Previous Posts: April 2020

The Future of Museums and Technology - Panel Discussions

April 30 2020


Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Arts Newspaper and Factum Foundation have teamed up to organise a series of three panel discussions between 1 - 3 May 2020. The panels consist of some of the museum world's leading figures, and is entirely free to watch on YouTube at 17.00 BST (the video above will become live tomorrow).

The three discussions are as follows;

Friday 1st May: The Future of Museums, Exhibitions and the Objects They Display. (Chaired by Sir Charles Saumarez Smith CBE)

Saturday 2nd May: The Circulation of Objects: the Politics of Recording, Training, Preserving and Sharing. (Chaired by Simon Schaffer)

Sunday 3rd May: An Intimacy with the Physical World: New Technologies Generating New Knowledge. (Chaired by Sir Ian Blatchford)

The Factum Foundation have even made their recent publication The Aura in the Age of Digital Materiality; Rethinking Preservation in the Shadow of an Uncertain Future free to read online.


France Sells Off Furniture to Fund Hospitals

April 30 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have reported on news that the Mobilier National, the national French furniture collection, is selling off some one hundred pieces of furniture to fund hospitals. Bizarrely, they have picked items specifically from the reign of Louis-Philippe between the years 1830-48.

Furniture, despite being of enormous value and importance in the decorative arts, seems to be much more easily abandoned than paintings. The loss of such pieces can have dramatic and sad consequences for the integrity of historic interiors. By the looks of the accompanying press picture, these pieces were removed from their original setting long ago. Equally, it is much more difficult to store furniture than canvases on stretchers. No pictures mentioned of course this time, but might they be next in line?

Museum Measures in the Age of Covid-19

April 30 2020

Image of Museum Measures in the Age of Covid-19

Picture: The Royal Museums of Fine Arts

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium have posted a set of measures they will be introducing when they reopen on 19th May.

Here are some of them;

  • We will introduce a quota per hour to spread the number of visitors safely throughout the day. If you buy a ticket online, you will be asked to choose a timeslot. You can start your visit up to one hour after this. Please respect your chosen timeslot.
  • A one-way circuit through the museum will be outlined. Please stick to the trail.
  • Inside the museum, the rules of social distancing should be applied. We therefore ask visitors to keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres. 
  • Depending on the size of the rooms, more or less people will be admitted simulatneously. The allowed number will always be indicated at the entrance of each room.
  • Out of concern for both visitors and staff, we currently only accept payment by card  at the ticket desk. 
  • In order to reduce the risk of contamination, we do not offer audio guides.

The Art Newspaper have also published an article on the news that smaller museums in Paris will be reopening from 11th May. Larger museums look set to reopen later in June.

Getty Museum's Acquisitions on Google Arts

April 29 2020

Image of Getty Museum's Acquisitions on Google Arts

Picture: Getty Museum via Google Arts & Culture

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Getty Museum have teamed up with Google Arts & Culture to create a little exhibition of slides showcasing the highlights of acquisitions made in 2019. Naturally, the extremely high quality images make such an impact that it's hard not to be completely absorbed by them. What better way to entrance and engage audiences with newly acquired works.

The image above is a detail from their recently acquired study by Annibale Carracci. Carracci sometimes painted on top of old ledger sheets, and here one can see the writing appearing through the thinly painted parts of her eyes. There is another comparable sketch in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, a painting that is usually hung up so high that you can't appreciate it properly (if memory serves).

Damien Hirst's Spots Severed

April 29 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A Brooklyn based collective of artists and designers known as MSCHF have made news by cutting up a painting by Damien Hirst. The group recently purchased one of the British artist's famous Spot Paintings for $30,000 and proceeded to cut it up into individual works which they have re-branded as Severed Spots. They are selling each of the 88 spots at $480 dollars a piece, which will raise $42,240 if they manage to sell them all.

