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Many of the biggest museums around Southern California will offer free general admission to the public for one day only on Saturday, Jan. 31, as part of the 10th annual "Museums Free-For-All" program.

Among the participating museums this year will be the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the California Science Center and the Skirball Cultural Center. The full list of participating institutions, below, comprises 25 individual venues, including some museums that already offer free admission on a daily basis.

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The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, has purchased two paintings by pioneering 20th-century American artists -- “Lattice and Awning” by Arthur Dove and “Summer Fantasy” by George Bellows. Dove, an early American modernist who spent most of his life in New York, was not previously represented in a public collection in Los Angeles County. The late-career landscape by Bellows, who is best known for his gritty depictions of day-to-day life, will enhance The Huntington’s collection of works by the realist painter.

Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russell Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington, said, “We have strengthened our collection of great American paintings dramatically with these acquisitions. ‘Lattice and Awning’ is a superb example of the artist’s work at a peak moment in his career, while ‘Summer Fantasy’ is a fascinating, multifaceted painting that eloquently fills a gap in our collection. Each will add invaluable depth to our display of American art.”

The works will go on view on July 19, when The Huntington opens five new rooms in its Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art, which house one of the largest collections of American art in California. The Huntington’s holdings span from the colonial period through the mid-20th century and include works by John Singleton Copley, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, John Sloan, and Robert Motherwell as well as a selection of American decorative arts.

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Saturday, 20 July 2013 03:41

The Golden Age of California Scene Paintings

Very few artists attending art school in California in the 1920s were interested in the lush, romantic landscape painting that had dominated California art for the previous thirty years. Instead, they looked to the work by California artists dating back to the period of 1850 to 1880, when the state was forming. Some of the most interesting capture daily routines in the gold mining camps and street scenes in busy downtown San Francisco in the 1870s. Those works alongside the art of George Bellows and the Ash Can School served as inspiration for a new generation of artists interested in taking California art in another direction.

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After 15 months without a director, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will appoint Colin B. Bailey, a deputy director at the Frick Collection in New York, the head of the consortium. Bailey, 57, is a renowned specialist in 18th and 19th century French art and has been at the Frick since 2000.

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the modern-leaning M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and the neoclassical California Palace of the Legion of Honor, was left leader-less after the death of its previous director, John Buchanan, in 2011. The city of San Francisco and a private board of trustees oversee the museums, which collectively are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco and one of the largest art museums in the state of California.

The announcement, which was made by the museum board on Wednesday, March 27, 2013, comes after a considerable period of tumult among the museums; the past year has included tense labor negotiations, firings of senior staff members, and scathing criticism of the board’s president, Diane Wilsey. Wilsey, an art collector, philanthropist, and prominent San Francisco socialite, has been accused of using the museums’ resources for her own benefit and of nepotism.

The museums’ recent troubles have not deterred Bailey’s excitement to join the Fine Arts Museums. His abundance of museum experience includes stints at the National Gallery of Canada, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.    

Published in News
Thursday, 24 January 2013 17:24

Heirs of Hungarian Art Collector Head to Court

On January 23, 2013, a three-judge federal appellate court in California heard arguments from the heirs and relatives of a prominent Hungarian art collector. The lead plaintiff, David de Csepel, is the great-grandson of Jewish banker Baron Mór Lipót Herzog whose legendary art collection once included works by El Greco (1541-1614), Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), Diego Velázquez (1599-1660), Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), and Claude Monet (1840-1926).

The case, which could be the last major art restitution case relating to the Holocaust, involves 40 artworks valued at $100 million that were seized by Nazis during World War II. Csepel argued that Hungarian courts acted unjustly as they have never returned the stolen paintings nor paid restitution to Herzog’s relatives. In fact, a number of paintings once belonging to Herzog remain in the collections of Hungarian museums.

The lawsuit is attempting to use U.S. courts to press charges against the Hungarian government, three of the country’s museums, and a university. However, the Hungarian government’s lawyers argue that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction on foreign soil, pushing to have the case played out in Hungarian courts or the International Court of Justice. The plantiff’s attorney, Michael Shuster, claims that the case is relevant for U.S. courts because most of the living heirs involved in the case are U.S. citizens and that Hungarian courts can be problematic.

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As of 2013, California taxpayers will no longer be able to donate their income tax returns to arts programs. In 2010 and 2011, the state added a section to tax forms that allowed taxpayers to check off whether or not they wanted to donate to the California Arts Council as well as 17 other state-funded causes.

The arts option is being nixed from tax forms because it didn’t bring in enough money; the state required that at least $250,000 be donated from tax returns for it to remain on the document. At the end of November 2011, the option only brought $164,330 from 15,940 taxpayers. Arts Council officials stated that if more taxpayers were aware of the organization and its purpose, people would be quicker to donate. The Arts Council is considering getting back on the tax form for 2013, but a new bill would have to be passed in order for that to happen.

In the meantime, Arts Council officials are exploring innovative ways to garner new donations. They are currently considering ways to make specialty arts license plates more accessible to California motorists. The plates, which cost $50 for new ones and $40 for renewals, have been a huge success for the Council. In fact, officials are turning to plate sales for half of its $5.6 million budget for the current fiscal year.

The California Arts Council’s budget took a beating in 2002 and 2003 at the hands of Governor Gray Davis. The organization, which was once a $30 million-a-year agency, never rebounded from the cuts and has been surviving on about $1 million from taxpayers and another $1 million from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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