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Week in Review: Newly Authenticated Van Gogh, Christie’s Biggest Year Ever

Also, the Lagos State Government has requested the British Museum return the first item ever stolen from Nigeria under colonialism, the German government will direct over $2 million to research colonial-era artifacts, and more.

Vincent van Gogh, “Still Life with Fruit and Chestnuts” (1886), Oil on canvas, 10 5/8 x 14 in. (27 x 35.6 cm) (Gift of Bruno and Sadie Adriani, Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

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.

A still life painting at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF), dismissed long ago as a Vincent van Gogh forgery, has been authenticated by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. A statement released by FAMSF says that two years of technical and stylistic investigations, researchers discovered “a female portrait painted on the canvas underneath the still life” and have concluded that van Gogh did, in fact, paint the image of fruit and chestnuts in the fall of 1886, during a period he spent living in Paris. Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of FAMSF, calls the work, “An example of van Gogh’s experimentation with techniques learned from studying Flemish Old Masters as well as the Impressionists.” [via email announcement]

The German government says it will direct €1.9 million (~$2.16 million) to research colonial-era collections in its nation’s cultural institutions to identify looted artifacts from Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific. A team of eight people, including Bénédicte Savoy, co-author of the infamous restitution report commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, will review funding applications from Germany’s public museums, archives, libraries, and research institutions. [artnet News]

The Lagos State Government in Nigeria has formally requested the British Museum return the Lander Stool, a wood carving believed to be the first object stolen from the country during colonialism in 1830. The request was formally delivered at a two-day symposium on emerging museum projects in Africa at the British Museum. The Lagos state government also announced its plan to unveil the John K. Randle Centre for Yoruba Culture and History before the end of May. [All Africa]

As part of a political deal forming a joint industrial area on the border between Jordan and Iraq, Jordan has returned 1,300 Iraqi antiquities confiscated from smugglers back to their home country. While Iraq will supply Jordan with 10,000 barrels a day at a discounted price, Iraqi goods imported through a Jordanian port on the Red Sea will receive preferential tariffs. [Haaretz]

Claude Monet, "Nymphéas en fleur" (ca 1914–17), oil on canvas, 63 3/8 x 71 1/8 in, pre-sale estimate in the region of $50 million; price realized: $84,687,500
Claude Monet, “Nymphéas en Fleur” (ca 1914–17), oil on canvas, 63 3/8 x 71 1/8 in, pre-sale estimate in the region of $50 million; price realized: $84,687,500 (courtesy of Christie’s)

Christie’s auction house has raised buyer’s premium fees for middle-market and top-end lots, which are now higher than rival auctioneer Sotheby’s rates. In the US, sales over $4 million will now charge 13.5%, up from the previous 12.5%, and sales up to and including $300,000 will be charged 25% (higher than the previous $250,000 cap). The new rule took effect February 1, affecting all categories except wine at all of their auction houses in Europe, New York, and Hong Kong. Christie’s Shanghai will institute a flat 20% rate. Christie’s last updated its buyer’s premium in September 2017. [Antiques Trade Gazette]

One week later, Christie’s announced that 2018 was its most successful year yet, largely due to its record-breaking sale of Peggy and David Rockefeller’s collection in New York last May, which garnered $835,111,344 alone. There was a 3% rise in total sales to $7 billion, up 6% from last year. Asian and American buyers dominated market sales — Asian sales increased 5% from 2017, accounting for 25% of total sales, while American sales increased 9%, accounting for 39% of total sales. [Antiques Trade Gazette]

Jackson Pollock, “No. 16” (1950) (image via Google Arts & Culture)

Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Modern Art (MAM) has sold its Jackson Pollock — the only Pollock on public view in Brazil — for just $13 million. The museum has been in financial trouble amidst an economic crisis in Rio de Janeiro State, slowing donations at the institution that receives no government funding. In March 2018, a collector offered to buy the painting, which was donated by Nelson Rockefeller in 1952, for $25 million, and later offered to put it on view for three months annually at MAM, and keep it in Brazil. However, the museum board was at a stalemate on its decision to sell the work — for so long, that the collector withdrew the offer. However, the museum’s $3 million debt remained, and its annual revenue is just more than half of what it needs to operate successfully. So last week, the work sold at Phillips in a private transaction, to an undisclosed buyer, for an undisclosed amount “in the range” of $13 million. [TAN]

A Gucci balaclava recalling blackface caricatures (screenshot via Gucci)

Gucci has pulled an $890 sweater/balaclava hybrid that has received fierce criticism for its close resemblance to racist blackface caricatures. The fashion house wrote on Twitter that it is “fully committed to increasing diversity throughout our organization and turning this incident into a powerful learning moment.” The brand has removed it from its online shop and says it will pull the sweater from its storefronts as well. [NYT]

Prominent architect David Adjaye, who designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, is calling for the creation of a Black heritage museum in the United Kingdom. Adjaye told BBC that mainstream opinion falsely believes that black British history began in the mid-20th century, but that Black people have been integral to British culture since the Elizabethan era. He thinks a “long-overdue” Black culture museum will help generations of Black children feel part of “the language, DNA and roots” of the nation. [BBC]

Transactions

Maurice Denis, "Motherhood (Vierge au baiser)" (1896–97), oil on canvas, 79.5 cm x 64.5 cm (image courtesy Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, purchased with support from the BankGiro Loterij)
Maurice Denis, “Motherhood (Vierge au baiser)” (1896–97), oil on canvas, 79.5 cm x 64.5 cm (image courtesy Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, purchased with support from the BankGiro Loterij)

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has acquired Maurice Denis’s “Motherhood (Vierge au baiser)” (1896–97). The painting has been part of a private collection for years and has never before been on display in the Netherlands. The work is currently being exhibited in the museum’s permanent collection on the third floor.

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

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