In recent art world news, artworks that had been seized by the Nazis from German museums and later discovered hidden away by Cornelius Gurlitt, a reclusive Munich art collector who had amassed a collection of 1,500 artworks acquired by his Nazi-era art dealer father, have arrived at the Kunstmuseum Bern in Switzerland.

Select artworks from the Gurlitt collection are scheduled to go on view this fall on November 2, 2017.  The artworks included in the exhibition are only those whose provenances are known.  The origins of the remaining pieces from the collection are still under investigation in Germany.  Mr. Gurlitt, who had passed away in 2014, had bequeathed the entire collection, which includes art by Otto Dix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Franz Marc, to the museum.

The highly anticipated exhibition is titled “Degenerated Art” and will be one of two simultaneous displays of select artworks from the Gurlitt collection.  The Kunstmuseum Bern will display about 200 of the 1,500 pieces from the collection.  The exhibition will focus on art that was seized by the German authorities and deemed “degenerate”.  “Degenerate” was a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art.

A separate set of artworks from the Gurlitt collection will be displayed at the Bundeskunsthalle museum in Bonn, Germany set to open on November 1, 2017.  That exhibition will include about 250 artworks that are believed to have been looted from private Jewish art dealers.

A related post on the Gurlitt collection entitled “Germany Extends Funding For Another Year To Establish Provenance Of Looted Art From Nazi Era” was previously published on the Art Law blog in March 2016.

 

 

In recent art world news, premier international art fair Art Basel opens later this week on Thursday, June 15, 2017 and runs through the entire weekend in Basel, Switzerland.  In this art collectors’ paradise, modern and contemporary art works will be showcased by nearly 300 galleries from 34 countries.  The world’s leading galleries will exhibit the works of over 4,000 artists and an intensive program of art talks will be offered each day.  Cultural institutions in Basel and the surrounding area will offer exhibitions and events during Art Basel 2017.

Art Basel’s conversations program will feature 23 talks by prominent art world authorities. According to Art Basel’s website, “[t]he series begins on Wednesday, June 14 with the Premiere Artist Talk devoted to Annette Messager and moderated by Dr. Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, United Kingdom.  Among the other leading artists, gallerists, collectors, art historians, curators, museum directors and critics from across the world, speakers include artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster in dialogue with Kasper König, Artistic Director of Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017, and moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist; artists Candice Breitz and Zanele Muholi who will discuss how young African artists can build recognition for their work; and artist Vadim Zkharov in conversation with Margarita Tupitsyn, Independent Scholar, Critic and Curator, who will present a political discussion on Russian Conceptualism.”

All conversations panels will be live streamed on Art Basel’s YouTube channel and on its website.

Art Basel is being held at Swiss exhibition site Messe Basel, featuring a hall designed by international architects Herzog & de Meuron of Basel.

Art collectors can get a preview of the art works that will be on display at Art Basel 2017 by accessing the online art catalog.

 

 

In recent art world news, recent restitution efforts of the Netherlands for returning looted art have come under scrutiny.  Some international critics assert that Dutch policies for restitution of looted art have become stricter once again.

Following World War II marked a “period in Dutch history when a cold cynicism toward Holocaust survivors meant that thousands of masterly works were rescued from the Nazis only to end up as Dutch national property” in which many of the works were displayed in Dutch museums.  The Allies returned about 8,000 to 9,000 works of art that had been found in Germany to the Netherlands.  This represented less than half of the works reported missing by the Holocaust survivor claimants.  By the early 1950s, the Dutch government announced that the restitution process had been completed and had stopped accepting claims – only about 500 to 1,000 works had been returned to their rightful owners at the time.

The Netherlands was once ridiculed for its obtuse efforts at recovery of looted works, but in the late 1990s the country embraced “progressive and pioneering efforts that have led it to be considered a model for enlightened restitution.”  While there were efforts in some European countries after the war to compensate victims of Nazi looting, new scholarship and media coverage in the 1990s persuaded other countries to review their own restitution policies in an effort to improve the restitution process.

In recent years, the country’s restitution policy requires the government panel that determines restitution cases to balance the interests of national museums against the claims by Holocaust survivors or their heirs.  In particular, the policy requires the panel to weigh “the significance of the work to public art collections” against the emotional attachment of the claimant.

As a recent example of the effect of the policy, in 2013, a claim for the Bernardo Strozzi painting entitled “Christ and the Samaritan Woman,” filed by the heirs of a German-Jewish refugee, was rejected because the work was important to the Dutch museum that displayed it.

