Weekly Roundup: Da Vinci Conspiracy Theories, Record-Breaking Contemporary Art Sales, and More

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Not in the know? Here’s what made headlines in the art world this week:

The Contemporary Art Market is Killing It Right Now
Sales of contemporary art at public auctions surpassed $2 billion for the first time last year, the Paris-based arts-data organization Artprice has said. The company’s report tallied auction sales between July 2013 and July 2014, including the record-breaking Christie’s auction in November that saw buyers walk away with the most expensive publicly auctioned piece of art ever, Francis Bacon’s $142.4 million Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969). That auction also minted Jeff Koons’ $58.4 million Balloon Dog (Orange) (1994-2000) as the most expensive piece by a living artist ever sold at auction. [New York Observer]

Sotheby’s to Offer $20 Million Jasper Johns Flag
In November, at its contemporary art evening sale, Sotheby’s will offer Jasper Johns’s iconic Flag. The work, done in encaustic, was startlingly literal when it was first created in the 1950s, when Ab Ex was the preeminent style, and it helped pave the way for the Pop art movement. It’s one of Johns’s most recognizable and beloved works. The seller, an American collector, acquired this version from the artist in 1983, the year it was created, and it has remained in the same private collection ever since. [artnet news]

Da Vinci Restoration Project Reignites Conspiracy Theories
An ongoing restoration of one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works, Adoration of the Magi, has revealed new details and colors in the painting and in Leonardo’s techniques—and confirmed that others helped paint the Renaissance masterpiece. Da Vinci started the the painting in 1481 for a Florentine monastery, but never finished it after he moved to Milan the next year. According to Antonio Natali, Director at Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, “The cleaning process has revealed aspects of the painting that were previously only visible under infrared light and which give the painting a richer theological dimension.” [artnet news]

Ai Weiwei ‘@Large’Installation Inside Alcatraz:
An ambitious installation by Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei, will feature 176 portraits of political prisoners and exiles made from Lego blocks. The piece, titled Trace is the centerpiece of the artist’s upcoming exhibition @Large: Ai Wei Wei on Alcatraz organized by the FOR-SITE Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service. [SFGate]

Imperial Qianlong-Era Chinese Vase Sells for $25 Million
An 18th century Qing Dynasty vase sold for $24.7 million at a Skinner, Inc. auction in Boston on September 17th. The price for the vase was about 165 times its low estimate of $150,000. It set the record for a Qing Dynasty vase in the United States and was one of the top Chinese artworks sold at auction globally. The winner was an anonymous Chinese collector in the room, according to the auction house.
18th century Qianlong-era vase fetched $24.7 million at a Skinner, Inc. auction in Boston on September 17th. The remarkable result was approximately 165 times the lot’s low estimate of $150,000. The sale set the record for a Qing Dynasty vase in the U.S. and was one of the top Chinese artworks sold globally at auction. [Bloomberg News]

Banksy Artwork Resurfaces at a School Exhibition
A Banksy artwork that disappeared from a building wall has been exhibited in a school—after being hidden under a bed for four years. The piece, titled Leopard and Barcode, was back on display at a secondary school after it was brought in by an unnamed teacher who had kept it under her bed wrapped in a blanket since 2010. One of the artist’s celebrated early stencil works, the piece went missing in August 2010, and its location has since remained a mystery to art fans and local residents. [The Guardian]

The Whitney Museum’s Photography Collection Transformed by Promised Gift
The Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, announced on Friday that Sondra Gilman Gonzalez-Falla and Celso Gonzalez-Falla promised to donate 75 iconic photographs that will dramatically impact the Museum’s photography collection. The promised donation includes 12 photographs by Walker Evans, two iconic images by Alfred Stieglitz, and further work by Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston and Imogen Cunningham. The additions are to be housed in the Whitney’s new location opening in the spring of 2015. [ArtDaily]

Image:Francis Bacon, ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud.’ (1969).