France: President Macron Says send the African Art Back to Africa

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These two articles from the Art Newspaper provide an update on President Macron pushing to return "all" the African art in French museums to Africa. I guess out of fear our colleagues in Europe have not expressed outrage at the potential dismantling of not only Quais Branly but also the exhibition at Lions Gate in the Louvre. Of course, this decision would have a major impact internationally in potentially setting a precedent that would create problems in the museum world. It would be interesting if someone had the courage  to ask whether this was about protecting African heritage or French interests  abroad.

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1. PARIS What restitution experts have to say about President Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts
The French leader’s announcement in Burkina Faso is hailed as historic—but gets a mixed response
29th November 2017 11:15 GMT
French President Emmanuel Macron and Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore sit in a classroom as they visit the Lagm Taaba school in Ouagadougou, as part of his first African tour since taking office Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts housed in French institutions to their country of origin has been called historic by restitution specialists, who also questioned how the new cultural policy will be implemented.
In a speech given yesterday (28 November) at the University of Ougadougou in Burkina Faso, Macron said: “I cannot accept that a large part of cultural heritage from several African countries is in France. There are historical explanations for that, but there are no valid justifications that are durable and unconditional. African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums. African heritage must be highlighted in Paris, but also in Dakar, in Lagos, in Cotonou.”
In the next five years, Macron stressed that he wants the conditions to be met for the "temporary or permanent" restitution of African heritage to Africa. “This will be one of my priorities,” he said.
Yves-Bernard Debie, a Brussels-based lawyer specialising in cultural property and trade, tells The Art Newspaper that this speech is historic because it breaks with the French legal tradition established in 1566 by the edict of Moulins. “Since that time, the royal domain has become the public domain and is inalienable,” he says.
“I’m concerned because it is a very bad signal to send to all the countries that think they can ask for the restitution of goods that, in their view, have been unlawfully obtained. There is no longer any reason that prohibits these countries from claiming ‘their heritage’ from France. Is this realistic? Yes and no. No because of the principles of inalienability that are enshrined in the law. Yes, because we can always change the laws,” Debie adds, asking: “What does ‘temporary restitution’ mean? A restitution is to return to its rightful owner something that was obtained unlawfully, and, one cannot, on the other hand, return something temporarily.”
On the other hand, Professor Nicholas Thomas, the director of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, argues that this is a move in the right direction. “President Macron's commitment to prioritise the issue will be welcomed by many museum curators,” he says.
Museums in France housing African artefacts may now be forced to draw up new guidelines for repatriation. More than 70,000 items from sub-Saharan Africa housed at the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris come from the former Africa and Madagascar collections of Musée de l’Homme and Musée National des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie in Paris. Museum officials declined to comment on Macron’s announcement.
The Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac in Paris is embroiled in its own restitution battle with Benin, which called last year for the return of Guezo, Glele and Behanzin treasures in the museum’s collection. The disputed works were seized in 1892 from a kingdom that stretched across what is now Benin and Nigeria when the French army ransacked the royal palaces of Abomey in Benin.
In August 2016, the Benin government formally asked the French foreign ministry to repatriate the works. But the then minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said last December that restitution is impossible because the collection, like those of all French public museums, is “inalienable”.
http://theartnewspaper.com/news/restitution-experts-react-to-president-macron-s-pledge-to-return-artefacts-housed-in-french-museums-to-africa

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2. Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris is ready to return African art
Head of the ethnographic institution applauds President Macron’s pledge to hand back African cultural heritage
Vincent Noce
4th January 2018 09:39 GMT
President Macron with Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian-Kabore Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to return African artefacts is an “awesome challenge”, according to Stéphane Martin, the president of the ethnographic Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac Museum in Paris. With curators and museum staff in France—and across Europe—often fiercely attached to the principle of the inalienability of public collections, Martin’s reaction comes as quite a surprise.
In a speech on 28 November at the University of Ougadougou in Burkina Faso, Macron urged that within five years (the term of his presidency) “the conditions be met for the provisional or permanent return of African cultural heritage to Africa”, adding: “It is unacceptable that a large part of this heritage is kept in France or in private European collections and museums.”
He pointed out that, in the past, “in many countries, African curators themselves sometimes organised the trafficking of cultural goods, and these goods were also sometimes saved from the hands of traffickers by European curators and collectors,” and called for “a new common vision” and an end to “old conflicts”. Such a process “will need scientific and museographic partnerships”, he said.
According to official sources, Françoise Nyssen, France’s culture minister, had not been informed of the president’s intentions and has so far not commented on the declaration. The culture ministry is notoriously hostile to any changes on matters of restitution. In 2010, the French parliament voted to set up a scientific commission to study proposals for repatriation, but the ministry failed to act.
The Quai Branly museum has a collection of more than 70,000 artefacts from sub-Saharan Africa, and displays 1,000 of them in its galleries on the Left Bank of the Seine. “There is a real problem which is specific to Africa,” Martin says. “Cultural heritage has disappeared from the continent. In the African art exhibitions we have held since opening in 2006, not a single work was lent by an African museum. We ought to do something to repair that.” But he adds that the return of works to Africa needs to be considered “in the framework of cultural projects”.
The opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi last November marked “a major change in the museums’ world map”, Martin says. “It demonstrated that such a partnership is possible and can change our cultural vision. If together, and possibly with international co-operation with other Western partners, we can build one, two or three safe museums in Africa, I would not even consider transfers of ownership as taboo.”
Martin is prepared to start the process right away. “Think of the Museum of African Civilisations in Dakar, which has been built by the Chinese and has been empty for three years. Why not consider working on a partnership there? It might not be easy but it would be worth trying.”
http://theartnewspaper.com/news/ethnographic-museum-ready-to-return-african-art

 

Chinese Archaeology

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Chinese Archaeology
Chinese authorities announced Tuesday that Chinese oracle-bone inscriptions — the earliest documentary evidence found in China — have been included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.
China has been preparing these artifacts for the UNESCO program since 2013, and on Oct 30 UNESCO announced on its website oracle-bone inscriptions were included.
The inscriptions were excavated from the Yin ruins in Anyang city, Central China's Henan province, which provide records of divinations and prayers to the gods from people in the late Shang Dynasty (c.16th century-11th century BC).
Oracle-bone inscriptions are the prototype of modern-day Chinese characters and the embodiment of the continuous evolution of Chinese civilization.
Initiated by UNESCO in 1992, the Memory of the World Program aims to rescue the gradually aging, worsening and disappearing documentary heritage in the world and to raise public awareness of the significance of documentary heritage.
The program takes place every two years, and China has 13 examples of documentary heritage inscribed on the Memory of the World Register so far.
The most recently included Chinese documentary evidence, "Archives of the Nanjing Massacre", was inducted in 2015.
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201712/26/WS5a41b031a31008cf16da379d.html

10 of the best apps for independent travellers

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 Looking for holiday inspiration for 2018? These free smartphone apps mean you can carry insider travel tips for hundreds of destinations in your pocket
Smartphone app with Venice in the distance

 

Luckytrip

 

Want an adventure and don’t care where? Luckytrip is the smarter version of showing up at the airport and buying the first flight you can afford. Just set a budget and let the app plan the perfect trip: it will figure out somewhere to go, a place to stay and something to do, with handpicked activities in more than 300 cities.
Trip.com
With trip.com users can request ‘foodie’, ‘active’ or ‘luxury’ trips. Photograph: Gustav Willeit

Formerly known as Gogobot, Trip.com is a travel research app for exploring things to do and places to stay – including special events – in more than 60,000 destinations, with traveller reviews as a further guide. By allowing users to describe their travel preferences and personality – such as “foodie” or “luxury” – it claims to be able to gear recommendations to personal travel tastes, saving hours of research time.

Localeur
This widely praised travel app focuses on tips from people who know the destination best. It uses a “community of local tastemakers”, from artists to entrepreneurs, who share their tips for everything from clubs to coffee shops. It also has recommendations for boutique hotels, and suggested itineraries. The app has tips for cities around the world, but is particularly strong in the US, where it covers 50 major cities.
• Free, iOS and Android, localeur.com

Cool Cousin
Cool Cousin will connect you with a resident in your destination city

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Another app that focuses on the trusted recommendations of locals is Cool Cousin, in use in 16 cities worldwide. As well as connectingusers with a city resident, and providing a map and guidebook based on their tips, it has a facility for messaging the local directly for personalised advice.

500px
For some rewarding armchair travelling, and a break from all the yoga poses and shots of coffee from above on Instagram, 500px is worth a look. The app is geared towards serious photographers, and with a community of more than 11 million it’s easy to get lost in the sea of stunning imagery. As well as being a showcase for stunning images from around the world, it allows users to share their own travel snaps and get feedback and reactions to help improve their photography skills.
• Free, iOS and Android, 500px.com
National Trust/English Heritage Days Out

Time Out
From Accra to Tokyo, the brand synonymous with city breaks around the world makes it easy to explore virtually, with lists of the best places to eat, drink and shop, and events to discover. It is as much a tool for inspiring a trip as it is for helping you get the most out of it once you arrive.

Musement
Available in more than 350 destinations worldwide, Musement is another city guide app that picks out interesting local experiences. What Musement is particularly strong for is its ticketing element, which makes it easy to book events and attractions, as well as priority tickets, through Apple Pay.

Lonely Planet Trips
This community-focused app from Lonely Planet lets users explore travel experiences through the eyes of fellow travellers, and contribute their own media-rich stories, sharing video, photo and text from their trips. The app is a worthy alternative to Time Out, with tips for more than 150 cities.

Wander and Co
With a beautiful design that will sing to fans of indie travel mags such as Boat, Cereal and Sidetracked, Wander and Co is a photo journal app geared towards adventure travellers. Just like with Trips (above), users can tell their own story, tracking outdoor adventures with GPS and and adding stats like average pace and elevation. Journals of the app’s community of adventurers are a good source of ideas for future trips.

    Thomasine F-R.
https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/dec/26/10-best-free-apps-independent-travellers-holiday-smartphones

Sotheby’s scientists just scored a big win in the battle against fake art

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Editor's Note: In court a lawyer is never supposed to ask a question that they don't already know the answer.  In sales you should always know the answer to any questions that might be asked by a potential buyer. As technology becomes more accessible, more sellers will answers these questions of authenticity and condition prior to the sale. It's good business and it certainly reduces liability.

Here’s another example of why science pays, kids. It was exactly one year ago today that Sotheby’s announced the acquisition of Orion Analytical, a materials analysis and consulting firm whose crack team of scientists—led by the noted art-fraud guru Jamie Martin—would use their forensic skills to detect fake artworks.

The famed auction house then established its Department of Scientific Research, which is the only facility of its kind in the art-auction industry.

In honor of the department’s first anniversary, Sotheby’s today is revealing one of its recent coups: Researchers did a materials analysis on a 1915 work by Kazimir Malevich, the pioneering Russian abstract artist, to help verify that it was the real thing. As it turned out, the painting contained the same unusual blue paint additive as another Malevich work from the time period—this one in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Researchers also examined both works with infrared photography to discover they both contained similar hidden changes that Malevich made during the composition process.

The painting, Suprematist Composition With Plane in Projection, went on to sell for $21.2 million at Sotheby’s New York headquarters earlier this year after a fierce bidding war, so you can see there’s a lot at stake here. It was the fourth-highest auction price ever for a Malevich work.

“It’s been an incredibly energizing year for me at Sotheby’s,” Martin said in a statement. “I’m particularly inspired by my work with specialists worldwide—it is the combination of their art historical knowledge with our laboratories’ analysis that has led to our most impactful determinations.”

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The takeaway? If at all possible, you should definitely hire in-house scientists because they pay for themselves. Sotheby’s says it has established state-of-the-art laboratories in both New York and London and plans to expand to Hong Kong, as well.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40503422/sothebys-scientists-just-scored-a-big-win-in-the-battle-against-fake-art

Another Multimillion-Dollar da Vinci Is Hiding in Plain Sight

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Turns out the $450 million Salvator Mundi was the “last da Vinci” only if you don't count one or two others.

