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Project launched to save ancient Ethiopian wall paintings

Plus: Saddam Hussein’s villa to open as museum | Images of ‘lost Caravaggio’ revealed | and Theaster Gates awarded Germany’s Kurt Schwitters prize

12 April 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Project launched to preserve ancient Ethiopian wall paintings | The Art Newspaper reports that a team of British specialists is to begin a conservation project on a series of wall paintings believed to be the oldest such images in Ethiopia. The paintings, which are located in the church of Yemrehanna Kristos outside Lalibela in the north of the country, date back as far 1100. According to Stephen Rickerby, one of the specialists sent to Ethiopia by the London-based Ethiopian Heritage Fund, the paintings have been damaged by structural cracking, and if work is not undertaken immediately, they could be lost. In Ethiopia, culture is one of the main tourism attractions, and it is a priority for the growing sector that sites such as Yemrehanna Kristos are maintained.

Saddam Hussein’s villa to open as museum | The Basra home of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein is to open as an art museum this autumn, reports National Geographic. In spite of a budget crisis and the ongoing conflict with ISIS in the north of the country, Basra has become a relative bastion of stability. The Basra section of Iraq’s State Board of Antiquities and Heritage hopes the project will ‘bring in people for all kinds of art and cultural activities’, according to an official. When complete, the museum will display up to 4,000 objects drawn from the storage facilities at Baghdad’s Iraq Museum.

Images of ‘lost Caravaggio’ revealed | Earlier this month, preliminary reports in the French press hinted that a long lost Caravaggio might have been discovered in private hands in France. Now, further details of the discovery have been released, as well as images of the work itself, which depicts Judith beheading Holofernes. According to Le Figaro (French language article), the proprietors stumbled on the work while clearing out the attic of their family home after the roof began to leak. It is thought that an ancestor, an officer in Napoleon’s army, brought it back to France after one of the general’s campaigns. Experts believe that the work is indeed an original, though it has yet to be formally attributed, and the French culture ministry has classed it as a ‘National Treasure’ – meaning that it cannot be exported for 30 months in order to give French museums time to find the funds to acquire it.

Theaster Gates awarded Germany’s Kurt Schwitters prize | American artist and social campaigner Theaster Gates is to receive the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung’s Kurt Schwitters Prize. The prize recognises the achievements of artists ‘whose work features a reference to Kurt Schwitters and is distinctive for venturing into new realms of artistic creativity and artistic imagination, or whose work contributes to linking and integrating the artistic genres.’ Gates will receive the award along with the €25,000 prize money in a ceremony next year.

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