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UK returns 3,000-year-old tablet looted during Iraq War

A gallery assistant poses with a Babylonian cuneiform kudurru (boundary stone) which was looted from Iraq on March 19, 2019 at the British museum in London. The kudurru which was seized at London's Heathrow airport in 2012 was handed over to representatives of the Iraq embassy today at the British museum. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

by James Pheby

A 3,000-year-old carved stone tablet from Babylonia, which promises a curse on those who would destroy it, is to be flown home from Britain after being looted during the Iraq War. British Museum boss Hartwig Fischer handed over the priceless work to Iraqi Ambassador Salih Husain Ali during a ceremony on Tuesday after museum experts had verified its provenance. "It is a very important piece of Iraq's cultural heritage," said Fischer, praising the "extraordinary and tireless work" of border officials. They spotted the object at London's Heathrow airport in 2012 and contacted the museum after being presented with fake documents. "They seized this item when they saw it at a British port and several years later, after a lot of legal work, we are able to effect this transfer," said Michael Ellis, Britain's Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism. "It's a very important and significant moment." ... More

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Painters love their profession the most. William Makepeace Thackeray

HRH Duchess of Cambridge announced as Royal Patron of the Foundling Museum

Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L) reacts as she leaves after visiting the Foundling Museum, where young people are taught to use art in order to make a positive contribution to society, in central London on March 19, 2019. Niklas HALLE'N / AFP.

The Foundling Museum announced that Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge has become its Patron. This patronage recognises the Museum’s unique work to transform the wellbeing and life chances of vulnerable children and young adults through creative collaboration with artists. Drawing on its landmark history, the Museum improves the skills, confidence and joy in life of young people at society’s margins. The patronage is announced ahead of the Duchess’ visit to the Foundling Museum later today, where she will learn more about the Museum’s pioneering programmes, particularly its training programme for care-experienced young adults and creative projects with young psychiatric in-patients. The celebrated poet and Museum Trustee, Lemn Sissay MBE, has written and will recite a ... More
  Iraqi museum unveils 'looted' artefacts

People visit one of the three newly opened galleries in southern Iraq's Basra museum, on March 19, 2019. Hussein FALEH / AFP.

Over 2,000 artefacts, including about 100 that were looted and found abroad, were unveiled Tuesday in a museum in Basra province on the southern tip of Iraq, authorities said. Basra is the most oil-rich province in Iraq but its heritage sites have long been neglected. On Tuesday between 2,000 and 2,500 pieces went on display in the Basra Museum, the second largest in Iraq, said Qahtan al-Obeid, head of archeology and heritage in the province. "They date from 6000 BC to 1500 AD," he told AFP, referring to the Assyrian, Babylonian and Sumerian periods. Obeid said about 100 artefacts -- most of which came from Jordan and the United States -- were given back to Iraq to be displayed in the museum, a former palace of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. The heritage of Iraq, most of which was former Mesopotamia, has paid a heavy price due to the wars that have ravaged the country for nearly four decades. ... More
  Newly-discovered painting by Flemish Renaissance trailblazer Frans Floris unveiled at TEFAF Maastricht

Frans Floris de Vriendt (called Floris, 1519/20-1570), Susanna and the Elders (detail). Photo: Carlo Orsi-Trinity Fine Art.

A large, newly-discovered and unpublished early work by the influential Antwerp painter, draftsman and etcher Frans Floris de Vriendt (called Floris, 1519/20-1570), who “radically transformed Netherlandish art” and was more renowned in his day than Bruegel the Elder, has been unveiled at TEFAF Maastricht 2019 by Carlo Orsi-Trinity Fine Art. This important painting depicting Susanna and the Elders forms the centrepiece of the gallery’s stand. The work was completed shortly after Floris’s return from a long visit to Italy, and it reveals the artist’s careful study of Roman antiquities and the work of Italian Renaissance artists including Raphael. Floris was praised for his treatment of the nude, and in this substantial canvas, which shows the beautiful Susanna undressed and about to bathe, the artist displays a sensitivity to the handling of flesh which was exceptional in Netherlandish art at ... More

Exhibition is the first to focus solely on Motherwell's approach to large-format painting

Robert Motherwell in his Provincetown studio, 1969, with Open No. 97: The Spanish House. © 2019 Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.