By

Katya Kazakina

December 21, 2017, 4:35 AM CST

Da Vinci Draws Record Price as Wealth Drives Market

Before Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi sold at auction for a record-shattering $450.3 million, it was marketed around the world as “the last Da Vinci" in private hands.

It turns out there is another—even two—out there. And at least one dealer thinks they could be worth as much as $200 million each.

Both are smaller-scale, devotional paintings depicting the same image: the Virgin Mary with the Christ child in her lap. The baby is holding a cross-shaped stick used to wind yarn, which has inspired the shared name, The Madonna of the Yarnwinder

“They are both in private hands,” said Martin Kemp, a da Vinci scholar and emeritus research professor of art history at Oxford University in the U.K. “I know both owners.” (Christie’s says they do not comment on works that are not consigned and stand behind their presentation of Salvator Mundi.)

One of these paintings, known colloquially as the Buccleuch Madonna, has been on view at the National Galleries of Scotland since 2009. It’s part of a long-term loan by the Duke of Buccleuch (via a family trust), whose family has owned it for 250 years, according to the museum. The painting was stolen in 2003 from the duke’s Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland and recovered four years later. At the time, it was valued at $65 million.

At $450 million, Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi is the most expensive painting sold at auction. 

Technically, the painting can be sold, according to Harris Brine, a press officer at the Edinburgh-based museum. “But the trustees of the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust have indicated to us that they have no intention of selling the painting,” Brine added.

The trust’s chairman, Richard Scott, the 10th Duke of Buccleuch, declined to comment through the museum.

Kemp agreed that it would be “enormously unlikely” the family would sell. “The Buccleuch family is one the biggest landowners in Britain. They prize themselves as custodians for the nation. Their houses are open to the public,” he said. “But you can never be certain.”

The second painting, known as the Lansdowne Madonna, after the English nobles who owned it in the 18th and 19th centuries, was last sold in 1999 by New York’s Wildenstein & Co. It’s believed to have remained in the same private collection, Kemp said, declining to reveal the name of the owner.

Signs of Leonardo

Scholars believe one of the paintings was commissioned by Florimond Robertet, a top administrator in the court of King Louis XII of France, before da Vinci left Milan in 1499.

The other painting remained in the artist’s studio and was listed in its inventory after his death, Kemp said. 

“Technical analysis shows that Leonardo worked simultaneously on both pictures,” said Kemp, who authored several books about the painter, including one about the Yarnwinder Madonnas. “We can see from the under-drawings that he was very actively involved. The hair, the moist eyes—we can tell it was Leonardo.”

The main difference between the two versions is the background: The Buccleuch Madonna features a seascape with an island; the Lansdowne, an Alpine range. The rock formation in the foreground of the Buccleuch is painted with a deep knowledge of geology, said Kemp. On the other hand, the mountains in the Lansdowne painting are “very Mona Lisa-like.”

Murky Authorship

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder entered the Buccleuch family collection in 1767, with the marriage of the third duke to Lady Elizabeth Montagu, who inherited a substantial art collection from her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Montagu, according to the museum. They had purchased the painting at auction in Paris in 1756.

While it is attributed to da Vinci at the National Galleries of Scotland, the museum acknowledges that his direct involvement has been debated.

“It seems likely that the overall design, and the execution of the figures and the foreground rocks, are entirely or largely his,” according to exhibition materials. “The background landscape is less characteristic, and was probably added by another artist. Technical examination has revealed landscape features and small figures not visible on the surface. That some of these reappear in early copies of the composition supports the idea that the background may have been left unfinished by Leonardo and completed only later.”

The Lansdowne Madonna is part of a private, anonymous collection.

The Buccleuch Madonna was included with Salvator Mundi in a exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at the National Gallery in London in 2011-2012. That exhibition attributed the painting to both da Vinci and an “unknown 16th-century painter” who “seems to have completed the landscape background,” according to the exhibition materials.

Kemp, on the other hand, listed both versions of The Madonna of the Yarnwinder as by da Vinci in his book, Leonardo (Oxford University Press, 2004), and acknowledges that a studio was involved.

“It would be absolutely considered to be a Leonardo, even if not every piece of brushwork is by Leonardo himself,” he said. Entrusting minor, monotonous details to assistants was a common practice in the studios of Old Masters, although unlike Titian and Rubens, Da Vinci kept it small scale.

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“Not like Jeff Koons,” said Robert Simon, an art historian and dealer who was part of a consortium behind the rediscovery of Salvator Mundi. “At one point, there were one or two students working with him at a time. He famously didn't finish many projects.” 

Market Value

No more than 20 paintings attributed to da Vinci have survived, and both Yarnwinder Madonnas “fit in between 15 and 20,” Simon said. “It depends on who you ask and how you define authorship.”

How the subtleties of attribution would impact the price should either work ever come to the market is an open question. Experts agree that each would command extraordinary prices, though unlikely as high as that of Salvator Mundi, which was acquired by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism for the emirate’s new Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.

Otto Naumann, an Old Master dealer in New York, said either painting could draw $150 million or $200 million following the historic sale of Salvator Mundi on Nov. 15.

“I joked to Francois,” Naumann said, referring to Francois de Poortere, head of Christie’s Old Masters department, whose client was the underbidder for Salvator Mundi, “why don’t you get both of them in the same auction?”

Some scholars believe a third exists—also privately owned.

Carlo Pedretti even put it on the cover of his 2014 book, The Yarnwinder Madonna of Leonardo Da Vinci: The Three Versions for His First French Commission (CB Edizioni; bilingual edition, 2014).

Sothebys Year End Review for 2017

Sotheby's 2017 Auctions Reach $4.7 Billion Worldwide

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 Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 masterpiece Untitledpersonal collection of Gone With the Wind star Vivien Leigh

SOTHEBY'S LEADS ALL INTERNATIONAL HOUSES IN ASIA
WITH ANNUAL AUCTION TOTAL OF $850 MILLION
Asian Clients Contribute $1.6 Billion of Sotheby's 2017 Sales

ONLINE BUYERS SPEND MORE THAN $180 MILLION THIS YEAR
23% of All Lots Sold in 2017 Are Purchased Online

TOP LOT OF THE YEAR:
Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled from 1982
Sets $110.5 Million Auction Records for the Artist
And for Any Work of American Art

JANUARY

Our annual Americana Week auctions raised an outstanding $19.4 million – the highest Americana Week total at Sotheby's in a decade – with more than 1,000 lots sold across six auctions. The series kicked off with the 'White Glove' (100% sold) auction of over 75 archival letters and manuscripts from Alexander Hamilton, matching the excitement surrounding of the wildly-successful Hamilton: An American Musical and setting a new auction record for any manuscript by the founding father.

This year Sotheby's celebrated a number of landmark anniversaries, including our 100th anniversary on New Bond Street in London. In January, we marked our 40th anniversary in Geneva with an expanded sales calendar and a brand new location. The new premises at 2 Rue François Diday – located in the heart of Geneva – will help to further improve the exceptional and tailor-made service to which our clients are already accustomed.

FEBRUARY

In London, an inaugural sale comprising artistic representations of love and sex from antiquity to the present day bested expectations in totaling £5.3 million ($6.6 million). Featuring 100+ lots of fine art, photography, sculpture and design, the Erotic: Passion & Desire auction saw almost half of all works sell above their high estimates.

MARCH

Our Impressionist, Modern & Surrealist Art Evening Sales achieved a combined total of £194.7 million ($240.8 million) – the highest total for any auction ever staged in London. The sales were led by Gustav Klimt's rare masterpiece Bauerngarten, one of the greatest works by the artist ever to appear at auction, which achieved £48 million ($59.3 million).

APRIL

Our spring sales series in Hong Kong set a number of benchmark prices, including: a new world auction record for any diamond or jewel, achieved by the 'CTF Pink Star' that sold for a staggering HK$553 million (US$71.2 million) to Hong Kong jeweler Chow Tai Fook; a new auction record for any work of Western Contemporary art sold in Asia, with Andy Warhol's Mao sold for HK$98.5 million (US$12.6 million) to an Asian private collector; and a new world auction record for any lot of whiskey, with The Macallan in Lalique –The Legacy Collection fetching HK$7.7 million (US$989,423). In total, Asian clients purchased US$1.6 billion at Sotheby's auctions in 2017.

MAY

In London, our inaugural sale of Modern and Contemporary African Art totaled £2.8 million ($3.6 million), with new auction records achieved for 16 artists including British Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE.

Sotheby's captured the world's attention in May, when Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 masterpiece Untitled sold for $110.5 million, marking a world auction record not only for the artist, but for any work by any American artist. That same night, noted collector and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa announced via social media that he purchased the work, and will eventually house it in a museum based in his hometown of Chiba, Japan.

JUNE

For the first time ever in London, four works sold for over $20 million in our Evening Sales of Impressionist & Modern Art. Heated bidding drove a new auction record for pioneering artist Wassily Kandinsky, broken twice in the same auction – first for his 1909 depiction of the blazing colours of Murnau, followed just six lots later by the powerful abstract masterpiece Bild mit weissen Linien, which led the sale at £33 million ($41.6 million).

JULY

On the 48th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the bag used by Neil Armstrong to bring back to Earth the very first samples of lunar material sold for $1.8 million in Sotheby's Space Exploration auction. Prior to its public debut at Sotheby's, the bag had been misidentified and lost for decades, before being acquired by the consignor from a US Marshall Service auction for $995.

AUGUST

RM Sotheby's flagship Monterey sale achieved nearly $133 million in sales, highlighted by the 1956 Aston Martin DBR1/1 that sold for $22.6 million. That price is superlative in a number of ways, marking a new auction record for any British car as well as the most valuable car sold by any auction house this year.

SEPTEMBER

Almost 4,000 visitors flocked to our New Bond Street galleries to witness the personal collection of incandescent Hollywood icon and star of Gone With the Wind, Vivien Leigh. The unprecedented sale of her private possessions included paintings, jewelry, couture, books, furniture, porcelain and objets d'art, which were 100% sold and soared to over 5 times the pre-sale auction estimate, realizing more than £2.2 million ($3 million).

The legendary photographer Mario Testino shook up Sotheby's London, as thousands attended an exhibition and auction of his personal collection that was organized to benefit the Museo MATE in Lima, Peru. Parts I & II of the Shake It Up series totaled £8.7 million ($11.6 million), establishing 11 artist auction records in the process.

OCTOBER

The strong results of our autumn auction series in Hong Kong helped raise Sotheby's annual auction total in the region to HK$6.64 billion (US$850 million) – our highest total since 2014, and leading all international houses in Asia this year. The five days of curated sales were highlighted by a new world auction record for Chinese Ceramics, achieved by A Highly Important and Extremely Rare Ru Guanyao Brush Washer, Northern Song Dynasty that sold for HK$294.3 million (US$37.7 million).

In London, we presented an unparalleled personal portrait of celebrated artist Howard Hodgkin and his private inspirations, exhibiting his collection beyond the closed doors of his Bloomsbury home. The sale brought £5.2 million ($6.8 million), led by the work of his close friend and one of India's greatest 20th-century artists, Bhupen Khakhar, whose De-Luxe Tailors soared to a record-breaking £1.1 million ($1.5 million).

NOVEMBER

Our marquee auctions of Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art achieved $724 million, representing a 31% increase over the same series in November 2016. Five of the top ten Impressionist & Modern works sold to Asian private collectors, while Francis Bacon's triptych portrait Three Studies of George Dyer led the week with its $38.6 million result.

This November, we hosted our first auction at Sotheby's Dubai. Offering an array of paintings, sculpture, photography, design, books & manuscripts, jewelry and textiles, Boundless: Dubai provided invaluable new perspectives on art from and inspired by the Middle East, achieving $3.6 million.

Collectors were captivated by a look into the private world of celebrated French interior designer Jacques Grange. Our dedicated sale in Paris spanned two days, comprising an unforgettably-eclectic mix of objects, including iconic works by François-Xavier Lalanne, Alexandre Noll, Damien Hirst and René Magritte. With remarkable results across every category, the sale achieved an incredible €28.4 million ($33.3 million) – the highest ever total for a single-owner sale at Sotheby's Paris.

