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The Headlines

THE PROTESTS. Artist and dissident Ai Weiwei said that recent protests in China against the nation’s draconian anti-Covid measures “won’t shake the government,” Reuters reports. Speaking from his home in Portugal, Ai said, “There’s no clear political agenda so it’s very easy to just arrest them and move on.” Meanwhile, Iranian artists are calling for a boycott of cultural groups affiliated with, or receiving funding from, Iran, amid its brutal crackdown on activists there, the Guardian reports. Curator Vali Mahlouji argued that art fairs should bar certain Iranian exhibitors. “We know that some private Iranian galleries are connected to the money systems of the Iranian state,” Mahlouji said.

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CARING FOR AN OLD MASTER. Since 2018, experts at the British Museum have been hard at work conserving a very large (more than seven feet tall!), ultra-rare Michelangelo drawing of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child from around 1550, and the Guardian has a deep dive on that process. The museum plans to put it on view in its permanent-collection galleries in 2024. Over in Florence, Italy, the New York Times spoke with the in-house restorer at the Galleria dell’AccademiaEleonora Pucci, who is responsible for dusting Michelangelo’s David (1501–04). It is an intricate process that Pucci loves. “Is there anything greater than passing on beauty?” Pucci asked.

The Digest

St Mark’s Basilica in Venice has constructed a glass barrier to hold back the flooding that has plagued it for so long. Built at a cost of €5.3 million (about $5.49 million), it has so far fended off the waters twice this November, Anna Somers Cocks reports. [The Art Newspaper]

Here’s a primer on the fast-unfolding controversy over two Balenciaga campaigns that variously involved—among many other things—Supreme Court documents about child pornography laws, teddy bears sporting bondage gear, and Matthew Barney and Michaël Borremans books. [The New York Times]

Berlin art space SAVVY Contemporary has hired curator Renan Laru-an as its next artistic director. Laru-an, a founding member of the Philippine Contemporary Art Network, will succeed SAVVY’s founder, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, who was tapped last year to lead the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. [ArtReview]

Artist Yayoi Kusama, 93, is the subject of a sprawling retrospective at M+ in Hong Kong, and told Wallpaper, “I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. Painting helps me to keep away thoughts of death for myself.” [Wallpaper]

The Musée de l’Homme in Paris is facing scrutiny over the 18,000 skulls it holds, including some taken from France’s former colonies. Critics say the museum is secretive about its collections in order to avoid restitution claims, a pattern of behavior that parallels France’s resistance to dealing with its colonial-era remains. [The New York Times]

In a ceremony on Monday, London’s Horniman Museum followed through on its plan to return material looted from the kingdom of Benin in 1897 by British forces to Nigeria. Abba Tijani, who heads the country’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments, termed it “a really great day.” [BBC News]

The Kicker

A BIG TENT. Stunt performer and comedian Stephen Glover (that is, Steve-O, of Jackass fame) recently paid a visit to the Whitney Museum in New York, accompanied by the New Yorker. (He is promoting a new memoir.) It seems that Glover, who is known for dangerous and sometimes obscene acts, is a trained circus clown, and at the Whitney he watched a video of Alexander Calder staging one of his ingenious miniature circus performances. “Every time I see Cirque du Soleil I find myself, like, tearing up,” Steve-O told the magazine. “I’m just so moved by how fucking incredible humans can be.” Alas, his reaction to Calder’s efforts was different. “This is not making me feel that way,” he said. [The New Yorker]

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