November 17, 2006

Hirshhorn Receives Donation of Sugimoto Photographs

The New York Times' Carol Vogel reports that the nonprofit Glenstone Foundation has given thirteen photographs from Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto's “Seascape” series to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. The foundation was established by Washington collector Mitchell P. Rales, who is on the Hirshhorn's board. “[This gift] gives us a collection of works by the artist in depth,” said Kerry Brougher, chief curator and director of art and programs there. The “Seascape” photographs were purchased by the foundation from Gallery Koyanagi in Tokyo, which represents Sugimoto in Japan.

November 16, 2006

Museums Protest Fractional-Donation Tax Law

In letters made public Tuesday, the Whitney and four other museums urged the Senate Finance Committee to reconsider a fractional-donation tax law that took effect in August, reports Laurence Arnold for Bloomberg. The crackdown on fractional giving “will dramatically reduce the number of donated works of art museums receive,” wrote Nicholas Holmes, the Whitney's legal officer. LACMA, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art joined the Whitney in urging Congress to amend the new law. A museum that receives a fractional gift of 10 percent is entitled to hold and display the piece of work for 10 percent of the year. Museums often waive that right, but the new law requires that museums take “substantial physical possession” of artwork during the period of joint ownership. It further requires that any artwork donated after August 17 on a fractional basis must be fully transferred within ten years or upon the donor's death, whichever comes first.

November 16, 2006

Art Historian S. Lane Faison Jr. Dies at Ninety-Eight

S. Lane Faison Jr., an art historian who cut his teeth cataloguing Hitler's collection of plundered paintings, then, as a Williams College professor, inspired students who went on to head many of America's leading art institutions, died on Saturday at his home in Williamstown, Massachusetts, reports Douglas Martin for the New York Times. He was ninety-eight. Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, was one student; others include museum directors Earl A. Powell III, Thomas Krens, Michael Govan, and John R. Lane. “There was something about those wonderful courses that Lane Faison and the others taught that just wouldn’t let go of me,” Powell said in a 2004 interview.

November 16, 2006

De Kooning Leads at Christie's Record-Breaking Sale

Willem de Kooning's Untitled XXV, a hypnotically abstract canvas inspired by the land and sea near the artist's Long Island home, became the most expensive postwar painting ever sold at auction and set a record for the artist when it fetched $27.1 million last night at Christie's, Carol Vogel reports for the New York Times. The painting was one of nineteen artist records set in a sale that itself was a record for auctions of postwar and contemporary art. The evening totaled $239.7 million, above its $219.3 million high estimate. Of the eighty-one lots, only nine failed to sell. The buoyant atmosphere, especially after Christie's record-breaking sale of Impressionist and modern art a week earlier, which totaled nearly a half-billion dollars, stood in stark contrast to Sotheby's sale on Tuesday night, which brought in $125.1 million.

November 15, 2006

Tacita Dean Wins Hugo Boss Prize

Tacita Dean, a British artist best known for her contemplative 16-mm films, has won this year's Hugo Boss Prize, a fifty-thousand-dollar award from the Guggenheim Museum in New York, reports Steven Bodzin for Bloomberg. The prize, sponsored by the Metzingen, Germany–based clothing maker whose name it bears, is one of few with no restrictions on the artist's age, gender, race, nationality, or medium. Prior winners of the biannual award include Matthew Barney, Douglas Gordon, Marjetica Potrc, Pierre Huyghe, and Rirkrit Tiravanija. An exhibition of Dean's work will be presented at the Guggenheim Museum February 23–June 6, 2007.

November 14, 2006

Goya Painting Stolen En Route to Guggenheim

A painting by Goya was stolen on its way from the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio to a major exhibition that opens on Friday at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, reports Felicia R. Lee in the New York Times. The museums said in a statement that Children with a Cart, 1778, was stolen in the vicinity of Scranton, Pennsylvania, while in the care of a professional art transporter. They said the theft was discovered last week but refused to provide additional details on the crime. Officials at both museums said the FBI was investigating the case and had warned them that releasing additional information might jeopardize the inquiry. The painting was to be included in “Spanish Painting from El Greco to Picasso: Time, Truth, and History,” a sprawling exhibition of some 135 paintings by Spanish masters.

November 14, 2006

Hermitage Suspect Released; Fra Angelico Canvases Found

Prosecutors in St. Petersburg have dropped all charges against Ivan Sobolev, who had been detained in the theft of nearly five million dollars in artifacts from the State Hermitage Museum, reports the Moscow Times. Sobolev was released from the pretrial detention facility where he had been held since early August. Police told Interfax that Sobolev had been implicated only in thefts that occurred before 1995 and that the ten-year statute of limitations had therefore expired. Elsewhere, The Independent's Arifa Akbar reports that two canvases owned by Jean Preston, who died last summer at age seventy-seven, are by the Renaissance master Fra Angelico. Dillian Gordon, curator of early Italian paintings at the National Gallery in London, called it a “breathtaking” discovery. The two pieces, painted in the 1430s, were parts of a magnificent altarpiece in Florence that were believed to have been lost, presumably destroyed, during the Napoleonic Wars, nearly four hundred years after they were created. The paintings, which depict two unknown Dominican saints, are to be sold at auction in March next year for a “conservative” estimate of more than £1 million ($1,903,868).

