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International organisations condemn Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites

6 January 2020

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

International organisations condemn Trump’s threat to target Iranian cultural sites | The International Council of Museums (ICOM) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has issued a statement reiterating that both the United States and Iran are signatories to the 1954 Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in armed conflict. This follows President Trump’s threat, made on Twitter on Saturday, to target 52 Iranian cultural sites, should there be any Iranian retaliation for the US assassination of General Qassim Suleimani. Andrea Prascow, the acting Washington director of Human Rights Watch, called on Trump on Sunday to ‘publicly reverse his threats against Iran’s cultural property and make clear that he will not authorise nor order war crimes’. A spokesman for Downing Street declared today that the UK government would not support this action.

John Baldessari (1931–2020) | The American artist John Baldessari has died, at the age of 88. From the late 1960s, Baldessari began making provocative (and often irreverent) artworks that explored ideas rather than pictorial forms, putting him at the forefront of the conceptual art movement. He famously burned his earlier, gestural paintings in 1970; in the same year, he began to divide his time between art and teaching, first at the radical California Institute of the Arts and later at the University of California. Among his students were Mike Kelley, Tony Oursler, Matt Mullican and David Salle. In 2009, Baldessari was presented with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 53rd Venice Biennale. A major travelling retrospective was shown at Tate Modern, LACMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009–10.

National Gallery of Australia closes due to bushfire smoke | The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra has closed due to an increase of smoke in the surrounding area – the result of bushfires that have spread across the country. The institution has stated that the decision has been made in order to ‘mitigate any risk to the public, staff and works of art on display’. At the time of writing the gallery has not announced when it plans to reopen. 

British Museum acquires export-barred Pahari painting | The British Museum has acquired a painting by the Pahari master Nainsukh of GulerThe Trumpeters (c. 1735–1740). The work had been placed under export bar by the UK culture secretary in 2018, allowing the museum sufficient time to raise the £440,000 necessary, with support from Art Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund.

Recommended reading | On BBC Radio 3, painter Caroline Walker discusses the baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, considering how her work and the events of her life relate to present-day feminist ideas. In The Art Newspaper, Nancy Kenney explains how the Dallas Museum of Art has used spectral CT scans to reveal the secret materials contained within a West African helmet mask, made by the Senufo people, in the museum’s collection.