Kasmin announces Sheer Presence: Monumental Paintings by Robert Motherwell, opening March 21, 2019, at the gallery’s flagship space at 509 West 27th Street. This unprecedented exhibition will be the first to focus solely on Motherwell’s approach to large-format painting and will be comprised of eight works spanning the 1960s - 1990, including a core group of paintings from the collection of The Dedalus Foundation. This will be the fourth exhibition on which Kasmin Gallery and The Dedalus Foundation have collaborated. As one of the most novel and confident mark-makers of the Abstract Expressionist era, Motherwell consistently turned to the monumental canvas to pursue his lifelong ambition of realizing “sheer presence, beingness, as such, objectivity and true invention” (R. Motherwell, quoted ... More
  Friedrich von Hayek's £1.1 million Nobel Prize sets online only auction record at Sotheby's

The Nobel Prize led Sotheby’s ‘White-Glove’ online-only auction of 27 lots from Von Hayek’s personal collection. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

A new record for any item sold in an online-only sale at Sotheby’s was set today when Friedrich von Hayek’s Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Science sold for £1.1 million / $1.5 million, almost triple its pre-sale low estimate (£400,000-600,000). The previous benchmark for the most valuable item ever sold in a Sotheby’s online-only sale was $800,000, achieved the only complete archive of Supreme skate decks in private hands which sold to Vancouver Collector Carson Guo in January 2019. Von Hayek’s Nobel Prize, awarded for “pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations”, led Sotheby’s online-only sale of 27 lots from his personal collection which together realised £2.04 million / $2.67 million, quadruple the pre-sale estimate (£445,000-670,000). The auction was a ‘White Glove” sale, with each and every lot selling for many multiples of their high estimate ... More
  Sotheby's presents 150 years of photography in 5 April Photographs Sale in New York City

El Lissitzky, Pelikan Tinte, 1924. 8¼ by 5¾ in. (21 by 14.6 cm.) Estimate: $300/500,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

Sotheby’s spring auction of Photographs on 5 April in New York includes a fresh and wide-ranging selection of images from all decades, from 19th-century daguerreotypes to contemporary works by Mishka Henner, David Yarrow, Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas. Nearly 200 lots with estimates ranging from $1,000 to $500,000 will be on view in Sotheby's New York galleries beginning on 29 March. Anchoring the sale is an extremely rare print of Pelikan Tinte by El Lissitzky (estimate $300/500,000). Among the Russian-born artist’s most famous works, Pelikan Tinte combines photogram and typography to stunning visual effect. The ghostly form of an ink bottle floats across the image with its stopper flying above. A fountain pen - its ink tank perhaps recently filled - is clearly delineated; its position is angled as if having just finished writing the word ‘Pelikan’ on its own. The bright, stenciled lettering ... More
Mike Nelson creates Tate Britain Commission 2019
Mike Nelson is the most recent artist to take on the Tate Britain Commission 2019. Unveiled on 18 March 2019, the annual commission invites artists to make a work in response to the unique architecture and history of the neo-classical Duveen Galleries at the heart of Tate Britain. Artists who have previously undertaken the Commission include Anthea Hamilton (2018), Cerith Wyn Evans (2017) and Pablo Bronstein (2016). The series builds on a long tradition of sculpture exhibitions in the prestigious Duveen Galleries, which has included memorable installations by Richard Long, Rebecca Horn, Richard Serra and Luciano Fabro. Mike Nelson constructs large-scale, site specific sculptural environments that often arise from a period of living and working in a particular location. His works fuse literary, filmic, socio-political and cultural references to create carefully orchestrated tableaux. For example, The Coral Reef 2000 (Tate Collection) ... More

Kestenbaum and Company announces highlights included in its Spring 2019 auction
Kestenbaum and Company’s Spring 2019 auction contains ten Hebrew incunabula and thirty-five important post-incunabula. Many are of distinguished provenance, stemming from such legendary collections as: Sassoon, Schocken, Mehlman, Gradenwitz, Adler- Wineman, Gaster, Valmadonna, Delmonico, London Beth Din, etc. Incunabula are Lot numbers: 31, 39, 55, 57, 59, 67, 72, 73, 79, 81. Upon instruction of the District High Court of Tel Aviv and following a break of eighteen months, Kestenbaum and Company continues their series of auctions from an entity that they have designated as “A Singular Collection.” Included here are a further 25 exceptional Biblical and Rabbinic manuscripts, all of which have been thoroughly researched and expertly catalogued by a consultant, the Jerusalem-based scholar, Rabbi Dovid Kamenetsky. This auction also contains the second (and final) disbursement ... More

