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An Edward Hopper (1882-1967) retrospective, which was on view from October 10, 2012 to February 3, 2013 at the Grand Palais in Paris, welcomed a surprising number of visitors during its run. A total of 784,269 patrons visited the exhibition in less than four months, surpassing a blockbuster exhibition featuring the work of long-time Paris resident Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), which ran from 2008-2009 at the same French institution.  

To accommodate the high number of visitors, the museum stayed opened around the clock during the show’s final weekend. 48,000 people visited the Grand Palais to catch a final glimpse of the Hopper show, including Jill Biden, the wife of US Vice President, Joe Biden.

The exhibition’s popularity came as somewhat of a surprise to museum officials as the American realist painter and printmaker has never drawn such a crowd in the United States. While he came close, Hopper was unable to surpass the popularity of the 2010-2011 Claude Monet (1840-1926) retrospective, which saw 913,064 visitors.

Hopper, who didn’t sell his first painting until he was 40, has grown considerably in popularity since his death at 85. Wildly successful exhibitions in Madrid, London, Milan, and Rome, which took place before Hopper’s show at the Grand Palais are a testament to the artist’s continued relevance.

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Following a two-year investigation conducted by the Italian art forgery unit, Christian Parisot, president of Rome’s Modigliani Institute, has been arrested. Police seized 18 works from Parisot including prints, bronzes, and a painting attributed to the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920); the counterfeit works are said to be worth almost $8.7 million. The unit also apprehended forged certificates of authenticity from Parisot.

Parisot has worked with the Modigliani family for years and even served as secretary to Jeanne Modigliani, the artist’s daughter. Laura Nechtschein Modigliani, Jeanne’s daughter and the only living descendant of the artist, currently holds the rights over her grandfather’s works.

Modigliani’s oeuvre has proved problematic through the years; due to his consistent and distinctive style, Modigliani’s works are often subject to forgery. There are at least five catalogue raisonnés of the artist’s work and Parisot was in the process of compiling his own prior to his arrest.

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Wednesday, 09 January 2013 15:29

Toledo Museum of Art Returns Ancient Italian Jug

The Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio returned a ceramic water vase, which depicts the Greek god, Dionysus turning pirates into dolphins, to the Italian government on Tuesday, January 9, 2013. The jug, which dates back to the sixth century BC, was likely looted from Italian soil years ago.

The Toledo Museum of Art purchased the jug in 1982 from art dealers who used falsified documents to hide the object’s dishonest past. Investigators revealed that the jug was smuggled out of Italy after it was illegally excavate sometime before 1981.

The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency announced that the Estruscan black-figure kalpis, which is valued at $665,000, was handed back to Italian officials following a ceremony held at the museum. While Italy currently holds reign over the work, the jug will remain on view in the museum’s Libbey Court until it leaves for Rome in late summer of this year.

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Friday, 28 December 2012 13:22

French Museums Report Record Attendance in 2012

The Louvre, Centre Pompidou, and Musee d’Orsay all reported record attendance numbers for 2012. Recent expansions, newly unveiled renovations, and impressive exhibitions are responsible for beckoning troves of visitors from across the world to the Parisian institutions.

The Louvre, which is the most-visited museum in the world, summons bigger crowds each year. 2012 marked the largest attendance figures ever recorded for the institution with nearly 10 million visitors this year. Expanded Islamic art galleries and a spate of well-received temporary exhibitions were of particular interest to visitors. In fact, they helped boost attendance 29-percent from 2011. Exhibition highlights at the Louvre in 2012 included a show devoted to Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and the birth of American Landscape painting, the presentation of Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) masterwork, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and an exhibition of Raphael’s (1483-1520) later works, which he produced in Rome.

The Centre Pompidou, which specialized in modern and contemporary art, welcomed over 3.8 million visitors in 2012, a 6-percent increase from 2011. The Centre Pompidou held three major retrospectives this year, which helped raise visitor numbers. An exhibition devoted to Henri Matisse (1869-1954) titled Matisse, Paires et séries brought 495,000 visitors; a Gerhard Richter (b. 1932) retrospective brought 425,000; and a show of Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí’s (1904-1989) works has seen approximately 6,700 visitors per day since it opened on November 21.

After attendance figures declined from 2008 to 2010, it appears that the Impressionist institution, the Musée d’Orsay, has bounced back with 3.6 million visitors this year. A 15-percent increase from last year, the boosted attendance numbers were likely the result of the reopening of renovated gallery spaces and a major Edgar Degas (1834-1917) exhibition, which brought 480,000 visitors. The current exhibition, Impressionism and Fashion, is expected to see 500,000 guests before closing on January 21, 2013.

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At Sotheby’s London’s Evening Sale of Old Master & British Paintings on December 5, a rare drawing by Raphael set a new record for the artist at auction. A masterpiece in black chalk, Head of a Young Apostle (circa 1519-20), has been part of the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth since 1720 and features one of the key figures in the artist’s final work, Transfiguration, a celebrated painting from the Renaissance, which is now in Rome’s Vatican Museum.

Amid a considerable amount of bidding both in the auction room and on the telephone, Head of a Young Apostle sold for $47.8 million, nearly three times the drawing’s low estimate of $16 million to $24 million. Gregory Rubenstein, Worldwide Head of Old Master Drawings at Sotheby’s, said, “A number of the world’s greatest collectors stepped up tonight in recognition of the genius of Raphael and the extraordinary beauty of this drawing.”

The sale proves that the market is still prime for Old Master works. Head of a Young Apostle is one of three exceptional Raphael drawings to appear at auction in the past 50 years; each work has set an all-time sale record for an Old Master drawing. This particular sale is the highest price paid at a European auction in 2012 and is the second highest Old Master sale to date. The first is Peter Paul Rubens’ Massacre of the Innocents, which sold for $76.7 million at Sotheby’s in 2002.

Sotheby’s Old Master sale realized almost $94 million and sold 74.5% by lot.

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The 500-years-old Sistine Chapel is the most visited room in the world. Around five million people a year flock to Rome to see Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes, one of the wonders of Western civilization. After the Sistine Chapel ‘s 500th birthday this past Wednesday, the Vatican warned that they might need to limit the number of visitors in order to protect the masterpiece.

Completed on October 31,1512 after four years of work by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel has never ceased to awe visitors and has become one of the most famous images in art history. The irreplaceability of the Sistine Chapel has many critics asking the Vatican to enforce limitations on the number of visitors per year. However, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, says he doesn’t foresee that happening anytime in the near future. He did admit that it might be a necessary measure further on down the road.

The dust, humidity, and carbon monoxide produced by visitors could possibly damage Michelangelo’s frescoes in the long term. In 1994, a 14-year restoration project that included an elaborate dehumidifying system, air conditioners, filters, and micro-climate controls was completed. However, the number of visitors to the Chapel continues to grow, putting the system under increasing stress. Paolucci is currently looking into newer technologies that will prevent the Vatican from having to limit the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel.

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