Da Vinci Painting Update; Where is "Salvator Mundi"


PARIS (AFP).- Later this year, the Louvre in Paris will host an exhibition of masterpieces by the Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci to mark his death 500 years ago in France.

But the work that in recent months has been the intense focus of scrutiny by the media and da Vinci specialists, may not be on show.
In 2017, "Salvator Mundi" was sold at auction by Christie's as a work by da Vinci for a record $450 million. But it has not been displayed in public since, triggering doubts about its ownership, its whereabouts and its authenticity.
The painting, a portrait of Jesus, was to go on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in September last year. But its unveiling was postponed by the museum without any explanation.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi has kept tight-lipped about the identity of the buyer, saying only that the emirate's Department of Culture and Tourism had "acquired" it.
And the mystery has further deepened ahead of a visit by Italian President Sergio Mattarella who will join France's President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday on a trip to the Loire Valley to mark the anniversary of da Vinci's death there in 1519, at the age of 67.
"The Louvre has asked the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi for the painting to be given on loan," a Louvre spokesperson told AFP.
"But we have not yet had any reply."
Proscribed by Islam?
According to the Wall Street Journal, the buyer of the picture was Saudi prince Badr ben Abdallah, acting in the name of powerful Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He has never confirmed or denied the report.
Prince Badr was appointed to head the kingdom's culture ministry in a government shakeup in June.
Saudi Arabia and the neighbouring United Arab Emirates are very close allies who are both engaged militarily in the war against rebels in Yemen.
Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS) is also a close confidant of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed who along with Macron opened the Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2017, the first foreign institution to carry the name of the great Paris museum.
The painting's disappearance comes as MBS's international reputation has taken a battering over the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, in which he denies any involvement.
Artprice, the leading art market information service, said clerics from Sunni Islam's leading authority the Al Azhar university in Cairo told MBS the painting could not be displayed on religious grounds.
Jesus is seen as a prophet within Islam, which prohibits any physical depiction of God. But the picture portrays him as a saviour and thus a deity.
'Nothing by Leonardo'
Many art experts remain unconvinced of the painting's authenticity.
"Certain details are very telling," said Jacques Franck, a specialist in da Vinci's technique, pointing to the poor depiction of a finger and other elements that are "anatomically impossible".
He said that at the time the canvas was painted, da Vinci had his workshop complete certain paintings because he himself had very little time.
Daniel Salvatore Schiffer, another da Vinci expert, also believes the painting was not done by the Italian master.
"When you analyse the details, nothing is by Leonardo, it doesn't have his spirit."
Ben Lewis, an art historian who wrote "The Last Leonardo" said London's National Gallery, which exhibited the painting in 2011, had not taken on board the advice of five experts who were sent to authenticate the painting.
Although two of them believed it was authentic, another didn't, and the others were unsure. But the painting was presented at the exhibition as a genuine work by Leonardo da Vinci.
But Diane Modestini, who worked on the restoration of the painting from 2005, said she did not understand the controversy, insisting that "Leonardo da Vinci painted it".
A Christie's spokesman said, "We stand by the thorough research and scholarship that led to the attribution of this painting in 2010. No new discussion or speculation since the 2017 sale at Christie’s has caused us to revisit its position.”
'Reputation and credibility'
The Louvre says its exhibition, due to open in Paris in the autumn, will bring together "a unique group of artworks that only the Louvre could bring together" in addition to its own outstanding Leonardo collection.
But whether people will be able to draw their own conclusions by actually seeing the "Salvator Mundi" remains to be seen.
"If the Louvre has still not received a response (from Abu Dhabi) months before the exhibition, it is because the work will not be exhibited there," said Franck.
Schiffer said it could end up being a positive thing for the Paris gallery, which could see its "reputation and credibility tarnished" if the work was exhibited.

"ARIS Art Insurer Launches New Risk-Assessment Product ‘Know Your Title’"

ARIS, the insurer and underwriter of title insurance for art and collectibles, has created a new service for title risk assessment of artworks for prospective buyers. Under the name Know Your Title, the offering, which will be unveiled Tuesday at the Art Business Conference in New York, includes evaluations of provenance and matters relating to parties involved in transactions.


Mary Buschman, president of ARIS Title Insurance Corporation, told ARTnews that, in the past six months, the company has seen “an influx in inquiries in pre-sales,” noting that collectors today often consider the viability of their purchases as long-term investments.“What we’re finding more and more is that buyers are now future sellers,” she said. “People see potential risks that they could mitigate beforehand.” For Know Your Title, ARIS researchers look into possible instances of theft in an artwork’s history, questions of ownership, litigation associated with sellers, and other risks.

Buschman noted one case in which ARIS looked into a $15 million artwork in Europe for a client and determined that, though the provenance was sound, the seller had been entangled in legal disputes and potentially engaged in fraud. Ultimately, the client did not purchase the work. “Sellers should be aware that they can’t just ride roughshod over wealthy collectors,” Buschman said. “People have become much more savvy.” Issues relating to repatriation in recent years “factor into my risk matrix,” Buschman said. “At the same time that people are coming to us for a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ high or low risk, that could change two or three years from now [owing to] something that I couldn’t necessarily predict.”

She added that the trend toward automation and technology in the art market is at odds with the kind of work that ARIS is undertaking. “How do you verify things? It takes time,” she said. “Whether something is worth a thousand dollars or a million dollars, you need to go through the information you’re given. We slow the pace down and ask questions.”


"Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum to receive archaeological pieces discovered beneath zoo"

A trove of more than 30,000 imperial artefacts has been discovered during the refurbishment of the RioZoo in Rio de Janeiro’s Quinta da Boa Vista park in São Cristóvão. Archaeologists uncovered ceramics, glassware, accessories, metalware, uniforms and other clothing dating from the 19th to 20th century.


The Quinta da Boa Vista park also houses the now-gutted National Museum, which was destroyed by fire last September. The museum was founded by King João VI of Portugal in 1818 as the residence of the Portuguese royal family, and archaeologists suggest that some of the items they discovered were given to residents of the surrounding area to improve relations between the royals, free and enslaved workers and military personnel.

Maria Christina Leal Rodrigues, one of the archaeologists leading the zoo refurbishment project with the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage, says that when the RioZoo was built in 1888, there was no archaeological research conducted in the area. “We are now working to identify the remnants of the foundation of old buildings on the site so we can relate those findings to the objects we uncovered,” she adds.

When the $65m reais renovation began in February 2018, experts had a hunch that the 55,000 sq metre zoo was probably concealing some buried treasures. Researchers are optimistic they will uncover more pieces as the refurbishment unfolds over the next year.

Around 11,000 pieces were discovered in a 3,000 sq. m space, leading archaeologists to believe that the area was probably used for refuse. “These concentrations usually occur at archaeological sites”, says Rodrigues. She adds, “We’re still researching the exact relationship between the objects and this area”.

The majority of the objects will be given to the National Museum, which lost most of its 20,000-piece collection when it caught fire last September due to a faulty air-conditioner unit. Archaeologists are still cleaning and cataloguing the objects, and there is a possibility that some pieces will be included in temporary exhibitions ahead of the museum’s relaunch, for which no date has been given.


"Church and State disagree over management of religious heritage in France"


In France, churches traditionally belong to the parishes in which they are located, but were placed at the disposal of the clergy by the 1905 law separating Church and State. This dual administration still causes problems for their maintenance and conservation. “A church is designed for worship, it should not be allowed to become a museum”; says Father Bernard Violle, a member of the diocesan commission for religious art in Paris. “The Church tends to assume that liturgical practice should have priority in a monument, we think the opposite”, says Maryvonne de Saint-Pulgent, head of the department dealing with the national heritage at the Ministry of Culture.

The law separating Church and State, passed on 9 December 1905, established State ownership of cathedrals and parish council ownership of churches built before 1905. The inevitable result has been serious differences of opinion between clergy and government over the administration of religious buildings.

The requirements of organised religion and the needs of France’s architectural heritage are far from identical. The stakes are similar, however. In a census taken in 1987 the Ministry of Culture counted 32,000 churches and about 6,000 chapels in France; there are eighty-seven cathedrals, all classified monuments. Only churches built after 1905 fall outside public ownership; they belong to the diocese of which the bishop is the head.

Under French law, the parish council owns the building itself and its furnishings and puts these at the disposal of the clergy for acts of worship. The parish council is responsible for the maintenance and restoration of the building but does not pay for lighting, heating or expenses connected with religious observances, which are the responsibility of the clergy. No building works can be undertaken without the agreement of the parish council, and the parish priest may not sell objects or remove them from the church without the permission of the mayor. If the church is listed, or classified as a monument of particular historical interest, the permission of the Commission on Historical Buildings must also be sought.

On the other hand the priest in charge, who holds the keys, may decide the use to which the church is put and the hours when it is open and closed. In the past, the clergy sometimes “forgot” to obtain the mayor’s permission to make alterations to a church. In the 1960s, after Vatican II, the church desired to divest itself of some of the liturgical items in its possession, judging them too ostentatious and unsuited to the new liturgy, which was much more austere. Objects such as choir screens, communion rails and thrones were no longer needed.

In 1964 the parish priest of Saint-Roch in Paris illegally sold the church’s chandeliers to an antique dealer. The affair was hushed up by the administration at the time and the chandeliers are now hanging in an apartment in New York. In another example, a parish priest in Brittany handed over a collection of listed neo-Gothic furnishings to a scrap dealer; the error was discovered by the chief inspector of historic monuments before it was too late. In the clergy’s defence, parish councils generally neglected their religious heritage and were not particularly eager to enforce their rights of ownership. “For many years the art of the 19th century, to which most of the furnishings of Parisian churches belong, was held in mild derision by conservationists. A 19-century communion table was removed with the permission of the conservationist in charge, who regarded it as old-fashioned and worthless”, says Father Violle.

