yayoi kusama

From Banksy’s Summer ‘Spraycation’ to Yayoi Kusama’s Typhoon-Tossed Pumpkin: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week

Sotheby’s Sets Out fo Sin City The auction house is partnering with MGM Resorts in Vegas for a $100 million sale of Picasso works.

Banksy’s Summer ‘Spraycation’ – The anonymous artist confirmed authorship of a string of murals that cropped up in English coastal towns earlier this week.

It’s Britney Bitch  Just as the pop princess won a major victory in court, the Art Angle delves into artists’ fascination with Britney Spears.

Introducing Art House – A new art destination will set up shop in the former Barneys flagship location on Madison Avenue, offering a dedicated art fair in November.

Frieze Sculpture Returns to Regents Park – The beloved en plein air art exhibition is free and open to the public, offering a bevy of fantastical works at the storied London site.

Christie’s Evangelizes CryptoPunks in Hong Kong – The auction house announced it will now offer NFTs in Asia, becoming the first major auction house to do so.

Superblue Brings Super Art – The immersive art organization is bringing telegenic, interactive installations about climate change to both London and New York this fall, courtesy DRIFT and Studio Swine, respectively.


Students Sue Over Lost Studios – Students at the Glasgow School of Art are suing the institution for cutting their degree show and limiting access to studios during the global pandemic.

ICA London Director Exits – Stefan Kalmár, the first-ever non-British director to lead the museum is stepping down after five years, citing Brexit and a rise in racism around the country.

Art Council Members Resign En Masse – Four members of Hong Kong’s Arts Council, including an artist who defended Ai Weiwei’s artwork, resigned from their posts as the country’s freedoms are increasingly limited.

Book Fair Cancelled – New York’s beloved Antiquarian Book Fair has been called off due to mounting concerns over the super-transmissible Delta variant.

Ancient Relic Reveals Grisly Ritual – Archaeologists discovered a relic suggesting that ancient Romans fed prisoners to lions as part of executions.

Typhoon Wrecks Kusama Pumpkin – Strong gusts of wind from a typhoon in Japan sent Yayoi Kusama’s famed pumpkin sculpture flying into the sea.

Florida Politician Scuttles Public Art Show – The mayor of Coral Gables, Florida forced artists Sandra Ramos and Cai Guo-Qiang to be cut from a public art show because he disagreed with their sympathetic comments toward communism.

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Disgraced Former Art Dealer Angela Gulbenkian Has Been Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Fraudulently Selling a Kusama

Angela Gulbenkian, the 39-year-old German socialite who orchestrated fraudulent art deals to fund a lavish lifestyle, has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison. 

The sentence came today in London’s Southwark Crown Court, where, earlier this month,  Gulbenkian pled guilty to two counts of theft: one over the faulty sale of a £1.1 million ($1.4 million) Yayoi Kusama sculpture to Hong Kong company Art Incorporated Limited (AIL); and the other regarding £50,000 ($65,000) from her masseuse, Jacqui Ball.

Courtroom evidence showed that Gulbenkian, who married into one of Europe’s wealthiest art-collecting families, put much of that money toward extravagant purchases, including a £25,000 Rolex watch, two art pieces worth a combined £56,000, and a private charter jet.

“Both counts on the indictment involve, in comparative terms, thefts of very large sums of money,” Judge David Tomlinson told the court upon issuing the ruling, according to the BBC.

“Running through all of this criminality was a sustained obfuscation on your part,” he added, addressing Gulbenkian. “When AIL and Ms. Ball separately tried to get you to deliver on your promise, your treatment of them prolonged the distress.”

Gulbenkian’s three-year, six-month sentence comes on top of the two years she is already credited with serving after being arrested in Lisbon in June of last year under a European arrest warrant.

Meanwhile, a third lawsuit, in which Gulbenkian is accused of selling a £115,000 ($151,000) Andy Warhol print on behalf of a London-based dealer and pocketing the money, is still pending.

Art Recovery International’s Christopher Marinello, the lawyer representing AIL in the case against Gulbenkian, said he thought the sentence could have been heavier. 

