Sotheby’s Leader Takes Stand in Trial, US Museums Targeted by A French Heritage Group, and More: Morning Links for January 18, 2024

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The Headlines

THE DEFENSE DOESN’T REST. On Wednesday, Sotheby’s head of private sales Samuel Valette took the stand again in one the most keenly watched court cases  in recent art world memory, Accent Delight International v. Sotheby’s, held in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. For the unaware, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, through his art-buying company ADI, has accused Sotheby’s of helping Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier fleece him for $1 billion by inflating valuations on art Rybolovlev bought under the impression that Bouvier was his art adviser. Per ARTnews Senior Reporter Daniel Cassady, Valette conducted himself with aplomb—providing a reasonable—if verbose—answer for any inquiries that could have proved troublesome for Sotheby’s. “Even one of the most seemingly damning pieces of evidence against Sotheby’s fell flat,” Cassady reported.

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ACTIONS, NEAR AND FAR. In a statement published this week, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) decried the “unprecedented international censorship of artists and curators who have expressed their political views and support for the Palestinian people.” CIMAM is a nonprofit affiliated with the International Council of Museums, a leading coalition of over 35,000 museum employees and institutions. Meanwhile, multiple commercial art spaces in Manhattan’s Chinatown were pasted with anti-Zionist messages. The posters pasted to both galleries’ windows seemed to refer to both “gentrifying Chinatown” and “colonizing Palestine,” and seemed to accuse these businesses of being “complicit in genocide.” “STOP SELLING TO ZIONISTS,” read one on Maxwell Graham’s windows, a sentiment that was reiterated in another pasted to the entrance to 56 Henry.

The Digest

The World Monuments Fund, the preeminent body preserving cultural heritage, has launched its new Climate Heritage Initiatives: a $15 million slew of new projects dedicated to the world’s most vulnerable landmarks. [World Monuments Fund]

A French heritage group has sued three United States museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for allegedly concealing the theft of 13th-century stained glass windows from a church in Rouen, France. [Ouest France]

For the first time, the full archive of artist Jesse Murry, who died in 1993, at the age of 44, will be available to the public, thanks to the Hauser & Wirth Institute. The nonprofit foundation is currently in the process of assembling and examining his extensive body of poems, criticism, sketches, and lauded abstract paintings. [The Art Newspaper]

Alaska’s Anchorage Museum has paused a policy instated earlier this month that offered free admission to Alaska Native visitors. Per the policy, visitors were asked to self-declare at the ticket counter and were not required to prove any identification or tribal enrollment information. Critics of the policy argued that it did not comply with the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. [Anchorage Daily News]

ARTnews’ Karen K. Ho has an interview with art fair magnate Magnus Renfrew, who is back in Singapore for the second iteration of ART SG, the fair Renfrew launched last year that has already become one of the premier stops on the Asia fair circuit. [ARTnews]

The Kicker

COMPUTING ETHICS. The future of AI-generated art isn’t bleak—but it is uncertain, as no legislator, curator, or judge has yet to definitively determine how (or whether) to protect digital artists from having their creations scraped in the name of software progress. Enter Ed Newton-Rex, TikTok’s former head AI designer and one-time executive at Stability AI (the AI company currently receiving the most ire from artists). In an interview with Wired, Newtwon-Rex claims to have an ethical path forward for all parties, supported by his insider-knowledge of the matter. Know the enemy and know yourself, as the saying goes. [WIRED]

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