Italy relaxes export laws for post-war art

Arc en Ciel (1965), by the Italian artist Piero Dorazio, will be on view at Mazzoleni's London gallery in Light in motion: Balla Dorazio Zappettini,  from 29 September though 9 December
After almost two years of debate, Italy has approved a new law relaxing the countrys notably stringent art export regulations.

The market and competition legislation, passed by Italian parliament earlier this month and effective as of 29 August, extends the window during which private owners of works by deceased artists may self-certify them for export from Italy without a licence, from 50 to 70 years after they were made. The law further streamlines Italys bureaucratic licensing process by introducing a minimum value threshold of 13,500, although this excludes archaeological artefacts, manuscripts and incunabula. The ministry of culture may also intervene in cases of suspected fraud or national cultural interest. Five-year passports to ease the movement of works of art across Italian borders are also planned.

Although the 20-year extension falls short of the 100-year limit proposed in 2015 by a lobby of art dealers and auction houses, it was welcomed as a boost to the trade in post-war Italian art. Luigi Mazzoleni, the director of Mazzoleni London, says it will invigorate the market as previously works made in the 1950s and early 1960s were not easily exportable, keeping the local market artificially low. He also thinks it will enable international museums to expand post-war Italian collections. 

Works from the 1950s and early 60s, by artists such as Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri and Paolo Scheggi, are particularly desirable internationally in todays market the auction record for post-war Italian art stands at $29.1m (including fees), for Concetto spaziale, La Fine di Dio (1964) at Christies New York in 2015.

Benedict Tomlinson, director of Robilant + Voena, which has galleries in London and Milan, thinks the move does not go far enough. The 20-year extension seems arbitrary, why not extend it to Old Masters? To say a 1950s work is less important than one made in the 1940s is ridiculous. That boundary will keep moving each year, and soon Fontanas will be over 100 years old. What happens then?

But there is opposition as well. In an open letter to the Italian president Sergio Mattarella, the heritage group Italia Nostra and the scholar Salvatore Settis warned against a serious and baseless loss caused by a law introduced with the sole aim of favouring art dealers.

In a victory for art historians, the legislation also makes it possible for users of Italys state archives and libraries to freely photograph documents and books for personal and scholarly use (subject to copyright and without flash, tripods or physical contact with the page). Such legitimately acquired images of cultural objects can be published and distributed in any medium for non-commercial purposes. Until now, researchers had to request permission and pay licensing fees to take their own photographs. The shift, which is in line with the policies of the UK and French national archives, was supported by a petition of almost 4,500 Italian academics, including the late Umberto Eco.

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Why George W. Bush won’t be painting Michelle Obama

George W. Bush (courtesy The White House)
Former US President turned prolific portrait painter, George W. Bush, has painted the faces of military veterans for his follow-up show to world leaders at the George W. Bush Presidential Centre in Dallas. Proceeds from the exhibition Portraits of Courage (until 1 October) and its accompanying book go towards supporting post-9/11 veterans and their families. The 66 portraits and a mural confirm how Bushs confidence with paint on canvas has grown since his first works were leaked online in 2013. Then a portrait of Vladimir Putin divided opinion. Bush thinks he would do a better job now if he repainted the Russian strongman, but Im not going to, he told Bill Kearney, the editor-in-chief of American Way, the inflight magazine of American Airlines. Another person Bush wont be painting is the former First Lady and his friend across the political divide, Michelle Obama. Bush revealed why. I dont want to incur the wrath of Michelle Obama, if the portrait wasnt a success, like the one he attempted of another First Lady, his wife, Laura Bush. Discretion better part of valour, as saying goes.

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Objections to Ai Weiwei installation: much ado about nothing?

