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At Art Basel, everyone's playing it safe

Augustus Serapinas, Mudmen, 2020 © Art Basel.

by Scott Reyburn

BASEL.- Psychologists call it the “mere exposure effect”: Humans like what they already know, whether people, places, products — or works of art. There was certainly a reassuring familiarity about most of the works on display at the 51st edition of Art Basel, which opened for previews Tuesday and runs through Sunday. After three pandemic postponements since June last year, with online editions in the meantime, this was the first major in-person international art fair to be held in Europe since March 2020, when Tefaf Maastricht closed early after an exhibitor tested positive. “The emphasis is on the staid and the predictable,” said Matthew Armstrong, a New York-based art adviser and curator, of this year’s edition. “People want the reassurance of what they know,” he added, having noted, like many others, the preponderance of modern and contemporary paintings by established names. Armstrong was among the fair’s few American attendees after the U.S. St ... More

The Best Photos of the Day

Artist Marco Brambilla on creating the visual intermezzos for Marina Abramovic's opera '7 Deaths of Maria Callas'   Andrew Jones will sell important collections online, October 10th and 24th   He taught ancient texts at Oxford. Now he is accused of stealing some.


by Valérie Sallier

ATHENS.- After over a year since premiering at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich during the pandemic, Serbian performance artist Marina Abramovic began the first leg of her tour in Paris on September 1 for “7 Deaths of Maria Callas” – an opera project centered on seven arias once performed by the American-born Greek soprano, Maria Callas. A tragedy exploring the opera singer as she reached the end of her life, Callas is invoked by Marina Abramovic’s performances on stage, original music by Marko Nikodijević, and a series of short films co-starring Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe. Born in 1923, Callas was part of the 1950s “bel canto revival” when the Italian vocal style gained renewed interest after vanishing in the early 19th century. You can recognize the bel canto repertoire by its long, silvery vocal phrases and careful use of accents, curling up the scale to emphasize a musical composition’s mood and meaning. Callas was ... More

Late 19th century Louis XV style gilt bronze boar form mantel clock (estimate: $3,000-$5,000).

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Andrew Jones Auctions will burst into autumn with a pair of outstanding online-only auctions: the collection of Lady Victoria White of Beverly Hills, best described as English country house meets California chic, on Sunday, October 10th; then, Part 1 in a series of auctions dedicated to the John Nelson collection on Sunday, October 24th. The string of sales for the John Nelson collection will be a celebration of the unerring eye of a more than 50-year Los Angeles design and antiques institution, the man behind the eponymous John Nelson Antiques. The collection features Chinese porcelain, paintings, French decorative arts, sculpture, antiquities, Grand Tour objects, European furniture, mirrors and chandeliers. “We are incredibly honored to have been entrusted with these two incomparable collections,” said Andrew Jones, President and CEO of Andrew Jones Auctions. “The collection of Lady Victoria White tells a ... More

The Sackler Library, which houses the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Project with more than 500,000 fragments of literary and documentary texts dating from the third century BC to the seventh century AD, in Oxford, England. Jonathan Player/The New York Times.

by Colin Moynihan

NEW YORK, NY.- He had impeccable credentials. No one disputes that. Dirk Obbink was an esteemed lecturer at the University of Oxford. He had received a MacArthur Foundation grant in 2001 for his work with papyrus, and held a prominent post helping to run the Oxyrhynchus Papyri — the world’s largest collection of ancient papyri, held by the Egypt Exploration Society and housed at Oxford’s Sackler Library. So roughly a decade ago when the craft-shop chain Hobby Lobby began to build a collection of ancient artifacts related to the Bible, it made sense to touch base with Obbink. Hobby Lobby president Steve Green was leading an effort to create a national museum that focused on the Bible. So between 2010 and 2013, the ... More

Ancient footprints re-write humanity's history in the Americas   The 'Dream Tablet' nears the end of a long journey home   Dutch man gets eight years for Van Gogh, Hals thefts

Researchers work on excavating a footprint in the bottom of trench at White Sands National Park in New Mexico. Human footprints found in New Mexico are at least 23,000 years old, a study reported, suggesting that people may have arrived long before the Ice Age’s glaciers melted. Dan Odess via The New York Times.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Footprints dating back 23,000 years have been discovered in the United States, suggesting humans settled North America long before the end of the last Ice Age, research published Thursday showed. The findings push back the date at which the continent was colonized by its first inhabitants by thousands of years. The footprints were left in mud on the banks of a long-since dried up lake, which is now part of a New Mexico desert. Sediment filled the indentations and hardened into rock, protecting evidence of our ancient relatives, and giving scientists a detailed insight into their lives. "Many tracks appear to be those of teenagers and children; large adult footprints are less frequent," write the authors of the study published in the American journal Science. "One hypothesis for this is the division of labor, in which adults are involved in skilled tasks whereas 'fetching and carrying' are delegated to teenagers. ... More

