Apollo Magazine

Rijksmuseum director will step down in August

Fourteen Men Convicted for Planned Museum Thefts | First Cultural Destruction Trial Opens in the Hague | Bonhams Fires Asian Deputy Chairman | Rare Watercolour at Risk of being Exported

Rijksmuseum Director to Step Down | Wim Pijbes is to leave the Rijksmuseum in August after eight years as General Director. Pijbes took the top job in 2008, as the museum was undergoing a decade long programme of renovation and expansion. When it finally reopened in 2013, the new look Rijksmuseum attracted universal praise, much of it directed at the institution’s energetic and imaginative director. ‘Wim Pijbes has, with his famous boundless energy and commitment, played a crucial role in making the Rijksmuseum what it is today: a world-class museum,’ said Chairman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. ‘It is now up to the board of trustees to provide for the succession.’ Pijbes, who describes the Rijksmuseum as ‘one of the finest museums in the world,’ is leaving to take the helm at the Museum Voorlinden, a new institution for modern and contemporary art in Wassenaar, near The Hague. The Voorlinden, which is currently under construction, is scheduled to open later this year.

Fourteen Men Convicted for Planned Museum Thefts | Yesterday afternoon at Birmingham Crown Court, a jury convicted four men who had planned to steal up to £57 million worth of artefacts from museums across the UK, bringing the total number of convictions in connection with the case to 14. The men – all members of the so-called ‘Rathkeale Rovers’ – were found to have been instrumental in planning a number of museum and auction house raids, and plotting break-ins at institutions including the Fitzwilliam Museum and Durham’s Oriental Museum. In 2013, thieves connected to the gang stole some £15 million worth of jade pieces from the Fitzwilliam, and though the culprits were caught, their loot has yet to be discovered. In other attempted robberies, the gang were less successful, but their total haul is thought to be between £18 million to £57 million: ‘If you think the Hatton Gardens break-in was big, this will blow that out of the water,’ said Detective Superintendent Adrian Green of Durham Police.

First Cultural Destruction Trial Opens in the Hague | Alleged Malian jihadi leader Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is due to stand trial in The Hague today, charged with razing nine mausoleums and the 15th-century Sidi Yahia mosque in Timbuktu, Mali. The case marks the first time an individual has been tried for cultural destruction as a war crime at the International Criminal Court. The prosecution believes al-Faqi to be a ringleader of Islamist group Ansar Dine, an al-Qaeda affiliated organisation that has wreaked havoc across parts of Mali and destroyed many Sufi shrines, causing untold devastation to the region’s cultural heritage. Al-Faqi, however, describes himself as a civil servant and graduate of the teachers’ institute in Timbuktu.

Bonhams Fires Asian Deputy Chairman | Bonhams has laid off deputy chairman of Asia, Magnus Renfrew, along with seven other staff at its Hong Kong outpost as part of an operational reorganisation – this follows a 26 per cent contraction in the Chinese auction market last year. According to The Art Newspaper, established auction houses in Hong Kong have been facing stiff competition from mainland Chinese auction houses: China Guardian Auctions and Beijing Poly International Auction set up a presence in the semi-autonomous territory in 2012, though Christie’s and Sotheby’s still dominate the market.

Rare Watercolour at Risk of being Exported | UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Joris Hoefnagel’s 1568 watercolour of Nonsuch Palace, which will leave the country unless a buyer can be found to match the £1 million asking price before the travel bar expires in May. (Though this may be extended to August if a serious intention to buy is raised.) The work is the oldest of just six remaining depictions of Nonsuch Palace, which was built in 1538 to mark Henry VIII’s 30th year on the throne but was all but dismantled by the end of the 17th century. The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds that Hoefnagel’s watercolour is of ‘outstanding aesthetic importance’ for understanding English Renaissance architecture.

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