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Yorkshire Sculpture Park was on Wednesday named UK museum of the year, winning the £100,000 Art Fund prize with judges praising it as a "truly outstanding museum with a bold artistic vision."

The museum near Wakefield, spread out among 200 hectares (500 acres) of parkland, had modest beginnings, founded by Peter Murray in 1977 when he was principal lecturer in art history at Bretton Hall College and had the idea of putting some sculpture in the grounds. Today Murray is executive director of an organization which is one of the world's most important open air museums, with 160 staff and 220 volunteers.

Published in News
Thursday, 30 January 2014 18:04

Task Force will Tackle Nazi Looted Art

German authorities have appointed 13 experts in art history, provenance research and restitution issues to a task force that will be responsible for establishing the history of hundreds of artworks discovered in a dilapidated apartment in Munich this past November. The works, which include masterpieces by Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Albrecht Durer, were found in the possession of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of Hildebrandt Gurlitt. Hildebrandt had been put in charge of selling Nazi looted artworks abroad by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.  

Jane Milosch from the Smithsonian, Thierry Bajou from the Musées Nationaux Récupération in France, Sophie Lillie from Vienna, Agnes Peresztegi from Budapest, and Yehudit Shendar and Shlomit Steinberg, both from Israel, will join the task force’s German members -- Uwe Hartmann, the head of Germany’s office for provenance research, art historian Meike Hoffmann, Michael Franz, the head of Germany’s restitution office, Magnus Brechtken, the deputy director for the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, Roland Kempfle, a Munich-based prosecutor, Heike Impelmann from the office for unresolved property issues and Stephanie Tasch, who represents Germany’s 16 states.

First, the task force will research the ownership histories of the drawings, prints and paintings believed to have been stolen by the Nazis from their Jewish owners. The task force will then investigate the works believed to have been looted by the Nazis from public institutions. So far, authorities have begun photographing and publishing the artworks. Over 450 pieces have been added to Germany’s Lost Art Internet Database.

Published in News
Monday, 15 July 2013 17:50

Rijksmuseum Buys Early Painting of America

The Rijksmuseum in The Netherlands has purchased one of the earliest depictions of America in the history Western art. Discovery America by the Dutch Renaissance painter Jan Mostaert (circa 1475—1555/56) was created between 1525 and 1540 and features a made-up scene of Spanish aggressors firing cannons and rifles at indigenous people who are armed with bows and arrows.

Discovery America, which is also known as Episode from the Conquest of America, was one of 202 paintings returned to the daughter-in-law of Jacques Goudstikker, a Jewish art dealer whose collection was plundered by the Nazis. Following World War II, the painting was displayed in the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem until Goudstikker’s heirs demanded that the work be handed over to the family in 2006. Goudstikker’s daughter-in-law approached the Rijksmuseum about purchasing the painting earlier this year. Nathan and Simon Dickinson Gallery, which has headquarters in New York and London, brokered the sale. The gallery had brought the painting to the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht in March where they asked $14 million for the masterpiece.    

Discovery America’s importance is bolstered by the fact that it is one of the oldest Dutch paintings mentioned in the definitive Dutch art history book, Het Schilder-boeck from 1605.

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Thomas M. Messer, the longtime director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, passed away on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at his home in Manhattan. Messer served as the institution’s director from 1961 to 1988 when he retired. Messer also served as the director of the Guggenheim Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of art, from 1980 to 1988.

During his time at the Guggenheim, Messer helped to establish the museum as of one of the finest art institutions in the world. In doing so, he grew its collection, increased its exhibitions program, improved its publications, and helped it to become a global entity.

Messer vastly expanded the Guggenheim’s holdings by acquiring two major private collections. In 1963, Justin K. Thanhauser, the son of a German art dealer, gave the museum a trove of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern works including over 30 Picassos. The second bequest came from Peggy Guggenheim who left her entire collection including an array of Cubist, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist works to the Guggenheim Foundation. The collection operates as a museum known as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.  

Born in Eastern Europe in 1920, Messer arrived in the United States in 1939. He graduated from Boston University in 1942, joined the army, and served as an interrogator for military intelligence in Europe. After the war, he stayed in Europe and studied art at the Sorbonne. Upon his return back to the United States, Messer was named director of a small museum in New Mexico. He eventually earned a master’s degree in art history from Harvard and was soon appointed director of the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston.

While he has no surviving family, Messer leaves behind a legacy of diplomatic leadership as well as one of the finest art institutions in the world.

Published in News
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 13:25

Stolen Rembrandt Masterpiece Found in Serbia

Serbian police recovered Rembrandt’s (1606-1669) Portrait of a Father on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, seven years a after it was stolen from the Novi Sad City Museum located in the northern city of Novi Sad. Police arrested four people in connection to the 2006 heist that involved three other paintings including a work by the Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a 17th century piece by the Italian Baroque painter Francesco Mola (1612-1666), and another painting from the 16th century by an unknown German-Dutch artist.

Rembrandt, one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history, painted Portrait of Father in 1630 and it is estimated to be worth around $3.7 million. The painting was stolen 10 years prior to the 2006 robbery, but it was eventually recovered in Spain.

None of the other works involved in the Serbian heist have been found.

