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THE SALVATOR MUNDI IS THE STORY THAT JUST KEEPS ON GIVING, with questions swirling around it for years. One big one has been why the $450 million painting was not included in the Louvre’s 2019 Leonardo exhibition. It was not an authenticity issue (as some speculated), according to a New York Times article by David D. Kirkpatrick and Elaine Sciolino . Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been identified as its purchaser at auction in 2017 (he has not confirmed that), and the Times reports that Saudi officials lobbied for the work to be displayed next to the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The French said no, and a compromise could not be reached. The reporters also got their hands on a secret French report that concluded that the 500-year-old painting is a Leonardo (albeit one altered by restorations), and that it is now owned by the Saudi Culture Ministry. When will the painting be shown in public next? That remains a mystery.
THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD HAS LOST A LEGEND. The Australian photographer and actress June Newton, wife of the late photog Helmut Newton, died on Saturday at the age of 97, the Associated Press reports. Newton acted under the name June Brunell and shot under the name Alice Springs, capturing Yves Saint Laurent, Gore Vidal, Balthus, Brassaï, and Nicole Kidman, among countless other luminaries, WWD notes. She was also the president of the Helmut Newton Foundation, which runs a Berlin museum. It will hold a retrospective of her work in 2023, to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth.
The board of the Wadsworth Atheneum, which just parted ways with its director, is undertaking a plan to better connect with Black and Latinx communities in its hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. “We’ve become a little too historic and not very present,” the museum’s chairman said. [Hartford Courant]
From Louisville, Kentucky, critic Holland Cotter filed a glowing review of the Speed Art Museum show organized in response to the killing of medical worker Breonna Taylor by police. Put together in just four months, it “focuses on the present, and in doing so reaches out to new audiences vital to the institutional future,” he writes. [The New York Times]
Cambodia criticized images that artist Matt Loughrey made by adding color—and smiles—to black-and-white mugshots of victims of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. They came to attention after Vice featured them in an article, which it later removed. [Reuters]
Art dealer Martina Batan, who worked at the mainstay New York gallery Ronald Feldman Fine Arts for 35 years, has died. She was 62. Batan’s efforts to solve the murder of her teenage brother was the subject of a 2015 documentary titled Missing People. [The New York Times]
New Orleans police have arrested two people for allegedly possessing the Jefferson Davis monument that was stolen from a cemetery in Selma, Alabama, by an activist group going by the name White Lies Matter. The monument has been recovered, unharmed. [The Washington Post]
Ben Brown Fine Arts, of Hong Kong and London, has opened a space in Palm Beach, Florida, where Pace, Paula Cooper, Lehmann Maupin, and other contemporary art galleries have all set up shops during the pandemic. [Press Release/ArtDaily]
The Met Gala will return this year, according to Page Six, after being scuttled last year for obvious reasons. It is scheduled for September (instead of the usual May), and poet Amanda Gorman and designer Tom Ford are said to have been approached to co-host. [Page Six]
WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE PRIZED INDIAN ART COLLECTION put together by the late painter Howard Hodgkin? Hodgkin’s partner, music writer Antony Peattie, told the Guardian that the Met is interested in acquiring the trove of more than 100 pieces dating from the 1500s to the 1800s. (The Met declined to comment.) Hodgkin apparently wanted it to go, in its entirety, to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, but a lack of provenance information on some pieces nixed that. The artist was a dedicated collector, and the Guardian’s Dalya Alberge dug up this zesty quote from him on the subject: “A great collection often seems to be the result of one very rich man going shopping. It isn’t. It is really partly illness, an incurable obsession . . . At its worst it’s greed, or the desire simply to possess, like a child at a party being given something to take home.” [The Guardian]
Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.