Sotheby's celebrated ten years in Moscow with a series of dedicated Russian art auctions and exhibitions. Notably, the best portrait by Nikolai Fechin ever to come to auction sold for £3.7 million ($4.9 million).

DECEMBER

Just in time for holiday gifting, Sotheby's A Life of Luxury sales series saw 1,640 lots of jewelry, watches, cars, wine and fashion achieve $117.3 million across six auctions. The sales were led by an  Exquisite 5.69-Carat Fancy Vivid Blue Diamond Ring that brought $15.1 million, while a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione roared to an $18 million result.

Our annual sales of Old Master Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture in London were highlighted by one of Joseph Wright of Derby's most important candlelit pictures, and one of the last of his major works remaining in private hands. An Academy by Lamplight sold for £7.3 million ($9.7 million), marking a new world auction record for the renowned British artist.

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Sotheby's has been uniting collectors with world-class works of art since 1744. Sotheby's became the first international auction house when it expanded from London to New York (1955), the first to conduct sales in Hong Kong (1973), India (1992) and France (2001), and the first international fine art auction house in China (2012). Today, Sotheby's presents auctions in 10 different salesrooms, including New York, London, Hong Kong and Paris, and Sotheby's BidNow program allows visitors to view all auctions live online and place bids from anywhere in the world. Sotheby's offers collectors the resources of Sotheby's Financial Services, the world's only full-service art financing company, as well as the collection advisory services of its subsidiary, Art Agency, Partners.  Sotheby's presents private sale opportunities in more than 70 categories, including S|2, the gallery arm of Sotheby's Global Fine Art Division, and two retail businesses, Sotheby's Diamonds and Sotheby's Wine. Sotheby's has a global network of 80 offices in 40 countries and is the oldest company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (BID).

*Estimates do not include buyer's premium. Prices achieved include the hammer price plus buyer's premium and are net of any fees paid to the purchaser where the purchaser provided an irrevocable bid.

Images are available upon request

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Science Says Ancient Women Did Majority of Manual Labor, Were Stronger Than Modern Athletes

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We get new evidence showing that ancient women weren’t just tough and strong, but that they were absolutely badass all the time. Today, though, a new study shows that ancient women had to deal with a disproportionate amount of the manual labor — in stark contrast to the general assumption that women were demure or weak or shirked manual labor in favor of household tasks. No, no, no, no. Basically, every assumption you have about women in the ancient world is wrong. And not only that, but the study shows that these women were tougher and stronger than even elite women athletes today.

“People haven’t typically focused on females in this society, [but] it’s very important for understanding … the divisions of labor that exist today,” Hila May, an evolutionary anthropologist at Tel Aviv University who was not involved in the study, told ScienceMag. “I wish we could go back and ask people how they lived, but all we have is bone.”

The study examines a few skeletons from ancient Europe during different periods. This allows anthropologists to tell exactly what types of strain these bones were under. By studying the shape and how they differ over time, you can figure out not only how strong someone was, but also how they lived, what sorts of activities they did, etc. That might sound far-fetched, but it’s really not, at least for an anatomically modern human.

I wrote my honor’s thesis on forensic anthropology in college, and we studied bone wear in much the same way. Thing is, bone, contrary to what we often think, is living tissue. And like the rest of our bodies, it adapts to our lives. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, whoever ends up doing your autopsy will be able to tell — it’ll be obvious in your skeleton. Similarly, we can tell a runner from a weightlifter. This is partially because we know the human skeleton so well that we know what it should look like, and deviations from that are pretty easy to observe. Especially since those changes tend to follow the lines and attachment points of our muscle fibers. That’s why we can’t do this kind of analysis with nearly the same detail on dinosaur bones — we don’t have literally billions of skeletons and thousands of years of constant observation and medical study to compare to.

For humans, though, a skeleton is a treasure trove of information.

“We felt it was likely a huge oversimplification to say [prehistoric women] were simply not doing that much, or not doing as much as the men, or were largely sedentary,” Alison Macintosh, an anthropologist at the University of Cambridge told ScienceMag. To test her hypothesis, she and her research team scanned dozens of samples and then compared them to x rays of contemporary experienced runners and other elite athletes — as well as those of inactive folks — and came up with some amazing results.

Macintosh found that that prehistoric women had up to 10% more arm strength than even top-end women athletes today. Of those studied, ancient women’s bones most closely resembled those of elite rowers, with exceptional pulling strength. The study shows that women did a lot of the heavy manual labor relating to farming, including digging and hauling equipment. Men, on the other hand, likely split their time between farming and running, meaning that men tended towards lower body strength in the ancient past — the opposite of what we tend to see in modern populations.

This is particularly interesting specifically because women’s relatively weak leg bones have been a red herring for scientists for some time. It’s obvious now, but the fact that this mystery survived for so long probably has to do with the assumptions early scientists made about women. In fact, we were just looking in the wrong place.

“These results suggest that, in contrast to men, rigorous manual labor was a more important component of prehistoric women’s behavior,” the study says.

Macintosh hopes that future studies will figure out just what these women were eating and how to get a better understanding of how muscle composition has changed over time. It’s also curious to see such prodigious strength in the ancients that modern athletes can’t match. Solving that mystery could well lead to major bumps in women’s athletic performance, as well.

In any case, women kick ass and always have. If someone tells you women are naturally weak or that they don’t know how to throw down, politely refer them to the actual science and lay those myths to rest.

Top 10 Remarkable Traits Neanderthals Have In Common With Modern Humans

Note: The next time you call one of your fellow homo sapiens a Neanderthal.. you may be on to something.

Neanderthals 10 reasons.jpg

The line separating Homo sapiens and Neanderthals is thinning. Scholars are no longer even sure if the two are different species. While Neanderthals are long-extinct (and possibly a subspecies of modern humans), archaeology is proving that they had a lot in common with people today. From makeup to personal quirks, keeping the kids occupied, and fighting disease with medicine, Neanderthals showed remarkably humanlike innovation and emotions. Their extinction around 24,000 years ago remains an enduring mystery.

10 Their Cognition Included Symbols
What cognitive abilities Neanderthals had is still being debated. Scientists in Crimea found an interesting article at the Zaskalnaya VI site, once a Neanderthal haunt, in 2017. A small bone belonging to a raven appeared to have been decorated. While not an elaborate carving, two notches nevertheless caught researchers’ attention.
To find out if the pair was a symbolic addition with the purpose of making other nicks line up evenly, volunteers replicated the marks on turkey bones. The domestic species was chosen because its bones matched the size of the Zaskalnaya raven. The turkey samples matched the ancient artifact quite closely.
Finding altered bones at Neanderthal sites is nothing new. Several have been discovered in recent years, leading to the notion that instead of being accidental grooves caused by butchering, the decorated bones were used as jewelry or ornaments. The Zaskalnaya bone is the first, however, to indicate that Neanderthals included symbolic patterns in their carvings.

9 Fire-Making Minerals
Another remarkably brainy moment was discovered at in France in 2016. It would appear that several groups living in what is now the Pech-de-l’Aze archaeological site collected manganese dioxide to make fire. Looking at the mineral, it is not immediately obvious that it can greatly assist anybody living in a cave to get some warmth. By itself, the material is noncombustible. Yet, over and over, 50,000-year-old “blocs” kept turning up during excavations.
At first, the chunks were sidelined as black pigment. That made little sense in the long run. If Neanderthals felt the need to color anything black, they had easy access to ample soot and charcoal from their hearths. Manganese dioxide would be the more strenuous choice, since they had to go out and collect it, whereas soot was already available at home. There had to be a different purpose for gathering the oxides.
Tests proved that the mineral, when ground, creates a more stable and lasting fire. Somehow, Neanderthals figured out that a non-burning piece of earth could facilitate fire-making. This would explain why they made the effort to harvest this precious resource.


8 They Had Personal Collections
Once upon a time, about 130,000 years ago, a Neanderthal fancied a peculiar pebble. He or she picked it up and took it home. “Home” was a cave in modern Croatia, at the Krapina archaeological site. The cave was sandstone, while the rock was a brown piece of limestone with black patterns. Among the 1,000 stone pieces extracted from Krapina, nothing matched the pebble. The striking rock probably piqued the curiosity of the Neanderthal who found it.
In 2015, a collection of eagle talons was found at the same site. The talons had been carved and made into a piece of jewelry. In other locations, Neanderthals gathered shells and even adorned them with pigments.
The limestone rock was originally found during excavations that lasted from 1899 to 1905 and was forgotten until the same team who found the talons researched the site’s past finds. That’s when they found the rock, which appeared to have no purpose other than to look pretty. It had no modifications as a tool or piece of jewelry. Measuring about 13 centimeters (5 in) long, 10 centimeters (4 in) high, and 1.3 centimeters (0.5 in) thick, it was likely found a few miles north of the cave, where similar limestone exists.

7 Their Homes Had Hot Water
A Neanderthal sipping a prehistoric drink while lounging in his Jacuzzi probably isn’t the first guess of what luxuries existed for cave dwellers. While nobody can say for sure what got sipped and if they lounged, what is certain is that some Neanderthal caves probably had artificially heated water sources. A 60,000-year-old cave in Barcelona, Spain, had already produced a wealth of information about the domestic lives of these interesting hominids, but what stole the show was a hole found near the hearths in 2015. Archaeologists believe the feature was an aid to give the community hot water.
This particular group of Neanderthals was well-organized. They had separate areas for sleeping, trash disposal, and tool creation and even had an abattoir. Some of the animal remains included deer, goats, and horses. Far from living in a disorganized setting, the Barcelona Neanderthals organized their homes, sorted chore-specific spaces, ate well, and boiled water to make their lives more comfortable.

6 Herbal Knowledge
The study of one Neanderthal has revealed that they weren’t strangers to illness or to herbal remedies. Found in El Sidron, Spain, the individual suffered from several complaints. When microbiologists examined the tartar on its teeth in 2017, they got a good look at some nasty bugs and how this Neanderthal dealt with falling sick.
They found the pathogen Enterocytozoon bieneusi, which meant that the patient endured vomiting and diarrhea. For this, a treatment of ingesting antibiotic-producing molds was probably the go-to medicine. Researchers detected the DNA of Penicillium rubens between the teeth. A dental abscess, likely caused by a subspecies of Methanobrevibacter oralis, appeared to have been treated with prehistoric painkillers. In the same sample were traces of salicyclic acid, which today is the active ingredient in aspirin.
The presence of Methanobrevibacter was interesting. In modern times, these bacteria are spread through saliva. The Neanderthal strain originated 125,000 years ago, when interbreeding between them and Homo sapiens is believed to have occurred. The oral microorganism was transferred across the species, most likely in the way it would be today, through eating together or kissing.

Neanderthal makeup.jpg


5 Body Glitter
Neanderthals beat the modern body glitter craze by many thousands of years. In 2008, a team of archaeologists investigated another Spanish Neanderthal location. While working at a cave called Cueva Anton, an undergraduate student found what looked like a wall fossil. Only when it was later cleaned did it become clear that it was a pierced scallop shell. Red and yellow pigment particles colored its surface. This prompted a closer look at artifacts found in another nearby cave in 1985, especially an oyster shell that contained pigment. An examination of the 50,000-year-old oyster identified the pigment to be a mix of minerals such as haematite, lepidocrocite, charcoal, and pyrite.
The dark-reddish concoction provided an interesting insight into Neanderthal behavior. It was a complex recipe, made from pigments that required some work to collect, indicating that it was important to them. While researchers readily admit that it cannot be proven, slapping something like this together only makes sense if it was a type of body powder. The substance had a dark glitter and was likely used as cosmetic or symbolic makeup.