Patty Gerstenblith (L), a professor at DePaul University, and Katharyn Hanson (R), a cultural heritage preservation scholar at the Smithsonian Institute, look at the Gilgamesh Tablet. SAUL LOEB / AFP.

by Tom Mashberg

NEW YORK, NY.- A 3,500-year-old clay tablet inscribed with a portion of one of humanity’s oldest epics was handed over to the Iraqi government Thursday, the culmination of a 30-year odyssey which saw the hand-sized object looted from a northern Iraqi museum, sold by a British auction house and housed in a Washington collection before being seized by Homeland Security agents. Known as the Gilgamesh Dream Tablet, the object is the last — and most storied — of about 17,000 artifacts that have been publicly returned to Iraq since August as part of a global drive to draw attention to the illicit trade in ancient treasures. “This exceptional restitution is a major victory over those who mutilate heritage and then traffic it to finance violence and terrorism,” said the director-general of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, whose agency helped organize the restitution ceremony at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. “By ... More

Vincent van Gogh’s “The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring.” A three-judge panel in the Netherlands on Friday found a man guilty of stealing paintings by van Gogh and Frans Hals from museums in separate thefts and sentenced him to eight years in prison and a hefty fine. Via Groninger Museum via The New York Times.

THE HAGUE.- A Dutch court sentenced a man to eight years in jail Friday for stealing two paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals from small museums, although the works themselves remain missing. The man, identified in the Dutch media as Nils M., 59, was arrested in April in the central town of Baarn for last year's thefts of Van Gogh's 1884 work "Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring", and 17th century painter Hals's "Two Laughing Boys". "With the thefts, this man not only brought enormous harm to the museums, but also to society and the international public," the Lelystad District Court said. "They can no longer view and enjoy the paintings," the court said in a statement. The Van Gogh painting was stolen from the Singer Laren Museum near Amsterdam in March 2020 while it was closed due to coronavirus measures. It is around 10 kilometres (six miles) from Baarn ... More

High Museum launches LINK Digital Publishing Platform   Italian Baroque busts worth over £850,000 at risk of leaving UK   Scale model helps blind and partially-sighted visitors to enjoy a museum visit more independently

The LINK user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design was created by multispecialty design studio C&G Partners. Image courtesy C&G Partners.

ATLANTA, GA.- This month, the High Museum of Art launches LINK, a digital platform that extends the reach and accessibility of the Museum’s collection and exhibitions by providing new ways to experience them online. The first LINK project, for the High’s recently opened collection-based exhibition “Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe,” debuted on Sept. 3 at On the site, visitors can learn about Rowe’s life and artwork through interactive content including a timeline, videos, exhibition texts, high-resolution images and a digital guestbook. Future LINK projects also will relate directly to the High’s collection and feature exclusive scholarship, virtual tours and archival materials available as online resources for Museum visitors, scholars, students and educators. “The High has always maintained a robust program for publishing exhibition catalogues, but this is an entirely new plat ... More

Busts of Aristotle and Homer attributed to sculptor Giuliano Finelli are at risk of leaving the country.

LONDON.- Two 17th-century Italian Baroque busts of Aristotle and Homer worth over £850,000 and attributed to sculptor Giuliano Finelli are at risk of leaving the country unless a UK buyer can be found to save the pieces for the nation. Finelli trained in the workshop of renowned sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the artist credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture, with the busts demonstrating Finelli’s extraordinary understanding of his material. Examples of Finelli’s work outside Italy and Spain are rare and the superbly carved Bust of Francesco Bracciolini in the Victoria and Albert Museum is the only work by him in the UK. The busts come from the celebrated art collection of the Earls of Derby, which was largely amassed by James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby between 1664 and 1736. While the painting collection is well documented, the smaller collection of sculptures is yet to be fully explored. The loss of these rare busts would deny the opportunity for further study of the ... More

Detail of the scale model at the Van Gogh Museum, developed with the support and expertise of the Bartiméus Fonds and Stichting Accessibility. Photo: Petra Dorenstouter.

