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The week in art news – cultural sites in Kyiv damaged by Russian bombardment

Plus: climate protestors arrested at National Gallery | restitution loophole in the new Charities Act likely to be closed | Angus Trumble (1964–2022) | this year’s RIBA Stirling prize announced

14 October 2022

 The Ukrainian culture minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, has reported that numerous museums and other cultural sites have sustained damage during the Russian bombardment of Kyiv that began on Monday (10 October), with more than 80 missiles launched at the Ukrainian capital, killing at least 19 people and damaging critical infrastructure and facilities. Tkachenko said that the attacks, widely reported as being retaliation for a strike that took down part of the Kerch Strait Bridge linking Russia with Crimea, had caused damage to the National Philharmonic, the Khanenko Art Museum, the T. Shevchenko Museum and many other institutions. The Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky suggested in a televised address on Monday evening that Russian ‘terrorists’ were targeting cultural sites in the capital.

Two protestors from the Just Stop Oil coalition were arrested in London today after throwing a tin of soup at Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888). The pair then glued themselves to the wall of the gallery, asking ‘What is worth more, art or life?’, before the room was cleared by staff at the gallery. In a statement posted on Twitter at 12.17PM, a little over an hour after the incident, the National Gallery said that there had been ‘some minor damage to the frame’ but the ‘painting’ – one of the most well-known works in the collection – ‘is unharmed’.

The British government said yesterday that provisions in the new Charities Act passed in February 2022 – which had been widely interpreted as giving museums new powers over the restitution of objects – would be deferred. Alexander Herman, director of the Institute of Art and Law, had made clear in a report at the end of last month that the change to charity law would provide some museums with more say over deciding to return objects to their countries of origin for moral reasons. However, speaking yesterday during a debate over restitution in the House of Lords, Syed Kamall, the minister for Civil Society, Heritage, Tourism & Growth, appeared to close this loophole, saying that when the Charities Act was debated in the commons, the intention to provide museums with greater powers of restitution was neither ‘considered nor agreed upon. Given this, the government is deferring the commitment of these sections of the act […] until we fully understand the implications for national museums and other charities.’

The Australian art historian and curator Angus Trumble, who served as director for the National Portrait Gallery of Australia from 2014–18, has died at the age of 58. Trumble began his career in curating at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, where he was appointed associate curator in 1996; he later worked at the Yale Center for British Art from 2003–14. Trumble published a number of books on art, including A Brief History of the Smile (2003).

The new library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, has won this year’s RIBA Stirling prize. The building, designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects and built by contractor Cocksedge, has been praised for its sensitivity in creating a modernist, light-filled space that does not intrude on the character of its surroundings.

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