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TOP MARKS. At Sotheby’s modern art sale in New York last night, a 1949 Frida Kahlo self-portrait went for $34.9 million, a record for a Kahlo at auction—as well as a record for a work by any Latin American artist on the block. The previous record holder? That would be none other than the artist’s husband, Diego Rivera, as Angelica Villa notes in her report on the evening for ARTnews. (The Rivera record, a comparatively modest $9.8 million, was set in only 2019.) The event rang up a total of $282 million with 46 of 47 lots finding buyers. A full 78 percent of the material was guaranteed to sell, via a guarantee or irrevocable bid. The top lot of the auction was a $50.8 million Claude Monet from 1918. The auctions just keep coming this week! The action moves to Phillips tonight.
A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE. At a symposium at Finders University in Adelaide, Australia, researchers warned that climate change is damaging prehistoric art painted on rocks, the Guardian reports. One sobering story: An especially intense tropical cyclone that hit Australia’s Arnhem Land in 2006 felled trees that smashed into rock-art sites, and then fires broke out, causing more destruction. Temperature changes are also having a deleterious effect on the state of such artworks, which can date back tens of thousands of years. “Today, we’re in sort of a critical situation or critical juncture,” archaeologist Daryl Wesley said. [The Guardian]
The owner of a building in Lowestoft, England, that got tagged with a Banksy has cut the piece out and is sending it to Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles, where it is estimated to fetch between $200,000 and $400,000. The work shows a young child holding a large crowbar. [New York Post and BBC News]
The trailblazing graphic designer and illustrator Bob Gill, whose playful and iconic work was filled with visual puns, and who taught for half a century, died last week at the age of 90. “If you have something truthful to say, it will design itself,” he once said. [The New York Times]
Fresh on the heels of a CA$100 million (US$79.6 million) donation for a new home for the Vancouver Art Gallery, architects Herzog & de Meuron have released a new design for that proposed building’s facade, which will involve copper weaving. [Dezeen]
The United Kingdom has put an export ban on a golden tiger’s head that once adorned the throne of Tipu Sultan in South India. It is valued at £1.5 million (about $2.01 million). Some historians have questioned the move on the grounds that the piece was looted by British soldiers after Tipu’s defeat in 1799. [The Art Newspaper]
Actor Kristen Stewart was shot for her just-published New Yorker profile by photographer Elle Pérez, whose illuminating images have graced the Whitney Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, and numerous other museums and galleries. [The New Yorker via 47 Canal/Twitter]
A few quick artist items to round out this Digest: The late Ojibwe painter George Morrison will have his work featured on U.S. postage stamps, Minnesota Public Radio reports. Pamela Council discussed their resplendent public artwork in New York’s Times Square with Vogue. Calligraphy innovator Tong Yang-tze discussed her show-stealing commission for the M+ museum in Hong Kong. And artist and cake sculptor Michelle Wibowo has created a 5-foot-tall cake of Harry Potter’s school, Hogwarts, as part of celebration of the 20th anniversary of the first Potter film, per BBC News. It involved 320 hours of work.
ROYAL PREROGATIVE. Britain’s Queen Mary of Teck was a zealous collector, and there have long been rumors that she was something of a kleptomaniac. Hadley Hall Meares investigated in Vanity Fair. We will not give away the verdict here. Regardless, her artistic passion was admirable—and intense. In a 1914 letter to a fellow aesthete she had toured through her holdings, she wrote, “. . . you are so very appreciative of detail & worthy of all the beautiful objects which are ever a constant joy to me. It always seems strange to me that there can be people to whom these things mean & say nothing to them. I confess I pity them as they miss much in life.” [Vanity Fair]