Western Museums Are Finally Reconsidering Their African Collections. We Gathered 3 Experts to Explain Why—and What Needs to Happen Next

After many decades of inaction, many museums in the West have been forced to recognize that tucked into their storage facilities are a stunning array of wonders that were forcibly taken from the Benin Royal Palace in 1897 by the British on a so-called punitive expedition.

And now, finally, changes seem to be underway.

After the publication of a groundbreaking report in France by Felwine Sarr and Benedicte Savoy advising President Emmanuel Macron to return the Benin Bronzes in national collections, a portal opened, catalyzing other European nations to do the same. Suddenly, after so much silence, restitution finally seems like a real possibility.

Germany, which has some of the largest collections of the Benin bronzes after the U.K., announced last month it would begin returns in 2022. It is likely that many of the work will end up in the David Adjaye-designed Edo Museum of West African Art after it opens in 2025.

To better understand this critical turning point, Midnight Publishing Group News brought together three key figures for a conversation about the restitution of the Benin bronzes: Victor Ehikhamenor, a Lagos-based artist and trustee of the Legacy Restoration Trust, an organization working on the Benin bronzes’ return; Pitt Rivers Museum curator Dan Hicks, author of The Brutish Museums; and Marla Berns, director of the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles.

Here’s what they told us.

From left, Dan HIcks, MB, and TK.

From left, Dan Hicks, Marla Berns, and Victor Ehikhamenor.

Victor, you came to know about this art as a young person. What does the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) mean, and how can it show these objects in a way that other museums cannot?

Victor Ehikhamenor: The EMOWAA museum is many things. I realized through recent conversations that some only look at its being built because we expect the Benin Bronzes to be returned. We are forgetting that after 1897, creativity did not stop. Benin has always been a kingdom that innovates and builds. The Western narrative is that there is no history if it has not been told by a Western historian. But there are questions for the whole of sub-Saharan [Africa] too: how did our artworks reference each other? How did we feed off each other creatively?

We are building this museum for many reasons. Its absence has become an excuse for some people who don’t want to return the stolen items. “Where are you going to put them?” they ask. These people forget that they were not stolen from a museum. These objects were taken from a particular place where they were meant to be.

The punitive expedition and the reality of colonialism has largely been omitted from education in the Global North. How is this history addressed in your educational systems?

VE: It is not something that is present. We knew that the kingdom was attacked, burned down, and rebuilt. We knew that we didn’t have an oba [hereditary ruler] for 14 years while the British were trying to skew things. Those are all oral narratives. As a young student, we studied the empires: the Ghana empire, the Yoyo empire. The education we were fed was also a colonial education. Certain facts were omitted. We can even go back to the language of a “punitive exhibition.” What is a “punitive expedition”? I know that Dan [Hicks] has also questioned that. Language and education were part of the tools of colonialism.

Dan Hicks: What I learned in writing [The Brutish Museums], which was a shock, in some ways, was how many of these “punitive expeditions” were undertaken. At the time, the so-called Little Wars that the Victorians wrote about were immense military interventions. Yet they describe them as individual events. They did not underline how connected these events were after the Berlin Conference of 1884 [in which European powers partitioned Africa], which is a sort of ground zero for this history. In what is now Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Sudan, there was the removal of chiefs, kings, or obas who outlived their usefulness and who were getting in the way of an increasingly aggressive and capitalist corporate colonialism. This was happening in a so-called “protectorate.” The language of the protectorate is the language of the mafia. “We’re going to protect you—or else.” So the language of the “punitive expedition” defines these attacks as a punishment. Whether in the case of the Benin attack, or in the case of a whole host of other attacks, the notion is about reprisal, and that there is some earlier act that justified this ultraviolence. 

This happens for restitution conversations now as well. The idea is that those who want restitution are attacking museums. We have to understand how the logic of late Victorian colonialism continues into the present.