4 Complex Language
Many cartoons display cavemen as grunting, nonspeaking creatures, and for most, the image has stuck. Not many consider what language Neanderthals spoke, if they even had words, or how simple or advanced their spoken communication was. Things took a turn in 1989, when a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal hyoid bone was discovered in Israel. This bone is connected to the tongue and helps with speech. In other primates, it’s placed in such a way that they cannot vocalize like people, but the Neanderthal hyoid was nearly identical to that of modern humans.
In 2013, computer modeling showed that Neanderthal hyoids were used in a similar manner to humans, and this was enough evidence to suggest that Neanderthals could not only talk but that they were capable of complex language. Previously, this was considered a unique trait of modern humans. More research is needed to prove beyond a doubt that Neanderthals knew their grammar and flaunted some idioms. However, this is a very positive indicator that they were as chatty as Homo sapiens, and that could change who and what can be classified as human.

3 Toys For Their Kids
Educational toys appeared to have been a thing in Neanderthal society. The discovery of what appear to be several toy axes is adding to a growing body of evidence that Neanderthal families existed as close groups in which members cared for each other. In this case, parents also created items to keep the youngsters entertained. Additionally, they likely even schooled their offspring in skills they would one day need as adults.
European Neanderthal sites, two of them in England, delivered the small and toy-resembling tools. It is easy to see why many believe that the artifacts were, in fact, playthings. A grown Neanderthal would not have been successful performing any task with such a reduced tool.
In France and Belgium, sites were discovered where stone tools were created. Some of the rocks were expertly worked, but alongside those were stones that showed an inexperienced hand. Researchers are considering the possibility that Neanderthal kids were being taught the techniques of toolmaking by the older members of the community.

2 The Boat Question
A certain type of stone tools, called “mousterian” tools, is unique to Neanderthals. This is how scholars knew that they once visited several islands in the Mediterranean Sea. However, some of these islands were so far outside of their normal range that swimming wasn’t an option. One such island was Crete. To get there from mainland Greece would have meant crossing 40 kilometers (25 mi) of ocean. The swimming theory sinks particularly fast here. The first person would have been forced to paddle out into the great blue ocean without even knowing about Crete’s existence. So, how did Neanderthals get there?
Remarkably, several experts and institutes are starting to consider that Neanderthals were seafarers. Finding their trademark tools on a far-flung island fits if boatbuilding and traveling are added to their growing repertoire of skills. The Crete artifacts are around 100,000 years old. The oldest seafaring evidence for modern humans dates to 50,000 years ago. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Neanderthals sailed an extra 50,000 years before humans caught on. Since all boats would have been wood, any solid traces of who set to sea first decayed a long time ago.

1 They Cared For The Disabled
One Neanderthal burial unfortunately lead to the misconception that every member of his kind was hunch-backed and stupid. When a Neanderthal was found in 1908 in Southern France, his spine was bowed. For some reason, this became the popular image for Neanderthals.
A 2013 study revealed that the man was elderly (aged 30–40) and severely handicapped. In life, he was barely capable of walking. Several of his vertebra were fused or broken, and his right hip was abnormal. He had no teeth to chew food with. Without family or community care, this individual would not have lived for so long.
When he passed away around 50,000 years ago, nobody tossed him out as carrion. He was respectfully buried in a cave. The grave was carved into the stone floor, and earth was tightly packed around the body. Creating the pit and filling it up took a long time, but it was apparently done with willingness and empathy. The effort implies that the local Neanderthals developed a tradition of holding funerals for lost loved ones.
https://listverse.com/2017/04/20/top-10-remarkable-traits-neanderthals-have-in-common-with-humans/

Christies Hawaiian Figure - Is It Real? Christmas 2017

On November 21, 2017 Christie's auction house in Paris sold a Hawaiian figure for 6.3 million euros or about 7.5 million dollars. I have no problem stating that I am blown away by this sculpture and would enjoy the opportunity of staring at it for the remainder of the time I have on this planet. But maybe that's not the point. I have been in business now for 43 years and seriously authenticating for around three decades. There are some serious problems in the way Christie's offered this piece and it may come back to haunt them in the near future.

Hawaiian side by side.jpg

The basic methodology of authentication is both straightforward and simple.  The process, however, also can be extremely complex and nuanced. The basic part is about understanding the problem and then breaking it down to its simplest terms. Before as an authenticator you can make that important determination, you need to know first where it’s been, where it has been exhibited, whether it has been published, whether any major experts have looked at it, whether it fits within the stylistic parameters of known pieces, and who has owned it. All that information fits into the expertise of the art historian. The second thing I want to know is what's going on with the piece. Has it been conserved, has it been restored, does it have condition issues, is it intact and do all the parts belong that comprise the total piece. This area is easily handled by the art conservator. My final expert is the materials tester who will work closely with conservator to determine whether any scientific testing to determine age or material identification is appropriate. Once I get the information back from all these experts I can then compile and analyse the data to make a determination whether the object in question has been made for traditional purposes to be used ceremonially by the appropriate ethnic group.

Art Historical Analysis

Nobody would argue that the Vérité Hawaiian figure was important enough to spare no expense or time to remove any doubts as to whether this object was by the definition I have used above authentic. Christie's did not make the case for authenticity in accordance with the accepted standards and methodology which I have outlined above. And quite frankly I don't get it, because even the inexperienced buyer once they knew what was expected can see from the catalog that there is a lot missing.

First, we need to hire an art historian. Obviously, we are going to locate the top people in this field. We should contact first Adrienne Kaeppler:

Kaeppler Book.jpg

"Adrienne Lois Kaeppler (born 1935) is an American anthropologist, curator of Oceanic Ethnology at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.[1] Since 2005, she has been President of the International Council on Traditional Music.[2] Her research focuses on the interrelationships between social structure and the arts, including dance, music, and the visual arts, especially in Tonga and Hawaii.[3] She is considered to be an expert on Tongan dance, and the voyages of the 18th-century explorer James Cook." wikepedia.org

Kaeppler has written extensively on Hawaii and its ethnographic history and would be my first choice for this assignment.

I would also contact Stephen Hooper:

"Specialises in the arts of the Pacific region and North America. His main interests cover the relationship between Polynesian material culture, chiefship, valuables and exchange, ethnohistory, cultural property, ethnographical museums, the art market, publishing, book production and design. He completed his doctorate in social anthropology at the University of Cambridge, having conducted fieldwork in Fiji.

His publications include Art & Artefacts of the Pacific, Africa & the Americas: the James Hooper Collection (1976), The Fiji Journals of Baron Anatole von Hügel, 1875-77 (1990), the three-volume Robert & Lisa Sainsbury Collection (1997, Yale University Press, editor and part author); Memorial Images of Eastern Fiji: materials, metaphors and meanings. In: Herle, A. et al. (eds.), Pacific Art: persistence, change and meaning. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 309-323 (2002) and Pacific Encounters: art and divinity in Polynesia 1760-1860, British Museum Press (2006).

The 'Pacific Encounters' publication accompanied a major exhibition of the same name which was shown at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in May-August 2006, itself the culmination of the Polynesian Visual Arts Project. In 2008 the exhibition was re-presented at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris as 'Polynésie: arts et divinités 1760-1860', co-curated by Steven Hooper and Karen Jacobs. The Paris exhibition closed in September 2008 with a ceremony led by UK-based Polynesian people Rosanna Raymond, Maia Jessop and George Nuku, and by members of the French Polynesian community in Paris. After a circuit of the exhibition, a poem by Rosanna Raymond and celebratory dances by the French Polynesians, a plexiglass hei tiki made by the artist George Nuku was presented to the Musée du quai Branly to embody the continuing link between the museum and the descendants of the artists who had made the historical treasures featured in the exhibition. The Delegation Polynésie Française afterwards hosted a reception for visiting Polynesians and all those involved in the making of the exhibition, attended by Sarah Dennis, New Zealand ambassador to France.

Professor Hooper is currently researching and writing articles and a monograph on Polynesian and Fijian art history and anthropology as part of the AHRC-sponsored Fijian Art Research project. An exhibition resulting from the project will open at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Spring 2016." http://www.sru.uea.ac.uk/people/academic-faculty/steven-hooper

Finally, we would make one more call to Mike Gunn who as an author, scholar and curator worked at the Northern Territory Museum in Darwin, The Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Saint Louis Art Museum, and most recently at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra:

"From 1994 to 1999 Dr Gunn was Associate Curator in the Department of Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Dr Gunn has worked on numerous exhibitions and gallery displays. Most importantly he worked with Philippe Peltier at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris on the New Ireland – Art of the South Pacific exhibition. This exhibition opened in Saint Louis in 2006 and travelled to Paris and Berlin.

Atua.jpg

Dr Gunn was President of the International Pacific Arts Association, 2007-2013. “Michael has been a tremendous asset to the Saint Louis Art Museum during his tenure here,” said Saint Louis Art Museum Director Brent R Benjamin. “We are deeply proud of his many achievements, and wish him every success in Australia.” http://artdaily.com/news/25769/National-Gallery-of-Australia-Announces-Appointment-of-Dr--Michael-Gunn#.WiCDQTdry70

In 2014 Gunn opened the highly acclaimed exhibition "Atua" featuring "Sacred Gods from Polynesia.

Ok we have our experts. Did Christies contact them? Simply stated as noted below the answer is no.

In an interview with KHNL and KGMB TV stations in Honolulu on December 1,2017 Mark Blackburn, a noted expert and collector of Hawaiian material, reported that he had been in touch with Adrienne Kaeppler who is currently in Samoa and had stated "I was not involved and as far as I know it has not been authenticated". Clearly that statement indicates that she certainly did not confirm Christie's assessment of either the date of origin or authenticity of the Hawaiian figure.

“I have personally been in touch with Steven Hooper who stated that his position with the Sainsbury Research Unit does not permit him to consult for auction houses. Beyond that statement he had no comment on the Christie's Hawaiian figure in question.”

Finally, Mike Gunn stated to me that he was not consulted by Christies for this catalog nor as a part of the extensive research they indicated that they completed on this figure before offering it for sale.

At this point based of what we have learned above, I am baffled at the unsubstantiated information Christie's provided in the auction catalog. Who did the research and who gave the OK for the final draft of the catalog entry for this object? All good questions that will probably never be answered.

In the absence of a named scholar we must assume the catalog is based on the research available on the internet and in the literature. So how did they do?

1. In the Christie's catalog the statement is made "The figures that we know are in museums, including what we consider the mate to this piece, which is in the British Museum.’

http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=514572&partId=1&searchText=Heiau+Ku&sortBy=imageName&page=1

This link takes us to the British Museum figure Oc1839,0426.8 described as:

BM Kona large figure.jpg

"Temple image figure (ki'i), Ku-ka'ili-moku (the god Ku, the island snatcher) carved from a single piece of breadfruit wood (Artocarpus altilis). Kona in style, with an open-mouthed grimace, slightly flexed arms and legs. Four rows of stylised pigs or dog’s heads run from the bridge of the nose across tops of eyes and top of head, the bottom row merging with eyes, before drooping down to heels.

School/style     Kona (in style)

Date:     1790-1819

Materials: breadfruit tree wood (Artocarpus altilis)

Dimensions: Height: 267 centimetres

This is certainly not the mate to the Christies piece which is smaller, different wood, and stylistically different.

The object from the British Museum that is closer stylistically to the Christies figure is:

Museum number     Oc,LMS.223

Description: Temple image figure made of wood (Metrosideros sp), probably represents Ku-ka’ili- moku the god of war.

Date: 18thC(late)-19thC(early) (before 1822)

Dimensions: Height: 130 centimetres

Acquisition name: Purchased from: London Missionary Society biography

Acquisition date: 1911

Acquisition notes: Collected by the London Missionary Society in 1822.

Note this figure is made of the same wood as the Christie's piece.

OK so we have three colossal figures that are now in The Bishop Museum in Honolulu, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts and the British Museum in London. The three smaller Kona style figures are found in the British Museum (2) and the Pitt Rivers Museum on Oxford England (see Hawaiian Sculpture, Cox and Davenport, 1974 pp. 120 -124). The Christie's figure appears to be the fourth smaller Kona style figure.

