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You Can Help Stop Cultural Destruction: Chartres Chapter

Universally recognized as a masterpiece of cultural heritage--inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List in 1979--the Cathedral of Our Lady in Chartres is under attack by its would-be restorers. Now maybe you can help stop the dreadful makeover that has been underway for a while. I wrote about this issue, which was ignited by Martin Filler, last December (see Restoration Scandal at Chartres Cathedral), and today I received an email from a self-described "Physics PhD student at the University of Arizona" named Stefan Evans. Evans, who is … [Read more...]

Common Sense From Gary Vikan

Maybe retirement, if that's what Gary Vikan--former head of the Walters Art Museum--had entered, loosens inhibitions. Vikan's editorial in today's Wall Street Journal may not have been written if he still had the job. It's headlined The Case for Buying Antiquities to Save Them.  It's about the unrelenting damage being perpetrated by ISIS, of course. It challenges the "prevailing view among archaeologists, reflected in bills in Congress, [that we should] ....exclude from the U.S. all antiquities thought to originate in those … [Read more...]

WSJ Masterpiece: The Taj Mahal, As I Saw It

Even if you have never been to the Taj Mahal, you have a picture of it in your mind, right? It's a full frontal view, and it's unquestionably beautiful. But there is more to this marvelous, yes, mausoleum, and after going to India last winter, I wanted to say so and explain why. The result was published in Saturday's Wall Street Journal--in the Masterpiece column (which I have praised  on this blog many times). It was headlined (and decked) The Taj Mahal's Seductive Charms: As a visitor wanders the 42-acre site, this monument to love reveals … [Read more...]

Art Review, In Passing, Reveals A Recurring Museum Problem

Aside from what Roberta Smith said in Friday's New York Times about The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (she called it "superb"), she made a very good general point about American art and museums at the moment. And it's a bit of a mysterious point, to me at least. Here is the passage that caught my eye: ...unfortunately, “The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi” will be seen nowhere else — not even at one of the several American museums that have lent to it. In recent decades, much … [Read more...]

What If Britain Hadn’t Taken the “Lion Hunt Reliefs”?

Hard as it is to believe, many people visit the British Museum and entirely miss the great seventh-century B.C. Assyrian lion hunt reliefs. I know, not only because some people have written that to me but also because I was one of them. On my first several visits to the BM, I didn't know they were there. Once I discovered them, I was awestruck. So when earlier this year the so-called Islamic State began destroying what remains at Nineveh, where the lion hunt reliefs came from, I proposed them as a "Masterpiece" for the column of that name in … [Read more...]

MFA’s Gets A Load of Rothschild Loot

Literally. Bettina Burr (known as Nina, pictured left)--the daughter of Baroness Bettina Looram de Rothschild, who reclaimed about 250 pieces of Nazi-looted art from Austria after it passed a new restitution law in 1998--has donated 186 objects to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The trove, which includes jewelry, jeweled boxes, furniture, prints, drawings, miniatures, paintings and rare books, is most of what remains that had been passed down to her and her relatives from her ancestors in the Austrian Rothschild family. The great collectors … [Read more...]

The Story Behind LACMA’s Saudi Partnership

Press releases often provoke more questions than they answer. That was certainly the case when one from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art issued one on Jan. 6 about its new collaboration with Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. It said that LACMA and the Center: are pleased to announce that the Center will exhibit more than 130 highlights of Islamic art from LACMA’s renowned collection on the occasion of the Center’s opening. The installation will include works of art from an area extending from southern Spain to … [Read more...]

Portland’s Masterworks: Looking Back And Forward

On Saturday, the Portland Art Museum in Oregon opened a new "Masterworks" exhibition, of El Greco's Holy Family With Saint Mary Magdalen, which is being lent by the Cleveland Museum of Art. It's the fifth show in this series, and I love the idea of borrowing and focusing attention on one artwork. The El Greco "Masterworks" was preceded by Raphael's La Velata, Thomas Moran's Shoshone Falls, Titian's La Bella and Francis Bacon's recording-breaking triptych, Three Studies of Lucian Freud. I think I've written about all of them here, for one … [Read more...]

Restoration Scandal At Chartres Cathedral

Who was it that said one look at Chartres Cathedral turned him into an art historian? Or art-lover for life? Henry Adams? Bernard Berenson? I can't remember, but it was probably more than one person. Kenneth Clark called it "one of the two most beautiful covered spaces in the world" (Hagia Sophia in Istanbul being the other). Maybe not anymore. Hear what Martin Filler, writing on the website of The New York Review of Books, has to say after a recent visit: Carried away by the splendors of the moment, I did not initially realize that … [Read more...]

Revealed: Roman Hoard, Found In France, Conserved Here

Imagine being a French farmer, plowing your field near a village named Berthouville in rural Normandy; it's 1830. And you hit something, stop and discover the first items in a trove that grew to 90 silver and gilt-silver statuettes and vessels dating to the 3rd century and before. It happened, and now, after four years of conservation work at the Getty Museum, they went on view today at the Getty Villa. Known as the Berthouville Treasure, they appear to be an ancient offering to the Gallo-Roman god Mercury, the museum says. It's the first … [Read more...]

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