Spectacular Veronese drawing at risk of leaving UK

Plus: Palmyra: an update | Van Gogh painting to stay at Yale | Huntington announces $10.3 million expansion plans | Ellsworth Kelly receives Getty medal

29 March 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Veronese drawing at risk of leaving UK | UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on Venice Triumphant, a preparatory sketch Veronese made for The Apotheosis of Venice. The drawing is one of just three surviving studies for Veronese’s commission to redecorate the Doge’s Palace after it was twice gutted by fire in the 1570s. From information released by DCMS today, it is difficult to tell precisely how long the work has been in the UK, but if funds cannot be raised to match the asking price of £15,400,000 (plus VAT of £154,000) before the export bar expires at the end of June, the drawing may leave the country for good. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) has recommended the deferral of an export license on the grounds of the work’s ‘outstanding aesthetic importance’.

Palmyra: an update | As Syrian government forces consolidate their recapture of Palmyra, a picture of the damage wrought by ISIS militants is starting to emerge. It seems that yesterday’s hopeful initial verdict was on the whole accurate. As Syrian director-general of antiquities Maamoun Abdulkarim told Le Monde (French language article): ‘80 per cent of the architecture of the archaeological site has not been affected,’ and the colonnade, the agora, the theatre, the ruins of Emperor Diocletian’s baths, and the temples of Nebo and Allat all survive intact. Yet as the New York Times states in its report, officials are both ‘relieved and horrified’. There are indeed causes for concern: the ancient city’s museum has been plundered of its treasures, while reports indicate that ISIS mined the area before pulling out. Mr Abdulkarim is hopeful about the possibility of restoring the site. ‘If we have UNESCO’s approval, we will need five years to restore the structures damaged or destroyed by IS,’ he told AFP. ‘We have the qualified staff, the knowledge, and the research. With UNESCO’s approval, we can start the work in a year’s time.’ Whether or not such a project can be undertaken in war-ravaged Syria, only time will tell.

Van Gogh painting to stay at Yale | The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal over the ownership of Van Gogh’s 1888 painting The Night Cafe, which means that the work will remain at Yale University, reports the Art Newspaper. The ruling ends a legal battle stretching back to 2009, when Pierre Konowaloff wrote to the University complaining that the painting, which once belonged to his great-grandfather, had been seized by the Bolsheviks in 1918. Yale responded with a pre-emptive lawsuit to prevent Konowaloff claiming the artwork, to which Konowaloff filed a response and counterclaim. The painting, which was sold by the Soviet government, ended up in the hands of Stephen C. Clark, who acquired it in 1933 and bequeathed it to Yale upon his death in 1960.

Huntington announces $10.3 million expansion plans | The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, has announced a major extension to its Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, adding 5,000 ft of new gallery space to the building. The project will be overseen by the architect Frederick Fisher, who was also behind a previous expansion in 2005. The extension will be named in honour of Jonathan and Karin Fielding, the lead donors to the project, who will also lend some 200 of their own paintings, pieces of furniture, and decorative objects for the new wing’s inaugural exhibition in October.

Ellsworth Kelly receives Getty medal | The late Ellsworth Kelly is to be honoured with the J. Paul Getty medal, the eponymous Trust’s highest decoration. It is not a posthumous award in the strict sense. According to J. Paul Getty Trust president and chief executive James Cuno, the artist was informed that he had been selected for the honour before his death at the end of last year.

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