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The week in art news – Horniman Museum wins Art Fund Museum of the Year prize

15 July 2022

The Horniman Museum and Gardens in London is this year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year. The annual award, which comes with prize money of £100,000 was announced on Thursday and received by the museum’s director, Nick Merriman, at a ceremony on Thursday. The Horniman, which first opened in Forest Hill, south-east London, in 1890 to display the collections of its founder, the tea merchant Frederick Horniman, was praised for adapting its programming during the pandemic and for strengthening its ties to the local community. Jenny Waldman, director of the Art Fund and chair of the judges said, ‘The Horniman Museum and Gardens has now blossomed into a truly holistic museum bringing together art, nature and its myriad collections […] In many ways it’s the perfect museum, and I would encourage everyone to go and experience all it has to offer.’ The other museums on the shortlist this year were the Museum of Making in Derby, the People’s History Museum in Manchester, the Story Museum in Oxford and Tȳ Pawb in Wrexham.

Richard Armstrong has announced that he will be retiring from his role as director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in spring 2023, having held the title since 2008. Over his 14-year tenure, during which he has overseen the Guggenheim Museum in New York, as well as its Bilbao and Venice offshoots,  Armstrong has sought to expand the geographical scope of the museums’ collections, with programmes such as the Asian Art Initiative and the opening of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (due to be completed in 2025). Until his departure, Armstrong will continue to lead the daily operation of the museums and work with the board of the foundation to find his successor.

Matthew Hargraves has been appointed director of the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut. Hargraves, a specialist in 18th-century British art, has been interim chief curator at the museum since 2021. He was previously chief curator of art collections at the Yale Center for British Art and earlier in his career was a lecturer at the University of Warwick. Of his appointment, Hargraves said, ‘There are nearly limitless possibilities, and I am excited by the chance to pursue them and share them with diverse audiences.’

It has been a good week for art being found under works of art. The National Galleries of Scotland announced that it had discovered an unknown self-portrait of Van Gogh, hidden on the back of a work in its collection called Head of a Peasant Woman. The discovery, made by X-ray, found the work covered by layers of glue and cardboard on the reverse; the painter often recycled canvases in this way to save money. It is thought that the self-portrait was covered by cardboard in the early 20th century, when Head of a Peasant Woman was included in a show at the Stedelijk Museum and the work on the other side was regarded as less finished. Experts are considering how to uncover the portrait without harming either of the paintings.

And in Israel, experts at the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa have found three sketches by Amedeo Modigliani under the surface of a painting of a nude woman from 1908. Art News reports that the works were discovered during an X-ray examination of the painting, which is due to travel for an exhibition at the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia this October.