A Secret under the Mona Lisa & What Basel Brought to Miami

The 5 art world updates you should know this week.

1. Art Basel, the Miami Edition

This year’s Art Basel may have been Miami’s biggest so far, with new satellite fairs running in conjunction with the fair, where booths sold out within hours of the VIP opening.

Perhaps the most photographed (or at least most Instagram-ed) work at Basel this year: Karl Holmqvist’s piece with Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (WSB Radio)

Basel saw stronger sales than past years, both in the VIP preview and into the regular fair as well. Representing what seemed to be widely held sentiments at the fair, Los Angeles dealer Michael Kohn told artnet News: “The fair is as busy if not busier than it’s ever been. There are more people, more admirers, a bigger market.” However, as Miami’s Basel becomes more and more a fair in its own right, it also draws criticism and fear of what the consequences may be. For example, Kenny Schachter thinks the fair may be the “End of Art History.”

2. A Secret Painting Hidden Within the “Mona Lisa”

The most famous paintings in the world may be hiding a secret. At least that is what French scientist Pascal Cotte has concluded after studying the painting with light technology for more than a decade.

The portrait hidden beneath the famous painting (left) and the Mona Lisa herself (BBC)

Cotte has found traces of a second portrait below Lisa’s surface. Interestingly, the female sitter for the second portrait differs from the Mona Lisa in two significant ways: she seems to be looking off, rather than directly engaging with viewers, and does not mimic the “Mona Lisa Smile.” Cotte made his groundbreaking discover using Layer Amplification Method (LAM) technology, which projects a intense light onto an artwork while a camera measures the reflection. He used the same technology last year to discover that da Vinci’s Lady with an Ermine was painting in three stages, rather than the single stage that experts had previously assumed.

3. Singapore Opens New National Gallery

Former Supreme Court and City Hall buildings in Singapore have officially reopened as the country’s National Gallery. The $380 million museum gives a voice to the artistic and historical heritage of Southern Asia, combing loaned art from Asian artists with local art, itself a mix of Asian and colonial influences.

The exterior (left) and interior of the new Gallery (Today Online, Young Singapore)

“This is the first major attempt by an institution to put together a collection of modern and contemporary art from Southeast Asia. It hasn’t been done before at this scale or with this depth,” Claire Hsu, executive director of the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong, told the New York Times. She also speculated that the Gallery is an attempt by Singapore to rebrand itself as more of a cultural and artistic destination, rather than one only of business and commerce. Regardless of the motives, the influence has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response, with the number of visits more than 40% above what the museum initially expected.

4. Ukrainian Militia Demands Ransom for Missing Dutch Paintings

A decade after being stolen from a museum in the Netherlands, twenty four 17th century Dutch paintings, including works by Jan Linsen and Jan van Goyen, have surfaced in Ukraine. However, their militia owners are not eager to give them up.

Jan Claesz Rietschoof’s “View of Oostereiland,” one of the stolen paintings (The Independent)

Five months ago, two representatives of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists militia asked asked to Dutch embassy in Kiev for €50 million (roughly $55 million) in ransom, in return for the works. The nationalist militia claims to have found the pieces fighting in Eastern Ukraine. After enlisting the help of art experts, the Ukrainian government concluded that while the works were worth €10 million when they were taken and are now, due to damages to the paintings, worth roughly €500,000. When the militia members refused to lower their asking price, Dutch officials abandoned the negotiations and are now going public with the story in an attempt to prevent he works’ sale on the black market.

5. Agreement Reached in Dahn Vo lawsuit

An agreement has finally been reached in the two-year lawsuit between artist Dahn Vo, his former dealer Isabella Bortolozzi and Dutch art collector Bert Kreuk. Keruk initially sued Vo over artworks that he had allegedly promised to create but had never completed.

Dahn Vo in front of some of his larger scale, installation pieces (ArtInfo)

Kreuk, who had already purchased three of Voh’s works, alleges that Vo agreed to create another for one of Kreuk’s exhibitions. Vo denies that this agreement ever took place. Now, after a final, six-hour negotiation, all parties agreed to have the claims regarding Kreuk’s breach of contract allegations dropped. Following the agreement, Vo released a statement reading: “Kreuk has withdrawn all of his alleged claims, and the appeal proceedings have been cancelled. Kreuk has not received any compensation or art work in connection with this agreement…”


This post was written with the help of Alice Mahoney, from www.artlist.co

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