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François Morellet (1926–2016)

11 May 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

François Morellet (1926–2016) | François Morellet, one of France’s most illustrious artists, has died at the age of 90. Born to a middle class family in western France in 1926, Morellet began painting at the age of 14. He became serious about pursuing a career as an artist while studying in Paris after the Second World War, and after painting semi-figurative scenes for several years, he turned to the abstraction for which he would become revered. Using simple materials – tape, fabric and most distinctively, neon tube lights – he developed a clear, geometrical style that was immediately distinctive in spite of its simplicity. Morellet’s emphasis on method over finished form – his work was largely predicated on chance and constraint – put him in line with the minimal and conceptual movements that would come to dominate the contemporary art of the period. His involvement with the Grav collective in the 1960s brought him international exposure and serious recognition, and by 2010, when he became only the second living artist to complete a permanent installation at the Louvre, he was widely considered one of Europe’s most eminent contemporary artists. The following year, the Centre Pompidou staged a major retrospective of his work – an honour that confirmed his place at the top of France’s cultural pantheon. Last month, Annely Juda Fine Art and the Mayor Gallery launched simultaneous exhibitions in London (open until 24 June and 27 May respectively) to mark his 90th birthday.

Sighs of relief at Christie’s Postwar & Contemporary sale | Following the mixed results of this week’s first clutch of New York auctions, Christie’s Postwar & Contemporary evening sale last night produced a consistently ‘strong’ result, reports The Art Newspaper. Bringing in a total of $277.4 million, ($318.4 with premium) the sale set auction records for works by Mike Kelley, Richard Prince, Kerry James Marshall, Barry X Ball and Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose Untitled (1982) went for $51m ($57.3m with premium). For more detailed analysis, see Art Market Monitor’s round-up of the coverage.

New Museum to double its space ahead of 40th birthday | Manhattan’s New Museum has announced plans to expand into a neighbouring building, doubling its space. According to the New York Times, the museum has raised $43 million of the $80 million it needs to realise its ambitious extension and endowment plans. According to director Lisa Phillips, a huge spike in annual attendance since the museum moved to its current premises in 2007 has made expansion a necessity. Next year, the New Museum will celebrate its 40th birthday.

Simchowitz and Ellis King settle legal dispute with Ibrahim Mahama | Dealers Stefan Simchowitz and Jonathan Ellis King have settled out of court with artist Ibrahim Mahama, bringing their year long legal dispute to a close. The original lawsuit originated when the dealers sued Mahama for declaring a group of jute sack works he had sold to them inauthentic. Mahama then countersued, claiming that they had ‘mutilated’ the works after purchase. According to The Art Newspaper, the terms of the settlement remain confidential.

Thaddaeus Ropac to take over Mallett space in London | Austrian dealer Thaddaeus Ropac is poised to open his first gallery in London, taking over the Dover Street townhouse currently in use as the headquarters of antiques dealership Mallett. According to the London Evening StandardMallett owner Stanley Gibbons hired Levy Real Estate in February to seek offers of £2.5 million for the lease of the building, which was once home to the bishops of Ely. Mallett is reportedly searching for smaller premises in London’s West End.

Recommended reading | As Hartwig Fischer settles into the director’s chair of the British Museum, The Art Newspaper’s Martin Bailey has identified the four main challenges he faces in his new role. Meanwhile in Italy, the Tuscan town of Monterchi has refused to lend its astonishing Piero freso to Rome’s Capitoline Museums. The New York Timess Jim Yardley is on hand to examine the reasons why. And if you were wondering what has happened to the Sekhemka statue that was until recently on display at the Northampton Museum, you could do worse than investigate today’s update in the Times (£).