Art thieves have stolen tribal artifacts from eight of Nigeria's 30 museums in the last year, according to Reuters. Among the works stolen are Ife and Benin bronzes and Nok terra-cotta. Nigeria police chief Ibrahim Coomassie has charged that "103 precious artifacts ... stolen from our museums are on sale in the Netherlands and Spain." The illegal traffic in Nigerian and African art is sustained by the refusal of major European countries to ratify the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Restitution of Cultural Property, according to Helen Kerri, assistant director at the Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Lagos.
GO-GO VAN GOGH
On June 24, Sotheby's London sold Vincent van Gogh's 1888 drawing, Harvest in Provence, for a record $14.1 million. The pencil, pen and ink drawing, which was last exhibited in 1948, depicts an autumn landscape with a wagon. It was sold by the trust of the late Mrs. J.B.A. Kessler; the buyer was an anonymous telephone bidder. The previous record for a van Gogh drawing was set in 1990 when Garden of Flowers sold for $8.3 million.
The Whitney Museum has acquired works by 16 artists in its 1997 Biennial: Wendy Ewald, Antonio Martorell, Charles Long, Kerry James Marshall, Paul McCarthy, Gabriel Orozco, Jennifer Pastor, Richard Phillips, Matthew Ritchie, Ed Ruscha, John Schabel, Katy Schimert, Glen Seator, Paul Shambroom, Shazia Sikander, and Sue Williams. We like a museum that puts its money where its mouth is.
Meanwhile, Isobel Christine Iles has become Whitney curator for film and video, succeeding John Hanhardt (now at the Guggenheim). Iles was curator and head of exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, England.
SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH KEITH
By the way, the Whitney's retrospective of graffiti king Keith Haring (June 25-Sept. 21, 1997) is flushing out news of other Haring projects. Dan's Papers reports that lyricist Ira Gasman is working on a musical based on Haring's life. Gasman (whose chronicle of the oldest profession, The Life, is at the Barrymore Theater in New York) is drawing on the Haring bio by John Gruen.
BARNES SELLS OUT?
Not so long ago, the famed Barnes Foundation in Marion, Pa., refused to allow any color reproductions of works in its collection at all -- an unacceptable esthetic distortion, according to founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes. But times change. The Barnes has now licensed rights to its images to SuperStock, Inc., a leading stock photography company. No word on the financial arrangements.
POLLOCK IN HOLLYWOOD
According to the East Hampton Star, actor Ed Harris wants the lead role in a Jackson Pollock biopic, and has convinced Interview magazine honcho Peter M. Brant to back the project. Jennifer Jason Leigh and Frances McDormand are mentioned in connection with the Lee Krasner role. Screenwriter Susan Emshwiller is working on the script.
The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is getting a $1.6-million package of digital goodies, courtesy IBM. The project includes a Web site, a digital library, visitor information kiosks and an education and technology center. Completion is scheduled for fall 1998.
Tonight, Weds., June 25 at 9:00 p.m., PBS airs a one-hour special, Isamu Noguchi: Stones and Paper, as part of its American Masters series. Narrated by actress Linda Hunt, the documentary chronicles the late sculptor's life and work.
SAN JOSE CHALLENGE
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has made a $1 million challenge grant to the San Jose Museum of Art in support of the museum's five-year $10-million campaign.
SCULPTURE ON THE MALL
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., has broken ground for a new six-acre sculpture garden taking up the entire block of the Mall west of the West Building. The site incorporates the existing skating rink, reflecting pool and pavilion, which will double as a cafe. Designed by Philadelphia landscape architect Laurie Olin and funded by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the garden is scheduled to open to the public in the fall of 1998.