When in 1970 the Revenue asked the Parisian authorities for an inventory of their possessions in Parisian churches, the municipality had to admit its ignorance on the subject. Since that date a commission has been created to list the chattels and furnishings held by churches in Paris; the inventory is still being drawn up. For their part, art historians are still mistrustful of clerical taste, accusing the clergy of a lack of culture and blaming them for putting their own interests first. Since the 1960s discussions between the government and the church have focused largely on altars. Since the Second Vatican Council the priest celebrating the mass no longer has his back to the congregation. The clergy thinks this means that altars need to be moved. Because the altar is an integral part of the building, conservationists consider that altars should not be moved. The 1905 decree permits the priest to move furniture inside the building, or to place things in outhouses when they are no longer in use, but to move fixed items such as an altar he needs the permission of the commune.

Maryvonne de Saint-Pulgent reveals that permission was requested by the clergy to shift the high altar in Rheims Cathedral, but the request was turned down. Recently the parishioners of Saint-Christophe-de-Javel, in the 15th arrondissement, asked permission to cut down the choir screen. They wanted to push back the altar in order to add two extra rows of pews to accommodate a larger congregation in the nave. “We refused permission because the integrity of the building was threatened”, explains Yves Gagneux, supervisor of church furnishings in the cultural affairs department of the Ville de Paris.

These constraints annoy the clergy, who would like to be allowed to organise churches according to liturgical requirements. “The administration tends to encroach on the freedom of church furnishings to be moved around. In the case of a statue that is awkwardly placed, for instance, the parish priest should be able to move it without too many difficulties being put in his way”, says Isabelle Renaud-Chamska, secretary-general of the national commission on religious art, set up by the conference of French bishops. In order to tackle such problems, and to keep an eye on church furnishings nationally, the Catholic church has set up a commission on church art in every diocese. In addition, to alleviate tension between Church and State, a commission for the protection and enrichment of the country’s cultural heritage was created in 1979 to deal with all aspects of religious art. The clergy suspects that the government would like to remove all devotional objects from churches and put them in museums; they would be safer than they are in religious buildings, where they fall easy prey to art thieves. In Paris a number of items from churches have been placed in the Musée du Petit Palais; gold plate from Sainte Clothilde is in the Musée d’Orsay, but these transfers are not permanent. In the opinion of Isabelle Renaud-Chamska, “these church furnishings are primarily devotional objects, not works of art, and must stay in the churches”.

Broadly speaking, Maryvonne de Saint-Pulgent agrees: “We are opposed to removing things to museums; as far as possible items should remain in churches”. With a view to preserving the most valuable objects where they are, some churches have gathered them together in a “treasury”, but this demands a security system. Maryvonne de Saint-Pulgent reports that the chapel at Gimel, in the Corrèze, has received financial assistance towards the security measures needed to create a treasury. Secure display cabinets installed in redundant side chapels have been suggested as one solution. A number of parishes have deposited their collections of devotional art in museums, safe from damp and thieves. The parish priest may claim back items at any time if he requires them for a church service.

The museum of religious art in Pont-Saint-Esprit (Gard), which opened last year, is based on this type of arrangement. The civil and religious authorities sometimes reach a compromise over arrangements inside a church. At Saint Etienne-du-Mont, in the fifth arrondissement in Paris, an altar has been installed on a wooden dais so that the priest can face the congregation during Mass, a solution that was adopted 20 years ago as a temporary measure. As part of the restoration plan of about 20 churches in Paris the city authorities are to issue descriptive booklets on each church. However, some priests refuse to allow labels to be placed on the walls next to works of art because the result is too reminiscent of a museum. Brochures have already been published for the churches of Saint-Roch and Saint-Thomas-d’Aquinas; each contains a short history of the church plus a plan and notes on the objects of interest contained in the church. “We want to encourage tourists to visit churches in Paris as they do in Rome”, Yves Gagneux says.


"Notre Dame benefits from the battle of the billionaires"

As the flames engulfed Notre-Dame in Paris yesterday, François-Henri Pinault, chief executive officer of the Kering Group which owns Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, pledged €100m to help rebuild the cathedral.


This morning, Bernard Arnault, the chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said his family will donate twice that amount, €200m, for the rebuilding effort.

Speaking to the BBC, Pinault said that he hoped others would come forward too. “We need to rebuild collectively this part of our history, our culture. It has to be a collective effort, like it was in the Middle Ages when Notre-Dame was first built. Everyone with the means should participate. Everyone is welcome.”

This promise of huge sums for a public project is highly unusual in France where billionaires are more likely to spend money on their own private ventures than on state-run initiatives. Perhaps the personal history of France’s two most prominent luxury goods magnates played a part in these generous philanthropic pledges.

Arnault, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes at $91.7bn, has spent much of his professional life competing with François-Henri’s father, François Pinault whose family is worth $35bn.

In the 90s, the duo engaged in an ugly and protracted fight over control of the Italian fashion brand Gucci, a battle which Pinault ultimately won. Today they preside over competing fashion brands and competing wine labels and have both built extensive art collections and put them on public display.

In 2005, Pinault abandoned plans to build a museum on Île Seguin, an island in the western suburbs of Paris, citing bureaucratic red tape and instead opened two contemporary art museums in Venice at the Palazzo Grassi in 2006 and Punta della Dogana in 2009.

In 2014, Arnault opened his own grand gallery in Paris designed by the Canadian architect Frank Gehry in the Bois de Boulogne, a park in the west of the city.

Is it the spectacular success of Arnault’s Parisian venture that inspired Pinault to revive his dreams of a museum in the French capital? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, Pinault will soon realise his ambition to open a museum in Paris when he inaugurates a new gallery in the historic Bourse de Commerce, a magnificent, circular building topped by a dome that was once used as a commodities exchange.

And if the competitiveness between France’s two leading luxury goods families can spur them to grand philanthropic pledges like the €300m they have promised for Notre-Dame, then we will all benefit from this long-standing personal rivalry.

UPDATE: The French luxury and cosmetics group L’Oreal, along with the Bettencourt Meyers family and the Bettencourt Schueller foundation, will donate €200m for repairs to the Notre-Dame Cathedral.


"Precious works rescued from Notre Dame to be transferred to the Louvre"


Some of the most valuable objects rescued as Notre Dame Cathedral burned in Paris on Monday evening are due to be transported to the Louvre Museum from the Hotel de Ville, where they were stored overnight, according to the French Culture Minister Franck Riester.

At risk of being seriously injured by falling drops of molten lead, firefighters created a human chain to carry precious Medieval artefacts including the Holy Crown of Thorns and the tunic of Saint Louis to safety last night.

“These treasures were saved thanks to a huge amount of courage by the firefighters of Paris working with the ministry of culture and city officials,” Riester said.

A spokeswoman for the Louvre told The Art Newspaper it is too early to give details about which works the museum will temporarily house, or whether it will be involved in restoration, but confirmed it “is working closely with all competent authorities to help safeguard artworks that may have been affected”.

She added: “The fire is a disaster for the world heritage of humanity, for our city, for all of us. The Musée du Louvre would like to express its solidarity with and compassion towards all teams involved.”

Speaking to French media today, Riester said the Holy Crown of Thorns, believed to have been placed on Jesus’s head during his crucifixion, and the 13th-century tunic of Saint Louis were transported to the Hotel de Ville on Monday night together with other works of art and religious relics.

The fate of other works, including large 17th-century pictures by Antoine Nicolas and Jean Jouvenet, hang in the balance. Riester said it was “too early to say” whether the paintings had survived. He added: “The fire did not reach them, but in such cases there is often water damage. We will know more as soon as we can get back inside and establish a diagnosis. We must remove the paintings as soon as possible, clean them, dehumidify them, put them in a suitable place for conservation and begin restoration.”

The condition of 14th-century carved reliefs by Pierre de Chelle, Jean Ravy and Jean Le Bouteiller remains unknown, while the stone statuary and gargoyles that adorn the cathedral are likely to have been affected. Earlier this month, 16 copper statues were airlifted and moved for renovation from the cathedral’s spire.

Another slither of hope came this morning with images posted on social media that appear to suggest that all three rose stained glass windows, including the immense window to the north with original 13th-century glasswork, have survived–although the extent of fire damage is unknown.

Christophe Girard, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of culture, praised the collaboration between the city hall, ministry of culture and the Louvre in removing everything that could be saved. “It’s a tragedy not only for Paris, but for the whole world,” he said.


"French Government to Hold Architecture Competition for Notre-Dame Rebuilding"

Following a blaze that burned the central spire and a large part of the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, the French government has announced an international competition for architects to propose plans for rebuilding the structure.


The news follows a promise by French president Emmanuel Macron that the cathedral will be rebuilt within the next five years, in time for Paris to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. Officials at the cathedral have said that Notre-Dame will likely be closed for five to six years.

“This is obviously a huge challenge, a historic responsibility,” France’s prime minister, Édouard Philippe, said of the project.

Already the rebuilding initiative has received a large influx of funds, with sizable sums coming from two art collectors—François Pinault, who along with his son François-Henri said he will give €100 million ($113 million), and Bernard Arnault, who said he will give €200 million ($226 million). Officials have estimated that the project has already received close to €885 million ($995 million) in donations from philanthropists and the general public.

Officials are still assessing damage to works inside the cathedral. It is known that one of the most valuable objects in Notre-Dame, a crown believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ, was salvaged, as were 16 sculptures that had been removed in the days before the fire.


