Afghan Museums Brace for Taliban Rule, Key MLK Site to Become Museum, and More: Morning Links for August 16, 2021

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The Headlines

ALL EYES ARE ON AFGHANISTAN. As Taliban forces neared the capital of Kabul, the National Museum‘s director, Mohammad Fahim Rahimitold National Geographic, “We have great concerns for the safety of our staff and collections.” Now the city has fallen. “Cultural heritage officials are divided over whether the group will again go on a rampage as it did in 2001, when it destroyed the famed Bamiyan buddhas as well as a host of objects and statues in the Kabul museum,” Andrew Lawler reports. The rapid speed of the takeover reportedly scuttled some efforts to safeguard museum collections. Taliban officials have said they will protect heritage sites, and they have banned the selling artifacts, but one academic who just fled the country told the magazine, “They have whitewashed their image, but they are still a very ideological and radical group.”

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U.S. HISTORY MUSEUMS ARE IN THE HEADLINES. Renovation work has begun on the church in Montgomery, Alabama where Martin Luther King Jr., then 26, was first selected for a leadership position in the civil-rights movement, in 1955, the Associated Press reports. With federal funding, the plan is for the former Mt. Zion AME to become a museum. King was nominated for the role in the Montgomery Improvement Association on the same day that the pivotal bus boycott began in the city. Meanwhile, in Henning, Tennessee, the Alex Haley Museum and Interpretive Center just marked the completion of a renovation, the AP reports, timed to the 100th birthday of Haley, the author of the novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976). Tomorrow is the 55th anniversary of the book’s release. In 1977, it became a television mini-series that was watched by some 130 million, expanding interest in African American history.

The Digest

The Korean artist Kim Guiline, a major figure in the country’s monochrome painting movement, has died at the age of 85. A longtime resident of France, Kim had shows in recent years at Lehmann Maupin in New York and Gallery Hyundai in Seoul. [The Korea Times]

Next month, Sotheby’s will offer more than 100 works of Meissen porcelain from the fabled Oppenheimer collection, which was restituted by the Netherlands in 2015. Auction records may be smashed. “It’s one of the great collections to come—certainly in living memory, or at least in postwar memory,” the dealer Michele Beiny said. [Bloomberg]

It’s official: Banksy confirmed on Instagram that he is responsible for 10 artworks that have popped up along the east coast of England this summer. The anonymous artist has titled the series “A Great British Spraycation.” Ha! [BBC News]

Tough break for those hoping to use Pornhub’s Classic Nudes museum guides to seek out salacious artworks at the Louvre, the Prado, and the Uffizi: Following complaints from those institutions, the adult-video site removed those materials. However, other museums are still featured. [ARTnews]

Seven- and eight-figure sales of NFTs have shocked some art-market watchers, but many teenage artists are also selling work for considerably smaller sums (like two figures), earning some spending money and building a following. “I just graduated high school,” Randi Hipper, aka Miss Teen Crypto, said. “My plan is to go full-time crypto.” [The New York Times]

New York dealer Georges Bergès defended the prices he is charging for works by emerging artist Hunter Biden (up to $500,000!), which many experts have said are rather high. Said Bergès, “I believe Hunter’s art is special—it has a profound energy that for me brings hope, and assurances for a better future; and I ask myself, how much is that worth to you?” [The New York Times]

The Kicker

‘THE MOST DEGRADING FORM OF ACTIVITY THAT ONE COULD IMAGINE.’ That is how Michael M. Thomas, the art historian-turned-investment banker-turned-novelist, described working on Wall Street. Thomas, who made his name as an acerbic writer after departing Lehman Brothers in the 1970s, has died at 85, the New York Times reports. He was also an assistant curator of European painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art early in his career, and as a trustee of the Robert Lehman Foundation , was involved in publishing a 15-volume catalogue of Lehman’s donations to the museum. He left his art-book collection to Brooklyn College[The New York Times]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.


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