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Sotheby’s reports $25.9 million first quarter loss

Plus: Amateur antiques dealer jailed for theft | National Portrait Gallery saves Rejlander photographic album for the nation | Harold Cohen (19282016) | and Martin Friedman (19252016)

10 May 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Sotheby’s posts first quarter loss | Sotheby’s announced a loss of $25.9 million for the first quarter of 2016 yesterday, a result that the auction house partly attributes to a 35 per cent decrease in its overall auction sales. The news, which coincided with a disappointing result for Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern sale ($144.5 million with fees against a low estimate of $164.8 million) comes at a moment of large-scale change under the direction of chief executive Tad Smith. However, the auction house has downplayed the figures, adding that it has posted a loss for 22 of its last 25 first quarter results.

Amateur antiques dealer jailed for theft | Christopher Cooper, an amateur antiques dealer from Wales, has been jailed for three years and eight months on charges of fraud, theft and dealing in tainted cultural objects. Cooper, who travelled up and down the UK taking religious artefacts from churches, is believed to have netted around £150,000 from the sale of stolen items, including a set of priceless decorative oak panels he hacked from the walls of a church in Torbryan in 2013. Cooper was finally identified as the mastermind behind the thefts after offering a rare bible to a collector before it was in his possession. The would-be buyer contacted the police when Cooper failed to deliver. For more on the flurry of thefts affecting Britain’s churches, click here.

National Portrait Gallery acquires rare Rejlander photographic album | The National Portrait Gallery has acquired an album of images by pioneering 19th-century photographer Oscar Gustav Rejlander that, a year ago, seemed destined to leave the country. Last February, the UK government placed a temporary export bar on the album, which had been sold to a Canadian buyer at auction. The NPG successfully raised th necessary £75,000, using its own funds as well as contributions from the Art Fund and private individuals.

Harold Cohen (1928–2016) | Harold Cohen, an abstract painter best known as a pioneer of computer-generated art, has died at home in California aged 87. Cohen was born in London and studied at the Slade, graduating in 1951. After teaching for years at Nottingham University and Camberwell, he accepted a lecturing post at the University of California in 1968, where he became interested in computers. In the 1970s, he designed a computer programmed ‘drawing machine’ he called ‘Aaron’, which he would continue to work on until his death.

Martin Friedman (1925–2016) | Former Walker Art Center director Martin Friedman has died in New York aged 90. Friedman, who led the Minneapolis museum for 30 years, joined the institution as a curator in 1958, and retired only in 1990. During his tenure, he oversaw the Walker’s transition from private institution to nonprofit organisation, created the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and transformed the museum into an internationally recognised name.

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