Published: January 22, 2002
Trade News from around the World
The attorney for Russell Pritchard Jr., a former director of the Civil War Library and Museum in Philadelphia accused of stealing a Civil War officer’s uniform from the officer’s Tennessee descendants, questioned whether that coat was the same one displayed January 15 in federal court. Bill Bergstrom of the Associated Press writes that the attorney also questioned whether the coat had been owned by the family museum operated by the officer’s Memphis descendants. The museum has since closed. In addition to theft from a museum, Pritchard is charged with being an accessory after the fact, for allegedly helping his son, Russell Pritchard III, steal and resell the uniform. Pritchard’s son, an antiques dealer, pleaded guilty to numerous counts in December including staging a phony appraisal in 1997 on the PBS television show The Antiques Roadshow. In pleading guilty, he agreed to cooperate in the case against his father. Pritchard III is awaiting sentencing. William Day testified that the gold-trimmed, blue-gray frock coat and gray uniform trousers were among the belongings of his great-great-grandfather, Confederate Lt. Col. William Richardson Hunt. Day said he asked Pritchard, a distant cousin, to evaluate rdf_Descriptions from the house and Pritchard took the uniform to get it appraised. He said he called Pritchard about the uniform five months later and Pritchard said it had turned out to be a costume and been given away to a charity. Day said a relative found the uniform advertised on an Internet site, however, and identified as that of Lt. Col. William Richardson Hunt. Day said he contacted the operator of the site and found the rdf_Descriptions had been sold to another collector and eventually purchased by the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville for nearly $70,000.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York City, is moving to a new location while the building undergoes a three-year, $650 million expansion, reports AP’s Katherine Roth. The museum closes its headquarters in midtown Manhattan on May 21 and will reopen on June 29 as MoMA QNS in a 160,000-square-foot renovated staple factory in Queens. The new location is set to open with three major shows. “Collection Highlights” showcases MoMA’s holdings, including Pablo Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” “Tempo” looks at contemporary art from around the world, and “AUTObodies” features the newest additions to MoMA’s car collection. The Queens location hosts its first blockbuster show in February 2003, with “Matisse/Picasso,” a long-awaited survey of the two Twentieth Century greats. In July 2003 it hosts another major show: “Ansel Adams at 100.” MoMA is set to reopen its doors in Manhattan in 2005.
Since the fall of the Taliban, scores of Afghans have grabbed shovels and picks and fanned out across the city of Balkh’s historic ruins in hopes of finding an ancient treasure they can sell, writes Ravi Nessman of the Associated Press. Mostly, they uncover far less valuable coins and pieces of pottery, even though they are thousands of years old. Those lucky enough to discover something of true value usually are forced to give it up to one of several local commanders. “This represents our civilization and our history and they are stealing it,” said Abdul Aziz Azimi, an archaeology professor at Balkh University in nearby Mazar-e-Sharif. It is unclear exactly how prevalent the looting of Afghanistan’s historical sites is, but the international market for such artifacts is “enormous,” said UNESCO official Christian Manhart. The latest round of scavenging began in the chaos that followed the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992. Many local commanders used the proceeds from sale of ancient rdf_Descriptions to help fund factional battles, Manhart said. Though the looting at Balkh never fully stopped under the Taliban, far fewer people were willing to endure the militia’s harsh punishments – such as being thrown in a hole and buried up to their necks.
Acrylic sculptures made by a New York artist are being stolen on the West Coast, the most recent coming at an Orange County art gallery. There have been 14 thefts so far, stretching from Denver to San Francisco, authorities told AP. The sculptures designed by artist Michael Wilkinson have been disappearing from galleries in shopping malls and hotels. Police have not caught the thieves but they believe a video camera in Mission Viejo has captured their image. “They may be linked to a large national ring,” Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Jim Amormino said. “It’s probably a loose-knit group of thieves working together. Their methods are very similar.” Police say the artwork may be heading for Mexico.
A pilfering patron of the arts has been making opening nights at the Well Street Art Co., Fairbanks, Alaska, expensive events for gallery owner and artist David Mollett. In the past four months, three pieces of art have been stolen during Friday night art openings. The most recent and most expensive rdf_Description lifted, a Fred Machetanz lithograph print titled “The Hunt” and valued at $3,400, was filched within the first half hour of an opening reception on January 11. In December, a Rik Seeganna soapstone carving, weighing approximately 6 to 8 pounds with a $350 retail value, was stolen right off the gallery counter. “I had just bought it from Rik a couple hours earlier,” Mollett told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and the Associated Press. The thefts started in October when an oval, aqua-blue ceramic plate about 20 inches in length worth $70 disappeared from the gallery during a First Friday reception.
According to the Associated Press, long-lost still life by Morris Graves, the last of the “Northwest Mystics,” has been found on the back of a painting he made in 1936, Seattle Art Museum officials say. The discovery, reported January 16 by The Seattle Times, was made while Nicholas Dorman, who recently became the museum’s painting conservator, was cleaning the surface of Graves’ “Ancient Anthem” in preparation for shipment to Bremen, Germany, for a show set to open next month. Noticing a slight split in the cardboard backing of the dark, uncharacteristic early oil painting, Dorman looked closer and saw paint. He removed the tacks holding the cardboard in place, noting that they were identical to the tacks used to stretch the canvas and apparently had never been disturbed. Beneath the cardboard, on the reverse side of the canvas, was an untitled still life with the same type of paint, palette and technique as other early work by Graves.
Bill Hayden of The News Journal, Wilmington, Del., reports via the Associated Press that the Delaware Art Museum’s long-standing practice of sending pictures to other institutions has definite benefits. According to Katherine Lee Reid of the Association of Art Museum Directors, a museum’s willingness to lend works – or send out shows of its own – makes it easier to attract traveling shows to its home, because it develops a reputation for cooperation. Such temporary exhibits are traffic builders for art museums, said Delaware Art Museum director Steve Bruni. And, he adds, the practice builds a museum’s reputation among its patrons. The Wilmington museum’s most notable loan has been Edward Hopper’s “Summertime,” a brightly lit painting of a woman standing on an urban doorstep. Hundreds of thousands – maybe a million – visitors have seen the painting at the museum since it was acquired in 1962, Bruni says. Yet five times that number have seen it in exhibitions elsewhere. It has been in shows attended by 2.5 million at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and has traveled around the country and to London, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf and Essen. “We get three or four requests a week to borrow this or that work,” Bruni said. “We can’t grant them all. We have to keep in mind that a work belongs to this community and should be available here on a regular basis.”
Shares of eBay Inc. fell more than 6 percent January 16 despite another strong earnings report from the Internet trading leader, which said it is on track to keep up its stunning growth in 2002, writes AP’s Brian Bergstein. Over the holidays, eBay advertised itself as a major shopping destination rather than a specialty site for hard-to-find used rdf_Descriptions, and the plan apparently worked. The company said January 15 its fourth-quarter profits rose 9 percent and revenue jumped 64 percent. The San Jose-based company earned $25.9 million, or 9 cents a share, on revenue of $219.4 million in the quarter, which ended December 31. In the comparable period of 2000, eBay earned $23.9 million, or 9 cents a share, on revenue of $134 million. Even so, eBay shares fell $4.09 to close at $59.94 in trading January 16 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. “People were probably hoping for a wild blowout,” said Salomon Smith Barney analyst Lanny Baker. “It was a good quarter, but it wasn’t a wild blowout.”
By the end of the month, a 1790s-vintage portrait of George Washington will be moving from a museum at the first president’s home to the Malibu digs of Barbra Streisand, says the AP wire. The oil painting has been on display since October in the George Washington Museum near Mount Vernon. Streisand outbid the Mount Vernon Ladies Association to buy the painting for $412,750 at a Sotheby’s auction in May, but agreed at the association’s request to lend the artwork to the national historic site for four months. The painting by Charles Peale Polk depicts, with the 1777 Battle of Princeton serving as a backdrop, a more youthful commander in chief than seen in the famous Gilbert Stuart portraits. It’s unclear whether Washington sat for Polk. Streisand told the Orlando Sentinel in November that she collects Eighteenth Century artifacts and planned to hang the portrait in her home next to an Eighteenth Century chair.
AP’s Graham Heathcote reports that American artists are joining in London’s leading contemporary art fair for the first time, with three New York galleries represented at the Art 2002 exhibition. “It’s a change to come here from the little bit grim situation in New York,” Leo Koenig, one of the three gallery owners, said at the January 15 preview for the fair, which opened January 16. He lost his downtown Manhattan gallery following the September 11 attacks, but has opened one nearby. “London is a very important art market because it represents Europe,” Koenig said. “We’ve been to fairs in Cologne and Basel but never in the British art market and I wanted to see the collectors from Britain who come to see us in New York.”
President Helen Clay Chace announced the election of Juan A. Sabater to the board of trustees of The Frick Collection, New York City. Sabater assumes the seat for the remainder of the term of Dr Henry Clay Frick II, grandson of the museum’s founder, who has served on the board for more than 48 years. Dr Frick steps down for health reasons and has been named chairman emeritus.
The Board of Trustees of Exhibitions International (EI), New York City, a non-for-profit traveling exhibition service, recently announced it has chosen Robert T. Buck, former director of the Brooklyn Museum and Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., as its new director. Buck will succeed EI’s founding director, David A. Hanks.
The Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, has acquired a pair of early Nineteenth Century portraits by Baltimore artist, Joshua Johnson, painted circa 1812. They depict Charles Burnett (1768-1812) and his wife Mrs Charles Burnett (Mary Anne Jewins, 1776-1838). The paintings were purchased through a fund established to honor the 50th birthday of Stiles T. Colwill, former MHS curator and trustee and a dedicated supporter of the MHS. With Carolyn J. Weekly, Colwill co-curated an exhibition and co-authored the accompanying 1988 catalogue published by the MHS, Joshua Johnson: Freeman and Early American Portrait Painter. The paintings of the Burnetts were purchased from the estate of Frances Travers Singleton Brown, a descendant of the Burnett family.
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