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Decision on Norton Folgate development imminent

18 January 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Conservationists’ Bid for Norton Folgate Rejected | The City of London Corporation has delivered a blow to conservationists by rejecting the Spitalfields Trust’s bid to purchase a historic site slated for redevelopment. Last week, with the backing of Danish billionaire Troels Holch Povlsen, the trust wrote to the Corporation proposing to match any offer made by property developer British Land, which wants to construct an office development in the Norton Folgate area north of Liverpool Street Station. Tensions are running high over the proposed development: last year, the local authority responsible for the site rejected British Land’s plans, prompting London mayor Boris Johnson to call in the application – a move that conservationists have condemned as ‘unlawful’. Johnson is expected to announce his final decision later today (£).

Members take Art Students League to Court over Sale of Air Rights | The Art Students League is facing a lawsuit from around 300 of its 3,945 voting members over the sale of the air rights over its Manhattan headquarters. In 2014, the ASL sold the rights to Extell Development for $31 million, allowing the property developer to proceed with the construction of a 1,500-metre-high tower that will rise some 30 storeys above the 120-year-old building. The sale brought in a windfall for the organisation (founded in 1875), but critics accuse the ASL’s director, Salvatore Barbieri, of acting ‘unilaterally’. Though the opponents concede that it is impossible to overturn the sale, the court action aims to a ‘fairer’ voting system within the ASL. The air-rights sale is not the first time Barbieri has angered members; indeed, it appears to be merely the spark that ignited the powder keg.

Clandon Park to be at Least Partially Restored | The National Trust has announced that parts of Clandon Park, the 18th century Palladian mansion in Surrey that burned down last April, are to be restored. Several ground-floor rooms are to be refurnished to their original standard, while the upper floors will be used for events and exhibitions. In spite of the firefighters’ best efforts to save works of art in Clandon Park, the blaze, which gutted the house, is thought to have destroyed hundreds of objects – meaning that it can never be restored to its former glory. This raises questions over whether it is worth trying to recreate the house: last year, the 8th Earl of Onslow, whose family left Clandon Park to the Nation in 1956, opined that ‘if the National Trust wants a replica, let them build it somewhere else.’

Olivier Descotes Appointed Director of Benaki Museum | Olivier Descotes, artistic inspector for the French culture ministry, has been appointed director of Athens’s Benaki Museum, and will take up his new post in March. No small task. Descotes, 40, will replace Angelos Delivorias who has been at the helm of the institution since 1973. Further to this, as even the museum’s press release states, the ‘adverse circumstances’ in which Greece finds itself means that Mr Descotes’s job will not be an easy one.

Artist Arrested after Lying Down Naked in front of Manet’s Olympia | Performance artist Deborah de Robertis has been arrested for indecent exposure after lying down naked in the Musée d’Orsay, next to Manet’s Olympia. De Robertis, whose stated aim was to film gallery-goers’ reactions to the performance, has something of a track record for this sort of thing: in 2014, she exposed herself in front of Courbet’s The Origin of the World, again at the Musee d’Orsay. The museum, which is exhibiting Olympia as a centrepiece of its Splendeurs et Miseres exhibition, is pressing charges. Performance or habitual annoyance to the already harassed gallery staff? Make up your own mind.