Photograph of an ancestral shrine at the Royal Palace, Benin City taken during the visit of Cyril Punch in 1891. Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. EEPA.1993-014.

Photograph of an ancestral shrine at the Royal Palace, Benin City taken during the visit of Cyril Punch in 1891. Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution. EEPA.1993-014.

Marla, can you speak about what you have been doing at your institution?

Marla Berns: Just two years after the Fowler Museum was established in 1963, through a kind of serendipitous meeting, the chancellor of UCLA and a member of the Wellcome Trust had a conversation about how much money it cost to store this phenomenal collection that Sir Henry Wellcome had amassed around the turn of the 20th-century. There were dispersals of this vast collection—especially the ethnographic component of it—after World War II, and a lot of work went to the British Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

In 1965, we received 30,000 objects from that collection in one fell swoop, sent by ship to this fledgling museum. Among those objects are about 7,000 from Africa, including a number of pieces that are from Benin. We knew about those objects since they arrived on our doorstep. Since those early moments in the 1960s, the museum has never focused on provenance research on this collection. This is a major shift in the curatorial work of museums in recent years. We have an objective of knowing what we have, where the objects came from, and how they came to us. We are the secondhand or even fourth-hand owners of these objects. 

Provenance research is important for us to know what we have, but also to tell the histories of colonial collecting. We were able to do this because of funding that we received from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, specifically for collections research—which is really significant, because museums don’t typically have the resources to hire archival researchers or conservation specialists. It’s very resource intensive. Because of that, we’re now able to learn more about the pieces we have. We have at least 20 objects that we think were plundered from the palace, and we have confirmed that six of them actually came directly from that event via a colonial officer or someone else who took it out of Nigeria. This has become really an important part of what we’re doing.

Interior of the Royal Palace during looting, showing Captain Charles Herbert Philip Carter (1864–1943), ‘E.P. Hill’ and an unnamed man, February 1897. Pitt Rivers Museum (accession number 1998.208.15.11).

Interior of the Royal Palace during looting, showing Captain Charles Herbert Philip Carter (1864–1943), ‘E.P. Hill’ and an unnamed man, February 1897. Pitt Rivers Museum (accession number 1998.208.15.11).

Germany has made some leaps and bounds in regards to funding. They are now giving grants for provenance research to institutions. I’m curious what you think about the pace of Germany versus other nations?

MB: I just think we haven’t gathered over these issues in the way that Europe has. The Benin Dialogue Group has been meeting for about 10 years and has been discussing these matters, Germany included. We’re coming into this a little bit later, but we are beginning to form a consortium and we’re trying to work together because reaching out to communities is paramount. Talking to people like Victor and understanding what our responsibilities are and being collaborative is at the foundation of the work we’re doing.

The U.S. should take guidance from NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which has governed how American reckon with our colonialism and our history of domination of Native American peoples. There are two main lessons from that. One is inventories, knowing what you have. And the second is communication, collaboration, and respect.

DH: The work we just heard about so eloquently from Marla is at the heart of what restitution means. It starts with an acknowledgement of how much was taken and destroyed. Much of that was knowledge. What some call the decolonization of museums, I prefer to frame as the unfinished work of anti-colonialism and anti-racism. I think that’s fundamentally what we learned in the U.K. This means looking not only at the looting by 200 soldiers, sailors, and administrators who simply took what they wanted for their own gain, but looking at the art market and museums’ acquisition programs, which both worked for purposes of cultural supremacy.

A lot of the German debate is framed around the notion of being transparent. But transparency is one aspect only. Accountability is something else. When we heard the verdict after the trial related to the racist murder of George Floyd, there was an interesting moment where [U.S.] Attorney General Keith Ellison said he wouldn’t call it “justice, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability.” He said that accountability is a step towards justice. That is what this work is about in our museums.

Victor, there are all these different stakeholders in a complicated network to get these objects really moving. Can you speak a bit about the Legacy Restoration Trust’s work in that regard?