“In my view, this sends the wrong message to the post-Brexit London art market,” Marinello told Midnight Publishing Group News in an email. “It says to me that fraudsters are welcome in London to ply their trade, to spend and hide their ill-gotten gains on property and luxury goods, as long as the [Revenue and Customs department] gets their share.”  

Marinello filed criminal charges against Gulbenkian in early 2018, roughly a year after she failed to deliver a 179-pound Kusama pumpkin sculpture to Mathieu Ticolat, the founder of AIL. 

Soon after, others came forward alleging that they, too, had been defrauded by the art dealer. ArtCube, an online platform that connects art buyers and sellers, claimed Gulbenkian owed them $15,000, while an interior design firm in London said she never paid for the company to deck out her bedroom in Kusama’s signature polka-dot motif.

In January 2020, an anonymous London art dealer, later revealed to be James Ashcroft, filed a lawsuit claiming that Gulbenkian sold him an Andy Warhol print of Queen Elizabeth II and pocketed the money rather than giving it to the owner of the piece. 

“Angela Gulbenkian has been taken off the market as a serial art-world fraudster,” Marinello said after the sentencing. “I only wish that law enforcement and the justice system in the U.K. would move quicker to enable victims to recoup their funds in the early stages of these criminal cases. By the time we followed procedure, the stolen funds were long gone.” 

“This needs to be addressed if London hopes to remain an art-world leader,” he concluded.

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3 Prolific Artist Friendships That Changed the Course of Art History

In the often-solitary life of an artist, it is rare to find a trustworthy peer to take on the role of confidante. And there’s a good reason why: critique, both internal and from others, is a never-ending obsession for an artist, whose livelihood is dependent on the personal outpouring of their craft. Indeed, it takes a very special sort of friendship between artists to persist through the highs and lows of their unique lifestyles and to overcome professional jealousy, easily bruised feelings, and, at times, differing opinions on what makes good art. 

But the relationships between Yayoi Kusama and Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan succeeded in doing exactly that, crossing divisions of gender, age, background, nationality, and circumstance to cement long-lasting bonds. In the name of lifting one another up as artists and as friends alike, these pairs provided each other with constant support that helped to realize artwork that ultimately shaped the course of art history. Here, we examine these three friendships more closely.


Yayoi Kusama and Donald Judd 

Yayoi Kusama, Flower Obsession (Sunflower), 2000. Courtesy of the artist.

Yayoi Kusama, Flower Obsession (Sunflower), 2000. Courtesy of the artist.

Born on opposite ends of the earth just a year apart, Yayoi Kusama and Donald Judd’s paths would cross as young artists finding their footing in late 1950s New York City. While their initial meeting occurred after Judd wrote a rave review of Kusama’s first New York solo show for ARTnews, their relationship—mostly one of friendship but at times, romantic—would continue to deepen for decades to come. For a young artist coming up in the post-WWII New York art scene, the weight of a critic’s voice could not be understated, and in this arena, Judd provided Kusama with a strong foundation from which to launch her career. The two seemed to connect through their shared self-described label of “outsider” and over time, a through-line emerged in both artists’ practices that involved the outright rejection of any preexisting school of thought. 

The 1960s would see Judd and Kusama enjoying a congruent rise of recognition. The mutual influence between the two was strengthened, too, by physical proximity after they moved into the same studio building in 1961. While there, both artists’ genre-defying work seemed to hit their respective strides, with Judd moving out of representational painting and into minimalism while Kusama continued to refine her practice.

Donald Judd in 1970. Photo Paul Katz, courtesy Judd-Hume Prize.

Donald Judd in 1970. Photo Paul Katz, courtesy Judd-Hume Prize.

As their friendship progressed, mutual admiration for one another became a defining feature of Judd and Kusama’s relationship. Kusama once remarked that Judd was her first boyfriend, while Judd mentioned that Kusama’s work ethic and dedication to her practice was something he tried to model in his own life. Their common investigations of finding spirituality in repetition, concerns with spatiality, and stability from the pressures of the mind would pave the way for a new kind of dialogue in modern art. At times, each would rebuff the commercial art world and make work that many would deem too difficult to sell. And though their lives would geographically diverge when Kusama moved back to her native Japan in 1973, the two remained in close correspondence via letters of encouragement for a long time until Judd’s death in 1994.


Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan

Arnold Newman, Helen Frankenthaler, Provincetown (1963).
Photo: The Estate of Arnold Newman, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery.

For a fleeting moment in the late 1950s, female painters working in the United States became a focal point of critical attention, ushered into the mainstream art world through their glamorization in a 1957 LIFE magazine feature. Though this moment would come to pass, and widespread attention once again returned largely to male artists, Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan, two standouts of this period, persisted in carving out space for women in the art world while maintaining a close bond. 

Frankenthaler and Hartigan shocked the scene with painting styles that were considered too masculine for their makers. Monumental in scale and full of energy and action, both artists embraced practices that would knowingly push the canon of painting. They met through their shared social circle of New York’s downtown artistic community, and though the two were in close kinship with many of their male counterparts who were enjoying worldwide recognition—such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning—Frankenthaler and Hartigan’s inclusions in the contemporary art conversation of the time were few and far between.

A young Grace Hartigan painting in her studio in the 1940s at the beginning of her artistic career. Image courtesy Syracuse University.

A young Grace Hartigan painting in her studio in the 1940s at the beginning of her artistic career. Image courtesy Syracuse University.

Despite their hardships, both continued to make their mark in a man’s world that tried to claim singular ownership of abstract painting, and their continued support of one another would prove crucial in the ongoing fight for recognition of women artists the world over.

In later years, after enjoying distinct milestones of success, such as Frankenthaler’s representation of the United States in the 1966 Venice Biennale, and Hartigan’s inclusion as the only woman in MoMA’s 1956 show “Twelve Americans,” both artists sought to defy the conventions of abstraction by painting scenes from life with recognizable imagery. Moving beyond the genre of abstract expressionism, they incorporated written source material such as poetry, fiction, and memoir into their paintings. Together, they would reject stylistic decisions they knew had become widely popular, opting instead to push their work into new territory. 


Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat

Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1982). The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; © 2018 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

To try and fit Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s dynamic relationship into any one category is an impossible feat. When the two formally connected over lunch at the suggestion of a mutual friend, they began an association that would blur the distinctions between mentor/mentee, father/son, and artist/muse, forming a bond that today receives household recognition even beyond the art world.

By the time their two worlds convened in 1982, Warhol was an established global figure whose career had seen overwhelming success. Basquiat, at 32 years Warhol’s junior, had just begun to make a name for himself in New York as a graffiti artist. In this kismet moment, the two recognized the potential that a partnership would award their vastly different practices and lives. Whereas Basquiat had long looked up to Warhol, seeking similar fame and recognition, Warhol was inspired by Basquiat to seek out new ways to innovate in the later stage of his career. A mutually beneficial collaboration began between the two, who would remain virtually inseparable until Warhol’s death just six years later. 

Andy Warhol in front of several paintings in his "Endangered Species" series at his studio, the Factory, in Union Square, New York, New York, April 12, 1983. (Photo by Brownie Harris/Corbis via Getty Images)

Andy Warhol in front of several paintings in his “Endangered Species” series at his studio, the Factory, in Union Square, New York, New York, April 12, 1983. (Photo by Brownie Harris/Corbis via Getty Images)

Each seemed to bask in an aura of intrigue while in the presence of one another, as if attracted to the polarity of the other’s persona. Their relationship ignored convention, painting them as an odd couple in what was at times incredibly personal and intimate, though not outright romantic. Artistically, Warhol’s refined, machine-like style was challenged by the stark rawness which imbued all of Basquiat’s work. Their opposing philosophies seeped into each other’s output throughout the course of their friendship, resulting in a period of revitalized work for both that would come to define their careers.

At times turbulent, the bond between Warhol and Basquiat endured until Warhol’s unexpected death in 1987. The loss of Warhol left a massive void in Basquiat’s life, spurring the start of especially destructive behavior that would ultimately claim his life just one year later. And though both artists’ lives were tragically cut short, their influences on the art world today continue to be as prevalent as ever before. 


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