Unveiling of Record-Breaking USD$450M ‘Salvator Mundi’ Postponed Indefinitely
In further news: British cultural figures demand justice for Shahidul Alam; Beijing’s Ullens Centre plans second museum
The Louvre Abu Dhabi has indefinitely postponed the unveiling of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (c.1500) for undisclosed reasons. The painting sold at Christie’s in New York last year for a record-breaking USD$450 million after a fierce bidding war, making it the world’s most expensive painting. Salvator Mundi was due to go on view on 18 September at the new museum on Saadiyat Island, but its public reveal has been put on hold. The news was announced on Twitter by Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, although they have yet to provide a follow-up explanation for the decision. The Gulf-based newspaper The National reported speculation that the museum could be waiting for its one-year anniversary celebrations on 11 November to showcase the work. The painting, which portrays Jesus Christ holding a crystal orb in the palm of his hand, has been the subject of intense scrutiny and debate regarding its attribution. Leading Leonardo expert and Oxford scholar Matthew Landrus recently claimed that the painting is the work of Leonardo’s talented studio assistant Bernardino Luini. Christie’s has rejected the claim.
British artists and curators have joined calls for the release of the prize-winning Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam who is currently jailed in Dhaka. Steve McQueen, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley have joined international supporters in calling for justice and transparency in Alam’s case. The celebrated photojournalist was arrested last month for damaging ‘the image of the nation’. Alam had been vocal in his support for recent student protests in the city around road safety. Now an open letter written by his niece, architect Sofia Karim, has gathered 47 leading art world names including Tate’s Frances Morris and London’s National Portrait Gallery’s Nicholas Cullinan. Speaking of the support, Karim said: ‘I always felt that artists would sign the letter, but it’s been very heartening that leaders of our largest cultural institutions have also publicly supported my uncle so warmly’. Don’t miss Skye Arundhati Thomas on why the jailing of the Bangladeshi photographer is a travesty for free speech.
Owners of the non-profit Barbur gallery in Jerusalem say they have been evicted for politically-motivated reasons. The gallery, which has been in operation for the past 13 years, had fought against eviction from the city-owned venue but judge Amir Dahan of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in favour of the municipality. Dahan acknowledged that the municipality was acting out of political motives, but that the municipality also had the right to reclaim the building. The eviction order was originally served in February 2017, a day after Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev pressured Mayor Nir Barkat to stop left-wing organization Breaking the Silence from holding a lecture there. Breaking the Silence collect statements from former Israeli Defense Forces soldiers about human rights crimes they have witnessed in the Occupied Territories. The city also attempted to prevent the gallery from hosting a discussion organized by the Israeli-Palestinian Bereaved Families Forum and the Combatants for Peace movement. According to the gallery, attempts to shut down the space have been long-standing, through the delay and obstruction of funding to create a ‘budget crisis’.
Manifesta is collaborating with architect Winy Maas of MVRDV for the 13th edition to be held in Marseilles. The roving European Biennial will be joining forces with Winy Maas, cofounder of Dutch international urban and architecture office MVRDV, on an interdisciplinary urban study of Marseille, which will inform the exhibition’s curatorial framework. In a press release, Maas said: ‘The urban study will support all artists, makers and designers involved, to show, inspire and enlarge its role and specificity within the archipelago of European cities. Thus, enlarging Europe’s cohabitation and strength.’ The aim of the collaboration is to gain a better understanding of how to implement the biennial in a more inclusive way for the city. Manifesta 13 Marseille will run from 7 June to 1 November 2020.
Beijing’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art is to open a second ‘Guggenheimian’ seaside museum this autumn, located in Hebei Province’s Beidaihe District. Designed by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing of Open Architecture, and located by the Bohai Sea shoreline, UCCA Dune will hold ten galleries, with portions of the building buried beneath the sand. UCCA Dune is a partnership between the museum and the developers of the Aranya Gold Coast Community project. It will put on two or more shows per year with a programme that will supplement the main museum. UCCA Dune will open with a ‘multigenerational show of nine Chinese artists’, titled ‘After Nature’, including work by Zhuang Hui, Li Shan and Liang Shaoji. A second building which will be completed next year, will be partly submerged in water, accessibly only at low tide. UCCA director Philip Tinari told the Art Newspaper that the new museum was ‘Guggenheimian in its specificity’.
And finally, in appointments news: ICA Los Angeles welcomes three new board members – artist and professor Andrea Fraser, co-head of the motion picture talent department at Creative Artists Agency Joel Lubin, and artist and museum educator Berry Stein; and Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, a writer and academic specializing in Palestinian art and modern Arab intellectual history, has been appointed as the new director of the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit.