Convictions in $2.5 M. Ming Dynasty Vase Heist Case, Artist Hideo Sakata Dies at 87, and More: Morning Links for August 21, 2023

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The Headlines

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CRIMINAL LAW. A London court convicted two men on charges stemming from the theft of a £2 million ($2.55 million) 15th-century Ming dynasty bottle from the Museum of Far Eastern Art in Geneva in 2019, the Guardian reports. A third had pled guilty earlier this year. The trio was apprehended trying to fence the Chinese piece in a sting operation in the city by U.K. authorities, who posed as would-be buyers. The bottle was recovered. Two more men nabbed in the operation are awaiting trial in Switzerland for the theft, which allegedly included three pieces, the Associated Press reports. A $100,000 bowl was recovered after it was sold at a Hong Kong auction house; a wine cup remains missing, and officials are offering a £10,000 ($12,700) reward for its return.

CIVIL LAW. A U.S. federal court ruled that Vermont Law School is within its rights to obscure two sprawling murals that it has determined are offensive, Courthouse News Service reports. The artist Samuel Kerson, who created the pieces in 1993, had argued that covering his pieces would violate the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), which protects art from being modified or destroyed. Parts of his works depict enslaved Black people in what the court termed a “cartoonish, almost animalistic style” with racist tropes. The court determined that placing acoustic panels in front the artworks did not conflict with VARA, which “does not mandate the preservation of art at all costs and without due regard for the rights of others,” Judge Debra Livingston wrote.

The Digest

Jean-Louis Georgelin, the retired French general who was tapped to lead the restoration of the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, died at 74, “likely in an accident” while hiking in the Ariege region. French President Emmanuel Macron termed him one of the country’s “greatest soldiers, greatest servants.” [The Associated Press]

Artist Hideo Sakata, who survived the U.S. atomic bomb attack on Nagasaki in 1945, when he was 10 years old, and went on to become a vital arts organizer in Los Angeles, where he settled in 1970, died on July 30 at the age of 87. [Los Angeles Times]

U.S. officials returned 281 artifacts to Mexico last week that had been smuggled out of the country between 2016 and 2021. They included Olmec figures and grinding stones dating as far back as 900 B.C.E. [CNN]

The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said that it is shuttering its Delbridge Museum of Natural History, after tests revealed that chemicals from its taxidermy collection, which dates from the 1940s to the 1970s, had been found inside the institution. It will take months to dispose of the pieces. [The Associated Press]

Artist Lim Ok-sang, a member of the pro-democracy Minjung art movement in South Korea beginning in the late 1970s, was convicted of indecent assault on Thursday. Some institutions have removed Lim’s work from their galleries and websites; the nation’s culture ministry may bar Lim from receiving financial support. [The Korea Herald]

ARTISTS SPACE.Fiona Connor, who has a show up at Chateau Shatto in Los Angeles, is in the L.A. TimesTammy Nguyen, hot off an exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in Seoul, is in Tatler. And Katherine Bernhardt let T: The New York Times Style Magazine into her Memphis design–filled St. Louis home.

The Kicker

HOME TRUTH. Was the architect Simon B. Zelnik (1896–1980) a master? That question is gripping the tony New York town of Scarsdale, the Wall Street Journal reports. Its preservation rules state that people applying to tear down a structure must prove that it is not “the work of a master.” An application to demolish a house by Zelnik—whose projects included a synagogue that is now part of the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York—has foundered as residents and experts take sides. “This man is a giant—was a giant,” one local said. “You know, who else do you want? God to come down and design a building in Scarsdale?” [WSJ]


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