Banksy Charity Painting Nets $23 M., Warhol Documentarian Dies, and More: Morning Links from March 24, 2021

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The Headlines

A PAINTING THAT BANKSY CREATED TO HONOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS sold for £16.7 million (about $22.9 million) at Christie’s in London on Tuesday, the Guardian reports, and most of that has been earmarked for charity. That figure shatters the street artist’s previous auction record of £9.9 million, which was paid in 2019 for a subtle work that depicts members of Parliament as chimpanzees. This new high mark carries a kind of asterisk since proceeds from the sale are going to organizations that support the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, meaning the winning bidder may have been motivated in some part by good will rather than just a raw desire to buy. Christie’s also said it will donate “a significant portion” of its buyer’s premium to the same groups, according to the Art Newspaper. The work depicts a young child playing with an action figure resembling a cape-clad nurse, while Batman and Spider-Man sit nearby, unloved. Banksy gave it as a gift to Southampton’s general hospital in England last year. For a full report on the sale that included the Banksy, Colin Gleadell has the goods in Art Market Monitor.

IN 1964, ANDY WARHOL HIRED A YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHER named David McCabe, who was then in his mid-20s, to follow him around and shoot him for one year. McCabe died late last month, at 80, Alex Vadukul reports in the New York Times. The two would meet up in the early evening, before Warhol went out on the town. “I’d arrive at the Factory and it would be mayhem . . . and there was Andy in the middle of it all, on his hands and knees, churning out work,” McCabe said in a 2011 interview. Many of his photos are now famous—like Warhol and actress Edie Sedgwick posing on a rooftop—but the artist never actually used them. (They were compiled into a book in 2003.) “A friend of mine who worked for him said he would spend hours poring over the contact sheets with a magnifying glass—not to choose an image, but to study the way he was presenting himself to the world,” McCabe once said. The photog went on to shoot ad campaigns and editorial spreads, and later focused on landscape photography.

The Digest

The chairman of the agency that oversees the forthcoming M+ art museum in Hong Kong said that curators there will abide by the new national security law. His statement came in the wake of pro-Beijing media outlets and politicians suggesting that some works in the collection of M+ (by vocal dissident Ai Weiwei, for one) might undermine the Chinese government. [South China Morning Post]

The artist Ernesto Mallard, who was a key figure in Op art in Mexico, has died. He was 89. Mallard moved away from the commercial art world in the 1970s, and is not well known today, but artist Pedro Reyes has cited him as a major influence, and the pair had a show together at Labor gallery in Mexico City in 2014. [The Art Newspaper]

Cyril Mango, a revered scholar of the Eastern Roman and Byzantine empires, has died at the age of 92. One of his major achievements (realized with the aid of the philologist Ihor Sevcenko) was “the identification of the ruins of St. Polyeuktos, the greatest church in Constantinople before the rebuilding of Hagia Sophia by the Emperor Justinian,” William Saunders writes. [The Guardian]

Collector David Walsh has apologized for helping to commission a controversial Santiago Sierra sculpture for the upcoming Black Mojo arts festival in Australia. “I approved it without much thought,” said Walsh, whose Museum of Old and New Art runs the event. Yesterday, organizers canceled the piece, which was to involve a British flag being soaked in blood donated by First Nation peoples. Some activists are calling for a boycott of the festival. [ABC]

As the world begins to contemplate life post-lockdown, what is next for the world’s most important art fair, Art Basel? Zachary Small dives into the boardroom drama and behind-the-scenes lobbying. [ARTnews]

A number of activist groups are targeting the Museum of Modern Art in a new 10-week campaign they are calling “Strike MoMA.” The coalition, which includes Decolonize This Place and Forensic Architecture, says the museum is a place of “elitism, hierarchy, inequality, precarity, disposability, anti-Blackness, misogyny.” [Hyperallergic]

Though Ray Johnson is best known for his wily collages and mail art, he got serious about photography later in life. A show of his little-known photos will run at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York next year. [T: The New York Times Style Magazine]

The Kicker

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN HAS RELEASED a new batch of the unforgettable, faux-candid action photos that he creates now and then, with the 68-year-old strongman “shown in his usual favorite outdoor setting, displaying his connection to nature, manly toughness and appreciation of country,” Vanessa Friedman writes in the New York Times . He sunbathes topless, he tramples through snow—he is unstoppable. Putin also appears in the wild with his defense minister, Friedman reports. That’s a power pairing that may be familiar to some Dada fans. The great Hannah Höch also used a photo of a president and defense minister (Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Noske of the Weimar Republic) in bathing suits in her 1918–20 photomontage Heads of State They are posed goofily in front of an embroidery pattern in a kind of sly send-up of patriarchal authority. Could similarly great art result from Putin’s official images? Artists who try are advised to proceed cautiously.

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

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