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New York and London gallery Skarstedt is off to a roaring start at Frieze Masters 2014, counting among its early sales Andy Warhol’s 1984 remix of Edvard Munch’s "The Scream," which sold to a private collector for about $5.5 million.

That sum pales in comparison to the $119.9 million Leon Black paid for Munch’s own version of "The Scream" at Sotheby’s back in 2012, which set the record at the time for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

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Wall Street has become one of art's biggest patrons, with the major corporate collections that some investment banks have gathered over the years.

J.P. Morgan, UBS, and Deutsche Bank were listed in Forbes' best corporate art collections in 2012. Deutsche Bank was included as the largest corporate art collection in the world.

And it's not just banks. Numerous Wall Street titans through history, including J.P. Morgan, Leon Black, and Robert Lehman, have also been active collectors in the art industry.

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Private equity titan Leon Black and his wife Debra, a Broadway producer, melanoma survivor and leading force behind the Melanoma Research Alliance, are buying 19 E. 70th St., the former Knoedler & Company art gallery, which shuttered following a major art fraud scandal in 2009 that is still under investigation.

London developer Christian Candy bought the 30-foot-wide, 17,000-square-foot, 104-year-old Italian Renaissance-style townhouse for $35 million in 2013.

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Thursday, 14 August 2014 12:26

Phaidon Acquires

Billionaire Leon Black’s publishing company Phaidon acquired, an Internet startup that sells works by contemporary artists, as investors struggle to figure out how to make money from art online.

Phaidon, a publisher of art and design books, agreed to buy Artspace, the companies said today in a statement without disclosing the price. The deal is the latest in a wave of mergers and partnerships shaking up the Internet art market even as profit in the nascent industry remains elusive.

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The Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth received an anonymous $10 million donation. The gift, which will be put towards building the centerpiece of the two-year renovation and expansion project:  a new Museum Learning Center.

The renovation project, helmed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects—designers of the American Folk Art Museum building and the new Barnes Foundation—is part of Dartmouth’s aim of beefing up its campus arts district. The expansion will increase the museum’s current 39,000-square-foot space by 15,000 square feet, giving it more room to show off the museum’s collection, which touts some 65,000 objects including paintings by Perugino, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Rockwell Kent, along with a collection of Assyrian stone reliefs. The expansion will also add three classrooms for the use of digital technology.

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Monday, 29 July 2013 18:21

Britain Lifts Export Ban on Raphael Drawing

British authorities have lifted the export ban on Raphael’s drawing Head of a Young Apostle. The Old Master work will go to Leon Black, a New York-based billionaire who paid $47.9 million for it at Sotheby’s London in December 2012. The drawing, which was created between 1519 and 1520, was a study for the artist’s revered painting The Transfiguration, which resides in the Vatican’s collection.

The UK’s arts minister Ed Vaizey quickly placed the work under an export ban following the sale, which broke the auction record for a work on paper. The point of the ban was to provide enough time for an interested buyer to raise the money necessary to keep the drawing in the country. The ban expired on July 3, 2013 and was not extended.

Britain has recently employed a number of export bans on culturally significant works. Two pieces, which were purchased by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, are currently being held in the U.K. Officials are waiting to see if any buyers will step forward for a rare 15th century Flemish manuscript titled Roman de Gillion de Trazignes and Rembrandt Laughing, a self-portrait by the Dutch master. The Getty paid $5.8 million and $25 million for the works respectively.

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Leon Black, a billionaire financier and chief executive of the private equity firm, Apollo Global Management, announced his acquisition of Phaidon Press, a publisher of fine art books. Black, who paid an undisclosed amount for the company, bought Phaidon from the British businessman, Richard Schlagman.

Phaidon is one of premier publishers of books on the visual arts along with Taschen and Assouline. The company has collaborated with such artists as Ai Wei Wei, Nan Goldin, and Stephen Shore and they publish everything from children books to cookbooks to collector’s editions that often come with signed prints or specially-commissioned pieces of art. On Phaidon’s site there is a statement from Black saying, “We having greatly admired Phaidon and the important contribution the company has made to art and culture. We are impressed with how Richard Schlagman has built the business and the Phaidon brand under his ownership over the last two decades. My family and I look forward to supporting the future of the company, including through the ongoing development of its publishing program, further geographic expansion, and the launch of digital products.”

Black, who is rumored to have paid $120 million for Edvard Munch’s The Scream earlier this year, is one of the country’s most prominent art collectors. In May, Black and his wife announced a $48 million contribution to the new visual arts center at Dartmouth College. An alumnus of the school, Black and his family also included a commissioned sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly in the gift.

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One of the most immediately recognizable artworks of all time, Edvard Munch’s (1863–1944) 1895 version of The Scream will be on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art for six months, starting October 24th. Sold for nearly $120 million at Sotheby’s in May to a mystery collector, The Scream is the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

Munch created four versions of The Scream between 1893 and 1910. The other three versions reside in Norwegian museums and have not traveled for years. The pastel on board that will be on view at MoMA is the only version in private hands and has never before been shown publicly in New York. It is also the most colorful of the bunch and boasts a frame painted by the artist with a poem describing a walk at sunset that inspired the piece. A part of Munch’s “Frieze of Life” series, it is truly a privilege to be able to see The Scream, a cornerstone of Modern art, in person.

It has been suggested that the New York financier, Leon Black, was the buyer of the pastel that sold at Sotheby’s but neither Mr. Black nor officials at Sotheby’s will confirm. A member of MoMA’s board, Black is one of foremost collectors in the U.S.

The Scream will be on view at MoMA through April 29th and the museum will be sure to ramp up security during its stay.

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