VE: I was invited to become part of it in 2020. This whole restitution debate has become part of the mandate for it, but the Legacy Restoration Trust is actually many things. We know how complicated this subject can be. The board members come from different angles—some are from history, from art, from finance. We try to be a central point of conversation for all the moving parts of this issue.

DH: What’s incredibly exciting for Europeans and Americans is that we are taking ourselves out of the conversation. We’ve been taking up space about returns for so long. There are different agents in Nigeria from the nation-state, to the governor to the Royal court—these conversations within Nigeria should be happening without neo-colonial interference. It’s wrong for us in the West to expect closure.

Retired hospital consultant Mark Walker (R) hands over two bronze artefacts he returned to the Benin kingdom to the Oba (King) of Benin, Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I, during a ceremony in Benin City, Nigeria, on June 20, 2014. Photo: Kelvin Ikpea/AFP via Getty Images.

Retired hospital consultant Mark Walker (R) hands over two bronze artefacts he returned to the Benin kingdom to the Oba (King) of Benin, Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa I, during a ceremony in Benin City, Nigeria, on June 20, 2014. Photo: Kelvin Ikpea/AFP via Getty Images.

In the Sarr-Savoy restitution report, they said that if an object is stolen, it should be returned. In the case of Benin, as you said, Dan, the ransacking is well-documented. In Germany, in the case of Nazi-looted art, works have been returned when duress is proven. There are so many instances and situations where that would likely turn out to be true all across Africa. This should and will grow to become really big in scope.

MB: It’s a lifetime of work. We’ve talked about it at Fowler. We have objects that came from the Ashanti Wars in the early 1870s. We want to work directly with the Ashanti Palace in Kumasi. We need to know who to go to, but it’s complicated. There’s no other word for it, other than it’s complicated. We have objects from South Africa. To whom do we speak when we have objects that belong to villages or former kingdoms? It’s really such a difficult situation, but one in which we still profoundly want to make progress and want to do the right thing. From my point of view, it really is going to reshape the role of the curator, the importance of archival work, and the priorities of curatorial work.

Victor, I can imagine colleagues in neighboring countries are probably looking to adapt and create their own versions of the Legacy Restoration Trust.

VE: Colonization of Africa didn’t happen at once. Even though these are not new conversations, this is the first time we are having some traction. But if restitution is going to continue to work, we have to build a model. Like Marla said, it is going to be a lifetime of work. But it is starting. Martin Luther King was in the 1960s. Obama was in the 2000s. But you cannot, we could probably say, have had Obama without having King before. So the models that are being created right now are kind of like the pillars for futures. If other people see what is being done with the Benin Bronzes, and if we are successful, then there will be precedents to reference.

That could also be frightening to a lot of museums. “Where does it stop?” one might say. We have to do a balancing act. We’re doing it correctly when we’re addressing the provenance. We’re not asking for people to just give everything, as if a museum is being raided. This is not a revised punitive expedition. The objects you can trace must be addressed in a way that is beneficial to both parties. 

A plaque which decorated the palace of the Obas, Benin warriors are depicted in battle. Nigeria. Edo. Probably late 17th century. Benin City. (Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

A plaque which decorated the palace of the Obas, Benin warriors are depicted in battle. Nigeria. Edo. Probably late 17th century. Benin City. (Photo by Werner Forman/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Speaking about different strategies, I wanted to bring up the activist Mwazulu Diyabanza, who has been actively removing objects from European museums. I wonder what your reaction is to his actions?

VE: There is no one cookie-cutter approach. If you look at colonialism, Belgium was different in their approach; Germany was different in their approach; France was different in their approach. People asking for restitution are going to have different approaches to it, too. At the same time, we have to bring humanity and civility to that conversation. How do we go about it lawfully, even though a lot done during colonialism was unlawful? You do not stamp out fire with fire.