A rendering of Ai Weiwei's upcoming installation at the Washington Square Arch, part of the exhibition Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (Image: courtesy of Ai Weiwei Studio and Frahm & Frahm)
A site-specific installation by Ai Weiwei for the passageway of the 1892 Washington Square Arch in New York, part of the artists upcoming city-wide exhibition Good Fences Make Good Neighbors (24 October-11 February 2018), seems to have ruffled some neighbors feathers. On 25 August, the president of the Washington Square Association community group, Trevor Sumner, addressed an open letter to the Public Art Fund, which is organising the show, to raise its objections to the planned installation. The letter alleges among other complaints that the work would interrupt annual holiday celebrations and that [t]he project was not built with the collaboration of the neighborhood. But according to a statement by the Public Art Funds president Susan Freedman, the non-profit has been in close dialogue with [Sumner] to ensure that the tradition of the Christmas tree lighting ceremony moves ahead without interruption, and has also met with community boards and neighbourhood groups throughout the planning process, including the Washington Square Park Association. (Freedman also says that Sumner expressed excitement about the project.) The Public Art Fund also plans to speak with residents at a Community Board meeting next week. Perhaps the groups can rally around the Christmas tree come December and share some neighbourly love.

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Berkshire Museum board turns down $1m to pause art sale

A protest at the Berkshire Museum in August against the planned auction of 40 works from the collection (Image: Gillian Jones/The Berkshire Eagle/AP)
A $1m offer from an anonymous group of donors to pause the Berkshire Museums planned sale of art from its collection has been turned down by the board of trustees, the Berkshire Eagle reports. The cash came with the stipulation that the museum hold off for at least a year on auctioning 40 works of art, including two original paintings by Norman Rockwell. The sales would raise money for a $40m endowment and an ambitious $20m reinvention that would turn the 114-year-old curio cabinet-style natural history and art museum into a cutting-edge interdisciplinary institution. Although we must decline, we are grateful for the offer, Elizabeth McGraw, the president of the museums board of trustees, said in a statement.

The museums administration says the art sale and overhaul are necessary to help shore up a precarious financial situation, including an annual deficit of around $1.2m for the past ten years. The anonymous donors hoped that a years delay would allow them to assemble an outside panel to look at the institutions financial situation and come up with a solution that would allow the art to remain at the museum.

In a letter to the community posted on the museums website, McGraw says that the board has spent two years exploring other options, including a merger with the nearby Hancock Shaker Village, and has reached out to hundreds of residents for their input. Some individuals are frustrated because they think that a pause in the sale would lead to a different financial path somehow changing this harsh reality, McGraw writes. However, the consequence of a delay with the auction could be that the museum may close even sooner.

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MCA Chicago makes the most of Murakami merch mania

The artist's merchandise is flying off the shelves (Photo: Maria Ponce Berre, © MCA Chicago)
The demand for Murakami merchandise at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago shows no signs of letting up. With just a few weeks left before the travelling retrospective Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg closes on 24 September, the museums shop continues to roll out new items, including limited edition prints that sell out as soon as they are made available. Its still very much jamming in the store, says Mark Millmore, the MCAs director of retail. He adds that museum staff has had to remain very nimble to respond to the sustained interest in the artist. Ive never had to ask so much from the retail department, as well as everyone else in the building, including the social media team.

The exhibition, organised by the MCAs chief curator Michael Darling, shows the wide range of Murakamis work, from his Superflat pop paintings and sculptures that draw on the cartoonish world of anime, to his more recent paintings that invoke Buddhist legends or the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Similarly, the museum store has worked closely with the artist to offer a large assortment of art objects for Murakamis fans, be they students or serious collectors, from $3 sticker sets to silkscreens starting at $6,000. The latter are specially shipped over from Japan and have never before been available in the US. And the catalogue for the show has already gone into a second printing.

The appetite for all this material has meant the need for more resources, including staff to help process the added inventory and professional art handlers to manage the editioned work. Even the museums unused spaces have been commandeered to the cause. Luckily, the theatre is dark, because we needed somewhere to put all of these prints, Millmore says.

Perhaps most surprising is the number of repeat customers, not just those who return to the store to see the new releases every week or two, but visitors who keep coming back to see the show, Millmore says.

