Art Movements

This week in art news: a museum discovered that an 800-year-old Mixtec skull in its collection is a forgery, Iran barred works from the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art from leaving the country, and Zaha Hadid Architects distanced itself from principal Patrik Schumacher’s pro-gentrification comments.

Skull (c. 1400-1520), skull turquoise, shell, nacre (courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Art Movements is a weekly collection of news, developments, and stirrings in the art world.

The National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, south Holland, concluded that an 800-year-old skull in its collection — long thought to be a masterpiece of Mixtec indigenous art — is a forgery. Though the skull and its affixed turquoise stones date from the same period, a four-year investigation revealed that a twentieth-century glue was used to create the skull’s mosaic design. The museum’s conservator, Martin Berger, told the AFP that the skull is a “partial forgery.” “It’s given us a bizarre story and that’s exactly what museums want to do, to tell stories,” Berger stated. “It remains as one of our masterpieces — except, we’ve changed the information on the sign board.”

The Gemälde Galerie in Berlin was forced to indefinitely postpone an exhibition of works from Tehran’s Museum of Contemporary Art after Iranian authorities refused to allow the works to leave the country.

Zaha Hadid Architects published an open letter distancing itself from comments made by the firm’s principal, Patrik Schumacher. During a speech at the World Architecture Festival last week, Schumacher described gentrification as a “progressive process,” arguing that all forms of social housing and rent-control should be abolished. “When socially renting tenants are asked to move and offered a new place somewhere else, they are given these new houses for free. What a tragedy for them,” Schumacher said.

Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi” (c. 1490–1519), oil on walnut, 25.8 x 17.9 inches, private collection (via Wikipedia)

Sotheby’s preemptively filed a lawsuit against three traders who have threatened to sue the auction house for fraud. The traders worked with Sotheby’s to sell “Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World)” (c. 1490–1519) — a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci in 2011 — to the Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier for $80 million. Bouvier, a client of Sotheby’s, later sold the work to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $127.5 million.

British photographer David Hamilton was found dead days after allegations resurfaced that he had raped and sexually abused a number of former models. A police source told the AFP that a plastic bag had been found over the photographer’s head in what looks to be an apparent suicide. Hamilton had long been a controversial figure for his highly sexualized, soft-focus photographs of young girls. The photographer told the AFP that he had “done nothing improper” and vowed to sue his accusers shortly before his death.

Malaysian political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque was arrested for “sedition” while taking part in the George Town Literary Festival in Malaysia. “People are really not happy with the government … but there are laws stopping them from being in the front row and being very, very vocal,” Ulhaque told the New York Times.

Scott Frank, the senior director of media relations at the American Institute of Architects, resigned following the backlash against the organization’s conciliatory post-election statement.

The British Army was tasked with creating a specialist unit to protect cultural heritage in war zones.

.Art announced that over 60 museums and arts organizations plan to launch websites using a “.art” URL.

Eduardo Paolozzi, “Piscator” (1980), Euston Square, London (via Wikipedia)

The Eduardo Paolozzi Foundation is struggling to determine who is responsible for the upkeep of one of the artist’s public sculptures. “Piscator,” a tribute to the German theater director Erwin Piscator (1893–1966), was commissioned by British Rail in 1980 prior to the company’s privatization. “We have been trying to find out if Network Rail owns it, but they have been extremely slow in coming back to us,” Toby Treves, a trustee of the Foundation, told the Guardian. “Presumably because, if it is their responsibility, they don’t want to have to pay to maintain it.”

Joe Corre, the son of fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, torched a boat filled with punk memorabilia on the River Thames. Corre valued the collection — which was accompanied by crude effigies of David Cameron, George Osborne, and Boris Johnson — at £5 million (~$6.3 million). The businessman described the act as a protest against Punk London’s celebration of the movement’s 40th anniversary.

UK exam board Pearson announced that it will develop a new A-Level in History of Art from September 2017. Pearson will be the only examiner to offer an A-Level in the subject following AQA’s decision to discontinue its own exam in October.


Lawren Harris, “Mountain Forms” (1926) (courtesy Heffel Fine Art Auction House)

Lawren Harris’s “Mountain Forms” (1926) was sold at Heffel for $11.2 million (including buyer’s premium), a record for a work of art by a Canadian artist.

Jorge M. Pérez will donate $10 million and a collection of 200 works by Cuban artists to the Pérez Art Museum. The gift will be made over a ten-year period.

