Winston Churchill’s Least Favorite Portrait Set for Sotheby’s, Met Returns Artifact to Iraq, and More: Morning Links for April 17, 2024

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PORTRAIT OF A STATESMAN. A preparatory painting of Winston Churchill by Graham Sutherland, which served as a study for what became the portrait the British leader despised so much, it was later set on fire, is now on view at Blenheim Palace, in the Cotswolds. In May, it will head to Sotheby’s in New York. The portrait-burning incident was immortalized in The Crown, and the work apparently drew Churchill’s ire (a painter himself), because it showed him with “gritty realism,” or as he was: an aging statesman with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

RIGHTFUL RETURN. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has returned an ancient statue to Iraq, after the institution’s newly appointed provenance researchers found it was likely looted. The Sumerian sculpture, titled “Man Carrying a Box, Possibly for Offerings,” is from the third millennium BCE, and was acquired by the museum in 1955. But “after provenance research by the museum’s scholars established that the works rightfully belong to the Republic of Iraq … the museum offered to return the work,” in a ceremony in Washington D.C., stated the Met. The museum has been under pressure to ensure its collection is clear of objects with suspicious origins, following a slew of recent seizures by law enforcement.


Canada’s Information Commissioner has ruled the Ottawa science museum Ingenium can legally release documents about a sensitive former exhibition featuring a forensics collection, including the skull of one murder victim and the bones of another from the 1920’s and 1930’s, exhibited in 2006. Art historian Jamie Jelinski had requested to see documents about the traveling exhibit but was refused access to information about the show, titled “Autopsy of a Murder,” because the museum argued releasing related images and texts violated human rights and privacy laws. [The Globe and Mail]

The Brooklyn Museum has appointed its first composer-in-residence, the 27-year-old cellist Niles Luther. He has created musical scores to accompany the museum’s new exhibition “Hiroshige’s 100 Famous Views of Edo 9 feat. Takashi Murakami),” and plans to go further, “anchoring compositions of high phonoaesthetic value within visual art objects,” in what he calls “Art Music.” [The Art Newspaper]

A Spanish antiques dealer was arrested for the sale of a 3,500-year-old Egyptian sculpture, which he allegedly purchased in Thailand knowing it had been looted, according to Spanish police. Worth some $202,000, the Egyptian bust surfaced at the last TEFAF art fair in Maastricht. [The National]

A new branch of the Albertina Museum has opened in Klosterneuburg, Austria featuring its collection of post-1945 art, which numbers over 65,000 pieces. For its opening exhibitions, works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein greet visitors, and later, Mel Ramos, Alex Katz, Jannis Varelas, and Kiki Kogelnik. [El Pais]

Two Russian artists have been added to a list of “terrorists and extremists” by the Moscow regime, because of a play they created about Russians seduced by Islamic jihadism in Syria. Evguénia Berkovitch and Svetlana Tetrïïtchouk have been in pre-trial police custody for one year for “justification of terrorism.” [Le Figaro and AFP]

Lego art sculptures by former lawyer Nathan Sawaya have gone on view at Melbourne’s Showgrounds in the traveling exhibit “The Art of the Brick.” The artist has shown his creations around the world, and one was included in a Lady Gaga video. “I love what I do, but it is a job … not a hobby,” he says. [The Guardian]


IN THE MAKING. After leaving his position as editor-in-chief of New York magazine, and then failing as a painter, Adam Moss took to writing. He interviewed over forty artists, from Stephen Sondeheim, Kara Walker, to Sofia Coppola, about their creative process, to help “demystify” it, for the new book The Work of Art. He found “it was the making that consumed them, and many were kind of indifferent to the results,” Moss told The New Yorker. Cue his friend, Ian Adelman, also featured in the book for his sandcastle art, “a pure example, because they disappear.” Adelman makes “Frank Gehry-esque towers of slopes and swirls and terraced pathways,” writes Michael Schulman, who observes him at work alongside Moss on a sandy beach near New York’s West Side Highway. As Adelman walked away from his finished sandcastle, two teenagers started to play with it. “I expected it to last a little bit longer than that,” he said, vexed.


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