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September 2019

The other French-Canadian Crusade. After a long legal battle, Gustave Caillebotte’s “Iris Bleus, Jardin du Petit Gennevilliers” (1892) has found a new home at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The painting was at the heart of a dispute between an auction house and a consortium of Canadian art museums, who sought to bar its export to Europe, arguing the “national importance” of the French painting to Canadian heritage. In April 2019, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal barred the painting from leaving Canada.

No thank you. The survivors and family members of the victims of the Pulse nightclub 2016 shooting in Orlando are opposing plans for a museum on the site. The protestors are afraid that the site will turn into a tourist attraction rather than a memorial for the lives that were lost.

Poisoned Flowers. Amid public outcry, the installation of Jeff Koons’ “Bouquet of Tulips” has begun in Paris. The artist is donating the 40-feet tall sculpture in honor of the 2015 terrorist attacks, to be installed behind the Petit Palais. It will be unveiled on October 5th, 2019.

Not So Marvelous. Cartoonist and Pulitzer Prize winner Art Spiegelman pulled the essay he wrote for publisher The Folio Society’s new Marvel comics collection after the company insisted he remove a description of Donald Trump as “Orange Skull” from the series’ introduction. The essay was nonetheless published by The Guardian on August 17, 2019.

Strings Attached. The estate of Jewish dealer Max Stern was reunited with Hans von Marées’s “Ulanen auf dem Marsch” (1859), after the Max Stern Art Restitution Project claimed that it had been looted during the war. While  Germany’s advisory panel on Nazi-looted art claims recommended conditional restitution, it also published a dissenting minority opinion and stipulated that the heirs cannot sell it for ten years in case new evidence emerges.

Repatriated. On India’s Independence Day, the UK returned two ancient artifacts stolen from India thousands of years ago, following joint-efforts by the US and Scotland Yard in the investigations into art dealer Subhash Kapoor. In related news, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is studying Indian artifacts in its collection to ensure that they are not the result of Kapoor’s wrongdoing.

In Other International News. Operation Pandora III resulted in the seizure of 18,000 illegally trafficked cultural artifacts and the arrest of 59 individuals. The operation is the product of international cooperation between the Spanish Civil Guard, Interpol, Europol and the World Customs Organization.

Cross-Returned. A cross taken from a Nagasaki cathedral after the 1945 atomic bombing was returned to Japan after spending 75 years at Wilmington College, OH. The artifact had been gifted by a US Marine in the 1980s, before visitors started to question what it represented: “It’s an issue of humanity––the use of nuclear weapons,” said Tanya Haus, the college director who orchestrated the return.

Nine Danke. The Davidsohn Family was reunited with nine Nazi-looted artworks, restituted by three Munich museums, the Bavarian State Painting Collections, the Bavarian National Museum, and the State Graphics Collection. Extensive provenance research revealed that five paintings, one wooden panel with ivory reliefs and three engravings had been stolen from the Davidsohns in 1938 and found their ways to the Munich museums in 1955.
Annunciation. The conservation department at the National Gallery made known hidden composition and fingerprint marks in Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin of the Rocks” thanks to scientific technology.

How to Steal a Banksy. The Centre Pompidou in Paris is mourning the theft of a piece by Banksy, which had appeared in June 2018 on a road sign in front of the museum and which was protected behind glass. The Museum has announced that they are filing a legal complaint.

Sadly. In mid-July 2019, Sadie Roberts-Joseph, the beloved founder of Baton Rouge African-American Museum, was found dead in the trunk of a car. Shortly thereafter, the police arrested a tenant of Robert-Joseph properties. Exactly one month after the founder’s death, the Museum was the target of vandalism; the police are investigating the connection.

FaceTech. The Liverpool World Museum is under attack for using facial recognition technology on visitors of the Terracotta Warriors exhibition without their knowledge. The museum is claiming that this was purely for security reasons.

Swiss-French Find. Long-lost drawings by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry turned up in a Swiss storage facility; they had been bought by real estate magnate Bruno Stefanini, who died in December 2018. His foundation is sorting through his archives and collection (some 60,000 objects, artworks and artifacts) and found these early sketches from Le Petit Prince.

Framing Museums. The International Council of Museums (“ICOM”) has proposed a new definition of museums to include language about “social justice, global equality and planetary wellbeing.” Critics argue that the new wording is “too political and too vague” and could very well define other cultural institutions. A vote is scheduled in September.