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Tony Hall appointed chair of the National Gallery’s Board of Trustees

Plus: James Mollison (1931–2020) | Painting found inside gallery wall confirmed as long-lost Klimt | Brazilian culture minister fired for speech echoing Goebbels | National Archives in Washington, D.C., issues apology for doctored image | Sculpture looted from Afghanistan to be returned

20 January 2020

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Tony Hall appointed chair of the National Gallery’s Board of Trustees | Tony Hall, the current director-general of the BBC and former chief executive of the Royal Opera House, has been appointed chair of the board of trustees at the National Gallery in London. Hall, who announced earlier today that he is stepping down from the BBC this summer after seven years in the role, will take over from John Kingman, who was appointed interim chair after Hannah Rothschild stood down in September last year. Hall’s first term as chair will continue until 2024 – the year of the National Gallery’s bicentenary.

James Mollison (1931–2020) | James Mollison, the founding director of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA), has died at the age of 88. Mollison was appointed acting director of the museum in 1971, following a two-year stint as executive officer from the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board. In 1974, he famously coordinated the purchase of Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles for $1.3m – controversial at the time, the acquisition was indicative of Mollison’s desire to broaden a national collection comprising of mainly Australian paintings. He was appointed director in 1977, steering the NGA to its official opening in 1982 and remaining in the post until 1989. From 1989–95, he was director of the National Gallery of Victoria.

Painting found inside gallery wall confirmed as long-lost Klimt | Authorities in Piacenza have confirmed that a painting discovered last month at the Ricci Oddi Gallery of Modern Art is the same work by Gustav Klimt that was stolen from the gallery in 1997. The painting, entitled Portrait of a Lady, was discovered by gardeners who, while clearing ivy from an external wall of the gallery, came across a hidden recess in which the work was concealed. It is not yet known why the painting, valued at around €60m, had been hidden at the gallery.

Brazilian culture minister fired for speech echoing Goebbels | The Brazilian minister of culture, Roberto Alvim, has been sacked after appearing to quote a speech by Joseph Goebbels. Alvim’s speech appeared in a video on the ministry’s Twitter page promoting a national arts prize; he stated that ‘Brazilian art in the next decade will be heroic and national’, later dismissing the echo in this phrase of a speech given by the Nazi propaganda minister in 1933 as ‘rhetorical coincidence’. Jair Bolsanaro, the president of Brazil, declared on Twitter on Friday afternoon that Alvim had been dismissed for the ‘unfortunate statement’.

National Archives in Washington, D.C., issues apology for doctored image | The National Archives in Washington, D.C., has issued an apology for doctoring a photograph taken during the Women’s March in the US capital in 2017, which has been on display since May 2019. In the photograph, placards bearing remarks that criticised President Trump and made reference to women’s body parts had been blurred out. A statement from the organisation sent to Time magazine read: ‘We made a mistake.’

Sculpture looted from Afghanistan to be returned | A 2nd-century limestone sculpture from the temple of Surkh Kotal, which was looted in the early 1990s from the National Museum of Afghanistan, is to be returned to Afghanistan after appearing on the website of a British auctioneer. The sculpture of two bulls was identified on the site of Timeline Auctions by the Art Loss Register, who reported it to the Metropolitan Police. The seller relinquished ownership, and a curator at the British Museum confirmed the identity of the sculpture.