Christie’s Recovering from Security Breach, Vatican Museums Staff Launch Legal Dispute, a ‘Mona Lisa’ Discovery, and More: Morning Links for May 13, 2024 - The World News

Christie’s Recovering from Security Breach, Vatican Museums Staff Launch Legal Dispute, a ‘Mona Lisa’ Discovery, and More: Morning Links for May 13, 2024

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VATICAN LABOR DISPUTE. Vatican Museums employees are in an unprecedented legal dispute with Pope Francis’ administration over job conditions. 49 employees who are mostly custodians at the museums, claim they suffer from unsafe and poor workplace conditions, where they are treated as “commodities,” in a system of labor rules that “undermine each worker’s dignity and healthy,” according to a petition initially reported by the Corriere della Sera. Underpaid overtime hours, poor health and safety provisions are among grievances, in addition to being forced to return paid salaries deposited during Covid lockdowns, according to lawyer Laura Scrò, representing the petitioners. She believes others will be joining this first formal step in an obligatory conciliation process with the Vatican, which does not permit unions. “If the conciliation goes badly then we go to court,” Scrò said, speaking to reporters.

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A drawing of a woman with her hands folded in her lap.

CHRISTIE’S WEB FIASCO. Following a tech security incident that saw their website shut down last week, amid fears of a hack, Christie’s has confirmed eight of their live New York and Geneva auctions will go ahead as scheduled this week, except for the Rare Watches sale, postponed to May 14. The website for the auction house was taken offline on Thursday evening, in a “proactive protection” measure, according to an e-mailed statement by Guillaume Cerutti, the company CEO. “I want to assure you that we are managing this incident according to our well-established protocols and practices, with the support of additional experts,” he added.


A Renaissance art scholar has discovered where the woman Leonardo da Vinci was sitting, in his Mona Lisa painting. According to Ann Pizzorusso, she was sitting in Lecco, Italy, near Lake Como. “I saw the topography near Lecco and realized this was the location,” due to the lake’s shape and gray-white limestone, and the artist’s geological precision, she told The New York Times. [The New York Times]

Iranian authorities have sentenced the director Mohammad Rasoulof to eight years in prison, a flogging, a fine, and the confiscation of property, according to his lawyer. His new film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig (2024) is set to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, which opens tomorrow. [ArtAsiaPacific]

French cultural leaders, including former minister of Culture Jack Lang, have published a letter of support for Paris’ Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum in Le Monde, following criticism by one of its historic patrons, Sandra Hegdüs, of the institution’s alleged “woke,” pro-Palestinian stance. Hegdüs left the institution’s group of benefactors and in response, the museum’s president, Guillaume Désanges, stated “our artistic programming is not partisan, it is first and foremost a reflection of the preoccupations of artists.” [Le Monde]

The Swiss singer Nemo won the Eurovision music contest with their song The Code. Pro-Palestinian protests over Israel’s participation in the Swedish contest led to confrontations with police and demonstrators outside the arena this weekend. [AFP]

The Tate Britain has acquired a painting by the pioneering English artist and suffragist Louise Jopling, making her self-portrait while pregnant, Through the Looking Glass (1875), the first of her oeuvre to join the UK’s national collection. Jopling was famous in the 19th century and exhibited at the Royal Academy but was later dismissed by the art establishment. [The Guardian]

Author Kyle Chayka speaks to El Pais about his new book, Filterworld: How Algorithms Have Flattened Culture, which questions the artistic experiences online, and how our consumption of culture has changed from being controlled by human gatekeepers, to digital algorithms. Algorithmic filters, Chayka says, make “our lives more boring… We’re not as challenged.” [El Pais]


THE ART OF DYING. The comedian, actor, and art-lover Steve Martin, has written a moving, personal tribute to his friend, the late art critic extraordinaire, Peter Schejeldahl, in the New Yorker. At dinners, Schejeldahl “would wait for the inevitable pause, raise his head, and speak so cogently that, if we’d had a stenographer present, Peter would have had another ready-made New Yorker essay.” Martin also reports on a few of the master’s writing techniques: “Peter’s goal, per him, was to have one idea, at least, per sentence. His best mentoring, he said, came from journalists, which makes sense. His reviews have an urgent quality.” Martin also leans into Schejeldahl’s obsession with Velázquez’es Las Meninas, which the critic went on a pilgrimage to see with Martin and friends, when he thought he didn’t have much longer to live. Thanks to experimental cancer treatment, Schejeldahl’s health improved for a time, and he used it to write The Art of Dying: Writings 2019-2022. “He finagled forty-five more essays out of his death sentence, never missing a single, elegant step,” writes Martin.

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