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After taking a second look at Los Angeles County government's spending capacity for the 2014-15 fiscal year, the Board of Supervisors has added $54 million to the $84.7 million in arts and culture spending it had authorized in June when the board OK'd the main county budget.

The arts funding was part of a larger "supplemental budget" process that allocated hundreds of millions of dollars, including money that went unspent in the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended June 30, and revenues that weren't certain when the Board of Supervisors passed the primary budget in June.

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The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles and the Musee d'Orsay -- France's top three most visited museums -- will soon open seven days a week, the government said Wednesday.

The measure is expected to come into force between 2015 and 2017, ending a practice that currently sees those top tourist sites closed one day a week, on Monday or Tuesday.

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The U.S. has returned nine stolen 18th-century paintings by Mexican artist Miguel Cabrera to the government of Peru.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says the works were stolen from a church in Lima in 2008. He says they were smuggled out of Peru to be trafficked on the international art market.

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Stockholm’s Moderna Museet may take over the Swedish Center for Architecture and Design after its director Lena Rahoult was forced to step down this summer, following government concerns over the museum’s finances and criticism of its programming. Rahoult had led the national museum since 2008 and her contract was due to run through December, but the government decided to end her mandate early.

“For a long time, the Cultural Department has followed the development of the institution and pointed out a need for a change,” Sweden’s cultural minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth says.

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German government-appointed experts on Friday gave the green light to the restitution of one of the most valuable artworks in the trove of late collector Cornelius Gurlitt to its American owners.

Art experts mandated by Berlin to comb Mr. Gurlitt's collection for Nazi loot said that "Two Riders on the Beach," a 1901 Max Liebermann painting, was looted during World War II and rightfully belonged to the heirs of David Friedmann, a German-Jewish collector who died in the early 1940s. The family is currently suing the Bavarian government for its return.

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A government audit of 1,218 French museums has revealed that some 80% do not know the full contents of their collections, with many collections facing further serious hazards, Libération reported. The preliminary document, released Wednesday after eight months of research and ahead of a full report due at the end of the year, cites several shocking oversights; for example, the Louvre is critiqued for storing Classical sculptures in a subterranean chamber that could not be properly evacuated in the event of an overflow of the Seine river. Noting instances of theft, the report states that numerous collections are kept under insufficient security measures. Issues of provenance related to World War II looting continue to plague several institutions, the report adds, blaming inadequate resources for the incomplete cataloging and other issues.

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Thursday, 19 June 2014 10:00

France Slashes Culture Budget

Culture is once again bearing the brunt of the French government’s attempts to reduce the national deficit. The “mission culture” which oversees cultural spending for the entire country will lose €55 million, €48.3 million of which would otherwise have been spent on maintaining heritage sites.

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The government of Saudi Arabia is spending more than $1.7bn on building 230 new museums as part of a programme to promote the country’s culture. At a conference held in Oxford early in April, entitled “Green Arabia”, the influential HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, nephew of King Abdullah and president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA), said, “We have entered a new age; we have transitioned. Antiquities are the seat of a continuum to bring the life and history of Saudi Arabia closer to the hearts and minds of the people of the Kingdom—particularly the young.”

Building has already begun on 14 of the new museums, which will not only contain antiquities but the latest Saudi contemporary art. “Our artists are among some of the most vibrant in the world,” said Prince Sultan. He added that the museums will be run in part by women. “Women in Saudi Arabia have come a long way—this is not something new,” he said. “They have carried a lot of the history of Saudi Arabia on their shoulders. If you look throughout history, Bedouin women were the backbone of life.”

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Austria turned down an offer to buy a collection of modern art belonging to a home-improvements millionaire, who claimed that 4,000 jobs in his struggling company were at risk if the country did not do so. Officials had previously stated that they were prepared to purchase Karlheinz Essl’s collection if it would help save jobs, but have since decided that his BauMax DIY store chain could reach an agreement with creditors.

Essl’s collection, which includes works by important Austrian artists as well as internationally-recognized names such as Gerhard Richter and Anish Kapoor, is housed in a museum in a suburb north of Vienna. The works are estimated to be worth around $344 million. The Austrian government was met with criticism when initial talks about acquiring Essl’s holdings began. Critics felt that the collection was of inconsistent quality and that the money could be put toward more important causes.

BauMax employs around 10,000 people in Austria and in eight other countries. The company has been struggling with restructuring after a considerable expansion into eastern Europe and Turkey.

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Tuesday, 28 January 2014 15:43

Spain Slashes Sales Tax on Art

In an effort to stimulate Spain’s cultural economy, the country’s government has brought the sales tax for works of art from 21% down to 10%. Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, said, "It is a measure to support creators of works including paintings, sculptures, art galleries, art dealers, antique dealers and the world of plastic arts in general."

Back in 2012, Spain’s government attempted to put a cap on rising public deficit by raising the general sales tax to 21% from 18%. Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative government hope that lowering the tax will help promote and defend culture in the country. 

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