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Major LACMA donor suspends long-term gift programme

Plus: Uffizi scientific committee resigns over loan of Raphael painting | Smithsonian lifts copyright restrictions from 2.8 million images | and New York developers plan to dismantle Isamu Noguchi installation

26 February 2020

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Major LACMA donor suspends long-term gift programme | The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has lost its largest donor of European Old Master paintings and sculptures because of a dispute over the future of the collection’s display. The Ahmanson Foundation has ended its acquisition programme – which has paid for more than 100 paintings and sculptures, worth some $130m, over the past five decades – due to concerns over LACMA’s controversial plans to replace the current buildings that house the permanent collection with a single, smaller building, expected to cost $650m, designed by Peter Zumthor. ‘We’ve been unable to get a commitment from [LACMA director] Michael Govan about presenting the collection as it has been throughout the life of the museum,’ the foundation’s president William Ahmanson told LA Times art critic Christopher Knight.

Uffizi scientific committee resigns over loan of Raphael painting | The members of the scientific committee of the Uffizi have resigned en masse (Italian-language article) over the museum’s decision to loan a painting by Raphael to an exhibition in Rome. The Florentine museum has sent Portrait of Pope Leo X with two Cardinals (1517) to the Scuderie del Quirinale, where it will be shown alongside other works by Raphael to mark 500 years since the artist’s death. The painting was included on a list drawn up by the committee of ‘absolutely immoveable’ works from the collection that are central to the ‘identity’ of the Uffizi (there is a second list of works that should not be moved due to conservation concerns). A letter signed by all four members of the committee – Tomaso Montanari, Fabrizio Moretti, Donata Levi and Claudio Pizzorusso – claimed that the museum’s decision, defended by its director Eike Schmidt as a ‘patriotic’ one, ‘call[ed] into question the very existence of the committee’.

Smithsonian lifts copyright restrictions from 2.8 million images | The Smithsonian Institution has launched a new initiative which removes copyright restrictions from around 2.8 million images from its digital collection. Smithsonian Open Access will enable users to download, modify and share images for free without permission from the institution. Including high-resolution images in both 2D and 3D, the collection encompasses almost two centuries of data from all 19 of the Smithsonian’s museums, research facilities, libraries and archives, with content covering the arts, sciences, history, culture, technology and design.

New York developers plan to dismantle Isamu Noguchi installation | A sculptural installation by Isamu Noguchi in New York could be dismantled by property developers. The work’s aluminium blades have rippled across the ceiling of the twin lobbies of 666 Fifth Avenue since its inauguration in 1957, forming what the artist called ‘a landscape of clouds’, but developers Brookfield Properties now intend to renovate the lobbies, disassembling the work in the process. Developers claim that due to previous renovations the installation no longer reflects Noguchi’s original vision; Brett Littman, director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, has said ‘the museum and its board are working to ensure that the work remains in situ’.