AMSTERDAM.- As of today, a touchable scale model of the museum building is available at the entrance to the Van Gogh Museum. The model, which includes all floors and walking routes, is designed to help make a visit to the museum easier for everyone, but especially for blind and partially-sighted visitors. Visitors can now use the 3D-printed model (made by Local Makers) literally to feel their way around the museum building and find their bearings during their visit. The model is unique: the Van Gogh Museum is the first museum in the Netherlands to introduce a detailed touchable scale model of both the inside and outside of the building. Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Van Gogh Museum: ‘Thanks to the support and expertise of the Bartiméus Fonds and Stichting Accessibility, we have made another step in improving accessibility to the Van Gogh Museum. We hope to make further ... More

Turner Contemporary appoints new Director   Two iconic series by Sally Mann on view at Galerie Karsten Greve   The Morgan opens an exhibition of drawings by Black artists from the Southern United States

Clarrie Wallis has been Tate’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art (British) since 2016 and a curator at Tate since 1999. Photo: Matt Greenwood.

MARGATE.- Turner Contemporary announced the appointment of its new Director, Clarrie Wallis. Wallis, who has been Tate’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Art (British) since 2016 and a curator at Tate since 1999, will take up the position in January. She takes over from Turner Contemporary’s Founding Director, Victoria Pomery, who left in September to be the new Chief Executive Officer at The Box, Plymouth after 14 years at the helm. With 2021 marking Turner Contemporary’s 10th Anniversary, Wallis joins at an exciting time for the gallery and she brings with her a wealth of experience. At Tate, she has been responsible for leading on the strategic development, implementation and communication of Tate’s vision for contemporary British Art. Wallis has curated many landmark exhibitions including Mark Leckey O’ Magic Power of Bleakness (2019), Mike Nelson: The Asset Strippers (2019), Cerith Wyn Evans: ... More

Sally Mann, Deep South # 3, 1998. Ed. 2/10 + 3 AP. 47 x 37 1/4 in. © Sally Mann. Photo: Bildpunkt AG, Basel; Robert Bayer. Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve Köln Paris St. Moritz.

PARIS.- Galerie Karsten Greve is presenting its new exhibition dedicated to the work of the American photographer Sally Mann in its Parisian gallery. Following the success of her large retrospective Sally Mann: Mille et un passages (“Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings) at Jeu de Paume in 2019, the display is an opportunity to rediscover two iconic series by the artist: Deep South and Battlefields through a selection of thirty large-format prints produced at the turn of the 2000s. At a young age, Sally Mann started taking pictures in and around Lexington, Virginia, where she was born and still lives. She roamed the vast American outdoor spaces from the late 1970s, with nature a predominant presence in her snapshots. In 1996, she discovered the states neighbouring Virginia and travelled further into the Deep South. Initially envisaged as an exploration of those enthralling ... More

Nellie Mae Rowe, Untitled (Woman Talking to Animals), 1981. Black ballpoint pen, black porous-point pen, wax crayon, water-soluble oil pastel, and graphite on wove paper. 24 × 19 in. (61 × 48.3 cm). Photo: Janny Chiu. © 2021 Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Morgan Library & Museum presents Another Tradition: Drawings by Black Artists from the American South, opening September 24, 2021, and running through January 16, 2022. This exhibition celebrates the Morgan’s 2018 acquisition of eleven drawings from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting Black Southern artists and their communities. Artists represented in the acquisition include Thornton Dial, Nellie Mae Rowe, Henry Speller, Luster Willis, and Purvis Young. Another Tradition also incorporates institutional and private loans by Rowe, Lonnie Holley, Sister Gertrude Morgan, and Bill Traylor. In the last three decades, exhibitions and publications have established the rightful place of figures such as Dial and the ... More

More News
François Ghebaly opens an exhibition of works by Neil Beloufa
LOS ANGELES, CA.- There’s an autumnal worry that deepens this newest series by French-Algerian artist Neïl Beloufa. The rich, creamy leather that skins these works undulates over shaped wood. The swathes of leather tell one story wrapping the surface, the wood beneath hints at another. Their colors puzzle into scenes of quiet anxiety. Deep ochres and pumpkin oranges, plums and grays and lavenders piece together moments of isolation, concern, simultaneous distance from and connection to a fraught world, screens winking out at us from the flicker of their light. A cord snakes out from each work and connects to a plug below, divulging the mechanism that allows the works to glow from within. The contoured wood beneath the leather reveals its form only when viewed at the right angle like a secret reflection in the magic glass of our touchscreen ... More

