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As Virus Tightens Grip on China, the Art World Feels the Squeeze

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A single Chinese billionaire, an investor and former taxi driver named Liu Yiqian, has spent at least $200 million on art in recent years, including $170 million for a Modigliani nude in 2015.

With China as the second-largest market for the global movie industry, approval or rejection by the government in Beijing can make or break a movie’s bottom line.

Orchestras from around the world plan tours of China years in advance, seeing them as a way to sell tickets, raise their profile and cultivate China’s growing wealthy class as donors.

But now, as China struggles to get the coronavirus epidemic under control, the country is essentially closed for business to the global arts economy, exposing the sector to deep financial uncertainty. Movie releases have been canceled in China and symphony tours suspended because of quarantines and fears of contagion. A major art fair in Hong Kong was called off, and important spring art auctions half a world away in New York have been postponed because well-heeled Chinese buyers may find it difficult to travel to them.

“It’s just not realistic to plan to offer things that are objects we know people want to see in person during a time when they can’t get here,” said Lark Mason, the founder of iGavel, one of six auction houses that have postponed many of their sales. “It does mean we have to scramble a bit because, OK, we don’t have this amount of revenue coming in. What are we going to do to fill the gap?”

The virus has infected more than 60,000 people and killed more than 1,400 in China. As tens of millions of people are sealed off in cities there, new questions are emerging about how the virus, named SARS-CoV-2, is transmitted. Even art dealers who expect business to suffer because of closed borders and mandatory quarantines say they understand that stopping the contagion comes first.

Still, there will be a financial impact. China was the third-biggest art market in the world in 2018, according to last year’s Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report, accounting for 19 percent of the $67 billion spent on art that year. (The United States, at 44 percent, and United Kingdom, at 21 percent, had the top two spots.)

In Hong Kong, the cancellations come after months of political protests that have convulsed the city and left much of the territory on shaky footing.

Ben Brown, a gallery owner with locations in London and Hong Kong, said that his shop has made a big profit every year at Art Basel Hong Kong, and this year, that bump will disappear. But the damage will go beyond immediate sales.

“It’s the center of the artistic universe for a week, and it leads to other things during the year,” he said. “Imagine if you had to cancel the Oscars. The film world would carry on, and films would carry on either making money or losing money, but it’s a major blow.”

Galleries that had planned to exhibit at Art Basel Hong Kong were offered a refund of 75 percent of their booth fees, which run to $125,000 for the largest spaces. Besides forfeited fees and lost sales, galleries are bleeding money in other ways. Cliff Vernon, director of the contemporary division of Gander & White, which ships fine art, said that there were two shipping containers currently at sea that had been on their way to Art Basel carrying pieces from five dealers. Now, the galleries will have to pay to ship it back, at a cost of about $15,000 for the return trip.

China is also critical for the movie business, a $9 billion annual market second only to North America, according to Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst at Comscore, a media measurement company. But with most movie theaters in the country closed, he said, that business is almost entirely on hold. Releases of “Jojo Rabbit” and “Dolittle” — a box-office bomb in the United States that desperately needs foreign sales — are among those postponed in China so far.

“There’s no question there are going to have to be footnotes as far as the box offices goes this year,” Mr. Dergarabedian said. “The longer this goes on, the bigger an issue it becomes.”

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What’s on TV Sunday: ‘Better Call Saul’ and Dwyane Wade

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The fifth season of “Better Call Saul” lands on AMC, while a new documentary on the basketball star Dwyane Wade debuts on ESPN.

BETTER CALL SAUL 10 p.m. on AMC. When the fourth season of this “Breaking Bad” prequel wrapped up in 2018, The New York Times’s David Segal expressed high hopes for Season 5 in his recap. “All of the major characters are on the verge of becoming even more compelling,” he wrote, “and as ‘Better Call Saul’ merges with the timeline of its chronological successor, it will get only more interesting.” Alas, Season 5 is here, and it opens with the small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) settling into his new practice as Saul Goodman — the sleazy lawyer to the guilty we first met in “Breaking Bad.” This episode kicks off with a black-and-white glimpse at the future and then returns to the present, where Saul’s new life proves problematic for his relationship with his girlfriend, Kim (Rhea Seehorn). The series will air in its regular time slot, Mondays at 9 p.m., starting Feb. 24.

DISNEY FAM JAM 8:25 p.m. on Disney. Spending the night in with the kids? Tune into this new dance competition series, hosted by Trevor Tordjman and Ariel Martin of the Disney television movie “Zombies 2.” The choreographer Phil Wright coaches two families who then go head-to-head on the dance floor, whipping out their best moves for the chance to win a $10,000 cash prize.

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Michele Leddy, John Middlebrooks – The New York Times

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Michele Kaitlyn Leddy and John Otley Middlebrooks were married Feb. 22 at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer in New York. The Rev. Joseph Hagan, a Roman Catholic priest, officiated. On March 14, the groom’s father is to lead the couple in a second ceremony where they are to exchange vows at the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort in Punta Mita, Mexico.

Ms. Leddy, 31, is the business operations and strategic planning manager at the Regeneron Genetics Center, a biotech company that sequences exomes, in Tarrytown, N.Y. She graduated from Bucknell and received an M.B.A. from Duke.

She is the daughter of Dr. Vincent R. Leddy and Dr. Cecilia M. Leddy of North Hills, N.Y. The bride’s father, an internist, is in private practice in Brentwood, N.Y. The bride’s mother is a stay-at-home parent.

Mr. Middlebrooks, 32, who goes by Jack, is a director at Alvarez & Marsal, a restructuring and management consulting firm, in New York. He graduated from Davidson College.

He is the son of Victoria J. Middlebrooks and Donald M. Middlebrooks of Jupiter, Fla. The groom’s mother, who is retired, was a communications manager for the school district of Palm Beach County in West Palm Beach, Fla. The groom’s father is a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida in West Palm Beach.

The couple met in 2016 at a mutual friend’s birthday brunch in New York.

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Christian Louboutin Explains Himself – The New York Times

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With the room, you have the feeling that you are at some granny’s, maybe in the ’60s, ’70s in the Midlands in England. It’s a lot of chintz. And a lot of shoes. They seem a little bit kinky. If you look closer, everything which is made out of a print you are going to see that these flowers are not flowers; it’s more, let’s say, sexual.

So, what I’m trying to say in that room is that sometimes you think you have a pretty good idea of what you see, and then it could be something else.

Do you feel that people feel that about your work, too?

Sometimes I have the feeling that people have a very specific idea of my work. And some people may be right and some people may be wrong.

I remember Helmut Newton, the photographer, telling me one day — he had looked at some of my shoes — “I’m going to give you the best address for dominatrixes in New York.” And I said, “Helmut, I’m just not interested in that.” He was surprised. This is a suggestion from my work to a projection of his own mind. Me, when I think leather and spikes, I’m thinking Haute Époque, 17th century.

What objects are most significant in the second section?

A bench designed by Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect, where you see exactly the essence of his work: his love of curves. When I met Oscar Niemeyer the first time, I told him that we were sharing a passion: the love of curves. Also kachina dolls, Hopi masks, a Gandhara bust from my own collection.

For me, it’s very important to understand, to look and to be nourished by different cultures because it gives birth to other things. It’s important to be able to be open to other people, to be open to other points of view. And there is nothing bad in being inspired by things which are not coming from your own culture; very much the opposite.

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