Swiss Museums Investigate Their Collections, a Disputed Lucian Freud Painting, and More: Morning Links for September 20, 2022

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The Headlines

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RESTITUTION REPORT. Last week, the Swiss city of Basel said it would provide funding to five institutions, so that they could research objects that may have been unethically obtained, Swissinfo reports. The project will further work that already started at the Kunstmuseum Basel, which has begun reviewing the provenances of some artworks that were acquired during the Nazi era. The project has been given a budget of CHF 250,000 (about $259,000). Meanwhile, the Guardian offered a look inside the Humboldt Forum in Berlin, which has repeatedly faced the scorn of experts and activists who claim that many objects on view were acquired via colonialism. “A genuine willingness to learn from past mistakes and rethink how ethnological collections are displayed is tangible in the newly opened eastern wing,” Philip Olterman writes.

A FREUDIAN FRACAS has been ongoing for years over a painting of a nude man shown bent over from behind. Its owner claims that the painting is a true Lucian Freud, but many others who knew Freud or are connected to his estate say otherwise. For the New YorkerSam Knight penned a thrilling deep dive into the state of the picture and its unnamed owner’s attempts to prove its authenticity, which even involve, at one point, analysis by artificial intelligence. Matters are made complicated, Knight notes, by the fact that Freud himself may have at one point disowned it. As Knight notes, “The perils of the authentication process, and the slim chance of extreme rewards, mean that some quests never end.” That likely means this report will not be the final word.

The Digest

After pushback from anti-gentrification groups, the Brooklyn arts space Pioneer Works withdrew from Innovation QNS, a project that will erect eight new buildings in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens. A rep for Pioneer Works said the space has always had a “mixed outlook” on the project. [Hyperallergic]

The German auction houses Karl & Faber and Van Ham are linking up for what they are calling an “Auction Alliance.” They will remain separate, however. [Frankfurter Allgemeine]

The Cleveland Museum of Art has unveiled a new strategic plan that intends to grow the institution’s attendance to 1 million visitors a year by 2027. An earlier initiative to expand its endowment has been tabled (for now), and the museum instead focusing on diversifying its offerings. []

Workers at the Walters Art Museum in Maryland have sued the institution, claiming that it has refused to comply with a FOIA request to turn over union-related communications. A museum spokesperson said the Walters will “engage in the legal process as appropriate.” [Hyperallergic]

Poland has demanded that Russia give back seven works that it said were stolen during World War II. A representative for Vladimir Putin said the request is “immoral,” and that it is part of “the ‘cancelation’ of Russian culture in Europe.” [The Art Newspaper]

Loïc Raguénès, a French painter known for his spare, semi-abstract paintings, has died at 54. The cause was a heart attack. [Clearing and Libération]

The Kicker

DAZED AND CONFUSED. Archaeologists have discovered that the ancient Canaanites took psychoactive drugs. Haaretz reports that experts found traces of opium in a 3,300-year-old ceramic vessel. They were located in an ancient Canaanite necropolis in modern-day Israel. What purpose the drugs may have once served remains unclear, but we now know that their trade network may have been even more complex than scholars once knew, given that the archaeologists are certain the opium came in liquid form that was imported from Cyprus. Call the vessel an object of high importance, if you will. [Haaretz]


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