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Week in Review: Thieves Try to Steal a Brueghel, Desert X Sculpture Destroyed

Also, the New York Public Library will open a gallery for its 46 million artifacts, Ai Weiwei makes a formal request for 30 tons of free buttons, and more.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger, “The Crucifixion” (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.

A group of robbers set their sights on a 17th-century painting of the crucifixion by Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Younger. Little did they know, local police and the church in Northern Italy that housed the $3.4 million painting were wise to their scheme. Police swapped out the work for a cheap copy and installed surveillance cameras prior to the theft, when the thieves used a hammer to smash the case and made their exit. After rumors began swirling that the church’s valuable artworks were easy to steal, town mayor revealed the truth behind the heist. [Guardian]

Endeavor, the talent agency that purchased 70% of Frieze in 2016, has returned a $400 million investment given to the company last year by Saudi Arabia’s government. The decision comes months after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. [NYT]

Culture ministers from the 16 states across Germany have agreed to create guidelines with “the necessary urgency and sensitivity” for the repatriation of cultural artifacts stolen from former colonies and held in public collections. They describe the decision as “an ethical and moral duty” on behalf of the nation. Jürgen Zimmerer, a professor of African history at Hamburg University, referenced French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent push for repatriation, saying “Germany has missed the chance to make a big political gesture like France, but this document shows it is taking the subject very seriously.” [TAN]

Desert X installation view, Eric N. Mack, Halter, 2019, photo by Lance Gerber (courtesy of Desert X)

An installation by contemporary artist Eric N. Mack at Desert X has been vandalized. Mack draped Missoni fabrics across an abandoned gas station for the second edition of the biennial in Coachella Valley, but earlier this week, the work disappeared. On Instagram, Mack wrote that the work had shockingly been “vandalized, burned, and stolen,” adding, “While the violence and hate enacted on this installation is astounding, I will not allow for this disregard to become a gesture that obstructs nor defines this work of art.” Another Desert X artist, Chris Taylor, suggested the same to the Desert Sun, saying, “The rope ends are all burnt. Also there’s burn marks on the ground and on what little is left of the fabric.” Desert X’s artistic director, Neville Wakefield, says, “I think it’s important to emphasize that we don’t know what the motive was, or if [it] was an act of hate. I think that kind of speculation doesn’t really do honor to the work.” [artnet News]

A 104-year-old button factory in Croydon, England is closing and disposing of 30 tons of buttons, and the eccentric artist Ai Weiwei has asked for all of them. [Twitter]

Ai Weiwei has announced that he is suing VW for featuring his artwork, “Soleil Levant” (2017), in one of their magazine ads without credit or permission, saying he has been trying to resolve the matter since November 2017 to no avail. “Volkswagen and other multinational corporations have tremendous bargaining power in intellectual property protection as well as environmental and human rights. They are not above the law,” he wrote on his Instagram. The artwork installed 3,500 life jackets worn by refugees who fled to Greece at Copenhagen’s Kunsthal Charlottenborg from June 20 to October 1, 2017. He adds, “We should remember that Germany took in one million refugees in 2015, a powerful humanitarian act in a divided world. As one of Germany’s internationally most visible companies, Volkswagen’s disregard for fair play and humanitarian issues is truly disturbing.” [Instagram]

NYC Public Library Research Room (via Wikimedia Commons)

The New York Public Library is opening a new gallery in its main building in Manhattan to display the 46 million artifacts in its collection, including a handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence and a 16th-century globe warning travelers of dragons at the equator. [NYT]

Kara Walker will create a site-specific installation in Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall. Without revealing the details of the commission by the artist who often works with themes of chattel slavery and modern racism, Tate’s director Frances Morris says, “Seeing her respond to the industrial scale of the Turbine Hall — and the wider context of London and British history — is a hugely exciting proposition.” [via email announcement]

Jorge Pérez, the collector and real-estate mogul whose namesake brands the Pérez Art Museum Miami, donated $1.5 million to the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, comprising of 50 artworks and two cash gifts. $200,000 is allocated for work by artists from Spain and $300,000 for work by artists from Latin America. [ARTnews]

Transactions

Johann Christoph Ludwig Lücke, "Allegory of Damnation in Hell, (1736), ivory, H. 14,8 cm, W. 10 cm, D. 2,3 cm (image courtesy Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung ‒ Sammlung Reiner Winkler, Frankfurt am Main, photo by Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung)
Johann Christoph Ludwig Lücke, “Allegory of Damnation in Hell, (1736), ivory, H. 14,8 cm, W. 10 cm, D. 2,3 cm (image courtesy Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung ‒ Sammlung Reiner Winkler, Frankfurt am Main, photo by Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung)

The Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung has acquired the Reiner Winkler collection, a private collection of 17th- and 18th-century ivory sculptures. The sculptures were acquired by Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung, the Städelscher Museums-Verein, and the Städel Museum, with the support of the Kulturstiftung der Länder and the Hessische Kulturstiftung, and much of the collection was acquired through a gift by Reiner Winkler. The pieces will be on display in an exhibition titled White Wedding. The Ivory Collection of Reiner Winkler Now in the Liebieghaus. Forever, on display beginning March 27.

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

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