Mexico's indigenous weavers seek international recognition
ZINACANTÁN.- Indigenous weavers in Mexico's southern highlands are striving for rightful recognition from an international fashion industry that they say plunders their creations and tradition. The struggle has taken on added symbolism as Mexico this month celebrates the bicentenary of its independence with plaudits for indigenous peoples' resistance against Spanish colonization. Sitting on blankets on the ground in the courtyard of Julia Perez's house in the town of Zinacantan, weavers use traditional looms to produce fabric blending a multitude of bright colors. "There is a fusion of our ideas so that our tradition, our culture, our fabrics are not lost," the 39-year-old Tzotzil craftswoman said. "That's why we always use it in our designs," she said of the inspiration for the colors and patterns. The weavers' enthusiasm belies the laborious and complex nature ... More

VanDerBrink Auctions to offer collection of rare and classic cars, gas station signs and other petroliana
CHIPPEWA FALLS, WISC.- The Larry and Dawn Menard collection of rare and classic cars, gas station signs and other petroliana, fine pickup trucks, vintage motorcycles, antique tractors, over 300 pieces of memorabilia and more will be auctioned Saturday, October 2nd, in the Expo Building of the Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds, at 225 Edwards Street in Chippewa Falls. The auction has a start time of 9 am Central. Gates will open at 7 am. “We hope everyone can come and bid on a chance to own one of these fabulous collector cars and more,” said Yvette VanDerBrink of VanDerBrink Auctions, the Minnesota auction house conducting the sale. The auction is a rare and vintage car collector’s dream, packed with rides like a fuel-injected 1957 Chevrolet convertible, a fuel-injected 1963 Corvette with the split rear window, a 1954 Chevrolet ... More

Denver Art Museum appoints two new Asian art curators ahead of Martin Building reopening
DENVER, CO.- The Denver Art Museum announced the appointment of two curatorial leaders in the museum's Asian art department. "The Denver Art Museum is committed to continuing to expand the range of perspectives we offer and to present multifaceted stories of artistic creation to our community and beyond highlighting our global collection," said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. In the culmination of an international search, Hyonjeong "HJ" Kim Han was selected as the museum's new Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art. Han will oversee the museum's Asian art collection-which includes objects from China, India, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia and the Himalayas-as well as continuing the museum's commitment to bringing world-class special exhibitions to Denver and showcasing ... More

Dancing among tombs on a moonlit New York night: 'It feels so alive'
NEW YORK, NY.- Nearly 600,000 people reside — permanently — in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, and Wednesday evening a crowd of about 800 joined them — temporarily — as revelers at a benefit gala held among the graves. In the moonlit dark amid the tombs, as serenading musicians wended among the headstones, the grief of a city where so many have died since the beginning of the pandemic felt both omnipresent and far away. “I don’t think about the death when I’m here, it feels so alive,” Gina Farcas, 52, an accountant from Fort Lee, New Jersey, said as she shimmied to a band playing Brazilian music beside a mausoleum. “We need this, for the city.” “Do you feel like you’re in a cemetery?” her boyfriend, Carmine Fischetti, 66, asked her. “No,” Farcas replied. “Except for the tombs.” The gala was a fundraiser for the 478-acre cemetery, ... More

A Black theater flourished in New York. 200 years ago.
NEW YORK, NY.- Shakespeare’s Richard III arrived on a New York City stage 200 years ago this month. This king stood in front of a Black audience. And he was played by a Black man. He was the star of a production by the African Theater, widely considered the first Black theater in the United States. The company’s life-span was short — only two or three years — but its founder, its performers and its legacy changed American drama. The African Theater’s history reflects many of the conversations still happening around race and the art form today. How can Black producers and artists get the support and resources they need to tell their stories? What does an exclusively Black space look like? How is it born? And how does it survive? The African Theater began with a ship steward — William Alexander Brown, a free Black man born in the West ... More

David Zwirner opens an exhibition of new works by Lisa Yuskavage
NEW YORK, NY.- David Zwirner is presenting an exhibition of new works by Lisa Yuskavage. On view at 533 West 19th Street in New York, this is the artist’s seventh solo show with the gallery. For more than thirty years, Yuskavage’s highly original approach to figurative painting has challenged conventional understandings of the genre. Her simultaneously bold, eccentric, exhibitionist, and introspective characters assume dual roles of subject and object, complicating the position of viewership. At times playful and harmonious, and at other times rueful and conflicted, these characters are cast within fantastical compositions in which realistic and abstract elements coexist and color determines meaning. While the artist’s painterly techniques evoke art-historical precedents, her motifs are often inspired by popular culture, creating an underlying dichotomy between ... More

