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NINE-FIGURE BILLIONAIRE JEFF BEZOS has given $200 million to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., “the largest donation to the Smithsonian since the founding gift from James Smithson in 1846,” the Washington Post writes. A total of $130 million has been earmarked for a Bezos Learning Center, and $70 million will go to the museum’s current $250 million renovation project, which is now just $15 million from being fully funded. Next week, as you may have heard, the Amazon founder is headed to space. Forbes currently pegs his fortune at $210 billion.
SPEAKING OF BROKEN RECORDS: A 1938 Amrita Sher-Gil painting of women working and relaxing sold at Saffronart in Mumbai for a huge ₹37.8 crore (about $5.14 million) on Wednesday. That is the second-highest price ever paid for an Indian artwork, according to the Hindustan Times, and the most ever paid for a work by Sher-Gil, who died in 1941, at the age of only 28, as her star was rising. (The top price for an Indian work on the block is the ₹39.98 crore paid for a 1961 V.S. Gaitonde earlier this year.) Sher-Gil’s art has been receiving increasing international attention in recent years, and in 2018, the New York Times published an obituary for her as part of a project honoring overlooked figures. The auction result “is a clear indication of her artistic merit and is a testament to her skill and talent,” Saffronart CEO Dinesh Vazirani said in a statement.
Here is a fun fact (depending on your idea of fun, admittedly): 19 bicorne hats have been linked to Napoleon, and many reside in museums. Sotheby’s said it will offer one in Paris, at a Napoleon-themed auction, with a low estimate of €400,000 (about $473,000). The sale will also feature a James Ensor painting of the emperor at Waterloo. [The Guardian]
Artist Peter Saul—who has made some rather outrageous paintings of Napoleon—said in an interview at his home in Germantown, New York, that he spent the pandemic “on the porch looking at the trees” (and making work for a recent two-venue show in Manhattan). “In my pictures, absolutely nothing embarrasses me—I think I’ve proven that,” he said. [T: The New York Times Style Magazine]
A new technological system that monitors how people look at artworks and navigate exhibitions is being tested at the Istituzione Bologna Musei in Italy. Its developers say it could be used to develop show layouts and programming. [Bloomberg]
A collector named Andrew Goldberg is attempting to acquire ticket stubs from all 1,264 NBA games in which Michael Jordan played. “His level of commitment is insane,” a fellow ticket enthusiast said. [The New York Times]
The architecture journalist Kristen Richards, whose remarkable life included stretches as a shampoo model and an art dealer, has died at the age of 69. Richards was the founder of ArchNewsNow, a website summarizing architecture and design news with “a wry, informed tone that made her a must-read in the design world,” Clay Risen writes. [The New York Times]
Construction work is being completed on a solar project that will make the Shelburne Museum in Vermont entirely powered by the sun. Its director, Thomas Denenberg, said that “we see our mission as not only focused on stewarding the museum’s renowned collections, buildings and gardens, we also believe that responsibility extends to our impact on the planet.” [Vermont Business Magazine]
IS THE CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD ONE BIG SCAM? Recent fiction set there seems to think so. But, Rachel Wetzler argues in a review of the literature in Art in America, if the industry’s “excesses easily lend themselves to absurdist caricature, they also tend to immunize it against satire’s most eviscerating effects: it’s all but impossible to pierce the veil to reveal some sordid, unspoken truth, because the art world’s messy contradictions are already right on the surface, even flaunted, as a seemingly oxymoronic category like ‘canonical works of institutional critique’ makes clear.” [Art in America]
Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.