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Henry Moore Sketch Discovered in Trove of Nazi-Looted Artworks

In further news: National Portrait Gallery’s visitor decline due to counting ‘error’; Berlin’s Arratia Beer gallery closes

Henry Moore, Ideas for Sculpture: Mother and Child and Reclining Figures, c.1929. Courtesy: Kunstmuseum Bern

Henry Moore, Ideas for Sculpture: Mother and Child and Reclining Figures, c.1929. Courtesy: Kunstmuseum Bern

Henry Moore, Ideas for Sculpture: Mother and Child and Reclining Figures, c.1929. Courtesy: Kunstmuseum Bern

A watercolour by Henry Moore has been discovered in the Gurlitt hoard of Nazi-looted artworks. The drawing of figures in repose, made by the renowned British artist in the 1920s, was identified on BBC television programme Fake or Fortune?, and is said to be the only UK work in the controversial collection of more than 1,500 pieces. Asked by Kunstmuseum Bern to investigate the artwork, the television programme dug into the sketch’s provenance. The programme’s art expert Philip Mould said that not only was it ‘totally genuine’ but also ‘cleansed of the evil prospect that it was looted Nazi art’ – although many pieces in the Gurlitt hoard by artists such as Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso were looted by the Nazis or taken through forced sales, the Moore sketch was originally given by the artist to a German museum, and later sold on. The hoard belonged to Cornelius Gurlitt, who inherited it from his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, who acted as an art dealer for the Nazis. The trove was discovered in a raid on Gurlitt’s home in Munich in 2012. The Moore sketch is thought to be worth up to GBP£70,000, and will now go on display in the Bern museum.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has welcomed its 1 millionth visitor to the show ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’, which becomes the institution’s third most attended show ever. Opening on 10 May, the exhibition is the largest of its kind in the Met’s history. ‘Heavenly Bodies’, organized by The Costume Institute, draws together the connections between fashion and medieval art, with a display stretching across 25 galleries – the show also includes 42 pieces from the Sistine Chapel, several of which have not been loaned outside the Vatican before. According to the museum, attendance for ‘Heavenly Bodies’ is still behind 1963’s exhibition ‘Mona Lisa’ which drew 1,077,521 visitors, and 1978’s record ‘Treasure of Tutankhamun’ with 1,360,957 visitors. The New York museum caused much debate at the beginning of this year with its introduction of an admission charge for out-of-towners.

London’s National Portrait Gallery has said that its recent dramatic decline in visitor figures is the product of a counting error. The fall in visits was apparently the result of ‘human error’ in data gathered by the external contractor Ipsos Retail Performance, which ‘significantly undercounted visitors through the main entrance’, according to the gallery. A report in The Art Newspaper revealed that faulty equipment ‘which was then incorrectly monitored’ had caused the errors. The figures initially appeared to show that the gallery had halved its visitor numbers over the past 3 years. The company erroneously recorded that the gallery had 2.1 million visitors in 2015/16, 1.9 million in 2016/17 and 1.1 million in 2017/18. Following The Art Newspaper’s report, the gallery released updated visitor figures, recording 1.7 million visitors for 2017/18, which still demonstrates a dip in numbers, though not as catastrophic as initially suggested by the faulty data. A spokesperson for Ipsos said: ‘The issue has been reviewed internally as a matter of urgency and a course of remedial action has been agreed with the gallery.’

Plans for a museum in Brussels dedicated to the life and work of Flemish Old Master Pieter Bruegel the Elder have been put on hold. Strict financial rules regarding overspending has halted the October 2019 opening of the Bruegel House – planned to mark the 450th anniversary of the artist’s death – despite no money being required from the Belgian federal government. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts and the Flemish tourist board have pledged EUR€2.7M to transform a 15th-century house into a state-of-the art museum. But under government rules, all spending by federal agencies over EUR€50,000 must be approved by ministers – permission from Belgium’s federal government reportedly had not been granted. The project has not been abandoned, with a spokesperson for the Royal Museums saying that they were ‘still looking for a solution’.

New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery is being sued by art leasing company Artemus for allegedly creating ‘false invoices’ in relation to a Frank Stella sale. A lawsuit filed in New York’s Supreme Court last month has revealed that Kasmin owned 40 percent interest in a 1984 Stella piece, La Scienza della Fiacca 3.5 X, but according to the claim, this detail had not been disclosed during a USD$3.4M transaction involving the artwork in 2014 between Artemus and art dealer Anatole Shagalov and his business Nature Morte in 2016 (the latter are non-parties in the suit). The art leasing company now claims that Kasmin ‘created and backdated false invoices’ and provided a resale certificate to Shagalov, suggesting that the gallery knew of his intentions to sell the work on to a third party. Kasmin denies that there is any evidence of an intent to defraud and is now moving to dismiss the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the gallery said that it had ‘been pulled into a dispute regarding a transaction in which it was not involved.’

Berlin’s Arratia Beer gallery is closing its doors after 12 years in operation. Located in the city’s Tiergarten neighbourhood, it was founded in 2006 by Euridice Arratia and Elizabeth Beer. Over the years, they have worked with artists including Patty Chang, Omer Fast, Holly Hendry and Mary Reid Kelley. Although no reason has yet been provided for the gallery’s closure, in a letter, Arratia thanked artists, curators, writers and friends, saying: ‘Their energy, insights and generosity have been a source of strength and inspiration’. The news follows a number of other high-profile gallery closures in the city including Silberkuppe and Micky Schubert.

And finally, classicist Mary Beard is to make her television return with a BBC Two show exploring the history of naked bodies in art. The University of Cambridge professor and broadcaster has been commissioned to discuss how nudity in art has impacted perceptions of beauty and gender politics, in a two-part series titled ‘The Nude Uncovered’. According to the BBC, Beard will take in ‘a huge range of images; reinterpreting star artworks like Manet’s Olympia and Michelangelo’s David while shining a light on the hidden corners of image making.’ The show will air in 2019.

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