DH: The Rhodes Must Fall protest was happening outside the [Pitt Rivers] museum. When your audience comes to your front door and protests your institution, you have to try and understand. I think Diyabanza’s interventions were designed to expose the question about legitimacy. The French culture minister said the objects in French museums are inalienable. Well, they were also inalienable to the oba of Benin. So whose system of justice is right? Who is the thief? Who is the criminal?

I don’t know the details of these interventions or whether laws were broken, but what I know is that, as a performance art intervention, it seems to me  that it is a rightful challenge to the legitimacy of the museum, especially when it presents itself as under attack.

What about private collections? The number of works in private collections is totally unknown.

MB: Museums can educate their audiences and work with collectors so that they understand the issues in a dispassionate way. Ownership is not static. They need to think about how they personally are obligated to contend with problematic histories of these objects they own. It’s up to museums to educate not by sitting them down and saying, over drinks, “You really need to think about your collection,” but by doing exhibitions, public programming, and really trying to frame these arguments to the fullest degree that we can. There are collectors who are doing the right thing. But some are caught up in the investments they made to buy these objects. That’s part of what’s going on in their minds. I think they have to be led to go beyond that, and to think about what’s right.

VE: Auction houses have a lot of work to do, too. They need to turn some of these objects down. They keep coming up for sale and auction houses keep selling them. Dealers have work to do too, because they deal in these objects. I would even exonerate the museums from this specific conversation, because it is really the dealers and the auction houses who know where objects might be, and who have the responsibility.

DH: There was an interesting piece in the Financial Times last weekend, which I appeared in, that talked about the changing questions over the value of the looted Benin art. There are questions of the saleability of these items. In many cases, maybe half the cases, we are looking at objects where people made an investment, but maybe half of what’s out there has been inherited. These are the descendants of those who took it. In those cases, we are seeing returns. We’re seeing exactly what we see in museums: not a legal process but rather a coalition of the willing. That phrase is from a different and rather horrendous context of the Iraq War… But maybe we can reuse and reclaim it to describe how many are acting today.

MB: In the case of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in 2007, the museum decided to deaccession a Benin bronze head at auction for almost $5 million to use that money to buy other art. It raises really thorny issues about the fact that that institution gained that resource from that one piece that was stolen. They didn’t even own it in the first place. Auction houses are now becoming very reluctant to get into the middle of what is, in fact, an illegal transaction.

Carved elephant tusks looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 are displayed in the "Where Is Africa" exhibition at the Linden Museum on May 05, 2021 in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images.

Carved elephant tusks looted by British soldiers from the Kingdom of Benin in 1897 are displayed in the “Where Is Africa” exhibition at the Linden Museum on May 05, 2021 in Stuttgart, Germany. Photo: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images.

Hopefully it doesn’t drive it underground, though, because there’s a growth of these private sales at auction houses.  

MB: But when you find out, there’s the shaming aspect. People put it right into the press and that helps, actually.

DH: I don’t think we can imagine a European or American Museum actively purchasing a looted Benin artwork now. We have passed that point. Some wonder whether, when the Aberdeen object is returned to Nigeria, the British government will attempt to intervene and force a sale within the U.K. I don’t think the British Museum or any U.K. institution is going to take that Aberdeen object at this point, though. I think we are seeing a sentiment change in a very interesting way. These are no longer being understood as just “assets.” They’re royal, sacred, stolen objects.

View of main entrance and courtyard garden © Adjaye Associates.

View of main entrance and courtyard garden of the Edo Museum of West African Art (EMOWAA) in Benin City, Nigeria. © Adjaye Associates.

What is one of your hopes for the next steps in this debate?

VE: Museums shouldn’t be afraid to return works that are problematic. If you can trace the provenance to the fact that it was looted, a lot of them should do the right thing and figure out a way to return them to their original owners. They can always acquire new artworks to continue that history.

