Tag Archives: Zahi Hawass

Holbein’s Madonna sells for $70 million

By Bob Hicks

Many of you will remember Hans Holbein‘s exquisite 1528 painting Madonna with Basel Mayer Jakob Meyer and His Family, often known as the Darmstadt Madonna, which was the centerpiece of the Portland Art Museum’s blockbuster exhibition Hesse: A Princely German Collection in 2005.

holbein-madonnaJudith H. Dobrzynski passes along the news on her blog Real Clear Arts that the Hesse family has sold its most famous asset to German billionaire Reinhold Wuerth, and gives a fascinating recap of the painting’s history in the process. Dobrzynski links to Bloomberg’s news account. Other sources confirm the painting will land in Wuerth’s private museum, which is open to the public, in an old German church. Bloomberg and Dobrzynski give a price of “at least” $70 million, and Dobrzynski notes that it might have been as high as $165 million — a staggering sum, even in the masterpiece market — if the German government had allowed it to be sold out of country.

At the time of the Portland exhibition it was known that the Hesses were facing a mammoth inheritance tax bill and despite many years of caring for the Holbein — including protecting it from destruction during World War II — had been exploring selling the work. The Getty at one point reportedly was interested, but German law forbidding the sale of masterworks outside the country put an end to negotiations.

The Hesses were good stewards. Presumably, Wuerth will be, too. And best of all, the painting will remain available to the public. Portlanders were lucky to see it when they did.


Art Scatter has also been following the adventures of Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who has lectured at the Portland Art Museum and who was ousted as that country’s minister of antiquities after this year’s Egyptian revolution, only to be reinstated. We wrote about the shifting situation here, here, and here.

Well, we can’t keep up.

Three days ago, Hawass once more got the boot. The story, from Smithsonian.com, is here.

Then, just hours ago, he was reinstated yet again, according to lezgetreal.com. The Daily Beast confirms the report.

Art Scatter doesn’t know what to say, except that it reminds us of the days when George Steinbrenner kept hiring, firing, and rehiring Billy Martin as manager of the Yankees. People said Steinbrenner and the volatile Martin deserved each other. We hesitate to draw any parallels to Hawass and the revolutionary leadership.

Egypt’s Hawass is back in the saddle

By Bob Hicks

How quickly the worm turns.

Less than a month ago, in a post detailing the ouster (or resignation: stories varied) of the legendary archaeologist Zahi Hawass as Egypt’s powerful chief of antiquities, we made this observation: “(T)he revolution is real, and Hawass, barring yet another turnabout, won’t be making any of its crucial decisions.”

The Great Sphinx, still partly buried in sand, ca. 1880. Wikimedia Commons.Well, the turnabout’s happened. As Kate Taylor reports here in the New York Times, Hawass is back in the saddle, reappointed by the new prime minister, Essam A. Sharaf. Hawass has made his share of enemies over the years, and was held in suspicion because of his close ties to the Mubarak regime, but was also known as a fierce and effective defender of and spokesman for Egypt’s cultural treasures. Plus, he’s a wily fox.

Separately, antiquities inspector Sarah Marei, one of the people trying to deal with safeguarding the nation’s collections during and after the revolution, wrote this piece for The Art Newspaper decrying the looting of museums and archaeological sites. “(T)he police presence vanished in the revolution and has yet to return to the sites,” wrote Marei, who’s been working in Giza. “The individual initiatives on the part of site inspectors and the townspeople from the remote areas is often the only current protection afforded to some of the world’s most unique and magnificent monuments.” Marei kicked up a bit of controversy by suggesting that collectors and institutions outside of Egypt might be providing a ready market for the looters.


Good Korean dance: I have this review in this morning’s Oregonian of the South Korean contemporary dance troupe Laboratory Dance Project, which is finishing a three-night run on White Bird‘s Uncaged series. It’s a good company with excellent dancers and fresh ideas, and the Portland run is its West Coast premiere. Final show tonight (Saturday), 8 p.m., Lincoln Performance Hall.


Photo: The Great Sphinx, still partly buried in sand, ca. 1880. Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday Scatter: arts world in brief

  • Hot licks and good times with Andy Stein, Padam Padam
  • Closing the books: Powell’s layoffs, Looking Glass R.I.P.
  • Patrick Page plucks praise from “Spider-Man” carnage
  • In the room with Egypt’s fierce cultural protector
  • Alexis Rockman and good news at the Smithsonian


By Bob Hicks

Hot licks and good times with Andy Stein, Padam Padam: My old friend and neighbor Jaime Leopold dropped me a note about his friend, Andy Stein, a fiddler who can often be heard on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. “Andy has been compared to jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and he’ll be performing in a duo with Conal Fowkes, a Wynton Marsalis alum and wonderful pianist from New York,” Jaime said.

Jaime wanted me to know this because Stein will be performing Feb. 19 at Tabor Space. And as it happens, Jaime’s own band, Padam Padam, will be opening. If that sounds self-serving, I suppose it is a little bit, but mostly it’s not, because Jaime simply loves music, and when he knows good music’s coming ’round the bend, he likes to spread the word. If he says Andy Stein is worth going to see, I’m taking him at his word.

Continue reading Tuesday Scatter: arts world in brief