The Hermitage Museum commits to Syria

Via its director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Hermitage Museum has announced its support for the restoration of Palmyra. Controlled by the Islamic State for almost 10 months, the ancient city has been partially destroyed. Liberated in March, the city is set to be the site of a huge reconstruction project backed by the Hermitage Museum. The curator of Syrian antiquities, Maamoun Abdelkarim, has expressed relative relief regarding the extent of damage in Palmyra. Indeed, the agora, the Roman theatre and a few other ruins remain intact even if the Temple of Baalshamin, built 2000 years ago, and the Arch of Triumph have been destroyed. Maamoun Abdelkarim however is calling on the help of the international community, especially experts and archaeologists, to commit to the reconstruction of Palmyra that is part of world heritage. The Hermitage will be in charge of reconstructing the whole site, and its director announces that work has started on collecting archives to allow the city to be recreated “from every...

Tags: , , , ,

V&A’s New Europe 1600-1815 Galleries Completed

On 9 December 2015, the V&A is opening its new suite of galleries dedicated to the arts of living in Europe between 1600 and 1815. This is a major part of the V&A’s ongoing redevelopment programme known as FuturePlan. With Lesley Miller as lead curator, preparation of the reopening has included a full reinterpretation of the collection and many important objects have undergone restoration: several large tapestries have been cleaned in Belgium, including the Gobelins tapestry after the Poussin painting The infant Moses tramples on Pharoah’s crown manufactured in Paris in the 1680s. Most of the items on display were made for patrons of the highest orders of society – princes, duchesses, courtesans, kings and queens. A highlight is a specially commissioned contemporary installation by Cuban collective Los Carpineros, who built a curved architectural sculpture, which forms a ‘room within a room’, seating for around 30 people and room for events, discussions and salons. The £12.5M project completes the restoration of the entire front wing of the museum, which includes seven galleries, for the installation of more than 1,000 treasures from the V&A’s collection of 17th and 18th century European art and design as well as new acquisitions. ZMMA are the architects and exhibition designers for the new galleries. Sir Peter Luff, Chair of Heritage Lottery Fund, who are supporting the project, said “the seven galleries are of international importance meriting dramatic refresh and a complementary programme of activities to attract and inspire a new generation of museum visitors.” FuturePlan aims to create contemporary new settings for the V&A’s collections while restoring much of the building’s original...

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Warzone or Political Pawn: The Fading Heritage of the Middle East

The Middle East is seeping with cultural treasures and prized artefacts, with the archeological site of Troy in Turkey, the ancient city of Damascus in Syria, and the Frankincense Trail in Oman, along with many other religious monuments and relics, all featuring on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. However, as Islamic State continues to advance through Syria and maintains strongholds in Iraq, it is not only human lives that are being lost in the conflict, as many great cultural landmarks have been vandalized, bombarded, and some utterly effaced,  leaving only piles of dust and rubble in their wake. Ancient cities have become war-riddled wastelands, with monuments such as the 2000 year-old Arch of Triumph in Palmyra being decimated by the Islamic State militants controlling the city in October 2015. Rather than cultural conquest or appropriation, the radical Islamist faction pursues total annihilation of culture it deems “idolatrous”, that is anything representing a worldview other than their extremist Islamist beliefs. However, as the conflict rages on and more and more of this rich cultural tapestry is being unraveled, we see sites of cultural heritage not only being used as a devastating weapon but also as a potential political playground for global superpowers, who are keen to hold on to valuable assets in the Middle East. Yet, the cultural heritage of these countries does not remain a national issue, with many international efforts being made to counteract these atrocities and prevent these cultural treasures from being irretrievably lost in the melting pot of the conflict. World Heritage under threat Syria and Iraq are located in a region often referred to as the “cradle of our civilisation”, an area of Mesopotamia where the first alphabet, agricultural practices and cities were born. The rich cultural heritage of this region has thus been of global significance, with...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

$1.5 million painting Taiwanese boy punched may be counterfeit

Last weeks buzz about the young 12-year-old Taiwanese boy who tripped and punched through a $1.5 million painting at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park has brought about questions regarding who created the painting. While originally thought to be a creation by Paolo Porpora (1617-1673), experts are saying the creator may in fact be Mario Nuzzi (1603-1673), with artnet’s Price Database attributing Composizione con vaso di fiori, the punched painting, to Nuzzi. A buyer was not found for this work in 2012 at an auction at Casa d’Aste Della Rocca in Turin, Italy, with its estimated price of €25,000-€30,000, which raised suspicions of its $1.5 million value. Those who put together the exhibition in which the painting was featured believe the work is by Porpora. But curator Sean Hu of Taipei-based Hu’s Art Company questions the authenticity of the piece. “From a professional’s perspective, if the paintings are so old and expensive, they should not have been exposed to an environment without constant temperature and humidity,” said Hu. Since the damage to the piece was accidental and the painting was insured, the boy and his family are not liable. The damaged canvas is being restored by Leo...

Tags: , , , , ,

Botched restoration destroyed Giotto fescoes

Restoration work in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, in Assisi, Italy, have led 14th-century frescoes by a number of late medieval painters from the Tuscan and Roman schools including Giotto, Simone Martini, and Pietro Lorenzetti, to be seriously damaged, La Repubblica reports. Experts including Bruno Zanardi, a restorer and lecturer at the University of Urbino, Italy, claim that the over-ambitious restoration work has left the murals, including a fresco by Giotto, depicting the Madonna fainting at the cross, heavily compromised: “I saw the site in 2011, and got the impression it was a good job, executed by someone I thought was a capable and expert restorer. But when I went back to the basilica a couple of months ago with my students, I had a very different impression.” However, Sergio Fusetti, lead restorer at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, who has overseen the restoration work since 1997, denies such claims. “The problem doesn’t exist. We carry out regular checks and maintenance, taking off the hard dust that’s been deposited on the frescoes. We have never done anything without the authorization from the superintendency, which is the culture ministry in the territory,” he told The...

Tags: , , , , , ,