News
New Discovery Sheds Light on Jesus Christ’s Purported Tomb—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week

01  New scientific research suggests that a tomb in Jerusalem is the one built by ancient Romans to mark the burial place of Jesus Christ.

Researchers dated mortar found inside the purported tomb of Christ, which itself is located within Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, to determine if its age matches historical accounts of the site. Some scholars had questioned whether the church—which has been destroyed, damaged, and rebuilt several times—actually marks the site that ancient Romans dispatched to the region by Emperor Constantine identified as Christ’s burial place in around 326 AD. Previously, the oldest materials in the Church have been dated back only to the much later Crusader period. But new research released by a team from the National Technical University of Athens found that the mortar used within the tomb, first opened in October of 2016, does indeed date back to roughly 345 AD, suggesting that it is the tomb identified by ancient Romans. “While it is archaeologically impossible to say that the tomb is the burial site of an individual Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth,” wrote National Geographic, “new dating results put the original construction of today’s tomb complex securely in the time of Constantine.”

02  The parent company of Art Basel purchased a majority stake in Masterpiece London, continuing the growth of its art fair portfolio.

MCH Group, the Swiss-based parent company of Art Basel, announced the acquisition of a 67.5% stake in Masterpiece London on Friday, the culmination of months of negotiations. The art, design, and antique fair is the most recent fair snapped up by MCH, and follows the acquisition of Art Düsseldorf in February 2017 and the Indian Art Fair in September  2016. Those latter two fairs fall into the “Design & Regional Art Fairs” category of MCH’s business strategy, while the company is positioning Masterpiece to stand separately as its own pillar of the plan. (The other two pillars are the existing Art Basel fairs and Grand Basel, an art fair for automobiles). The United Kingdom-based fair will see the addition of new international venues. “Masterpiece London and Grand Basel will be staged at further locations in the USA, Asia and the Middle East over the next few years,” according to an MCH press release. It’s possible that investing in Masterpiece, which features work from beyond the company’s previous focus on the and period and draws an international set of collectors, is an attempt to position the London fair as a competitor to the - and antiquity-focused European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF).

03  The Tate challenged a report from the Times of London that its director Maria Balshaw and Frances Morris, head of the Tate Modern, are earning less than their male predecessors.

(via the Times and artnet News)
Salary figures published in the Times showed that Balshaw, the recently appointed director of the Tate, and Frances Morris, appointed last year to head the Tate Modern, are both earning less than the men who previously held the posts. Balshaw makes £165,000, or up to £15,000 less than Sir Nicholas Serota, whom she replaced after his 29-year tenure as director. The paper found a similar disparity between Morris and prior Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, who left in 2016 after six years. But a Tate spokesperson pushed back, telling artnet News that Morris’s pay is “on the same level as Chris Dercon’s was when he left,” adding, “when starting a new position, an employee is not paid the same amount as the final salary of the person who has left. This is because salaries reflect the level of experience and time spent in that role.” However, Alex Farquharson, appointed to head the Tate Britain in 2015, earned the same salary as Penelope Curtis, the woman who previously held the post, the Times reported. The Tate told the paper that Farquharson “had been a director of Nottingham Contemporary and had started on a lower salary.”

04  The 57th Venice Biennale was the highest-trafficked edition to date, attracting 615,000 visitors.

The city’s six-month contemporary art show ended Sunday with roughly 115,000 more visitors than the 2015 edition. The biennale’s president, Paolo Baratta, pointed to “Vive Arte Viva,” the central exhibition curated by Christine Macel, as being responsible for the uptick in numbers. The French curator’s choices showcased “a growing familiarity with contemporary art and a desire to seek refuge from global crises” according to the Associated Press. Dario Franceschini, Italy’s minister of culture, told the news organization that the edition will be recalled “for the beauty and quality of its works.”

05  Key financial backers of Australia’s participation in the Venice Biennale have pulled their support to protest changes in the artist selection process.

The Australia Council for the Arts, the government body in charge of Australia’s participation in the Venice Biennale, moved at the end of October to bring the artist selection process in-house by placing an advertisement and allowing artists to apply, rather than hiring an external commissioner to choose an artist. Prominent philanthropists who have been among the top funders of the country’s participation and broader arts community criticized the move, along with the failure to consult them in announcing their withdrawal of support. Simon Mordant, a donor who had also previously served as commissioner for the Australia exhibition in 2013 and 2015, wrote in an op-ed that he and a group of international and local curators had in previous years “spent hours debating all the names proposed before unanimously selecting an artist to invite to submit along with a curator.” The new process falls short, he wrote, stating that “in my view the best artists are unlikely to apply to an advert.”

