In recent art news, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“The Met”) announced earlier this week that it is planning the largest exhibition of Michelangelo works in its history set to open later this year.

The exhibition will be entitled “Michelangelo:  Divine Draftsman and Designer,” and will include 150 drawings, three marble sculptures, the artist’s earliest known painting (“The Torment of Saint Anthony”), and other works, curated from 54 public and private art collections throughout the United States and Europe.  A substantial body of complementary works by other artists will be included for comparison and context.  According to The Met’s website, the “exhibition will examine Michelangelo’s rich legacy as a supreme draftsman and designer.”

The Met presently has three works by Michelangelo, two of which are drawings (“Studies for the Libyan Sibyl,” and “Design for the Tomb of Pope Julius II della Rovere”) and the third, a sculpture entitled “Young Archer,” which is on loan from the French government.  Due to their sensitivity to light, the two drawings are typically not exhibited, but they will be included in the upcoming exhibition.

The anticipated exhibition is scheduled to open November 13, 2017 and will run through February 12, 2018.  The Met’s Curator of Italian and Spanish drawings, Carmen C. Bambach, a specialist in Italian Renaissance art, is organizing the exhibition.

For further information on The Met’s upcoming Michelangelo exhibition, see Exhibition Overview on The Met’s website.

In recent art world news, Poland’s Museum of the Second World War, said to be the “most comprehensive public exhibition in Europe about the greatest cataclysm of the 20th century,” opened last month.  The new museum, situated in the seaside city of Gdansk, has drawn around 14,000 visitors in its first two weeks of being open.  Among those in attendance included former prisoners of German Nazi concentration camps and Soviet labor camps.

Earlier this week, Poland’s Supreme Administrative Court cleared the path for the country’s right-wing government, which came to power in 2015, to take control of the museum and merge it with a smaller, yet to be built museum that would take a more narrow focus on the conflict and provide a nationalistic perspective.  It is believed that the merger will likely result in the dismissal of the museum’s director, historian Pawel Machcewicz.

Controversy surrounding the new museum has been occurring for months, but the Polish Court’s decision this week is a strong signal that the government will get its way.  According to the country’s culture ministry, the merger is effective immediately.

Under Machcewicz’s direction, the new museum’s permanent exhibition spanning three floors offers an “expansive and international view of the conflict, focusing on the wartime experiences of civilians in Poland and Eastern Europe, which suffered from both Nazi and Soviet repression.”

The country’s right-wing government, however, argues that the new museum does not give enough focus on the Polish perspective.  Poland’s culture minister would like to absorb the museum within a planned institution dedicated to the Battle of Westerplatte, which was the first battle of the war in September 1939, when Germany began its invasion of Poland.  The institution would focus on the “Polish narrative of sacrifice and suffering, and take what skeptics see as a more nationalistic perspective.”

The museum’s permanent exhibition has received enthusiastic reviews from around the world, including from international museum experts, journalists and historians.

Although Machcewicz is uncertain what the culture ministry will do about the permanent exhibition, he expressed hope that the culture minister would keep the exhibition in its present form and “[l]et tourists from all around the world judge the exhibition first[.]”

For further information on Poland’s Museum of the Second World War and its mission and purpose, see the museum’s website.

In recent art news, the New York Times ran a story on this week’s opening of the “Mummies” exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  In the exhibition, more than a dozen specimens are on display, some of which have not been on public view in more than 100 years since the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The new exhibition explores how and why two ancient civilizations, ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru, separated by a distance of about 7,500 miles, practiced mummification.

One of the mummies known as Mummy No. 30007 or the “Gilded Lady” did not assume her name by accident – her coffin is intricately decorated with linen, has a golden headdress and facial features, and possesses an air of divinity.

She’s so well preserved that she looks exactly how the people of her time hoped she would appear for eternity.”  To modern scientists, however, it is what they do not see that is just as intriguing, that is “[w]ho was this ancient woman, and what did she look like when she was alive?”

The icon of today’s mummy investigations is the CT scanner, which provides archaeologists with an inside view of the millenniums-old specimens without damaging them.  This is in stark contrast to just a century ago when scientists would typically unwrap their finds or specimens often harming them in the process.

The Gilded Lady was never unwrapped as archaeologists instead used state of the art CT scanning to create a 3-D print of her skull that helped a forensic artist with the reconstruction of her features.  Scientists were even able to determine her potential cause of death from tuberculosis about 2,000 years ago, and age (in her 40s) dating back to Roman-era Egypt.