"The Collecting Couple Promoting Emerging, Diverse Art in Dallas"

Last August, when the emergent art collecting couple Joe and Kristen Cole moved from Austin to Dallas, they wanted to find a home where they could showcase their developing collection. They are of a new generation of Texas art patrons and buy work by living artists who don’t necessarily have overwhelming market heat in New York and London. The artists they collect are often young women whose work might never end up on the walls of the more staid older guard of the city’s collecting class.

But among the new guard, the Coles are gaining prominence. In a quite literal passing of the baton, the Coles decided to move into the Preston Hollow home built by Howard and Cindy Rachofsky, arguably the city’s foundational art collectors, where they had raised a family amid a revolving display of contemporary art.

“It feels right—it’s a 1990s modernist house built by collectors,” Kristen Cole said while sitting on a white couch in the sprawling living room, which looks out onto a tasteful backyard with a pool, light streaming in from a big glass sliding door. “It’s the only house we looked at in Dallas. We were just like: Done! Easy!”

“We love Howard and Cindy,” she added. “Howard was one of the first people we met down here. He really did blow my mind in terms of how thoughtful a collector he is.”

It was a Wednesday afternoon, and the house was abuzz with kids home from school and soccer practice, music humming from the kitchen, and an adorable, extremely enthusiastic French bulldog named Kiki yipping and repeatedly jumping upon the visiting reporter. Kristen had left work early—she is the president and chief creative officer of Forty Five Ten, the Dallas-based high-fashion boutique that just opened an instantly Instagram-famous store in New York’s Hudson Yards. It’s been called the “Millennial generation’s answer to Barney’s” and sells unconventional and hard-to-find wares.

Joe, who works as a creative consultant for Forty Five Ten’s billionaire owner Tim Headington, was wearing a hard-to-cop shirt from a line called Shrits, in which he’s an angel investor—it’s available only in person, and only on Saturdays, at the Marlborough Contemporary gallery in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. (Max Levai, Marlborough’s principal director, is the brand’s official plus-size model.) Joe’s shirt (or “shrit”) is a spin on the iconic Nirvana shirt, but with “ARIANA” (as in, Ariana Grande) in the original font, and a doughnut instead of the smiley face (a reference to that time Grande got caught on tape licking donuts she wasn’t buying and saying “I hate America.”) It was designed by the artist Andrew Kuo

The couple was preparing to receive an onslaught of visitors during the week of the Dallas Art Fair, and their house—which the Rachofskys had modernist maven Lionel Morrison design for them in 1997—is an ideal place to hang and show off art. But the old guard of Dallas collectors tend to buy big, flashy masterpieces by established market juggernauts. Rachofsky buys Donald Judd and Robert Ryman and once owned Jeff Koons’s Balloon Flower (Magenta) (1995–99), before selling it at Christie’s for $25.8 million in 2008. The Coles, however, have worked with a tight-knit crew of dealers to build up a collection reflecting their singular taste.


They started to buy while living in Los Angeles, where, in 2008, the couple founded TenOverSix, a boutique that treated avant-garde accessories and clothing as artworks by placing them in a gallery-like context. The couple moved to Austin in 2015, where they ran the hospitality group ByGeorge while Joe worked for Headington, whose revamped and expanded Joule Hotel opened in Dallas in 2013 with a lobby area overseen by the Coles along with Brady Cunningham, complete with a new outpost of TenOverSix on the premises. In 2018, Headington bought TenOverSix and put Kristen Cole in charge of the entire operation.

And so, after spending 18 months building out a mid-century house in Austin, the Coles had to relocate to Dallas. Not that they didn’t welcome the move.

“Dallas is a much bigger city than Austin, it’s much more connected,” said Joe.

“It’s got an international airport, so that’s a first step,” said Kristen.

Moving to a city with a well-established collecting culture allowed them to present their formidable collection of work by young artists, which serves as a funkier, hipper counterpoint to the city’s brawnier collections with public-facing exhibition apparatuses such as Deedie Rose’s Pump House, the Rachofskys’ Warehouse, and the Karpidas Collection.

“It started out for us a little bit more with photography—I was a little bit buried under a shoe,” Joe said. “And as we continued to mature and spend more time and more money on things, we started getting into paintings and sculpture. For us, it’s more of a visceral reaction—we don’t put much effort into necessarily deciding if something’s going to be a good purchase or a bad purchase. It’s even more about seeing something, getting a bug, and then I can’t get it out of my head and I start to obsess.”

He added: “Generally that process happens in about five minutes.”

Increasingly, the work the Coles can’t get out of their heads is by emerging female artists. When Kristen came into the main foyer, we embarked on a quick tour while Kiki trotted beside and barked up a storm. Installed right now in Morrison’s 5,800-square-foot, light-filled house are works by Katherine Bradford, Sam Moyer

Joe said that while their desire to blend contemporary art and hospitality may be common in New York or L.A., it’s not yet a thing in Dallas. Well-heeled clients stepping into Neiman Marcus—which changed the national fashion retail landscape forever when it opened in downtown Dallas in 1907—don’t necessarily expect to see something like a giant Katherine Bernhardt mural.

“It’s catching on here—in a lot of other markets I don’t think you see this much art in these commercial environments,” Joe Cole said. “As far as Dallas is concerned, it’s been contagious.”

The Coles cooked up one more contribution to the run of events here in Dallas this week: An outdoor selling show of paintings that opened at their house on Friday, with the work being offered to local collectors by galleries representing artists whom the Coles collect. The couple put it together with Marlborough’s Levai and Spengemann, and Canada Gallery’s Phil Grauer and Suzanne Butler.

“Pascal and I were talking at one point, saying, oh, we’re going to be here all week—how can we expand what we’re doing at the fair?” Joe said. “And you know they have the Bridge outdoor art fair in the Hamptons, and he had this idea about putting paintings outside of someone’s house. I said, ‘I have a house.’”

Paintings are not typically installed outside due to, you know, the high chance of a common weather occurence that can destroy them. As Joe put it Wednesday, “It’s a certain element of risk as, if it rains, it doesn’t happen, which I think is part of the fun of it.” But by 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, with no rain clouds on the horizon, a few dozen people were drinking margaritas and Modelos, eating chips and queso, and taking in the large works by Bernhardt, Bradford, Greg Bogin


"A major fire is raging in Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral."


The roof of Paris’s iconic Notre Dame Cathedral was engulfed in flames on Monday evening; a Notre Dame official told Le Monde the blaze began after a fire was spotted in the cathedral’s attic around 6:50 p.m. local time. Though the severity of the fire remains unknown, dramatic footage from the scene on social media and news media showed flames overtaking the spire and roof of the cathedral, both of which ultimately collapsed. Anne Le Breton, the adjunct to the mayor of the 4th arrondissement, where the Cathedral is located, told France Info late Monday evening that firefighters were working to stop the fire from spreading to the towers that make up the façade of the building.

On Twitter, Paris’s Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the city’s fire department and the Diocese of Paris were coordinating their efforts to fight the fire and set up a security perimeter. According to AP, Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told BFMTV that first responders are trying to save the countless artworks and other valuable objects from within the Cathedral. French President Emmanuel Macron, who was due to give a televised speech on Monday night addressing the Yellow Vests movement, canceled those plans to visit the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is currently undergoing an €11-million ($12.4 million) renovation, which involved lifting 16 copper statues from its central spire last week. This spire, which was added to the cathedral in the 19th century, was the focus of the restoration work underway when the fire broke out. Just before 8 p.m. local time, the tip of the spire collapsed, followed by the rest of it and much of the roof structure not long thereafter. A spokesperson for the fire department told the AFP the fire was “potentially linked” to the renovations.

The enormous Gothic Cathedral was built between 1163 and 1345 atop the ruins of two previous churches. Pope Alexander III laid its foundation stone in 1163, and its high altar was consecrated 23 years later. It is among the most popular tourist sites in the French capital, drawing about 13 million visitors each year.


"Christie’s landed the $40 million estate of a Texas oil heiress and European princess."


Cecil Amelia Blaffer was born in 1919 in Houston as the heiress to the two biggest oil fortunes in all of Texas. Her father was the founder of what would become Exxon Mobile and her maternal grandfather was the founder of what would become Texaco. It’s hard to imagine what family history could make for a more authentic kind of American royalty. And then, after decades of philanthropy in her native state, “Titi,” as she was called, married Prince Tassilo von Fürstenberg and became a European princess as well. For the rest of her long life, Von Furstenberg continued her dueling mission of public support for the arts and private entertaining at her homes around the world.

All the time, she was building on the collection of modern art her mother, the Texas arts patron Sarah “Sadie” Campbell, had started. Now, 13 years after Princess Titi’s death, more than 30 of those works will go on the auction block at Christie’s during its New York sales in May. The highlights include works by Pablo Picasso, Lucio Fontana, André Derain, and Mark Rothko.

It’s a Picasso that leads the sale, Le Lettre (La Reponse), a 1923 early portrait of his first wife, Olga, that was acquired by Sadie Campbell in 1943 from Picasso’s dealer Paul Rosenberg, and passed on to her daughter. The estimate is on-request, but other outlets have reported it to be between $20 million and $30 million.

In a statement, Adrien Meyer, co-chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s, said:

HSH Princess “Titi” von Fürstenberg was a passionate collector of the “contemporary art” of her time. Her collection was tirelessly put together with great flair in the 1950’s and ranged from a monumental Rothko to a rare 1956 Dubuffet collage painting, from Ernst to Fontana … This collection will appear on the market for the first time as a highlight of the Spring sales allowing Christie’s to pay tribute to Princess Fürstenberg’s remarkable eye.

