Skip to content

Leonardo’s Fragile Vitruvian Man Will Travel to The Louvre After All and Other Art Headlines


by Jana Farmer on October 17, 2019

Italian Appellate Court Allows Loan of Leonardo’s Fragile Vitruvian Man Sketch to Louvre
In early October, in a potential blow to the Louvre’s October 24, 2019, opening of its Leonardo da Vinci retrospective marking the 500th anniversary of his death, an Italian court blocked the loan of Vitruvian Man, after Italia Nostra, an Italian heritage organization, challenged the loan under Italian laws prohibiting museums from loaning works that are “integral to their collections” or works that are “susceptible to damage in transport or when on display in unfavorable environmental conditions.” Italy’s culture minister maintained that the agreement was based on the advice of conservators who found that the risks associated with loaning Vitruvian Man were “acceptable.” At the last moment, Italian Appellate Court reversed, allowing the fragile artwork to travel  mere days before the Louvre’s exhibit is scheduled to open. Completed in 1490, the drawing, which is only displayed for few weeks every six years, was already exhibited at the Gallerie dell’Accademia this summer. If the piece is exhibited at the Louvre, it could be another 10 years before  the public sees it again.

The below summaries of news articles are separated by geographic region for your browsing convenience.


FBI Is Seeking the Owner of a Dubuffet Painting
As part of the criminal investigation into the activities of former art dealer Michael Cohen, who fled charges in the United States after allegedly defrauding clients of $50 million, the FBI is asking the public to come forward if they have a claim to Jean Dubuffet’s painting, Site avec 5 personnages (1981), as it remains unknown how the artwork came into Cohen’s possession.

Union Secures Pay Increase and Other Benefits for New Museum Employees after Six-Month Negotiation
After six months and a weekend marathon negotiating session in a labor dispute rooted in wide discrepancies between the salaries of employees and executives, the unionized employees of the New Museum in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and the museum’s management agreed to a new contract promising wage increases and other valuable benefits for the museum’s employees. As part of the deal, full-time employees received an 8 percent average pay increase in the first year. Part-time employees gained a 15 percent wage increase. In addition, the contract reduced employee contributions to health care costs, increased their paid time off, and created a labor-management committee to address health, safety and employee diversity.


Archeologists and Environmentalists Criticize Chilean Government’s Decision to Allow Excavation on Juan Fernandez Islands in Search for Looted Incan Treasures
The Chilean government granted Bernard Keiser, a Dutch-American textile magnate who has been searching for a storied Incan treasure for two decades, permission to excavate a 400 square-meter site near Puerto Inglés on Robinson Crusoe Island. Chile granted the permission even though the islands are protected by national and international law. The regional director who was an opponent of the dig was dismissed in September allegedly without explanation, fueling further controversy. The legendary treasure is estimated to be worth $10 billion and is rumored to include gold statues, a necklace belonging to the wife of Atahualpa (the last Inca emperor), and 800 barrels of gold and silver coins.


Leonardo da Vinci’s Controversial Salvator Mundi Will Likely Be Absent from Louvre’s Once-in-a-Lifetime Exhibit, Disappointing Historians
With the Louvre’s Leonardo Retrospective set to open on October 24, the loan of the Salvator Mundi, Latin for Saviour of the World, is not secured. The absence will undoubtedly add fuel to the speculation about its whereabouts and add to the various conspiracy theories. Its absence also means that the more important questions about its provenance, attribution and restoration will not be discussed (French curators are not authorized to make any comment on works that may be in private hands) and will be omitted from the retrospective’s catalogue, which will be an authority for decades to come.

Intrigue Still Surrounds the Theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity 50 Years Later as Investigators Continue Probe
Since 1969, investigators have followed dead-end leads from statements by local Mafioso claiming to have stolen and subsequently destroyed the famous Caravaggio canvas that hung above the Oratory of San Lorenzo in Palermo, Italy. At least one expert believes that the Mafia was not involved in the theft, but claimed responsibility to maintain control in the territory and prestige as an international crime organization. In 2017, however, new statements led investigators to believe that the canvas still exists, but may be in pieces. Investigators are revisiting evidence from immediately after the crime and new evidence that suggests that the theft was actually a complex scheme by international organized crime syndicates. Despite the death of many of the original players, investigators are hopeful that they will solve the crime and locate the canvas.

