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Netscape Founder Surrenders Antiquities Identified as Looted, Man Attacks London Statue, and More: Morning Links for January 13, 2021

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The Headlines

HEADING HOME. James H. Clark, the entrepreneur behind the Netscape internet browser, has voluntarily relinquished 35 Cambodian and Southeast Asian antiquities after being shown evidence by U.S. authorities that they were looted, the New York Times reports. Clark spent some $35 million on the material, which he acquired from dealer Douglas A. J. Latchford , who was awaiting trial on antiquities-smuggling charges when he died in 2020. Clark told the paper, “As a naïve person, I had apparently somewhat ignorantly acquired one of the nicest private collections of Cambodian antiquities.” Latchford’s daughter gave his art holdings to Cambodia last year. A lawyer for the country praised Clark for “deciding to do the right thing and to return these masterpieces.”

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A STANDOFF, AND AN ARREST. On Wednesday, a man scaled the BBC’s London headquarters to attack an Eric Gill statue on a ledge with a hammer, the Guardian reports. Gill, who died in 1940, admitted in his diaries to sexually abusing his daughters and dog, and according to the Mirror, a petition calling for the removal of the sculpture has received more than 2,000 signatures. The piece presents two characters from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610–11), and has been “an obsession for British QAnon, ‘save our children,’ ‘satanic ritual abuse,’ and other conspiracy groups for a very long time,” according to a BBC journalist who spoke to the Guardian. A man live-streaming the action and shouting about pedophilia was arrested, as was the hammer-wielder, who came down after a four-plus-hour standoff. The motive for the attack is not yet known.

The Digest

Goodbye, cloth masks. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles will now require visitors to sport an N95, KF94, KN95, or surgical mask, citing research that their cloth cousins are not effective at preventing Omicron transmission. [Los Angeles Times]

A 1936 Marsden Hartley painting whose whereabouts were unknown has been found in a bank vault, where it was left by a Maine collector who recently died. Also, art historian Gail Scott is building a complete online catalog of Hartley’s work in collaboration with the Bates College Museum of Art. [Portland Press Herald]

Composer John Adams reviewed art critic Jeff Perl’s new book, Authority and Freedom: A Defense of the Arts, in which he says that he wants “us to release art from the stranglehold of relevance—from the insistence that works of art, whether classic or contemporary, are validated . . . by the extent to which they line up with (or fail to line up with) our current social and political concerns.” But Adams says that Perl fails to “name names and cite specific examples.” [The New York Times]

A short film from 1898 that shows actors Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown holding hands and kissing “may represent the earliest example of African American intimacy onscreen,” according to the Library of Congress, will be shown in an extended version at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of a program of recently restored films. [The New York Times]

A tony late-19th-century castle in Sicily that appears in The Godfather Part III (1991) is on the market for €6 million (about $6.86 million), and includes a bust by Giuseppe Prinzi and a chapel with frescoes by Giuseppe Sciuti. And no fewer than 22 bedrooms! [The Art Newspaper]

Takashi Murakami has released a pan for making pancakes in the shape of a pixelated flower that was supposed to be his first NFT (a plan that is on hold). They are priced at $40. [ARTnews]

The Kicker

PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT. Cigarette smoking is enjoying something of a renaissance, the New York Times reports, with sales increasing in 2020 for the first time in 20 years. Journalist John Ortved chatted with smokers around New York, including “a gang of 20-somethings” outside the Clearing gallery in Brooklyn. “Weirdly, in the last year or two, all my friends who didn’t smoke, now smoke,” a sculptor enjoying a cigarette there said. “I don’t know why. No one is really addicted to it. It’s more of a pleasure activity.” [NYT]

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