Thomas Dane Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Cecily Brown
In We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea, the seventh book in Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons series of children's books, an unexpected bank of fog flows across the river, leaving Goblin (the small sailing cutter) no option but to drift from the river into the North Sea. Narratively and aesthetically, fog marks a stage for improvisation, weighted by confusion and alarm. Such tensions coexist in Cecily Brown's first Naples exhibition, where paintings, pastels, and watercolours elaborate precisely on the significance of the "partial view", utilising the shipwreck as a socio-political, theatrical, and symbolic prism. As a painter of lush compositions, vibrant tones and sensual brushwork, Brown appears to echo the vivid history and vehemence of Naples, for her work and the city resonate with the same, rare ambiguity.Her paintings bridge the exalted and tumultuous styles of the French 'Romantiques', from Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19)to Delacroix's The ... More

Strauss & Co shatters R100-million (£5.2 M) barrier with a 93% sale rate
A packed salesroom punctuated by enthusiastic applause acknowledged the fierce rivalry among collectors for top paintings, unseen in decades, at Strauss & Co’s red-letter autumn sale. The sale culminated in a record-breaking tally of R106 million (£5.5M) in sales at a value sell-through rate of 93%. This performance is unrivalled in the marketplace. Irma Stern cemented her status as the most sought-after South African artist at auction when three paintings from her celebrated Zanzibar period (1939–45) sold for a combined value of R39 million (£2M). Adding to the buoyant mood was the sale of Alexis Preller’s seminal cabinet painting Collected Images (Orchestration of Themes) for just over R10 million (£521,000), a new world record. Frank Kilbourn, Strauss & Co’s chairman, said: “This the first-ever art auction in South Africa to achieve over R100 million in sales. The sell- ... More

Bonhams sale to include fine examples of 20th Century design and fine art
Bonhams Los Angeles will present Modern Design | Art, an expertly curated sale featuring rare and important examples of 20th century decorative arts, paintings and sculpture to be held on April 24th at Bonhams Los Angeles showroom. Modern Design | Art is designed to appeal to both the Los Angeles and global collector and will be highlighted by superb pieces of furniture, decorative objects and art that showcase the Mexican Modernist design movement, many coming from the private collection of Los Angeles gallerist Robert Willson. Modern Design | Art was curated by Jason Stein, Director of Modern Decorative Art + Design at Bonhams Los Angeles incorporating the most fascinating design and fine art that underline how we live in today’s modern environment. Several highlights include one of the largest collections of early American Bakelite radios; two dramatic Lalique cactus ... More

Soviet New Wave film-maker Khutsiev dies at 93
Renowned Soviet-era film-maker Marlen Khutsiev, one of the country's most influential post-war directors, has died aged 93, the Russian Union of Cinematographers said on Tuesday. A leading representative of the Soviet New Wave, "he lived a life full of drama and joy," spokeswoman Tatyana Nemchinskaya told AFP. The director's career spanned more than six decades and he worked into his 90s. President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences on the passing of the "distinguished" director, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Georgian-born Khutsiev was famous for cult films in the mid 1950s and 1960s that captured the mood in Soviet society during Nikita Khrushchev's Thaw. ... More

Kim Chong Hak's first exhibition with Perrotin opens in Paris
Kim Chong Hak’s first exhibition with Perrotin pays homage to the artist’s extensive career, showcasing around 20 of his works, which include recent acrylic paintings, his representative works from the 1980s, and drawings never before displayed. Widely known as the “Painter of Seorak”, Kim evokes Mount Seorak—the third-highest mountain in Korea, situated in the east of the country— on his canvases with motifs from nature, such as flowers, insects, and weeds. At the age of 82, Kim maintains a gestural way of making his art with coarse, rapid brushstrokes and with his hands, slathering paint on the canvas. Kim’s paintings introduce a distinct world where nature is rearranged according to the artist’s experience and sensations, bypassing temporal limits and cycles of life and death. His landscapes relinquish perspective and are intensely two-dimensional. Vines ... More

Chasing celluloid dreams at China's Tinseltown
Fed up with the drudgery of his sales job in southern China, Lu Qi quit and travelled a thousand kilometres north to one of the country's biggest film studios with hopes of making it in movies. That dream remains a work in progress for Lu and thousands like him who eke out a precarious living as extras at Hengdian World Studios. Just as movie-goers use film to escape reality, so too do many of Hengdian's army of more than 6,000 extras. "I failed so many times (in sales) and haven't made much progress," said Lu, his head shaved bald save for a knit cap keeping it warm. "Most people here have no degrees, skills or relations. (We) can't do any business either, so we are just here to escape the reality and the competition out there," the 24-year-old added. Hengdian, in eastern China's Zhejiang province, was once a poverty-stricken ... More

