Previous Posts: April 2014

De-accession time in Delaware

April 22 2014

Image of De-accession time in Delaware

Picture: Delawareonline

Cash-strapped Delaware Art Museum (DAM) in the US has been drawing fire for a while now over its declaration that it must sell $30m worth of art to keep the show on the road. In March, the US Association of Art Museum Directors sharply criticised the DAM for announcing the sell off, and urging it to look again at fundraising options.

Sharp-eyed observers have now seen that the above painting by Winslow Homer, called Milking Time, has disappeared from the DAM's online collection. Given recent prices for Homers at auction, I wouldn't be surprised if the DAM solved in one sale their current cash crisis.

Incidentally, all this comes on top of the recent announcement that the Corcoran Gallery in Washington is so broke that it's giving up altogether. Suddenly, the much-lauded (at least, here in the UK) US model of wholly philanthropically funded museums is looking a lot less lustrous. 

Hanging 'Veronese'

April 22 2014

Video: National Gallery

Loving the movie music in this National Gallery behind-the-scenes for 'Veronese'.

I'm on...

April 14 2014

Just back, but will need a day or two to catch up on work business first. 

Update - very sorry about the lack of posts. Just too much to catch up on. And as it's nearly Easter, can I please seek your indulgence to let me off until next week, when I shall return with a vengeance.  

I'm off...

April 3 2014

Right, it's holiday time. Back in ten days or so. Random thoughts from me may continue over on Twitter, if I see a nice painting on my travels. See you all soon.

Stolen Gauguin and Bonnard found in Italy

April 2 2014

Image of Stolen Gauguin and Bonnard found in Italy

Picture: Guardian

A nice good news tale in The Guardian:

In 1975 a worker at the car firm Fiat went along to an auction of lost property organised by the Italian national railway in Turin.

He paid 45,000 lira (£32 – equivalent to about £300 today) for two paintings that caught his eye – one a still life and one an image of a woman relaxing in her garden.

For almost 40 years, the man – whose name has not been made public – kept the pictures hanging in his kitchen. They accompanied him on his move, post-retirement, to Sicily. At no point until last year, believe Italian police, did he realise quite what a bargain his purchase had been.

Now it has emerged that the paintings are stolen works by French artists Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard, and the first – a still life dating from 1869 – has an estimated value of between €10m and €30m (£8.3m to £24.8m). The second, entitled La femme aux Deux Fauteuils (woman with two armchairs) is believed to be worth around €600,000 (£497,000).

Stolen in London in 1970, reportedly from the widower of a daughter of one of the Marks & Spencer co-founders, they were unveiled on Wednesday to applause at the Italian culture ministry in Rome.

Note a lack of white gloves and the flamboyant red silk drape. They do things in style in Italy...

Mon Dieu - le feu! (ctd.)

April 2 2014

Image of Mon Dieu - le feu! (ctd.)

Picture: BBC/BG

Sad news that Martin Lang, the owner of the fake Chagall we featured on our BBC1 programme, 'Fake or Fortune?', has given up his legal battle to prevent the Chagall Committee from burning his picture (for which he paid £100,000 many years ago). The BBC reports:

Mr Lang paid £100,000 for the work in 1992. He originally wanted it back but has now said he will "walk away totally disillusioned with the French".

Can't say I blame him.

The Committee, run the artist's two granddaughters, is determined to destroy the work as a fake. This is despite the fact that such a course of action is a) monumentally ignorant, b) wilfully iconoclastic, and c) they have in the past cheerfully returned fake works to their owners, albeit with the offending 'Chagall' signature removed. 

Ai Wei Wei RA

April 2 2014

Image of Ai Wei Wei RA

Picture: RA

Did you know that Ai Wei Wei, of whom AHN is a big fan, had been elected a Royal Academician? I didn't. And nor did I know that the Chief Executive of the RA, Charles Saumarez Smith, has a blog. Excellent it is too, and here he is telling us about his recent presentation to Ai Wei Wei of his RA diploma:

We took Ai Weiwei’s diploma to his studio in a house somewhere in the deep outskirts of Beijing.   He was elected an RA a couple of years ago, just after he came out of prison, but we don’t like to consign the diploma to the vagaries of the international post.   It was unexpectedly moving handing it over to him.   He asked how many there are.   The answer is not many, about 25, because we are only allowed to elect two a year, and we don’t always remember those two.   He is the first Asian artist.   I read out the Obligation, which I luckily remembered was printed in the copy of my book which I had brought to give him, although I’m not convinced it was strictly necessary. 

Germany returns Guardi

April 1 2014

Image of Germany returns Guardi

Picture: BBC

The Germany government has returned a painting by Guardi, looted in 1939, to Poland. The case highlights the continuing tensions over the question of looted art between Germany and Poland, which I wasn't aware of. As the BBC explains:

After World War Two, the painting went to the University of Heidelberg and then to the State Gallery of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

It was recognised as belonging to Poland in the late 1990s. But political differences between Warsaw and Berlin over the broader issue of art lost during the war prevented a deal from being reached sooner.

"This painting has been on a long odyssey," Mr Steinmeier said. "[It represents] the difficult history that connects our two countries."

