Art News Headlines: January 2, 2011

Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

Artist Graham Sutherland introduced Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in 1945—this dynamic pairing resulted in a close and competitive friendship, the two painting one another on more than one occasion. A painting of Freud by Bacon, which has been kept in private and not exhibited anywhere since 1965, the year after it was painted, has surfaced for sale at Sotheby’s in London next month. Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud is a powerfully rendered triptych of small portraits. It is a telling testimony of one of the most significant artistic relationships of the last century. The triptych is part of a collection of more than 60 modern and contemporary works that could fetch more than £45 million at auction next month.

Authorities are looking for the thieves who tunneled through a wall into a New York City apartment while the owner was away over Thanksgiving and made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of artworks by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The culprits also made off with surveillance video footage that might have caught them in the act. Authorities estimate the five-story apartment was ransacked sometime over Thanksgiving week, when owner and art collector Robert Romanoff was away. Among the most well known of the pieces stolen was the Lichtenstein print Thinking Nude. Police estimate the artwork, plus stolen Cartier and Rolex watches and other jewelry, are worth about $750,000. No arrests have been made as of yet.

Ken and Jenny Jacobson 19th Century Photography

“In Search of Biblical Lands: From Jerusalem to Jordan in 19th-Century Photography” on view at the Getty Villa in Southern California from March 2 through September 12, 2011, features some of the first photographic images of the eastern margins of the Mediterranean. This region remains one of the most photographed places on earth today. The photographs on view in this new exhibition reveal what the travelers of the 1800s discovered on their journey: a landscape of belief, at once familiar—yet still mysterious. Highlights of the exhibition are photographs by English photographer Francis Frith whose compelling images were made during several trips to the Holy Land in the late 1850s, and daguerreotypes by French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey, culled from the Getty Museum’s own collection.

A rare West African ivory mask, taken by the British during a 19th-century invasion of the city-state Benin in present-day Nigeria, was withdrawn from a Sotheby’s sale after online protests, The Independent reported. The mask, which dates from the 16th century and is thought to have been worn by the king of Benin on ceremonial occasions, is the last known example of its type in private hands and was expected to fetch as much as $7 million. The mask was to be sold by the descendants of Lt. Col. Sir Henry Gallwey, a vice consul of a British protectorate in Nigeria who took part in the 1897 invasion of Benin when the British deposed the king and burned and looted the city. Protests against the sale of the mask began last week on social networking sites and groups across Nigeria. At the request of the sellers, the mask was withdrawn from the scheduled auction.

In other art news, Milan—and 222,000 of its residents—is enjoying a return to Salvador Dalì. A new exhibition of Dalì’s work, focusing on the artist’s relationship between painting and landscape, is open at the Palazzo Reale. It is the first retrospective featuring the surrealist since 1954. Among the works being shown is the short animation movie Destino, the brainchild of both Dalì and Walt Disney. Dalì worked alongside Disney between 1945 and 1946, but the movie wasn’t completed until 2003 thanks to the original drawings preserved at the Animation Research Library of Walt Disney Animation Studios of Burbank, California. The Milan City Councillor for Culture Massimiliano Finazzer Flory commented, “Dalì in Milan is the symbol of the creativity or—better—of the power of creativity. A relation not to be missed.”

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.

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