Leon Black Departs Apollo, the Rise of Beeple, and More: Morning Links from March 23, 2021

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The Headlines

IN A SURPRISE MOVE, BILLIONAIRE COLLECTOR LEON BLACK has stepped down as chairman and CEO of the Apollo Global Management investment firm, citing health issues that he and his wife are facing, the Wall Street Journal reports. Black has been under scrutiny for more than $150 million in payments that he made to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. A law firm’s inquiry into Black’s involvement with Epstein reportedly turned up no evidence of wrongdoing, and the collector has said the payments were for advisory services. Black had previously said he would step down as Apollo CEO by his 70th birthday this July while maintaining the chairman position. The Art Newspaper points out that his sudden resignation will renew questions about his philanthropic activities. He has served as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art since 2018, and some artists have called on him to quit, the New York Times has reported. ARTnews has an overview of Epstein’s other art world links.

THE AUSTRALIAN ARTS FESTIVAL SET TO HOST A SANTIAGO SIERRA artwork consisting of a British flag soaked in blood donated by First National peoples has canceled the project after heavy criticism. “We made a mistake and take full responsibility,” the creative director of the Black Mojo festival, Leigh Carmichael, said in a statement quoted by the Guardian that included an apology to First Nations peoples. Some condemned the festival’s cancellation of the piece. Australian performance artist Mike Parr told the Sydney Morning Herald that the organizers showed “cowardice and lack of leadership” in their decision. Adam Geczy, an art professor at the University of Sydney who criticized the proposed work, offered this: “Art can also be wrong. Tragedy, real tragedy, is not fair game.” So far, Sierra has not spoken about the work being pulled.

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The Digest

How did Beeple, a.k.a. Mike Winkelmann, become the $69 million king of the NFT talents? Kyle Chayka spoke with Winkelmann, who recently received a congratulatory note from Damien Hirst. Beeple’s thoughts on Abstract-Expressionism? “I have no idea what the hell that is,” he said. [The New Yorker]

The collection of the late Los Angeles philanthropists Morris and Rita Pynoos will be offered at Sotheby’s New York in the spring. It’s rich with works by Willem de Kooning, John McCracken, Louise Nevelson, and David Hockney. [ARTnews]

König gallery is hosting an exhibition of works that can be acquired as NFTs on the digital platform Decentraland. The show is set in a virtual version of König’s Berlin gallery. [Artnet News]

The National Gallery in London is loaning nine pieces, including a Monet, to the Southampton city art gallery in England to highlight an unusual partnership between the two institutions that dates back to 1911. [The Guardian]

Eric L. Motley has been hired as deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. He’s joining from the Aspen Institute, where he’s executive vice president and corporate secretary. [Culture Type]

Journalist Georgina Adam sketched short profiles of six women art dealers who boosted modern art in the 20th century. [Financial Times]

Here’s a look at the ritzy new headquarters of the Salon 94 gallery on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It sports five stories, 17,500 square feet of space, and a huge glass chandelier by Philippe Malouin. [Architectural Digest]

The Kicker

AN NFT OF TWITTER CO-FOUNDER JACK DORSEY’S FIRST TWEET sold for about $2.92 million via an online auction to a Malaysian businessman named Sina Estavi, the BBC reports. Estavi, in a tweet of his own, compared the purchase to a certain work by Leonardo. “This is not just a tweet!” he wrote. “I think years later people will realize the true value of this tweet, like the Mona Lisa painting.” Only time will tell! [BBC News]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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