Saudi Museum Is World Facebook Champ, France Amps Up Nazi Loot Quest, and More

Saudi Museum Is World Facebook Champ, France Amps Up Nazi Loot Quest, and More
Greenbox Museum of Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia
(Greenbox via Facebook)


– The Most Popular Museum on Facebook: The comparatively tiny Amsterdam art space Greenbox Gallery, which is devoted to contemporary art from Saudi Arabia and was founded by collector Aarnout Helb in 2009, has racked up more "likes" on Facebook than the Louvre, the Met, or the Tate. "When I started, people thought, it can't be true, it's a joke, its April Fools," Helb said. "A lot of the fans are basically young Muslims that perceive Saudi as a country relevant to their culture, because of the historical and ritual position of Mecca." [CNN]


– France Amps Up Nazi Plunder Returns: Though some 75 percent of the art taken from France to Germany by the Nazis during World War II has made its way back to the rightful owners and their heirs, some 2,000 works remain unclaimed. French law requires that such works be put on public display to increase the likelihood that they'll be recognized, but now the government is getting proactive and seeking out looting victims' heirs. "Up until now, France put the maximum information at public disposal and waited for reaction," said Thierry Bajou, who is coordinating the initiative. "For people to come forward. Now we're proactively tracking down the descendants and families of those who had their art stolen." [NPR]

– Where is China's Art Capital?: With major museums slated to open in both Beijing and Hong Kong around 2017 — the National Art Museum of China (NAMoC) in the former and M+ in the latter — both cities continue to vie for the spotlight on the country's art stage. NAMoC certainly boosts Beijing's contemporary art cred, even if Chinese law prevents it from acquiring artworks at auction and all its purchases are subject to veto by the Ministry of Culture. M+, meanwhile, can operate more independently, which helped attract a major donation of 1,400 works from Swiss collector Uli Sigg. "My first impulse was to give these artworks to a museum in Beijing or Shanghai," Sigg said. But before doing so he "wanted China to reveal its standards of censorship — what could be shown and couldn’t be shown in the collection." [Herald Tribune]

– Daft Punk Hype Spawns Art Show: With anticipation for its forthcoming album, "Random Access Memories," reaching fever pitch, the French dance music duo Daft Punk has spawned an art exhibition at the Gauntlet Gallery in San Francisco. The show features renderings of the pair in their distinctive retro-futurist sci-fi costumes in paintings, sculptures, photographs, and works on paper, including a kaleidoscopic print by Sam Ho and a painting of a Daft Punk-loving kitten by Johannah O'Donnell. [My Modern Metropolis]

– MFA Boston Renovation Courts Donation: Yesterday the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston reopened its main gallery of Dutch and Flemish art following a major renovation and with a selection of 17 works from the holdings of Eijk and Rose-Marie van Otterloo, the couple who have assembled what some consider the richest collection of Dutch and Flemish art from the 17th century in the world, and who are currently debating which museum will receive the bulk of their collection. "It would transform any museum it was given to," MFA director Malcolm Rogers said. "I cannot preempt their decision or read their minds. But I think the MFA would make a marvelous setting for their collection." [Boston Globe]

– Fans Head Over Heels For ABBA Museum: Tuesday's opening of the new ABBA Museum in Stockholm was mobbed with fans of the Swedish pop group gawking at displays of their glittery costumes and using a digital studio to record themselves performing with the band. "It's so moving, I think it's fantastic that we can see the history of ABBA," said first-day visitor Henrik Ahlen, 47. "I think and I hope that [the other band members] will be glad that I worked on this because a museum is something permanent, it's going to be in guide books," said Björn Ulvaeus, the only member of ABBA directly involved in the project. [AFP]  Watch video report here.

– Portrait Gallery Purchases Tiny Elizabeth I: London's National Portrait Gallery is set to exhibit a 400-year-old, postcard-sized portrait of the Queen Elizabeth I that it acquired for some £329,000 after it surfaced at a clearance sale at a house in the southeastern U.K. last year. It is believed to be the work of Tudor court miniaturist Isaac Oliver, though NPG curator Tanya Cooper doesn't know much more about its provenance. She suspects that the very flattering image was commissioned by a courtesan to curry favor with the queen. [Guardian]

– Abraaj Group Art Prize Picks Guest Curator: The selection committee of Dubai's Abraaj Group Art Prize has selected Nada Raza — currently an assistant curator focusing on South Asia at Tate Modern — to be the guest curator of next year's exhibition, for which she will help the committee choose five finalists with whom she will collaborate to execute new projects that will debut during Art Dubai in March of 2014. [Press Release]

– Celebs Take Their Tots To Children's Museums' Benefits: On Sunday kids' museums on both coasts held their spring benefits, with New York's Children's Museum of Art attracting star attendees Naomi WattsBrooke ShieldsJulianne MooreKyle MacLachlan, and more — and their children — for an afternoon of art-making. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a celebration for the Hammer Museum’s Kids’ Art Museum Project brought out James Van Der Beek and his 13-month-old son Joshua, who listened while Jodie Foster led story time. [NYPostJust Jared]

– John Lennon's Ferrari Races to Auction: The first car that John Lennon ever owned, a 1965 Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Coupé that he purchased for £6,500 in February 1965 on the day after he passed his driver's license test, is set to be the prize lot at Bonhams's sale during July's Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. The blue roadster, which Lennon only drove for three years, racking up 20,000 miles, has been tagged with an estimate of £180,000-220,000. [Press Release]


San Francisco's Gauntlet Gallery and its first four shows — plus a promo for its upcoming Daft Punk exhibition


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