Russia and Israel agree to digitise Günzburg Collection

Plus: Art historians protest UK museum image reproduction fees | Sharjah Biennial 14 curators are announced | €425,000 Botero bronze is stolen from Paris gallery | and Swiss museum returns Nazi-looted 17th-century ornaments

7 November 2017

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Russia and Israel agree to digitise Günzburg book and manuscript collection | The Russian State Library and the National Library of Israel, with the support of the Moscow-based Peri Foundation, are today signing a historic agreement to digitise and make public the celebrated Günzburg Collection, which consists of 2,000 manuscripts and over 14,000 books. Collected by three generations of the Russian-Jewish Günzburg family in the 19th and 20th centuries, the hoard contains some of the most significant Hebrew texts in the world, primarily ranging from the 13th to 17th centuries. According to the Art Newspaper’s report, Israel has long contested Russia’s ownership of the collection, and today’s digitisation deal is the result of many years’ negotiation between the countries’ leaders.

Art historians protest UK museum image reproduction fees | Twenty-eight art historians and authors have written to The Times to protest the fees charged by UK institutions for digital reproductions of historic works in their collections, describing the bills as a ‘tax on scholarship’ (£). The letter ‘urge[s] the UK’s national museums to follow the example of a growing number of international museums and provide open access to images of publicly owned, out-of-copyright paintings, prints and drawings so that they are free for the public to reproduce.’ Museum spokespersons for the British Museum and Tate have responded in the article defending their fees, both citing the significant costs of producing high-quality digital images.

Sharjah Biennial 14 curators are announced | The Sharjah Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates has named the three curators who will be responsible for the 14th edition of the Sharjah Biennial, which is set to open in March 2019. Zoe Butt, artistic director of the Factory Contemporary Arts Centre in Vietnam; Omar Kholeif, senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; and independent curator Claire Tancons will each stage a separate section of the biennial, titled ‘Leaving the Echo Chamber’.

€425,000 Botero bronze is stolen from Paris gallery | A bronze statue by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, estimated to be worth €425,000 and weighing over 15kg, was stolen this weekend from a Paris gallery. The theft of the work, titled Maternity (2003), was captured on the Bartoux gallery’s CCTV cameras on Saturday evening, although the criminal’s identity remains unknown. (French language article.)

Swiss museum returns Nazi-looted 17th-century ornaments | The Historical and Ethnological Museum in St Gallen, Switzerland, yesterday returned two 17th-century ornaments to the heirs of German-American and Jewish collector Emma Budge. The two objects, worth €130,000, are a pair of silver and gold plated ships made in 1630, measuring around 30cm high, and they were donated to the museum in 1967 by a Swiss collector. All of Budge’s possessions were forcibly sold after her death in 1937, with the Nazis taking the proceeds. At a total of around 2,000 objects (of which only 150 to 200 have so far been located), Budge’s was one of the largest private collections sold at auction during the Third Reich.