Storied Modern Art Collection Goes on View in Paris, Swiss Fraud Inquiry Dropped Against Bouvier: Morning Links for September 20, 2021

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The Headlines

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. This week in Paris, the storied art collection assembled by the Russian brothers Ivan and Mikhail Morozov more 100 years ago will go on view at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, rich with works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Picasso from Russian museums. It is a sequel, of sorts, to the foundation’s blockbuster 2016 show of Russian industrialist Sergei Shchukin’s art holdings (here’s an ARTnews review of that feast). Bloomberg reports that the new exhibition got the go-ahead from President Vladimir Putin, when Bernard Arnault, the LVMH chairman (and ARTnews Top 200 Collector ), traveled to Moscow to thank him for his support of the Shchukin endeavor. The AFP has details on the wild ride that the Morozov works had over the years, at one point being hidden in the Ural mountains during World War II. And speaking of Putin, in this past weekend’s parliamentary elections in Russia, the director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, was atop the ticket for the president’s party in St. Petersburg. “Being placed first on the ticket means the person has the highest confidence rating in the city,” he told the Art Newspaper . “Where else in the world would you find a city where the director of a museum has the highest rating?” As expected, early results showed that Putin’s United Russia party had retained its hold on Parliament, albeit with less support than in the past, and amid accusations of fraud, the New York Times reports. In St. Petersburg, police detained some independent poll watchers.

A BIG DAY FOR BOUVIER. A Swiss prosecutor has dropped a criminal fraud complaint that was made by collector Dmitry Rybolovlev against businessman Yves Bouvier, the New York Times reports. In courtrooms around the world, Rybolovlev has accused Bouvier of marking up artworks that he sold to Rybolovlev by some $1 billion (including Leonardo‘s Salvator Mundi ), effectively operating as an art dealer while claiming to be acting as his adviser. Bouvier has denied any  wrongdoing and maintained he was clear about operating as a dealer. The battle between the two has raged for six years, and this was the final outstanding criminal action against Bouvier. Rybolovlev’s lawyers said they would appeal, terming the case “the most serious the art world has ever known.” In Monaco, an investigation is underway into a claim by Bouvier that Rybolovlev used gifts to encourage authorities to investigate Bouvier.

The Digest

Following extensive safety work, which involved removing 40,000 pieces of scaffolding, the fire-damaged Notre-Dame cathedral is ready to undergo renovations, officials said. France aims to hold a full service on April 16, 2024, marking the five-year anniversary of the fire. [AFP/France 24]

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will sell more than 200 duplicate prints and photographs from its collection at Christie’s amid a pandemic-induced revenue shortfall. The works are estimated to bring in about $1 million. “More significant works have also been earmarked for sale, but the museum is mum as to what they are,” Katya Kazakina reports. Former Sotheby’s rainmaker Tobias Meyer is advising the museum. [Artnet News]

Prince Charles is said to want to convert Buckingham Palace in London into a museum. His mother, Queen Elizabeth II, is reportedly not a fan of that move. (Some parts of the sprawling site are viewable on tours, but not the family’s apartments.) A $500 million renovation is due to be completed in 2027. [Page Six]

Speaking about the crackdown in Hong Kong, artist and activist Ai Weiwei said, “I want to say to those who are falsely and unjustly charged that they are standing on the right side of history. The authoritarian regime will not be able to erase their glory. Every bit of their efforts has defended the principles of justice and fairness . . . I am very proud of them.” [Hong Kong Free Press]

Mexico has called on a Munich auction house to call off the sale of more than 74 artifacts that it says are classified as “national patrimony,” and the Cyprus Orthodox Church took possession of two 18th-century doors taken from a church in Northern Cyprus that somehow found their way to a Japanese art college. The church first spotted them 20 years ago and had waged a legal fight to get them back.
[The Art Newspaper and The Associated Press]

A lede that must be quoted in full: “A finger bone of late national artist Thawan Duchanee, which was stolen seven years ago, has been returned to his son after a superstitious artist claimed that hanging the stolen relic by his easel boosted his painting talent.” Glad that got resolved. [Bangkok Post]

The Kicker

THINKING ABOUT GETTING INTO THE NFT GAME? Be careful, Gauthier Zuppinger, the cofounder of, a website that tracks digital collectibles, told Bloomberg. “Maybe 90 percent of collections minted today are totally useless and meaningless .” A related data point: The vast majority of digital assets sold on the OpenSea platform in the past 90 days have not been involved in another transaction. Explaining how to achieve success in NFTs, Zuppinger said, “Ninety-nine percent is about being in the right circle, having the right information at the right time.” That sounds a lot like the contemporary art market. [Bloomberg]

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