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Government Art Collection criticised for gender bias

8 January 2018

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Government Art Collection in the UK criticised for gender bias | The shadow arts minister, Kevin Brennan, has criticised the UK government’s art collection of ‘institutional bias’ against female artists, reports the Guardian. Research conducted by the party indicates that around 265 works by male artists were collected over the past five years for which data is available (2011–12; 2015–16), with only 80 acquisitions by female artists made during that period. ‘Only about a quarter of the work acquired by the government art collection in recent years is by women’, said Brennan. The Guardian reports the DCMS’s explanation that the discrepancy is in largely due to the purchase of several works by three male artists: Herbert Arnould Olivier, Michael Craig-Martin and Phil Shaw.

Antiquities seized from New York home of Michael H. Steinhardt | On Friday afternoon, investigators in New York raided the house of the billionaire collector and philanthropist Michael H. Steinhardt and removed several antiquities which are alleged to have been looted from Greece or Italy. Neither Michael H. Steinhardt nor the district attorney’s office have commented on the seizure yet.

Eugene Thaw (1927–2018) | The art collector and dealer Eugene Thaw has died at the age of 90. Thaw was one of the leading dealers of his generation, setting up a gallery in New York in the early 1950s specialised in old and modern masters. In the same decade, Thaw began to acquire drawings, gradually amassing a collection that, from the 1970s, he began to donate to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, and which numbers some 400 sheets.

Kurt Schwitters’s Merz Barn may leave present site | An unnamed Chinese art collector has expressed interest in acquiring Kurt Schwitters’s ‘Merz Barn’, prompting fears that it may moved from current site in the Great Langdale valley, Cumbria. Left unfinished when the artist died in 1948, the barn was the final and most ambitious of Schwitters’s ‘Merz Bau’ projects. The Sunday Times (£) reports that the trust that owns it has been unable to find funding for its upkeep, and is thought to be considering offers of ‘around £350,000’. For more on Schwitters and his Merz Barn, see here.

DCMS places export bar on Guardi Venice scene | UK arts minister John Glen has placed a temporary export bar on a Francesco Guardi painting that was sold to an overseas buyer last year for more than £26m. Entitled Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, the painting is considered Guardi’s masterpiece, and had been owned by the Guinness family for several generations. A decision on an export licence has been deferred until July, allowing time for potential buyers within the UK to come forward.

Bruce Halle (1930–2018) | Businessman and art collector Bruce Halle has died at the age of 87. Halle, who founded the tire and wheel retailer Discount Tire, was along with his wife Diane a major collector of Latin American art. Together, they built a collection of more than 500 works by artists including Jac Leirner, Felix Gonzales-Torres and Lygia Clark, lending pieces to institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Phoenix Art Museum.

Recommended reading | In the Observer, Laura Cumming praises a ‘momentous’ exhibition of contemporary art from the Arab world at Nottingham Contemporary. On Quartz, Annie Malcolm visits Shenzhen (see above) and reports on the ‘art villages’ taking shape across China’s former industrial heartlands. In the New Yorker, Vinson Cunningham speaks to the artist Stanford Biggers, while on ArtNet, Tim Schneider looks at the arguments against the Met’s decision to introduce a mandatory entrance fee and argues that we should ‘focus less on political gestures made inside galleries than on organizing for social causes outside of them’.