According to Anne Webber, chairwoman of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, “[t]he balance-of-interests test means that even if a claimant submits a claim to the restitution committee for a work of art, and even if the panel finds that the claim is good, is right, the claimants don’t automatically get their painting back, nor do they get any remedy.”

Last fall the Dutch culture minister had outlined some planned changes to the country’s current restitution policy, including term limits for members of the restitution panel and the establishment of a “World War II Expertise Center, a centralized contact point for information and research that will open this autumn, as part of the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Amsterdam.”

The lapses of the Dutch restitution process after World War II and the Dutch efforts to address them are the subjects of a new exhibition entitled “Looted Art—Before, During and After WWII,” which recently opened on May 12, 2017 at the medieval Bergkerk cathedral in Deventer, The Netherlands.

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.

The US. District Court for the District of Columbia recently denied a preliminary injunction seeking the reinstallation of a controversial “anti-police” painting at the U.S Capitol complex.

David Pulphus, a student artist from Missouri’s First Congressional District, and William Lacy Clay, the congressional representative for that district, filed a lawsuit claiming that their First Amendment rights to free speech were infringed upon when the Architect of the Capitol, Stephen T. Ayers, removed Pulphus’s painting from a display of student art.

Pulphus’s painting was selected to represent Clay’s congressional district in the 2016 Congressional Art Competition, and was hung in the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol complex in June 2016 with the other winning artwork.  The painting was removed several months later by the Architect of the Capitol (who oversees the competition), after receiving several complaints that the painting was “anti-police.”

The Court prefaced its opinion stating that “[a]lthough the Court is sympathetic to plaintiffs given the treatment afforded Pulphus’s art, under controlling authority this case involves government speech, and hence plaintiffs have no First Amendment rights at stake.”

Read the Court’s opinion here.

The “Fearless Girl” was created by sculptor Kristen Visbal and erected in Bowling Green in honor of International Women’s Day in March.  The statue has become wildly popular.  Although set to be removed next week, it will remain in place until early 2018.  However, not everyone is supportive of the artwork.

Fearless Girl Statue by Kristen Visbal New York City
Photo by Anthony Quintano, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license (unaltered)

“Fearless Girl” defiantly faces Wall Street’s famous “Charging Bull” statue, which was created by sculptor Arturo Di Modica, who copyrighted and trademarked his creation.  Di Modica believes “Fearless Girl” subverts the meaning of his artwork, and his lawyers have accused the company that commissioned the statue of improperly commercializing D. Modica’s bull in violation of the copyright.

Read more here and here.

The New York Times recently reported that its readers are divided on the issue of whether the original intent of the artwork should be able to stand over time and how much public art is protected.  Read the article and NYT’s readers’ comments here.

 

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.

 

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 art world news, over 100 modern masterpieces from the art collection of Russian industrialist Sergei Shchukin will be on display at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in a landmark exhibition running from October 22, 2016 through February 20, 2017.  The exhibition entitled “Icons of Modern Art.  The Shchukin Collection” reunites nearly half of the 275 works that once were on display in Shchukin’s Moscow mansion, which opened as a museum in 1908.

The collection was integrated into the State Museum of Modern Western Art after nationalization by the Bolsheviks in 1918.  Stalin ultimately shut down the museum as “ideologically inadequate” in the mid-20th century and considered Shchukin’s art collection “bourgeois”.  The industrialist’s works were eventually divided between the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, where they languished in storage rooms for decades until the 1970s.

Shchukin’s desire for then-radical works by such artists as Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso was said to have rivaled that of the Stein family.  The industrialist forged relationships with leading dealers and artists at the time on his frequent trips to Paris between the late 19th century and the early 20th century.

Anne Baldassari, former director of the Musée Picasso in Paris and organizer of the exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, says that the Shchukin collection is “one of the great pioneering collections that has never received a comprehensive presentation” and “[a]ll curators working on the Modern period dream about staging a Shchukin exhibition.”

The exhibition was reported to have been made possible in part by “political will” after decades of dissension between Shchukin’s descendants and the Russian state.

“A selection of works by Kazimir Malevich, Aleksandr Rodchenko and Vladimir Tatlin, among others, traces the collection’s impact on the emerging Russian avant-garde.”  According to Baldassari, “[p]ictures often went from Picasso’s and Matisse’s studios to Moscow—no one had seen them in Paris.  [This was] Modern art as it was happening, when the paint was still fresh.”

To view select highlights of the exhibition, see The Modern Art Stalin Did Not Want Russians To See published online by The Art Newspaper on October 19, 2016.

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.”