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US Galleries Mobilize in Support of Democrats Ahead of Today’s Midterm Elections

In further news: a long-lost tapestry owned by Henry VIII re-emerges; Kerry James Marshall’s Chicago Public Library mural withdrawn from auction

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Trump Rat greets visitors to dealer Jeffrey Deitch's Protest Factory. Courtesy: Deitch Projects, New York

Ahead of today’s US midterm elections, some of the country’s leading art galleries have mobilized in support of the Democrats. Organized by left-wing grassroots organization Swing Left, yesterday several busloads of people departed from galleries in New York and Los Angeles and headed for swing districts, The Art Newspaper reports. The initiative is a part of larger scheme to use the left-leaning sentiments of the art world to encourage people to vote for the Democrats. Karma Gallery in New York’s East Village rounded up 50 volunteers of artists, art professionals and friends and headed to Staten Island to canvas for the Democratic candidate for Congress Max Rose. Other participating galleries included Canada, Blum & Poe and Night gallery.

In New York, Jeffrey Deitch gave over his Soho gallery space to Downtown for Democracy, which organized an activist-artist bonanza titled ‘Protest Factory’, including BravinLee program's giant inflatable Trump Rat balloon and the sale of a limited-edition t-shirt produced by artist Richard Prince and clothing brand Supreme featuring a composite face of all the women that have accused President Trump of sexual misconduct. ‘This is not a normal time,’ said Deitch, ‘it’s not a time for complacency. Every gallery, business, workplace where there are people who are concerned about the challenges to democracy that are happening right now should be doing something like this […] This is how democracy functions.’

Kerry James Marshall’s Chicago Public Library mural Knowledge and Wonder (1995) has been withdrawn from a Christie’s sale by mutual agreement. As confirmed by the auction house in a statement, and first reported by the Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg, the work which was due to be sold at Christies will now remain at Chicago’s Legler Library. It had been announced earlier this month that the work would be going to auction, expecting to sell for an estimated USD$10–15 million, but many, including Marshall, criticized the sale. ‘I am certain they could get more money if they sold the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza.’ The artist told ArtNews. Funds from the sale were due to go toward an expansion project at the Legler branch of the Chicago Public Library. Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Tribune ‘I reached out to him and said, ‘Look, I don’t want this. If you’re not happy, I don’t want to go forward.’ The artwork will now be remounted in its original location as soon as possible.

A long-lost Tudor tapestry has re-emerged after mysteriously vanishing from the British royal collection in the early 19thcentury. The Burning of the Heathen Books, a 20ft-long tapestry commissioned by Henry VIII for Hampton Court Palace in 1536 had not been seen in London since 1970. Last month, it travelled from Spain to the UK for conservation work at the S. Franses Gallery, a leading textile specialist, where its discovery was announced. Thomas Campbell of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art said: ‘This is the most important work of art that Henry VIII commissioned during the key years of the time of the English Reformation that has survived to this day.’ The work may now be blocked from leaving the UK and attempts made to save it for the nation.

The Jean Nouvel-designed National Museum of Qatar will open 28 March 2019. The museum, located on Qatar’s restored historic palace, will be inaugurated by the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. Archaeological and heritage objects that will go on view include the Pearl Carpet of Baroda in addition to various manuscripts, documents, photographs, jewellery and costumes. Nouvel, who also designed the Louvre Abu Dhabi, drew his inspiration from crystalline forms in the desert as a foundation for the museum design which features an array of curved discs and cantilevered angles.

An Irish-American mob boss gave stolen Rembrandts and Vermeers to the IRA, according to a Metropolitan Police detective. Former Scotland Yard detective Charles Hill has claimed that James ‘Whitey’ Bulger gave artworks worth half a billion US dollars to the Irish Republican Army. In total, 13 works including Rembrandt's Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), and Vermeer's The Concert (1664) were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. The Museum has offered a USD$10 million reward for the return of the masterpieces but the Irish-American crime boss never revealed the whereabouts of the works before his death in jail last week where he had been serving two life sentences for eleven murders. Hill previously led the recovery of Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893), stolen from the National Museum of Norway in 1994. 

In grants and awards: The Imperial War Museum has received a major donation from Russian billionaire and collector Roman Abramovich. The funds will go toward new Holocaust Galleries; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have announced a USD$20 million investment to support the Detroit art scene; Laia Abril, Susan Meiselas, Arwed Messmer, and Mark Ruwedel have been shortlisted for 2019 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize; and, David Hockney is to receive a special lifetime achievement award from Queen Sonja of Norway. 

In appointments: Liverpool Biennial director, Sally Tallant, has been named as the new director of the Queens Museum in New York; and President Trump has picked Mary Anne Carter, the former policy adviser for Rick Scott, to lead the National Endowment for the Arts. As widely reported, Carter’s arts credentials are negligible. 

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