November 13, 2006

Almere to Demolish Documenta Pavilions; New Museum in Amsterdam?; A Talk with the Director of MACBA


The Dutch city of Almere has announced plans to demolish the historic Aue Pavilions, which were used as exhibition sites at Jan Hoet's Documenta 9 in 1992. Designed by the Belgian architects Paul Robbrecht and Hilde Daem, the complex of five pavilions on pillars was first installed in Kassel's Karlsaue Park, where they featured works by Luc Tuymans, Gerhard Richter, and Isa Genzken, among others. In 1994, the pavilions were moved to Almere, where they have since housed the city's popular Museum De Paviljoens.

As Het Parool's Wilma Klaver reports, the demolition plan was introduced by Henk Smeeman, municipal representative for culture and a member of the right-wing Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy). Following the destruction of the pavilions at the end of 2008, Museum De Paviljoens will be moved in January 2009 to the city's Kunstlinie building, currently the site of a theater and an arts-education center.

But Museum De Paviljoens will not just lose its home—it will also see its €650,000 ($832,000) municipal subsidy cut by €300,000 ($384,000). “In concrete terms,” writes Klaver, “it means that there will be no more money to initiate exhibitions, to do research, or to finance publications. The museum will be downgraded to an educational facility.”

The announcement came just one week after museum director Macha Roesink began her pregnancy leave. Interim director Martine Spanjers sees room for a discussion with the city. “The definitive decision will be made in November 2008,” said Spanjers, who noted that the pavilions have played a decisive role in the museum's success. Last year, the Dutch branch of the International Association of Art Critics honored the museum with an award for its “exceptional quality.”


Het Parool's Michiel Couzy reports that Rattan Chadha, founder of the clothing chain Mexx, hopes to open a new free museum for contemporary art in Amsterdam. Chadha, who established Mexx twenty years ago, recently gave up his responsibilities in order to dedicate himself to the museum project.

Discussions about a location—possibly in the heart of the Dutch capital—with municipal representative for culture Carolien Gehrels are planned for December. “We would be happy to see what this could mean for each of us,” said a spokesperson for Gehrels.

Chadha's own collection—which includes work ranging from established contemporary artists like Paul McCarthy to younger artists such as David Schnell—would form the basis for the new museum, although pieces from other collections would also be welcome. “It must become a museum for young people—free and educational,” Chadha told Het Parool. “It will be very accessible, with living and working spaces for artists.”


El País's Ángela Molina spoke with Manuel Borja-Villel, the director of the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), on the occasion of the museum's retrospective of the late German-Venezuelan artist Gego (aka Gertrude Goldschmidt). Like that of Lygia Clark and Hélio Oiticica, Gego's work reflects contemporary cultural issues while going beyond current focuses on identity and locale. “We continue to understand identity in nineteenth-century terms, that is, romantic and circumscribed to a territory,” said Borja-Villel. “Culture today is an ideological instrument for constructing and legitimizing the nation and for marketing its exemplary figures.”

Borja-Villel considers the impact of the annual Madrid fair ARCO. “It is very significant that the great cultural event of democracy has not been so much collections, or reflections on the history of modernity and postmodernity, but ARCO,” Borja-Villel told the paper. “We complain about the precariousness of collecting and economic difficulties, but it wouldn't be bad to make an attack and think about other forms of production and distribution. . . . We can't forget that galleries respond to the market whereas museums and art centers must generate discussion and opinion.”

The inclusion of the star Spanish chef Ferran Adrià in Documenta 12 is not conducive to Borja-Villel's critical vision. “With all respect to Adrià, whom I consider to be an absolutely brilliant cook, I believe that he is responding to a certain dilettante extravagance of the artistic director [Roger M. Buergel], who, in my view, conceives of the political space as something merely festive and communal.” The Gego retrospective “Desafiant Estructures” (Defying Structures) continues through January 14, 2007, at MACBA.

Jennifer Allen

November 13, 2006

Retired Gym Teacher Returns Elgin Marble Fragment

A retired Swedish gym teacher is the toast of Greece after returning a piece of sculpted marble taken from the Acropolis more than a century ago, reports the BBC. Birgit Wiger-Angner’s family held the marble for 110 years, but she decided to return it to Athens after hearing about Greece’s Elgin marbles campaign. The small fragment comes from the Acropolis’s Erechtheion temple. It is only a small, decorative piece, but the move has boosted the international campaign to return the Elgin marbles to Athens. Wiger-Angner called on the British Museum in London to restore to Greece the missing sculptures from the priceless collection. In September, Heidelberg University handed back a marble heel from the Acropolis’s Parthenon.