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Portland’s Masterworks: Looking Back And Forward

ElGreco_HolyFamily

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

B-cup

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!

MexicanScreen-Hunt-detail

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

Temple at Cihuatan Park

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

TreasureHeregeh

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...]

Another Corcoran Outrage: The Archives

Grieving Canova lion by David Mordini

If you thought everything about the future of the Corcoran Art Gallery was parsed and settled, much to the dismay of its students, faculty, curators and various formers in all three categories, think again. There's another outrage. The Corcoran's archives, which relate its entire 145-year history, are slated to be broken up. Any archivist will tell you that, more important than the possibly wonderful individual items, it's the whole of an archive that matters most to the historical record. Indeed, the Corcoran archives contain "all … [Read more...]

Good News From The Middle East

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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

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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

Ka-NeferNefer

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...]

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