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Two watercolors by John F. Kennedy, one of several former US presidents with a predilection toward painting, will head to the auction block at RR Auction in Boston on January 17. Painted by Kennedy on the campaign trail in 1960, the watercolors depict the waterfront in Queens, New York. The works will be auctioned alongside a trove of Kennedy-related memorabilia, including a handwritten statement from 1960 in which he announced his candidacy for president.
David Hockney’s “The Splash” (1966), a pool painting with a sister work in the Tate Modern, will be auctioned at Sotheby’s London in February. It is predicted to sell in the $26.2 million to $39.3 million range, a sizeable jump from the same painting’s sales price of $5.4 million in 2008. We can trace these inflated numbers to several high-profile Hockney sales over the past two years — most notably the 2018 sale of “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” (1972) for $90.3 million, the highest price at auction for work by a living artist (the reign was brief: Jeff Koons’s 1986 sculpture “Rabbit” sold for $91.1 million six months later).
Sotheby’s London will auction off three restituted Impressionist paintings with a combined high estimate of $25 million next month. The works were consigned by the heirs of Gaston Prosper Lévy, a French-Jewish property developer and art collector who lost the paintings to the Nazis when he was forced to flee Paris during World War II. Paul Signac’s “The Golden Horn (La Corne d’Or)” and Camille Pissarro’s “White frost, young peasant building a fire (Gelée blanche, jeune paysanne faisant du feu)” hung in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris before they were restituted in 2018. The third work, Paul Signac’s “Clichy Dock. Gray Weather (Quai de Clichy. Temps Gris),” was discovered in the hoard of Cornelius Gurlitt in Munich in 2012 and returned to the heirs in 2019.
Most mentions of Cornelius Gurlitt lead back to his father, a notorious art dealer employed by the Third Reich. On January 22 three works that passed through Hildebrand Gurlitt — an oil painting and watercolor by Jean-Louis Forain as well as a drawing by Constantin Guys — will be restituted to the heirs of another esteemed French-Jewish collector, lawyer Armand Dorville. One of the works was found in a private collection in Southern Germany; the other two were found, again, in Cornelius Gurlitt’s stash of more than 1,500 artworks — many of which have questionable provenance, to say the least — inherited from his father.
Three descendants of Emanuel Lewenstein, a Dutch-Jewish art collector, are seeking the return of a painting from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The heirs claim that they are the rightful owners of Wassily Kandinsky’s watercolor “Painting with Houses (Bild mit Häusern)” (1909), which has been in the museum’s collection since 1940. When the family sued the Stedelijk in 2013, the Netherlands’ restitution advisory committee ultimately ruled in favor of the museum. The 2018 ruling was highly criticized after it was revealed that the committee factored in the need to maintain the “public art stock”; this new lawsuit challenges the contested decision.
With the growth of public interest in topic, countries are revisiting and revamping their policies around restitution. In the UK, the Arts Council England released a job posting seeking assistance in updating the national museum restitution guidelines, which were last updated in 2000. The call comes on the heels of updates in museum restitution guidelines in Germany and the Netherlands last year.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the first museum in the United States to acquire work by the late Pakistani artist and activist Lala Rukh. The purchase was funded by the Tia Collection, a private foundation committed to helping the Met expand its holdings of work by South Asian female artists. The museum acquired “Mirror Image, 1, 2, 3” (1997) — a collage made in response to the violence that followed the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodhya, India — as well as “Rupak” (2016), a stop-motion animation exploring Hindustani classical music, and Rukh’s last work. The Met also received a donation from Rukh’s estate: six posters that the artist made during her time with the Women’s Action Forum, which she cofounded in 1981.
On January 17, the Detroit Institute of Arts will publicly exhibit a Kermit the Frog puppet that Jim Henson made in 1969 and subsequently donated in 1971. The DIA has noted that its puppet most closely resembles the version of Kermit on The Muppet Show, which debuted in 1976, except for its double crenellated collar (emphasis theirs), which bears more resemblance to a version of Kermit seen on Sesame Street in 1969. A Howdy Doody puppet last exhibited in 2015 will also be on view.
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