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THE GHENT ALTARPIECE, THE MAJESTIC VAN EYCK that has tempted thieves and awed art fans for nearly 600 years, just went on view in a new high-tech glass case inside St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Belgium, the BBC reports. The unveiling follows a €30 million ($35.4 million) renovation of the church, which was delayed because of the pandemic. A restoration of the painting (which generated some controversy) was completed in 2019, and the work was subsequently shown at Ghent’s Museum of Fine Arts. “It’s going home, and it’s staying home,” Ben De Vriendt, who heads a new visitor center at St. Bavo’s, told the Wall Street Journal. At an opening ceremony, the Guardian reports, Flanders’s prime minister, Jan Jambon , said, “The splendor of colors, the details, the lighting: everything is perfect. That makes us proud.” When was the last time one of your elected representatives spoke so lovingly of an artwork?
THERE IS MORE ACTIVITY ON THE BENIN BRONZE FRONT. Germany’s culture minister, Monika Grütters, said that she will help develop a plan for addressing those looted objects, and that it will include restitution, the Art Newspaper reports. About 25 museums in Germany hold the works, which were pillaged by the British from the Kingdom of Benin, in present-day Nigeria, in 1897, and later acquired by many Western institutions. A meeting is scheduled for April with museum leaders, politicians, and foreign representatives, according to TAN. Earlier this week, the University of Aberdeen in Scotland said it would repatriate its one bronze, becoming the first institution to do so, Alex Greenberger reported in ARTnews.
Hong Kong politician Bernard Chan writes in an op-ed that government officials in the special administrative region should not police what art museums show there. Chan argues that, “if Hong Kong’s image as an open, tolerant, and cosmopolitan city is damaged, the hard work we have put in to build its art infrastructure will be wasted as well.” [South China Morning Post]
Sotheby’s will offer a Basquiat from 1982—his year of miracles—in May with a high estimate of $50 million. Some may have seen the work, Versus Medici, when it was shown in 2017 at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice. [ARTnews]
The closely watched Gwangju Biennale in South Korea opens next week, after two postponements. Its curators had to spend two weeks in quarantine before installing work by 69 artists. Here’s a look at how it came together. [The New York Times]
Santiago Sierra was roundly criticized this week for a plan to soak a Union Jack flag in blood donated by First Nation. It was not his first attempt to create an artwork of this nature, Nate Freeman reports. [Artnet News]
Police are currently looking for a suspect who damaged an artwork by Maureen Gruben at the Vancouver Art Gallery last month. [New Westminster Record]
Comedian and actress Tiffany Hadish has created an impressively surreal painting that will be auctioned to support a nonprofit that funds children’s art education. The piece came about through Painting with the Stars, an organization that provides the famous with art kits to create works for good causes. (Who knew?) [TMZ]
It seems to be a big day for major cultural figures who are not visual artists making news in the visual art realm. Rapper Ja Rule sold an NFT of a painting that was commissioned for the ill-fated, fraudulent Fyre Festival, which he co-founded. The winning bidder paid $122,000, and also received the physical painting with a note from the “Always on Time” musician that reads, “Fuck this painting.” [The Guardian]
Are you missing Basel, Switzerland? Dave Seminara just wrote about a trip he took there in late 2019, to visit places connected to the life of tennis phenom Roger Federer. (The 20-time Grand Slam champion was born in that tranquil city on the river Rhine.) Assuming the date holds, Art Basel is on tap for September this year, after a gap of more than two years. [The New York Times]
LOÏC GOUZER, THE FORMER CHRISTIE’S ENFANT TERRIBLE who now runs the one-lot-a-week auction app Fair Warning, talked about his efforts to protect the oceans, the state of the art market, and his passion for spearfishing for a profile in Penta by Abby Schultz. Gouzer even offered some advice about that last pursuit. When he’s on the hunt for fish, he said, “I go where the sharks are, because that’s where the prey fish are.” [Penta]
Thank you for reading. We’ll see you on Monday.