Eleven works, including the star Picasso lot, will be offered at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at its Rockefeller Center sales room on May 13th. Further works will be offered at the day sale on May 14th.


"The Dallas Museum of Art acquired works by Sheila Hicks, Don Dudley, and others at the Dallas Art Fair."


The Dallas Art Fair opened to VIPs Thursday morning, with nearly 100 galleries offering their wares to visiting collectors as waiters prepared lavish spreads of Texas delicacies such as macaroni and cheese topped with smoked brisket. And at a press conference that kicked things off, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) announced it had cherry-picked eight works at the fair for its permanent collection, courtesy a $150,000 grant provided by donors.

The works acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art include:

Sheila Hicks’s Zihzabal (2018) from galerie frank elbaz, which has a space in Dallas as well as in Paris;

Arcmanoro Niles’s When You Give Your Love Away (2018) from New York’s Rachel Uffner Gallery;

Nobutaka Aozaki’s Street Can: Diet Coke (12 fl oz) (04/03/2014 Red Hook, Brooklyn) (2014), from Ulterior Gallery, in New York;

Maja Ruznic’s Azmira’s Daughters (2018) from Conduit Gallery here in Dallas;

Don Dudley’s LX (2016) from Magenta Plains in New York;

Samuel Levi Jones’s Intercalate (2018) from Galerie Lelong, which has spaces in New York and Paris;

Emmanuel Van der Auwera’s VideoSculpture XX (World's 6th Sense) (2019) from Harlan Levey Projects, which is based in Brussels, Belgium but has a pop-up in Dallas at 214 Projects, the fair’s permanent gallery space in the Dallas Design District;

and Dike Blair’s Untitled (1986) from New York’s Karma gallery.

In a statement, Anna Katherine Brodbeck, who is the DMA’s senior curator of contemporary art, said:

The artists acquired from the Dallas Art Fair exemplify the historical strengths of our collection as well as our commitment to inclusivity across categories of nationality, race, gender, and medium. Included are artists who were part of the historic development of groundbreaking art movements from the 1960s to 1980s like Don Dudley, Dike Blair, and Sheila Hicks, younger artists like Samuel Levi Jones, Arcmanoro Niles, and Nobutaka Aozaki who are incorporating socio political content in their re-envisioning of those historic movements, and artists who are innovating time-based media in immersive installations like Emmanuel Van der Auwera.

The Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisitions Program has funded $450,000 worth of art purchases in the four years it’s been established. The Dallas Art Fair’s 2019 edition runs through Sunday, April 14.


"Deep in the West of Texas: A Report from the First Marfa Invitational Art Fair"

Thursday marked the opening of the first Marfa Invitational, an art fair for the West Texas ranch town that has become an artistic enclave since Donald Judd set up shop there in the 1970s. The new enterprise was founded by artist Michael Phelan, a New York expat who moved to Marfa and invited nine visiting galleries to exhibit one artist each, with an intention to keep the event intimate.


“When you’re in Marfa, it’s really this kind of immersive experience where you have time to look at the works,” Phelan told ARTnews when the show was announced. “What I wanted to create with the fair is a similar model.”

The Marfa Invitational took over the ballroom at the Saint George Hotel, with art exhibited by Marianne Boesky, Lora Reynolds, Nino Mier, Bill Brady, Vitrine, Half Gallery, James Fuentes, Sargent’s Daughters, Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, and Achenbach Hagemeier.

Half Gallery’s Bill Powers, showing a survey of paintings by Korean artist Hiejin Yoo, said at the opening, “It’s fun to be a part of something right at the beginning. There’s been a nice camaraderie between the dealers and the artists that is uncharacteristic of most other fairs.”

A sense of camaraderie carried beyond the exhibitors. Opening night drew a mix of locals and out-of-towners, with folks sipping Shiner Bock in cowboy hats mingling with collectors in blue blazers swishing champagne flutes. One of the locals in attendance was Jane Crockett, the mother of artist Leo Villareal, whose family set up a ranch nearby more than a century ago. “I think the fair is wonderful,” Crockett said. “Michael did a fabulous job. I think the locals are happy to have him.”

Crockett’s grandfather settled in 1885 on that Marfa ranch, which is still maintained today, and her grandmother was one of the first locals to welcome Judd to the town. “She thought it was exciting, unlike some of the other ranchers,” Crockett recalled. “But Marfa needed a boost.” Her hospitality was not always welcome. “She sent him a plant! I don’t think he was a plant guy, though.”

In the midst of the opening, Half Gallery sold three works by Yoo for prices between $2,500 and $8,500. A painting by Corey Mason sold at Achenbach Hagemeier for $6,800. At Marianne Boesky’s booth, textural, geometric paintings by Svenja Deininger went fast: six of the nine works offered sold within the first hour, for prices between $10,000 and $45,000. Across the way, at Bill Brady’s booth, a painting by Tomoo Gokita sold for $140,000 to collector Alison Blood.

The Saint George Hotel is located adjacent to a set of train tracks, and the night was punctuated by occasional vibrations and noise that blared in a manner both startling and meditative. “Everyone’s each other’s neighbor,” Mason, the painter, said.

Among the fair’s other offerings were, at Nino Mier’s booth, brightly colored, crunched metal sculptures by Anna Fasshauer, who made the pieces on display during a residency in Marfa. Margaret Zuckerman, the gallery’s associate director, linked them to another famous artist in town. “When I was in the room where the John Chamberlain sculptures are displayed,” she said of a local offering of the late sculptor’s work, “I looked out the window and saw Anna’s studio. So obviously the pieces are informed by Chamberlain.”

As the opening wound down, visitors ambled to the ballroom’s backyard where a heated pool was lit up. Tacos and quesadillas were served, along with margaritas. Phelan, looking spritely in a tan leather cowboy hat, declared, “All roads lead to Marfa!”


"The Getty Conservation Institute maps out a plan to preserve the Eames House"

The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the Eames Foundation say they have mapped out a conservation plan for the Eames House, the pathbreaking Modern residence built by the legendary mid-century designers Charles and Ray Eames on a bluff in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood in Los Angeles.


The 1949 house and studio complex, which the couple designed and then lived in for the rest of their lives, is known for a steel frame structure clad in panels of varying colours and textures. It is celebrated as one of the best-known residences in the Case Study House Program, which was sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine to promote the design of low-cost, prototypical Modern houses for post-war families. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 2006, and the public can pay to visit the grounds or house by appointment.

The role of the Los Angeles-based Getty Conservation Institute is to advise the non-profit Eames Foundation, which owns the house and will shoulder the conservation and repair costs. Made up of Charles Eames’s daughter and five grandchildren, the foundation plans to embark on a capital campaign keyed to the celebration of the house’s 70th anniversary this year, says Chandler McCoy, a senior project specialist at the Getty Conservation Institute.

“The house is in pretty good condition, but it’s fragile,” McCoy says. Corrosion afflicts the steel-framed window wall assembly of the home, he says. Inside, rubber tiles in the kitchen are cracked and have faded from green to an off-white, and custom-built storage cupboards with Plyon sliding doors have yellowed.

The Eames House is known for its integration into its sloping one-and-a-half acre site, graced by towering eucalyptus trees and a grassy meadow. The conservation management plan therefore takes a holistic approach, addressing not just repairs to the house and studio but also vulnerabilities in the landscape. A signature row of eucalyptus trees adjoining the house that were planted in the 1880s have reached the end of their life span and will need to be replaced with the same or a similar species, McCoy says.

The conservation plan also focusses on the collection of objects in the house, which includes Eames-designed seating, textiles, folk and Abstract Expressionist art, toys, seashells and other items that were grouped by Ray Eames in idiosyncratic tableaux. Excessive sunlight in the double-height living room, with glass panes facing south and east, have caused the fabrics to fade and left paper and plastic objects brittle, Mc Coy says.

“You have 70 years of sun pounding on the house,” he says. “Our recommendation is to control UV light—that’s the most important thing they can do.” The Getty Conservation Institute has recommended installing a UV film atop the glass. “The house can get very hot, and we recommend that they do some dehumidification and keep the air moving.”

Before beginning work on the conservation management plan, the institute guided the foundation in solving some pressing problems. The house rests on a concrete slab into which water had intruded, severely damaging the flooring in the living room. A moisture barrier was therefore installed atop the concrete, and the vinyl asbestos tile in the living room was replaced by a vinyl composition tile.

The Getty Conservation Institute tackled the project through its Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, which is overseen by McCoy and focusses on preserving 20th-century heritage.

Entering the house or studio, a visitor can immediately sense how the home served as an incubator for the Eames legacy in architecture, furniture, graphics and industrial design.

“It’s a charming house to be in because you have a mix of really interesting things like furniture and textiles they designed and a few pieces of art that are very fine,” McCoy says. “It’s fascinating: every surface has some interesting little kind of something that’s unique to the Eameses. They like to say that it’s as if the couple just stepped away from the house.”


"A Grand Tour: The Met’s Girault de Prangey Show Offers a Remarkable Look at the Early Days of Photography—and a Vanished World"


D‎uring the fin-de-siècle, hundreds of daguerreotypes of the Mediterranean and Near East sat in an attic in a dilapidated villa in France, a little closer to Strasbourg than to Paris, collecting dust. Packed in custom-made boxes, they contained what are now believed to be the earliest surviving photographs of Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jerusalem, and among the first of Italy. The collection was abandoned after its owner had died in 1892; some boxes were ransacked by locals, perhaps looking for treasure in the estate. Others remained unopened, the daguerreotypes inside preserved from oxidation. In an extraordinary—and very moving—exhibition that is the first of its kind, the Metropolitan Museum of Art unpacks this time-capsule collection, dating to 1841–45, and makes the case that it comprises the very first photographic archive. Curated by the Met’s Stephen C. Pinson, the show is a poetic meditation on vanished empire, memory, and loss.

