the human spirit" searching for a lost six-letter word. One expert believes that the secret missing word is "guerre," or "war," and that the heretofore unknown persona represents a radical pacifist message embedded in "The Little Prince." [AP]

Prolific British Forger Gets Two Years: William Mumford, 63, has been sentenced to two years in prison for forging about 1,000 paintings, some of which his co-conspirators sold through eBay and British auction houses for up to £30,000 ($38,500). Scotland Yard got wise to is scheme in 2009, when a major British auction house noticed the sudden abundance of available works by M.F. Husain — one of Mumford's favorite artists to forge, along with Kyffin Williams and John Tunnard. [AP]

"Che" Painting Draws Fury in Nevada: Few images are more shopworn, but Ernesto "Che" Guevara's face — the mug that launched a thousand T-shirts — still has the power to draw ire. Reno-Tahoe International Airport has found itself unexpectedly at the center of a minor public art uproar over a painting in an employee art exhibition depicting Cuban revolutionary and the word "Revolution." An airport spokesman, however, insists the "Che" will remain on view though May 9. [CBS]

Fraud Charges Fly in Calgary: The Art Gallery of Calgary has launched a civil suit against its recently departed president Valerie Cooper, demanding that she return nearly $500,000 (that's Canadian dollars, which these days make it worse, US$505,000). The institution alleges that Cooper falsified a wide variety of expenses, including purchases of works of art that went into her personal collection. [Calgary Herald]

 Wildlife Smuggling Bust Turns up Stolen Paintings: Last year a federal investigation resulted in one of Alaska's biggest wildlife trafficking busts of the last decade, and among the guns, snowmobiles, cash, ivory from about 100 walruses, and other animal parts seized from suspects Jesse Leboeuf and Loretta Sternbach were five paintings, one valued at nearly $50,000. The smuggler couple pleaded guilty in July, and now federal prosecutors are hoping to return the paintings to their rightful owner, a collector in Connecticut according to a 2010 affidavit. "There's been things like jewelry from overseas made from parts of endangered animals," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Bruce Woods, "but as far as pieces of fine art, that's never happened, as far as I can remember." [Reuters]

An Art Story Made in eBay: Fuse's David Shapiro happened upon a listing for the painting "Jesus Broke Out the Lambchop Puppet and Hired an Angel to Try and Cheer Up a Clinically Depressed Paul McCartney," a figurative painting that depicts exactly what the title says it does. The work is on offer for a staggeringly ambitious $177,000, and has been listed for two-and-a-half years. Shapiro followed up his find by interviewing Colorado-based artist Kata Billups, who explains that the asking price was determined, in part, by "the biblical significance of the number seven." Billups also definitely needs to check eBay more often: "There was a [legally binding offer through eBay] for $100,000 and for some reason I hadn’t checked my computer for a while and it expired." [Fuse]


ARTINFO's Tom Chen checks out some of the highlights of the inaugural Frieze New York on Randall's Island this week:


Sales Report: Frieze New York Makes a Convincing Case for Itself With an Opening Burst of Business

“It Requires a Certain Sense of Humor”: John Ahearn on Live-Casting Collectors at Frieze New York

Richard Meier in Rio: Modernism Meets Tropicalia in the Architect's South American Debut

Hoberman Revisits “Celine and Julie Go Boating,” a Classic Pairing of Depth and Sparkle

Indianapolis Museum Honors Homegrown Designers Norman Norell, Bill Blass, Halston, and Stephen Sprouse