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British Museum launches public appeal for the return of stolen objects

29 September 2023

The British Museum has announced that 60 of the approximately 2,000 objects stolen from its collection have been retrieved – and that it expects the imminent return of 300 more – leaving roughly 1640 items still to be recovered. On 26 September, the museum published a webpage that details the steps it has taken thus far, lists the types of object taken (mainly jewellery and classical Greek and Roman gems), and includes an email address the public can use to communicate any information that may aid in the recovery of stolen items. Acting on advice given by the Art Loss Register, who are assisting the museum, it does not list any specific objects that have been taken. The BM has also established a panel of 14 specialists to aid in identifying lost pieces.

Historic England, Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund have written to Birmingham City Council asking it not to sell off its cultural assets to deal with its financial crisis. The letter was sent to the council’s CEO Deborah Cadman and incoming commissioners on 28 September. This follows the issuing of two section 114 notices on 5 and 21 September, which prevent the local authority from making any new spending commitments. The joint letter calls for the city’s culture to be ‘protected and prioritised’ and says that ‘Birmingham’s financial reconstruction must not come at the cost of its priceless heritage’. The council is anticipating a gap of £87m between income and expenditure in the financial year for 2024–25.

The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against Why Architects and construction company Swinerton Builders, who are responsible for its new $38m pavilion. The museum claims that negligence and breach of contract led to significant construction defects, including water leaks and structural problems, and that the architects and constructors ‘failed to meet even the minimum museum-quality standards’. The lawsuit seeks compensation for the costs of repairing these issues.

A rare Edo-period bronze Buddha statue, valued at $1.5m, has been reported stolen from the Los Angeles branch of Barakat Gallery. The Art Newspaper reports that the Japanese sculpture, which weighs more than 250 pounds and measures roughly four feet tall, was taken from the gallery’s backyard early in the morning of 18 September. Security footage shows a single thief, who manoeuvred the piece using a moving dolly before loading it into a rental truck.

Francesco Manacorda will be the next director of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea near Turin. He will succeed Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who will retire at the end of this year. Manacorda, who has previously held leadership positions at institutions including the V-A-C Foundation and Tate Liverpool, will take up his post on 1 January 2024. Past roles include positions at Artissima and the Barbican Art Gallery and Manacorda has also curated major exhibitions such as the Liverpool Biennial in 2016 and the Taipei Biennial in 2018.