In this week’s Art World Roundup, we cover antiquities with uncertain pasts, a case of restitution, toilet roll art, and an art gallery… for gerbils.
Thousands head to the Huangshan mountains, forcing more closures
As countries around the world continue to ramp up lockdown scenarios, China was able to begin easing restrictions last weekend. With that, people took advantage of being able to do relatively normal things, so much so that thousands flocked to the Huangshan mountains in the Anhui province forcing it to temporarily shut, again. The mountains are a picturesque UNESCO world heritage site that boasts more than 70 peaks with narrow footpaths and for three days, the Chinese government waived entrance fees during the Ching Ming festival. Well, by Saturday morning, the site hit its max capacity of 20,000 and was once more forced to closed to more visitors. Being out of lockdown is something millions now look forward to, and the experience in China over the weekend might give some insight into the challenges we’ll face once restrictions ease.
Report sheds light on the shady past of many antiquities sold in German
A recent survey of more than 6,000 antiquities in Germany of Eastern Mediterranean origin by the German Federal Cultural Foundation found that only 2.1 percent of the artefacts were documented correctly and legally. As part of the UN and Federal Ministry of Education and Research “ILLICID project,” the task force looked at antiquities sold between 2015 and 2018. Germany is a “hotspot” for illegal trafficking of antiquities – much in part due to its wealth, immigrant population, and laws that stringently protect collectors – and the report has only emphasized this. Antiquities from Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Cyprus were among those included in the survey. These works, and many others like them, proceeded to sales rooms despite not having the appropriate documentation or verified provenances. Furthermore, over 56 percent of the works researched were not authenticated at all. More on the survey can be found here.
Have you documented your COVID-19 experience?
Then the International Center of Photography (ICP) wants you. Well…your photos that is. Inspired by Cornell Capa, the ICP’s founder and first director, who passed away in 2008, the ICP has begun a virtual archive of images documenting this time of crisis and the connections made during such unprecedented times. Capa developed the phrase “concerned photographer” as someone who captures “images in which genuine human feeling predominates over commercial cynicism or disinterested formalism.” “As the crisis continues, the images will reflect different phases of what we’re all experiencing,” said Mark Lubell, the ICP’s executive director. “Looking at it in real time reflects a sense of where we are at this moment.” The ICP has called on photographers, both professional and otherwise, to share their photographs of the pandemic alongside the hashtag #ICPConcerned. To date, there are more than 8,000 photos tagged on Instagram alone and the number is growing. Each day, the ICP’s curatorial team are selecting a series of shared photos to the ICP’s own Instagram. The photos not only show commonalities and community amidst the chaos but they’re also building an archive for future generations to reflect on.
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The side of Thomas Kinkade you haven’t seen that’s headed to auction for a good cause
Snowy, picturesque villages that can veer towards kitsch and lush coffee table books are usually what comes to mind when you hear Thomas Kinkade’s name. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kinkade Family Foundation contacted the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) in New York to talk one thing: toilet paper. One of the hottest commodities of the pandemic also happens to be the focus of a never-before-seen work by the late American artist. Painted in the late 1970s, Kinkade’s Untitled (Toilet Paper) is an expressive, pastel painting that gives few hints at the kind of art by which Kinkade made his name. After NADA wrote an open letter to New York’s officials on behalf of New York galleries affected by the pandemic, the Kinkade Foundation reached out. Through the end of 2020, prints of the painting – whether a puzzle version starting at just $45 up to a limited-edition print accompanied by a sketch by Winsor Kinkade, the artist’s daughter – will be sold through the foundation with 100 percent of the proceeds going to NADA to help the city’s galleries most affected by COVID-19.
Sold under duress in WWII, a Picasso head to the market for $10 million
A painting by Picasso that was sold under duress during World War II is now for sale with a price tag of $10 million. Tilted Head of a Woman (c. 1903), the painting once belonged to Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, a German Jewish bank and collector. At one time, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy owned van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1889) – which broke auction records in 2004 – and Boy with a Pipe (1905), another painting by Picasso – that brought in $40 million at auction in 1987. Early in WWII, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy lost his prominent role in banking and was forced to sell off much of his collection, including Head of a Woman. Eventually, the painting made its way into the National Gallery of Art’s collection in Washington, D.C. until recently when it was restituted to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s heirs. They then opted to sale the painting through a gallery, versus an auction house, with Larry Gagosian’s New York mega-gallery. In the Wall Street Journal, Gagosian explained that the work is particularly rare because it is so complete. “You can tell Picasso has found his voice.”
Gerbils with a taste for fine art
Two gerbils, named Pandora and Tiramisu, are living a life of luxury while their pet-parents are isolating at home. With a little extra time on their hangs, Filippo Lorenzin, an independent curator for the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Marianna Benetti, an artist, decided to spice up their pets’ living quarters by creating them a little private gallery, complete with gerbil versions of well-known works, like Munch’s The Scream and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. Lorenzin and Benetti began construction, so to speak, on their 14th day of isolation. “The original idea was for a doll house,” said Benetti according to Artnet News. “We used cardboard, paper, and wood, ensuring that all the materials were safe for the gerbils.” After they completed the project, they filmed Pandora and Tiramisu exploring their new digs and it went viral, for obvious reasons, that you can see for yourself: