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The week in art news – National Gallery gets go-ahead for Sainsbury Wing plans

2 December 2022

On Tuesday (29 November), members of Westminster City Council voted unanimously to allow the National Gallery to press ahead with its £35m proposal to remodel the entrance of the Sainsbury Wing. The plans by Selldorf architects, part of the institution’s bicentenary project, involve redesigning the ground-floor entrance, stairs and lobby of the Grade-I listed extension completed in 1991 by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. Eight former presidents of the Royal Institute for British Architecture had previously written to express disapproval of the plans as ‘ill-judged’.

The British artist Tom Phillips has died at the age of 85. A polymath who worked as a painter, photographer, musician, poet and film-maker, Phillips is best known for his series A Humument (1966–2016), which involved collaging, painting and writing over second-hand copies of a little-known Victorian novel.

The Horniman Museum and Gardens has officially handed over six objects, including two Benin Bronzes, to Nigeria – the first of 72 artefacts in its collection that the institution has committed to restituting. A repatriation ceremony, during which the works were handed over to Nigerian officials, took place at the museum on Monday (28 October).

The National Portrait Gallery has accepted a gift of £10m from the foundation of Leonard Blavatnik, and will rename its first floor the Blavatnik Wing. The Odessa-born businessman – Britain’s richest man, with personal wealth of $35.4bn – has donated tens of millions to London’s art institutions in recent years, including gifts of £50m to Tate Modern in 2011 and £10m to the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2020. 

Unesco has announced the most recent additions to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. They include the French baguette – specifically, the ‘Artisanal know-how and culture of baguette bread’ – as well as harissa paste and camel-calling in Saudi Arabia and Oman.