Cutting up artworks is nothing new. There are many interesting examples to be found in the world of old masters. One might remember the 'Hand of God' drawing by Michelangelo, a fragment from a larger study for the Sistine Chapel that somebody decided was worth cutting out (and has since be restored). In 2018 Christie's sold a cut-out drawing by Lucas van Leyden from Rugby School for a staggering £11.4m (including fees).

This regularly happened to paintings too, especially ones that had been damaged or were considered commercially unattractive. This project has reconstructed several images of large eighteenth century paintings that were exhibited at Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery and now only survive in fragments (head to section IX).

Auction Houses becoming Art Dealers (ctd.)

April 29 2020

Image of Auction Houses becoming Art Dealers (ctd.)

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

ArtDaily has reported on launch of the Sotheby's Gallery Network, an online platform that allows trusted partners to sell through Although this particular venture seems to be relevant for modern and contemporary art galleries, the auction house are also selling Old Master Paintings in a similar manner through their Private Sales page (as per my previous post).

As the article explains;

Sotheby’s Gallery Network will help its partners to make immediate sales during these unprecedented times, by utilizing both the auction house's extensive digital reach and their full-service transactional platform. 

Sotheby’s Gallery Network will provide each of its partners with a bespoke online presence, featuring a digital viewing room of property available for immediate sale at publicly-listed prices. Purchases of works valued up to $150,000 can be completed with ease as point-of-sale transactions on Sotheby’s online platform.

All works listed by its partners through the Gallery Network are offered exclusively through Sotheby’s, with the auction house's standards of scholarship and authenticity applying to all works on offer

Let's wait and see how this venture fares.

British Art Journal - Wellington Portrait at Eton

April 29 2020

Image of British Art Journal - Wellington Portrait at Eton

Picture: Eton College

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

There's an interesting article that has appeared in the recent edition of the British Art Journal concerning an overlooked portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence. The picture, in the collection of Eton College, had been dismissed by many scholars as a straightforward copy and thus ignored in much of the Lawrence literature.

However, as art historian Dominic Sanchez-Cabello writes, newly discovered correspondence from the college's archive has suggested otherwise. Surviving letters indicate that the Duke "would not present a copy [to Eton's Provost] but would sit for a new one", suggesting that a new painting in Lawrence's own hand would be sent. This new attribution has been endorsed by Dr Brian Allen, Chairman of the Hazlitt Group.

By the way, much of the college's art collection has been digitised and is well worth combing through.

Technical Analysis of Girl with the Pearl Earing

April 28 2020


Video: The Mauritshuis

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Mauritshuis in the Hague have published some recent technical analysis undertaken on Vermeer's Girl with the Pearl Earing. This in-depth research has lead to some interesting findings, including that this enigmatic figure was originally painted in front of a green curtain. The video above, made by Mauritshuis conservator Abbie Vandivere, explains some of the technical aspects of the painting's condition.

Kauffman Show Cancelled

April 28 2020

Image of Kauffman Show Cancelled

Picture: The Royal Academy

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Academy have taken the 'difficult decision' to cancel their upcoming show on the painter Angelica Kauffman RA (1741-1807). This exhibition was due to run from 27 June - 20 September 2020. The RA's upcoming Cezanne expo has been shelved too. It seems, however, that the modern performance artist Marina Abramović's exhibition has been rescheduled from 2020 till autumn 2021. A shame the same couldn't be done with Kauffman's, but I'm sure they had their reasons.

Waldy & Bendy - the Podcast

April 26 2020

Image of Waldy & Bendy - the Podcast

Picture: The Sunday Times

Posted by Bendor Grosvenor

I'm doing a new podcast for the Sunday Times with Waldemar Januszczak, the broadcaster and art critic. It's called Waldy and Bendy's Adventures in Art. Each week we discuss something meaty, like 'was Leonardo actually any good?', recommend some cultural things for you to do during the lockdown, and fantasise about building our own private lockdown collections.

This week we've been discussing Caravaggio, and also, in an interview with the Wallace Collection director Xavier Bray, wonder how museums are coping during the enforced closure (answer, not especially well, from the all-important financial point of view). Xavier wonders if entrance fees might even have to be reintroduced, such is the hit to the bottom line.

