Portrait in “Wall-y”. The missing Gustav Klimt masterpiece “Portrait of a Lady,” was found in the walls of an Italian villa. This painting went missing in 1997 from the Ricci Oddi gallery in the northern city of Piacenza. If the piece is authentic it’s recovery will offer some objectively good news to the art world.
Name Sacked. The Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, DC rebrands itself as the National Museum of Asian Art. The institutions denied that the new name was related to the opioid controversy. Fighting Words. Troubled by comments from the White House? Here is a link to The 1954 Hague Convention, to which the US is a state party, that outlines principles concerning the protection of cultural property during armed conflict. Also as a reminder, in 2017, the International Criminal Court ordered prison sentence and reparations against Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, an individual convicted of war crimes for destroying cultural property in Timbuktu, Mali.
We have no Words. Maurizio Cattelan’s banana sculpture, “Comedian,” which drew huge crowds at the Miami Basel, is entering a museum collection. According to Miami collectors William and Beatrice Cox, they aim to loan the sculpture to a major institution to attract new generations and then gift it at a later date. Read our opinion on the art market going bananas.
Calls for Return. Egyptian archaeologist and a former antiquities minister, Zahi Hawass, is launching a private campaign for the restitution of treasures from Europe’s leading museums. After being denied his request for the loan of three treasures––the Nefertiti painted limestone bust (1345BC), the Rosetta Stone (196BC), and the sandstone Zodiac ceiling with its map of the stars (50BC)––in 2007, Hawass now seeks the permanent return of them.
Axe Job. The 2017 Russian avant-guarde exhibit in Ghent that was not because more than 20 loaned paintings were branded as forgeries continues to make the news. In December 2019, the husband and wife collector-duo that loaned forgeries to Ghent were arrested on charges of fraud and money laundering. A complaint against Mr. and Mrs. Toporovski from a group of international dealers and art historians was filed by Geert Lenssens in Ghent. The couple is represented by a Brussels-based attorney, Sébastien Watelet.
Holy Trade. Spanish police are investigating a wooden sculpture of Saint Margaret of Cortona that turned up at TEFAF New York last November. It is suspected that it was illegally sold by a convent in Corona, who claim they still have it in their possession (although no one has seen it).
Science of Art. Computer scientists from the U. of California are claiming that they solved the mystery of the orb held by the Christ in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi.” Virtual rendering of the painting suggests that the orb is hollow, which would explain why the fabric behind it is distorted the way that it is––a feature that art experts have previously pointed to when arguing that the painting is not a genuine da Vinci, as the artist had studied optics and would not have made such a mistake. The abscence of Salvator Mundi from the da Vinci show in Paris is harder to explain.
Public Domain Day. January 1, 2020 marked the day when artworks dating back to 1924 entered the public domain and became free to reproduce in the United States. Among those: Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Flower Abstraction,” Edward Hopper’s “New York Pavements,” and Lyonel Feininger’s “Gaberndorf II.”