Notre Dame’s Restoration Progress Five Months After the Fire
To date, much of the work to restore Notre Dame Cathedral has focused on removal of rubble, which must be done by robot due to the danger of collapse. Many windows have been removed and placed in storage for protection and wood supports have been constructed under the buttresses to protect them in case of a total roof collapse. Most significant, however, is a new law adopted in July 2019 that turns the project over to a new agency. The law provides direction for the restoration approach, but still allows the project to respect the Notre Dame’s Unesco World Heritage status and other international conservation charters. France still has not determined whether to rebuild the spire as designed by Viollet-le-Duc in 1860, or to redesign it as a “contemporary architectural gesture,” as suggested by President Emmanuel Macron.

Banksy Opens Store to Prevent Greeting Card Company from Using His Name
Renowned graffiti artist Banksy recently launched a home-goods merchandise line called Gross Domestic Product in response to a lawsuit by a greeting card company attempting to “seize legal custody” of his name. To announce the launch, Banksy installed a pop-up-shop in a carpet store in Croydon, UK. On Instagram, Banksy called it “our first and only store.” The “doors will not open” and the location is “for display purposes only” since all sales will be conducted online. Products, which will be handmade in the UK with existing or recycled materials, will be limited. Prices will start from £10. Some items for sale “include a handbag made from a house brick, a toddler’s counting toy where children are encouraged to load wooden migrant figures inside a haulage truck and disco balls made from used police riot helmets.”

Art Market Thrives at London’s Frieze Gallery Despite Geo-Political Turmoil
The New York Times reports that the Contemporary Art Market seemingly carries on as normal at the Frieze London and Frieze Masters fairs in Regent’s Park, and at other events in London. While auction results are relatively weak, with the exception of Banksy and KAWS, the primary and secondary sales markets are strong, particularly for minority and female artists.


Dutch Civil Servant Born in Ethiopia Hid Ethiopian Crown for Two Decades and Now Wants It Returned to Ethiopia
In 1998, Sirak Asfaw, a Dutch civil servant who was a refugee born in Ethiopia, found a crown in the suitcase of a guest staying at his house. Believing that the item had been stolen from Ethiopia with the possible complicity of the country’s then-government, he decided to hold it in his home. After Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, took office, Mr. Sirak decided to return the crown. Authorities presently are investigating the authenticity of the crown, but believe it is a liturgical crown used in Orthodox Christian ceremonies from a church in the village of Cheleqot.

U.S. Returns Marble Head to Libyan Authorities under Memorandum of Understanding Between the Countries
Libya and the United States entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in response to the rampant looting of and threats to archaeological and historical sites in Libya. The agreement is opposed by many in the antiquities trade, but others consider it necessary to curb the trafficking of illicit antiquities. The first “tangible fruit of this accord” is a marble head of a woman returned to the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Justice. The sculpture comes from Cyrene, an ancient city with ties to the Greeks and Romans.


Fuji Tokyo Art Museum Claims to Have Valid Title to a Painting Stolen in 1984
The painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds entitled Portrait of Miss Mathew, later Lady Eliza, sitting with her dog before a landscape was stolen from Sir Henry and Lady Price in East Sussex in 1984, but no arrests were ever made. In 1988, a London art dealer purchased it at an action and subsequently sold it to Fuji Tokyo Art Museum in 1990. The museum has exhibited the work as one of its masterpieces and has frequently loaned it to other museums domestically and abroad. In 2015, Art Recovery International informed the museum that the painting had been stolen and was being claimed by the heirs of Lady Price. The museum’s reported position is that it “purchased the painting in good faith and without fault from a respectable art dealer.” The museum has conditioned any return on the receipt of proper compensation.

Indian Court Orders Facebook to Reveal Owner of an Account Known for Making Sexual Misconduct Accusations Against Prominent Men in the Indian Art Community
In a defamation lawsuit filed by Indian sculptor and contemporary artist Subodh Gupta, an Indian Judge ordered Facebook to deliver a sealed envelope by November 19 revealing the owner of the anonymous Instagram account “Scene and Herd.” The court also ordered Google to remove search results related to the allegations of sexual harassment made by the account, which already have forced Gupta to resign as curator of the Serendipity Arts Festival. The judge’s ruling was based in part on the lack of legal action taken against Gupta for the conduct raised by the allegations. A former employee a Gupta’s New Delhi gallery allegedly has corroborated the allegations, which Gupta has vehemently denied.

Recent Posts