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IT IS BLOCKBUSTER TIME. The Rijksmuseum’s hotly anticipated Johannes Vermeer blowout does not open until Friday, but it has already sold an astonishing 200,000 tickets, the Associated Press reports. The Amsterdam institution has extended its hours so that more people can pay the exhibition a visit. Treasures await there: It features 28 of the 37 paintings that are generally ascribed to the 17th-century Dutch master. The early reviews are rapturous. Adrian Searle gave it five shining stars in the Guardian . “The last big Vermeer show, in The Hague, was a febrile, crowded experience,” he writes. (That was in 1996.) “Here, the art has room to breathe.” In the Washington Post, Philip Kennicott says that the show “is beautifully designed , with dramatic reveals and poignant sightlines,” and he proposes that it is “almost certainly . . . the last great Vermeer show of a passing age in the history of museums, grand narratives and Western culture.” You have until June 4 to get to the Netherlands to catch it.
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR. The Des Moines Art Center in Iowa has tapped Kelly Baum to be its next director, the Des Moines Register reports. Baum is coming to the Hawkeye State from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is curator of contemporary art, and she succeeds Jeff Fleming, who is retiring after a quarter-century leading the museum. She starts in May. Over in California, Larry J. Feinberg is retiring as director and CEO of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art later this year, after 15 years at the helm, Noozhawk reports. Feinberg said that he plans to write and travel.
Speaking of the Met: It has received a portrait of the Florentine banker Bindo Altoviti (looking very virile!) by the 16th-century artist Francesco Salviati—a gift from the trust of the late Aso O. Tavitian. It is the first painting on marble to enter the museum’s collection. Met director Max Hollein termed it a “transformative addition to our holdings of European paintings.” [The Met/Press Release]
Australia has selected Archie Moore to represent it at the Venice Biennale next year. The Kamilaroi and Bigambul artist works in a variety media to address identity and racism in Australia, and will be the second First Nations artist to represent the country with a solo show. [The Guardian]
A foundation that was started by the late Swiss real estate giant Bruno Stefanini is researching the provenance of the material in his vast collection, which includes 6,000 oil paintings and tens of thousands of other items. An expert panel will make binding decisions about restituting any Nazi-looted material. [The New York Times]
In a reversal of Trump-era policy, the U.S. Department of Defense said that prisoners who are allowed to leave Guantánamo Bay can bring with them art that they made there. A DoD spokesperson said that they can take a “practicable quantity” of art, but that the U.S. government maintains that it is its property. [The New York Times]
A new podcast, The Statue, dives deep into the story behind the popular Rocky statue that stands at the bottom of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s hosted by Paul Farber, the cofounder of Monument Lab in the city; its latest episode looks at the artist who created the piece, A. Thomas Schomberg. [The Statue/WHYY]
A 14th-century synagogue has been identified by archaeologists in Utrera, Spain; it was hidden in a building that has variously served as a church, a hospital, and a bar. A historian’s writings from 1604 had suggested that it had once been a site of prayer for Jews. [The Associated Press/ABC News]
PAINT WHAT YOU KNOW. Less than a year before he died, in 2021, artist Wayne Thiebaud gave an interview to writer Jason Edward Kaufman in which he discussed a life-changing studio visit he had, early in his career, with Willem de Kooning. In the interview, which the Art Newspaperhas excerpted , Thiebaud says that his elder basically told him “you have to find something you really know something about and that you are really interested in, and just do that.” Thiebaud had worked in some restaurants, and so he decided to paint some pies. “I looked at it, and said, my god I just painted a bunch of pies,” the artist said. “That’s going to be the end of me as a serious painter.” Life: It’s full of surprises. [TAN]