So just how much of a windfall will this Murakami mania reap for the museum? Millmore says that hell know the exact receipt numbers within an hour of the shows closing, but that he estimates it is definitely more than $1m so far. It is even set to surpass the sales success of the MCAs last major blockbuster, David Bowie Is, which broke a record for the museum with 189,000 items sold including 7,000 exhibition catalogues, 14,000 t-shirts and 2,100 limited edition prints. Murakami will beat Bowie by more than 40%, Millmore says.

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Texas museums brace for full impact of Hurricane Harvey

Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey flow in the Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, Monday, 28 August 2017 (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Tropical Storm Harvey continues to batter south-eastern Texas with torrential rain, potentially displacing thousands of residents in Houston and the surrounding area. Most museums across the region remain closed and many took precautions before the storm to protect their collections and staff. This page will be updated with replies from institutions as they come in.

The Museum of Fine Art Houston (MFAH) closed its main campus, Bayou Bend, Rienzi and Glassell School locations on Friday. It has posted on its website that “our collections are safe, but the Museum remains closed to the public for now. Our thoughts are with our fellow Houstonians.”

On Monday, a museum spokesperson said the museum’s collections “have not been impacted at all, and there have been only limited issues with our facilities.” She added: “Advance planningfor sandbags, emergency water pumps, and the floodgates that are installed at various critical points around the campushas largely mitigated potential issues.”

A spokesperson from the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), says: “Our thoughts are with those who have been impacted by Harvey and our fellow Houstonians during the on-going storm. We are thankful to our crew who prepared CAMH for the storm and who continue to monitor the museum.” The museum will release further updates via its social media channels.

The Menil Collection has maintained a 24-hour security presence on its campus since Friday. Museum employees have been “making regular checks on our basements in the main building” as well as periodic checks on other buildings, including the Menil Drawing Institute construction site, according to a spokesperson.

“At this time, and thankfully, our buildings have not been impacted by the storm. Our director, conservation, and registration departments, which includes art handling services, are receiving regular updates about building status.”

The Rockport Center for the Arts in Corpus Christi appears to have “sustained serious external damage,” according to a Facebook post from its executive director, Luis Purn, who has seen pictures of the building.

“One image demonstrates that the front porch is completely gone and a roof structure in the front of the building is exposed and thus compromised,” Purn wrote. “It is entirely possible that additional damage to the roof exists, yet only an onsite inspection will reveal that.”

The Houston Center for Photography (HCP) “has experienced no visible damage to our facility that we have been able to locate during a brief visit before the heavy rains began again,” says its director, Ashlyn Davis. “No artwork has been damaged and our library is still in good shape. We are very lucky.”

Davis added: “There are several artists in the HCP community though who have taken direct hits and are in real need of support. They’ve all evacuated to dry homes with their small children and are safe, but HCP’s community of artists will likely need major support in the weeks ahead.”

The Texas-based publication Glass Tire has video from the owner of the Cardoza Fine Art Gallery in Houston that shows extensive flooding in his home and gallery. According the the publication: “Cardoza says that although his building has been damaged, most of the art in the gallery was out of harms way. As of this morning, water in the area has been receding.” The journal also has a list of emergency resources for artists.

The city of Austin has missed the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, but institutions like the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas and the San Antonio Museum of Art were prepared nonetheless.

“Whenever something like this in on the horizon, we monitor the weather very closely and watch for alerts from the University of Texas emergency notification system, which is very responsive,” says a Blanton Museum spokesperson. “When its raining, our gallery staff frequently check all levels of the museum for any signs of leaks.”

Although the museum is closed Mondays, it will be open and free the rest of the week for anyone who has been displaced by the storm.

Necessary precautions were also taken at the San Antonio Museum of Art, says William Rudolph, the museum’s chief curator.