MB: What the museum field needs are resources to do this work. I would like to advocate for philanthropy turning its attention to helping curators at institutions that are committed to knowing more about their collections. We are not just taking on the high-profile cases like the Benin Bronzes. We must address all the other material we have that we need to know more about. Institutions need multi-year grants, they need to cover staff time, travel, all the ways that we need to further the work. It’s never good to say, “We can’t do this, because we don’t have the money.” We have to find the money. We have to make the persuasive arguments. We have to  make these issues public. So bravo to those who support the work, and let’s find more foundations who can do this in the future.

DH: One of the real challenges for us is to be able to lower our standards of evidence. The men in the expedition took photographs and documented and wrote down everything. You couldn’t ask for more accuracy. In other cases, there won’t be that level of documentation, but that doesn’t mean the case for return isn’t any less compelling. That’s the challenge for us as we do the provenance research. We have to make sure that all these other historical incidents do not get brushed under the carpet. 

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Chinese Artist Ding Yi Finds Inspiration in Buddhist Philosophy and the Game of ‘Go’ — Watch Him Explain His Iridescent New Art Here

Since the mid-1980s, Chinese artist Ding Yi has crafted a distinctive visual language centered around crosses and grids. His often colorful abstractions consider the rise of Shanghai as a global metropolis and the radiance of the city’s neon lights. 

Right now, Timothy Taylor is presenting “Lightscapes,” a solo exhibition of Ding’s latest works featuring three paintings and six drawings. (The works are simultaneously presented in the Frieze Viewing Room.)

The paintings represent an important new development for Ding: In order to create them, the artist layered colors of paint and then cut intricate dot-like crevices into the wood with a fine blade. The resulting images give the impression of shifting, glistening lights in shades of vibrant vermilion, magenta, lime green, and acid yellow. 

Installation view "Ding Yi: Lightscapes" (2021). Courtesy of Timothy Taylor.

Installation view “Ding Yi: Lightscapes” (2021). Courtesy of Timothy Taylor.

In conjunction with the new exhibition, the artist sat with curator Alexandra Munroe for an interview. “There are systems of thought and perspective that can shake our idea of a monolithic culture, and Ding Yi’s work is critical to this conversation. It has an insight that is unique, a sublime space and an emotion beneath the abstraction,” Munroe notes.

The discussion between artist and curator is wide-ranging. They talk about the changing role of Chinese art in the global sphere, the thirty-five years he’s worked on “Appearances of Crosses,” and why his approach to painting is similar to the board game Go. 

Watch the interview between Ding and Munroe below.

“Ding Yi: Lightscapes” is on view at Timothy Taylor through June 12, 2021.

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Dr. Fauci Has Donated the 3-D Coronavirus Model He Used to Explain the Pandemic to the Public to the Smithsonian’s American History Museum

The coronavirus is heading to the Smithsonian—but don’t be alarmed. It’s actually a 3-D printed model of the virus that Anthony Fauci donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC.

You might have spotted the blue and orange model, featuring the virus’s distinctive protein spikes—the part that latches onto and infects cells—in Fauci’s briefings. The director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health and science advisor to President Joe Biden, has used it over the past 13 months to help explain the COVID-19 pandemic to Congress, journalists, and the public.

“I wanted to pick something that was really meaningful to me and important because I used it so often,” Fauci told the New York Times. “It’s a really phenomenally graphic way to get people to understand.”

The 80-year-old physician is the recipient of the museum’s annual Great Americans Medal, recognizing his decades-long career fighting infectious diseases, from the early years of the AIDS crisis to, most recently, leading the nation’s response to the coronavirus.

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus, is seen ahead of testimony from Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, during a US Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on the plan to research, manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine, known as Operation Warp Speed, July 2, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images.

A model of COVID-19, known as coronavirus. Photo by Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images.

“This has been a terrible year in so many respects,” Fauci said during a livestreamed ceremony. “Decades from now, people will be talking about the experience that we went through.”

The acquisition of the model, which technically depicts the virus in its infectious form, the SARS-CoV-2 virion, is an extension of the Smithsonian’s ongoing efforts to collect artifacts related to the pandemic for posterity.

