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Good News From The Middle East


I'm still catching up with news that occurred while I was away on vacation, and since this qualifies and it happened in the hapless Middle East, I thought I'd report it: in mid-August, it seems, the Iraqi National Museum reopened two renovated halls that display ancient sculptures. Mainly life-sized ones, according to a report by the Associated Press. It said that the new galleries "feature more than 500 artifacts that mainly date back to the Hellenistic period (312-139 B.C.), some of which were retrieved and renovated after the looting of … [Read more...]

Name The Best Four Hudson River School Paintings — To Go On Stamps


On Monday, the Nelson-Atkins Museum announced that its wonderful Grand Canyon painting by Thomas Moran, from 1912, would grace a Forever stamp as part of an homage to the Hudson River School of artists -- it's one of four tributes. What are the other three paintings? (I got no other press notices.) Were the other three museums, as the Post Office would choose only from works held in the public domain, mum on the honor? Guess so. But I looked it up. As you can well imagine, the other three artists in this series are Thomas Cole, Asher B. … [Read more...]

St. Louis: Ka Nefer-Nefer Case Ends With A Whimper


U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan, who has been hounding the St. Louis Art Museum to return an Egyptian mask it purchased in 1998 for about a half million dollars, has told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that "his office only had “a lack of record showing a lawful transfer,” not proof the mask was stolen." The Justice Department has therefore abandoned its effort to force SLAM to return the mask, letting yesterday's deadline for taking legal pass without an additional filing.  To recap, as the P-D wrote: The mask was excavated in 1952 from a … [Read more...]

Let’s All Help Save Syria’s Treasures: A Plan


Everyone has been very worried about the state of cultural heritage properties in Syria during this civil war. There have been irregular reports but they all suggest that Old Aleppo, the Krak des Chevaliers, many medieval Christian cemeteries and dozens of archaeological sites and museums have been damaged -- or, as a new release from an organization trying to do something put it, "subjected to extensive raiding and looting." In late June, the Penn Museum’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center in Philadelphia and the Smithsonian Institution, along … [Read more...]

Boston MFA Gives Up Eight Nigerian Antiquities.


The Museum of Fine Arts says it is voluntarily sending eight objects from its African department -- dating to the 18th century -- to the National Commission of Museums and Monuments in Nigeria. The pieces were donated to the museum and purchased in "good faith" in the 1990s from dealers in both the U.S. and Europe. One piece, a bronze altar figure dated about 1914, was actually stolen from the Royal Palace in Benin City in 1976. The purchaser was the late William E. Teel. Teel donated "more than 300 African and Oceanic works, along with … [Read more...]

Maybe The Ka-Nefer-Nefer Dispute Isn’t Over — UPDATED


Some cases never go away. Two years ago, The Saint Louis Art Museum won a court battle in its case to keep the 3,200-year-old mummy mask of Ka-Nefer-Nefer, when a federal court judge ruled that it should remain in its collection -- a ruling that "chastises the U.S. attorney's office for trying to seize the ancient relic through civil forfeiture proceedings." The quote is from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. U.S. District Court judge Henry Autrey ...said the government did not provide any proof that the mummy mask was “stolen, smuggled or … [Read more...]

Another Nazi Loot Case: Discovered, Resolved


This one was voluntary. Recently (but we don't know how recently), the University of Sheffield discovered that a  Louis XIV tapestry, which it had owned for 50 years, had been looted from the Château de Versainville, in Normandy, during the Nazi occupation of France. According to a press release: The tapestry, which is dated to around 1720 and shows a scene from Ovid's Metamorphoses, had been in the possession of the University since its purchase on the open market in London in 1959. The University recently contacted the Chateau … [Read more...]

Malaga: A Different Version of Bilbao?


Here's another mayor I like, one who understands the power art: Francisco de la Torre, of Malaga, Spain. He just signed an agreement with Russia, which will open a branch of the State Russian Museum in his city in the south of Spain. It's a 10-year pact through which the Russian museum will lend about 100 works from its collection, plus about 60 works of art in special exhibitions, to a space in a former tobacco factory, dating to the 1920s, that also contains an automobile museum (pictured).  The Russian museum, located in St. Petersburg, … [Read more...]

The Deathbed Deal With Cornelius Gurlitt


The Wall Street Journal published an excellent narrative of Cornelius Gurlitt's final days the other day. You can read it here, assuming it is not behind the paywall. But it may, and so I thought I'd relate a few key paragraphs of the story, by Mary Lane and Bertrand Benoit. It documented, as I suspected, Gurlitt's revenge on Germany. The article begins: Cornelius Gurlitt [at left], 81 years old and his heart faltering, in early January called a notary to his hospital bed in southern Germany, determined to write a last will and testament … [Read more...]

Now What? Cornelius Gurlitt Has Died


News reports are coming in from Europe: the "'Nazi art' hoarder," as the BBC terms Cornelius Gurlitt, is dead at the age of 81 -- "with no definitive answer on what will happen to his secret collection, which included many Nazi-looted pieces." Gurlitt recently changed his mind about claiming all 1,300 or so pieces in his collection as his own, saying he would cooperate with German authorities on establishing the paintings' provenance and that he would return them if they were proven to be stolen. More from the BBC here, plus a look into … [Read more...]

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