The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act, known as H.R. 1493 and already covered at length in an earlier article
, is expected to head to President Obama’s desk for signature in the near future. The import ban provision—which has been linked to contentious debates over the extent to which ISIS is actually profiting from a Syrian antiquity trade—has overshadowed other important aspects in the legislation. For example, the bill looks to fill an information gap by mandating that the executive branch issue reports to Congress on what is being done by various government agencies to safeguard cultural property in volatile and dangerous areas. Perhaps more importantly, H.R. 1493 also urges the president to set up a new task force that would coordinate the numerous government agencies that each have some role in cultural property preservation. That task force, however, is not a mandated requirement of the legislation, and it remains to be seen if President Obama will create it.
08 After several protests and a roughly year-long process of negotiations, the Guggenheim announced that it was ending talks with the Gulf Labor Coalition (GLC).
In an email sent to curators, artists, press, and others, Guggenheim
director Richard Armstrong laid out his rationale for the decision, arguing that the talks with GLC—which is comprised of numerous artists, including
—are no longer beneficial and that their demands are beyond the reach of an art institution. The move comes after a series of reportedly productive meetings between the institution and GLC, which has been protesting labor and living conditions of the workers who will be constructing the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi. In a statement to Hyperallergic
, Raad critiqued the narrative that GLC was to blame for the breakdown, arguing that the Guggenheim was at fault. During the course of its campaign, GLC has mounted numerous protests in the Guggenheim’s Upper East Side space. Though such actions were suspended during the negotiating period, it is unclear if they will resume.
09 Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is coming out of self-imposed retirement—a fact he announced, in his irreverent fashion, with a functional, solid-gold toilet that will be installed in a Guggenheim Museum restroom in early May.
In 2011, on the heels of an $8 million auction record and a retrospective at the Guggenheim
abruptly declared he would be leaving the world of artmaking for good. Although surprising, in some ways it felt like the logical progression of a career that began by avoiding making work at all. During an early solo show, his inspiration drying up, Cattelan closed the gallery and hung up a sign that read simply: “Be back soon.” When asked to exhibit at the Venice Biennale, he leased the space to an advertising agency instead. However, after several years in retirement, the artist has admitted that “it’s even more of a torture not to work than to work.” This news follows the premiere of Maura Axelrod’s documentary “Maurizio Cattelan: Be Right Back,” screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last weekend, placing the intensely private artist in a media spotlight he has avoided for most of his career.
10 Eleven Picasso lithographs and a Gabriele Münter painting have disappeared from the collection of a German financial services company—a haul valued at more than a million dollars.
Although the theft was confirmed by Portigon AG late last week, the artworks were stolen much earlier. During the winter of 2014, employees reported that the vault containing the art collection had been accessed at unusual times; the resulting investigation uncovered 12 missing works, including 11 lithographs from ’s
1945 “Bull” series. Lacking leads or probable suspects, the police concluded their investigation early this year and have placed the works on the stolen art registry. Interestingly, the collection was inciting a separate controversy around the time the works were first discovered missing. In January 2015, Portigon (the successor to state-owned bank WestLB, following its collapse during the 2008 financial crisis) announced it was going to deaccession its nearly 400-piece art collection to pay its mounting debts. The prospect of state-owned work disappearing into private collections—in order for Portigon to pay back a government bailout package—sparked such public outrage that the bank eventually decided to sell the collection to another state-run foundation.
—Abigail Cain, Alexander Forbes, Isaac Kaplan, Tess Thackara
Cover image: Exterior view of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Drew XXX, via Flickr.