Art News Headlines: July 13, 2010


The Blue Noses’s “A candle of our life/Burn my candle” was in the 2007 “Forbidden Art” show

Yesterday a verdict was finally reached in the trial against the two Russian curators accused of mocking religious deities in a satirical 2007 show entitled Forbidden Art at the Sakharov Museum in Moscow. The curators, Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, were found guilty of inciting religious hatred. Although they were not sentenced to serve the three-year jail sentence, they have been ordered to pay heavy fines. The exhibition’s provocative pieces included portrayals of Jesus as Mickey Mouse and Lenin, which provoked howls of protest from the Russian Orthodox Church and the largely conservative nationalist group Council of the People. The Council’s representative Oleg Kassin remarked that “if it contains insults, it’s no longer art”. This was in retort to many Russian artists’ complaints that a guilty sentence for the curators would be a deathblow to contemporary Russian art.

Also this week in art news, Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed a stunning new double-tomb dating back to the Old Kingdom, also known as the age of the pyramids. The tomb, which is described as having “stunning colors” and contains a number of artifacts including five duck-shaped offering vessels, was the burial place for a father and son who served as heads for the royal scribes. Although the son’s sarcophagus was stolen in antiquity, the remains of the father’s wooden sarcophagus were found intact. The burial chamber is the latest in a series of tombs that have been discovered in the area of Saqqara near Cairo, all dating back to the end of the Old Kingdom. Egyptologists presume that many more tombs lie hidden nearby, waiting to be unearthed.

In Britain late last week, a completely different kind of treasure was unearthed: roughly 52,000 Roman coins. In what is being considered as one of the largest finds of its kind, a lowly treasure hunter named Dave Crisp was first alerted to the underground stash when his metal detector started to give off an odd signal. He discovered a few of the coins encased in a clay jar, and notified experts to excavate the rest of the fortune, which is estimated to be worth around 3.3 million pounds ($5 million). The Roman coins are from the reign of Carausius, the naval officer who ruled over Rome until his assassination in 293 AD. Experts are pointing out that this helps put the emperor on the map as a long-lost ruler over Britain that is rarely mentioned in schools today.

Just released by Robert Wittman, founder of the FBI’s Art Crimes Team, comes a memoir about chasing down the bad guys behind some of the world’s most famous art heists. The just-released book is titled Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures. Wittman has spent over 20 years with the FBI and is one of the world’s most trusted allies to the art world, as he has revolutionized the way the bureau tracks down art thieves. Wittman’s gritty and suspenseful memoir is complete with his account of playing an undercover crooked art dealer in an effort to secure a stolen Rembrandt. In addition to the successfully salvaged Rembrandt, Wittman has helped track down two paintings by Francisco Goya and five Norman Rockwell pieces.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles will proudly add a new gem to it’s collection: Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino, a painting that boasts an exquisite view of Capitoline Hill in Rome completed by British landscape artist J.M.W. Turner in the mid 1800’s. The work, which is in excellent condition and is still in its original frame, was auctioned off at Sotheby’s in London last week. Modern Rome—Campo Vaccino is the fourth Turner painting to come to the Getty, joining one other oil painting and two watercolors by the master. This latest acquisition is considered by Museum officials to rank among the most important in the Getty’s history. David Bomford, acting Museum director, delightfully noted that Turner paintings rarely come to the market, so this new arrival is significant indeed, and will put the Getty on the map in terms of more substantial Turner collections in the United States.

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.