Billions of dollars’ worth of art goes missing every year, according to the F.B.I., but thefts of high-profile paintings are both infrequent and widely reported. While an open-market sale of works taken in such circumstances is impossible, there continues to be demand for the product, because the rightful owner — a collector, a museum, an insurer — wants the art back. That desire, however nebulous, is what is truly being traded when noteworthy artworks are exchanged on the black market. As long as there is a belief among criminals in the enduring willingness of parties from the legitimate art world to retrieve their property, a stolen painting has currency.
“I’m just not interested,” she explained of her decision to ignore the art market and paint only for herself. “I’m interested in working. It’s like cracking a code.” After a lengthy disquisition on the tricky composition of a group of nearby picnickers, the interrelationship of individual leaves and the elusive skin tones of a bare-chested man, she asked: “Who the hell can think of selling and galleries when there’s all this drama going on?”
She lives in a grand duplex apartment on one of Manhattan’s most rarefied blocks — Beekman Place. She now shares the apartment with her maids and original works by Picasso, Matisse, Goya, Ingres and others.
In that ever-lengthening narrative titled When Bad Things Happen to Good Museums, few developments are as deeply alarming and as cluelessly self-destructive as the recent suggestion that the City of Detroit, which owns the institute’s building and its collection, should sell some of the art to help cover about $18 billion of municipal debts. Were this to happen, it would be a betrayal of public trust and donors’ bequests and a violation of the museum’s nonprofit status. It also makes no economic sense. The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of the few remaining jewels in Detroit’s tattered identity, and is essential to the city’s recovery.
–In Detroit, a Case of Selling Art and Selling Out by Roberta Smith for the New York Times
But none of the items have gone back because of an unusual, if persistent, disagreement with representatives of the Apaches over whether the museum will officially designate the items as sacred relics that should never have been taken.
At first glance, the dispute would seem to hinge on semantics: the museum is prepared to refer to the objects, many more than a century old, as “cultural items,” while the Apaches insist that they be designated as “sacred” and “items of cultural patrimony,” legal classifications set out under federal law. The Apaches say this is hardly a case of being fussy. They say the items are imbued with their religion’s holy beings, that tribal elders attribute problems like alcoholism and unemployment on reservations to their unsettled spirits, and that the museum’s position is insulting to them and their deities. – Tom Mashberg for the New York Times
At the Whitney, a team of programmers and curators spent more than a year debating and tinkering with the restoration of “Collaborative Sentence.” Mr. Davis, a pioneer in technologically enhanced art who is now 80, was unable to take part in consultations on rebuilding his piece, and without a creator’s blueprint in place, almost every meeting turned into a conceptual debate.
“One of the biggest philosophical questions,” said Christiane Paul, adjunct curator of new media at the museum, “was, do we leave these links broken, as a testament to the Web” and its rapid development?