Art News Headlines: February 13, 2011


“The Beauty of Xiaohe,” female mummy, ca 1800-1500 BC. Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River) Cemetery 5, Charqilik (Ruoqiang) County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China. © Wang Da-Gang

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia said Friday that its exhibit on the Silk Road, including a pair of ancient mummies, will go on after it resolved a dispute with the Chinese government that led to a pared-down event with fake mummies and life-sized photos of the artifacts. The exhibit will reopen February 18 with a full complement of mummies and more ancient artifacts from the Tarim Basin in the autonomous Xinjiang Uyghur region of China, the museum said. The artifacts are part of “Secrets of the Silk Road,” which opened last Saturday. The exhibit had traveled to museums in California and Texas without issue but the Philadelphia museum was asked to gut its display. The mummies are particularly fascinating because they have Caucasian features, proving that populations migrated eastward from Europe and brought their customs and skills with them.

Maria Altmann, a refugee from Nazi-occupied Austria who successfully fought to recover Gustav Klimt paintings looted from her Jewish family, has died. She was 94. Altmann passed away Monday at her home in the Cheviot Hills area of Los Angeles after a long illness, said E. Randol Schoenberg, her friend and attorney. Altmann was already in her 80s in 1998 when she and Schoenberg began a seven-year legal fight with the Austrian government over the paintings, which included a world-famous gold-encrusted picture of her aunt, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. After lawsuits settled, the painting was purchased for $135 million in 2006—a record price for a painting at the time—and now resides in the Neue Galerie in New York.

Harlem Fashion Show, Harlem, 1963 by Leonard Freed. Photo: Courtesy of Curatorial Assistance, Inc.

Posing Beauty: African-American Images from the 1890s to the Present,” a photography exhibition that explores the ways in which African and African-American beauty has been represented in the media historically and in contemporary times, is currently on view at the Newark Museum through April 28, 2011. The exhibition, composed of 80 pieces donated from private collections, explores contemporary notions of beauty by framing them within the contexts of art, history, politics, and popular culture. “Posing Beauty” considers the idealization of beauty in Western art and image making through genres such as photography, video, fashion and advertising. This exhibition challenges the relationship between beauty and art by examining the representation of beauty as a racialized act fraught with meanings and attitudes about class, gender, and aesthetics.

A South African photographer’s portrait of an Afghan woman whose husband sliced off her nose and ears in a case of Taliban-administered justice won the World Press Photo award for 2010 Friday, one of photojournalism’s most coveted prizes. Jodi Bieber’s posed picture, which contrasts the woman’s arresting beauty against the results of the violence done to her after she fled an abusive marriage, was published on the cover of Time magazine Aug. 1. Bieber, 44, a winner of eight previous World Press Photo awards since 1998, is a freelance photojournalist affiliated with the Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery. She has published two books on her native South Africa. Jury members said the photo, though shocking, was chosen because it addresses violence against women with a dignified image.

Like an enterprising Andy Warhol of the 16th century, German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder produced multiple paintings of the same subject, churning out strikingly similar versions of his trademark soft-edged nudes and angel-faced Madonnas. This penchant for repetition did nothing for Cranach’s reputation, and for centuries he was overshadowed by Albrecht Durer. A new exhibition at Paris’ Musee du Luxembourg aims to restore Cranach’s image by highlighting his unique, velvety style and showing how the artist—the official painter for the Saxon court of Wittenberg and a friend of reformer Martin Luther—reacted to the tumult of his epoch. Opened on Wednesday, “Cranach and his Times” includes 50 paintings and engravings of his perennial subjects, Adam and curvaceous Eve at the apple tree, Madonnas with chubby Christ children and even chubbier cherubs, as well as reclining nymphs swathed in the sheerest of silks.

Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.