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Art News Around The World (06/29/22)

Magnificent ancient mosaic found near Tel Aviv returns home

LOD, Israel — An exceptionally well-preserved Roman floor mosaic, showing a rich variety of fish, animals, birds and ships, has returned to the site where it was first found in a Tel Aviv suburb after a decade-long tour of some of the world’s top museums.

The 1,700-year-old mosaic, from the late Roman period, was discovered in 1996 during highway construction work, but was not put on display until 2009, when sufficient funding to preserve it was donated.

The colorful mosaic, 17 meters (55 feet) long and about 9 meters (29 feet) wide, may have served as the foyer floor of a mansion in a wealthy neighborhood of Lod, near what is now Tel Aviv, the Israel antiquities Authority said in a statement.

“The owner was probably a very rich merchant because he travelled throughout the world and he saw things, like all the ships and the fish on display in the mosaic,” said archaeologist Hagit Torge from the Israel Antiquities Authority.

The design of the mosaic was influenced by North African mosaics and lacks any depiction of people, suggesting it may have belonged to a Christian or a Jew who wanted to avoid pagan attributes such as depiction of Roman gods, said archaeologist Amir Gorzalczany from the Israel Antiquities Authority. The mosaic will now be exhibited at an archaeological center built where it was found, in Lod. —  Reuters

HK Palace Museum aims to engage city’s youth with Chinese culture

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s (HK) new Palace Museum, a gift from Beijing to mark the 25th anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule, aims to engage the city’s younger generation with Chinese culture, its director said on Wednesday.

Spanning more than 30,000 square meters, the museum showcases more than 900 artefacts on loan from Beijing’s Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, including portraits from the Qing dynasty, calligraphy, and ceramics.

Of those, 166 works are considered “national treasures.”

“We need to promote the transmission and dissemination of Chinese culture,” museum director Louis Ng said ahead of the museum’s opening on July 2, a day after Hong Kong marks the anniversary of its handover from British to Chinese rule. “Especially for young people, we need to give them more opportunities to understand and appreciate Chinese culture.”

The museum sparked controversy when plans were unveiled in 2016, with critics saying there was a lack of transparency over the multibillion-dollar project and that it was presented as a done deal without public consultation.

A consultation period followed after the deal was announced.

Among the highlights at the museum, which comprises nine galleries, are paintings from the Tang and Song dynasties.

Funded by a HK$3.5-billion ($446 million) donation from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the museum next to the Kowloon waterfront will also exhibit 13 pieces on loan from the Louvre Museum in Paris. — Reuters

In Italy, a glimmer of resurrection for art damaged in 2016 quakes

SAN SEVERINO MARCHE, Italy —  At the opening of a new museum in the picturesque Italian town of San Severino Marche, the guests of honor did not dress up. They were firemen in gear worn when they rescued artworks damaged in earthquakes in 2016 and now restored and on display.

The three main quakes, which hit central Italy between Aug. 24 and Oct. 30, 2016, killed more than 300 people and caused extensive destruction to homes, churches and museums.

Six years on, some of the recovered art has found a permanent home. Other pieces are waiting to go back to their rebuilt churches or be relocated.

In the Archdiocese of Camerino and San Severino Marche in the Marche region, 1,970 works of art were damaged, about half of them seriously. In bordering Umbria, thousands more were damaged when small churches and large basilicas crumbled.

“Art can be an inspiration for reconstruction, joy and hope,” Francesco Massera, archbishop of Camerino and San Severino Marche, said at the recent opening of the museum.

Its name, Museo dell’Arte Recuperata (Museum of Recovered Art), conveys the passage from sickness to health

“I feel like I am in a field hospital where survivors are treated until they are well,” said prominent Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi.

Some of the restored works are displayed next to photographs or videos showing dust-covered firemen rescuing them from the ruins.

EARTHQUAKE-PROOF ART ‘HOSPITAL’AFTER a 1997 quake hit Umbria, damaging the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, the regional government decided to prepare for the next big one.

Since 2006, an industrial area outside Spoleto has been home to Italy’s first purpose-built facility to receive and restore art damaged in earthquakes.

The huge earthquake-proof elastic building with cutting edge technology is divided into hermetic sectors holding thousands of works of art.

The first, an emergency receiving area, is large enough for trucks to enter and unload. Huge vacuum tubes hanging from the ceiling remove dust.

The other sectors are individually climate-controled for each purpose — preventing further damage or deterioration, restoration, and storage while awaiting discharge.

The mesmerizing array of paintings, frescoes, statues, chalices, candelabra, vestments, reliquaries and ornate wooden crucifixes can be overwhelming for the visitor. Outside, dozens of church bells are lined up like sentries.

“It is very important to see the overall picture and that includes regular maintenance,” said art historian Giovanni Luca Delogu, 55, the Spoleto facility’s director.

“You can’t just intervene when there are tragedies like earthquakes. Some pieces already were in bad condition. Art needs constant care,” he said, walking amid hundreds of chunks of the shattered Church of San Salvatore in Campi, parts of which dated back to the 12th century.

The chunks, many with parts of frescoes still attached, have been sorted, tagged and assembled like puzzle pieces. They rest next to photographs of sections taken before the quakes.

The church’s two rose windows and an intricately carved stone screen panel that once joined the sides of an arch have been pieced together.

St. Benedict’s Basilica in nearby Norcia, the crown jewel of medieval architecture in Umbria’s Nera River Valley and a major tourist draw, is being rebuilt.

But the fate of smaller gems like San Salvatore in Campi or Santa Maria della Pieta in Preci is unclear.

Mr. Delogu allows parish groups into the depository to see the statues they once prayed before. Some are lent to towns for religious events of deep local pride, such as processions on the feast day of a patron saint.

“Even an earthquake cannot rupture some bonds,” he said. — Reuters

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