Vatican to Return Parthenon Fragments, Stolen Green Vault Material Recovered, and More: Morning Links for December 19, 2022

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The Headlines

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ARTIST PHILIP PEARLSTEIN, who forged a path for bracingly realistic figurative painting in the United States in the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, died on Saturday at the age of 98Harrison Jacobs reports in ARTnews. Pearlstein was born in 1924 in Pittsburgh, and studied at what is now Carnegie Mellon University, with a three-year interruption when he was drafted during World War II. At the school, he struck up a friendship with Andy Warhol , and the two moved to New York after graduation. After experiments with Abstract Expressionism and depicting American symbols (like Superman), Pearlstein settled on his mature style in the early 1960s, portraying people, often nude, with unflinching candor. In a 1967 ARTnews interview, he spoke of trying to create when he called “hard realism,” an art that was “sharp, clear, unambiguous.”

LEGAL MATTERS. The descendants a German Jewish banker have filed suit against Japan’s Sompo Holdings, calling for the return of an 1888 Vincent van Gogh Sunflowers painting that the firm purchased for $39.9 million at Christie’s in 1987, the Art Newspaper reports. The suit argues that Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy sold the work in 1934 only because of the threat posed by the Nazi government and that Sompo was “recklessly indifferent” to that fact. A Sompo rep said that it “rejects any allegation of wrongdoing.” Meanwhile, heirs of the German Jewish collector Hedwig Stern have filed suit over another van Gogh that they say was confiscated from him by the Nazis in 1938, Courthouse News reports. They claim that the Metropolitan Museum of Art sold the work around 1972 despite knowing that the work had been looted. The Met and the foundation, which reportedly owns the painting, have not commented.

The Digest

Peru said this weekend that it was running trains to evacuate tourists who were stranded in the ancient city of Machu Picchu amid political turmoil and protests that shuttered many transportation services. Rail trips to and from the site had been suspended on Tuesday. Services are resuming throughout the country. [CNN]

As the trial of six suspects in the daring 2019 Dresden Green Vault heist continues in that German city, officials said that they had recovered in Berlin a “considerable portion” of the jewels and artifacts that were taken, a haul estimated at more than $100 million. “Exploratory talks” with the defense about a settlement led to the finds, they said. [AFP]

On the orders of Pope Francis, the Vatican Museums will return to Greece three fragments of the Parthenon that have been in their collections since the 19th century. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that the British Museum has been in talks with Greece about returning the Parthenon marbles that it holds. [The Associated Press and The Washington Post]

Turkish artist Mürüvvet Türkyılmaz criticized Brit Tony Cragg for loaning a work to the soon-to-open Istanbul Modern museum, claiming that civil rights restrictions in the country should have moved him not to do so. Cragg defended the move, saying that “some of the people working in the museum have politically and socially very good intentions.” [The Guardian]

The Hauser & Wirth Institute has released a digital catalogue raisonné of the 256 oil paintings that artist Frank Kline made in the last years of his life, between 1950 and 1962. It is free to peruse. [ArtDaily]

The Kicker

PISSED OFF.Pussy Riot—the Russian art collective known for its astonishingly provocative artistic protests—is the subject of a survey at the Kling & Bang gallery in Reykjavík, Iceland, that was organized by fellow artist Ragnar Kjartansson; his wife, Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir; and Dorothee KirchWashington Post critic Sebastian Smeepaid a visit , and highlights in his story a video that has Pussy Rioter Taso Pletner urinating on a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, an action that she repeated in a recent performance at Iceland’s National Theater. Speaking about the group’s methods in an interview, collective member Maria Alyokhina said, “I really think that if you do something in art, you should do it in a way to make all the people of different ages understand it.” [The Washington Post]

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