Fire destroys parts of Wythenshawe Hall

Plus: Trial begins for ‘cols rouges’ accused of theft at Drouot | Hiker discovers ultra rare ‘nostalgic coin’ | Inaugural Lahore Biennale announced | Anita Brookner (1928–2016)

15 March 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Fire destroys roof of Wythenshawe Hall | More than 50 firefighters were called in to tackle a blaze that threatened to swallow up a historic Tudor building in Manchester, reports the BBC. Wythenshawe Hall was built in 1540 for the Tatton family, and was granted to the local people in 1926, becoming a museum and art gallery until its closure in 2010. The fire that broke out this morning has destroyed the roof and caused ‘extensive damage’ to the upper floors of the timber framed building. At the time of writing, the fire services are still on the scene and an investigation has been opened into the causes of the fire.

Trial begins for ‘cols rouges’ accused of theft at Drouot | Forty-nine members of a society of porters at Paris’s Drouot auction house have gone on trial over accusations of conspiracy to steal and handle stolen goods (French language article). According to the prosecution, the porters (nicknamed ‘cols rouges’, or ‘red collars’ due to their distinctive uniforms) abused their position at the auction house to steal tens of thousands of objects when clearing out the homes of deceased collectors. The practice is thought to have continued for years before an anonymous caller tipped off the police in 2009. The authorities subsequently recovered stolen property including paintings, furniture and jewellery. Drouot has denied all knowledge of the alleged thefts, and the majority of the accused have admitted to the charges.

Hiker discovers ultra rare ‘nostalgic coin’ | Astonishing news from Israel, where a kibbutz member has discovered the ‘twin’ of an incredibly rare Roman coin in the British Museum while out hiking. The coin was minted during the reign of Emperor Trajan, yet it depicts the image of his forebear Augustus. It is thus thought that the relic is one of a series of ‘nostalgic coins’ minted by Trajan to commemorate his imperial predecessors. Danny Syon, a coin expert at the Israel Antiquities Authority, which is handling the discovery, has described it as ‘rare on a global level.’

Inaugural Lahore Biennale announced | Lahore is to host Pakistan’s very first contemporary art biennale. The event, which will explore art as an instrument of social change, will be overseen by artistic director Rashid Rana, who has himself been widely exhibited as an artist. ‘It is my desire that the inaugural event generates ideas for a larger discourse within the art world while remaining relevant to audiences in the city. Lahore deserves a visual arts event with the ambition and scale of a Biennale’, Rana says of the project. The Lahore Biennale will take place in November 2017.

Anita Brookner (1928–2016) | Art historian and novelist Anita Brookner has died aged 87. Brookner was a respected authority on 18th- and 19th-century French art, and published several books on the subject before devoting her energies to fiction and winning the 1984 Booker Prize for her novel Hotel du Lac. Brookner studied at King’s College London and gained her doctorate in art history at the Courtauld, where she was later invited to teach by Anthony Blunt. In 1967, she became the first woman ever to be named as Slade professor of fine art at Cambridge.

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