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Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of the enterprise software company, Oracle, has loaned a portion of his inimitable collection of Japanese art to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco for the exhibition In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection. The show presents 64 objects that span over 1,000 years.

Highlights from the show include significant works by well-known artists of the Momoyama (1573-1615) and Edo (1615-1868) periods as well as important examples of religious art, lacquer, woodwork and metalwork. Ellison assembled a large portion of his collection with the help of the Asian Art Museum’s former director, Emily Sano. Serving as Ellison’s personal art curator and advisor, Sano helped the billionaire acquire hundreds of important Japanese art objects including 17th century folding screens by Kano Sansetsu and 18th century paintings by Maruyama Okyo.

In the Moment: Japanese Art from the Larry Ellison Collection will be on view at the Asian Art Museum through September 22, 2013.

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Irina Antonova, the 91-year-old director of Moscow’s Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts who has helmed the institution for 52 years, has been let go after just recently renewing her five-year contract. The announcement, which was made on Monday, July 1, follows a battle waged by Antonova to bring a collection of Impressionist art, which was sent to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg by Joseph Stalin, back to Moscow.

Antonova’s vision was to restore the once magnificent State Museum of New West Art in Moscow, which housed paintings by Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) and Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). Stalin shuttered the museum in 1948 after his regime deemed the collection too far removed from Soviet art. The Museum of New Western Art’s collection, which was assembled by Russian art collectors Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, was later divided between the Pushkin Museum and the Hermitage Museum.

Antonova first made her campaign public in April 2013 when she appealed to Russian president Vladimir Putin during a televised call-in show. The plea sparked controversy with the Hermitage’s director, Mikhail Piotrovsky. After a heated battle, the state intervened and suggested creating an online “virtual museum” as a compromise between the two parties but Antonova refused.

Since the Pushkin’s announcement earlier this week, Antonova has been moved to the ceremonial post of the museum’s president. Marina Loshak, an established curator, will replace Antonova.

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Edgar Degas’ (1834-1917) La Masseuse (The Masseuse), which was once owned by the German-born British painter Lucien Freud (1922-2011), has been given to the Walker Art Gallery as part of the British government’s Acceptance in Lieu (AiL) of law. The AiL is a provision under which inheritance tax debts can be written off in exchange for the acquisition of objects of national importance.

The Degas sculpture was one of three works by Degas bequeathed to England following Freud’s death. The Walker Art Gallery, which is located in Liverpool and houses one of the largest art collections in England outside of London, was granted the sculpture after a competitive process with other UK museums and galleries. La Masseuse, Degas’ only two-figure sculpture, will join the artist’s painting Woman Ironing at the Walker.

Xanthe Brooke, Curator of European Art at the Walker Art Gallery, said, ‘We’re very grateful to Arts Council England for allocating the sculpture to the Walker Art Gallery, where it will be appreciated by an enthusiastic and diverse audience.”

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Wednesday, 12 June 2013 17:43

Art Basel Kicks Off in Switzerland

Art Basel, the most anticipated art fair in the world, will be held from June 13-16, 2013 in Switzerland. A VIP preview and vernissage were held on June 11 and June 12 respectively and included the $12 million sale of Alexander Calder’s (1898-1976) Sumac (1961) by London’s Helly Nahmad Gallery.

Now in its 44th year, Art Basel welcomes 304 international exhibitors to Messe Basel, a venue situated at the border of Switzerland, France and Germany. The fair presents the finest works of modern and contemporary art by more than 4,000 artists. Works on view include paintings, drawings, sculptures, installations, photographs, video and editioned works. The show is split into eight sectors – Galleries, Feature, Statements, Edition, Unlimited, Parcours, Film, and Magazines – and allows patrons to explore the many facets of modern and contemporary art including museum-quality paintings, curated projects, and site-specific artworks.  

The remarkable roster of exhibitors includes Acquavella Galleries Inc. (New York), Castelli Gallery (New York), Gagosian Gallery (multiple locations), Hauser & Wirth (Zurich/New York), Dominique Levy (New York), and Lisson Gallery (Milan/London).

Art Basel offers a full program of events including symposiums, artist talks, and lectures. Featured participants include Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the 55th Venice Biennale and Director at the New Museum, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Gallery in London.    

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Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History is currently on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. The exhibition presents the most comprehensive collection of Winslow Homer’s (1836-1910) works assembled by a single person since the American landscape painter’s death and one of the finest collections in any museum in the U.S. The first complete catalogue of the Clark’s Homer collection, which was authored by Marc Simpson, the show’s curator and a renowned Homer scholar, complements the exhibition.

Sterling Clark began collecting artworks by Homer in 1915 while living in Paris. He maintained a steady fascination with the artist throughout his collecting career, which eventually led to Clark’s acquisition of more than 250 works by Homer dating from 1857 to 1904. Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History will feature Clark’s entire collection including 60 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and etchings, 120 rarely seen wood engravings, and a selection of loaned works.

Highlights from the exhibition include Undertow (1886) along with six preparatory drawings for the painting, the well-known painting Two Guides (1877), and a selection of watercolors that are rarely shown.

Winslow Homer: Making Art, Making History will be on view at the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute of Art through September 8, 2013.

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Lynn Orr, the former curator of European art at San Francisco’s Fine Art Museums, is suing the institution for illegally dismissing her. Orr claims she was let go for supporting a union demonstration and protesting financial deception. Orr has worked for the museums for 29 years and served as a curator for 11 years until her firing on November 20, 2013.

The lawsuit was filed on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 in San Francisco superior court. In her claim, Orr stated that the museums’ human resources director told her that she was being dismissed because of her performance but she had never been confronted about her work in the past. Orr did say that museum officials criticized her attendance at a demonstration held on September 7, 2013 at San Francisco’s M.H. de Young Museum, which was organized to oppose the museums’ management’s stance in labor negotiations.

