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Week in Review: VOLTA Exhibitors Find New Fairs, Rothko Chapel to Close

Also, a French exhibition closed after it was accused of ripping off Basquiat, drag queen activists held a protest in front of the Texas border wall, and more.

Leonardo da Vinci, “Mona Lisa” (c. 1503–16), oil on poplar panel, 77 × 53 cm (image via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

French Culture Minister Franck Riester plans to travel to Milan to urge Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli to send the Leonardo da Vinci works promised to the Louvre for an exhibition celebrating the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. In recent months, Bonisoli withdrew a contracted promise made by a previous culture minister, citing the nation’s goal of retaining its cultural heritage. “To honor an Italian artist is to honor Italy as a whole,” Reister now pleads, also saying Leonardo “loved France, he came to France before his death, he died in France. He is a European artist, an artist of humanity.” [France Info]

After VOLTA art fair was forced to cancel just a week before opening day due to safety issues at Pier 92, some of the galleries who had planned to showcase at the fair have found a new home for Armory Week 2019. About 30 galleries will show work at David Zwirner’s 525 West 19th Street and 521 West 21st Street locations, thanks to Quang Bao, the founder of New York’s 1969 Gallery, and collector Peter Hort, who organized the move. Additionally, the Art on Paper fair (March 7–10) will showcase nine galleries that planned to participate in Volta. [ARTnews]

Art collector Alexander Khochinsky was detained at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport before his flight back to New York at the request of Poland on behalf of Interpol. The country has been trying to prosecute the United States citizen under extradition charges since 2015, but those were dismissed by US courts. Khochinsky reached out to Poland about a painting, Antoine Pesne’s “Girl with Dove,” after learning the country was looking for an artwork that he believed to be the same. Khochinsky inherited the work from his parents — his mother is a Polish Jew who fled before the German invasion of 1941. He requested they open a dialogue about the piece, but instead, Poland charged him with a crime. For now, he has been released from custody but is unable to leave France. His case is set for March 6, to decide whether he will be extradited to Poland, or return to the United States. [artnet News]

Drag queens from Texas’s Rio Grande Valley recently staged the “No Border Wall Protest Drag Show” to raise awareness for LGBTQ asylum seekers, some of whom are currently detained by United States authorities. The event was led by Beatrix Lestrange, a self-identified “dragtavist,” who told NPR, “The vision was to perform in front of this wall and project our beauty and our glamour and our empowerment against this symbol that stands for hate, racism and xenophobia.” The organizers were able to raise $646 for trans and queer asylum seekers in just two hours. [NPR]

To offset the economic restrictions of international sanctions against Iran, the country’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance is encouraging galleries and artists to export more art. “The international sanctions against Iran exclude cultural products,” Seyyed Abbas Salehi said during a festival in Tehran. “We should take the export of art products seriously and use this opportunity.” [Jerusalem Post]

The Rothko Chapel (image courtesy Ed Uthman’s Flickrstream)

The Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas will close on March 4 for a $30 million revamp. The meditative site will introduce three new buildings to house the chapel’s social justice program. The expansion project is expected to wrap up in 2022. [NYT]

The charity Art UK has undertaken the goal of documenting all of Britain’s public sculptures in an accessible online database, adding onto their existing database of over 200,000 oil paintings. The foundation expects to have 150,000 sculptures available for digital viewing in the next two years. [Guardian]

On a connecting train ride between Kassel to Dusseldorf, an elderly German man mistakenly left behind a prized ceramic jug made by Pablo Picasso himself. German police are helping him track down the 10-inch ceramic, made in 1953 by Picasso in the south of France. The owner says the jug is worth over €10,000 (~$11,500) [DW]

An elderly man has converted his home in Najaf, Iraq into a miniature museum, displaying the Iraqi antiquities he has curated over 50 years. Among his collection are Ottoman-era rifles, coins, and historic photographs. While his home is too small to receive many guests, 80-year old Sheikh Yousif Akar hopes that the Iraqi state will one day take control of these objects “for Najaf, for Iraq.” [Reuters]

The Sakura Gallery in Paris has cancelled an exhibition of work by Guillaume Verda, due to claims that the Parisian artist plagiarized the iconic Jean-Michel Basquiat. French photographer and filmmaker Alex Loembe was the first to point out the striking resemblance with a Tweet, saying the artist failed to even mention Basquiat’s influence on his website or Instagram (instead using #AndyWarhol #AfricanArt), calling it a “bad copy” and cultural appropriation. Sakura director Jean-Baptiste Simon said that the artist has received hate mail and threats for the work, calling it “unconstructive criticism.” [France 24]

Transactions

Lucas Cranach the Elder, "Venus and Cupid" (1529), oil on beech, 38.1 × 23.5 cm, The National Gallery, London (© The National Gallery, London)
Lucas Cranach the Elder, “Venus and Cupid” (1529), oil on beech, 38.1 × 23.5 cm, The National Gallery, London (© The National Gallery, London)

The National Gallery in London has acquired Lucas Cranach the Elder’s painting “Venus and Cupid” (1529), which was gifted to the National Gallery from the Drue Heinz Charitable Trust after the death of Mrs. Heinz. The Heinz family acquired the painting in 1964, and it has only been on UK public display once since the 1950s.

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

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