Previous Posts: May 2022

Job opportunity!

May 10 2022

Image of Job opportunity!

Picture: Courtauld Institute of Art

The Courtauld Institute in London is looking for a new director. The job spec looks pretty demanding, but they won't say what the pay is:

This person will need to have a proven track record as an innovative head of a world-leading, high profile academic or cultural institution with the ability to develop, motivate, and unify teams around a common vision. They will be respected as a leader who can deliver the highest academic standards. They will need to demonstrate significant cultural credibility, alongside strong experience negotiating within and dealing with an international environment, preferably with a strong academic leadership background. This person will also need experience of growing an enterprise which touches many different communities, including significant patrons and partners and, essentially, the public, including students and Gallery visitors. The person will need to personally lead the fundraising and development activities of the Institute that will be so important in delivering the vision.

Remuneration will be commensurate with the standing of the role.

Deadline is 31st May. If you're applying, good luck, and please re-open the Witt Library soon. More here.

The National Gallery goes viral

May 9 2022

Video: The National Gallery

The National Gallery's YouTube videos are really good these days, and can quickly generate tens of thousands of views. But I see that one from a few weeks ago has exploded with over one million views already. It's presented by Francesca Whitlum-Cooper, The Myojin-Nadar Associate Curator of Paintings 1600–1800, and looks at the c.1470 Swabian School Portrait of a Lady of the Hofer Family. The title to the video helps explain why it's such a catchy and appealing hit, 'Why does this lady have a fly on her head?' It's a great piece of art history for the digital age, bravo Francesca!

The British Museum's carbon problem

May 9 2022

Image of The British Museum's carbon problem

Picture: BM

One of the things I've been getting vexed about in my regular column for The Art Newspaper is the British Museum's NFT sales. To raise cash, the BM has signed an exclusive deal with a company called La Collection to sell NFTs of works from its own collection, some of which are being marketed for thousands of pounds. Whatever you may think of NFTs and digital art, I hope we can all regret a public museum monetising works of art the public already owns. It feels like the thin end of a worrying wedge.

Besides, in reality the BM's NFTs are simply jpegs already available on the BM's website for free, but with a line of code attached to them so they can be put on the blockchain, and so apparently give them value. Prices for one of the BM's Hokusai Great Wave NFTs have apparently reached $45,000. If you'd like one of the images for free instead, there's one at the top of this story.

Anyway, the NFT market is stalling, and you and I are not daft enough to buy one. But the reason for my latest bout of vexedness is over the huge carbon emissions the BM's NFT sales are generating. Because creating and selling NFTs is an energy intensive operation, it consumes vast amounts of carbon. For The Art Newspaper, I ran the numbers, and discovered that:

The widely used carbon-offsetting website Aerial estimates the total emissions associated with the BM’s NFTs so far is 819 tonnes of CO2. Last year, the British Museum calculated its emissions over the whole museum to be 5,861 tonnes. In only six months of selling jpegs, the BM has thus significantly increased its annual emissions. LaCollection says it will plant one tree for each NFT it makes. One tree will absorb about one tonne of CO2 over the course of 100 years. The BM said recently that it views NFTs as “a multi-year play”, so one tree per NFT is not nearly enough.

More here. You can read the BM's current environment policy document here. It's one page long and was last updated in 2007.

In case you'd like to hear more of my reactionary views on NFTs, I was interviewed by David Aaronovitch for the BBC Radio 4 programme The Briefing Room, here.

Is this Cromwell's mum?

May 9 2022

Image of Is this Cromwell's mum?

Picture: BBC News/Cromwell Museum

A picture has gone on display at the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, with the suggestion it might be Oliver Cromwell's mother. Of whom no known portraits are thought to have survived. The identification was attached to the picture from at least the mid 18th Century. However, Elizabeth Cromwell (nee Steward) was born in 1565, and this seems to be a picture of about the 1650s. Can it really show someone in her 80s? More here.

Ashmolean Pre-Raphaelites at the Watts Gallery

May 9 2022

Video: Watts Gallery

There's a new exhibition at the Watts Gallery, 'Pre-Raphaelite Treasures: Drawings and Watercolours on loan from The Ashmolean'. In the video above, curator Emily Burns give us a guided tour. Show till 12th June. More here.

In Our Time on the Sistine Chapel

May 9 2022

Image of In Our Time on the Sistine Chapel

Picture: Vatican Museums

There's a good In Our Time on the Sistine Chapel, here on BBC Radio 4.


May 9 2022

Image of Oops...

Picture: via Artnet

Someone stumbled in front of a Guido Reni of St Francis in Ecstasy at the Galleria Borghese, and made a hole in it. It was only a small one, and easily repaired. I'm not surprised though, the installation looks like an obvious trip hazard. More here in Artnet, more here on the exhibition itself.

Titian discovery at Dorotheum

May 9 2022

Video: Dorotheum

At Dorotheum on 11th May, a previously unknown Titian of the Penitent Magdalene will be offered, with an estimate of €1m-€1.5m. The composition was one of Titian's most popular, and often turns up optimistically as as Titian/Attributed/Workshop. But this one looks entirely right, and has a good claim to some very illustrious provenance. I suspect the estimate will be easily beaten. The catalogue entry is here.

Update - it made €4.8m.

Michelangelo at Christie's, Paris

May 9 2022

Video: Christie's

Here's the catalogue entry (and, above, a dramatic video) of the newly discovered drawing by Michelangelo coming up at Christie's in Paris on 18th May. I didn't realise from the photos how big it was. The scale is lovely, don't you think? It's such a sculptural image too, the central figure has the feeling of a piece of worked clay.

What will it make? The last comparable Michelangelo drawing was at Christie's in London back in 2000, and made over £8m. The estimate is 'on request' but the press have floated the figure of €30m. Which is probably on the conservative side. Although any buyers will have French export and pre-emption laws to contend with, so this might dampen the bidding.

Update, it made €23m. Not as much as I thought.

Blog on

May 9 2022

Image of Blog on


Posted by Bendor

With some trepidation, I'm going to try stepping back into AHN. Adam has done such a great job resurrecting it, and it would be a shame to let it fall back into abeyance. It's been a while since I posted regularly, and time seems to become more and more fleeting, so we'll see how it goes. Stories will probably reflect more of a personal hue, things that interest me, or (be warned) enrage me. I see AHN started back in December 2010 - over 7,000 posts ago. It seems like several lifetimes have passed since then.

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