Jeff Koons Sends Sculptures to Space, Modigliani Restituted Thanks to AI-backed Research, 341 Ukrainian Heritage Sites Damaged, and More: Morning Links for February 15,2024

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HEADLINES

SLIPPERY SLOPE.TheArts Council England (ACE)isfacing criticismover a new, hot-button policy warning UK arts organization it funds, against making “political statements.” On January 28, the government agency updated its policies with a section on “reputational risk,” urging cultural institutions not to voice “activist” opinions that might be “overtly political,” or “conflict with the purpose of public funding of culture.” Artists and authors have criticized the new policy on social media, prompting the ACE to clarify that they meant to offer steps to “mitigate” potentially controversial activity amid a polarizing political context, and warned that voiced opinions of directors might be “taken to be those of the wider organization.”

Related Articles

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 24:  Artist Jeff Koons poses for a portrait for the media in front of his work "Moon (Light Pink)" during a media preview of his retrospective at The Whitney Museum of American Art on June 24, 2014 in New York City.  Nearly the entire museum will be filled with four decades of Koons' work; it opens to the public June 27th.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

SpaceX Rocket Carrying Jeff Koons's 125 Moon Sculptures Finally Takes Off

UNESCO Reports 341 Cultural Sites in Ukraine Damaged, Puts Recovery Costs at $9 B.

ARTIST + AI RESTITUTION COLLAB. Hannover’sSprengel MuseumhasrestitutedaModiglianipaintingTete de Femme(1917), following AI-aided research by French artistRaphaël Denis, whose practice centers on Nazi-looted art. He sourced the Modigliani portrait of a woman to an art collection belonging to the Paris-based journalist and artist,Michel Georges-Michel, whose collection Nazi officials confiscated in 1941. In light of the new findings, the city of Hannover decided to return the work to Georges-Michel’s heirs on Jan. 26.

THE DIGEST

341Ukrainian cultural heritagesites have been damaged by Russian strikes since their invasion of Ukraine began two years ago, according to a new report byUNESCO. The cost of damage is estimated at 3.3 million euros ($3.54 million), and UNESCO used satellite imagery to help complete their assessment. [Le Monde]

ArtistJeff Koonsis sending 125, one-inch, miniatureMoonsculptures to the moon today. The works are traveling on a rocket made bySpaceX, the company owned byElon Musk, aboard a lunar lander developed by the private US firm,Intuitive Machines. TheJeff Koons: Moon Phases Projectwas first announced in 2022 and experienced some delays. The sculptures represent phases of the Moon and are linked to notable individuals throughout human history, such as Mozart, Galileo, and Cleopatra. If successful, the pieces will be the “first authorized artworks placed on the Moon,” said a project statement. Who did the authorizing was not immediately clear. [The Art Newspaper]

Also today, stolen and recovered glass gems go on public view for the first time at theBritish Museum. They were among the roughly 2000 objects recently found to be missing, stolen or damaged from the museum’s collection, in ascandal that led to a shake-up of museum staff and leadership. [BBC]

A stolen bronze bust of the scientistNikola Tesla,by sculptorMatthew Rebrovic, has surfaced in an auction byLiveAuctioneers.com, with the listed seller:Permiere Auction Galleryin Chesterland. The sculpture was discovered missing from Cleveland’sSerbian Cultural Gardenin 2014. [The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com]

The Italian media is blasting as “embarrassing” the reconstruction of an over 75-foot-tall portion of the ancientBasilica Ulpiain Rome, because it was funded by a sanctioned Russian oligarch. The basilica was once the largest in Ancient Rome, but it collapsed in the Middle Ages. In 2015 the RussianAlisher Usmanov, considered close to Putin, donated 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million) to the construction project. [The Art Newspaper]

Nina Moleva, known as ‘Putin’s art critic,’ has died and left her art collection including works by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Rembrandt, to the Russian president, according toNexta. However, some researchers, and thePushkin Museum of Fine Arts, have questioned whether the collection includes copies. [ArtReview and Nexta]

THE KICKER

SAUDI PRINCE AND DEPP BROMANCE.Vanity Fair’s Bradley Hope reports on the “stranger-than-fiction” new friendship, make that “bromance,” blossoming between a seemingly unlikely pair:Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanandJohnny Depp. But their reportedly easy entente can be partly explained. For one, the Saudi prince known asMBSis trying to refashion his authoritarian kingdom, which still allows executions by public beheading, into a globalcultural hub. For that, he needs the clout of influential stars like Depp, who is reportedly in talks with the Saudi government about an “annual seven-figure deal for him to attend events and shoot films in the country.” In the meantime, Depp has been spending time in MBS’s royal camp in the mountains, and flown by helicopter to MBS’s massive yacht. “The trips to Saudi are actually healthy for [Depp],” a friend told the magazine. We can only imagine.

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