06  The mayor of Osaka, Japan, plans to cut ties with sister city San Francisco over a statue of “comfort women.”

(via the New York Times & Reuters)
San Francisco mayor Edwin M. Lee signed a resolution last week making the statue, which features three girls from China, Korea, and the Philippines holding hands, a city monument. The term “comfort women” refers to the tens of thousands of women who were “detained and raped by Japanese soldiers before and during World War II,” wrote the New York Times, often in brothels called “comfort stations.” Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura called the decision to make the statue a city monument “highly regrettable” and said that trust between the two cities was “destroyed,” Reuters reported. The statue is intended to memorialize the comfort women, and comes amidst a growing movement to get Japan to acknowledge “the scope and scale of the abuse,” as the Times put it. But critics of the statutes say they are “promoting an unbalanced version of history” and “might stoke animosity toward people of Japanese ancestry,” wrote the Times.

07 The city of Düsseldorf’s cancellation of an exhibition on the Jewish art dealer Max Stern, who was persecuted by the Nazis, has stirred controversy in Germany.

(via the Globe and Mail)
“Max Stern: From Düsseldorf to Montreal” was canceled suddenly two weeks ago, ahead of its scheduled opening at the Düsseldorf Stadtmuseum in February. Three years in the making, the exhibition would have shone a light on Stern, who was forced to sell his collection by the Nazis in the lead-up to World War II, and the efforts of his heirs to restitute Nazi-looted art through the Max Stern Art Restitution Project. The city’s statement cited lingering “restitution claims in connection to Max Stern” as the reason for halting the show. Critics of the decision to cancel the show said the continued challenge of restituting Nazi-looted art is exactly why the issue deserves more attention. The Globe and Mail also pointed to ties between the city government and Ludwig von Pufendorf, a Berlin lawyer who has critiqued the restitution of Nazi-looted art, and has represented Düsseldorf in a dispute with Stern’s estate over a Wilhelm von Schadow painting.

08  Two artist collectives withdrew from the first Kuala Lumpur Biennale after police seized their artwork.

(via Artforum)
The groups Pusat Sekitar Seni and Population Project pulled out of the biennale last Wednesday, one day ahead of the planned debut of the exhibition at Malaysia’s National Visual Arts Gallery (NVAG), after Malaysian police confiscated their collaborative work. Visitors had reportedly critiqued the piece, charging it contained “elements of communism,” according to Artforum. Authorities deny they censored the work, laying blame for the removal at the feet of exhibition organizers. The work, Under Construction, is an installation that “included a number of reading materials, drawings, and posters intended to raise awareness of environmental issues impacting Southeast Asia,” according to Artforum. Artist Aisyah Baharuddin of Pusat Sekitar Seni told The Malaysian Insight, “we have decided to pull out from the KL Biennale 2017,” stating, “this violates our rights as artists.” The removal marks the third time this year that Malaysian officials have been accused of removing art due to complaints or allegations of an artwork’s political nature.

09  The Ford Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation will give $6 million to diversify art museum leadership.

The funding, announced Tuesday, will go to 20 United States museums, out of a total of 83 applicants. Recipients will use the grants to create opportunities for, and advance the careers of, minorities, through, for example, internships, fellowships, or programs designed to attract and develop talent from underrepresented groups. “The grants will support 11 new jobs; fellowships and internships for 360 college students; and museum studies programs for more than 1,000 teenagers,” the New York Times reported, with winners including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston.

10  The first major contemporary art museum in Jakarta, a city of 10 million people, opened in November.

(via the New York Times)
The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, dubbed the “Museum Macan,” features items from the 800-work contemporary and modern art collection of the museum’s founder, Indonesian businessman Haryanto Adikoesoemo. The museum opened in Indonesia’s capital on November 4th and has “stunned Jakarta crowds” with the works on view, according to the New York Times. Adikoesoemo has collected art for over two decades, and his collection of both established Western names and earned him a place on the ARTnews lists of top 200 collectors in 2016 and 2017. His collection provided a valuable asset as the 1997 and 1998 Asian financial downturn roiled traditional assets in Indonesia, but his goal in opening the Museum Macan is more philanthropic. “If I go to Europe, I go to museums for relaxation,” Adikoesoemo told the Times. “Indonesia still doesn’t have that culture.”

Cover Image: Jesus’s Tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images.