Donations and Returns. Summer 2018

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African ceramics from the collection of Franz Duke of Bavaria donated to Design Museum in Munich

MUNICH.- Over 1,300 items of African ceramics from the collection of Franz Duke of Bavaria are going to Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum as donations or items on permanent loan, and will thus be made accessible to the public.
Starting in the 1960s, His Royal Highness the Duke of Bavaria has established an important collection of African ceramics. The collection comprises examples from different African regions and focuses in particular on ceramic vessels from the 19th and 20th centuries.
In terms of scope, precision of selection, and quality of the individual pieces, the collection is widely regarded as one of the most important collections of African ceramics world-wide. Despite having such a strong reputation among the specialists, it is not widely known.
The thrilling, highly aesthetic objects are formally very diverse and include items of everyday use as well as ritually employed vessels. The range of designs oscillates between the abstract and the figurative.
On the intentions behind his gift and loan to Die Neue Sammlung, H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria said:
“In addition to the purely scholarly interest, it is precisely in connection with design, and by extension to ceramics from European cultures that we gain a new and interesting perspective on the African pieces.”
Die Neue Sammlung itself can look back on a long and rich collecting tradition in the realm of ceramics. In the very year of its foundation, the museum acquired ceramics at the World Fair in Paris and quite consciously emphasized an international approach. Today, the collection at Die Neue Sammlung comprises over 5,000 one-off ceramic objects and about 1,000 items of industrial ceramics. The focus lies on ceramic pieces from Europe (Germany, England, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia), but the museum also holds sets of works from Asia (China, Japan and Korea) as well as the US.
Twenty years ago, Die Neue Sammlung was able to acquire 12 major ceramics from the Art Nouveau collection of H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria.
Even though ceramics forms just one of the museum’s collection areas, and there are more than 20 in all, there is no other design museum world-wide that has a collection of ceramics as comprehensive, high-quality and closely meshed as that of Die Neue Sammlung.
The African Ceramics collection closes the unfortunate geographical gap in the holdings with an inventory that is as outstanding in terms of quality as it is in quantity.
“The donation and permanent loan of African ceramics form an important extension to our collection and a major addition to our non-European holdings. We are very grateful for the exceptionally generous gift,” comments Angelika Nollert, Director of Die Neue Sammlung.
From the summer of 2019 onwards, Die Neue Sammlung will be honoring this generous gift by hosting a comprehensive exhibition supplemented by a publication and an accompanying program with international guests. The title of the exhibition “Seen differently. African ceramics from the Franz, Duke of Bavaria Collection” highlights the special nature of the new context. In a museum for design and applied art with a large ceramics collection comprising mostly ceramic vessels from the early 20th century onward, the African ceramic objects can be viewed specifically in light of design and artistic aspects in comparison to ceramics made in other countries at the same time. And conversely Die Neue Sammlung’s ceramics collection also gains a new context through this important expansion.
“The African Ceramics Collection and its bestowal to Die Neue Sammlung by H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria to Die Neue Sammlung – The Design Museum is an impressive testimony to his passion for collecting and his cultural patronage. Die Neue Sammlung as one of the largest design museums world-wide is now able to draw on a trove of items that place the rich seam of its existing collections in a new context. I am delighted that Bavaria as a center of culture is gaining such a marvelous addition and would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to H.R.H. Franz Duke of Bavaria in the name of all art lovers of the Free State,” said Minister of Science and the Arts Prof. Marion Kiechle in prior to the press talk at Die Neue Sammlung in the rotunda of Pinakothek der Moderne.

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State museum displays 19th century tomahawk recently returned to museum's collections
ALBANY, NY.- The New York State Museum announced that an 18th-century Native American tomahawk gifted to Cornplanter, the respected Seneca leader, by President George Washington in 1792 has been returned to the Museum’s collections and will go on exhibit in the State Museum’s main lobby July 17 through December 30.
Pipe tomahawks were significant objects of intercultural exchange in the 18th century and could be used as smoking pipes; smoking was a common ceremonial practice between parties after reaching an agreement. The meetings between Washington and Cornplanter, also known as Gy-ant-waka, in the 1790s eventually led to the Treaty of Canandaigua (1794), which established peace between the sovereign nations of the U.S. and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. For nearly 70 years this tomahawk was in the hands of private collectors, after being stolen from the Museum between 1947 and 1950. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous collector, the pipe tomahawk was returned to the State Museum’s collections in June 2018.
“We’re pleased to put this historic artifact on public display so children and families can learn about Cornplanter and his role as a diplomat helping to establish peace between sovereign nations, an important part of New York history,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa.
“The tomahawk is a key artifact in our Native American ethnography collection, and we’re pleased it has been returned to the State Museum,” said State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “I encourage teachers to bring their students to the Museum to explore the history of the Native Peoples of New York and learn about the fascinating story of Cornplanter’s tomahawk.”
“We’re honored to exhibit Cornplanter’s tomahawk—an incredibly important artifact that speaks of Native American, New York, and American history and culture,” said Mark Schaming, Deputy Commissioner of Cultural Education and Director of the State Museum. “The State Museum has a large Native American ethnography collection that includes thousands of objects of art and material culture from tribes across North America. We’re grateful to the anonymous donor for returning this iconic artifact to the museum, where the public can once again view it and learn from it for generations to come.”
The pipe tomahawk entered the State Museum’s collection in 1850 courtesy of Seneca diplomat Ely Parker, who purchased it from the widow of a Seneca named Small Berry. On one side of the blade is Cornplanter’s name, Gy-ant-waka, and on the other side of the blade is the name “John Andrus,” possibly the manufacturer. Parker replaced the haft with one made of curly maple wood and silver inlay to reflect what the original haft may have looked like, based on descriptions from Small Berry’s widow, as the original haft had long since been replaced. Parker also added a brass plate engraved with his name on the bore end of the tomahawk.
On Tuesday, July 17 at noon at the Museum’s Huxley Theater, Dr. Gwendolyn Saul, curator of ethnography, will host a talk about the return of Cornplanter’s pipe tomahawk, the remarkable history of Cornplanter and the beginnings of the Museum’s ethnology collections. The talk is free and open to the public.

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United States returns stolen copy of Christopher Columbus letter to Spain
WASHINGTON (AFP).- After years of searching, the United States has returned to Spain a rare copy of a 1493 letter from Christopher Columbus, which had been stolen from a national archive in Barcelona.
The letter, addressed to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain and describing the explorer's discoveries in the New World, was one of 16 copies made at the time of the original missive on Columbus's orders.
Stolen from the National Library of Catalonia in Barcelona in 2004 or 2005, the document was handed over late Wednesday to the Spanish ambassador to Washington, US officials said.
The thieves who took the letter had replaced it with a forgery, and the switch was only discovered by experts in 2012 after a tip from an informant that several other copies had been stolen from archives across Europe and replaced with expertly crafted fakes.
The discovery sparked a seven-year international investigation that reached as far as Paris and Brasilia.
Investigators found that the Barcelona copy had been sold in 2005 by Italian secondhand book dealers for 600,000 euros ($708,850), and then resold in 2011 for 900,000 euros.
After "long negotiations," the letter's unidentified owner in Brazil handed it over in 2014 to US authorities, who used experts to establish its authenticity.
In the letter, Columbus tells the Spanish crown everything about his first trip to America, still believing he was in the East Indies.
The text begins with his departure from Puerto de Palos in Spain in August 1492 and ends when he returns to Lisbon in March 1493, seven months later.
"We are truly honored to return this historically important document back to Spain, its rightful owner," US Attorney David Weiss said at the ceremony to return the document to the Spanish envoy.
© Agence France-Presse