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Week in Review: Archaeologists Find Imperial Sculpture of Dionysus, Smithsonian Appoints First African American Head

Also, the Baltimore Museum of Art is launching a citywide survey to learn how it can best serve Baltimore residents, the Art Institute of Chicago is deaccessioning 300 works of Chinese art, and more.

The Smithsonian Castle (via Robert Lyle Bolton’s Flickrstream)

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.

Lonnie G. Bunch III, will serve as the first African American secretary of the Smithsonian, the institution’s most senior position, which oversees the Smithsonian’s 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park and research centers. Bunch was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened to great critical acclaim. He has been working at the Smithsonian since 1978, when he began at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. “I want to help [the Smithsonian] transform America,” he says. [New York Times]

The Baltimore Museum of Art is launching a citywide survey, titled “Make It Now” to learn more about how the museum can best serve Baltimore residents. The museum is asking about 300 organizations, including schools, and civic, social, and religious groups, to give the museum suggestions about improvements to better oblige the community. The survey will help guide future exhibitions, programs, and projects. Individuals can also participate online at artbma.org/now through Sunday, June 30. [via email announcement]

The Bishop Museum in Hawaii recently closed Rapa Nui: The Untold Stories of Easter Island, an exhibition on the Indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island. Now, the museum has gifted the full-size 3-D fiberglass model of Hoa Hakananai’a that was the centerpiece of the exhibition, to the Rapa Nui community. The community has been in frequent conversation with the British Museum, which houses the original Hoa Hakananai’a, fruitlessly requesting repatriation of the sacred eight-foot, four-ton statue, whose name means “the stolen or hidden friend.” The statue was stolen from the island in 1868 by Royal Navy captain Richard Powell. In October, the Rapa Nui community offered a basalt replica to the British Museum in exchange for the sacred original. [Hawaii News Now]

During an excavation in Rome, Italian archaeologists uncovered a white marble head of Dionysus, also known as Bacchus. At first, the researchers mistakenly believed it to be the head of a female deity, but a headband adorned with “typically Dionysian flower, the corymb, and ivy,” according to the director of Rome’s archaeological museums Claudio Parisi Presicce, revealed the true identity of the 2,000-year-old sculpture. “The hollow eyes, which were probably filled with glass or precious stones, date it to the first centuries of the empire,” Parisi Presicce says. The carving has been identified as an imperial age artifact, which corresponds to the first century BC to the fifth century AD. It was discovered embedded in a wall, meaning it was likely repurposed as building material. However, it remains in excellent condition. [Wanted In Rome]

The Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Antiquities announced that it plans to recover thousands of Iraqi objects from the United States, including “5,500 artefacts from the Hobby Lobby company and 10,000 clay figurines from Cornell University as well as artefacts from the University of Pennsylvania.” [Middle East Monitor]

The Art Institute of Chicago is deaccessioning 300 works of Chinese art this September to benefit the museum’s Asian art department’s acquisition fund. “Our curators are always evaluating and refining the museum’s collection,” the Art Institute said in a statement. “This auction allows us to deaccession a number of works in areas where we have significant breadth and depth, and the proceeds will return to the Asian Art department’s acquisition fund.” Currently, the museum’s Asian Art department hosts a total of approximately 35,000 objects. The sale will take place at Christie’s New York on September 12, with an accompanying online sale September 10–17. [Chicago Tribune]

Transactions

Michael Graves, “Denver Public Library Main Facade Sketch” (image courtesy Princeton University Art Museum)

The Princeton University Art Museum has acquired a set of 5,000 drawings by the architect and designer Michael Graves. Graves once wrote a lament titled “Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing” for the New York Times, arguing that hand-drawn modeling should not go the way of the dinosaur in the age of computers: “Drawings are not just end products: they are part of the thought process of architectural design.”

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

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