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Week in Review: Italy Won’t Send Leonardos to the Louvre, Shredded Banksy Heads to Exhibition

Also, curators at the British Museum realized an object they displayed as a vase was actually a Sumerian weapon, how art dealer Mary Boone hopes to avoid jail time after pleading guilty to tax fraud, and more.

The Umma Mace-head, Early Dynastic period, c. 2400 BC (image courtesy J.Fernandes, © the Trustees of the British Museum)

Week in Review is a weekly collection of news, developments, and stirrings in the art world. Subscribe to receive these posts as a weekly newsletter.

Curators at the British Museum realized that a work of art they have been advertising as a vase, is actually a mace-head flipped upside down. The fired-clay object was not a pottery vessel, but rather a weapon made for King Gishakidu of Umma. The researchers realized their mistake — which they call “daft” — while preparing for a small exhibition on a Sumerian border clash, when they came across a similar-looking mace held at Yale University. [TAN]

After pleading guilty for filing false federal tax forms in September, star art dealer Mary Boone is facing prison time. However, Boone has asked the court to reconsider the possible jail sentence, saying she acted out of trauma. Boone’s lawyers have requested she be sentenced to home confinement, probation, and community service, as the gallerist is continually affected by her unstable childhood, surmounting to substance abuse, mental health issues, and a fear of returning to the poverty of her youth. “Behind the facade of success and strength lies a fragile and, at times, broken individual,” her lawyer wrote. [NYT]

Leonardo da Vinci, “The Baptism of Christ” (c. 1475), 117 cm x 151 cm (via Wikimedia Commons)

Italy has rescinded its loan of three Leonardo da Vinci works from the collection of the Uffizi Gallery to France. The paintings had been promised to the Louvre in Paris for the 2019 exhibition celebrating the 500th anniversary of the painter’s death. Lucia Borgonzoni, the undersecretary for the Italian ministry of culture, explains their rationale, saying: “Leonardo is Italian; he only died in France … giving the Louvre all those paintings would mean putting Italy on the margins of a great cultural event.” [TAN]

The Uffizi Gallery in Italy saw record attendance in 2018 — more than four million visitors — experiencing a 25 percent jump in ticket sales after introducing a fluctuating pricing system that changes with the seasons. [Monopol]

Caravaggio, “Judith Beheading Holofernes” (1598–99) (via Wikimedia Commons)

After 30 months of research, the French Ministry of Culture has declined to purchase “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” which was believed to be by Caravaggio after it was discovered in an attic in 2014 outside of Toulouse, France. Experts believe it is likely not by the Italian Baroque artist. The unsigned painting is now able to travel abroad and possibly go up for public sale. [Le Figaro]

Banksy’s “Love in the Bin” (2018) (formerly “Girl with Balloon” (2006)) will go on public display for the first time since the anonymous street artist infamously shredded the work using a remote control at Sotheby’s in London. The altered canvas will go up in February at a privately owned museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. [TAN]

National Museum of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro (screenshot via Vimeo)

A user called “MaxakalisaurusTopai” has launched a campaign through LEGO to construct a model of the National Museum in Brazil (which tragically burned down in September, destroying over 90% of its collection) using the miniature building blocks. The user’s solution? MUSEUM LEGO. “We’ll leave the National Museum alive in the imaginary,” MaxakalisaurusTopai writes. “We’ll rebuild it brick by brick with LEGO, highlighting its historical importance. And the children who help build the National Museum will actually be helping to rebuild the National Museum in real life. All royalties from the MUSEUM LEGO sales will be reverted to the Museum’s reconstruction fund.” The campaign currently has almost 3,000 supporters. [LEGO]

Newly-elected Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, widely criticized for his populist, rightwing politics, has disbanded the Brazilian Ministry of Culture just days after being sworn in. He has instead launched a Ministry of Citizenship, which tackles social policy, sports, and culture. [Artnet]

Vincent van Gogh “Sunflowers” (1888) (via Wikimedia)

The National Gallery in London will loan 60 works, including Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” to Japan for nine months for a traveling exhibition in Tokyo and Osaka. The exhibition, called Masterpieces From the National Gallery, will coincide with the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in 2020 and is the largest loan the UK museum has sent abroad since it was founded nearly 200 years ago. [TAN]

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has granted the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts $1.3 million to support its Native American fellowship. [via email announcement]

Transactions

Thomas Couture, "Portrait de jeune femme assise [Portrait of a seated young woman]" (image courtesy Bundes Kunsthalle)
Thomas Couture, “Portrait de jeune femme assise [Portrait of a seated young woman]” (image courtesy Bundes Kunsthalle)
Monika Grütters, the German Minister of State for Culture (CDU) has announced the return of a Nazi-looted painting from “Kenstfund Gurlitt.” The painting is a portrait of French painter Thomas Couture’s wife and is titled “Portrait de jeune femme assise [Portrait of a seated young woman].” It was identified in 2017 as the property of Georges Mandel, a high-ranking Jewish politician and Nazi opponent, and the work was returned to his heirs this week. When the painting was originally stolen, Mandel’s companion claimed it had a small tear at the breast height of the woman, and it was through this tear that the painting was eventually tracked down.

This and other notable sales and acquisitions are chronicled in our latest Transactions story.

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