Museum threatened with lawsuit over Van Gogh sketchbook

Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum is facing legal action after it dismissed a sketchbook allegedly belonging to the Dutch artist as a fake.

The discovery of the album of 65 drawings purported to be by Van Gogh was made in 2013 by art historian Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov who believes it was used by the artist on his travels in the south of France. When the drawings were unveiled at a press conference in Paris in November this year the Van Gogh Museum quickly released a statement entitled “Found Sketchbook With Drawings Is Not By Van Gogh, According to Van Gogh Museum”. Now Le Seuil, the publishing house behind Welsh-Ovcharov’s new book on the drawings “Vincent Van Gogh, the Fog of Arles: the Rediscovered Sketchbook”, has hit back at the museum by threatening to initiate a lawsuit. Continue reading

Italian police recover two stolen Van Gogh paintings

Two paintings by Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh stolen from an Amsterdam museum over a decade ago have been recovered in seaside town in Italy.

‘Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church’ (1884) and ‘View of the Sea at Scheveningen’ (1882) are collectively valued at £77 million. They are examples of Van Gogh’s early work with the Scheveningen piece one of just two Dutch seascapes ever made by the artist. In December 2002, thieves used a ladder to climb to the roof of the Van Gogh Museum and broke in undetected by cameras. Octave ‘The Monkey’ Durham and his accomplice Henk Bieslijn removed the works from the walls of the main exhibition hall in minutes and escaped the scene by sliding down a rope. The notorious heist made the FBI’s list of “top 10” art crimes and baffled experts because security guards had been on patrol at the time of the raid. In 2004 the art thieves were convicted of theft after police discovered their DNA at the scene of the crime but the artworks were never found. Continue reading

Museums as consultancies – a new trend for arts organisations?

In an unprecedented move for the museum world, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has started to offer professional advice to collectors, corporations other institutions, the New York Times reports.

According to the article, “museum employees will provide advice and support in areas such as collection conservation and preservation, installation of climate control systems, museum management, and the development of educational programs.”

The program has been put in place after a two-year pilot as a way of guarding against revenue losses from declining government funding and to take the pressure off maintaining high numbers of visitors.

Adriaan Dönszelmann, the director of the museum, said that he believes the consultancy service could generate up to 5 percent of the museum’s annual operating budget, currently €45 million.

Dönszelmann added that the staff who wish to be involved will be able to spend 5 to 10 percent of their time on professional services. If the program is a success, the museum might hire additional specialists.

Could this new source of revenue mark a new trend for arts institutions? Robert J. Stein, the executive vice president and chief program officer of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, thinks so. “This is a little bit of where cultural organizations are going,” he said. “Most museums had been in the philanthropy-and-ticket business for a long time and are recognizing that some balance of that with earned revenue sources is a healthy position to be in.”