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Lost Lewis Chessman Stored in Drawer Could Fetch $1.3 Million at Auction & More Art World Headlines


by Jana Farmer on June 17, 2019

190617_artlawblog_chesspost-440x294UNITED STATES

MFA Boston Bans Two Visitors, Reviews Internal Procedures Following Allegations of Racist Comments Directed at Students on a School Trip
The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston completed its internal investigation into the complaint that children on a recent school trip to MFA were allegedly subjected to racist comments by visitors and profiling by staff. After reviewing video footage, MFA banned two visitors and revoked their memberships. MFA also committed to changing its protocols and procedures to clarify expectations for visitor and staff behavior.

Art Dealers Move to Dismiss Cady Noland’s VARA Lawsuit
Cady Noland, one of the world’s most commercially successful living female artists, filed a lawsuit in 2017 alleging violation of her rights under the federal Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), 17 U.S.C. §106A, among other claims, in connection with the artwork Log Cabin Blank with Screw Eyes and Café Door (1990), which she had previously disavowed. The reason for the disavowal was that the artwork was restored without Ms. Noland’s approval following deterioration caused by its display outdoors. The same company in Montana that fabricated the work originally performed the restoration by replacing some of the logs in the installation. Defendants, the owner of the artwork and the art dealers that participated in its exhibition and sale post-restoration, recently moved to dismiss Ms. Noland’s Third Amended Complaint, arguing that the work is not eligible for VARA protection and that the alleged “distortion” is not actionable under VARA. The matter is pending before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the motion is presently being briefed.

Baltimore Museum of Art Seeks Input from the Public to Shape Future Exhibitions
The Baltimore Museum of Art recently sent a 23-question survey to 300 schools, religious groups, and other civic organizations, inquiring as to the survey participants’ favorite types of art and the kinds of events they would like to attend. Though the survey appears to be in line with the recent trend to crowd-curate exhibits, the museum in fact sent out a similar survey in 1937.

Artists and Art Professionals Oppose Construction of Towers in New York’s Chinatown
The Art Against Displacement (AAD) coalition, a group comprising artists and art professionals, rallied in support of a lawsuit filed by the Lower East Side Organized Neighbors (LESON) to oppose construction of luxury high-rise apartment buildings in New York’s Chinatown. Honorable Justice Engoron of the New York Supreme Court, New York County, issued a temporary injunction halting construction plans.

Madonna Loses Appeal in Lawsuit to Halt Auction of Her Personal Belongings
New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division for the First Department upheld the dismissal of Madonna’s lawsuit to prevent the auction of certain personal property that belonged to her at one time, including a break-up letter from Tupac Shakur and clothing worn on stage. The Appellate Division found that the claims were barred by a broadly worded prior settlement and release and due to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. The court found that Madonna’s former art advisor, Darlene Lutz, was the rightful owner of the items based on the 2004 settlement agreement and was free to consign them to the auction house. The auction, titled The Rock and Roll Pop Culture Auction,” can now proceed and is currently scheduled for July 17-26, 2019.


Louvre’s Leonardo da Vinci Show Will Not Include Salvator Mundi
The Louvre Museum is preparing for its October 2019 blockbuster show commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. While the French museum has acquired art loan commitments from institutions and collectors from around the world for a number of the artist’s surviving works, Salvator Mundi will not be among them. The work that famously sold in New York in 2017 for $450 million has been pulled from the show amid disagreements as to whether it is an autograph work or one by the artist’s “workshop.”

Venice Cruise Ship Crash Highlights Debate Over Threats the Cruise Industry Poses to the City
On June 2, a 13-deck, 275-meter-long (about 900 feet) cruise ship crashed into the San Basilio terminal in Venice, Italy, when the steering mechanism failed. The crash reignited the debate over cruise ships in Venice, which are said to be physically destructive to the city’s “ancient and fragile foundations.”

Britain Launches Consultation to Determine Need for Restrictions on Non-Elephant Ivory Trade 
In the wake of the passing of the Ivory Act, which is expected to come into force in late 2019, British Parliament announced a consultation, open through August 22, 2019, which seeks information on the trade in ivory from non-elephant species. Thérèse Coffey, UK’s Environment Minister, characterized the current British ban as “one of the toughest in the world,” but noted the need for further information from the specialists in the field as to possible future measures to protect other precious species, including hippopotami, killer whales, narwhals, sperm, whales and others from becoming victims to the trade in ivory.

Dutch Museum Discovers Monet’s Water Lilies Underneath a Later Painting by the Artist
Restorers at the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague found a previously unknown version of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies painting series beneath a lesser known subsequent work by the renown French Impressionist, titled Wisteria, when they noticed irregularities in the canvas after the artwork was newly cleaned. It was only after noticing tiny damaged areas and shards of broken glass in the paint that restorers decided to x-ray the painting, which revealed the water lilies images. The glass shards discovery also tends to confirm the theory that Monet’s studio was heavily damaged by the fighting during World War 1, including the shattered glass roof of the studio. The painting and the research surrounding the new finding will be the highlight of the museum’s Monet exhibit opening in October 2019.

Lewis Chessman “Warder,” One of the Most Famous Chess Pieces in the World, Found in a Drawer in Scotland
The Lewis Chessmen are said to be “steeped in folklore, legend and the rich tradition of story-telling,” and are “an important symbol of European civilization,” reports CNN. Ninety-three of the Chessmen were originally discovered on a Scottish island in 1831. Eighty-two of the pieces are presently in the British Museum’s collection and eleven are in the National Museum of Scotland. Thought to have been carved from walrus ivory in the 12th and 13th centuries in Norway, the discovered set was missing one knight and four “warders,” or rooks, as they are called in modern chess sets. One of these missing warders was recently found by the descendants of an antiques dealer in Scotland. When in 1964 the dealer purchased for £5 ($6) a chess piece depicting a bearded man with a sword in his right hand and a shield in his left, he was apparently unaware of its history. The provenance of the piece came to light more than five decades later, after the dealer’s descendants took it to an auction house. It is anticipated that the piece may fetch up to £1 million ($1.3 million) at auction.

Exhibitions Honoring the 500th Anniversary of the Death of Raphael Scheduled for 2020
Museums around the world are preparing to honor Renaissance master Raphael in 2020. Italian museums plan to host a series of shows, including at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche in Urbino, Italy (Raphael’s birthplace) and at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, in collaboration with the Gallerie degli Uffizi. London’s National Gallery also will hold a dedicated Raphael show and the Victoria and Albert Museum plans to highlight its tapestries created by Raphael, which depict St. Peter and St. Paul.

Maquettes for the British Normandy Memorial to Go on Sale
The 18-foot sculpture by UK sculptor David Williams-Ellis, unveiled on June 6, 2019, stands above Gold Beach, the center beach of the designated landing areas for UK soldiers on June 6, 1944. The sculpture depicts three soldiers running forward and commemorates the 75th anniversary of the D-day landings. Maquettes (a scale model or rough draft of an unfinished sculpture) of the artwork (edition of nine) will be shown in London at the Masterpiece Fair from June 27 to July 3 and will be available for purchase.

South Africa’s Goodman Gallery Will Open in London with Exhibit Addressing “Heightened Nationalist Sentiment and Populist Politics”
This fall, the Goodman Gallery will add to its existing galleries in Cape Town and Johannesburg a new space at 26 Cork Street in London. In an interview given to the Art Newspaper, the gallery owner and director, Liza Essers, related that she sees the Brexit era as the perfect time for the gallery to come to London since the gallery has long “championed social justice” and would like to have a prominent role in “shaping the discourse in the UK.”


Russian Firms Use AI to Animate Masterpiece Paintings
Researchers from Samsung’s AI Center and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Moscow, Russia) released their video animations of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, along with a paper providing instructive techniques for creating “living portraits” from photographs. Critics fear that the controversial technology used to make these animations potentially can be used by bad actors to manipulate the public.

Stampede Ensues Following Release of KAWS Uniqlo Collaborative Collection
Frenzied customers at a Uniqlo store in China fought over $14 shirts depicting the mascots by American artist KAWS (a.k.a, Brian Donnelly), who recently became the art market sensation when one of his artworks sold for $14.8 million in Hong Kong. Speculators are already reselling the $14 shirts online for five times the original price.

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