In 1839, Daguerre sold his eponymous photographic process to France, kicking off the popularity of the medium. One note from the nation’s official announcement of photography’s invention suggests that its precision might be useful on expeditions to Egypt, given the labor typically involved in artists copying detailed artifacts such as hieroglyphics. Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey (1804–1892), an aristocratic young man perhaps inspired by this statement, would soon be combining his interests in painting and Islamic architecture by learning photography. Trained in landscape painting, he depicted the Alhambra in an 1833 work in the show with a painted-with-a-horsehair precision that hints at the project to come.

Girault’s earliest daguerreotypes here demonstrate an early aptitude for the tricky process of shooting in the new medium, as in Plant Study, Paris (1841), in which dark-green grape leaves are perfectly exposed, while a diaphanous veil thrown over a sculptural bust comes out in exquisite, adjust-your-glasses detail. Another Plant Study, Paris (1841) shows simply grape leaves, shadows, and a plaster wall. Nothing is happening, but the composition is well lit and therefore beautiful—a totally photographic image. The cropping and subject feel distinctly modern, and the image seems to ask what it means to see the world photographically.

Girault’s trip abroad launched in 1842. Despite the heat, dust, and mercury fumes from his process, the pictures for the most part turned out beautifully. Some images soar into the distance of scrub-dotted hills, like the Monastery of Daphini, Attica (1842). Others are pressed up to the surface of the plate, full of flat detail, like the Agios Eleftherios Church, Athens (1842). Girault used polished metal plates cut as thin verticals to photograph the ornate contrasting colors of the brickwork, bulbous spires, and dazzling geometries of Islamic columns. We also see the bare wooden scaffolding set in place to stabilize the Parthenon (1842). His image of Ramesseum, Thebes (1844) is perfect—its colossal architecture improbably smooth and implacably magnificent with only a thumbprint on the lower-right emulsion marring its placid perfection. Here, too, are images of trees—among them Palm Trees, Alexandria (1842–44) and Cedars of Lebanon (1844); some photographed architecturally like pillars, some spread in ramifying clusters like Barbizon landscape studies.

The exhibition of just over 100 plates minimizes Girault’s Orientalist portraits of people, perhaps wisely, given those present of North African women in languid, inspired-by-Delacroix poses.

As wall text informed by the seemingly heartbreaking field of Islamic art history notes, the images capture a lost world. Buildings that haven’t existed for 150 years stand tall. Groves of trees grow lush over places that are now bare desert. Pillars are erect where they now crumble. The 1835 map of Syria that Girault used is on display.

There are also a few watercolors he made alongside his photographs. One, Bosphore, Pêcheries (1843), of fishing boats on the Bosphorus, is remarkable for its energetically calligraphic brushwork and a palette unusually sensitive to plum-colored post-sunset dusk. Based on the number of bluish skies, Girault also seems to have deliberately exploited a quirk of the medium’s chemistry to produce blue when overexposed. Other happy accidents abound: two women exiting the Portal of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, in Jerusalem in 1844 could have had no idea they were being photographed—their twinned veils blur slightly in the long exposure while the portal architecture pops in perfect focus.

In an unusual move, there is nothing on the walls in the first three galleries of the show. Instead, the works hang in custom cabinets at the room’s center, behind nonreflective glass, each lit gorgeously. A daguerreotype can be highly reflective, yet I never saw my own reflection in the image. The gallery walls are deep shades of blue, echoing the occasional blues in the daguerreotypes, and the same blue is echoed in the marbled paper lining the catalogue interior. (I highly recommend that book, so that you can see, in exquisite detail, every scrape on the emulsion, the veil, the glossy grape-ivy leaves, the scrub dotting the hills behind each long-lost building.)

Co-organized by the Met with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, the show will travel to the Musée d’Orsay in 2021. While French exhibition design is notoriously more daring than its American counterpart, in this case the Parisian organizers would do well to pack up the entire gorgeous installation and bring it over.

These daguerreotypes were probably never displayed in Girault’s lifetime. The medium has no negative, so each plate is unique. Using the photos as on-site drawing studies, Girault produced an album of lithographs of Islamic architecture based on the photos, in a tiny edition of around a dozen copies. (Some of these are on display, and they are disappointing. Perhaps contemporary eyes just don’t take in lithographs the same way they read photographs.) He donated artifacts he collected during his travels to the local museum, and he kept the thousand daguerreotypes, with all their exquisite detail, boxed in his attic. As he aged, he was widely seen as a local eccentric and recluse. He died in 1892.

Out of Girault’s 1,000 daguerreotypes, some 10 made their way to the Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, and 20 made their way to the Bibliothèque nationale de France. While a few are reproduced in a biography about Daguerre, until the early 2000s few people knew his collection existed at all. It is to our gain that the family’s recent decision to sell the collection coincided with a greater interest from museums in acquiring early photography. (Loans to the show have come from the Getty, and the National Collection of Qatar, the Met, and the Bibliothèque Nationale.)

There’s an element of Bouvard et Pécuchet in all this, Flaubert’s comic country gentlemen futilely intent on cataloguing all the known world. (Flaubert along with Maxime du Camp would make a slightly later trip to photograph Egypt with a salted paper process that produces negatives, essentially walking in Girault’s footsteps, a state-sponsored journey that resulted in a photographically illustrated book.) But Girault ended up with his travel itch seemingly soothed—the photographs in boxes in the attic. In a self-portrait in a modest stereoscopic print toward the end of the show, ca. 1860s, he can be seen gardening in front of his next passion, his greenhouse.

Presenting his trove of carefully stored, largely unseen pictures, the Met’s elegant show asks questions about how we store our memories today, on our own phones and digital archives, and for what purpose. It seems to propose that the project of recording is much more beautiful than anything it could ever be used for, a Proustian endeavor in which to preserve a world’s infinite detail is itself the accomplishment.


"X-ray of Uffizi's Artemisia Gentileschi reveals a tantalising underpainting"

 X-radiograph of Galleria degli Uffizi's St. Catherine of Alexandria  

credit: Galleria degli Uffizi for both

A scientific study of a Baroque painting by Artemisia Gentileschi owned by the Gallerie degli Uffizi in Florence has revealed an underpainting that is virtually a twin to a Gentileschi canvas recently acquired by the National Gallery in London. An Italian conservator now suggests that both works may be based on the same cartoon or drawing.

Conservators used non-invasive ultraviolet, infrared and x-ray techniques to delve below the surface of the Uffizi work, Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1618-20), says Cecilia Frosinini, the director of the paintings conservation department at the state Opificio delle Pietre Dure, which carried out the analysis.

The surface painting depicts the saint wearing a crown and gazing upwards in what the museum describes as a blend of a self-portrait by Gentileschi and a portrait of Grand Duke Ferdinando de’ Medici’s daughter Caterina. But the underpainting revealed by x-radiography portrays its subject with a turban and with her face turned towards the observer, just like the National Gallery’s Self-Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria (1615-17), acquired last July for £3.6m.

The testing also revealed a “mysterious little face” on the left side of Saint Catherine’s own face, “a feature totally out of context with respect to both the finished work and the earlier version” underneath, the Uffizi says.

Restorers say that a tracing of the London painting could be neatly superimposed on parts of the underlying image in the Uffizi work. “We believe that she had a cartoon or at least a preparatory drawing that she reused several times, adding some changes or some variation from one to the other,” Frosinini says.

Gentileschi (1593-1653), once all but omitted from art history texts, has recently risen in the canon and is now acknowledged as one of the first female artists to have had a broad following among 17th-century patrons.

Letizia Treves, the curator of later Italian, Spanish and French 17th-century paintings at the National Gallery, said that her museum had provided the tracings of its self-portrait to the Uffizi and to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut, for the sake of comparison. (The Wadsworth Atheneum owns the Gentileschi painting Self-Portrait as a Lute Player from around 1615-18, which also portrays its subject at half-length, seated with her face turned toward the observer.) The arms in the National Gallery’s tracing align with those in the Uffizi’s underpainting, Treves says; the head aligns with the one in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s painting.

“It became very, very clear, to the millimetre, that these areas overlapped perfectly, so she must have used some sort of drawing method to transfer sections,” Treves says.

While no startling fugitive image was found in the London portrait, testing revealed that Gentileschi made changes in the sitter’s draperies and in the original hue of the sleeve of her dress, Treves says. The artist’s father, the painter Orazio Gentileschi, similarly altered his paintings as he went along, she notes, and would paint the same figures on different canvases.

“These artists would start a picture and then paint over it with something else and then move on to another canvas,” reusing some figures, she says. “It was quite fluid—they were responding to what patrons wanted.”

Still, much research remains to be done. “Artemisia’s artistic process, the more technical side of her art, has not had the same kind of focus as other artists,” Treves notes. “Any new thing that you’ve found, you’re breaking new ground.” The dating of the Florence, Hartford and London portraits is only approximate, so which came first “is a big question that we’ll have to think through”, she adds.

Following restoration at the Opificio, Saint Catherine of Alexandria will be on permanent display at the Uffizi. The National Gallery’s self-portrait, which was cleaned and restored last year, will be part of an Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition planned at the museum next year. In March, the painting embarked on a UK pop-up tour at Glasgow Women’s Library to mark International Women’s Day; it is due to travel to four further venues this spring and summer, including a girls' school and a health centre.


