Climate Activists Target Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus,’ Loewe’s Next Craft Prize Set for Paris, Protestors Crash New York’s Jewish Museum, and More: Morning Links for February 14, 2024

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BOTCHED BOTTICELLI. Climate activists are continuing their greatest-hits museum tour and have targeted Botticelli’s fifteenth century masterpiece The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. This time, two activists from the group Last Generation stuck images of a flooded Tuscan town to the protective glass covering of Botticelli’s painting. Their curatorial choice is not lost on observers, with Botticelli’s work also depicting the subject of water, as Venus rises from the sea. Before being dragged away by police, the men told the crowd in Italian that, “the government continues to pretend that fields did not burn in January, that water will not be a problem this summer, that houses destroyed by floods are accidental events and not caused by human choices.”

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Protesters from the action group Last Generation stick a sign and photographs of floods on the glass covering Sandro Botticelli

Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Targeted by Climate Activists in Florence

Protestors Disrupt Talk at Jewish Museum, Calling Show About Hamas Attack ‘Propaganda’

ABBEY CONTEMPLATION. Officials at London’s Westminster Abbey said a looted Ethiopian tablet that represents the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments, which has been sealed inside the abbey’s altar since the late 19th century, should be returned to the Ethiopian Church. The artifact, known as a tabot and considered sacred, was snatched by British troops during the battle of Maqdala in 1868, and donated to the abbey. “The Dean [David Hoyle] and Chapter has decided in principle that it would be appropriate to return the Ethiopian tabot … We are currently considering the best way to achieve this,” an Abbey spokesperson told The Art Newspaper. They added the process “may take some time,” information that may ring redundant to Ethiopians, after over 150 years of waiting.

The Digest

Protestors crashed a talk at New York’s Jewish Museum Tuesday night, featuring Israeli artist Zoya Cherkassky and the museum director James Snyder. The artist is exhibiting drawings about the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Protestors said they were “anti-Zionist Jews,” and that Cherkassky’s exhibition was “imperial propaganda,” while the museum program was a means to “manufacture consent for genocide.” [ARTnews]

Pope Francis plans to visit the 60th Venice Biennale on April 28. It will be the 87-year-old pontiff’s first time at the biennial, and the Holy See pavilion, located in the women’s prison at Venice’s Giudecca Island, is reportedly at the top of his bucket list. [Artnet News]

The works of 30 finalists for the Loewe Foundation Craft Prize will go on display at Paris’ Palais de Tokyo on May 14. Many of the works were created from recycled materials, reflecting a recurring theme of “elevation and transformation of the everyday.” The winner of the prize will receive 50,000 euros. [WWD]

French President Emmanuel Macron has backed off controversial plans to remove the historic, green bookselling kiosks from the Seine River banks, in time for the 2024 Summer Games opening ceremony, telling authorities they best adapt. The booksellers, known as “bouquinistes,” also peddle vintage prints and Belle Epoque posters. For months they have protested the now scrapped police order to remove some 570 stalls ahead of the opening ceremony, for security reasons. [Le Monde]

French dealer Emmanuel Perrotin has ended his secondary-market collaboration with Tom-David Bastok and Dylan Lessel. In 2021 the trio opened a Paris gallery dealing in the secondary market, but following a stated mutual decision, Bastok and Lessel have purchased Perrotin’s share of that space. They also bought Perrotin’s portion of a 2022-inaugurated gallery in Dubai. [The Art Newspaper, France]

The Center for Art & Advocacy has announced the six 2024 recipients of its Right of Return Fellowships. The 2017-founded program is the first national initiative of its kind to support previously incarcerated artists who aim to improve the justice system. [Artforum]

Union workers at the Eiffel Tower have voted to go on strike starting Feb. 19, over disagreement with the city’s financial management of the monument. [Challenges]

The Kicker

SOUNDS OF TRANSFORMATION. A La Scala concert by the Orchestra of the Sea, is being performed on violins made from wood recovered from washed up smugglers’ boats carrying migrants to Italy. It doesn’t stop there: The luthiers who chiseled the violins, violas and cellos are inmates in Italy’s largest prison. The project called “Metamorphosis” is all about transformation – the wrecked migrant boats are recast into instruments, and the inmates learn a new skill and craft through a rehabilitation program. Two prisoners were able to see the orchestra’s debut concert Monday, featuring pieces by Bach and Vivaldi. The idea to use the wood from the discarded boats to make instruments originally came from inmates trained as luthiers. “We don’t know what happened to [the migrants], but we hope they survived,” said one prisoner in the program, speaking to AP.

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