Featured image: Joshua Reynolds’s Portrait of Omai on the move at Tate Britain. (Photo by Matthew Fearn – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The National Portrait Gallery in London is looking to raise over £50 million for a Joshua Reynolds painting entitled “Portrait of Omai”. The commanding portrait of a young Pacific Islander who became Britain’s first black celebrity in the late 18th century dates to 1776 and was part of the collection of horse breeding millionaire, John Magnier. The racing tycoon had originally purchased the work in 2001 and had loaned the piece to the National Gallery of Ireland for display until 2012.
Magnier paid £10.5 million for the painting at Sotheby’s but in 2003, an export license deferral allowed a matching bid to retain the work in the UK, following a campaign spearheaded by Sir David Attenborough. Magnier refused to sell to the Tate, which had raised £12.5 million thanks to an anonymous benefactor. However he was prevented, under the terms of the export license, from taking the painting out of the UK for permanent residency in Ireland.
If the institution is successful, the sum will set a record for the most expensive acquisition ever made by a U.K. museum.
A group of young children have been arrested in connection to the ransacking of Sculpture Space, a sculpture residency in Utica, New York. The devastating damage and theft occurred early in the morning of August 28. The children, aged 8 through 11, broke into the facility, destroyed artworks, overturned furniture, shattered glass, and sprayed graffiti on the building’s walls.
The organization revealed that the “vandals used paint, torches, sledgehammers, and other studio items and tools to violently destroy several areas and objects.” All of the windows were smashed, as were multiple light fixtures. The site’s bathrooms were flooded and its office, which houses computers and archival documents, was severely damaged.
Police later found a group of children at a nearby auto shop where it was reported that several juveniles were throwing rocks at cars in the business’s lot. “After further investigation, the officers noticed several antique bicycles around the cars and observed that the juveniles had paint on their shoes consistent with what had been spilled within Sculpture Space,” the police department’s announcement explained. “After compiling a substantial amount of evidence indicating that these parties were in fact responsible for the illegal entry, damage, and theft at the Sculpture Space.”
Adding insult to injury, the residency was preparing for their upcoming annual art auction in late September with many of the damaged or destroyed works having been donated as auction items.
“Although this tragedy is a severe setback to Sculpture Space especially on the cusp of their annual CHAIRity art auction and launch party, the board and leadership are determined to move forward with the important launch and auction event on September 24,” Sculpture Space said in a statement.
Sculpture Space launched a “vandalism recovery fund” to help rebuild its facilities.
A virtual installation including nearly 800 different everyday objects that Frida Kahlo used in her iconic red home was on display in Decentraland’s third-annual Metaverse Art Week, which was held between August 24-28.
The recreation created virtually by Ezel.Life, a digital asset company, included different pieces that Kahlo used in her everyday life and in her art, many of which were held in a private family residence. Ezel.Life worked with members of the Khalo family to bring this vision to life with the majority of the objects having been unseen by the public until last week.
“It sets up a lot of her struggles and adversities, but also her drive and passion for life; between polio, coming of age, and a major bus accident,” said Luke McFarlane, co-founder of Ezel, in a statement. Co-founder and CEO of Ezel, Pedro Quinzaños, added “When I started talking to Mara [the great grand niece of Frida Kahlo], there was some resistance from the family…Blockchain is a perfect tool to really lock in the real story from the family and get it out there without having any type of changes from the media or third party.”
After 18-month closure, the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) in Doha, is due to reopen on 5 October with more than 1,000 new objects to be on display. A selection of some of MIA’s most significant artefacts—including the ninth-century Blue Qur’an, the Cavour Vase (late 13th century), the Varanasi necklace (around 1609), the late 16th-century Ramayana manuscript for Hamida Banu Begum, and the Franchetti tapestry (around 1575)—will go on display in the first gallery on level two.
The inaugural temporary exhibition, Baghdad: Eye’s Delight (26 October-25 February 2023) gives an overview of the history of the Iraqi capital from Antiquity to present day. Curators have focused on key eras such as the Abbasid dynasty (750-1258) and the cosmopolitan period between the 1940s and 1970s. Objects are on loan from 22 institutions worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Additional galleries are dedicated to the Qur’an and its history as well as education within Islamic cultures.
The MIA, designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect I.M. Pei, first opened in 2008 with the recent museum overhaul among a variety of cultural initiatives designed to boost Qatar’s soft power status.
The New York Attorney General’s Office said it found evidence that at least a dozen Sotheby’s clients were involved in an alleged tax fraud scheme led by the auction house.
The investigation, which began in 2020, initially focused around a private collector who obtained a false resale certificate. After further investigation, the AGO alleges that this client is part of a larger cohort of collectors involved in the scheme. The false resale certificate allowed the anonymous individual from the initial investigation to fraudulently present as an art dealer with the intent to resell the artwork and avoid paying millions of dollars in tax revenue on the sale.
Assistant Attorney General Derek Borchardt said in a hearing this week that his office had uncovered multiple fraudulent uses of resale certificates from clients who made expressly clear to Sotheby’s that artworks would be remaining in their residences after purchase–directly conflicting with the certificates’ intent. 12 clients are planned to be deposed.
Sotheby’s has said it should not be held responsible for the misuse of resale certificates distributed by low-level employees. A judge had previously denied the house’s bid to dismiss the complaint, stating that there was enough potential evidence that senior members of Sotheby’s staff “willfully turned a blind eye” to the fraudulent resale certificates.