Each episode is free to listen to, but you have to go onto the Sunday Times website. Click on the photo of me and Waldemar to play the podcast. 

About twenty years ago I remember bumping into Waldemar at a Christie's South Kensington viewing, when I was just starting out in the art game. I thought then he was brilliant, both as a writer and a presenter, and told him so. I still think he's brilliant, and can't quite believe we're doing a podcast together.

Is this Manet's copy of a Velázquez?

April 24 2020

Image of Is this Manet's copy of a Velázquez?

Picture: The Provenance Research Blog

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's an interesting blog investigating whether the above picture is in fact Manet's copy of Velázquez's portrait of Philip IV of Spain, now in the National Gallery, London. The picture bears an alluring inscription on the back attributing the picture to Manet and placing it at The Arts Club in Mayfair. As any picture researcher knows, inscriptions can be either very useful or send you on many a wild goose chase. Although the blog shows that their research was inconclusive, the piece provides a engaging insight into the due diligence required to look into such cases.

The blog is relatively new, and seemingly supported by art historians Dr Tom Flynn and Angelina Giovani.

'Art History at Bedtime'

April 24 2020

Image of 'Art History at Bedtime'

Picture: BG

Posted by Bendor Grosvenor

There's not much a self-isolating art historian can do to help the world at the moment, but I think there is one tiny sliver of humanity I might be able to help right now; those of you who are both art history lovers and struggling to get to sleep in these anxious times. My new podcast series, Art History at Bedtime, is designed to get you nodding off to sleep in just minutes, while learning all about art history.

The idea grew out of my bedtime story voice, which I have developed over the years of trying to get the Deputy Editor off to sleep. It's soothing and soporific. So what I've done is read a series of art historical texts, and make them into podcasts. They're all free, and available on the usual podcast platforms; Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud and so on. I'm starting with Giorgio Vasari's Lives of the Artists. Already recorded are Cimabue, Giotto, Leonardo, Fra Filippo Lippi, Giorgione, and Botticelli. 

If you enjoy them, please consider making a donation to Art History Link Up, the UK charity which helps state school children study art history. They're carrying on all their classes online during the pandemic. Since we went live with the podcasts earlier this week, I'm pleased to say that kind listeners have already donated more than £3,000.

Fontainebleau cancels Autumn Exhibition

April 24 2020

Image of Fontainebleau cancels Autumn Exhibition

Picture: Wikipedia Commons

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

La Tribune de L'Art has reported on the sad news that the Château de Fontainebleau has cancelled their upcoming exhibition on the Art of the Celebrations of the Valois Court (due to open in September 2020). This exhibition was set to be a very big affair, with many dispersed works being sourced and reunited from major museums across the world (including this marvellous tapestry from the Uffizi in Florence).

Although the coronavirus has played its part, the large deficit incurred due to closures has also been blamed for causing the cancellation.

As our current crisis continues, it seems very likely that many important future exhibitions might be called off. This tragic on many levels, including the vast amount of time these spectacles take to prepare. Exactly when will museum-goers feel safe enough to pack into rooms again to enjoy these cultural marvels I wonder?


Quiz: Find the Original

April 24 2020

Image of Quiz: Find the Original

Picture: The Saleroom

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Because the weekend is nearly here, I have caved in and found another tricky copy for readers to find. This picture 'Attributed to Benjamin Robert Haydon' is coming up for sale at Roseberys and is a copy of a known painting. Can you find the original? No tips this time either.

No prizes, just for fun.

Update - Congratulations again to Andrew Quick who spotted that this picture is a copy of John Opie's Self Portrait (1801-2) in the collection of the Royal Academy.

How to steal a Van Gogh

April 24 2020

Video: via The Guardian

Posted by Bendor Grosvenor

The Singer Laren Museum in the Netherlands has released a video of the theft of a painting by Van Gogh. The painting, The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884, was stolen on 30th March. You can see in the video that the thief just walks out with the painting under his arm.

