Art News Headlines: January 22, 2011

Edgar Degas, Laundry Woman with Toothache

A small but by no means insignificant painting by Edgar Degas, missing for over 37 years, has finally been returned to its rightful owners. The identity of the thief responsible for the painting’s disappearance is still unknown. Laundry Women with Toothache, completed by Degas in the early 1870s, was on loan at the Malraux Museum in Le Havre, Normandy, where a thief made off with it in 1973. The painting showed up in a Sotheby’s catalogue last November, where a Malraux Museum employee spotted it and contacted Interpol. The seller, Ronald Grelsamer, inherited the piece from his father, and insists that no one in the family knew of the painting’s criminal past. An investigation is currently underway to understand the painting’s whereabouts before it came into the possession of Mr. Grelsamer’s father.

We might have to put this one in the “see it to believe it” category. A northern Michigan woman has recently finished a colossal mural of Da Vinci’s Last Supper—but it’s composed entirely of laundry lint. The 14-foot-long, 4-foot-tall artwork was created in about 200 hours, not including the 800 hours of laundry loads needed to produce the material. Laura Bell of Roscommon bought towels of the various colors she needed, and washed them together to achieve her desired lint colors. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! has sought the piece for its collection, which joins other da Vinci recreations, one of which is composed entirely of burnt toast. While the art world remains speechless, da Vinci may be turning in his grave.

David Iliff, Colosseum in Rome

Rome and the rest of the world can breathe a sigh of relief—the founder of Tod’s luxury leather goods and shoes announced Friday that he will foot the $34 million bill required to restore the Colosseum, which is badly suffering from pollution damage and is constantly being rocked by subway vibrations. Officials eagerly accepted Diego Della Valle’s offer to sponsor the restoration. But Della Valle said he hopes other entrepreneurs will step in to help out as the project gets under way. Work is expected to begin at the end of the year, after contract bids are closed, and will take up to two and a half years. The monument will remain open to tourists during the restoration process.

The current retrospective at the Tate Modern of top Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco is the largest presentation to date of his most critically acclaimed works in the UK. The exhibition is on display through April 11. A sculptor of global significance, Orozco draws from the histories of western and Latin American art practice with bottomless originality and experimentation. Featuring over 80 works, and a new installation never before shown, this survey highlights Orozco’s substantial production of sculpture, photography, drawing and painting. Using objects found in urban settings or capturing chance encounters, Orozco manages to simultaneously encapsulate the pleasure of witnessing life and, at the same time, its frail significance.

Milton Rogovin, a social documentary photographer who built a life’s work by looking through a lens at people who were invisible to others, died Tuesday at age 101. Rogovin’s photographs documented the lives of which he called the “forgotten ones”—the dispossessed and the working class. By trade, Rogovin worked as an optometrist, although his career became largely threatened throughout his lifetime as his photographs drew negative criticism for their uncompromising and uncomfortable truths. His work grew to become historically significant and extremely emotive. A master collection of 4,000 of his images is stored at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona. Many more are housed at the Library of Congress.

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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