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ARTIST JOHN WESLEY, who conjured wry, captivating, and psychologically charged paintings that shrug off classifications, died on Thursday, Alex Greenberger reports in ARTnews. He was 93. “He was an elegant, kind, and funny man who will be greatly missed,” his New York gallery, Fredericks & Freiser, said in a statement. Working with flat planes of color (light pinks and blues, famously), Wesley marshaled imagery that ranges from floating babies to nude women, George Washington to rhinoceroses. Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who leads the Castello di Rivoli museum in Turin, Italy, once wrote, “Under the surface of his absurd utterances . . . a scathing commentary on society, superficiality, power or abuse can be found, if one only wants to look for it.”
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AN UNDERGROUND DISCOVERY. The British Museum in London will soon put on view a 5,000-year-old sculpture recently found near Burton Agnes in East Yorkshire, England, that is dazzling archaeologists, the Guardian reports. Made of chalk, the piece is in the shape of a squat cylinder and sports intricately carved motifs that recall those in fashion in the era of Stonehenge. A curator at the museum, Neil Wilkin, told BBC News that it is “ the most important piece of prehistoric art to be found in Britain in the last 100 years.” It will be put on display on Thursday. In other archaeology news, Smithsonian magazine has a piece on how writer Agatha Christie’s passion for that field informed her 1937 novel Death on the Nile, which is the subject of a new movie.
In Brussels, a 1913 Lovis Corinth still life looted by the Nazis has been returned to the heirs of the Jewish couple from which it was stolen, Gustav and Emma Mayer. The piece had been held by Royal Museums of Fine Arts since 1951, after officials were not able to determine its owner. The descendants approached the museum in 2016 to claim the painting; 29 more works the Mayers are known to have owned have not been located. [The Guardian]
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., is planning a show devoted to Mark Rothko’s paintings on paper. The 100-work survey will open in November of 2023, and then travel to the National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design in Oslo the following year. The NGA’s Adam Greenhalgh is curating. [ARTnews]
Artist Ai Weiwei came out against vaccine mandates. “If individuals are forced to be vaccinated through social pressure and public opinion,” he said, “it will be a very dangerous social tendency.” [The Art Newspaper]
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, art types shared chocolate that they enjoy. Studio Museum in Harlem chief Thelma Golden went with Harlem Chocolate Factory, while dealer and publisher Lucas Zwirner named Sprüngli. Artist Marina Abramović? White chocolate with almonds and nougat. [Financial Times]
An update: Prince Charles had to nix his plan to dedicate a new statue in Winchester, England, on Thursday—reported in yesterday’s newsletter—after he tested positive for the coronavirus. The royal, who recently visited the National Gallery and British Museum in London, is self-isolating. [ARTnews]
OUT OF THIS WORLD. New York’s Lomex gallery is current showing the work of the late H. R. Giger, who is best known for creating the unforgettable monster in the 1979 sci-fi classic Alien, but his many pursuits also included creating a VIP room at the storied Manhattan nightclub the Limelight in the late 1990s. For Interview magazine, Lomex’s owner, Alexander Shulan, sat down with Limelight founder Peter Gatien to hear about that project. “It was sort of haunting, but just being in a church is a little bit haunting,” Gatien said. “The cast aluminum work that he did was museum quality. It was unique and it was fun—and fun is what you’re selling in a nightclub.” [Interview]