When I wrote about the theft in the Sunday Times, shortly after it happened, I speculated that all the thief had required was a hammer, and a getaway car. It turns out I was wrong - all he needed was a hammer and a scooter.

With a succession of these thefts at smaller museums now (such as that at Dulwich Picture Gallery and the ChristChurch Picture Gallery in Oxford) it seems museum security needs rethinking. All the alarm systems in the world are pointless if your basic defenses are so weak. Too many museums rely on the police coming to their aid, and have dispensed with on-site security staff. But if small paintings can be whisked away in seconds, on motorbikes, it's unrealistic to always expect the police to arrive at a museum in time. 

Introducing a New Art Critic

April 23 2020

Image of Introducing a New Art Critic

Picture: via. Twitter @Barbiereports

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

This is Art Activist Barbie, a new and increasingly influential art critic who has been causing quite a stir in the press and on social media recently. Her role is reporting predominantly on gender representation, inequalities and injustices in art galleries and museums. Her twitter profile, which has close to 13,000 followers, is filled with very eye catching and witty tableaus featuring Barbie Dolls visiting galleries with miniature placards (as pictured). 

The project is run by Sarah Williamson, a senior lecturer at the School of Education and Professional Development at the University of Huddersfield. Her interesting project is detailed in full on the University's website.

As the project's page reveals;

Art galleries and museums are seen by many as trusted, authoritative and influential places and the ArtActivistBarbie project researches the potential of these places as spaces for action to educate for social justice and promote change.


The feminist, activist use of Barbie dolls in these spaces may be viewed as a form of ‘culture jamming’, which can give agency through creative subversion and give voice via a form of radical ventriloquism.

Open Courtauld Hour

April 23 2020

Image of Open Courtauld Hour

Picture: The Courtauld Institute of Art

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Courtauld Institute of Art in London are the latest institution to announce a very interesting programme of online events. 'Open Courtauld Hour' will run ever every Thursday Evening from 30 April - 21 May featuring talks from experts and detailed examinations of specific works of art. The themes for each session are as follows; 'Art in Isolation', 'Art and Wellbeing', 'The Future of Art History' and 'Women Artists'.

These sessions are free but you will be requird to register online with Eventbrite.

George IV: Art & Spectacle - Virtual Tour

April 23 2020

Image of George IV: Art & Spectacle - Virtual Tour

Picture: The Royal Collection

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Collection Trust have released a full virtual tour of their recent exhibition George IV: Art & Spectacle. The online platform allows you to walk through the exhibition in 3D.

In related news, I was recently alerted to this virtual reality experience the Louvre was offering last autumn. 'Beyond the Glass' afforded visitors the chance to get up close and personal with masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa without having to barge past security barriers and tourists.

Quiz: Find the Original

April 23 2020

Image of Quiz: Find the Original

Picture: Frick Digital Photoarchive

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's another fun copy of an old master portrait in miniature format this time. This picture is found on the Frick Digital Photoarchive, a very useful resource for picture researchers. It is catalogued as 'British School' portrait of Edward VI. Can you find the original? No tips this time.

No prizes, just for fun. (The last in this mini-series, until I find some other copies).

Update - Congratulations to David Taylor, who spotted that this miniature is in fact a version of Arnold Bronckhorst's portrait of King James VI and I as a boy (c.1574) in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland. The entry in the Frick Photoarchive, which claims the miniature was erroneously thought to be c.1500, must have been made long before the portrait was reidentified by its present owners the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The museum's high-resolution image of the work is outstanding.

Furloughed Museum Staff Wage Top-Ups Blocked

April 22 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have reported that The Treasury is seeking to block museum and art galleries from topping up salaries of staff who have been furloughed under the government's coronavirus job retention scheme.

As regular readers of AHN will know, many jobs at top galleries are rather poorly paid in comparative terms. For many, receiving purely the 80% government backed portion of their wages will mean that their earnings will slide under the London living wage, for example.

Comments from any staff who might be affected are welcome (all treated anonymously of course).

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