Our daily round-up of news from the art world
Roman Treasures Threatened by ISIS in Libya | Over the past 18 months, the threat posed by ISIS to sites of cultural heritage in Syria and Iraq has been much discussed, with the militant group’s propagandistic destruction of Palmyra taking centre stage. But now, the terrorist organisation has overrun the Libyan city of Sabratha – one of the ‘top five archaeological sites in the world’, according to an expert. The Greco-Roman ruins are now at serious risk of facing the same fate as sites such as Nimrud and Palmyra, while Sabratha’s seizure raises the chilling prospect of ISIS establishing a ‘back-up’ caliphate in western Libya.
Three Artists Jailed in Tunisia | Meanwhile, across the Tunisian border, the non-profit Kamal Lazaar Foundation has announced a new round of research grants to support cultural initiatives in the Middle East. The news has been somewhat overshadowed, however, by the arrest of three artists wrongly suspected of terrorist activities. Though they have been found innocent of militant intent, they have been sentenced to a year in prison for possession of cannabis, and fined the equivalent of €500. According to Le Monde, the three artists – director Ala Eddine Slim, artist Atef Maatallah and photographer Fakhri El-Ghezal – were initially arrested due to suspicions over Maatallah’s beard and a ‘suspect’ camera bag carried by El-Ghezal.
New Scheme to Acquire Contemporary Art for UK Regional Museums Announced | The Contemporary Art Society has launched a new scheme for regional museums in the UK,to ‘balance the London bias’ and bring the work of leading British contemporary artists to a wider audience across the nation. With support from the Sfumato Foundation, the ‘Great Works’ award will allow one major work by a British contemporary artist to be purchased by a museum outside of the capital each year. All 69 museums with CAS membership will be eligible for the award, and the successful applicant for the inaugural prize will be informed next spring.
Viking Silver Discovered in Oxfordshire | A metal detectorist in Oxfordshire has discovered a hoard of Viking silver that experts believe may shed light on the reign of Saxon king Alfred the Great. The hoard contains coins thought to have been jointly issued by Alfred and his ally King Ceolwulf II of Mercia. It is believed that the coins are proof that the alliance between the two leaders lasted significantly longer than previously recorded. The British Museum is currently in talks to acquire the hoard with institutions including Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.
Ai Weiwei Donates Lego Art to NGV… While Grayson Perry Suffers Backlash | All eyes are on Australia as two of the art world’s most charismatic figures – Ai Weiwei and Grayson Perry – open shows in Melbourne and Sydney respectively. Ai, whose conflict with Danish toymaker LEGO stirred controversy this autumn, has announced he will donate the centrepiece of his show to the National Gallery of Victoria. Perry, meanwhile, has drawn criticism for comments made about aboriginal art, and encountered mixed reviews for his ‘My Pretty Little Art Career’ retrospective. Pulling no punches, the Guardian has likened it to ‘a wet boarding house blanket on your face’.