France caves in to Arab cash, sells half of Louvre

January 29, 2007

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The French government has struck upon a truly brilliant method to dump their underutilized art objects on the culture-starved, status-craving gulf statelet of Abu Dhabi. The dynamics of the relationship are not that different than what Duveen realized in the late 19C when he saw that Americans had a lot of money and Europeans had a lot of art. Primary difference nowadays is that the relationship is between states and their public collections, but the dynamics work just the same as it did between private sellers (impoverished aristocrats) and buyers (American robber barons) in Duveen’s time. And of course, these days it’s the gulf states that have a lot of cash.
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Romans locate suspected site of ancient she-wolf suckle

January 28, 2007

Underfunded Italian archaeologists have discovered a vaulted chamber on Rome’s Palatine Hill that they believe may be the grotto worshipped as the site where Romulus and Remus suckled the she-wolf. The AP article explains that Italian archaeologists are extremely short of funds, and may have trouble fully excavating their new finds, which are part of the area around Augustus’ palace. I find this very profound, because Palatine Hill is ground zero for the birth of the Art Market, where Popes started digging up statuary in the 15th Century and began art collecting as we know it.
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Duveen Rembrandt not worth mentioning, sells for $25.8 mil.

January 28, 2007

Sothebys is trumpeting their recent sale of a Rembrandt, St. James the Greater, which went for $25.8 million at a recent Old Masters Auction, but could it be that the sale was actually a disappointment?
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The painting comes to us through a Who’s Who of art dealing in the last 2 centuries, and such a provenance should have pushed prices to the stratosphere, but instead St. James came up 3 million short of the high end of its estimate. In many ways, the pieces serves as an Exhibit A1 for what’s problematic with Rembrandts.
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“Tomb Raider” True: Getty knew all about my shopping habits

January 21, 2007

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Marion “Tomb Raider” True is accusing her former employers, the Getty Museum, of acting all like they didn’t know nothing about her buying habits. Although she officially served as their Curator of Antiquities from 1986 – 2005, in fact, True was a super high-end picker of Greek and Roman loot with the Spending Budget of the Century. NYTimes reports that, in her legal defense, she delivered a copy to the Italian court of her own letter she wrote to the Getty directors back in December, in which she accused them of leaving her to “carry the burden” of the institution’s collecting practices, even though her superiors at the museum and the trust had “approved all of the acquisitions made during my tenure.”
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“Tomb Raider” True bought looted Greek wreath cheap

January 17, 2007

Getty Museum antiquities curator Marion “Tomb Raider” True’s legal struggles have now extended in to Greece where she faces charges for having knowingly purchased a looted 4th Century BC golden funerary wreath. Among many points of interest in a fabulously juicy story (see NYTimes article) is the claim that she bought the piece through a Swiss middleman for the staggeringly cheap price of 1.1 million USD. Geez, you can’t even get a half-way decent Csontvary for that kinda money. I mean get a load of this thing:

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Funerary Wreath, Greek c.320-300 BC. Gold, with blue and green glass-paste inlays.
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