2. Christies catalog: " this Hawaiian figure was made sometime between 1780 and 1819 — a period considered the height of Hawaiian artistic production. That era in Hawaiian history is linked to the reign of Kamehameha I, called the ‘unifier of the islands’, Kloman explains. It was a turbulent time, and Kamehameha I associated himself with the war god Ku-ka’ili-moku — the ‘land snatcher’ or ‘island eater’. ‘Ku became his effigy, and we saw a proliferation of these sculptures created for the temples,’ the specialist says. As Hawaiian society at that time was highly stratified, the artists who were allowed to create these sculptures, for kings and queens, were effectively priests."

Do we have enough information to support a definitive statement that this figure was made for traditional purposes between 1780 and 1819 during the reign of Kamehameha I.

Simply stated no. The literature offers us other viable scenarios noted below by both Kaeppler and Gunn.

"Specialized carvers probably continued to ply their trade and sold their new creations to visiting ships. By 1824, 'the officers of H.B.M. ship Blonde, when here, were anxious to procure some of the ancient idols, to carry home as curios. The demand soon exhausted the stock on hand: to supply the deficiency the Hawaiians made idols, and smoked them, to impart an appearance of antiquity, and succeeded in the deception. (W.S.W. Ruschenberger. A Voyage Round the World Including an Embassy to Muscat and Siam in 1835, 1836, and 1837 (Philadelphia, 1838, 455.) cited from The Pacific Arts of Polynesia and Micronesia, Kaeppler, 2008, p. 76

"It could have been made as a replacement piece, then sold before it was used in a heiau, we just don’t know.  What I was looking at was the lack of weathering and at the split in the wood of the BM’s almost identical piece which indicated to me that the BM piece was made in a hurry.  Similar looking figures were depicted by Louis Choris in his ink wash and watercolour over pencil drawing “Temple on the island of Hawaii” 1816. [Gunn, email comment, November 29, 2017]

- When Cook arrived metal was swiftly traded and spread rapidly throughout the archipelago. If that figure was in fact made in the 1821-1829 period, hundreds of Western ships had already visited the Hawaiian archipelago and metal tools were everywhere. Once the people converted to Christianity, they burnt a lot of their wood images, and sold many more. When they found that sailors and other Westerners would buy their objects they rapidly started to make new ones. " Mike Gunn, email comment, November 29, 2017.

None of the three scholars were consulted by Christie's. From their writings, Kaeppler and Gunn, who have not seen the Verite piece in person, have expressed doubts. Considering the various sources cited above and the early drawings of Louis Choris in 1816 it is my judgment that only the three monumental Kona style figures at Peabody Essex, British Museum, and the Bishop are unassailable as having been made for traditional Hawaiian purposes.

Kaeppler offers the following useful classification:

"I find it useful to analyse Hawaiian objects within a framework of four potential categories—traditional, evolved traditional, folk, and airport art varieties.

Traditional in this scheme refers to objects as they were produced and in use at or before the time of first European contact. Statements about traditional objects must be based on pieces that have precise documentation which can trace them to collection during the sojourn of Cook's ships in Hawaii on his third Pacific voyage (Cook died on this voyage January 17, 1779). If objects from later voyages to the area are used they must be assessed in terms of possible influence from earlier voyages i.e., objects collected on Vancouver's voyage must be assessed in terms of possible influence from Cook's voyage. Detailed ethnohistoric research on Cook's voyages was necessary for this aspect of the overall framework of analysis.

Evolved traditional in this scheme refers to objects which are a continuation of traditional styles, or styles that have evolved along indigenous lines retaining traditional basic structure and sentiment. Such objects may be made with metal tools, which often made possible more intricate designs; they may be made of similar but introduced raw material—for example, the substitution of walrus ivory for whale ivory.

Kamehameha I's death in 1819, the influence of Christian missionaries and the increasing number of visiting ships all contributed to a significant rejection of state gods and religion. As both Gunn and Kaeppler noted, figures were burned, traded, and reproduced by the followers that previously were subjects of Kamehameha I.

Condition Report

To my knowledge Christies never made the condition report public.

Materials and Dating Analysis

Scientific Research

Applicable analysis techniques - Every object presents its own unique set of requirements for analysis. Authoritative Sources must be consulted to guide in the selection of appropriate analytical techniques. Wherever possible, multiple techniques should be utilized to confirm results and conclusions. Testing techniques that might impact or limit future analyses need to be carefully considered before use. One potential issue may be the lack of consent for analysis methods that affect the object; e.g., taking required samples, CT scanning, radiographs, etc. 

Rare Collections.jpg

In instances where the owner will not allow the object to be thoroughly tested and where this type of testing is the only means to help authenticate the object, no determination can or should ever be made. Scientific analysis - Analyses should be performed by qualified individuals observing all the protocols and quality standards appropriate to the techniques employed. The report for each test performed should not only document the findings and conclusions (with appropriate descriptions) but should also document the equipment and methods employed to produce the results. The limitations of the method, including any exposure to fakery, must be fully explained. Critical to this process is the ability to differentiate natural vs. artificially induced effects. If an attribute is found to be consistent with authenticity but cannot be differentiated from effects that can be artificially (or otherwise) created, it cannot be given the same weight and must be considered inconclusive. However, the issue of differentiation must not discourage appropriate analysis, as most testing is geared toward the identification of attributes that are known to be inconsistent with authentic examples. Rigorous testing should always attempt to eliminate as many inconsistent attributes as possible thereby increasing the confidence (but not proving) that the object is authentic. Again, Authoritative Sources must be consulted to guide in the selection of the appropriate and applicable analytical techniques.

In addition, the precision and detection limits of the techniques and equipment must be fully disclosed. The standard that should be applied to the testing report is that it must contain sufficient detail to facilitate auditing by a qualified third party who could verify the methodology, technique, results, and interpretation. Reports that do not establish applicability (of the testing technique) or fail to relate results to established standards should be considered invalid. Reports that offer data or conclusions with no explanation of how they were derived must also be considered invalid. The final step in the scientific analysis process is to work with Authoritative Sources to interpret the results of the analysis/testing correctly and accurately compare them with definitive sources and/or statistically relevant expected norms. mark@rare-collections.comwww.rare-collections.com

Wood test - in this case the wood analysis test which we have not seen concluded that the wood used in the Vérité Hawaiian figure is Metrosideros. If the smaller Kona style figures could be documented as being made for traditional purposes, this data might be considered a positive step in supporting authentication. To my knowledge none of the Kona style smaller figures have been authenticated by any reputable Hawaiian expert. And in fact, it is possible that finding Metrosideros could be considered a negative in that the known accepted authentic Hawaiian figures are made from breadfruit wood. 

C14 - This test has been offered in many forums as the final determination for testing the age of organic material. Radiometric C14 dating and the newer AMS C14 dating are the two options for this type of testing. Christies never mentioned which method they used nor did they publish their test results other than to say that the results supported their contention that the object was being made between 1780 and 1820.

The Limitations of Carbon 14 Dating

Using this technique, almost any sample of organic material can be directly dated. There are many limitations, however.

    First, the size of the archaeological sample is important. Larger samples are better, because purification and distillation remove some matter. Although new techniques for working with very small samples have been developed, like accelerator dating, these are very expensive and still somewhat experimental.

    Second, great care must be taken in collecting and packing samples to avoid contamination by more recent carbon. For each sample, clean trowels should be used, to avoid cross contamination between samples. The samples should be packaged in chemically neutral materials to avoid picking up new C-14 from the packaging. The packaging should also be airtight to avoid contact with atmospheric C-14. Also, the stratigraphy should be carefully examined to determine that a carbon sample location was not contaminated by carbon from a later or an earlier period.

    Third, because the decay rate is logarithmic, radiocarbon dating has significant upper and lower limits. It is not very accurate for recent deposits. In recent deposits, so little decay has occurred that the error factor (the standard deviation) may be larger than the date obtained. The practical upper limit is about 50,000 years, because so little C-14 remains after almost 9 half-lives that it may be hard to detect and obtain an accurate reading, regardless of the size of the sample. http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/faculty/stsmith/classes/anth3/courseware/Chronology/08_Radiocarbon_Dating.html

    Fourth, C14 dating can give an estimate of the age of the wood, not the date the wood was carved into an art work. Gunn found a 400-year anomaly in the C14 dates given for the Te Rauparaha canoe figure now in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. Two reputable dating labs gave four calibrated C14 dates between 1314 AD and 1452 AD, yet the figure was sketched when it was part of Te Rauparaha's waka (canoe) by George French Angas in 1844. (see Gunn 2014 Atua - sacred gods from Polynesia for an image of the figure.

                                                       

AMS C14 Dating

"Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) is a technique for measuring the concentrations of rare isotopes that cannot be detected with conventional mass spectrometers. The original, and best known, application of AMS is radiocarbon dating....Radiocarbon dating by AMS is now used by many museums and dealers in antiquities to authenticate the age of objects, such as wood carvings and textiles. The small samples required for AMS mean that it is possible to remove a sample for dating without significantly damaging the object. "https://www.gns.cri.nz/gns/Home/Services/Laboratories-Facilities/Rafter-Radiocarbon-Laboratory/Measuring-Radiocarbon/Accelerator-Mass-Spectrometry#dis

The AMS dating requires a small sample, is significantly more expensive and considered to be more accurate that standard C14 testing. For obvious reasons testing facilities are reluctant to publish standard deviations from their findings which is expressed in a plus and minus sign. The possible result on the Hawaiian figure might be 200 +/- 100 years BP (before 1950). Translated that date would 1750 +/- 100 or 1650 - 1850. From all the research and experts, I have consulted you could never with all the sample variations have a standard variation with even AMS testing that would give a window of forty years (1780 - 1820). This highly unlikely and would be a document that would need to be produced.

Now having analysed this reliability of C14 testing even if we assume that the date of the wood does fall between 1780 and 1820 what does it prove? Really nothing because old wood could be carved much later. Now there is testing methodology that could address this, but if it was done Christie's never mentioned it.

Susan Kloman described her method of authentication as "Morellian". For those of you like me that had no idea what she was talking about, here is the Wikipedia description of the methodology:

"The Morellian method is based on clues offered by trifling details rather than identities of composition and subject matter or other broad treatments that are more likely to be seized upon by students, copyists and imitators. Instead, as Carlo Ginzburg analysed the Morellian method, the art historian operates in the manner of a detective, "each discovering, from clues unnoticed by others, the author in one case of a crime, in the other of a painting". These unconscious traces— in the shorthand for rendering the folds of an ear in secondary figures of a composition, for example— are unlikely to be imitated and, once deciphered, serve as fingerprints do at the scene of the crime. The identity of the artist is expressed most reliably in the details that are least attended to. The Morellian method has its nearest roots in Morelli's own discipline of medicine, with its identification of disease through numerous symptoms, each of which may be apparently trivial in itself." Again, I am bewildered by the choice of language in attempting to justify this authentication of the Hawaiian figure.

Christies is sticking to their story and claiming they have extensively researched this Hawaiian figure. Unfortunately, that statement is just not true. How this will sort out is anyone's guess.

 

 

 

OK Now We Really Know Who Bought Salvator Mundi for 450 million

Editor's note: Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (MbZ) is the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and presumably the driving force behind the acquisition of the Salvator Mundi painting. Shaikh Mohamed and the Ministry of Culture have been working closely with the Louvre which recently opened in Abu Dhabi with a contract for branding,  building, management, loans and training in excess of 1 billion dollars.