In April, the history museum formed a Rapid Response Collecting Task Force to acquire objects in real time, and it has been welcoming submissions from the public through the digital platform “Stories of 2020.” But even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the institution was planning a new exhibition, “In Sickness and In Health,” about disease in the US from colonial times to the present day, and the ways it has altered the course of history.

Anthony S. Fauci holds his personal 3D-printed model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion, which he is donating to the National Museum of American History, during the “Great Americans Awards Program.” Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

Anthony S. Fauci holds his personal 3D-printed model of the SARS-CoV-2 virion, which he is donating to the National Museum of American History, during the “Great Americans Awards Program.” Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Washington, DC.

The museum hopes to augment its holdings with more objects linked to Fauci. “Dr. Fauci has helped save millions of lives and advanced the treatment and our understanding of infectious and immunologic diseases across more than five decades of public service,” museum director Anthea Hartig said in a statement. “His humanitarianism and dedication truly exemplify what it means to be a Great American.”

Currently, Fauci is part of a 1995 oral history featuring interviews about the AIDS epidemic. This year, the museum also acquired Francesca Magnani’s digital photo of a New York man wearing a T-shirt reading “Fauci,” and objects from when the doctor threw the ceremonial first pitch on the delayed opening day for the Washington Nationals baseball team in July.

Fauci previously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, from President George W. Bush in 2008, in recognition of his long career in public health.

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Art Industry News: The British Government Announces an Official Stance to ‘Retain and Explain’ Controversial Monuments + Other Stories

Art Industry News is a daily digest of the most consequential developments coming out of the art world and art market. Here’s what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 16.


UK Government Says “Retain and Explain” Problematic Monuments – The UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, plans to tell museum and heritage leaders at a meeting later this month that they “must defend… culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down.” Representatives from the National Trust, Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, the British Museum, and the Imperial War Museum will be in attendance. (The Art Newspaper)

Ukrainian Art Scholar Reportedly Imprisoned and Tortured – Art historian Olena Pekh has reportedly been imprisoned for nearly three years in a Russian-occupied region of Ukraine, where she is said to have been tortured. The 49-year-old research fellow was arrested by Russian rebels in 2018 and sentenced to 13 years for rebellion in what the Ukrainian National Committee of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) says was a fraudulent trialICOM Ukraine and Poland are both appealing to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to secure Pekh’s release. (TAN)

How Black Abstract Painting Claimed Its Place in the Canon – Arts journalist Megan O’Grady surveys the history of abstract painting by Black artists writing that though it “may not have tidily fit into [a] narrative of freedom and revolution… it was a vital component” of the Civil Rights era. Among the artists discussed in her essay are Howardena Pindell, Sam Gilliam, and Jack Whitten. (New York Times)

A Closed IKEA Could Become an Art Center – An IKEA in Coventry, UK, which closed in March 2020, could become an arts center depending on the outcome of a vote by elected officials next week. Officials in the city, which is the UK’s 2021 City of Culture, could transform the seven-storey building into a home for national and local artworks and collections that are not currently on display in its other museums. (BBC)


Controversy Brews Over Art Collector’s Planned Museum – Some 1,200 pieces of African art belonging to collector Sam Njunuri are sitting in limbo in a warehouse at the expense of taxpayers in Harris County, Texas, while apparently awaiting a museum that Njunuri has in the works. A criminal investigation is ongoing into how so many works arrived in the area, and whether Njunuri actually owns them. (Houston Chronicle)

Art Paris Moves Its 2021 Edition to September  The fair for modern and contemporary art has been pushed to September 9 to 12 in light of the coronavirus pandemic(Le Journal des Arts)


London’s National Gallery Plans a Major Revamp – A £25 to £30 million renovation project is set to be completed by early 2024 and includes an upgrade to the lobby of the Sainsbury Wing, a research centre, and improved outdoor space on Trafalgar Square. (TAN)

