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The week in art news – Getty Trust appoints Katherine Fleming as president

Plus: Charles Darwin’s stolen notebooks returned to Cambridge University | Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego reopens | Finland seizes art shipments from Russia worth €42m

8 April 2022

On Wednesday, the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles named Katherine Fleming its new president and CEO. Fleming is currently provost of New York University, a post she has held since 2016; she joined the University in 1998 as a professor of Hellenic studies and culture. Fleming replaces James Cuno, who announced his retirement as the Getty’s president last June, having been at the helm of the institution for a decade. In a statement, Fleming said that the ‘mission of the Getty is more vitally important than ever’, citing its responsibilities in an era of environmental and global upheaval.

Two of Charles Darwin’s notebooks, reported missing in 2001, have been returned to Cambridge University Library this week. Both notebooks, one of which contains Darwin’s first recorded sketch of the Tree of Life, were returned anonymously, accompanied by a note wishing the librarian a happy easter. Jessica Gardner, the director of library services, described her joy and relief at the return of the missing notebooks as being ‘profound and impossible to adequately express’. The notebooks will form part of an exhibition entitled ‘Darwin in Conversation’, which will go on public display from July.

The expanded Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will open its doors to the public on Saturday after a five-year, $105m renovation. The museum was founded in 1941, in a building designed by Irving Gill; in 1996, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown added a star-shaped atrium. The present renovations have been overseen by Selldorf Architects, who have added a new wing and adapted an auditorium into a gallery for temporary exhibitions, meaning that institution now has around four times as much exhibition space at 40,000 sq ft of exhibition space, allowing for more of its 5,500-strong collection to go on view.

Three shipments containing paintings and sculptures from Russian museums were seized by Finland while on their way back to Russia, officials said in a news conference in Helsinki on Wednesday. The artworks, which had been returning to from museum exhibitions in Italy and Japan, have an estimated insurance value of €42m. They were impounded in Vaalimaa, a border crossing between Finland and Russia, with the director of the Finnish Customs’ Enforcement Department saying in a statement that they ‘would now come under criminal investigation’. On Thursday, however – and after the Finnish ambassador had been summoned by the Russian foreign ministry – the Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto suggested that the art should be returned to Russia, while the Hermitage Museum has stated that the works were ‘detained as part of the normal customs investigation procedure’.