The director of one of the world’s oldest and most prominent art museums, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, has suggested that religious artworks residing in institutional collections should be returned to their respective places of worship. Eike Schmidt, who has led the museum since 2015, told the Art Newspaper that “devotional art was not born as a work of art but for a religious purpose, usually in a religious setting.”
Schmidt cited a specific example from the Uffizi’s own collection, the “Rucellai Madonna” painted by the Sienese artist Duccio di Buoninsegna in the Middle Ages. The gold-ground panel of the Virgin and Child enthroned, the largest painting on wood from the 13th century known to date, was removed from the church of Santa Maria Novella in 1948.
Viewing such a work in the context for which it was created, says Schmidt, is not just appropriate from an historical perspective, but could also connect the viewer with its spiritual significance.
“If we did not believe that context was important, the Italian state would not have the legal concept of the art of architectural fixture [vincolo pertinenziale], or practice contextual archaeology instead of an Indiana Jones-type scrabble for mere masterpieces,” Schmidt told the Newspaper. The idea of restoring religious art to churches is reportedly part of larger talks at the Uffizi, prompted by the coronavirus pandemic, to distribute works beyond its galleries to reach wider audiences.
The suggestion that displaying religious objects outside of their original places of worship potentially de-contextualizes our interpretations evokes the discourse around the repatriation of cultural objects. A report authored by Senegalese economist Felwine Sarr and French art historian Bénédicte Savoy and commissioned by the French government in 2018 found that around 90% of African cultural heritage resides outside of the continent, in major Western museums.
However, most Western religious artworks were not stolen during the colonial era; in fact, in many cases, they were stored in museums for safekeeping after World War II. According to Schmidt, who is the president of the Fondo edifici di culto (FEC), a fund that maintains Italy’s churches, an estimated 1,000 religious artworks were brought to Italian museums for safeguarding after the war. They are in many cases improperly catalogued, he said, and difficult for scholars and researchers to access.
Schmidt’s proposal has been received with hesitation, with the archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, saying that “every case would have to be considered on its own merits.” Mark Jones, former director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, echoed Betori’s words, acknowledging that art is “better in its own context” but telling the Newspaper that decisions would have to be made on a case-by-case basis.
The Art Dealers Association of America is expanding its natural disaster relief program, and announced $60k in grants to six US nonprofits.
From Remedios Varo to Francisco de Goya, artists have long turned to witchcraft as subject matter.
Funded fellowships support on-site graduate and postdoctoral research spanning a variety of disciplines on cultural works in the center’s collections.
The auction house partnered with Highsnobiety to sell “Art Handler” shirts for up to $125, drawing ire from workers in the field who say they’re overworked and underpaid.
Black-crowned night herons have not returned after abandoning their nests during a building project at the Chicago History Museum.
Students work in a collaborative studio environment with a faculty of practicing artists and premier facilities in the heart of Boston.
What is a feminist picture? A MoMA exhibition is the latest to attempt to answer this question.
With exhibitions like Sing Our Rivers Red, Danielle SeeWalker, JayCee Beyale, and others make visible the number of missing people for whom they are demanding proper attention and justice.
Students in this two-year graduate program in New York enjoy access to the Hessel Museum of Art, the CCS Bard Library and Archives, and opportunities to curate in practice.
In this assemblage of multinational artworks, a cohesive postcolonial canvas fails to fully emerge, owing to Dream City’s lack of bold vision.
The British monarch and Donald Trump have both tried to impose neoclassical architecture on their countries — and one of them actually succeeded.
Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” was sliced out of its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art in a notoriously brazen theft.