Hebrew Bible Sells for $38.1 M. at Sotheby’s, Art Films Soar at Cannes, and More: Morning Links for May 18, 2023

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The Headlines

UNDER THE HAMMER, PART I. Five new artist records were set Wednesday night at Christie’s in New York during the house’s fairly tepid 65-lot sale of work from the collection of the late Boston real-estate maven Gerald FinebergKaren K. Ho reports in ARTnewsBarkley L. Hendricks’s new high is $6.1 million, for a 1971 portrait of painter Stanley Whitney, and Alma Thomas’s is $3.9 million, for a characteristically winning abstraction from 1970. The event totaled $153 million, and “most lots garnered hammer prices below or near their low estimates, with several works going unsold,” Ho writes. One disappointing result: An ultra-rare 1993 Christopher Wool painting (with colored letters instead of the artist’s usual black) made just $10.1 million (with fees included) against a low estimate of $15 million. For the full report, head to ARTnews.

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UNDER THE HAMMER, PART II. There is no rest when it is auction season in New York City! Phillips also staged an evening sale, of 20th-century and contemporary art, on Wednesday, and brought in $69.5 million across 37 lots (33 of which sold), Angelica Villa reports in ARTnews. That haul was a far cry from the $226 million that the perennial third-place house pulled in at the same event last year, when a thrilling 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting went for $85 million. This time, the top lot was a 2017 Bansky that includes imagery from a Basquiat. Carrying a low estimate of $8 million, it went for $9.72 million with fees included. One breakout performance was a painting by the late Noah Davis, which sold for $990,600, nearly 10 times its $100,000 low estimate.

The Digest

FRENCH RIVIERA DISPATCH. Art films are doing well at the Cannes Film FestivalSteve McQueen’s four-hour doc about Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Occupied City, garnered five stars from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw, who also awarded four stars to Wim Wenders’s film on artist Anselm KieferAnselm. Meanwhile, Variety reportsRaoul Peck’s doc about photog Ernest Cole sold to Magnolia Pictures and MK2 Films.

A Hebrew Bible sold for $38.1 million at Sotheby’s on Wednesday after a five-minute duel between bidders. That’s the second-highest price ever paid at auction for a historical document. The volume dates back around 1,100 years, weighs in at 26 pounds, and traded for just £350 in 1929. [The Wall Street Journal]

A Minnesota man was charged with allegedly stealing two of the red slippers that Judy Garland wore in TheWizard of Oz (1939). They had been on loan from a private collector to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, when they were taken in 2005; there were recovered in a sting in 2018. [The New York Times]

Ortuzar Projects, the New York gallery that has built a following by championing overlooked and underrated figures, is on the move: It is headed to a space next door to its current Tribeca location that will give it 10,000 square feet, twice what it has now. The new location will open in October with an Ernie Barnes exhibition. [Financial Times]

Speaking of Ortuzar, the gallery’s display of work by Takako Yamaguchi at Frieze New York made Maximilíano Durón’s list of the best booths at the event, which runs through Sunday. Also making the cut: Jack Whitten at Hauser & WirthCarlos Villa at Silverlens, and more. [ARTnews]

After 20 years as chair of the board of the Detroit Institute of ArtsEugene Gargaro Jr. is stepping down. His tenure included a $158 million expansion and the DIA exiting city control amid Detroit’s bankruptcy. [Crain’s Detroit Business]

The Kicker

THE SANDS OF TIME. A team of archaeologists announced that they have found what are believed to be “the oldest known to-scale architectural plans recorded in human history,” Priyanka Runwal reports in the New York Times. The blueprints, which may date as many as 9,000 years, were found on stone monoliths in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and are believed to represent neighboring “desert kites”—sprawling structures that ancient peoples likely used to catch wild animals. Rémy Crassard, a member of the team, said, “It’s mind-blowing to know and to show that they were able to have this mental conceptualization of very large spaces and to put that on a smaller surface.” [NYT]

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