Activist Defaces Stalin Icon, Financial Trouble for Orlando Museum of Art, and More: Morning Links for January 16, 2024

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The Headlines

A SPLASHING CONTROVERSY. An icon depicting Matrona of Moscow, a Russian Orthodox saint born without eyes and blessing Joseph Stalin has sparked tensions in Georgia, the birthplace of the Soviet dictator who killed millions. On 6 January the glass-covered icon, which was recently installed in the capital Tbilisi, gained attention after a dissident priest posted about it on Facebook. Three days later, blue paint was splattered on it. The following Wednesday, protesters including priests from the far-right Alt Info movement, known for attacking gay pride parades, surrounded the home of Nata Peradze, an activist who said she threw the paint on the icon and is waging a social media campaign for its removal. Georgian police have launched a petty hooliganism investigation into the paint splattering, The Art Newspaper reports. 

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FBI agents pack up their boxes, bubble wrap and other packing tools during the raid at the Orlando Museum of Art on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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Ex-Director of Orlando Museum of Art Countersues, Claims Scapegoating for Basquiat Forgery Scandal

BACK TO EARTH. Space shuttle Endeavour’s giant orange fuel tank, which weighs about 65,000 pounds and is 154 feet long, was lowered back to Earth early Saturday at its final resting place at the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. Crews had worked 14 hours over the last two days. Completion of the move marks the fourth of seven steps in the ultimate goal of stacking and displaying Endeavour upright in what will be the new 20-story museum, an expansion of the California Science Center. The retired space shuttle, that had been on display at center in a horizontal position from from October 2012 through New Year’s Eve 2023, will be configured in a full-stack arrangement, pointing toward the stars as if ready for launch. It flew 25 missions in space before its final flight in 2011.   

The Digest

The Darb 1718 center was destroyed, including the artworks in it, to make room for a highway expansion. The building sat in the centuries-old area of Cairo, where many of the city’s last traditional craftspeople remain. Its demolition had been announced in September, as part of an expansion project of Cairo, which is home to more than 20 million residents. For 15 years the center had drawn artists and art lovers. [Beaux Arts]

Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the oldest art school and museum in the United States, the first to have welcomed women, including Mary Cassatt and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, will close its college in 2025. The museum will remain open. Officials cited an annual deficit of $3 million and a sharp decline in enrollment as behind the cessation of the degree program. [Artforum]

The Orlando Museum of Art, which presented a major Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition of works that were later exposed as forgeries, is facing a large financial shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars seeking help from government and individuals to keep it afloat and facing public calls for leadership changes from a former volunteer, interim director, and trustees. [The New York Times]

Rockbund, a $1bn development project that includes the restoration of a dozen 1930s buildings, has become a social media sensation. It was led in Shanghai by British architect David Chipperfield who talked about the highs, lows and many risks of building for China. The architect seemed particularly uncomfortable with the branch of the Pompidou Center, aka the West Bund Museum, which he completed in 2019. “We did all the drawings to get planning permission, then nothing happened…” [The Guardian]

AD provided a roundup of homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, who is primarily known for public buildings such as the Guggenheim or the Marin County Civic Center. This may be “the greatest way to experience the architect’s genius.” According to him, good design should enrich people’s lives, and perhaps nowhere is that more important than the places where we rest our heads at night. [Architectural Digest]

The Kicker

ROYAL CAR FOR SALE. King Charles’ 17-year-old Land Rover Discovery 3 is schedule to go on sale. Specialists Classic Car Auctions (CCA) predict the luxury car will sell for a whopping £20,000 at least. Other royal cars have sold for eye-watering amounts, including Queen Elizabeth‘s 2004 Range Rover which was snapped up for £132,750 at an auction. Last year, CCA’s sister company Iconic Auctioneers sold two 4x4s for well over their market value. “This is surely one for a serious Royal family collector and with the Prince Charles now King Charles, the vehicle has a double royal provenance, adding to its future value”, said CCA auctioneer Simon Langsdale. [The Sun]

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