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Eight-year sentence for ‘Spiderman’ art thief

Plus: Iraqi archaeologist appointed to assess destruction in Nimrud | Iraq Pavilion to exhibit antiquities from the National Museum of Iraq | Royal Academy launches summer festival | and recommended reading

20 February 2017

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Eight-year sentence for ‘Spiderman’ art thief | The French courts today sentenced Vjeran Tomic, nicknamed ‘Spiderman’ for his ability to scale buildings, to eight years in prison for the theft of five paintings from the Musée d’art Moderne in Paris, the Telegraph reports. Two accomplices – antiques dealer Jean-Michel Corvez, who orchestrated the theft, and Yonathan Birn, a watchmaker accused of storing the paintings, were handed down seven- and six-year sentences respectively. The courts have also issued a fine of €104 million (£88.5m), approximately the value of the five paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Braque and Léger, which are still missing and which Birn claims to have destroyed.

Iraqi archaeologist appointed to lead rescue operation in Nimrud | Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage has today appointed an Iraqi archaeologist to assess the destruction caused by ISIS in the ancient city of Nimrud, and lead an operation to secure whatever can be saved, following the city’s recapture by government forces in November 2016. The appointee, who cannot be named for security reasons, was given emergency training by the British Museum. Over the next five years, a £2.9m scheme run by the British Museum and Iraqi authorities is expected to train a total of 50 further archaeologists in London and Iraq.

Iraq pavilion at Venice Biennale announced | In other Iraq-related news, details of the country’s pavilion qt this summer’s Venice Biennale have been released. Curators Tamara Chalabi, co-founder of the Ruya Foundation, and Paolo Colombo, a former artistic director of the Istanbul Biennial, have selected 40 ancient objects from the National Museum of Iraq to display alongside work by contemporary artists and modern masters. The selection includes artefacts that were looted from the Baghdad institution after the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the US. According to Chalabi, the exhibition, titled ‘Archaic’, will ‘explore the different ways in which Iraq’s ancient past has affected its modern and contemporary visual languages […].’

London’s Royal Academy launches summer festival | A new three-day art festival in London has been announced. Mayfair Art Weekend, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts, will see over 60 galleries and auction houses in central London open their doors to the public with a varied programme of talks, tours and other special events.

Recommended reading | Writing for the London Review of Books, Hal Foster investigates the violence of Eduardo Paolozzi’s sculptures on the occasion of the celebrated artist’s Whitechapel Gallery exhibition (£). Meanwhile, in the New York Times Graham Bowley and William K. Rashbaum ask whether the art market is unwittingly complicit in cases of money-laundering due to the anonymity sellers are granted by auction houses, and whether eliminating anonymity ‘would damage the market and invade privacy’. Elsewhere, Frieze’s Ellen Mara de Wachter provides an entertaining overview of the symbolism of coins, from ancient Rome to today.

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