Art World Roundup: Notorious B.I.G.’s crown makes bank at auction, FIAC cancels October show, and more

Art World Roundup: Notorious B.I.G.’s crown makes bank at auction, FIAC cancels October show, and more
Barron Claiborne, Notorious B.I.G. as the "K.O.N.Y (King of New York)" (1997). Courtesy of Sotheby's.

This week we cover the cancellation of FIAC, an artist duo who cleared more than £1 million in debt as part of a book and documentary project, the recipient of the 2020 Artists’ Legacy Foundation Artist Award, the auction of Notorious B.I.G.’s crown in Sotheby’s first Hip-Hop auction, and the Brooklyn Museum’s plans to deaccession 12 artworks to free up money.


FIAC foregoes 2020

It’s official: the 2020 edition of Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain, better known as FIAC, has been cancelled. The fair was set to be held October 22-25 and those hoping to see a semblance of normalcy for art fairs this autumn were keeping their fingers crossed. However, fair organisers deemed that the 47th edition of FIAC would need to be cancelled along with the outdoor “Hors les Murs” exhibition. “Despite our efforts and our deep determination to organize FIAC in 2020, we are not in a position to offer you an event that meets your legitimate expectations” wrote Jennifer Fla, FIAC director and head of institutional relations for Charlotte Ardon, in a statement sent to fair VIPs and released by Artnet News. News of the termination of this year’s FIAC fair comes just after a socially distanced, pared down version of Art Paris was a success in welcoming 55,000 guests over the four-day fair at the Grand Palais. FIAC’s decision, though, is more in line with many other major fairs that have had to turn their focus to 2021, which will present its own challenges due to a planned renovation of the Grand Palais. This year’s FIAC exhibitors will be reimbursed for their entry fees.


Wiping debt one explosion at a time

Husband and wife duo, filmmaker Dan Edelstyn and artist Hilary Powell, have released Bank Job, a book that’s part of a larger project by the same name that’s taken on toxic debt culture, involved printing their own (fake) money, and blowing up a gold van. Published this week with Chelsea Green Publishing, Bank Job, the book, precedes the premiere of their feature-length documentary, also called Bank Job, which will be shown next month at the London Film Festival. The purpose of their project, though, is far bigger than theatrics. Bank Job highlights issues around debt and how it affects those who carry its burden. Edelstyn and Powell created an initiative similar to the Rolling Jubilee project with the intent to take out debt. They purchased an old bank in Walthamstow and renamed it Hoe Street Central Bank, or HSCB, a play on the initials of a well-known international bank. They began buying up debt just like debt collectors do, but instead of chasing people for repayment, they just informed them that their debt was gone. “The irony is that we only needed to raise £20,000 to buy out £1m of debt, because bad loans are often written down to a fraction of their value in the secondary market,” said Edelstyn. “So we wrote to people telling them the debt had been paid off.” At their HSCB headquarters, the duo printed their own money with pulp from recalled £10 notes, packed over £1 million into a Ford Transit van painted gold and blew it up against the backdrop of London’s Canary Wharf financial hub. The explosion, dubbed “Big Bang 2,” harkening back to Thatcher-era market deregulations, then became the culmination of their documentary.

A gold van is blown up sending bank notes into the air with Canary Wharf in the background Art World Roundup
A still from Big Bang 2 (2019), a performance work by Daniel Edelstyn and Hilary Powell that features in their forthcoming Bank Job documentary. Photography by Graeme Truby. Courtesy of the artists.


And the 2020 Artists’ Legacy Foundation Artist Award goes to…

Artist Peter Williams has been awarded the 2020 Artist Award through the Artists’ Legacy Foundation, which boasts a $25,000 (~£19,000) grant. Williams’ oeuvre centres on themes of racism, incarceration, police brutality, voyeurism and environmental topics through a vibrant, figurative manner that invites viewers to search for “clues and insight about the Black experience.” The award is meant to highlight a “painter or sculptor who has made significant contributions to their field and whose work shows evidence of the hand.” “I am deeply honored to be a recipient of this distinguished award,” Williams said in a statement. “[It is] the validation of 40 years of work, representing People of Color in my art…y interest in Black culture stretches back to Africa and its culture, to Afro-futurism in my latest body of work.”


Notorious B.I.G. (spender)

Iconic is how one might describe the image of American rapper Notorious B.I.G. snapped by photographer Barron Claiborne just days before Biggie was murdered. The portrait depicts Biggie as K.O.N.Y. (King of New York) and was made for the cover of Rap Pages so, the rapper wore a £5 plastic crown, tilted to the side. That crown recently came up for sale as part of Sotheby’s first ever Hip-Hop auction and that plastic crown brought in an astounding £458,282, well above its £154,109 – £231,164 pre-sale estimate. “This crown is a novelty item; I bought it at a place on Broadway called Gordon’s. Without Biggie, the crown would not be worth [six figures].” Claiborne told the New York Post. “That shows you how strong the symbol really is. […] I always thought Biggie was a king.” Other highlighted items from the auction included the “Push It” jackets work by Salt-N-Pepper (sold for £18,443), Fab 5 Freddy’s MTV ring (sold for £27,177), 22 signed love letters from Tupac Shakur to Kathy Loy, his high school sweetheart (sold for £58,253), and Slick Rick’s diamond-encrusted eyepatch (sold for £19,412). In all, the sale brought in around £1.5 million and saw a 91 percent sale through rate.

red, black, and gold image of rapper Notorious B.I.G. wearing a plastic crown Art World Roundup
Barron Claiborne, Notorious B.I.G. as the “K.O.N.Y (King of New York)” (1997). Courtesy of Sotheby’s.


Brooklyn Museum Old Masters to hit the auction block

This week, New York’s Brooklyn Museum announced that it would be selling off more than £1.5 million of its collection in order to raise capital to care for their collection. The news came after another New York institution, the Everson Museum of Art, announced it would be selling a Pollock. Among the 12 works set to be sold at Christie’s next month are works by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Gustave Courbet, and Camille Corot. The works will hit the auction block on October 15th and Christie’s has set a total auction pre-sale estimate to be between £1.7 million and $2.7 million. According to Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak, the move was a “difficult” but it is a “practical move to ensure the collection’s longevity.” The museum hopes to fund of £30 million that will generate £1.5 million annually, which will go towards the care of the museum’s collection of 160,000 works. The pandemic has played a large role in the ability for the museum to free up capital at the cost of their permanent collection. In April, Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) updated their standards for museum’s looking to deaccession works from their permanent collections, a practice typically frowned upon across the board, to alleviate financial strains resulting from the pandemic. This begs the question of if deaccessions will become more common as museum try to stay afloat.

painting of Lucretia by Lucas Cranach the Elder Art World Roundup
“Lucretia” by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which will be deaccessioned by the Brooklyn Museum to free up capital. Courtesy Christie’s.