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Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Construction Company Declares Insolvency

In further news: fears grow over ‘Salvator Mundi’; Dutch government face Nazi-art lawsuit; heritage sites lost in Yemen war

Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, 2017. Courtesy: Getty/AFP; photograph: Giuseppe Cacace

Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, 2017. Courtesy: Getty/AFP; photograph: Giuseppe Cacace

Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, 2017. Courtesy: Getty/AFP; photograph: Giuseppe Cacace

The Austrian steel engineering company Waagner-Biro, behind the monumental dome of Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi, has declared insolvency. The Art Newspaper reports that the construction firm was hit by Abu Dhabi’s delay in payments and the project’s spiralling costs, with the museum’s dome itself costing EUR€80 million. The company has attempted to stay afloat by selling off its subsidiaries. Meanwhile, The Times reports that fears are growing over the condition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which has not been seen since it sold for a record USD$450 million last year at Christie’s. Its scheduled unveiling at the Louvre Abu Dhabi this September has been delayed. Several experts have voiced concern that the ‘fragile’ panel might have suffered damage – the auction house removed the artwork’s air-impermeable protective glass casing before the sale.

The Dutch government faces a lawsuit over the restitution of Nazi-tainted art. Jewish art dealers and brothers Benjamin and Nathan Katz, sold art they owned including works by Rembrandt and Jan Steen to Nazi officials during World War II. In one case, the proceeds was used to acquire visas for 25 Jewish relatives to escape the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The family have since argued that their actions were made under duress – a claim denied by the government-appointed Dutch Restitutions Committee. The family have alleged that in one instance, Hermann Göring himself appeared at the gallery, armed with a handgun, and picked out the paintings that he wanted. The art dealers’s descendants are fighting to regain possession of more than 140 works currently held by the Dutch government. The American grandson of Benjamin Katz, Bruce Berg, has now brought the case to the US court system with a lawsuit to return the works. A lawyer for Berg said: ‘The Dutch have a vested interest in keeping this art, the United States only has a vested interest in what’s fair.’

A new report has detailed the extent of the damage to cultural heritage sites in Yemen’s war. Human rights organization Mwatana for Human Rights released the document last week: it lists 34 sites, some of which are 3,000 years old, and have suffered significant destruction. Titled ‘The Degradation of History,’ it includes detail from 75 eyewitness working at heritage sites which have suffered damage during the conflict. Following the report’s publication, the group has called upon the international community to intervene in defence of Yemen’s endangered ‘collective memory,’ according to Artnet News. The report states that: ‘The destruction of historical monuments and artefacts and archaeological and religious buildings is the main manifestation of the country’s descent into the abyss of a war without a resolution.’

A Boston auction house has pulled seven lots from a sale of American Indian works following protests. Amid objection from Native American organizations, auction house Skinner removed several 19th-century objects that had been consigned by the Medford Public Library in Massachusetts, from a forthcoming American Indian and ethnographic art sale. The withdrawn items include a Tlingit shaman’s spirit figure, a Nitinat polychrome trunk and a Tlingit female shaman’s mask. In an official statement, the president of the board of directors of the North American Indian Centre of Boston, Jean-Luc Pierite, said: ‘To sell these items for a short-term profit without proper consultation on repatriation is part of the troubling disregard for government-to-government relationships’.

The French ad executive who recently sued Jeff Koons for plagiarism has been accused of not giving due credit to his co-author. On 8 November, a judge ordered Koons to pay Franck Davidovici USD$168,000 for copying elements from an ad campaign he created in 1985 for an artwork. However, art director Elisabeth Bonamy says she conceived and executed the visual elements of fashion brand Naf Naf’s advertisement which features a pig helping a woman lying in the snow. Speaking to Artnet News, Bonamy said: ‘Franck has always taken advantage to make his name famous while completely forgetting me.’ Bonamy reportedly waived her copyright to the work so that Davidovici could sue Koons single-handedly, under the condition that she receive a cut of the winnings and that her name always be mentioned in press reports.

In awards news: the annual Freelands Award has gone to Bristol’s arts centre Spike Island, which receives GBP£100,000 to go towards a 2020 solo exhibition and monograph by British sculptor Veronica Ryan; the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Awards for Artists has named five winners in its visual arts category – Becky Beasley, Anthea Hamilton, Simon Ling, Matt Stokes and Anne Tallentire will each receive GBP£60,000 over three years; and Krista Clark and William Downs are the recipients of the 2018 Atlanta Artadia Awards, which comes with a prize of USD$10,000 in unrestricted funds.

In gallery news: kamel mennour gallery in Paris and London represents Neïl Beloufa, with a solo show at the gallery planned for 2019; New York’s Marianne Boesky Gallery and Paula Cooper Gallery are to co-represent artist Jennifer Bartlett; the New York photography dealer Steven Kasher is closing his gallery at the end of 2018 to join as a director at David Zwirner; Hauser & Wirth have appointed Koji Inoue as international senior director of postwar and contemporary art, starting in summer 2019; and Taka Ishii Gallery is opening SHOP Taka Ishii Gallery this weekend – the ‘experimental retail space’ in Wan Chai, Hong Kong will feature artists taking turns to exhibit works and products, with painter Tomoo Gokita directing the inaugural edition.

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