"Patronage without pretension abounds at the 2019 edition of the Dallas Art Fair"


Sculptural cutouts of cats collaged with cacti photos greet visitors outside of the 11th edition of the Dallas Art Fair, which opens to the public today, and these photogenic felines by Chicago-based artist Stephen Eichhorn are a fitting introduction to the scene inside. As art fairs go, this is a fun and relatively unpretentious one, known for showcasing emerging galleries beside heavy-hitters, though the blue-chip turnover rate trends higher. The current 95 booths, however, house big British-based newcomers like Lisson Gallery, Sadie Coles HQ and Blain Southern.

For most galleries, the opportunity to tap into this booming collector base is the fair’s biggest allure. “We came because we want to meet people here,” says Lieselotte Seaton, the sales director at Sadie Coles HQ, which sold works by Jordan Wolfson, Laura Owens and Ugo Rondinone during yesterday’s VIP preview. Lisson Gallery says it also immediately sold several works to Dallas clients—including a looping video by Cory Arcangel for $60,000—and many had others on hold.

The fair’s roster has had some notable absences in the last couple of editions. Gagosian, Lehmann Maupin and Kasmin gallery are a few of the global heavyweights who declined to return after just one visit. But these departures can likely be attributed more to the fickle nature of art fairs rather than to concerns specific to the Dallas art market, Carrie Secrist gallery, which represents Eichhorn and has attended the fair every year since its inception says “Dallas has some of the best collectors in the country, if not the world”, noting that sales have consistently been strong. “There are moments of fair fatigue elsewhere, and Dallas has been relatively untouched by that,” she says.


Among those who came back after a successful debut last year are James Cohan, Rachel Uffner and Van Doren Waxter, who all cite the city’s supportive community as a major draw. “We were surprised by the level of engagement from seasoned and new buyers last year,” says Augusto Arbizo, a partner at Van Doren Waxter. “There’s a tradition of patronage, and it seems that’s been instilled in a younger generation.” The gallery has sold three works to private collections, including a Richard Diebenkorn gouache ($200-$250,000) and an early work on paper by Anne Truitt ($30-$40,000).

For Dallas-based dealer Erin Cluley, here for her fourth year, the fair is more than a sales opportunity; she describes it as “a relationship fair,” ripe for networking, adding that “you can sense the fair’s investment in the art community”.

It is clear that the fair’s organisers are determined to maintain this sense of investment in the city. The fair recently launched 214 Projects, its own permanent, year-round exhibition space; since 2016, it has granted the Dallas Museum of Art funds to shop at the fair. With a budget of $150,000 this year, the institution bought eight works by artists like Sheila Hicks, Don Dudley and Nobutaka Aozaki. Chris Dorland of New York’s Magenta Plains, which represents Dudley, notes that collectors have since expressed great interest in the acrylic-on-plywood works.

For Galleri Urbane, the fair’s growing reputation is undeniable—the decade-old Dallas space stopped participating in 2016 to focus on other markets, it knew it had to return this year. “The caliber of galleries keeps getting stronger,” owner Ree Willaford says. “I thought I’d better get back while I can.”


"Why Madame X Scandalized the Art World"


In 2019, it’s hard to see why John Singer Sargent’s 1883–84 painting Madame X scandalized Paris. If you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s American wing, where it now hangs in an ornate gold frame, you’ll see a simple composition of a porcelain-skinned woman with an updo standing against a brushy brown background. She wears a plunging black gown with gold straps, one hand clutching a fan while the other rests on a round table. Her face is in profile, the line of her long nose leading the viewer’s eye slantwise out of the picture.

Today, the painting looks elegant—a woman with immaculate skin and patrician features, clothed in what appears to be an expensive, well-constructed dress. That perception belies the sordid history of its model, Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, and the brouhaha surrounding the portrait’s debut at the 1884 Paris Salon. The public’s reaction was so vehement that Sargent moved out of the country, and his high-society model’s reputation was forever tarnished.

This response was partially due to what now seems like an innocuous detail: Sargent’s picture initially showed one of the dress straps hanging seductively from its subject’s shoulder. Yet the painting’s lewdness probably wasn’t what offended Parisian society. The artwork was something worse—downright tacky.

Sargent was born in Italy in 1856 to an American doctor and social climber mother. “Dr. Sargent and his wife didn’t have the financial means of the gilded expatriates,” Donna M. Lucey writes in her 2017 book, Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, “but the couple socialized at the edges of that class, with Sargent’s mother cutting a slightly ridiculous figure as she tried to keep up.” The family moved around Europe, outsiders in both national and financial terms.

Nevertheless, Sargent’s mother ensured that her son attended a prestigious Parisian atelier. He first applied for the city’s annual, tastemaking Salon exhibition in 1877, with a portrait of his childhood friend, Frances Sherborne Ridley Watts. After his success at the Salon, the artist began to receive more portrait commissions, and soon had a profitable career painting upper-class women who had the funds for such vanities.

Despite the demand for his portrait services, Sargent had his own artistic ambitions. He first met Gautreau, a society figure who went by Amélie, in the 1880s. He was captivated and decided he had to paint her—not for a commission, but for his own satisfaction.

In the mid-20th century, Sargent biographer Charles Merill Mount circulated a rumor that the artist was introduced to Gautreau by a prominent gynecologist named Samuel-Jean Pozzi, with whom she may have been having an affair. Sargent had painted a portrait of the doctor, titled Dr. Pozzi at Home, in 1881. In the painting, the doctor is dressed in particularly ornate loungewear: a long red robe tied with tassels, and pointy red-and-silver slippers as a scarlet curtain ripples behind him.

Yet in Diva and the Doctor God: Letters from Sarah Bernhardt to Doctor Samuel Pozzi (2010), Caroline De Costa refutes Mount’s story, suggesting that Gautreau and Pozzi were merely friends. In her 2003 book Strapless, Deborah Davis asserts that Sargent launched a full campaign to convince Gautreau to sit for him, enlisting multiple mutual acquaintances in his request.

Regardless of how Sargent met Gautreau, sources agree that she was a particularly difficult subject. As the Chicago Tribune relayed in a 1987 article, Sargent’s subject didn’t want to be painted in Paris and made the artist wait until she and her husband were summering at their country estate in Brittany. Gautreau was restless throughout the process, a state communicated in a particularly revealing study by Sargent, in which she is lying in languid repose on a couch.

As Davis describes, “Amélie was impatient with the interminable, boring process, the frequent sessions of enforced stillness. She had difficulty paying attention to Sargent’s directions, and the household was chaotic… there was the rigorous social calendar… and of course, visits to the beach and boardwalk.”

Sargent traveled to and from Paris as he too became frustrated with the process. He once wrote to his friend, the writer Vernon Lee, “Your letter has just reached me, still in this country house struggling with the unpaintable beauty and hopeless laziness of Mme. Gautreau.”

After creating numerous preparatory sketches and several painting attempts, Sargent managed to finish his picture for the 1884 Salon, which he originally titled Portrait of Mme***. The reception was poor. As De Costa writes, “After the Salon, fame briefly morphed into infamy, and Madame Gautreau was subject to derision and jeers in the drawing rooms of Paris.” Viewers understood the subject’s bare shoulder, with its dangling strap and exposed cleavage, as a nod towards Gautreau’s loose sexual morals.

This wasn’t a new claim: Gautreau already had a reputation as an adultress. Davis writes of Gautreau’s rumored liaisons with French statesman Léon Gambetta and diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps. Not all contemporary writers fault her for this alleged promiscuity: Her wealthy husband, as Miranda Seymour wrote in the New York Times, was “small, singularly ugly and twice the age of Amélie Avegno.” Yet such a public, visual display of her sexuality brought Gautreau additional disrepute.

Parisian tastemakers recoiled not just from the subject’s revealing clothing, but from her ghostly skin-tone as well. Like other fashionable women of her day, Gautreau may have been ingesting arsenic to lighten her skin (although Davis believes she more likely used rice powder). In a review of the 1884 Salon, the Times reported, “Sargent is below his usual standard this year… The pose of the figure is absurd, and the bluish coloring atrocious. The features are so exaggerated that the natural delicacy of outline is entirely lost.” Under Sargent’s brush, the “so-called beautiful” subject looked like a mere “caricature.”

Gautreau’s mother was furious. According to the Tribune article, she lamented to Sargent, “All Paris is making fun of my daughter... She is ruined. My people will be forced to defend themselves. She’ll die of chagrin.” Melodrama ensued. Gautreau never recovered from the shameful incident and retreated from Parisian society for the rest of her life. De Costa cites a letter in which she moaned, “I will try to get over the sadness which for several days has overwhelmed me and which makes me depressed enough to die.’”

Sargent was meanwhile concerned with his own reputation. Critics so lambasted the canvas that the artist opted to make a crucial change to the composition: After the exhibition ended, he repainted Gautreau’s strap to fall properly on her shoulder. In 1886, he escaped his infamy in Paris and lived the rest of his life in London, never again taking such a risk with his practice.

He did also take a major step to limit Gautreau’s notoriety: When he gave the painting to the Metropolitan Museum in 1916, he insisted the institution continue to disguise the subject’s identity. And thus, “Madame X” has, instead of adopting the far more banal Portrait of Mme. Pierre Gautreau, retained its teasing title.

The painting has, perhaps, become more famous for the uproar it inspired than for any artistic merit. Mid-century American critic Hilton Kramer didn’t see anything special about the work. In a 1981 article for the New York Times he wrote, “No one is likely to pronounce it profound, and for its date it is a very long way from being radical in style. It is a solid and comfortable picture—a little odd in its coloring, a little contrived and self important in its pose, perhaps, but probably no more so than the subject that originally inspired it.” Kramer, however, neglects one crucial element of the painting: its relationship to modern fashion. The chic garment at the center of Sargent’s artwork may be Madame X’s true subject and its greatest legacy. Attitudes towards women’s sartorial sensuality—on the runway and in the gallery—are fickle. A good black dress is timeless.


