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Rockwell family drops challenge to Berkshire Museum sale

Plus: Prussian Cultural Foundation calls for guidelines on restitution of colonial objects | Long-lost Klimt drawing rediscovered | West Virginia resident admits to fraud in connection with Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft | and recommended reading

16 February 2018

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Rockwell family drops challenge to Berkshire Museum sale | The three sons of Norman Rockwell have dropped a lawsuit aimed at preventing the Berkshire Museum’s proposed sale of several of their father’s best loved works, reports ArtNews. The family’s lawyer issued a statement saying that his clients ‘do not wish to participate in further legal proceedings concerning the disposition of other art held by the Berkshire Museum’. The decision follows news that the museum and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office have come to an agreement that will allow the former to sell up to 40 works from its collection

Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation calls for guidelines on restitution of colonial artefacts | Hermann Parzinger, the president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, has called for international guidelines on the repatriation of artefacts acquired illegally during the colonial era. According to the Art Newspaper, Parzinger envisages a system akin to the 1998 Washington Principles on Nazi-confiscated art. He has recommended that an international body – such as the International Council of Museums – take the lead in devising the guidelines.

Long-lost Klimt drawing rediscovered | A Gustav Klimt drawing that was missing from the collection of an Austrian museum has been discovered in the residence of one of the institution’s former employees, reports Monopol (German language article). The drawing, entitled Zwei Liegende (Two Reclining Figures; 1916–17), was one of four pieces subject to a long-running lawsuit between the city of Linz and the heirs of prominent collector Olga Jäger, who had loaned the works to the municipality’s Lentos Museum in 1951. After Jäger’s death in 2006, her heirs had requested the return of the works, which could not be found and for which the museum was forced to pay more than €8m in compensation.

West Virginia resident admits to fraud in connection with Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft | A West Virginia man has pleaded guilty to charges that he fraudulently attempted to sell some of the paintings stolen from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. According to Reuters, Todd Desper, aged 48, admitted to having proposed to sell two of the 13 works that have been missing since the theft, despite never having had access to them. Desper had offered the paintings for sale to foreign buyers via Craigslist, using encrypted email accounts.

Recommended reading | Francis Sheppard, the first general editor of the Survey of London, has died at the age of 96. In an obituary for the Guardian, Andrew Saint recalls his stakhanovite work ethic and innovative approach to recording London’s historic buildings. In the same paper, Joanna Walters looks at the Sackler family, whose significant philanthropic endeavours are currently under scrutiny due to their role in the production of the opioid Oxycontin. On CNN, Siri Hustvedt addresses the problematic nature of erotic art, discussing a much-publicised sale at Sotheby’s in relation to the #MeToo movement. Meanwhile in France, president Macron is ushering in what the Art Newspaper’s Bénédicte Savoy describes as a restitution ‘revolution’, ending decades of foreign policy protocol on the repatriation of artefacts judged to have been illegally looted during colonial times.

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