Monday, January 28, 2008

Museums in the News

A couple of interesting news stories this week involving museums. For those without an online account with the NY Times, I've pasted the shorter stories below.
Published: January 26, 2008
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has turned to the courts to validate its claim to a 1913 Oskar Kokoschka painting sought by Claudia Seger-Thomschitz, an Austrian woman who says it was sold under duress during the Nazi occupation of Austria, The Boston Globe reported. Lawyers for Ms. Seger-Thomschitz contend that there is no doubt that the Kokoschka painting, “Two Nudes (Lovers),” was sold under duress by Oskar Reichel, a physician who ran an art gallery in Vienna. The Museum of Fine Arts, citing months of research, maintained that the sale in 1939 was voluntary and to another Jew, the Viennese art dealer Otto Kallir. “The painting was never confiscated by the Nazis, was never sold by force as a result of Nazi persecution and was not otherwise taken from Dr. Reichel,” the museum’s complaint states. Ms. Seger-Thomschitz’s lawyers said they would respond to the suit.
Published: January 24, 2008
Paul G. Risser, acting director at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is to step down on Friday after nine months in the job. Mr. Risser, a biologist, will return to his position as chairman of the University of Oklahoma Research Cabinet. “I came here originally for a six-month period, and that has stretched longer,” Mr. Risser, 68, said. He replaced Cristián Samper in April, when Mr. Samper was named acting secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Mr. Samper succeeded Lawrence M. Small, who resigned in March after an investigation into his personal spending. While Mr. Risser was acting director, the Smithsonian Regents, its governing body, debated the appropriateness of accepting a $5 million donation for its Ocean Initiative from the American Petroleum Institute, prompting the institute to withdraw the offer.