"Phillips to Sell Hip Hop Pioneer Matt Dike’s Basquiats"


Set the wayback machine to the late 1970s and meet one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s peers who went on to unexpected success as a DJ and creator of some the earliest Hip Hop hits. Matt Dike was a music obsessive who is considered one of the driving forces behind the Beastie Boys seminal album, Paul’s Boutique. He was also a friend of Basquiat’s and one-time assistant who ended up with a handful of his friend’s work, including the self-portrait Phillips is offering with a $9m low estimate.

Here’s a longer version of the tale from Phillips’s press shop:

Phillips is pleased to announce the sale of six works by Jean-Michel Basquiat from the Collection of the legendary hip hop producer Matt Dike. An acclaimed DJ and co-founder of the renowned West Coast label Delicious Vinyl, Matt Dike is widely celebrated as transforming the LA music scene within the course of a single decade through his involvement in such hits as Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, Young MC’s Bust A Move and the Beastie Boys’ groundbreaking album Paul’s Boutique. Over the course of his career, he developed an extraordinary friendship with Basquiat, acquiring several of his artworks. Two works from the collection will be offered in the New York Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art on 16 May, with four works on paper being featured in the Day Sale on 15 May. Prior to the exhibition in New York from 3-15 May, the works will be on view in Los Angeles from 9-11 April. Estimated at $9-12 million, Self-Portrait leads the group and is one of the greatest self-portraits by the artist to ever be offered at auction.

Scott Nussbaum, Phillips’ Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, New York, said, “This selection of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat presents a cross-section of important themes for the artist and includes the largest and most complex of the ground-breaking silhouette self-portraits Jean-Michel painted between 1982 and 1985. Showcasing the extraordinary legacy of Matt Dike, these works offer long overdue insights into the valued role he played in Basquiat’s life, as well as the way the city of Los Angeles provided the artist the freedom and inspiration he sought while grappling with the pressures of fame and success. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase these important works of art, many of which have never been seen publicly.”

Having moved to Los Angeles from New York in 1980, Dike transformed the L.A. music scene and the reach of hip hop at large in just ten years. His adept ear, sampling skills, and encyclopedic knowledge of music made him an extraordinary club DJ and he quickly attracted an enthusiastic following for his unique sound. It was on the strength of Dike’s DJing that the impromptu parties he initiated in the mid-1980s coalesced into the notorious Power Tools club, which attracted the likes of Andy Warhol and David Bowie and featured an early West Coast performance from the Beastie Boys.

In 1987 Dike closed Power Tools and co-founded Delicious Vinyl with Michael Ross. Working from Dike’s apartment, the upstart label quickly made hip hop history as the young entrepreneurs’ first single, Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, became a radio hit. The grainy music video they produced with a budget of only $500 became an unexpected success, reaching a wider audience than they could have ever imagined. As the first of three multi-platinum singles produced by Delicious Vinyl, Wild Thing set the stage for the label’s quick rise. Championing artists from the streets, Ross and Dike were highly influential in not just proving hip hop’s pop-crossover potential, but also launching the careers of such artists as Young MC. Dike was also a key figure in the creation of the Beastie Boys’ seminal 1989 album Paul’s Boutique, which was recorded in Dike’s apartment and is widely considered a hip hop masterpiece.

The centerpiece of Dike’s remarkable collection is undoubtedly Basquiat’s Self-Portrait, 1982-1983, a work that not only is the most resolved self-portrait the artist created within its series, but one that also speaks of the intense bond Dike and Basquiat shared in life as in work. Dike first met Basquiat in the late 1970s at an NYU party, when the artist was still emblazoning the streets with his unique graffiti under the pseudonym SAMO; by the time they met again, he had been catapulted to unparalleled art world fame. They were reunited in 1982 when Basquiat travelled to Los Angeles for his first solo show at the Gagosian Gallery. Dike—then working at the gallery during the day and DJing at night— became Basquiat’s designated chauffeur and eventually his assistant, becoming intimately involved in one of the greatest innovations in the artist’s practice – the use of wood slat fencing material for his picture supports starting in late 1983.

It was during his stay in Los Angeles that Basquiat created Self-Portrait, a work that was executed on two found doors, with one depicting the artist himself and the other featuring a rich compendium of imagery and text in which Basquiat focuses on his sense of self at a key crossroads in his short career. The creation of the work was captured in progress on film by Tamra Davis, who married Mike D of the Beastie Boys and became Basquiat’s close friend. Davis made the footage public in 2010 with her documentary The Radiant Child, providing a rare glimpse into a work that, while mentioned anecdotally in literature, has remained unknown to the art word since its creation over three decades ago.

Self-Portrait firmly takes a prime position in the pantheon of self-portraits in Basquiat’s oeuvre, one that perhaps like none other is filled with self- reflection. Moreover, Basquiat’s act of painting is often compared to a process of exorcising his creative demons, epitomized in the present work vividly with the emblazoned words “To Repel Ghosts,” a phrase the artist would return to numerous times throughout his all-too-brief career. Such was the importance of these works to Matt Dike that he never loaned them for exhibition, nor considered parting with them during his lifetime.


"Bodleian Libraries Oxford Exhibition on Translation Highlights Cross-Cultural Communication"


Babel: Adventures in Translation is the latest exhibit at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries. The exhibition runs from February 15- June 2, 2019. Presented in ten cases, displaying over 100 items, the exhibit explores a range of topics central to translation; from the tools used in translation, such as dictionaries and modern day Google Translate, to the role of myth and fantasy, to the creation of language and symbols in the present that will convey meaning to distant generations thousands of years in the future. It encourages us to think about the role translation has played in building a multi-cultural society and what is gained from the exchange of ideas in the translation process.

A translator, working with both a foreign language and culture, often has to deal with different expressions of belief, social environment and experience that are contained within a variety of cultural expressions. A person from a society with an animistic world-view would have names for the spirits that live in trees, in the mountains and in the rocks. Language equivalents would not necessarily exist for a person from a society without such a view, although as societies change, there is certainly carry-over from past allegiances and beliefs. As S. Frederick Starr asks in Lost Enlightenment, Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, Princeton University Press, 2013, p 97:

“Is it coincidental that Central Asians, after favoring the practical Vaibhasika school of Buddhism, with its acceptance of sensory perception, the embrace of past and future, and stress on authoritative commentaries, would later gravitate toward the more practical Hanafi school of Muslim law, and toward the writing of commentaries on the translated works of ancient Greek thinkers?”

Some terms and phrases may not be known by speakers of the same language if they are not considered useful for one’s day-to-day existence. For example, a Southern California surfer may have one word for the “snow” glimpsed in far-off mountains. A skier in those same mountains will have many words for “snow” including; powder, pow-pow, mashed potatoes, corn, freshies, and hard pack. For the skier, this information is crucial, telling them how they should adjust their technique as they head down the mountain. It also tells them if they would rather spend the day skiing or wait for conditions more to their liking. The surfer may have a different language to describe water conditions that helps them to navigate the waves. However, if the surfer takes up skiing, then learning the skier’s language about edging in hard pack or floating in pow-pow could increase their enjoyment and keep them out of the hospital.

The exhibit, Babel: Adventures in Translation, is arranged in a series of cases organized around different themes. Case 1, A Confusion of Tongues, explores different means used cross-culturally and even locally within the same language to bridge communication. The 1604 English to English dictionary, A Table Alphabeticall, was created to help Christian men and women to understand the new “harde English wordes” in the sermons; words that had been commandeered from Latin, Hebrew, Greek or French as there were no English equivalents.

so on display in Case 1 is the Codex Mendoza. Prepared for Emperor Charles V to document Spain’s conquest of Mexico, the document utilizes pictograms, a Mexica form of language to document the history of Aztec conquest and the annual tribute from 400 towns to the Aztec Empire. The Codex also showed the Aztec social life and customs from birth to death through all social strata. A Spanish priest, who spoke Nahuatl and could elicit the images’ meanings from the indigenous painters, annotated the pictograms in Spanish to facilitate the Emperor’s understanding. (Interestingly, Charles V never received the Codex as the French captured the ship that carried it. The book circulated in France and England before it was gifted to the Bodleian Libraries in 1659.)

Case 2: Building Babel showcases a 17th century image of the biblical tower of Babel when its construction was still coordinated by a universal language. The display invites the viewer to consider the long held desire for a universal language that would express a shared understanding of our world.

In Case 3, a clay tablet and a stone bowl from second millennium Crete are used as representatives of “Lost and Found Languages”. The early Greek Linear B script on the clay tablet can be translated while that of the stone bowl, in Linear A is still undecipherable.

The failure to translate Linear A has become an object lesson for philologists, and may have inspired Case 10: Translating for the Distant Future. This case explores the creation of language and symbols today that will retain their meaning in future millennia, when our present day languages may no longer be understood. Here it addresses the problem of how to warn about the presence of nuclear waste, which though buried deeply underground will still be a radioactive threat for hundreds of thousands of years.

Beyond Languages is the theme of the 4th case. Here, different ways of communicating are explored. From math to pictograms to lingua franca such as Esperanto, the exhibit asks the viewer to consider the limitations of “universal” communication, pointing out that few things are inherently understandable without some manner of instruction into their meaning.

