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Restitution controversy rocks Bavaria

28 June 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Second World War restitution scandal revealed | The Commission for Looted Art in Europe has published a report about a number of looted works, which were seized by the US Army’s ‘Monuments Men’ at the end of the Second World War; they were allegedly not returned to their rightful owners by the Bavarian State Paintings Collections, to which they were subsequently entrusted, says Sueddeutsche Zeitung (article in translation). In some instances, according to the CLAE, the works in question are thought to have been returned to the heirs of the Nazi officials who had sanctioned their plunder. In one case, for example, a work of art may have been handed over to Emmy Goering (daughter of notorious looter Hermann Goering), who filed restitution claims. However, the Bavarian State Paintings Collections has refused access to archives that would clarify this.

Post-Brexit auction at Phillips produces mixed results | Five days after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, uncertainty rules the markets. However, Monday evening’s 20th-century and contemporary art sale at Phillips London raised a total of £11.9 million (plus fees), a result that does not entirely vindicate predictions of disaster, perhaps reflecting wider market trends. Yet while works by Kiefer and Pistoletto sold for well above their estimates, several lots – including pieces by Sam Francis and Danh Vo – failed to sell.

Kean University receives permission to buy Michael Graves residences | Kean University in Union, New Jersey, has been given the go-ahead by its board of trustees to purchase three properties once owned by architect Michael Graves. According to the New York Times, the three properties, including Graves’s residence and studio, were left to Princeton University by the late architect. However, the university rejected his bequest. The buildings were subsequently offered to Kean, home to the Michael Graves College for architecture and design, for an upfront price of $20. Once the properties have been refitted for student use, they will contain learning resources as well as spaces for lectures and studios.

Hugh Honour (1927–2016) | The art historian Hugh Honour has died aged 88 (£). Born in Sussex in 1927, Honour originally dreamed of becoming an architect, but instead read English at Cambridge. After working at the British Museum and Leeds City Art Gallery, Honour and his partner John Fleming moved to Italy and began contributing to periodicals and journals. Books, including many titles for Penguin, were to follow. The New York Times described Honour and Fleming’s The Image of the Black in Western Art: From the American Revolution to World War I as a work that could be equalled by ‘few if any living art historians’.

Recommended reading | More on the cultural implications of Brexit, this time from the Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins, who suggests that artists and intellectuals will have to ‘venture across [the] rift and interpret our fractured country for us’. Meanwhile, London’s summer exhibition programme continues unhindered, for now. The first reviews are in for David Hockney’s new exhibition at the Royal Academy, and the response is mixed. The Telegraph’s Mark Hudson is a little underwhelmed, but the Times’s Rachel Campbell-Johnston calls it ‘deeply traditional and yet as utterly individual as the work of an artist can get’ (£).