Week in Review: Finding Leonardo’s Fingerprint, Iraq’s Mosul Museum Reopens

A view of the thumb print (Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019)

Week in Review is a weekly collection of news, developments, and stirrings in the art world. Subscribe to receive these posts as a weekly newsletter.

Conservators have identified an intact Leonardo da Vinci thumbprint on a medical drawing in Britain’s Royal Collection. The reddish-brown ink of the print matches that of the drawing, so conservators believe Leonardo “picked up the sheet with inky fingers,” calling it “the most convincing candidate for an authentic Leonardo fingerprint.” The drawing will be displayed at the National Museum Cardiff, and later the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. [TAN]

Director of the British Museum, Hartwig Fischer, has come under fire for his comments during a recent interview with the Greek daily newspaper Ta Nea, in which he came to the defense of the removal of the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, saying, “When you move cultural heritage into a museum, you move it out of context. Yet that displacement is also a creative act,” adding, “The rediscovery is obviously part of European history,” He also denied the possibility of repatriation. George Vardas, secretary of the international association for the reunifications of the Parthenon sculptures called the comment an instance of “amazing historical revisionism and arrogance.” [artnet News]

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana has announced it will cover, but preserve, its 12 murals dedicated to Christopher Columbus, which were painted in the university’s main building over 130 years ago by Luigi Gregoni. In a public letter, Notre Dame’s president says, “Our goal in making this change is to respect both Gregori’s murals, understood in their historical context, and the reality and experience of Native Americans in the aftermath of Columbus’s arrival. We wish to preserve artistic works originally intended to celebrate immigrant Catholics who were marginalized at the time in society, but do so in a way that avoids unintentionally marginalizing others.” [Notre Dame]

Angela Davis speaking at “Enclosures: Quotidian Carceralities in the US and Occupied Palestine,” an event at Columbia University (via Columbia GSAPP/Flickr)

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute has re-invited activist and Birmingham native Dr. Angela Y. Davis to receive its highest award, the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. It has issued a public apology for rescinding its nomination to Davis earlier this month, which Davis says she learned was due to her “long-term support of justice for Palestine.” The museum says the decision was made by the Board of Directors, “In keeping with its commitment to learning from its mistakes and in order to stay true to the BCRI’s mission.” [Huffington Post]

Earlier this week, El Museo del Barrio canceled its retrospective of Chilean filmmaker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky’s work after evaluating remarks the artist has made publicly, over decades, about raping his co-star in the making of his 1970 film El TopoDespite his explicit admission (“And I really … I really … I really raped her. And she screamed” and later, “I didn’t rape Mara, but I penetrated her with her consent”), Jodorowsky’s wife, Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky, has come to his defense in a statement saying “words are not acts” and that her husband “never raped anyone.” Montandon-Jodorowsky was born in the same year Jodorowsky’s admission was published in the artist’s book about the film. [NYT]

The African nation of Angola has declined participation in the 2019 Venice Biennale, citing a nationwide redefinition of cultural budgets and priorities. Angola has participated in the Venice Biennale since 2013, in that year winning the Golden Lion, the fair’s highest award. [ANGOP]

Charline von Heyl, Nunez, 2017. Acrylic, oil and charcoal on linen, 82 x 78 in. ©Charline von Heyl. Courtesy of the artist and Petzel, New York. Courtesy of the Artist, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne and Petzel, New York

The government shutdown prompted the Smithsonian Institute’s 19 museums to shutter for a 27-day period, closing its exhibitions to the public for nearly a month. However, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC has extended its Charline von Heyl survey, Snake Eyes — set to close January 27 — through April 21. Charline von Heyl: Snake Eyes is the largest US museum survey of the artist’s work. [ARTnews]

The Iraqi Mosul Museum recently opened its doors for the first time since 2014. The building is known as the oldest government complex in Mosul and the second-largest museum in Iraq, and has been renovated to host its first exhibition, Return to Mosul, after the city was taken over by ISIS in 2014. [The National]

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco — comprising both the de Young and the Legion of Honor — will offer free general admission to SF residents on Saturdays, beginning April 1. The museums will also offer free general admission daily for any visitor with a disability plus one guest, and EBT cardholders. [Datebook]

Transactions

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, “Portrait of Muhammad Dervish Khan, Full-Length, Holding His Sword in a Landscape” (1788), oil on canvas, 88 3/4 x 55 1/2 inches (image courtesy Sotheby’s)

Sotheby’s Masters Week sales in New York started off on a high note, with 170 paintings and drawings sold across two auctions, bringing in $67.8 million total. The Master Paintings Evening sale on January 30 brought in a total of $52,710,650. The sale’s top lot, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun’s “Portrait of Muhammad Dervish Khan, Full-Length, Holding His Sword in a Landscape” (1788), sold for $7,185,900, setting the world auction record for any female artist of the pre-modern era.

This and other notable sales and acquisitions are chronicled in our latest Transactions story.

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