Spain Claims Black Swan Treasure, Heiress Gives Billions for Culture, and More Must-Read Art News

Spain Claims Black Swan Treasure, Heiress Gives Billions for Culture, and More Must-Read Art News
Spanish soldiers check boxes inside a military Hercules plane at the Torrejon Military Base in Madrid carrying tons of gold and silver from the wreck of a 19th-century Spanish warship.
(AFP/Getty Images)

– Spain Collects Sunken Booty: The cash-strapped Iberian nation is getting a boost from an unexpected source: sunken treasure. Some six hundred thousand precious silver and gold coins, worth a staggering $500 million, have finally landed in Madrid after a long legal fight with the Florida-based sea-exploration firm Odyssey Marine Exploration. The so-called "Black Swan" treasure was lifted from the remains of a Spanish frigate that went down off the coast of Portugal in a 1804 battle with the Royal Navy. The disputed loot had taken on major national and even political significance: Last year, a WikiLeaks cable revealed that a U.S. ambassador used the lost treasure as a bargaining chip when trying to retrieve a Nazi-looted Pissarro canvas from a Madrid museum. [AP]

– Agribusiness Heiress Leaves Billions for American Indian ArtMargaret A. Cargill, the granddaughter of food producer titan W.W. Cargill, has donated a large portion of her $6 billion estate to establish art-instruction training programs for teachers in Wisconsin and Alaska and help fund San Diego's Mingei International Museum, which specializes in multicultural art. [Bloomberg

– Malaysia Bans Erykah Badu Over Body Art: The Muslim-majority country has banned a planned concert by the Grammy award-winner after a photograph appeared showing her with the Arabic word for Allah painted across her bare shoulders. Government officials called the body art "an insult to Islam and a very serious offense." [Sydney Morning Herald]

– Mural By Dada Artist Rediscovered: A Matisse-like mural by Romanian-Israeli Dada artist Marcel Janco that hadn't been seen in half a century was uncovered in his former studio during a routine restoration of the studio walls. Experts now believe additional murals by Janco may also be hidden underneath. [HuffPo]

– Steve McQueen Turns Out the Lights in Amsterdam: For two weeks, British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen will replace all 275 streetlamps in Vondelpark, Amsterdam's largest public park, so that they emit blue light instead of white. "The soul of the piece comes from the Blues," McQueen said. "It haunts like no other music can." [Press Release] 

– Frank Gehry Design Takes Center Stage: The world-famous architect has lifted the curtain on his latest cultural commission, a major Off Broadway theater complex near Times Square. With his performing arts venue at the World Trade Center officially off the table, the 70,000-square-foot Pershing Square Signature Center is Gehry's biggest arts project in New York. [BusinessWeek

Want Arts Funding? Get a Compost Bin: England's governmental art funding body will require the organizations it finances to measure and improve their energy use — a first in arts funding policy. "Our commitment is motivated by both ethical concern and economic imperative," said arts chief Alan Davey. [Press Release]

– Look Out Venice, Here Comes Kiev: The Ukranian capital is launching its own biennial contemporary art exhibition this spring, Arsenale 2012, which will fill the historic Mystetskyi Arsenal (a former military building) with works by more than 100 local and international artists. The exhibition, the first of its kind in Eastern Europe, will have the truly epic title "The Best of Times, The Worst of Times. Rebirth and Apocalypse in Contemporary Art." [Press Release]

– Real Money for an Imaginary Friend: A watercolor painting by "Calvin and Hobbes" creator Bill Watterson from the late-'80s — showing the mischievous young boy and his tiger sidekick reclining in the shade of a tree full of leaves in bright autumnal tones — sold at auction last week for a whopping $107,550. The piece first appeared in a 1989-90 calendar, at the height of the beloved cartoon's popularity. [WaPo]

– A London Olympic Museum Will Celebrate the Games' Legacy: London is already betting on nostalgia for this year's Olympic Games. A museum gathering memorabilia related to the event is planned of rthe site of the city's Olympic Park in 2014. The proposed museum, which will charge for entry, needs £10 million ($15.8 million) to be built and will have to function for a minumum of three years before breaking even. Funding is expected to come from donors and Olympic partners. [BBC]

– Kansas Arts Funding Plan Advances: The House has approved a plan to allow taxpayers to dedicate a portion of their annual returns as a donation for arts programs. The plan is intended to offset governor Sam Brownback's decision to eliminate funding for the arts in the state. [AP]

– British Businesses' Art Donations in Decline: Companies in Britain gave £134 million ($212 million) to the arts in 2010-11. That's £10 million (£15.8 million) less than the previous year and the lowest since 2003-4. Overall investment in the arts from private donors, trusts, and foundations, however, has increased by £29 million ($45 million). [BBC]

Her Majesty's Wish is (Not) My Command: A new exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, will display documents on the squabble between Queen Victoria and the artist Kenneth Macleay, who refused to make the Queen's desired alterations on a commissioned miniature of Prince Aflred. [Telegraph]


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