Orr’s lawsuit also touched on an incident during which she and other employees claimed that the museums were undervaluing a painting that was to be shipped overseas, which she considered to be deceitful. A fellow employee who objected to the situation was fired within a few months of the incident. Orr is seeking unspecified damages from the city of San Francisco and the private corporation that runs the museums.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the modern-leaning M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and the neoclassical California Palace of the Legion of Honor, has been involved in a number of recent uproars. The tumult has included tense labor negotiations, firings of senior staff member such as Orr, and scathing criticism of the museums board’s president, Diane Wilsey.

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For another week and a half, visitors of the Gagosian Gallery in New York will be able to view a major exhibition dedicated to Helen Frankenthaler’s (1928-2011) paintings from the 1950s. Frankenthaler, one of the few female artists involved in the Abstract Expressionist movement, was a major force in 20th century American art. Nevertheless, Frankenthaler has not had the lasting adulation that her male Ab-Ex counterparts such as Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and Mark Rothko (1903-1970) have enjoyed. In fact, the Gagosian exhibition is the first show in three decades devoted to Frankenthaler’s work.

Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959, which was organized in cooperation with the Estate of Helen Frankenthaler, brings together nearly 30 paintings, many of which have rarely been seen. The show was curated by John Elderfield, the Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and author of the foremost monograph on Frankenthaler’s, and includes paintings from Frankenthaler’s estate as well as private and public collections. Highlights from the exhibition include Painted on 21st Street (1950-51), Mountains and Sea (1952), and Jacob’s Ladder (1957). The Gagosian exhibition spans the considerable range and diversity of Frankenthaler’s paintings and illustrates how she synthesized certain aspects of her counterparts work to create an entirely new approach to Abstract Expressionism.

Painted on 21st Street will be on view through April 13, 2013.

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In 2010, the UK’s National Trust was given five paintings from the estate of the late Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross, the widow of Harold, Lord Samuel of Wych Cross, a property developer, philanthropist, and prominent art collector. Among the bequest was a portrait of an ornately dressed man believed to be a relatively unremarkable 17th century painting. Although the work bears a signature and date reading “Rembrandt 1635,” experts believed it to be a later copy or the work of one of the Dutch master’s pupils.

The painting, which spent nearly two years in storage, has just been identified as an authentic Rembrandt (1606-1669) self-portrait worth over $30 million. The painting hadn’t been examined since 1968 and recent X-ray analysis along with newly found circumstantial evidence from the Rembrandt Research Project indicates that the work is in fact genuine.

The self-portrait is the only Rembrandt in the National Trust’s collection of 13,500 paintings and will remain on view at Buckland Abbey through the end of tourist season. Once it is taken off view the painting will be undergo a thorough cleaning and further technical analysis. Experts will perform dendrochronology to date the beech panel the work is painted on, the paint will be analyzed, and the painting will be x-rayed again to check for under-drawings.

David Taylor, the National Trust’s curator of paintings and sculpture, expects to have a final confirmation on the painting by early next year.       

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Thursday, 14 March 2013 15:24

Twombly Foundation Involved in Multiple Lawsuits

When the influential American painter Cy Twombly (1928-2011) passed away two years ago, he left the bulk of his artwork and millions of dollars in cash to the Cy Twombly Foundation of New York. The wealth of money and art passed from a trust to the foundation, which is devoted to protecting and promoting Twombly’s legacy. The Cy Twombly Foundation now finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 in a Delaware state court.

The lawsuit claims that Thomas H. Saliba, one of the four individuals in charge of the foundation, took over $300,000 in unauthorized fees for investment services and assisted another foundation director, attorney Ralph E. Lerner, in pocketing funds. The claim was filed by Nicola Del Roscia, Twombly’s companion and the foundation’s president, and Julie Sylvester, a curator, Twombly expert, and the foundation’s vice president. Roscia and Sylvester also assert that Lerner and Saliba inflated the value of Twombly’s works in order to pad commissions for their own financial gain. Lerner and Saliba have refused to disclose their trustee commissions, making it impossible to determine the extent of their wrongdoing.

The recent lawsuit comes a month after Lerner asked the same Delaware court to appoint Twombly’s son, Alessandro, as a fifth board member in order to break the stalemate over the dispute. Roscia and Sylvester stated in recent court filings that Lerner’s request was an attempt to outmaneuver them. Roscia and Sylvester claim that Lerner hoped to bring Alessandro, the third trustee of Twombly’s trust, on board to help cover up Saliba’s wrongdoing.

While Twombly is a powerful force in the art market, highly inflating the prices of his work could prove dangerous for the foundation by creating confusion about the true value of his art and in turn destabilizing the Twombly market.

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Thanks to the keen eyes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s curators, the institution snapped up an important Old Master drawing at an auction at Swann Galleries for $840 (with premium). The auction, which took place on January 29, 2013, was part of the highly anticipated Old Masters Week in New York.

The drawing was described in the auction catalogue as being from the early 19th century and of French origin. An illustration in brush, black ink, and gray wash of Socrates dying, the drawing was said to be modeled after Jacques-Louis David’s (1748-1825) painting The Death of Socrates, a work that resides in the Met’s permanent collection. The original painting by David was acquired by the museum in 1931 and is among the artist’s greatest works.

As it turns out, the alleged copy, which was given an estimated selling price of $500-$700, was a previously unrecorded preliminary compositional study for David’s painting. Along with the painting, the Met owns a well-developed chalk drawing of The Death of Socrates, which helped the Met’s curators to authenticate the compositional drawing despite differences in setting, positions, and gestures of the figures featured in the painting.

The drawing was acquired by the museum via Katrin Bellinger, a frequent agent for the institution.

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