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Sotheby’s to pass into private ownership after 31 years as a public company

Plus: Director of Berlin Jewish Museum steps down over controversial tweet | Valie Export named as recipient of The Roswitha Haftmann Prize | and rediscovered marble monument commemorating 19th-century humanitarian to go on display in New York

17 June 2019

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Sotheby’s to pass into private ownership | Sotheby’s is to become a privately owned company after signing a merger agreement with BidFair USA, the auction house announced this morning. Buying the company for $3.7 billion, BidFair USA, which is owned by the media and telecom entrepreneur and art collector Patrick Drahi, will pay $57 dollars per share to shareholders, a 61 per cent premium to the company’s closing stock price on Friday. Welcoming Drahi to the organisation, Sotheby’s CEO Tad Smith said that ‘this acquisition will provide Sotheby’s with the opportunity to accelerate the successful program of growth initiatives of the past several years in a more flexible private environment’. Sotheby’s, founded in 1744, has been a public company trading on the New York Stock Exchange for the last 31 years.

Director of Berlin Jewish Museum steps down over controversial tweet | The director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin has resigned amid criticism that he has become inappropriately politically involved in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Peter Schäfer, who took up directorship of the museum in 2014, stepped down on Friday after members of the Jewish community criticised an article shared on the museum’s Twitter feed, which examined an open letter written by 240 Jewish and Israeli scholars who urged the German parliament’s not to deem BDS as anti-Semitic. The Jewish Museum came under fire last year when the Israeli government deemed an exhibition as anti-Israeli, and Schäfer also sparked controversy after inviting the Iranian culture director to the museum for a private tour.

Valie Export named as recipient of The Roswitha Haftmann Prize | The Roswitha Haftmann Foundation has awarded their annual prize of CHF 150,000 (£119,538) to the Austrian artist Valie Export. Export, born in 1940, is known for her provocative body performance and video installations, and was praised by the jury for her advancement of the Actionism movement. The Roswitha Haftmann Prize was founded in 2001 and is awarded to a living artist for their outstanding contribution to the visual arts. Previous winners include Hans Haacke, Cindy Sherman and Carl Andre.

Rediscovered marble monument commemorating 19th-century humanitarian to go on display in New York | A 700-pound marble monument dedicated to Rebecca Salome Foster, a volunteer dedicated to the welfare of Manhattan prisoners in the 19th century, is to be reinstalled in a courthouse lobby after it disappeared from view almost eighty years ago. A victim of the Park Avenue Hotel fire in 1902, Foster was publicly commemorated in marble shortly after, but the monument disappeared after the court was destroyed in 1940. The reinstallation of the sculpture, which has also undergone restoration, is part of a wider effort to acknowledge the contributions of the city’s historic women.

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