“We are in an area prey to flash flooding and unexpected torrential rainfall and lived through a catastrophic hailstorm in 2016 so we have a very good knowledge of any trouble spots,” Rudolph says. “We did monitor the storm in advance and to that end, we moved particularly vulnerable objects out of harms way and made protective modifications, such as draping cases with plastic, etc., by the end of the work day on the Friday that the storm made landfall.”

He added: “We luckily were spared any of the worst of Harvey, due to its impact being mainly to the south and east of our city.”

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Moscow’s Pushkin Museum asks public to dig deep to buy Titian, despite stuttering economy

The Pushkin is crowdfunding to buy this painting previously thought to be a copy of Titian’s Venus and Adonis (Image: © Classica Fond)
The State Pushkin Museum’s exhibition of Venetian Renaissance art (Renaissance Venice: Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese. From Italian and Russian Collection) closed on 20 August but one painting is still making waves. Previously thought to be a copy of Titians Venus and Adonis, experts at the Pushkin say it is the earliest surviving version of the work and now the Moscow museum wants to buy it through crowdfunding. It does not come cheap thoughthe painting is reportedly estimated to be worth between $10m-$20m. 

This is not the first time that the Pushkin has asked Russians to dip into their pockets. In 2015 the museum crowdfunded around $40,000 to restore an ancient Egyptian veil. The Venus and Adonis is significantly pricier but the Pushkin’s director Marina Loshak is confident that the cash will be raised, regardless of Russias economic situation. 

Despite difficult times, the museum always feels the love and support of its visitors, friends of the museum, and donors, she says. We do not expect the fundraising to happen quickly. It will be a long process that requires great work and attention. The museum was reluctant to reveal how large its budget was for 2016-17, but in 2012 it received around $8m with 80% of funding coming from the government and the rest generated through tickets sales and donors.  

The painting was snapped up by a dealer in France in 2005 who thought it was a copy before selling it to the Russian collector Vladimir Logvinenko. The collector would not reveal how much he paid for the painting but said that it was much more than the 50,000-70,000 the previous buyer forked out. Logvinenko contacted the Pushkin’s chief researcher and custodian of Italian paintings, Victoria Markova, to help restore the painting, but he was in for surprise. After a quick look, Markova judged the work to be by Titian. 

When a painting has three layers [of paint] its difficult to determine if its an original. Marina had a look at it, made certain technological and radiographic research, and concluded it was an original, Logvinenko says. However, Marina and I realised we couldnt restore the artwork in Russia as there arent enough Venetian art restorers here.

They sent the Venus and Adonis to Italy where the countrys Ministry of Culture, Gallerie dellAccademia in Venice, and Madrids Prado Museum backed up Markovas research. The painting was restored in a Venetian art gallery and eventually sold by Logvinenko to a group of collectors who are not Russian.

For a long time it was believed that Titians Venus and Adonis on show at the Prado Museum was the earliest edition still in existence, painted in 1554 for King Philip II, but this may no longer be the case. The Prado decided to study [the Moscow painting] and found a preliminary drawing under the colourful layer of the canvas, thus it should be considered the first version of the famous composition, which served as both the model for the Madrid canvas and numerous repetitions, Loshak says. 

Dmitry Butkevich, an art critic from the Kommersant FM radio station, said that that the Pushkin only has one chance, otherwise the likes of Sothebys and Christies will come knocking. Butkevich said: There are very few works of this level on the market…Im sure the list of those wanting to possess the painting is quite long.

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São Paulo gallerist Luciana Brito is the latest Brazilian to launch a New York space

Luciana Brito
The So Paulo-based gallerist Luciana Brito launches her New York project spacea collaboration with the design firm Espaoon 6 September, with Ruptura, a group show of modernist Brazilian artists relatively little known in North America. Britos expansion follows that of fellow Brazilian galleries Nara Roesler and Mendes Wood DM, both of which have opened outposts in Manhattan in the past two years.