A new exhibition explores the ideas and stereotypes that link Jews and money
Jews, Money, Myth, a major new exhibition at Jewish Museum London, explores the role of money in Jewish life and its often vexed place in relations between Jews and non-Jews, from the time of Jesus to the 21st century. It examines the origins of some of the longest running and deeply entrenched antisemitic stereotypes: the theological roots of the association of Jews with money; the myths and reality of the medieval Jewish moneylender; and the place of Jews – real and imagined – in commerce, capitalism and finance up to the present day. This cutting-edge exhibition reflects on over 2,000 years of history, drawing together manuscripts, prints, Jewish ritual and ceremonial objects, art, film, literature and cultural ephemera, from board games and cartoons to costumes and figurines. Exhibits from the museum’s collection are complemented by ... More

Collection of scrimshaw canes steps into winner's circle at Sworders March 12 auction
A collection of scrimshaw walking canes assembled by a local gentleman sold for a total of £34,000 ($45,110) at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchet, England, on March 12. Antique marine ivory and baleen canes such as the ones offered by Sworders typically were worked by American and European sailors as gifts for loved ones, or to be sold to natural history-curious Victorians in the port cities. They have long been popular, particularly in the UK and in North America, and many now hold appeal beyond the cane collecting community and into the folk art world. While some scrimshaw canes are relatively simple, the best examples reflected many hours of work: carving to the shaft with spiraling and crosshatching, tortoiseshell inlay and careful carving of a marine ivory pommel or handle. The most sophisticated example in the collection ... More

Fabulous diamonds, marine paintings and Midcentury modern classics at Michaan's in April
Michaan’s April 13 Gallery Auction promises to sustain the momentum created by the exciting monthly sales in 2019’s first quarter. Fine diamonds are as abundant as flowers in springtime. A lush Bay Area landscape by an Italian painter of wide renown is a leading highlight. Midcentury furniture by Gerald McCabe of Santa Monica is not to be missed. A massive red embroidered silk panel is among the Asian art treasures. Michaan’s is a premier destination for worldwide jewelry buyers, whether they seek period heirlooms or contemporary jewelry from fine estates. In April the selection features the designers Roberto Coin, Tiffany & Co. including Frank Gehry for Tiffany, Marina B., David Yurman and more. April’s birthstone is the diamond — symbolizing “endurance” — and the auction offers beautiful diamonds in many precious pieces. Fine ... More

COLLECTIBLE 2019: End of fair report
The 2nd edition of COLLECTIBLE concluded on Sunday 17 March 2019 boasting strong sales and an attendance of 15,000 visitors - a substantial increase to last year’s numbers. Running from 14 – 17 March at the Vanderborght building in Brussels, COLLECTIBLE is the only fair to solely focus on contemporary, 21st century collectible design. 92 exhibitors from 15 countries comprising design and art galleries, individual designers, design studios, and design graduates as well as design institutions and organisations took part in the fair and a week of special events and celebrations across Brussels and beyond. Many exhibitors chose COLLECTIBLE to unveil new works ranging from full collections of furniture to unique pieces and experimental and innovative designs. Participants expressed their excitement at the high-profile collectors, ... More

Hat-trick of awards for Royal Air Force Museum
The Royal Air Force Museum announced that it has recently won 3 awards at the Association for Cultural Enterprises Conference. The awards recognise ingenuity and best commercial practice within the Heritage Sector. The RAF 100th Anniversary T-Shirt won the Best Product for a business with a turnover more than £1m. Clothing has always been popular with visitors to both of the museum's sites, but this amazing T-shirt which pictures various RAF aircraft flying dramatically out of the RAF roundel was judged to be “incredibly visually appealing with a 3D innovative design” as the judges commented. London’s Souvenir Guide Book won the Best Guide Book for a business with a turnover more than £1m. The Museum’s third win of the evening was for Best Children’s Product for a business with a turnover of more than £1m for our Royal Air For ... More

