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Hong Kong shuts public museums as a result of the coronavirus

Plus: Hester Diamond (1928–2020) | Minister for Indigenous Australians announces plans to protect Aboriginal artists | Devil head once attributed to Gauguin is declared fake by Getty | and Gordon Smith (1919–2020)

28 January 2020

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Hong Kong shuts public museums as a result of the coronavirus | Public museums and leisure facilities in Hong Kong have been closed indefinitely as the region attempts to contain the highly contagious coronavirus. Originating from Wuhan, China, the virus has already caused various public attractions in China to shut until further notice. Travel to and from mainland China has also been restricted. There have been eight reported cases of coronavirus so far in Hong Kong, and a spokesperson for Art Basel, which is set to open on 19 March, has told The Art Newspaper: ‘we are monitoring the developments closely […] it is too early for us to discuss how the recent outbreak of the new virus will impact the show’. 

Hester Diamond (1928–2020) | Philanthropist, art collector and founder of the Medici Archive Project, Hester Diamond died last Thursday (23 January). Diamond began collecting contemporary art while in her twenties and in the same period organised a travelling exhibition of works by Barbara Hepworth with her husband, the art dealer Harold Diamond. In 1970, Diamond became an interior designer for some 20 years, after which her interests shifted to Renaissance painting and sculpture and she acquired works by Veronese, Pontormo and Bernini among others. Since founding the Medici Archive Project research institute in Florence in the early 1990s, she had donated works to the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

Minister for Indigenous Australians announces plan to protect Aboriginal artists | Ken Wyatt, the minister for Indigenous Australians, has announced that state ministers and members of the Aboriginal art industry in Australia will meet next month to work on legislative reform that would combat the practice of ‘carpetbagging’, in which artists are exploited by dealer’s and forced to produce inauthentic works. Dealers who act unethically in the Northern Territory can already face sanctions according to the voluntary 2008 Indigenous Art Code, but the practice of private dealers who operate independently is currently unregulated. 

Devil head once attributed to Gauguin is declared fake by Getty | The artist behind a wooden sculpture of a horned devil in the J. Paul Getty Museum collection has been declared ‘unknown’, after museum experts established that it has been misattributed to Gauguin. The work is thought to have been purchased for some $3m by the Getty in 2002, and has since appeared in several museum shows dedicated to the artist, including those at the Tate Modern in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

Gordon Smith (1919–2020) | The English-born Canadian artist Gordon Smith has died at the age of 100. Known for his abstract impressions of the local landscape, Smith was taught at the Vancouver School of Art and the University of British Columbia. In 1996 he received the Order of Canada and in 2000 the Order of British Columbia.

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