Poland is still searching for thousands of artefacts looted from its museums and private collections during the war, although many items are believed to have been destroyed during the war. Mr Steinmeier said he hoped the move would "be a signal to restart the stalled German-Polish dialogue on cultural artefacts".

Germany has long sought the return of some 300,000 books, drawings and manuscripts - known as the Berlinka collection - from Poland. The collection includes handwritten musical scores by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach that the Nazis moved to Poland to keep them safe from bombing during the war. Abandoned by retreating German troops in what is now Poland, many of the items are now held by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

So it has taken Germany since the 1990s to return this one Guardi? Forgive me, but I think this is absurd. Surely the German government should put the return of its musical mansucripts to one side, and treat that as a seperate question. There is no excuse for not promptly acting on Germany's obligation to Poland to return all art looted by its forces during the Nazi occupation. 

PS - at least they're not wearing white gloves.

Exclusive - 'Mona Lisa' being cleaned

April 1 2014

Image of Exclusive - 'Mona Lisa' being cleaned

Picture: Louvre

It's the big one, folks: the Louvre has finally decided to take the plunge and clean the Mona Lisa. Pleased with their success in cleaning Leonardo's Virgin and Child with St Anne, curators decided that they had now perfected the art of restoring Leonardos, and felt that it was at last time to remove the many layers of varnish and over-paint that have been obscuring the Mona Lisa's true qualities for the last few centuries.

In fact, it seems that the restoration of Virgin and Child with St Anne was always considered a dry run for cleaning the Mona Lisa. However, the news of Mona Lisa's restoration wasn't supposed to be made public until it had finished. Given the inevitable protests, staff at the Louvre had planned to do the cleaning in the utmost secrecy.

The plan had been working well till now. The 'Mona Lisa' that's been on display for the last few months is in fact a photographic copy - the barriers and thick glass where the portrait hangs of course meant that nobody has noticed. However, a concerned curator at the Louvre, who is an AHN reader, has been in touch to relay some disturbing news. He has sent me the above secretly taken photo, showing some cleaning tests in the background. These had been very encouraging, and everyone at the Louvre was very pleased. But what appears to be a potential disaster is the area around the mouth. Look closely - the smile has disappeared, for it turns out to have been an early 17th Century addition. 

Said my curatorial source:

We were shocked: one whiff of acetone, and pouf, the famous smile was gone. Now, she looks utterly miserable. Nobody knows what to do. This is going right to the top. President Hollande has even been consulted. But he said he prefers her this way. It reflects the national mood.

More on this as I get it.

Update - thanks for all your comments. Here's some of them:

The reports of riots in Paris have been exaggerated I'm sure.

Thank you for reminding me that it's April Fool's day.

Quite shocking news, and what amazing contacts you must have in the museum world ! As I read on I got more and more upset and was just about to rush downstairs and tell the rest of the house about it, when, wait a minute.........

Brilliant, Quite the best April the 1st joke in years! So well done that I actually doesn't feel embarrased about having been totally fooled.......

I’m hoping that this is another April fool’s joke, and that the smile has been digitally edited… I’ve already been the subject of a prank today, so I’m a little more prepared than most of your readers. Despite this I must admit that upon seeing the image, my heart still skipped a beat, so congrats I guess…

Yeah nice April's fools joke. I didnt buy it for a second. They will never clean it (at least not in my lifetime), much like the Fete Champetre on the other side of the wall

No, no, your secret source has it all wrong, she is laughing out loud -- the photo was taken from a fun-house mirror image of the real restoration!

Thank you, Bendor, and a happy April Fool's Day to you and all AHN readers.

Were all today's blogs satire, or just the one about the Guardi?

Finally, a reader sends me this classic cartoon by Tony Reeve:

The white glove fallacy (ctd.)

April 1 2014

Image of The white glove fallacy (ctd.)

Picture: via ArtDaily

Regular readers will know that one of my favourite ranting topics is the needless use of white gloves (see here, for example), especially when photographers or TV crews are around. The above photo, in which someone uses white gloves to open a facsimile of the Brevarium Grimani, to publicise an exhibition in Mainz, Germany, is a classic of the genre. 

National Gallery membership scheme?

April 1 2014

Image of National Gallery membership scheme?

Picture: NG

The National Gallery in London doesn't have a membership scheme, giving free entry to exhibitions and events, which I've always thought odd. I'd certainly sign up. Now, however, it seems they may at last be thinking about it. A reader has been asked to go to a focus group run by company looking into such schemes on the Gallery's behalf. The company's email says:

The research is taking place to help the National Gallery understand perceptions and appeal of art gallery membership schemes.

The research will comprise an informal group discussion with 5 National Gallery visitors and will last about 1 hour 30 minutes. During the session we will talk to you about various elements of art gallery membership benefits. We will give you £40 to say thank you for your time and contribution.

Sooke on Matisse

April 1 2014

Image of Sooke on Matisse

Picture: Amazon/Penguin

Allow me to plug Alastair Sooke's new book on Henri Matisse, available here on Amazon. Well worth getting for your shelves.

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