Sistine Chapel Restorer Dies, Ai Weiwei Talks Hong Kong Fracas, and More: Morning Links from March 31, 2021

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The Headlines

GIANLUIGI COLALUCCI, WHO LED EFFORTS TO RESTORE the Sistine Chapel, has died at the age of 92, Agence France-Presse reports. The art restorer worked on the masterpiece from 1980 to 1994, removing built-up dust and smoke, and defended the cleaning  against charges it work would diminish the quality of the frescoes or put them at risk of damage. “Every moment of work is very carefully monitored through a series of technical procedures to assure that no coloring is lost,” Colalucci told the New York Times in 1986. The Vatican Museums said in a statement, “It is thanks to his courage and talent that today the colors of Michelangelo‘s Vault and Last Judgement appear in all their dazzling splendor.”

EVERY DAY BRINGS FRESH MANEUVERING from Hong Kong politicos and cultural leaders about the implications of the new national security law for the forthcoming M+ museum. Earlier this week, M+ confirmed that its opening shows will not include Ai Weiwei’s photo of the artist giving the finger to Tiananmen Square, which had been attacked by some pro-Beijing voices. Now, speaking of the debate generated by his work  in an interview with the AFP, Ai said, “I cannot refuse that feeling of being proud.” The artist also lamented that “Hong Kong’s more liberal, more democratic society, is disappearing.” In a South China Morning Post op-ed, the architect Dennis Lee points out that the photo was “largely unknown to the masses” before the uproar and “now enjoys full display on major printed and online media.”

The Digest

Is the NFT market a giant bubble? One exec of a company that does blockchain certification of art told reporter Scott Reyburn, “I don’t know how long these prices will be sustainable. We’re living in a moment of collective hysteria.” [The New York Times]

Damien Hirst has provided more details about his upcoming NFT drop, which will be linked to 10,000 paintings on paper. (That’s a lot of artworks!) The new Palm marketplace, which markets itself as an environmentally responsible blockchain platform, is handling sales. [ARTnews]

California landscape painter Gregory Kondos died last week, a few days short of his 98th birthday. The artist Wayne Theibaud, a friend of Kondos, once said that the late artist addressed “horizons, rivers, seas, those things that change constantly with looseness and freedom and a kind of brush dancing.” [The Sacramento Bee]

Journalist Concepción de León looked at the legacy of the pioneering Black artist and educator Augusta Savage, whose Lift Every Voice and Sing sculpture graced the 1939 World’s Fair but was subsequently destroyed. [The New York Times]

The freewheeling Canal Street Research Association has been exploring the multifarious arts and culture legacy of that stretch of Manhattan. Writer Siddhartha Mitter reported on its work. [The New York Times]

The Greenville County Museum of Art in South Carolina deaccessioned and sold an Alma Thomas painting to an anonymous buyer for $2.8 million, Nikie Mayo writes. The proceeds were put toward works by Thomas, Mary Cassatt, Beauford Delaney, and others. [Greenville News]

Architect Oana Stănescu, who has worked on projects for Kanye West, Virgil Abloh, and Akane Moriyama, spoke about her design process, and her experience as a woman in a male-dominated industry. [Complex]

A 1948 Gilbert Poillerat mirror owned by the late designer Karl Lagerfeld sold for $238,000 at Bonhams in Los Angeles. That was more than four times its high estimate. [Livingetc]

The National Gallery in London has shared a list of the most-viewed artworks on its website. Number one? The Arnolfini Portrait (1434), by Jan van Eyck. [Financial Times]

The Kicker

THIS IS A BIG NEWSLETTER DAY FOR KANYE WEST. A collector who purchased four pieces of West’s childhood artworks, after seeing them on Antique Roadshow, talked with WashingtonianVinoda Basnayake, a lobbyist and consulting-firm founder, said that he was “immediately drawn to the piece that looks sort of like a chained centaur.” At that point, though, he actually didn’t know that they were by the “Jesus Walks” rapper. “There was something about it that I felt a strong connection to,” Basnayake said. “The minute I heard it was by Kanye—one of my favorite artists of all time—I knew I had to have it.” [Washingtonian]

Thank you for reading. We’ll see you tomorrow.

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