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The week in art news – Spain stops a suspected Caravaggio from leaving the country

9 April 2021

The Spanish government has put an export ban on a painting attributed to the circle of Jusepe de Ribera on the grounds that it may be by Caravaggio. The work was due to be sold on Thursday (8 April) by the auction house Ansorena in Madrid. The Spanish culture ministry issued the stop on the Crowning of Thorns on Wednesday after experts from the Prado said that there was ‘sufficient stylistic and documentary evidence’ to raise the possibility of Caravaggio’s authorship. A spokesman for Ansorena said: ‘Different experts are studying the picture to determine who painted it.’ The painting, which had an estimate of €1,500, would be worth of tens of millions more if an attribution to Caravaggio is confirmed.

The association of French art galleries (CPGA) is suing the government over the latest round of coronavirus restrictions in which galleries must close, but auction houses can remain open. In a hearing before the Council of State yesterday, the trade association argued that galleries should be allowed to open and that the current rules put them at a direct competitive disadvantage. Moreover, businesses such as bookshops and record stores can continue trading. The president of the CPGA expressed pessimism about the case to Artnet News: ‘We were facing a health minister who does not understand our sector, and who you could almost say has a contempt for it.’ The case continues today, with the health minister to give evidence, and the court will make its ruling next week.

On Saturday, 22 mummies of the ancient kings and queens of Egypt and 17 sarcophaguses were transported from the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo to their new home of the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. The mummies and coffins will be displayed in the Royal Hall of Mummies, set to open on 18 April. The spectacle, dubbed ‘the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade’ by the organisers, was broadcast live on state television and featured a marching band, gun salute and performances by well-known Egyptian artists. Residents of downtown Cairo, however, were kept away from the procession by the presence of police and large barriers. Read more about the mummy parade by Apollo’s correspondent in Cairo.

Frieze Los Angeles is cancelled this year due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions and the limited availability of venues in the city. The fair had been postponed from February to July, but plans for the event have had to be abandoned due to a lack of space at its normal venue of Paramount Picture Studios. The event will return in February, but take place in a location next to the Beverly Hilton Hotel. A spokesperson for Frieze says, ‘With only ten months until the 2022 dates, we have made the decision to focus on planning for next year’s fair […].’

In other US fair news, TEFAF has announced that it is scrapping the autumn edition in New York, which has focused on historical art and antiques. Charlotte van Leerdam, managing director of TEFAF, stressed the fair’s commitment to its modern and contemporary event that takes place in New York in the spring: ‘While TEFAF Maastricht will continue to champion 7,000 years of art history, we look forward to hosting Modern and contemporary fairs in New York for years to come.’