 

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Nearly a month after Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" was sold for $450 million, the buyer has finally been revealed.
Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism confirmed Monday it purchased the most expensive painting in the world.
The painting has been the topic of speculation since an anonymous buyer phoned in the record-breaking bid at a Christie's auction in New York on November 15. It is one of fewer than 20 authenticated da Vinci paintings in existence.
That speculation intensified last week after the Louvre Abu Dhabi -- the Paris museum's first outpost outside France -- said it would exhibit the work but declined to comment on the owner.
The New York Times reported last week that the man behind the purchase was a little-known Saudi prince named Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan al-Saud, an associate of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia has since said the prince was acting as a middleman for the United Arab Emirates, a key ally in the region.
"His Highness Prince Badr, as a friendly supporter of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, attended its opening ceremony on November 8th and was subsequently asked by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism to act as an intermediary purchaser for the piece," the Saudi embassy in Washington said in a statement.
Related: Saudi Arabia lifts 35-year ban on movie theaters
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is part of the emirate's plans to diversify its economy away from oil. The government of Abu Dhabi said it had been eying the piece for a long time and felt it could not let this one get away.
"We had a strategy in mind, we worked very closely with the broker, we bid on it," said Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of the Department of Culture and Tourism. "We felt that in our lifetime we most likely will not see another da Vinci," he told a conference in Abu Dhabi.
salvatore mundi auction
"Salvator Mundi," which depicts Jesus Christ in Renaissance clothing, will be displayed alongside another da Vinci painting, "La Belle Ferronnière," which is currently on loan from the Louvre in Paris.
Abu Dhabi has not yet said when "Salvator Mundi" will make its first appearance in its new home. Art experts expect it to become a huge draw.
"It is a coup for this one-month-old institution to welcome the world's most expensive painting," said Myrna Ayad, director of Art Dubai, an annual fair. "It's wonderful to think that in a relatively short amount of time, the UAE has positioned itself as the region's cultural capital."
Dubai's art market is hotter than ever
Countries across the region, including the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been investing heavily in the arts and culture, building new museums and hosting exhibitions. That's encouraging a new generation of art lovers.
Sotheby's says the number of Middle Eastern clients participating in its global sales has risen by 76% over the past five years. The venerable auction house opened its first gallery in the region in Dubai in March.
Christie's, which has been in Dubai for more than a decade, has sold more than $215 million worth of art since then.
Built on a man-made island in the UAE capital, the Louvre is part of the city's drive to transform itself into a cultural hub.
In a 30-year deal worth a reported €1 billion ($1.18 billion), the French Louvre assists with exhibition management, offers advice and lends artworks to its Middle Eastern franchise. The new museum currently houses a permanent collection of 600 artworks, with a further 300 on loan from Paris.
Alanna Petroff and Oscar Holland contributed to this report.
CNNMoney (Dubai) First published December 11, 2017: 9:10 AM ET
http://money.cnn.com/2017/12/11/investing/salvatore-mundi-buyer-abu-dhabi/index.html

Who Really Bought Christies' Da Vinci - It was the Crown Prince

U.S. government intelligence and a Middle East art-world figure familiar with the purchase say Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman used a proxy to purchase the 500-year-old ‘Salvator Mundi’

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured at a Nov. 14 meeting, is identified as the buyer of da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi,’ according to U.S. intelligence and a Middle East art-world figure. Photo: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Shane Harris in Washington,

Kelly Crow in Miami and

Summer Said in Dubai

Updated Dec. 7, 2017 7:35 p.m. ET

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is leading an austerity drive at home, is the bidder who paid a record $450.3 million for a Leonardo da Vinci portrait of Jesus Christ, settling one of the art world’s biggest mysteries.

Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, was identified as the buyer of the 500-year-old painting, “Salvator Mundi,” in U.S. intelligence reports, according to people with direct knowledge of the information. American officials have closely watched the activities of the 32-year-old, who is trying to portray himself as a reformer determined to root out corruption in the oil-rich kingdom.

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“The image of the crown prince spending that much money to buy a painting when he’s supposed to be leading an anticorruption drive is staggering,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and leading expert on Saudi politics.

Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed, a lesser-known figure and a distant relative of the crown prince, was the nominal winner of the auction, held at Christie’s in November, a Middle East art-world figure familiar with the purchase said, “but he is a proxy for MBS.”

“It is a fact that this deal was done via a proxy,” the person said.

'Salvator Mundi' sold for $450.3 million at Christie’s New York on Nov. 15, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Prince Bader emerged a little over a year ago in the auction arena, winning works from several major houses. While it is unclear which pieces he won in bidding, people familiar with the matter say they suspected he wasn’t buying for himself. Collectors often assign an agent or adviser to line up the paperwork and do the actual bidding on artworks.

The sources with knowledge of U.S. intelligence said that Prince Bader may be named as the buyer on paper, but they added that Prince Mohammed is the ultimate customer. Prince Bader has collaborated with MBS in the past on business ventures and charitable causes.

Saudi officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that Prince Bader had purchased the painting, citing documents.

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The purchase—the most money ever paid for a single artwork at auction—amounts to the crown prince’s art-world debut, placing him atop a shortlist of wealthy newcomers who are willing to pay more than $100 million for a piece of art.

It reflects the trophy-hunting atmosphere dominating the international art market lately, as billionaires from China, the Middle East and beyond compete for a handful of masterpieces on the block. The sale also marks a new front in the battle among Middle East royal families for cultural prowess.

For more than a decade, Qatar has reigned as the Gulf region’s undisputed art power, with former emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani erecting a $300 million Museum for Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei, in Doha in 2008. to look like a fountain he saw in Cairo.

Under the direction of the emir’s daughter, the Qataris paid top dollar for pieces by Mark Rothko and Paul Cézanne. Two years ago, her private purchase of Paul Gauguin’s Tahitian scene, “When Will You Marry?” for roughly $300 million, stood as the most-expensive painting ever sold—until now.

Finding the $450 Million Salvator Mundi: A Love Story

Art dealer Robert Simon and his colleague Alexander Parish bought a painting by an unknown artist in 2005. Simon then asked his friend Dianne Modestini to restore it. Her work on the piece eventually led to the discovery that it was Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," and helped her through one of the hardest times in her life. Image: Robert Libetti/The Wall Street Journal 

Within art circles, Riyadh and Jeddah aren’t yet cultural hotbeds on par with Qatar’s Doha or the Emirates’ Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Yet in buying the da Vinci, dealers say, Saudi Arabia has managed to lock in cultural bragging rights and swivel attention to its own emerging art scene, which includes galleries like Athr that show at international fairs as well as rising-star artists like Abdulnasser Gharem, whose installation of a golden dome partly tilted like a mousetrap, “Messenger,” sold for $842,500 at a Christie’s auction in Dubai six years ago.

And, in a twist, a former adviser to the Qataris said Sotheby’s offered the family a chance to buy the da Vinci six years ago for around $80 million, but the family turned the house down. The piece later sold to Russian fertilizer billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who resold it last month at Christie’s. The Qataris didn’t bid on the work at the November auction, the former adviser said.

Christie’s declined to comment. Qatar officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Called “ Salvator Mundi, ” meaning savior of the world, the painting depicts Christ as a Renaissance man dressed in flowing blue robes. While Muslims regard Christ as a prophet, Islamic religious scholars and clerics generally regard the depiction of human forms of prophets as a sacrilege.

Unlike da Vinci’s “Last Supper” or “Mona Lisa,” the portrait isn’t instantly recognizable as the artist’s work, but it was nevertheless considered a plum for its rarity. The painting also has a controversial provenance. While some critics suspect “Salvator Mundi” is a copy, London’s National Gallery of Art and other curators have vouched for the work as an original after it was unearthed at an estate sale in 2005 and subsequently restored.

Prince Mohammed’s extravagant purchase of “ Salvator Mundi, ” the only da Vinci in private hands, comes at a time of deep economic and political uncertainty in Saudi Arabia.

The favorite son of King Salman has overseen austerity measures on government ministries to cope with oil-price declines, although some of those measures were reversed this summer. The crown prince, who only became the second in line to the throne in June, has recently launched an anticorruption crackdown that netted other Saudi princes, government ministers and prominent businessmen.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened last month, tweeted Wednesday that the da Vinci painting would be displayed there.

Louvre Abu Dhabi.jpg

The painting may not immediately be heading for a wall in Prince Mohammed’s palace. The recently opened Louvre Abu Dhabi tweeted Wednesday that “Salvator Mundi,” would be displayed there, without providing a timeline for the arrangement. Often, a masterpiece can drive crowds to a cultural destination. The Louvre in Paris said it estimates that 80% of its 7.4 million visitors last year came at the outset to see the “Mona Lisa.”

A spokeswoman for the Abu Dhabi museum declined Thursday to give further details. But the painting’s destination may help explain the crown prince’s political motives in acquiring it.

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which has deepened ties with Saudi Arabia during Prince Mohammed’s rise. The U.A.E. has long tried to establish itself as a cultural hub to compete with political rival Qatar. Both Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June because of a long-simmering tensions between them.

Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Mohammed Bin Zayed, has acted as a mentor for Prince Mohammed as the young Saudi leader has laid out grandiose economic visions for the kingdom and sought to attract hundreds of billions of dollars in foreign investment.

—Asa Fitch in Dubai contributed to this article.

 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-arabias-crown-prince-identified-as-buyer-of-record-breaking-da-vinci-1512674099

 

My Word Christmas 2017

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Another year has slipped by; however, this is one that few of us will forget for some time. And it seemed that we packed enough in the last three months to  make up for a slow start.  In this issue we have covered Christies Da Vinci and the Saudi buyer. We have also put together  an analysis of Christies Hawaiian figure which sold for 7.5 million dollars. It appears that they did not do their homework in authenticating this object. We just learned that Christies in getting back into the Pre-Columbian business.. from Paris. We will certainly cover this to determine if this is a long term  commitment or a one off. Many in the ethnographic art world are stunned at France's President Macron;s statement that African art in France should be repatriated. The naivete behind this politically inspired statement is staggering and will certainly impact the markets.

We encourage you to check out our Holiday Jewlery online at our website. Just click on the image.

There is much more brewing that we will reveal in the coming issues. In the interim best wishes  to you and your family for a great holiday season. JB

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Christie's Da Vinci Christmas 2017 - Who Bought It?

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1.  NEW YORK (AFP).- A triumph of marketing over aesthetics? Or the legitimate cost of owning a Da Vinci? The sale of a Renaissance portrait of Jesus Christ for nearly half a billion dollars has stunned the art world.
Its quality and condition are debated and isolated doubts may even linger over its authenticity. But few dispute that the $450.3 million price tag for reputedly Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" was anything less than historic.
"Unbelievable," said Georgina Adam, an editor-at-large at The Art Newspaper whose book on excesses in the 21st century art market comes out next month.
"If you were in for a trophy work of art, this was it," she said. "It was a now or never opportunity and the market spoke. And the price is huge. It's colossal."
For now, the identity of the buyer remains a mystery. The 19-minute sale came down to two clients outbidding each other by telephone to exhilarated gasps from a packed room at Christie's in New York.
Speculation has focused on a select group of billionaires -- perhaps in Asia -- with enough cash and artistic interest to consider $450 million an affordable splurge.
Others could be museums in the Gulf. The Louvre, for example, which opened last week in Abu Dhabi? Although some Western art experts wonder if Middle Eastern buyers would not have balked over a piece of Christian iconography.
"This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the X-factor," said Loic Gouzer, the chairman of Christie's post-war and contemporary art department who secured the painting, put up for sale by a Russian billionaire.
Price, not aesthetics
"That's the enigma of Leonardo," said Gouzer. "The magic of the artist."
But others were less sure.
The Mundi is not the best Da Vinci painting in the world, nor is it in immaculate condition. Decades and decades of its life are unaccounted for. The panel on which it was painted split and cracked. Some have criticized its cleaning and restoration.
"Best case, it's by Da Vinci, it's in terrible condition and it's not a gripping masterpiece and it's got a big question mark about its provenance," said Todd Levin, director of a New York private art advisory.
"The common denominator here is price -- not aesthetics, subject matter or place in the history of art," says Darius Spieth, a professor at Louisiana State University.
"I take my hats off to them," said Levin of Christie's. "They got somebody to take on faith that this thing was worth half a billion dollars."
The auction house waged what even critics acknowledge was a clever marketing campaign, trading on name recognition of Dan Brown's best-selling thriller "The Da Vinci Code" and the 2006 blockbuster movie starring Tom Hanks.
That other Leonardo -- the movie star Di Caprio -- appeared in a promotional video. It was also the first time an Old Master was included in a post-war and contemporary sale that attracts the world's biggest art spenders.
'Show off'
"From a marketing perspective, it was a very smart move, no doubt. But it's kind of turning a little bit the art market into 'The Da Vinci Code'," said Spieth.
The auction house pitched it as "the greatest and most unexpected artistic rediscovery of the 21st century" -- declining to mention that its seller went to court charging he was ripped off into buying it for $127.5 million in 2013.
The work had been exhibited in London in 2011 after years of research to document its authenticity after it was found in 2005, mistaken for a copy.
In the build-up to the sale, Christie's flew the painting all over the world, saying nearly 30,000 people saw it in Hong Kong, London, New York and San Francisco.
With fewer than 20 Da Vincis by the Italian's hand generally accepted to exist, Christie's also traded heavily on its rarity.
The sale was indicative of the trend in fabulously wealthy buyers dropping eye-watering sums on trophy acquisitions, albeit at a time when art funding is declining in the West.
"It's almost intangible," says Rachel Pownall, professor of finance at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, of its worth.
Da Vinci, Pownall says, is so famous that his work exerts a unique pull on the super rich searching for the ultimate status symbol.
"I'll venture to say that the person who purchased this Da Vinci was not a lover of Renaissance art," one US art appraiser told AFP. "They're wealthy so they need to own valuable art to kind of show off."
© Agence France-Presse

