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US court approves Berkshire Museum sale

Plus: Looted Egon Schiele drawings restored to the heirs of original owner | First round of partners and programmes announced by Terra-Art Bridges Initiative | Judge throws out lawsuit against Agnes Martin Authentication Committee | Francis Alÿs wins EYE Art and Film Prize | Ellen Stofan appointed director of Smithsonian Air and Space Museum | and recommended reading

6 April 2018

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

US court approves Berkshire Museum sale | The Supreme Judicial Court of Suffolk County has approved the Berkshire Museum’s controversial plan to sell a number of works from its collection. According to the Art Newspaper, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office is supporting the museum’s decision to sell works, including Norman Rockwell’s painting Shuffleton’s Barbershop, in a series of auctions at Sotheby’s New York. The ruling comes after months of legal challenges. In a statement, the Association of Art Museum Directors expressed disappointment with the verdict. ‘[If] the Berkshire Museum proceeds with its current plan for selling deaccessioned works and utilizing the funds for operating and capital purposes [we] will have no choice but to consider taking further action in accordance with its policy, which may include censure and/or sanctions.’

Two drawings by Egon Schiele have been returned to their owner’s heirs | A New York court has ruled that Woman Hiding Her Face and Woman in a Black Pinafore by Egon Schiele have been returned to the heirs of the original owner, Fritz Grunbaum, who died in Dachau concentration camp in 1941. The drawings were were part of Grunbaum’s 449-piece art collection and were seized by the Nazis in 1938. His heirs were alerted to their existence when they were offered for sale by London-based dealer Richard Nagy in New York in 2015.

First round of partners and programmes announced by Terra-Art Bridges Initiative | The Terra Foundation for American Art and Art Bridges has announced its first round of grants, which will allow a number of museums to share collections, improve scholarship through joint initiatives and expand access to American art. The recipients in this first cycle are the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, which will receive $2.4m between them. Additionally, the Philadelphia Museum of Art was awarded a research and development grant. The Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are all in discussions regarding similar exploratory grants. The $15m initiative aims to create a network covering more than 80 museums across the USA.

Judge throws out lawsuit against Agnes Martin Authentication Committee | A New York State Supreme Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the president of Pace Gallery and the Agnes Martin catalogue raisonné committee by a London dealer in 2016. The action was brought by the Mayor Gallery, which claimed that the committee had wrongfully excluded 13 works from the artist’s catalogue raisonné. The judge also awarded Pace and the committee members the full cost of their legal fees. The attorney for the Mayor Gallery told ArtNet that it was ‘confident’ its claims would be upheld, and that the gallery would explore other legal options.

Francis Alÿs wins EYE Art and Film Prize | Belgian artist Francis Alÿs has been awarded the prestigious EYE Art and Film Prize in recognition of the ‘strongly poetic’ body of work he has created over the past decades. The annual prize, which is the initiative of Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum and the Paddy and Joan Leigh Fermor Arts Fund, was founded in 2015 to reward the work of contemporary artist-film makers. The previous winners of the £25,000 award are Hito Steyerl, Ben Rivers, and Wang Bing.

Ellen Stofan appointed director of Smithsonian Air and Space Museum | The Smithsonian has announced that former NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan is to be the next director of its National Air and Space Museum. When she takes up the post on 30 April, Stofan will be the first woman to head the institution, replacing General J.R. Daily, who retired in January after 18 years as the director of the museum.

Recommended reading | In the New York Times, Richard Sandomir remembers Drue Heinz, the heiress and philanthropist who died earlier this week at the age of 103. Heinz gave generously to the arts, founding a writers’ retreat at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and using her fortune to support literary and artistic ventures including the Paris Review. Elsewhere, allegations that theorist and philosopher Julia Kristeva was engaged as an informant by Bulgarian secret services during the Cold War have provoked much debate in recent weeks. On the LRB blog, Maria Dimitrova looks at the documents provided as evidence and finds that even if they were substantiated, the claims would be less than incriminating. Meanwhile on ArtNet, Naomi Rae investigates the gender pay-gap in the UK art world, and finds that recently published studies make for depressing reading.

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