Tel Aviv Museum of Art Gets New Top Curator – Mira Lapidot, a veteran curator who has worked at the Israel Museum for more than 20 years and organized exhibitions of works by artists including Ai Weiwei, is moving to the Tel Aviv Museum. “I consider artists to be partners on our journey,” Lapidot told the Times of Israel. “Their work is the very reason for the museum’s existence.” (Times of Israel)


Inside the Louvre’s Flood-Safe Storage Facility – A $73 million facility in the French town of Liévin will become the home for 250,000 works of art from the Louvre’s collection at the end of a five-year project. So far, 100,000 works have been moved to the location in an attempt to safeguard them from the floodwaters of the River Seine. (NYT)

Sonia Boyce Chooses Theme for UK’s Window Art Exhibition – The organizers of a crowdsourced exhibition are asking the public to make artworks and display them in their windows. Artists Antony Gormley, Sonia Boyce, and Anish Kapoor will be among those setting different themes every two weeks for participants to work within. The first theme, animals, was chosen by Gormley; the second, portraiture, was chosen by Boyce. (Press release)

Artwork depicting animals, created by Louie is displayed in the window of a house in Acton, London to launch The Great Big Art Exhibition, the nationÕs largest ever exhibition, an initiative by Firstsite. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday January 28, 2021. The exhibition asks members of the public to draw, paint, sculpt, build or create their own artwork and display it in their front windows. Artists including Anthony Gormley, Sonia Boyce, Etel Adnan and Anish Kapoor will set a different theme each fortnight for participants to work from with the first theme animals, set by Gormley. Photo credit should read: David Parry/PA Wire

Artwork depicting animals, created by Louie is displayed in the window of a house in Acton, London to launch The Great Big Art Exhibition, the nation’s largest ever exhibition, an initiative by Firstsite. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

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Why Are People on the Internet So Upset About Kim Kardashian’s Daughter’s Art? Allow Us to Explain

Kim Kardashian West is back in the art press, but it has nothing to do with a custom George Condo Birkin bag or a controversial gallery exhibition.

This time, it’s because Kim and Kanye’s daughter, North, West appears to be a budding artist—although the internet refuses to believe it.

In a snap posted to an Instagram story, Kim shared a photo of a landscape painting with the caption, “My little artist North,” a reference to the 7-year-old Skims heiress. The painting is also signed “North :)” in the bottom right corner.

The work’s authenticity caused quite a stir on social media when it was first unveiled. So what’s really going on?

What’s the issue?

At first glance, this painting seems pretty advanced for someone of North’s age. Twitter users questioned how a 7-year-old could have executed a work that looks straight out of Bob Ross’s studio, complete with near-perfect perspective, fog on a mountaintop, and reflections in the water.

They also wondered whether the “North :)” signature had been digitally added to the photo because of a bit of graininess around that particular area of the picture. 

So did North actually paint this?

Apparently, yes. The backlash and disbelief on Twitter got so heated that both Kim and her friend Tracy Romulus jumped into the fray to clear up the rumors.

“My daughter and her best friend have been taking a serious oil painting class where their talents and creativity are being encouraged and nurtured,” Kardashian explained.

“As a proud mom, I wanted to share her work with everyone. I’m seeing op-ed pieces in the media and social media from grown adults breaking down whether or not my child actually painted this.” 

But can we really trust people who are that deep in the Kardashian camp? 

An independent confirmation came from the daughter of the art teacher who says she taught North to paint.

“I am probably one of the only people in the world who has evidence to prove that Kim is not lying,” said Camryn Frederickson in a video posted to her TikTok account. She went on to explain that her mom has been an art teacher for 30 years, and “everyone that comes through her classes goes through this exact same painting when they’re starting out.”

Frederickson even showed a picture of herself at North’s age with her own version of the painting, suggesting that many 7-year-olds with moderate artistic abilities could have done what North did. 

So is North the next Victoria de Lesseps?

Stay tuned to find out. 

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