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2. NEW YORK The painting was said to be the last Leonardo in private hands and “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century.” It was long believed to have existed but was generally presumed to have been destroyed.
Bidders had to register for a special red paddle to take part in the Leonardo sale.
Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen, Global President of Christie’s, started the bidding at $75 million, pulling in at least 45 bids from clients on the telephone and in the room. The competition settled between Alex Rotter, Co-Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art, and Francois de Poortere, Head of Department, Old Masters, New York, both acting on behalf of anonymous clients of Christie’s. At the $400 million mark, de Poortere’s telephone client bowed out. The final price, after nearly 20 minutes of bidding, included fees; estimates are at hammer prices.
The haunting oil-on-panel painting depicts a half-length figure of Christ as Savior of the World, facing frontally and dressed in flowing robes of lapis and crimson. He holds a crystal orb in his left hand as he raises his right hand in benediction.
The previous top painting sale price was Picasso's “Women of Algiers,” which sold for $160 million.
The work, dating from about 1500, was commissioned by the French Royal Family and travelled with Henrietta Maria to England. It was first properly recorded, 100 years after being created, in the Royal collection of King Charles I. It is believed to have hung in the private chambers of his wife in Greenwich. It later passed to King Charles II and in 1763 was sold to the Duke of Buckingham’s family to pay the King’s debts. The Buckinghams later put it to auction as they sold the original Buckingham Palace.
It then disappeared until 1900, when it appeared heavily overpainted and was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as a work attributed to Leonardo’s follower, Bernardino Luini. It stayed in the Cook Collection until it was sold for £45 at Sotheby’s in 1958.
Another 50-year gap followed until it emerged in 2005. The buyers have revealed little except it was purchased from an American estate at a small regional auction house for an undisclosed sum now reported to be $100,000. Dealers assume its price has since soared. Six years of cleaning, conservation and research followed.
In 2011, proclaimed as a genuine Leonardo, it was put in the show exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at The National Gallery, London.
Reports said that four years ago it was bought by a Russian billionaire collector, Dmitry E Rybolovlev, for $127 million in a private sale. It was subsequently offered for about $200 million.
More than 29,700 people have seen the painting in Christie’s shows staged in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York.
“Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” Loic Gouzer, Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, New York, said before the sale.
The work’s authenticity has still raised questions. Some experts have raised various sensitive mysteries about the painting such as reflections in its globe. It conduction also came in for criticism. The walnut panel base was “worm tunneled” and at some stage it was apparently split in half. The work has been repainted many times, making it hard to discern the original before restoration.
The auction also included Andy Warhol’s “Sixty Last Suppers,” which sold for $60,875,000. The work’s wide $55-75 million estimate encouraged lower bids to get going.
From a distance, Warhol’s acrylic and silkscreen-on-linen work from 1996 looks like a pile of rectangular, gray building blocks. Get closer to this wall-sized work (about 28 feet by 10 feet) and the composition becomes clearer: The images are inspired by Leonardo’s mural masterpiece. Warhol had been commissioned to produce the piece to mark 500 years since Leonardo’s death. Rather than work with the original, he used modern reproductions and found dozens of versions – some with the characters in different positions or with different background details.
Despite these mega works, it was just the second highest total ever for a various owner Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Christie’s. A total of 49 of the 58 lots sold, a rate of 84% and 94% by value.
There were 14 records for Adam Pendelton, Philippe Parreno, Kerry James Marshall and more. Franz Kline’s monumental “Light Mechanic” realized $20 million as part of the Eppler Family Collection which has now achieved a running total of $71.4 million.
http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/2666697/leonardo-da-vincis-salvator-mundi-makes-auction-history-with?utm_source=Blouin+Artinfo+Newsletters&utm_campaign=6512da27d4-Daily+Digest+11.16.2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_df23dbd3c6-6512da27d4-83005727    

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3.  
LONDON — He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.
The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most of the Saudi Arabian elite, including members of the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.
As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
The $450.3 million purchase is the clearest indication yet of the selective nature of the crackdown. The crown prince’s supporters portray him as a reformer, but the campaign of extrajudicial arrests has been unprecedented for modern Saudi Arabia, worrying Western governments about political stability in the world’s largest oil producer, alarming rights advocates and investors about the rule of law, and roiling energy markets.
Prince Mohammed’s consolidation of power has upended decades of efforts by previous Saudi rulers to build loyalty and consensus within the royal family. And even before the disclosure of the record-breaking purchase in a New York art auction by one of his associates, Prince Mohammed’s extravagance had already raised eyebrows, most notably with the impulse purchase two years ago in the south of France of a Russian vodka titan’s 440-foot yacht, for half a billion dollars.
A spokeswoman for Christie’s, the auction house that sold “Salvator Mundi,” said it did not comment on the identities of any buyer or seller without their permission. Prince Badar did not respond to a detailed request for comment. But as The Times was pressing for a response on Wednesday, the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted that the painting “is coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi.” The Saudi crown prince is a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi.
Documents provided from inside Saudi Arabia and reviewed by The Times reveal that representatives for the buyer, Prince Bader, did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale. He was such an unknown figure that executives at Christie’s were scrambling to establish his identity and his financial means. And even after he had provided a $100 million deposit to qualify for the auction, the Christie’s lawyers conducting due diligence on potential bidders pressed him with two pointed questions:
Where did he get the money? And what was his relationship with the Saudi ruler, King Salman?
Real estate, Prince Bader replied, without elaborating. He was just one of 5,000 princes, he told the auction house, according to documents and people involved.
Less than two weeks earlier, on Nov. 4, the crown prince had ordered the crackdown on more than 200 of the richest Saudi princes, businessmen and government officials. The kingdom had been squeezed by years of low oil prices, and Prince Mohammed was seeking to recover hundreds of billions of dollars in alleged illicit gains.
“Salvator Mundi” represented a major prestige purchase in the art world, if a controversial one. Some experts questioned whether the painting was a true Leonardo. Some were simply unimpressed. The painting’s previous owner, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, is a Russian billionaire who bought a $95 million Florida home from Donald J. Trump nearly a decade ago. Mr. Rybolovlev had paid $127.5 million for the painting in 2013 — less than a third of its sale price last month — and he is still locked in litigation with the dealer who sold it to him over that lofty price, among other transactions.
For Prince Bader, paying such an unprecedented sum for a painting of Christ also risked offending the religious sensibilities of his Muslim countrymen. Muslims teach that Jesus was not the savior but a prophet. And most Muslims — especially the clerics of Saudi Arabia — consider the artistic depiction of any of the prophets to be a form of sacrilege.
Prince Bader comes from a lesser branch of the royal family, the Farhan, who are descended from a brother of an 18th-century Saudi ruler. They do not trace their lineage to the founder of the modern kingdom, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud. But Prince Bader is a contemporary of Prince Mohammed. They attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time, if not together. And after King Salman, now 81, took the throne in 2015 and appointed Prince Mohammed to run much of the government, he named Prince Bader to high-profile positions, including one closely linked to the family.
The Salman branch of the royal family has traditionally controlled the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which publishes the Pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq Al Awsat and other publications. After nearly 30 years of passing the chairmanship of the group from one Salman to another, King Salman and Prince Mohammed instead put Prince Bader in the post.
 
Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud
In July, King Salman also named Prince Bader governor of a newly formed commission, led by Prince Mohammed, to develop the province of Al Ola, which contains an archaeological site that the crown prince hopes to turn into a tourist destination.
A government statement about the commission noted that the development of the province was important to the crown prince’s plans for the kingdom, known as Saudi Vision 2030, and last week the Saudi news network Al Arabiya reported that Prince Mohammed had posed for selfies there with locals while touring the desert on a four-wheeled buggy.
Prince Bader sat on the board of an energy company that did business in Saudi Arabia, Energy Holdings International, according to its website, and a short biography there describes him as “one of Saudi Arabia’s youngest entrepreneurs.” (It was not immediately clear if the company is still operating.)
According to the biography, he is also “chairman of the founding committee” of a local consortium that won a license from the kingdom to build a fiber-optic network, in a “strategic partnership” with Verizon. It is common for well-connected Saudi princes to profit by providing entry to the kingdom for international companies.
He is also described as one of the founders of a large recycling and waste-management business in Saudi Arabia. As for real estate, which Prince Bader described to Christie’s as the source of his money, the biography says he “has also been active in real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, Dubai and the rest of the Middle East over five years,” including in partnership with “large reputed companies.” The date of the biography could not be determined.
Prince Bader appears to have worked with Prince Mohammed on at least one grand project for his own leisure, as well. Together, the two approached Brent Thompson Architects, a firm based in Los Angeles, to design an elaborate resort complex near Jidda, according to a description of the project on the group’s website.
It consisted of as many as seven palaces for princes in the Salman branch of the family, around an artificial body of water in the shape of a flower. “Petals of this tropical flower formed a series of private coves, each the home of an individual palace, its own private beaches, guesthouse, gardens and water sports facilities,” according to the description on the firm’s website.
When the bidding opened at Christie’s in New York on Nov. 15, Prince Bader participated by telephone and was represented in the room by Alex Rotter, co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art at the auction house. At least three other anonymous bidders were competing by telephone through representatives in the room. Major dealers and collectors from across the art world had gathered to watch.
Bidding opened with a $100 million offer from an unknown collector, setting a floor for the auction. The bids started jumping in increments of $10 million, and almost immediately reached $225 million, far surpassing the previous record for a sale at auction: the $179.4 million paid for Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” at Christie’s in 2015.
The price climbed further, in $5 million steps, reaching $260 million less than two minutes after the auction began. Then, only two anonymous bidders were left, Prince Bader and another person represented in the room by François de Poortere, the head of old master paintings at Christie’s.
The price rose slowly for a while, by increments of as little as $2 million. But after the bidding reached $330 million, Prince Bader began to raise the price by increasingly large amounts. The room erupted in gasps when he offered $350 million. “Looking for another bid, please, Francois, at $350 million,” the auctioneer said, and the crowd laughed at his audacity.
Yet the bidding continued until, about 19 minutes after the auction began, Prince Bader put it away with a $30 million jump, to $400 million. The final $450 million price includes additional fees paid by the buyer.
The prince had told Christie’s that he intended to pay in one lump sum upon completion of the sale. But in light of the unexpectedly high sale price, a contract was drawn up specifying six monthly installments. Five are for $58,385,416.67.
The last installment is due on May 14. It is two cents less: $58,385,416.65.
By CHRIS CIRILLO on December 6, 2017. Photo by Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/world/middleeast/salvator-mundi-da-vinci-saudi-prince-bader.html

 

