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The week in art news – Chuck Close (1940–2021)

20 August 2021

Chuck Close has died at the age of 81. The photorealist painter first came to prominence in the late 1960s with his large-scale black-and-white works based on photographs of himself and friends such as Richard Serra (a classmate at the Yale School of Art) and Philip Glass. In the 1970s, Close began using colour and later started making his paintings appear more pixelated. In 1988, he suffered a spinal aneurysm which paralysed him from the neck down for months; after regaining some movement in his arms, he began to paint with a brush strapped to his hand. The Walker Art Center, Reina Sofia in Madrid and MoMA are among the museums that have held surveys of his work. In 2017, several women accused the artist of sexual harassment – of asking them to pose naked or making sexual comments – between 2005 and 2013, behaviour for which Close subsequently apologised. Arne Glimcher, chairman of Pace Gallery, which represents the artist, has said, ‘I am saddened by the loss of one of my dearest friends and greatest artists of our time.’

On Wednesday, the Polish parliament adopted a controversial law that means that decisions about the restitution of property cannot be reversed after a 30-year time period. While the law does not explicitly mention property seized from Jews during the Second World War, it covers all decisions made after 1945 and before the end of the communist era. The move has been heavily criticised by members of the Israeli government, including Yair Lapid, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, tweeted that he was ‘troubled’ by the new legislation.

The eminent Rembrandt scholar Ernst van de Wetering died last week at the age of 83. The Dutch art historian joined the Rembrandt Research Project in Amsterdam in 1968 as an assistant and became its head in 1993, a post he held for 21 years. The centre published its findings in a six-volume publication, A Corpus of Rembrandt Paintings. Van de Wetering, who also wrote about painting techniques and the ethics of restoration, was a professor of art history at the University of Amsterdam and, in 2002–03, was the Slade Professor of Fine Art in Oxford.

German police have arrested the sixth and, they believe, final suspect in connection with the theft from the Green Vault in Dresden in November 2019. A 23-year-old man was arrested in an apartment in Berlin on Thursday morning. Three suspects were arrested last November, another in December and a fifth this May; all remain in custody. The whereabouts of the stolen antique jewels thought to be worth €1bn, however, is still a mystery. Earlier this week the theft of a Monet was thwarted at the Zaans Museum in the north of the Netherlands. One of the thieves managed to leave the museum with De Voorzaan en de Westerhem (1871) under his arm and was getting on to the back of a motorcycle ridden by an accomplice when a bystander intervened and the robbers rode away without the painting. Shots were fired by one of the suspects inside the gallery, but no one was hurt.