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Art Review, In Passing, Reveals A Recurring Museum Problem

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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”?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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...]

It’s A Masterpiece!

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Yes, I wrote another Masterpiece column for The Wall Street Journal, which published in Saturday's paper, headlined Folding Culture and Politics Into Art. Can you guess what it is? I've already mentioned it here, in 2012. I was enamored of the object, a folding screen made in Mexico at the turn of the 18th century, from the first I heard of it, when it was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum.* And when I saw it last year in Behind Closed Doors: Art in the Spanish American Home, 1492–1898 there, I wasn't disappointed. What's more, the screen has … [Read more...]

AAMD On El Salvador: Let’s Try Licit Antiquities Market

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Full of frustration that a 27- year-old U.S.-El Salvador Memorandum of Understanding to stop looting of antiquities isn't working, the Association of Art Museum Directors recommended against renewal recently. Instead, the Association advocated the formation of a "licit" market in antiquities there. It would be taxed, and the proceeds would be "used to protect cultural sites and to encourage related employment by the local populations and the scientific exploration, storage and conservation of objects from those sites.” That's the gist of an … [Read more...]

Metropolitan Museum Rescues Egyptian Antiquities

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Last week, as Bonhams in London was preparing to auction a lot of second millennium B.C. Egyptian antiquities consigned by the St. Louis Society of the Archaeological Institute of America, the Metropolitan Museum of Art* stepped in. Bonhams withdrew the lot, estimated at £80,000 - 120,000 (US$ 130,000 - 190,000), and the Met purchased the Treasure of Harageh items (one pictured at left). There's no word on what the Met paid. I tell the whole tale, tipped off by an item by the Associated Press, in an item on Art-Antiques-Design. That's a … [Read more...]

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