ART WORLD AND TECHNOLOGY Christmas 2017

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1. NETHERLANDS MIT Technology Review - This AI Can Spot Art Forgeries by Looking at One Brushstroke. A new system can break a work down into individual brush or pencil lines and figure out the artist behind it.  by Jackie Snow November 21, 2017
Detecting art forgeries is hard and expensive. Art historians might bring a suspect work into a lab for infrared spectroscopy, radiometric dating, gas chromatography, or a combination of such tests. AI, it turns out, doesn’t need all that: it can spot a fake just by looking at the strokes used to compose a piece.
In a new paper, researchers from Rutgers University and the Atelier for Restoration & Research of Paintings in the Netherlands document how their system broke down almost 300 line drawings by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, and other famous artists into 80,000 individual strokes. Then a deep recurrent neural network (RNN) learned what features in the strokes were important to identify the artist.
The researchers also trained a machine-learning algorithm to look for specific features, like the shape of the line in a stroke. This gave them two different techniques to detect forgeries, and the combined method proved powerful. Looking at the output of the machine-learning algorithm also provided some insight into the RNN, which acts as a “black box”—a system whose outputs are difficult for researchers to explain.  
Since the machine-learning algorithm was trained on specific features, the difference between it and the RNN probably points to the characteristics the neural network was looking at to detect forgeries. In this case, it was using the changing strength along a stroke—that is, how hard an artist was pushing, based on the weight of the line—to identify the artist. With both algorithms working in tandem, the researchers were able to correctly identify artists around 80 percent of the time.
The researchers also commissioned artists to create drawings in the same style as the pieces in the data set to test the system’s ability to spot fakes. The system was able to identify the forgeries in every instance, simply by looking at a single stroke.
“A human cannot do that,” says Ahmed Elgammal, a professor at Rutgers and one of the paper’s authors.
This technique can only be used when lines are obvious, so for paintings where brushstrokes are made invisible, it is no help. But to further validate their results, Elgammal says, they plan to test the method on Impressionist works and other 19th-century art where brushstrokes are clear.
The most promising part of the research might be the way the researchers used the second method to make clear what the RNN is doing, says Eric Postma at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, who has done work in detecting art forgeries with AI for more than a decade. There could be more applications for artificial intelligence in art, he says, but art historians and researchers, steeped in centuries of tradition, have been slow to embrace such techniques. That’s in part because it can be difficult to understand how a machine arrived at its results—a problem this latest research could help solve.    
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/609524/this-ai-can-spot-art-forgeries-by-looking-at-one-brushstroke/  

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2. PARIS (AFP).- The world's only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris Thursday to help experts analyse ancient and precious works.
The 37-metre (88-foot) AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials.
The Centre for Research and Restoration of the Museum of France (C2RMF) -- which is independent of the Louvre -- has spent 2.1 million euros ($2.5 million) overhauling and upgrading the machine, which can determine the chemical make-up of objects without the need to take samples.
"Up to now we almost never analysed paintings because we were afraid the particle beam might change the colours" when it hit the pigments in the paint, director Isabelle Pallot-Frossard told AFP.
The AGLAE works by speeding up helium and hydrogen nuclei to speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 kilometres (12,400 to 18,600 miles) per second and then bombarding the object, which emits radiation that can be captured and analysed.
Among the first objects to be tested by the newly configured accelerator were Roman votive statues of the household gods -- the Lares -- which were said to protect the home.
They were uncovered from the ancient forum of Bavay close to the border with Belgium.
The old accelerator -- which was built in 1988 -- could only work between eight and 10 hours a day, but the new one can function around the clock, the C2RMF said.
http://artdaily.com/news/100486/World-s-only-particle-accelerator-dedicated-to-art-revs-up-at-the-Louvre-in-Paris-#.Wih-QTdry70

 

PRE-COLUMBIAN ART AND TECHNOLOGY Christmas 2017

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LONDON.- Today sees the launch of the British Museum’s collaboration with Google Arts and Culture to digitise and share the ancient Maya collection of Alfred Maudslay, a 19th century explorer who brought the stories of the Maya to the world. This important collection is made up of photographs, casts and other scientific documents created during archaeological excavations and research at Maya sites in the late 1800s. Now available to view online for the first time, these objects are also part of new resources which bring to life ancient Maya culture using the latest technology.
Through a new dedicated page on Google Arts and Culture, interactive content focused on Maya sites in Guatemala has been created, with a series of online exhibits introducing the project, its activities and the British Museum’s Maya collections more broadly. Alongside these, new immersive Google Street View tours are available, transporting people from their own living rooms to Guatemala - using Google Cardboard - to visit Quiriguá and Tikal, UNESCO World Heritage sites and two of the ancient Maya’s most recognisable cities. A special Google Expedition aimed at schools is also available through the Google Expedition app, taking children on a virtual reality journey from the British Museum to Quiriguá. Street View capture of the entire publicly accessible area of these sites is also launched today as part of the collaboration.
The objects that have been digitised were created and collected by Alfred Maudslay, a technological pioneer who used the captured image to engage the public in Maya cultural heritage. He travelled extensively in Central America in the 1880s and 90s, often becoming the first visitor to scientifically document now famous ancient Maya sites like Tikal and Quiriguá using up-to-date recording techniques. The collection consists of over 250 glass plate negatives from Guatemala, and in excess of 1000 pages of archives, including Maudslay’s personal diaries. All have been newly digitised to exceptional standards. It is hoped that this could reveal never previously observed details.
Over a hundred casts have also been 3D scanned, allowing for monuments to be re-assembled in digital form. These will represent an outstanding resource for scholars who will be able to tilt, zoom and manipulate the lighting of these models in order to achieve the best conditions to read the hieroglyphic inscriptions. Many of these casts, in Maudslay’s own words ‘survive the originals’, which have suffered from environmental and human-induced damage in the intervening century and a half. They are a 19th century time-capsule and are therefore an invaluable resource for learning about this important civilisation. Examples of the casts can be seen on display at the British Museum, with the remaining casts forming part of the study collection at Blythe House.
This repository of casts, photographs, diaries and drawings is of global significance for the study of the ancient Maya, a civilisation that emerged in a geographical area encompassing Guatemala, Southern Mexico, Honduras, Belize and El Salvador. Its apogee, known as the Classic Maya period, began in around 250AD and lasted until c. 900AD, and the culture’s most iconic ruined cities, like Tikal and Palenque, date to this period. Thanks to this partnership and the new technologies it brings with it, more people than ever before will have the opportunity to engage with landscapes and monuments of this fascinating culture.
Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum says: “The British Museum’s collection spans the globe, and I am delighted that through our partnership with Google Arts and Culture, we can bring the story of the ancient Maya to more people than ever before. Not only is it now easier to enjoy these fascinating objects from our collection, they can be experienced in new and exciting ways.”
Amit Sood, Director of Google Arts & Culture says: "We're excited to work with the British Museum in supporting archaeological research on the ancient Maya. Finding new ways to share academic research such as digital preservation and sharing lost stories online are critical to helping us connect the past to the present. We are delighted to have this unique look into Maya heritage on Google Arts & Culture.”
Maya collections at the British Museum
The British Museum houses a world class collection of ancient Maya artefacts, a number of which are on display in Gallery 27: Mexico. In addition, extensive twentieth-century collecting has endowed the Museum with several thousand contemporary Maya objects including textiles, masks, basketry and ceramics. These collections join the 70,000 objects that comprise the British Museum’s encyclopaedic Americas collection. The casts which are not on permanent display are currently stored in Blythe House.
http://artdaily.com/news/100624/British-Museum-and-Google-Arts-and-Culture-unveil-project-on-ancient-Maya#.Wih3ozdry70

MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS Christmas 2017

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MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS

1. KANSAS CITY By Karen Wilkin, Dec. 2, 2017 7:00 a.m. ET
Through the Eyes of Picasso - Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo
Through April 8, 2018
In 1907, the 25-year-old Pablo Picasso visited Paris’s Ethnographic Museum of the Trocadéro (now the Museum of Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac)—“by chance,” he later said. As period photographs reveal, the museum was a jumble of large vitrines packed with masks, small sculptures, pottery, skeletons and mummified bodies, plus models of “indigenous” peoples, with large sculptures placed outside the glass cases—a miscellany, identified only by place of origin, from Africa, Oceania, and Meso-America. It wasn’t Picasso’s first encounter with work of this kind. A year earlier, at Gertrude Stein’s , Henri Matisse had showed him a small seated male figure from the Congo, recently acquired from a curio shop. The young Spaniard is said to have held the sculpture for the rest of the evening. But the visit to the Trocadéro seems to have focused his interest in “exotic” art, and he is supposed to have returned many times.
The rest, as they say, is art history. Much has been written about the powerful effect of non-Western art on Picasso. Now, the mesmerizing exhibition “Through the Eyes of Picasso” allows us to see many of the actual artifacts he encountered at the Trocadéro and in friends’ collections, as well as an ample selection of the more than 100 African, Oceanic and Meso-American works he collected and lived with, from 1908 on, together with paintings, drawings and sculptures he made in response. Seen earlier this year in Paris, the exhibition was organized by Yves Le Fur, director of the Department of Heritage and Collections at Quai Branly, in collaboration with the Picasso Museum, Paris. The associate curator was Julián Zugazagoitia, director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.
In Kansas City, we begin with masks from the Trocadéro that Picasso might have seen. A selection ranging from Alaska and Greenland, to Ivory Coast and Nigeria, to New Guinea and Sri Lanka reminds us that it was not African art alone that interested the Spanish master. A brief film assembled from late 19th-century images of the museum documents how casually these potent objects were presented at the time. A well-known 1908 photograph of Picasso in his studio in Le Bateau Lavoir, flanked by sculptures from the Congo and New Caledonia—included in the show—continue the story, while a section titled “Disrupting Tradition” underscores the young Spaniard’s omnivorous appetite for “nontraditional” art with the hieratic, full-length, black-clad female figure and the pair of small heads by Henri Rousseau that he acquired in 1908, and a few of the elementally simple third- and fourth-century B.C. Iberian stone heads he first saw in an exhibition at the Louvre, in 1905.
The exhibition’s Picassos—ranging from 1907 studies for “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” with African mask-like faces, to a wide-eyed “Bust of a Man Writing” (1971), as fierce and curvilinear as the exhibition’s exorcism mask from Sri Lanka—make clear that the artist was fascinated, stimulated and perhaps liberated by the formal challenges non-Western, nontraditional works offered to the classical ideals he had rapidly absorbed during his academic art education in Spain.
Did the way the non-Western artists conjured up human bodies with confrontational poses, geometric forms, and reversals of concavity and convexity—for example—inspire Picasso’s innovations, or did it give him permission to pursue an already present desire for radical reinvention? We’ll never know, but the exhibition’s Picassos not only confirm his lifelong, daring experimentation, in general, but also, more specifically, confirm that his formal vocabulary over his entire long career was informed by his appreciation of (mainly) African and Oceanic art. In all the works by Picasso on view, whatever their date or medium, we see echoes of the staring eyes of New Guinea paintings and the frontal, bent-kneed stance and swelling limbs of African sculptures, along with expressive simplifications, sexual forthrightness, and an eagerness to turn rounded forms into angular ones and vice versa, all of which have antecedents in non-Western art.
Picasso, of course, knew nothing of the history or function of the masks and figures he admired within the cultures that produced them. He seems to have found them intense but threatening—perhaps a legacy of his traditional training—describing them as “weapons” conceived to counter malignant forces. An excellent section of “Through the Eyes of Picasso” contextualizes the exhibition’s “source” works with informative, capsule descriptions of their original, varied roles—communicating with ancestors, ensuring fertility, comic relief, and more. It’s plain, however, that Picasso found what he needed in these works, over almost seven decades. It’s impossible to imagine how his art might have evolved had he not wandered into the Trocadéro in 1907.
The Nelson-Atkins is the only American venue for “Through the Eyes of Picasso.” If you can’t get to Missouri, there’s a handsome, copiously illustrated catalog.
—Ms. Wilkin is an independent curator and critic.
Appeared in the December 4, 2017, print edition as 'Picasso Under the Influence.'
https://www.wsj.com/articles/through-the-eyes-of-picasso-review-an-artist-under-the-influence-1512216001?emailToken=JRv6dPh+Z3SUgdM3Zswg1Ecvc6YITvOJSxbaPX3Rf0/C8WTUquu63KJwndapoG6wAE98otke828kWXjMhmZnRoqNm7M6kFGqf2RQqJrJlFTWYx6BxRDSJbM=