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12th Century Manuscript Mystery

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Twenty-three years after it disappeared -- a theft that was never reported publicly -- an 1133 Byzantine illuminated New Testament arrived at the Getty Museum "as part of a large, well-documented collection." Now it's going home to the Holy Monastery of Dionysiou on Mount Athos in Greece. Mount Athos is a special place, off-limits to women, actually, but I've read enough about it to know that. Way back in 1998, when the web was new and The New York Times had a section called Circuits that published articles about interesting websites, I … [Read more...]

What’s The Best Course For the Bamian Buddhas?

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It has been more than a dozen years since the Taliban blew up the Bamian Buddhas in Afghanistan, but -- as an article today's New York Times outlines -- there is no consensus still on what if anything should be done to the site. And there's little money to do it. The article describes the split: The major donor countries that would have to finance any restoration say the site should be left as it is, at least for now. The Afghan government wants at least one of the statues rebuilt....The Afghan government craves the symbolic victory over a … [Read more...]

The New Stolen-Art Tracker Opens Its Doors

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On Monday, Art Recovery Group PLC -- the brand-new competitor to Art Loss Register -- opened its offices in Kensington, London, and announced an impressive line-up of staff members. ARG, you'll recall, was founded last fall after ALR came under intensified scrutiny for its heavy-handed practices. The New York Times laid them all out in an article headlined Tracking Stolen Art, for Profit, and Blurring a Few Lines, published last Sept. 20. In it, Christopher A. Marinello, who was often ALR's spokeman, said he was quitting and would start his … [Read more...]

Where I Was A Few Weeks Ago

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Anyone who writes travel articles can tell you that they usually take months to go from computer to publication -- for lots of reasons including seasonality. So I rarely post my occasional travel piece here -- not to mention the fact that this blog is about art and culture. But tomorrow's New York Times travel section publishes an article on the cruise I took in Mid-February to Senegal and the Gambia, so why not post it? It's in print with the headline Through An African Artery and online with the headline Crocodiles and Culture on a Cruise … [Read more...]

Will Venice Get An Islamic Art Museum? Free?

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On Feb. 3, Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta visited Qatar on a trade mission, meeting with its the Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani. They had lunch (at right), discussed political concerns and Letta visited the Museum of Islamic Arts in Doha. Letta admired the works on view, and before long, he "revealed that the two governments were in talks to construct a building in Venice that would later be turned into a museum," according to Gulf Times. In Venice. On the Grand Canal. As the … [Read more...]

The Best Artistic Response To “Monuments Men”

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“The Monuments Men,” George Clooney's movie supposedly based on Robert Edsel's book (see this previous post for the real story-teller), is not doing well in the eyes of critics. The Washington Post's Philip Kennicott pretty much eviscerated it. Metacritic figured that, all told, movie critics rates it 52 out of 100. But of course, even before the movie made its debut, museums tried to figure out how to capitalize on the publicity it would get. Nothing wrong with that. Of those I've seen, I like what the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is doing … [Read more...]

The Newest Plot To Rescue Pompeii

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Last year, especially last summer, art journalists flocked to write about the latest scandal of conditions at Pompeii, which has been under threat for years and is visited every year by more than 2 million visitors -- more than the Uffizi. In August, UNESCO threatened to put the site on its World Heritage in Danger list, which would be highly embarrassing for Italy. Here's The Art Newspaper's report on the situation last August. And here's an article in The Guardian from last August, reporting that the Italians had called on German assistance, … [Read more...]

More On Damage To Egypt’s Heritage

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"...74 precious artifacts [have] been destroyed and...90 were damaged, but repairable..." That is the partial toll of last week's bombing in Cairo that destroyed much of the Museum of Islamic Art, according to The New York Times, which was late to the story, but made up for it on Friday with Triage for Treasures After a Bomb Blast: Sorting Through the Rubble of Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo. The bombing killed four people and injured 76. Ahmed Sharaf, director of the Antiquities Ministry’s museum division, was quoted saying the damage … [Read more...]

Before You See “Monuments Men,” The Film

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There's at least one thing to know before you see how Hollywood, i.e. George Clooney, renders the story of the Monuments men and women who in the last days of World War II and soon thereafter saved so many precious works of art that Hitler had seized: I am sure that by now you know that the movie opens on Feb. 7.  It will be how so many people learn about what we know about them. Clooney's movie credits the book of Robert M. Edsel -- and to my knowledge, as shown in the credits on IMDB, makes no mention of Lynn H. Nicholas, who in 1994 had … [Read more...]

Cultural Sites: Taking Stock In Syria

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With the war in Syria continuing now for two years, with no signs of a true settlement and only minimal progress at the talks in Switzerland, The Guardian has published an update on the damage to cultural heritage that includes devastating before and after pictures. Headline Syria's Heritage in Ruins, the article says that all six UNESCO World Heritage sites have been damaged. Specifically, it reports: "In Aleppo, one of the oldest covered marketplaces in the world is now in ruins; its maze of stone streets has been one of the most … [Read more...]

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