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Week in Review: Reuters Journalists Freed in Myanmar, Facebook Groups Exposed for Selling Looted Objects

Also, the Hermitage Museum will loan Leonardo da Vinci works to Italian galleries in lieu of the Louvre, Tennessee gets a triennial, and more.

Leonardo da Vinci, “Benois Madonna” (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.

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia has agreed to loan Leonardo da Vinci’s “Madonna and Child with Flowers” (also known as the “Benois Madonna”) to smaller galleries in Italy in lieu of the Louvre for its anticipated Leonardo show this fall celebrating the 500th anniversary of the polymath’s death. The Hermitage will also lend the “Litta Madonna” to the Poldi Pezzoli Museum in Milan. [NYT]

After a BBC investigation exposed a string of Facebook groups illegally selling looted artifacts from Syria and Iran, 49 of these pages were removed from the social media platform. Amr al-Azm, an archaeologist at Shawnee State University in Ohio, says that there are at least 90 Facebook groups dedicated to the trade with tens of thousands of members, also offering objects from Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya. “They’re being looted straight from the ground,” al-Azm said. “They have never been seen. The only evidence we have of their existence is if someone happens to post a picture of them.” [BBC/NYT]

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, both Reuters journalists jailed for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis, have been freed after spending more than 500 days in prison in Myanmar. They had been convicted under the Official Secrets Act and sentenced to seven years in jail last September, but were freed under a presidential amnesty. [BBC]

The Statue of Liberty (via Celso FLORES’s Flickrstream)

The National Park Service will ban commercial tours inside the Statue of Liberty, which sees more than 4.3 million visitors annually, in response to overcrowding. The restrictions are a response to a 600% increase in commercial tours over the last decade. Commercial tours will also not be allowed in the new Statue of Liberty Museum on Liberty Island or the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. [USA Today]

Haus Der Kunst in Munich was ordered to pay a former employee €110,000 (~$123,000) in severance and a pension worth an additional several hundred thousand. The individual in question operated as the Haus Der Kunst personnel director for 22 years until 2017. After he was fired, media reports suggested that local politicians and the Bavarian Office for the Protection of the Constitution pressured the museum’s executive branch to fire him for being a Scientologist, and he sued the museum for wrongful dismissal. After two years of legal battles, last month the Munich Labor Court ordered the parties to settle. [World Religion News]

Shad Abdulkarim plans to build the first Kurdish museum of modern art in Iraq, called the Salam Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. It will open in Sulaymaniyah next year. [The National]

A $1 million donation from Arne Glimcher (founder of Pace Gallery) kicked off a $12.5 million campaign for a new museum at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston: the MassArt Art Museum. [Boston Globe]

In 2021, Tennessee will get a triennial across the state’s various galleries, museums, and universities. The first TN Triennial for Contemporary Art will be overseen by Andrea Zieher and produced by the nonprofit organization Tri-Star Arts, with the theme “Art United.” [ARTnews]

Transactions

Ancient engraved gem (© 2019 Christie’s Image Ltd.)
Ancient engraved gem (© 2019 Christie’s Image Ltd.)

The J. Paul Getty Museum acquired 17 ancient engraved gems from Roman art dealer Giorgio Sangiorini’s collection. The acquisition includes gems from the Minoan, Archaic, and Classical periods, along with Etruscan and Roman gems, some in their original gold rings. “The acquisition of these gems brings into the Getty’s collection some of the greatest and most famous of all classical gems, most notably the portraits of Antinous and Demosthenes,” said Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “But the group also includes many lesser-known works of exceptional skill and beauty that together raise the status of our collection to a new level.” [via email announcement]

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

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