The exhibition was organized by David Hurst Thomas, curator of North American archaeology, and John J. Flynn, a curator of fossil mammals, both at the American Museum of Natural History.  The exhibition is scheduled to run through January 7, 2018.

For an overview of the exhibition, see “Unraveling the Mystery of Who Lies Beneath the Cloth” published by the New York Times on March 23, 2017 and the American Museum of Natural History website.

 

In recent art news, the Frick Collection is among a distinguished group of art institutions around the world that is taking its antiquated system of photography archives and digitizing it such that the photography archives are part of a “mega-size, searchable scholarly database and web portal that will eventually hold 22 million images, 17 million of them artworks and the rest supplemental material.”

This collaborative effort of the participating art institutions is known as Pharos, which is an international consortium of fourteen European and North American art historical photo archives committed to creating a digital research platform allowing for comprehensive consolidated access to photo archive images and their associated scholarly documentation.”

Although Pharos’ intended audience is art historians, anyone will be able to use it.  It is anticipated that Pharos could have broad implications for genealogical research and art restitution as well as other unforeseen applications.  Pharos provides many advantages in that users will be able to “search the restoration history of the works, including different states of the same piece over time . . . ; past ownership; and even background on related works that have been lost or destroyed.”

As the Pharos consortium is committed to scholarly depth, it is currently working on image-recognition technology so that there will be no language barriers from the scholars’ searches.

For further information and recent developments of the Pharos consortium, visit the Pharos website.

I was very inspired after reading this recent online NPR article on blind and visually impaired art enthusiasts being able to “see” and experience works of art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. through uniquely guided tours.  The museum offers America InSight tours twice a month led by specially trained docents to blind and visually impaired visitors.

During these specially guided tours, the dozen or so volunteer docents use verbal descriptions of artwork as well as other senses in their verbal descriptions, such as the sound of music to bring to life a work of art.  The visitors are encouraged to imitate the pose of a sculpture while participating in the tour.  In some cases, low vision and blind visitors can even touch some of the art with the use of Latex-free gloves.

While moving slowly through the museum during the tour, the blind and visually impaired visitors are able to “see” the artworks in their imaginations with some getting close to the artwork to view it better with the aid of a magnifying device.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s America InSight tours certainly prove that there are a number of ways to experience works of art and not just through sight.

In recent art world news, on December 29, 2016, the Polish government signed an agreement with the privately owned Princes Czartoryski Foundation to purchase the Czartoryski art collection, which is recognized as one of Europe’s most significant private art collections.  The family foundation has administered the collection since its inception in 1991.

The Czartoryski art collection includes 250,000 historic manuscripts and documents, some of which were previously owned by Polish kings.  The treasured collection also includes 86,000 museum artifacts of which contain 593 precious artworks, most notably, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Lady With an Ermine” (1489-1490), Rembrandt’s “Landscape With the Good Samaritan” (1638), and sketches by Rembrandt, Auguste Renoir and Albrecht Dürer.

The purchase transaction only changes the status of the family art collection, which was set up more than 200 years ago by Princess Izabela Czartoryska.  It has been reported that the artworks will remain where they are today – most are housed and displayed in the National Museum in Krakow with the exception of “Lady With an Ermine”, which is displayed at the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow.

The legal effort of Poland’s culture ministry “reflects a broader goal by the right-wing Law and Justice government, which since taking power more than a year ago has been striving to re-establish Polish heritage and history as a source of national identity and pride.”  Poland’s deputy prime minister and minister of culture, Piotr Glinski, who signed the agreement, has acknowledged that the $105 million paid for the collection by the Polish government is “way below the market price,” which is widely estimated at more than $2 billion, and the transaction can be viewed more as a “donation.”

Many artworks from the family art collection were looted during the war years, including Raphael’s masterpiece “Portrait of a Young Man” (1513-1514) and were never recovered.  The list of lost art work includes as many as 800 works.  The recently signed agreement “not only gives Poland the rights to the current collection, but also transfers the rights to any future claims to works of art that may be retrieved.”

The New York Times recently reported that gallery owners and collectors alike are recognizing the link between the art market and museum exhibitions.  According to one art consultant:  “A museum show can be very influential for an artist.  It changes the price point, the popularity, the awareness a person has for an artist.”

