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National museum in Yemen hit by shellfire

Wentworth Woodhouse Sold to Conservation Group for £7 million | Italy to Create 10 New Museums | Art Dealer Eric Spoutz Arrested in Connection with Fakes | The Fitzwilliam at 200 | Britain’s Worst Public Art

4 February 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Yemeni Museum Damaged by Shellfire | Houthi rebels in Yemen have shelled the National Museum in the city of Taiz, reports the New York Times. Taiz is currently in the hands of fighters loyal to government forces, and faces regular bombardment from the rebels. An activist told the NYT spoke that the museum was hit by shellfire on Sunday, though the full extent of the damage is as yet unknown. According to news website Middle East Eye, objects including manuscripts, Qu’rans dating back more than one thousand years and antique pistols have all been destroyed. The Houthis are not the only belligerents guilty of inflicting cultural damage, however. The Saudi-led air campaign in support of the government has left parts of Sana’a, the capital, in ruins – including significant portions of its Old City, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Many of the buildings in the district date back almost a millennium, and prior to the outbreak of the war in 2011, the city was known for its unparalleled architectural heritage.

Wentworth Woodhouse Sold to Conservation Group for £7 million | Wentworth Woodhouse, a Grade-I listed 18th century mansion near Rotherham, has been sold to a preservation group for £7 million. Wentworth Woodhouse is thought by some to be the largest private house in England, rivalling even Buckingham Palace in size. The property was put up for sale last May after the death of its owner, architect Clive Newbold. A sale to a Hong Kong investment firm was announced in November, but the deal fell through. The buyer, the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, was founded with the aim of keeping the property open to the public and carrying out urgently needed repairs. But their work has only just begun. Once the deal is finally agreed, the Trust estimates that the house will require some £42 million in repairs.

Italy to Create 10 New Museums | New cultural reforms in Italy will see ten new museums and cultural sites established in the country as part of a ‘streamlining’ project across the sector. The expansion is not quite as dramatic as that sounds: some of the new institutions will be created through mergers of existing museums. Soprintendenze Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio – a new government department established to cover Art, Architecture, Archaeology and Landscape – will also seek to unify Italian cultural programmes to reduce bureaucracy.

Art Dealer Eric Spoutz Arrested in Connection with Fakes | Dealer Eric Spoutz has been arrested in Hollywood yesterday and charged with wire fraud. According to a federal complaint, Spoutz sold dozens of fake paintings as the work of artists, including Willem De Kooning, and used forged documentation as proof of authenticity. If found guilty, Spoutz could face up to 20 years in jail.

The Fitzwilliam at 200 | To celebrate its bicentenary, Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum has added some colourful details to the biography of its mysterious founder, Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion. Fitzwilliam, who died 200 years ago today, left his magnificent collection of books, paintings, and other artefacts to Cambridge University, along with £200,000 to establish ‘a good substantial museum’. Lucilla Blum’s new publication The Fitzwilliam Museum: a History reveals that Fitzwilliam was infatuated with a French dancer, with whom he had two children. Blum has also discovered that Fitzwilliam’s collecting habits may have been his undoing: in 1815, he fell from a ladder in his library, and the resulting injuries may well have contributed to his demise less than a year later.

Britain’s Worst Public Art | In today’s edition of The Spectator, Stephen Bayley reveals the winner of the magazine’s inaugural What’s That Thing? award for the worst work of public art in Britain. As anyone living in the UK will be all too aware, there is strong competition for the title, but this year’s prize has gone to Dashi Namdakov’s She Guardian on Park Lane, London.

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