Gustav Mahler’s handwritten manuscript for his second symphony sold at Sotheby’s for £4.5 million (~$5.7 million), the highest price ever paid for a musical manuscript sold at auction.

The British Library acquired the archives of PG Wodehouse.

New York Life donated $500,000 toward a proposed monument of suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. If completed, it would be the first sculpture dedicated to a non-allegorical or fictional woman to be erected in Central Park.

Michael Audain pledged $2 million (CAD, ~$1.5 million USD) toward the expansion of the Art Gallery of Great Victoria.

Rhizome received a $200,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The San Diego Museum of Art acquired Jusepe de Ribera’s “Saint James the Lesser” (c. 1632).

Jusepe de Ribera, “Saint James the Lesser” (c. 1632) (courtesy San Diego Museum of Art)


The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago announced plans for a $16 million renovation.

Gabi Ngcobo was appointed curator of the 10th Berlin Biennale.

João Ribas, the deputy director and chief curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Serralves in Porto, Portugal, will curate the 2017 Ural Industrial Biennale.

Miguel Zugaza will step down as the director of the Museo del Prado next year.

Martine Syms and Josh Wolfe joined Rhizome’s board of directors. The organization also announced three new hires: Lyndsey Jane Moulds, Mark Beasley, and Lozana Rossenova.

The Columbia Museum of Art announced that Karen Brosius is stepping down from her post as executive director in order to become president of an unspecified nonprofit.

Lord Mandelson was appointed chairman of the Design Museum’s board of trustees. Deputy director Alice Black was promoted to the role of co-director [via email announcement].

Mark Beasley was appointed the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s inaugural curator of media and performance art.

Laurie Ann Farrell was appointed curator of contemporary art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The museum also appointed Lucy Mensah and Taylor Renee Aldridge as assistant curators.

Mathias Ary Jan replaced Dominique Chevalier as the head of the Syndicat National des Antiquaires (SNA, the French association of antiques dealers) — the organizers of the La Biennale Paris (formally known as the Biennale des Antiquaires).

Sara Friedlander was appointed head of Christie’s post-war and contemporary art department in New York.

The Rubell Family Collection announced plans to relocate to a new site in Miami’s Allapattah district. The private foundation’s new building will be designed by Selldorf Architects.


Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, “Opytnoe Pole. Kazakhstan. Semipalatinsk nuclear test site” (2012), gelatin silver print (courtesy the artist)

The Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program announced the recipients of its 2016 grants. Hyperallergic Weekend’s Albert Mobilio received a grant, as did contributors Taylor Aldridge and Emily Colucci.

Ursula Schulz-Dornburg was awarded the 2016 Aimia | AGO Photography Prize.

Trisha Donnelly was awarded the 2017 Wolfgang Hahn Prize.

Maria Thereza Alves was awarded the 2016–2018 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics.

Heather Phillipson was awarded the 2016  Jarman Award. The Jules Wright Prize for Female Creative Technician was awarded to Lucy Harris.

The Royal Institute of British Architects awarded its inaugural International Prize to the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, designed by Grafton Architects.

Sam Bakewell, Marcin Rusak, Laura Youngson Coll, Juli Bolaños-Durman, and Jessica Harrison were announced the awardees of the 2017 Jerwood Makers Open.

The Goethe-Institut awarded its 2017 residency at Ludlow 38 to curator Saim Demircan [via email announcement].


Pauline Oliveros performing at the 2012 Sonic Acts festival (via Flickr/Rosa Menkman)

Michael Abbensetts (1938–2016), playwright and screenwriter. Best known for the BBC series Empire Road (1978).

Colonel Abrams (1949–2016), singer. House and dance music pioneer.

Al Brodax (1926–2016), television producer. Best known for Yellow Submarine (1968).

Al Caiola (1920–2016), guitarist.

William Christenberry (1936–2016), photographer.

Jonathan Clowes (1930–2016), literary agent.

Rona Hart (1927–2016), dancer. Founder of the Rona Hart School of Dance.

Carol Hogben (Unconfirmed–2016), curator.

Bruce Mazlish (1923–2016), historian and biographer.

Nancy Meehan (1931–2016), dancer and choreographer.

Russell Oberlin (1928–2016), countertenor.

Pauline Oliveros (1932–2016), experimental composer and performer.

Chen Shaoxiong (1962–2016), artist. Founding member of the Big Tail Elephant Group.

Raynoma Singleton (1937–2016), singer, arranger, and producer.

Paul Sylbert (1928–2016), Oscar-winning production designer.

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