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Switzerland puts $2 million into disputed art research

27 January 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Switzerland to Fund Research into Provenance of Disputed Works | The Swiss government has announced that it is to spend some $2 million helping museums to research the provenance of works thought to have been looted during WWII. Catherine Hickley, author of The Munich Art Hoard, has stated that Switzerland has had a ‘mixed record’ on restitution claims going back to the Nazi era, when its geographical location and history of neutrality made it a convenient destination for Nazi looters to deposit stolen wares. It is impossible to say quite how effective the initiative will prove, but it is a clear sign that the Swiss government is taking the sensitive subject of restitution with the utmost seriousness.

‘Jane Eyre’ Manor at Risk of Losing Public Funding | Lancashire County Council has announced that it may abandon the maintenance of Wycoller Hall, the ruined 16th- century manor in Lancashire that served as a model for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The decision, taken in line with severe budget cuts, has been hotly contested by local campaign groups, and more than 6,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to reconsider. Opponents of the plans state that without all the important council subsidies for maintenance and ranger patrols, Wycoller may be ‘lost forever’ due to vandalism and neglect. Meanwhile in Cardiff, the National Museum is charging for entry to an exhibition (on Indiana Jones, of all subjects) for the first time in 13 years, partly due to significant budget cuts.

Art Institute of Chicago Receives Largest Cash Donation in its History | The Art Institute of Chicago has received a $35 million donation, the largest such gift ever made to the museum. The AIC was left the money by Dorothy Draude Edinburg, the late wife of hardware tycoon Joseph Edinburg, who earmarked it for new acquisitions. In her lifetime, Edinburg donated some 1,500 works of art to the museum. ‘If she had left us her collection of works of art alone she would go down in the annals of the Art Institute as one of its most generous benefactors,’ explains AIC Director Douglas Druick.

MFA Boston Acquires Kahlo’s Dos Mujeres | Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has announced that it has acquired its first painting by Frida Kahlo for an undisclosed sum. The work, Dos Mujeres (Salvadora y Herminia), has been in a private collection in the USA since 1929, the year after it was painted. The work, which depicts two of the artist’s childhood acquaintances, was the first painting Kahlo ever sold. As the New York Times states, Kahlo paintings are ‘few and far between’ in American public collections, meaning that the acquisition represents something of a coup for the MFA, where it will go on display as of today.

MoMA Scales Back Expansion Plans | New York’s Museum of Modern Art has decided to forego some of the more extravagant flourishes of its highly anticipated plans for expansion. According to the Wall Street Journal, intriguing features including a retractable glass wall at street level, a new entrance to its sculpture garden and a ‘moving floor’ have all fallen victim to budget constrictions. The greater part of the $400 million expansion is still going ahead, however, with an estimated completion date of 2019–20. An additional $40–$45 million has been set aside for renovations to the existing building.

Turrell Donates ‘Skyspace’ to Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory | Light artist James Turrell has donated a ‘skyspace’ to the permanent collection of Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory museum as a gesture to mark the institution’s 40th birthday next year. Valued at an estimated $1 million, the installation is the single largest donation in the museum’s history. Good news all round, then, though we suspect Drake may not be the guest of honour at the unveiling ceremony.

Matt Smith Cast as Robert Mapplethorpe | Finally, strange news from tinseltown. Dr Who star Matt Smith is to play Robert Mapplethorpe in a forthcoming biopic of the iconoclastic photographer. Quite a jump from Daleks to BDSM, but then again, Mapplethorpe himself was never one to be typecast.