For current owners, loaning artworks to a museum may increase its value, but is not without its risks—including potential damage, seizure and insurance issues.  And, for those looking to collect, buying artworks based solely on the fact that it has been exhibited in a museum may too just be a gamble.

Read the full story here.

Support of living artists can be rare.

Everyone knows the cliché “starving artist.”

However, things are about to change across the pond.  Last week, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced a new program designed to fund artist’s studio space through the financing of a special trust.  The trust known as the Creative Land Trust has been established through public and private dollars to keep artistic talent in the city of London and to avoid artist flight due to astronomical housing costs.

Somerset House Studio, a mixed used historic building along the Strand, is the first to reap the rewards.

This is an encouraging step in ensuring that there is continued investment in the arts. Large American cities like Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco among others should take notice and strive to make similar investments.

In recent international art world news, it has been recently reported that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has recently attributed a questioned work, “River Landscape With Figures” (1625-30), among other works, to the highly respected Dutch 17th-century artist, Hercules Segers.  The landscape painting had been attributed for many years to Segers, but it had been discredited in the 1970s by a leading Segers scholar who was uncertain of the authenticity of the work.

New research has led the Dutch national museum to conclude that the work should be attributed to Segers.  Over the past two years, the Rijksmuseum has conducted and examined technical studies on about 100 known and questioned Segers works from around the world.

Henry Pettifer, who is Head of the Old Master Paintings Department at Christie’s in London, has said that the authentication “could add value” to the work, but it is difficult to predict the amount as Seger’s works “so rarely appear at auction, and because there’s so much controversy about attribution.”

Segers is regarded as one of the Dutch Golden Age’s “most experimental and mysterious artists, who was admired by and influenced Rembrandt, among others.”

The museum will be presenting the Segers work among a number of paintings, impressions and prints in a large-scale retrospective entitled “Hercules Segers” running from October 7, 2016 to January 8, 2017.  The exhibition will then move to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where it will open on February 13, 2017 as “The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers.”

The esteemed Association of Art Museum Directors (“AAMD”) recently published its Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Materials and Works of Art by Art Museums (the “Guidelines”) on June 1, 2016.

As set forth in the Introduction of the Guidelines, nearly all aspects of museum operations, from the display of works of art (i.e., works of the visual arts in any media subject to copyright in the United States) to the dissemination of archival material, from the creation of exhibition catalogues to the use of online collections, are encompassed by the possession, ownership and use of copyrighted materials and works of art in art museums.

While art museums must be mindful of the rights of creators of, and copyright holders in, materials and works of art, museums rely on the right to use copyrighted materials and works of art in appropriate instances and under conditions that are well recognized.  Of course, not only do museums use copyrighted materials and works of art, but they also create such materials and commission such works.  Museums should (and the AAMD believes they do) understand and expect their copyrighted materials and works of art to be subject to the same fair use by third parties.

In today’s constantly changing technological world and legal landscape, the AAMD recognizes that art museums seek guidance as to how they can fulfill their missions of acquiring, preserving, studying and interpreting works of art held for public benefit, while respecting the rights of authors, artists and copyright holders.  The AAMD believes that any such guidance should “acknowledge the right to use copyrighted materials and works of art without undue restriction or limitation, so long as such uses are legally and ethically sound.”

The Guidelines fulfill a need to “inform the field about appropriate and normative practices in the use of copyrighted materials and works of art and the application of fair use in the context of various museum activities.”  The AAMD encourages each museum to develop its own written policy and procedures regarding the use of copyrighted materials and works of art as the Guidelines are intended to only generally inform and assist member museums.

Following the Introduction, the Guidelines begin with a discussion of “fair use” under the United States copyright laws, introduce “special considerations” (i.e., attribution, partial images, website terms of use, contract limitations, and courtesy clearance) that are related to the legal test for fair use and should be considered when museums are using copyrighted materials and works of art, and lastly include “specific examples” that address various museum activities for guidance in the fair use analysis, such as online collections, publications (e.g., exhibition catalogues, scholarly articles, blogs, educational materials, collection handbooks, museum brochures, and other).  The Guidelines include an Annex at the end of the document on fair use and an analysis of the four factors to be considered when determining whether the use of copyrighted materials and works of art is fair use under the United States copyright laws.

To review the Guidelines in their entirety, see Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Materials and Works of Art by Art Museums published online by the AAMD.