Finding redemption and rebirth on the road to Broadway
NEW YORK, NY.- “Your play makes ‘Waiting for Godot’ seem light,” I said, hesitantly, to playwright Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, whose “Pass Over” was the first play to open on Broadway in more than a year. Without a second of doubt, Nwandu replied, “‘Godot’ is light.” So began our tête-à-tête, a lively exchange about our first encounters with that existential work by Beckett, Nwandu’s influence for her “Godot”-inspired play and her decision to change the play’s ending as it headed to Broadway. One of the challenges for me with “Godot” has always been its ambiguity. It can be a play about everything, including but not limited to death, religion or friendship. At best, it is potent political satire. But when viewed in our current political climate and the urgency of racism, sexism and climate change, its lack of clarity can also feel like a luxury. It’s ... More

Watching the films of Melvin Van Peebles
NEW YORK, NY.- Melvin Van Peebles was a lot of things — filmmaker, novelist, musician, playwright, painter, stock options trader, raconteur — but above all else, he was a showman, a masterful self-promoter and unapologetic huckster. When he died Tuesday at 89, he was a week from the release of the Criterion Collection’s new box set “Melvin Van Peebles: Essential Films” (available on Blu-ray Sept. 28), and Van Peebles, who always displayed a sharp sense of humor about himself and the world around him, might have appreciated the timing — his passing also served as one last act of ballyhoo for the man and his work. “Essential Films” offers, as per usual for Criterion, a treasure trove of supplementary materials: audio commentaries, early short films, interviews, archival footage and the like. But the feature films collected in it — his first four, made in a remarkable ... More

Gira Sarabhai, designer who helped shape modern India, dies at 97
NEW YORK, NY.- Gira Sarabhai, an architect, designer, curator and historian who helped establish some of the most important design institutions in postcolonial India, giving her a hand in shaping generations of designers, artists and craftspeople, died July 15 at her home in Ahmedabad, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. She was 97. Her death was confirmed by her nephew Suhrid Sarabhai. As a young woman, Sarabhai was friends with a who’s who of the world’s top modernist designers and architects — Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Louis Kahn, B.V. Doshi, Buckminster Fuller, Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi and Alexander Calder. She and her brother Gautam Sarabhai trained under Wright at Taliesin, his estate in Wisconsin, and were part of the team that worked on Wright’s spiral design for the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. ... More

Paranormal play in Denver from Meow Wolf
DENVER.- Meow Wolf trades on the dark side of American popular culture, in cults and conspiracies, in supernatural beings, extraterrestrials and unsolvable conundrums. The chain of oversize immersive art installations teases visitors who wander through its dimly lit environments by dropping hints about nefarious mysteries they could spend a lifetime — not to mention multiple $45 admission charges — trying to work out. That spooky stuff feels right at home in Meow Wolf’s first two locations, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, desert cities located in the paranormal heartland. If your goal is to create narratives about underground evildoers, each worthy of their own “X-Files” episode, it helps to set them in places where alien sightings are routine and where the government actually has established secret military test sites. Northern New Mexico and Southern ... More

To his surprise, his play about 2 dead U.K. politicians struck a chord
LONDON.- A play about two long-dead British politicians might not be an obvious winner in London’s West End. But this summer a brief run of “Maggie & Ted, the Birth of Brexit” attracted a sellout theater crowd, including a former prime minister, Theresa May, and its success seems to have surprised the playwright, Michael McManus, as much as anyone. “Talk to my 14-year-old self, or even to my 40-year-old self, and I would never have believed I could have got to that point,” said McManus, a 53-year-old Conservative Party member and former political aide, whose curriculum vitae is hardly typical of breakthrough writers. The plan now is to take the production outside London, hone it and, if a mainstream audience can be found for a documentary political drama, secure a full run in the West End. That would be an unusual success for someone who came to theater ... More

In Freeman's Books and Manuscripts Auction, pieces of American history exceed estimates
PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Freeman’s announced the results of its September 23 auction, a 140-lot sale that achieved a 95% sell-through rate and underscores Freeman’s strength in presenting material across a wide range of disciplines and time periods. Thursday’s auction saw strong results for documents of American history from the Revolutionary War to the 1960s counterculture. “American history is in our wheelhouse, and today was further evidence of that,” says Darren Winston, Head of the Books and Manuscripts department. “We had some very strong results and happy consignors—ultimately, great material sells itself.” Following a record-breaking $4.42M sale of a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence in July, Freeman’s Books and Manuscripts specialists continue to confirm their place as premier presenters of 18th-century ... More

The Excitement of a New Season

On a day like today, Latvian-born American painter Mark Rothko was born
September 25, 1903. Mark Rothko (September 25, 1903 - February 25, 1970), was a Russian-American painter. He is classified as an abstract expressionist, although he himself rejected this label, and even resisted classification as an "abstract painter". In this image: A visitor passes three paintings by US-painter Mark Rothko which are on exhibition at the Foundation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, on February 15, 2001.

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