Freeman's Sale of Single-Owner Collection of Antiquities & Tribal Art achieves 100% sell-through rate
On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Freeman’s presented an exciting single-owner sale of Antiquities & Tribal Art from renowned New York and Hollywood talent agent Jeff Hunter (1926-2018). Comprising just shy of 50 lots, the sale garnered significant interest from both national and international buyers, achieving an impressive 100% sell-through rate and totaling $536,426, more than double its pre-sale high estimate. Hunter bought from high quality sources so the emergence of his collection at auction represented an exciting moment for the market. As such, nearly two-thirds of the lots sold above their estimates, with many highlights emerging from the auction. Top price was achieved by a Roman carved marble life-sized torso of Diomedes (Lot 34, Estimate: $20,000-30,000), which, after spirited bidding, ultimately earned $106,250. Other ... More

Monika Szewczyk appointed director of De Appel, Amsterdam
The board of De Appel in Amsterdam announced that Monika Szewczyk will be director of the art center starting on May 1, 2019. Szewczyk succeeds Niels Van Tomme who left De Appel at the end of 2018 to become director of Argos in Brussels. A native of Szczecin, Poland who grew up and gained early curatorial experience in Vancouver, Canada, Szewczyk brings with her broad international experience, most recently as a curator for documenta 14: Learning from Athens. Prior to her move to the Greek capital in 2014 to realize this uniquely bi-located edition of documenta, she developed the inaugural exhibitions program of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. Szewczyk also spent four formative years in Rotterdam, as head of publications at Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art and core ... More

Extraordinary 1872 Boston "Base Ball" club membership certificate to be auctioned
A scarce 1872 Boston Red Stockings membership certificate will be auctioned by Robert Edward Auctions. Bidding runs from March 6-24. Interested bidders may participate in the auction online. The large-format certificate is signed by Harry Wright, proclaiming Charles H. Gould an active member of the 1872 Boston Red Stockings. It is the first and only 1872 Boston Red Stockings membership certificate known. The colorful design features an illustration of a game-in-progress scene encircled by a red baseball belt and an eagle holding a banner and four baseball flags. The banner is lettered "Most Respectfully;" the related lettering on the belt reads "Dedicated To The Base Ball Fraternity Throughout The United States." On either side of the central illustration are two generic ballplayers in various action poses. Also pictured within the central ... More

Swisscom and Fondation Beyeler bring a genuine Picasso to a Swiss living room
Swisscom is the main partner for the unique exhibition at Fondation Beyeler, “The Young PICASSO – Blue and Rose Periods”. Together with Fondation Beyeler, Swisscom is now launching #myprivatepicasso, a special project bringing a valuable painting from this renowned collection of artworks by Pablo Picasso into a regular Swiss home for one day. The #myprivatepicasso collaboration between Fondation Beyeler and Swisscom is as novel as Picasso himself. On 16 April 2019, the 1939 masterpiece, Buste de femme au chapeau (Dora), from the renowned Beyeler Collection will be loaned to a private home in Switzerland for just one day. It could be a family home, shared student housing or someone living on their own: In fact, anyone living in Switzerland can apply for this extraordinary opportunity between 19 March and 1 April. The eventual winner, ... More

Milestones - March 20
1625 - Orazio Mochi, an Italian sculptor, died in Florence
1668 - Nicolas Mignard, a French painter, died in Paris
1800 - Thomas Webster, an English painter, was born in Pimlico, London
1809 - Johannes Tavenraat, a Dutch painter, was born in Rotterdam
1811 - The American painter George Caleb Bingham was born in Augusta County, Virginia
1830 - Nicolas-Antoine Townay, a French painter, died in Paris
1865 - The French painter Constant Troyon died in Paris
1872 - Robert Brough, a Scottish painter, was born in Invergordon, Highland
1896 - Emile Boeswillwald, a French architect and restorer, died in Paris
1934 - The Greek painter Theophilos died in Lesbos
1984 - Paule Vézelay, an English painter and printmaker, died in London
1994 - The High Museum of Art in Atlanta opened an exhibition of drawings from Italy and the Low Countries from the Steiner Collection
1995 - Microorganisms, bacteria and insects were discovered to be destroying works by Titian and Rubens at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
1996 - The exhibition "Soane and Death" was on view at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
1997 - The show featured repulsive drawings, watercolors and prints
1999 - It was reported that the Royal Acadamy in London would extend its opening hours for Monet's exhibition
1999 - The British painter and critic Patrick Heron died at age 79. He was born on January 30, 1920 in Headingley, Leeds
2000 - The Cleveland Museum of Art just opened the exhibit titled "Lynn Geesaman Photographs: Poetics of Place"
360° Images / Roderick Mackenzie / Mount Everest
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