Published in News
Tuesday, 05 March 2013 11:49

Google Launches Art Talks Series

Following the lead of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and PBS, Google will launch a series of monthly digital “Art Talks.” The project aims to bring gallery and museum collections to life through virtual hangouts with curators, museums directors, historians, and educators from the world’s most distinguished cultural institutions. The talks will explore various arts-related topics including the curating process, popular themes throughout art history, art education, and the significance of specific masterpieces and artists.

The first Art Talks hangout will take place at 8PM on March 6, 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Deborah Howes, the museum’s Director of Digital Learning, will join a panel of artists and students to discuss the process of teaching art online.

Upcoming Art Talks include Caroline Campbell and Arnika Schmidt from London’s National Gallery discussing depictions of the female nude throughout art history (March 20, 2013) and a panel discussion of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s (1525-1569) Tower of Babel featuring Peter Parshall, curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. (April 2013). Additional talks are planned for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico.

The talks will be posted on the Google Art Project‘s YouTube channel after they air.

Published in News
Thursday, 28 February 2013 17:19

The Cloisters Celebrates its 75th Anniversary

The Cloisters museum and gardens, a branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art located in northern Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year. Assembled from architectural elements, both domestic and religious, that date from the 12th through the 15th century, the Cloisters houses approximately 3,000 works of art from medieval Europe.

To commemorate its 75th year, the Cloisters has a number of celebratory exhibitions planned. Search for the Unicorn: An Exhibition in Honor of the Cloisters’ 75th Anniversary will present the Unicorn Tapestries (1495-1505), a series of seven tapestries, which were a gifted to the museum by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. when the Cloisters opened in 1938. The Tapestries are the museum’s best-known masterpieces, but their history and meaning remain mysterious. The Unicorn Tapestries will be exhibited alongside approximately 40 works from the Metropolitan, sister institutions, and private collections. Search for the Unicorn will be on view from May 15-August 18, 2013.

In September, the Cloisters will mount an installation by Janet Cardiff (b. 1957). The Forty Part Motet (2001) is comprised of 40 speakers, each playing the sound of one singer in a 40-voice choral performing “Spem in alium numquam habui” (circa 1573) by the Tudor composer Thomas Tallis (circa 1505-1585). The installation will play on a loop in the Cloister’s Fuentidueña Chapel through December 8, 2013. The Forty Part Motet is the first piece of contemporary art to be featured at the Cloisters.

The Cloisters will wrap up its anniversary celebrations with the exhibition of six near life-size stained glass windows on loan from England’s historic Canterbury Cathedral. It will be the first time the panels have left the cathedral since their creation in 1178-80. Current repairs to the cathedral’s stonework required the removal of the windows, which have recently been conserved. The stained-glass windows that will be on view at the Cloisters feature six figures from an original cycle of 86 ancestors of Christ, the most comprehensive stained-glass cycle known in art history. The Romanesque masterpieces will be on view from March through May 2014.

Published in News
Tuesday, 13 November 2012 18:54

Four Major Museums Including the Louvre Team Up

For the second time in two years, Paris' musee du Louvre, Atlanta's High Museum of Art, Bentonville, Arkanas' Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Chicago's Terra Foundation will join forces to promote American art history education. The collaboration, which launched last year, was conceived in 2007 after the High's exhibition Louvre Atlanta, the product of a collection-sharing agreement with the French institution.

This installation of the four-year collaboration will focus on American genre painting of the 19th century, specifically how artists associated with the movement depicted day-to-day life at a time when America was still coming into its own. The exhibition, titled American Encounters: Genre Painting and Everyday Life, will open at the Louvre on January 17, 2013 and travel to the Crystal Bridges Museum in May and then to the High Museum in September. Featured paintings include Arthur Fitzwilliam Tate's The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix (1856) from Crystal Bridges, Eastman Johnson's Negro Life at the South (circa 1870) from the High Museum, and George Caleb Bingham's The Jolly Flatboatmen (1877-78) from the Terra Foundation. The Louvre's contributions, a painting by the Dutch artist Jan Steen and one by Englishman William Mulready, will explore the European influence on American genre painting.

Last year's inaugural exhibition focused on American landscape painting and featured works by Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole. It is currently wrapping up its run at the High Museum ending January 6, 2013.

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While a lot of time, thought, and care goes into the creation of exhibition catalogues, their lifespans tends to be short-lived. Unhappy with this accepted cycle, Thomas P. Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, decided to change things. The Museum’s new online resource, MetPublications, allows users to browse more than 600 catalogues, journals, and museum bulletins, including 368 out-of-print publications. It will even be possible to get copies of 140 of those out-of-print catalogues along with paperbound editions with digitally printed color reproductions through Yale University Press.

Spanning from 1964 to the present, topics covered include art, art history, archaeology, conservation, and collecting. MetPublications includes a description and table of contents for almost all of the periodicals and even offers information about the authors, reviews of the books, and links to related publications and art in the museum’s collection. The comprehensive resource will also provide links to purchase in-print books. If a reader is in need of a book but is not close to the museum or the book is not in the Museum’s holdings, MetPublications will direct them to WorldCat, a global library catalogue. Over time, the Met plans to add publications dating as far back as 1870, when then the museum was founded.

While other museums such as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Los Angeles County of Museum of Art already have scholarly resources online, it is a welcome addition to the Met’s offerings.

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