A beautiful play of script and pattern illuminates a Qur’an on a page from a sixteenth-century manuscript in Case 5: Translating the Divine. This part of the exhibition raises questions of how the divine communicates with humans and juxtaposes the Qur’an – a document considered to be revealed, fully formed in Arabic and untranslatable– with the English King James Version of the Bible; a document created via a translation committee of 47 individuals from texts translated from the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.

An additional point that could have been raised in the exhibition with respect to the process of codification of sacred texts, is that Central Asians, who were not native Arabic speakers, were the key scholars who codified of the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s second most important text, or note the Central Asian dominance as translators into Arabic (and the preservers) of key Greek scientific, medical, and mathematical texts. Throughout history, a great many important translations have been made by individuals who were not native speakers of either the original or the translated versions.

The introduction to Case 6: Traversing Realms of Fantasy in the excellent Teacher’s Guide to the exhibit makes the statement “…that fantasy and magic are uniquely well suited to being passed on from one cultural group to another. Translators play a vital role in that process – and it’s often futile to distinguish rigidly between translation, retelling and creation.” From the Tower of Babel to Brexit, Bodleian Libraries exhibition explores the power of translation, from the Oxford Arts Blog, notes that the exhibition highlights include, “Different versions of Cinderella – by Charles Perrault, the Grimm brothers, Shirley Hughes, and in pantomime and film – showing how stories have been transferred across cultures, resulting in new interpretations across time, space and different media.”

Similar issues are raised in Case 8: An Epic Journey: Translating Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey and Case 9: Tales in Translation as in Case 6:Traversing Realms of Fantasy. All three cases explore stories, that like Cinderella, “have been transferred across cultures, resulting in new interpretations across time, space and different media.”

The Bodleian exhibition team is also working together with the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Open World Research Initiative to explore the interconnection between linguistic diversity and creativity. The exhibition catalog, Babel: Adventures in Translation, by Dennis Duncan, Stephen Harrison, Katrin Kohl and Matthew Reynolds, will be available from Bodleian Library Publishing after 15 February, www.bodleianshop.co.uk.

As an adjunct to this review, Cultural Property News has included in this month’s news a translation of the Cinderella story collected in Uzbekistan from an early 20th century guild text. See Central Asian Cinderella, the Tale of Bibi Seshanbe, by Kate Fitz Gibbon.


"Egypt Rejects Accessible Database of Art in Circulation"


The Government of Egypt has effectively distorted the purpose of a proposed database of Egyptian art by ignoring the existence of Egyptian laws which allowed lawful export until 1983. The Egyptian government does not acknowledge these legal exports and claims virtually all Egyptian art in circulation as ‘stolen.’ Yet antiquities have been lawfully exported from Egypt in greater numbers than any other type of ancient art in circulation. Antiquities were exported at various times under both Ottoman and colonial rulers, as well as shared out in partage agreements with archaeologists. The largest numbers of objects were exported in the 20th century by the several hundred art dealers in Cairo and Alexandria licensed by the government to sell antiquities.

Egypt’s government continues to be overtly hostile to the art trade. According to art world sources, the Egyptian government has not only discounted the legitimate art trade’s efforts to support a politically-neutral, factually-based database, but insisted on removal of the logos of art trade professional organizations and auction houses from the original British Arts Council press announcements regarding the British Museum-managed database.

To cap it all off, UNESCO’s Secretariat de la Convention 1970 is promoting a misleading article in Artnet, “Looters Beware: The British Museum Is Leading an International Task Force Fighting the Illicit Trade in Egyptian Antiquities,” that entirely ignores art dealer backing for the database as well as incorrectly asserting that illicit trade is on the increase. As originally intended, the database would not only assist the Egyptian government in identifying stolen art, but would also facilitate trade in legitimate, documented artifacts. As a 2018 article in the Art Newspaper made clear, “the presence of antiquities on the database will not mean that they are either clean or tainted, it will assist enforcement officers and police in tracking down provenance.”

Sudan, a second governmental participant in the project, is apparently more willing to make records on objects known to be stolen publicly available, which would greatly facilitate their recovery, and which is already permitted under current laws. Regrettably, the government of Egypt refuses to share any internal information it holds about stolen antiquities. Many suspect that behind this refusal lies the fact that Egypt either does not know what has been taken from its storerooms (witness its allegation, beginning only in 2006, that an object in the St. Louis Museum had disappeared from government storage in Egypt sometime between 1966 and 1973), or because the Egyptian government would be embarrassed to acknowledge the degree of “insider” theft that has taken place over the years. Such insider thefts from museum storerooms appear to have been a common source of stolen objects. The digitalization program was strongly supported by art trade organizations, because it held the possibility that stolen artworks could be identified and kept out of the stream of commerce.

Meanwhile, the failure of representatives of the British Museum involved in the database project to publicly reassure trade participants about how the digitization project will operate has left some members of the art trade wondering why they should be involved. There are widespread concerns that the trade’s assistance will continue to be misrepresented and that the facts regarding the legal circulation of Egyptian antiquities will be hidden or obscured. (See Egypt Demands Review of TEFAF Artworks, Cultural Property News, November 27, 2018, for information on the groundbreaking academic study by Danish scholars Frederik Hagen and Kim Ryholt, The Antiquities Trade in Egypt 1880-1930, The H.O. Lange Papers, which sets forth the commercial basis for the lawful circulation of Egyptian art in trade today.)

In late 2017, the British Museum announced receipt of a £998,769 grant from the Cultural Protection Fund (a partnership between the British Council and the UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) for the creation of a database of Egyptian and Nubian antiquities in circulation in private collections and on the international art market. The project also brings trainees in provenance documentation from Egypt to the British Museum, and provides on-site training in Egypt and Sudan to antiquities staff from Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt and Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums (NCAM).

Funding for the project was encouraged by the Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA) and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art, (IADAA), both of which were active partners in its development. The British Museum and Arts Council agreed to acknowledge the art trade’s participation and the initial announcement on its website listed Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams auction houses as well as the IADAAA and the ADA as Project Partners.

However, the Egyptian government objected to acknowledging the art trade’s association with the project. At this point, the Egyptians have vetoed any mention of the trade’s involvement in setting up the project. Egypt has also eliminated any proposal to make the database available to the wider public. The names of auction houses and trade associations have been removed from the Arts Council website.

Subsequently, the Art Newspaper published an article that quoted Neal Spencer, the British Museum’s keeper of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, as stating, without providing any evidence, that there was “a serious increase in the illicit trade in pharaonic antiquities in recent years.” While there is certainly more reporting on illicit trade, the reporting almost invariably focuses on smuggling that actually took place long ago. The Egyptian government now focuses on shifting blame for all losses to the art trade. Accusations of “looting” by the art trade is treated as colonialist or neo-colonialist, and contribute to Egyptian government efforts to play identity politics, and even to claim objects that have long histories of circulation. These include items held in the UK and the U.S. for over 100 years.

(For example, Egypt is now claiming that a casing stone from the Great Pyramid was ‘stolen’ after it was uncovered in a rubbish heap during road building work by British engineer Waynman Dixon, who was engaged in the survey of the Great Pyramid. The stone has been in Scotland since 1872.)

According to online art blog Master Art in May 2018, the database was designed to be “free for the public to search” and its purpose “not to locate looters or thieves, but it is rather to help establish the provenance of legitimately collected artefacts”, a goal that now seems to be reversed.

Also in May 2018, Marcel Marée, the British Museum curator running the project, told the Art Newspaper that the British Museum “will not be proactively chasing criminals, which is the role of law enforcement agencies, but we will make the market more transparent.” As noted, however, the Egyptian government has also objected to making the database of antiquities in circulation publicly accessible, an element supported by the art trade precisely to make the art trade more transparent.

Then in January 2019, an article appeared in Artnet’s online magazine which said the project was “employing a team of curators solely dedicated to spotting looted ancient treasure,” and portrayed the art trade as both hostile and as “enabling smuggling.” In the same article, curator Marcel Marée was quoted as saying that the art trade was characterized by “patterns of laxity, misconduct or obfuscation.”

So far, the misleading characterizations of the trade in the Artnet article have gone uncorrected. Nor have the Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan of the British Museum or representatives of the British Arts Council stepped in to clarify the record.

For years, the British Antiquities Dealers Association and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art have supported and promoted efforts to create a database of ancient artworks in circulation for the purpose of establishing genuine provenance and deterring criminal activities. Both organizations have been leaders in developing international standards of ethics and due diligence programs for the antiquities trade. They have worked for many years in cooperation with police authorities to provide expert advice in order to advance factually-based public policy in Britain and the European Union. In a joint statement to Cultural Property News, the organizations said that:

“The Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA) and the International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art (IADAA) believes that there should be “greater transparency in record-keeping of items in circulation among collectors, dealers and auction houses”, and that it would benefit the lawful circulation of art by “facilitating research and the identification of objects, availing of the Egyptological expertise of the British Museum and its partners.”

The IADAA stated that it viewed the worthy objectives of the project as essential for “reducing crime; enhancing due diligence; and promoting constructive relations between collectors, dealers/auctioneers, museums, law enforcement and antiquities officials.”

Privately, members of the trade told Cultural Property News that they are concerned that the British Museum has failed to credit the trade’s vital input to the database project in its own official online press release, instead referring vaguely to support from dealers and auction houses.

According to industry sources, when IADAA signed off a letter of endorsement in June 2017, this visible support opened the door to the £998,769 grant being awarded. One of IADAA’s chief aims in supporting the project was to establish better relations with the Egyptian authorities. Many in the art world have expressed hope that the British Museum and British authorities will work to bring the Egyptian government on board with a politically-neutral, cooperative program that will be an effective resource for all.