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October 2019

An Unhappy Portrait. Joshua Reynolds’s “Portrait of Miss Mathew” (c. 1780), stolen in 1984 from the Sussex home of philanthropist Sir Henry Price and believed to be auctioned by Sotheby’s in 1988, showed up this year at the Fuji Art Museum in Tokyo, which claims it acquired the painting in good faith.

Halted. On September 17, the Mexican government called for an auction of pre-Columbian art in Paris to be halted, claiming that 95 of the works included are a part of its cultural heritage. The cancellation of the sale is considered a first step towards the restitution of Mexico’s cultural property. Gone to Sh*t. This September, just a few days after it went on view at the Blenheim Palace in London, Maurizio Cattelan’s 18-karat golden toilet, a sculpture titled “America,” was stolen.

Generous Getty. On September 17, the J. Paul Getty Trust announced a ten-year $100 million initiative to promote the world’s cultural heritage, planning projects including exhibitions, conservation, excavation and the publication of a book.

Freeport Mania. The UK government is initiating plans to build a series of freeports around the country, which can be used to store valuable works of art, cars, and jewelry without incurring customs or sales tax.

!Uros. !Uros, a tortoise-shell used by the women of the #Nu-Khoen people in Namibia, was returned to Namikoa from Berlin by a research team for closer examination. The permanent restitution of these artifacts, which were acquired under dubious circumstances is said to be the ultimate goal of these efforts.

Closing the Loophole. On September 12, the City Council voted to extend NYC’s anti-discrimination law to protect freelancers, independent contractors, and interns, aiming to “close the loophole that left independent contractors without sufficient recourse for discrimination or harassment,” according to the bill sponsor Councilman Brad Lander.

Rembrandt Relic. A clay pot excavated from the cesspit below Rembrandt’s house, now on display in Amsterdam’s Rembrandt House Museum, has been declared to be the pot that Rembrandt used to prepare the grounds for his canvases.

Speaking of Climate Change. Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson was appointed UN Goodwill Ambassador to advocate for urgent action on climate change and sustainable development goals. Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will be submitting a proposal calling for coordinated action to protect the country’s cultural heritage from the impact of climate change, at the UN Summit in New York.

Forger Jailed. This September, soon after Lino Frongia was jailed for forging of Old Master paintings, an arrest warrant was issued against Giuliano Ruffini, who is suspected of selling the works in question. The arrests are connected to a high-profile string of forgeries, embroiling prominent museums and dealers.

Going Home. Last summer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art showcased a golden coffin from the 1st century BC dedicated to Nedjemankh, which turned out to have been looted from Egypt in 2011 and sold to the Museum using false ownership history and fake documentation. Following an investigation from the Manhattan DA’s Office and seizure of the coffin in February, the sarcophagus was returned to Egypt this month.

Tossed Up. Following the conviction of the notorious Anna Sorokina, who pretended to be a wealthy German heiress named Anna Delvey, artist Cynthia Talmadge created an installation, Four Courtroom Outfits of Anna Delvey, consisting of a dressing screen behind which a rotating windmill-like mechanism tosses up replicas of outfits that Sorokina wore during her trial.

Not a Pretty Picture. ImageNet, an AI-based database of images, will remove 600,000 pictures of people from its system after an art project revealed its racial biases.

Last-Minute Deal. The French and Italian Ministers of Culture struck a last-minute deal over the loan of Leonardo da Vinci works for the upcoming exhibition at the Louvre, including the famous “Vitruvian Man.” In return, France will lend four works by Raphael to the 2020 show at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale.

Yes, They Ken(ya). As the 2019 Kenya Copyright (Amendment) Act was just signed into law, Kenyan artists will be entitled to resale royalties for up until 50 years after their death.