Kiera Knightley to Play John Ruskin's "Disgusting" Wife, Leonardo da Vinci Show Insured at $2 Billion, and More Top Stories

Kiera Knightley to Play John Ruskin's "Disgusting" Wife, Leonardo da Vinci Show Insured at $2 Billion, and More Top Stories

– Not a Classical Beauty?: In a move to make lovers of art history scratch their heads even more at John RuskinKiera Knightly has been tapped to play Effie Gray, a beautiful woman who endured an awful marriage to the great Victorian art critic because of her husband's "disgust" with her naked body — allegedly not because he was gay, but because he found something abhorrent about her physique on their wedding night. It has been theorized that Ruskin, a lover of the smooth, glabrous grace of ancient statuary, had not expected to find pubic hair, and was horrified. Gray eventually divorced him and ran off with the artist John Everett Millais, who had no similar hangups. [Cinemablend]

 Leonardo's Billion-Dollar Insurance Value: With nine paintings on display, the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at London’s National Gallery, opening tomorrow, is the most complete display of surviving paintings by the Renaissance master ever shown. But it comes at a price. If the paintings are stolen or damaged during their time in London, British taxpayers could be required to pony up nearly £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion). The risk might be worth it, however: the exhibition is expected to be the National Gallery's most popular show ever. The museum is planning evening viewings to cope with the demand and will remain open on New Year's Day. [Artlyst]

– France Spots Stolen Painting at Art Fair: The French government has laid claim to "Carrying of the Cross," a 17th-century painting by Nicolas Tournier currently on display at Paris Tableau, an art fair devoted to Old Masters. London's Weiss Gallery purchased the painting last year for $550,000 at the Maastricht art fair, but the French government says it is the rightful owner. The painting allegedly disappeared from a French museum almost 200 year ago, and the government has now banned its export. "We are claiming this painting as the property of the state and it will not leave the country," said the French culture ministry in a statement. [BBC

 Japan Society Gallery Director RetiresJoe Earle, the VP of Japan Society and director of the Japan Society Gallery, will retire in September 2012. Earle has overseen Japan Society’s visual arts programming since 2007, and has mounted exhibitions on topics ranging from Zen ink painting to anime to contemporary bamboo sculpture. Before his stint at Japan Society, Earle headed the department of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [Press Release]

– Lost Christ in Leonardo Show: "Christ as Salvator Mundi" will be included in the National Gallery exhibition despite only recently being attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. In 1958, the painting sold at auction for £45 ($72). It is now estimated at a cool $200 million. This inclusion is a bold move for an institution renowned for its cautiousness. "It really just feels right," said curator Luke Syson of the decisive reattribution. "There’s an intensity of thought allied with painstaking craft, something entirely unique to Leonardo." [Bloomberg]

– A Closer Look at Warhol Authentication: With New York’s contemporary auctions kicking off this week and works by Andy Warhol making up 11 percent of the lots, the Art Newspaper takes a closer look at the effectiveness of the Warhol Authentication Board and how its dissolution might influence the Warhol market. Only 16 of the 49 works for sale this week have been before the board. The group’s demise “is bound to cause some type of confusion in the market in the short-term,” said Oliver Barker, deputy chairman of Sotheby’s Europe. [TAN]

– Consistency in Chinese Arts Policy After All?: Many have pointed out the inherent contradiction in the Chinese government’s desire to promote cultural development while censoring artwork that challenges the political order. But according to some analysts, there is consistency after all:  “The leaders’ approach to building a world-class culture is not all that different from the one that powered China’s economic miracle: set a long-term goal, adopt rigid specifications, pour in copious amounts of public money, monitor closely to ensure the desired result.” [NYT]

– MACBA Teams up With La Caixa: The Museum d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona and la Caixa Foundaiton have announced a series of exhibitions selected from among the 5,500 works in their combined collections. The collaboration will kick-off tomorrow with "Volume!" at MACBA, followed by "The Persistence of Geometry" at CaixaForum Madrid next month. [Press Release]

– Ice Age da Vincis?: A study of ancient DNA has found that cave painters during the Ice Age were drawing from life rather than dreams. Analysts had suspected the spotted horses in the ancient cave paintings in Lascaux and other regions in southern France were fantasy because there was no evidence of spotted horses during that era. But recent DNA evidence from prehistric horses confirms that some did, in fact, bear spotted coats. "These artists were better observers of their natural environment than many humans are today," said paleoanthropologist John Shea. [AP]

– University of Oklahoma Museum Expands: The Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma has opened a new wing  designed by architect Rand Elliott, adding 18,000 square feet to the institution.  The wing will house the Adkins Collection, one of the nation’s most important private collections of Native American art. [Press Release]

– Cleveland Museum Sends 24 Sculptures to Auction: The Cleveland Museum of Art will auction off 24 European sculptures at Christie’s on November 22. Many of the works entered the museum’s permanent collection as part of donated estates and are copies of Renaissance-era originals. Last January, the museum sold 32 European paintings at Sotheby’s, realizing roughly $1.47 million. [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

– Cindy Sherman, Woman of the Year: Glamour magazine has dubbed artist Cindy Sherman one of its 11 “Women of the Year,” an honor she shares with singer Jennifer Lopez, Arizona senator Gabrielle Giffords, and designer Tory Burch. [ITA]