Recent stories of note:

“British Museum to digitise collection as one million objects are found to be undocumented”
Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper

The world of art theft is not a strictly meritocratic one—that is, the most qualified men and women aren’t always the ones who succeed. Consider first the case of Vjeran Tomic, who is something like Hollywood’s version of a French art thief. In 2010, he acrobatically scaled the walls of the Paris Museum of Modern Art, dodged its motion sensor, and lifted six paintings worth $100 million off the walls. During another caper, he launched a crossbow bolt with a rope attached from the roof of one building to another, ziplined across the gap, snuck into a home’s window, and requisitioned for himself a Renoir. Despite his apparent skill in the realm of high-brow cat burglary, he was arrested less than a year after his escapade at the Museum of Modern Art. Now consider the case of Peter Higgs: Higgs is accused of stringing together a series of over two thousand thefts from the British Museum spanning three decades. How did he pull off such a massive con? Simply, it turns out. He secured a job at the museum in the Nineties overseeing certain ancient collections, and, every once in a while, he’d pocket an object from those collections on his way out the door. No one noticed. And who was his fence? eBay. But despite the gracelessness of his operation, Higgs got away with it for more than thirty years. His alleged pilferage was only discovered recently, but the scale of his heist was so grand that its revelation prompted a cascade of high-level resignations at the museum. But in a more pleasant development, the discovery has also prompted the museum to begin digitizing and documenting every single object in their collection—an undertaking that will certainly prove to be a boon for researchers and art lovers all over.

“Flower power—is Damien Hirst blooming again at Frieze?”
Rakewell, Apollo

Newton’s first law of motion—that an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on—is confirmed every day by the painter Damien Hirst: the last decade of his career has been defined by unyielding inertia. Nothing about his practice has changed significantly, nothing he’s made has been very good, and yet nothing has stopped him from being one of the highest-paid contemporary artists every year. In recent years, the now-not-so-young Young British Artist seems to have even stopped pretending at airs of originality—this last spring, he began a project that allowed anyone (with ten thousand British pounds to spare) to commission from him one of his “iconic” Spin Paintings. Except, he wouldn’t actually be the one to conceive or paint the piece: that would be left to AI. Given this pattern of laziness, one might be surprised to see Hirst’s offerings at Frieze London this last week: a set of large canvases depicting bright flora. Might this represent a new speed and direction for the artist? Not so, says Apollo’s Rakewell. Rakewell finds nothing novel in these paintings, nor anything that signifies a new sense of purpose on the part of the artist. The entire lot, meanwhile, has already sold.

The Art Our Nation Needs
Ryan Hanley, National Affairs

On the southeastern edge of Central Park stands Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s statue William Tecumseh Sherman (1903). Sherman, atop his horse, is depicted here in ebullient gilded bronze, his path led by the goddess Nike. This monument towers over everything in the plaza where it’s placed. Should one stop to do some people-watching in this plaza, the observer will notice that nearly everyone to pass by the statue pauses to look at it admiringly before moving on. Its location is surrounded by no shortage of other flashy structures vying for the passerby’s attention (an Apple store and a Louis Vuitton store, for example), and yet Sherman always seems to earn the heed of this city’s busy tourists and denizens. Such is the power and promise of Saint-Gaudens’s public artwork, a subject that Ryan Hanley takes on in National Affairs. Hanley has outlined here a sort of crash course on the most vital American public art, arguing that the best of it is capable of drawing out a beauty that exists in the realms of both art and politics. The statuary of Saint-Gaudens and that of the sculptor Daniel Chester French make up most of this primer; in the work of these artists Hanley finds a blueprint for a revitalization of public art, and himself provides along the way a model for the earnest appreciation of patriotic artwork.

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