While Brito acknowledges that the political and economic crises in Brazil have pushed galleries to find new ways to show work, she points to the wave of attention that Brazilian artists have recently received in North America as the primary driver behind her new endeavour. Our first exhibition is a historical presentation of artists we work with, like Waldemar Cordeiro, Geraldo de Barros, Thomaz Farkas, and Gaspar Gasparian, which we thought made sense in this moment because there have been all these exhibitions of historical Brazilian artists in New York, Brito says. These include a 2014 Lygia Clark show at MoMA, and the Lygia Pape and Hlio Oiticica shows at the Met Breuer and the Whitney, respectively, this year.

In line with institutions and galleries paying greater attention to Latin American artists, Sothebys announced on 16 August that they will no longer hold separate contemporary Latin American art sales, folding the category instead into their marquee contemporary art sales each season.

Following Ruptura, Brito plans to present a group show of younger artists, such as Hctor Zamora, Caio Reisewitz, and Tiago Tebet. The idea is to show artists who arent represented in New York, Brito says.

Galeria Nara Roesler set out with the same intention of gaining international recognition for their artists two years ago and quickly built enough momentum to relocate from their original space in the Flower District to a 1,100-square-foot townhouse on the Upper East Side earlier this year. We opened in New York because we wanted to develop relationships with institutions here, says the gallerys associate partner Daniel Roesler. That has been very successful in the sense that we have a number of projects that are now in the process of being produced in different institutions in the US.

Meanwhile, Hic Svnt Dracones, an uptown project space run as a collaboration between Mendes Wood DM and Michael Werner Gallery has kept a lower-profile, despite ambitious exhibitions, like the recent one juxtaposing Sonia Gomes, an Afro-Brazilian artist in her 60s, and the German Expressionist A.R. Penck. While the world has fallen in love with Neo-concrete art, says the gallerist Matthew Wood, those artists have been dead for 25 years. What they did was singular and important, but we cant let their tardy recognition eclipse the fact that Brazilian artists in their 30s are making incredible work. My job is to make sure the American scene doesnt show up 50 years late to the party this time.

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Andrea Zittel’s frontier spirit comes to Wiltshire

Andrea Zittel's The Flat Field Works, New Art Centre

A slice of southern Californias Mojave Desert can be experienced nestled among the green rolling hills of Wiltshire in the west of England. The US artist Andrea Zittel, who lives  in the desert 40 miles from Joshua Tree, has a solo show at the New Art Centre, the gallery in a country house setting at East Winterslow near Salisbury. East Winterslow is a long way from A-Z West, the artists ongoing experiment in living and working off-grid with coyotes for company. (Think dairy cows grazing at Roche Court rather than snakes rattling.) But Zittels The Flat Field Works on show at the New Art Centre (until 17 September) seem to radiate the deserts heat whatever the English weather beyond the orangery gallery. The works on show include earth coloured woven textiles in geometric patterns, Minimalist gouaches that bring the Bauhaus to the desert, and an impressive piece of sculpture/furniture. Bench (after Judd) #1, is Zittels nod to Marfa, west Texas, and Donald Judd, another US artist who had the frontier spirit and travelled well.  

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Solange’s take on black identity via

Solange Knowles (courtesy SFMoMA)

The superstar singer Solange Knowles Ferguson, sister of Beyonc, reflects on black identity and womanhood in a striking new online interactive piece available on the Tate website. As part of the digital dossier, entitled Seventy States, Solange discusses what drove her recent album, A Seat at the Table, musing also on the significance of the Tate Modern show Soul of a Nation, Art in the Age of Black Power (until 22 October) and why artist Betye Saar, a pioneer of the Black Arts movement, matters. She writes online: There would be no hesitation should I be asked to describe myself today. I am a Black woman. A woman yes, but a Black woman first and last. Black womanhood has been at the root of my entire existence since birth. The intriguing digital composition includes a piece titled we sleep in our clothes, (because we’re warriors of the night) (2017), created at Tate Modern and featuring the work Capsules (NBPx me-you) (2010) by Ricardo Basbaum. Go to:…

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