The rest of the past month at a glance, March 2016


Christie’s off $11.5m hook for storage damage 21 January

Christie’s fine art storage arm does not have to pay more than $11.5m sought by two insurance companies for art damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a New York court has ruled. The ruling dismisses lawsuits brought by Axa Art Insurance and StarNet Insurance, which had  hoped to recover some of the money lost when Christie’s Brooklyn storage facilities flooded.

King Tut beard fiasco puts restorers in court 25 January

Eight restorers at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo have been charged with negligence after they improperly reglued the beard back onto Tutankhamun’s burial mask, leaving a clear gap between the chin and the beard. The museum employees “dealt recklessly with a piece of an artefact that is 3,300 years old”, the prosecutors said in a statement published by Egyptian media. The employees have been sent for trial.

Louvre and Iran strike cultural exchange deal 28  January

The Louvre signed an historical agreement with Iran on Thursday, 28 January, that clears the way for renewed cultural co-operation with France, including exchanges of exhibitions, publications, and training, as well as archaeological digs. The two countries will also work together to combat looting and trafficking. The first project will be an exhibition on the Qajar Dynasty (1789-1925), due to open in the spring of 2018 at the Louvre  Lens, in northern France.

Antiquities cache linked to disgraced dealer 1 February

A trove of 45 crates containing Roman and Etruscan antiquities has been discovered by police in the Geneva Freeport. The antiquities are linked to the disgraced British art dealer Robin Symes, who allegedly stored his antiquities in 29 warehouses around the world during a bitter court battle with the family of his late partner, Christo Michaelides. Symes has never been charged with trafficking and has denied ever knowingly selling looted goods.

Airline sued for damage to work by Lucio Fontana 11 February

A sculpture by the Italian artist Lucio Fontana that was damaged en route from Paris to the Armory Show in New York last year is at the centre of a lawsuit against American Airlines and seven art handling companies. The claim was filed in a New York court by Lloyd’s of London, which insured the work for the Marc Selwyn Fine Art gallery in Beverly Hills. Lloyd’s is looking to recover $116,000 plus legal fees.

Pellerin out, Azoulay in as French culture minister 12 February

As part of a major government reshuffle, Audrey Azoulay, the cultural adviser to French president François Hollande, has replaced Fleur Pellerin as minister of culture. Unlike Pellerin, whose background is in economics, Azoulay’s entire professional career has been in the cultural sector. She is the daughter of an adviser to the king of Morocco and studied at the Paris Institut d’Etudes Politiques and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, where she and Pellerin were classmates.

Financier splurges $500m on Kooning and Pollock 18 February

The billionaire hedge-funder Ken Griffin has reportedly bought two Abstract Expressionist paintings for around $500m from the foundation of business magnate David Geffen. Willem de Kooning’s Interchange (1955) is said to have cost around $300m, and Jackson Pollock’s Number 17A (1948) around $200m, in a deal that sets record prices for both artists, and is believed to be one of the most expensive private art deals ever. Both paintings were shown last year at the Art Institute of Chicago, where Griffin is a trustee.