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Experts assess Palmyra damage

28 March 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Palmyra: recapture brings hope for archaeological treasures | Following the recapture of Palmyra by Syrian government forces this weekend, hopeful reports suggest that significant parts of the UNESCO-listed archaeological site have survived ISIS’s occupation. The city, which fell into the hands of the radical militant group last year, has been subject to summary destruction. Before Syrian forces retook the area, experts had been ‘expecting the worst,’ according to Minister of Antiquities Maamoun Abdelkarim. However, from initial reports, it appears that several key structures are still standing. While sites including the Temple of Bel and the Arch of Triumph lie in ruins, others – including the Agora and the Roman theatre (which ISIS fighters used as an execution site) – have survived at least in part intact.

Iraq launches operation to retake Ninevah Governate | Iraqi forces are fighting to retake parts of Ninevah governate from ISIS. The province is – or at least, was – home to some of the world’s finest archaeological sites, some of which are already known to have been destroyed by the militants. According to the New York Times, Iraqi troops captured several villages close to the regional capital of Mosul on Thursday, though an assault on the city itself has yet to begin. Should the offensive prove successful, it can only be hoped that damage to the region’s world heritage sites is, as in Palmyra, less extensive than feared.

Frick enters next stage of planning for upgrade | New York’s Frick Collection is inviting selected architectural firms to submit their credentials based on experience and expertise, as the institution seeks an architect for extending and upgrading its facilities. This follows the Frick’s withdrawal in 2014 of its previous design proposal, which was criticised by horticultural experts, artists and other groups for its plan to build over a garden designed by Russell Page in 1977. The successful applicant will be announced later this year, and a design should be unveiled in 2017.

The weekend’s best art comment | In The Observer, Sean O’Hagan discusses images of last week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels in relation to the age-old dilemmas of war photography and photojournalism. In an Easter-themed Sunday Times piece, Waldemar Januszczak focuses on the mysterious figure of Mary Magdalene, taking aim at several received notions about her representation in religious paintings. In the Daily Telegraph, critic and broadcaster Jonathan Meades explains his intriguing plans for an exhibition in London next month.