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Goodwill Roman bust find a career highlight for Sask. art historian – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix



‘I can honestly say that nothing I’ve learned about SAMA’s collection so far is as wild as this royal German art collection to WWII looting to Goodwill story!’

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When Lynley McAlpine was growing up in the small Saskatchewan town of Aylesbury, she never imagined her love of history would make her an international media star.

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McAlpine, who is a Roman art expert, has been working since 2018 on finding out more about an ancient bust, or portrait, bought for $34.99 at a Goodwill store in Austin, Texas.

The rare find is now finally on display in an exhibit curated by McAlpine at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) in San Antonio, Texas, where she is the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow. And McAlpine’s phone has been running hot ever since.

“I knew that people would be fascinated by the story when it came out, but I hadn’t anticipated just how much it would blow up! In the last few days I have spent hours on the phone being interviewed by the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and more than a dozen other local, national, and international news organizations. That’s very different from my normal work, which mostly involves sitting at my desk reading and writing,” McAlpine said in an email interview with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.

Lynley McAlpine, from Aylesbury, Sask., is a Roman art expert and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) in San Antonio, Texas.
Lynley McAlpine, from Aylesbury, Sask., is a Roman art expert and Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) in San Antonio, Texas. Photo by SUPPLIED /Lynley McAlpine

McAlpine was first invited to view the thrift store bargain in 2018 along with other Roman art experts by Laura Young, the art collector who discovered it.

The bust — produced in Rome sometime between late 1st century BC to the early 1st century AD — was once housed in a German museum decades ago, after being acquired by the Bavarian king Ludwig I, who displayed it in a full-scale replica of a home in Pompeii (called the Pompejanum) in Aschaffenburg, Germany.

The Pompejanum stood for more than a century before it was heavily bombed by Allied fighters during Second World War. It is not known how the bust ended up in Texas. The Bavarian government confirmed the authenticity of the find, but told Young she couldn’t sell it.

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“In January 2019, Laura Young asked me and a colleague from SAMA if we would like to come and see it again to consider displaying it at SAMA once her agreement with the German government had been completed. We did want to display it, but it was a long process, made even longer by COVID, and it only finally arrived at SAMA last month,” McAlpine said.

McAlpine has a Ph.D. in Roman art and archeology from the University of Michigan and worked on researching the portrait’s history, both in ancient Rome and in 19th and 20th centuries Germany. She is also the curator for the exhibition displaying the bust at SAMA.

“It has definitely been a lot of fun to work on. My main work at SAMA is provenance research, which is all about trying to uncover the modern histories of artworks in the museum and making sure nothing was stolen or looted in the past,” she said.

Texas art collector Laura Young with the Roman bust she found at Goodwill in 2018.
Texas art collector Laura Young with the Roman bust she found at Goodwill in 2018. Photo by Image courtesy of Laura Young

“It’s fascinating work and I’ve found lots of interesting things, but I can honestly say that nothing I’ve learned about SAMA’s collection so far is as wild as this royal German art collection to WWII looting to Goodwill story!”

McAlpine attended Craik School in Saskatchewan, where history “was always my favourite subject”, and then majored in Classical Studies (ancient Greece and Rome) at Western University in London, Ontario.

“I had a lot of wonderful teachers and mentors in Canada. I usually try to go back to Saskatchewan a couple of times a year, but because of COVID I haven’t been there since 2019. I have plans to get home this coming August, though. Fingers crossed,” McAlpine said.

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“I definitely don’t miss the winters, but to be honest, south Texas summers are just as miserable for me. It’s 39 degrees Celsius here today, and it’s only the beginning of May! I’m looking forward to going north for part of the summer,” she said on Saturday.

The discovery was just as exciting for Young, who is often on the hunt for rare art pieces and who took the 52 lb marble bust outside for a closer look under some natural light, she told the New York Times.

“He had chips to the base. He had clear repairs. He looks old. I’ve been to museums. I’ve seen Roman portrait heads before,” Young said.

Young strapped the bust, which still had a yellow price tag on its cheek, into the front seat of her car and took it home, where she decided to follow her hunch and contacted the experts.

The bust will be displayed at the San Antonio Museum of Art until May 2023, after which it will be returned to Germany.

The Roman bust that Texas art collector Laura Young found at Goodwill in 2018.
The Roman bust that Texas art collector Laura Young found at Goodwill in 2018. Photo by Image courtesy of Laura Young /SUPPLIED

with files from the National Post and the New York Times

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The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.

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Ehiko: The Multidisciplinary Artist Shaping Decolonization Through Art



Ehiko, a multidisciplinary artist born in Lagos, Nigeria, now calls Toronto, Ontario, her home. An OCAD University graduate, she has gained recognition for her powerful and evocative works that delve into the complexities of decolonization, health and wellness, spirituality, sexual violence, and the representation of melanated hair.

Ehiko’s artistic journey began in the vibrant city of Lagos, where the rich cultural heritage and traditional artistry influenced her deeply. This foundation blossomed in Toronto, where she continued to experiment and manipulate raw canvas due to its flexibility. Her expressive palette and the use of various textiles pay homage to traditional Nigerian craftsmanship, creating a unique blend of contemporary and ancestral art forms.

Her works are not just visually striking but also laden with profound messages. Ehiko’s exploration of decolonization is evident in her large-scale multi-medium paintings, performances, drawings, and installations. Each piece she creates is a testament to her commitment to unravelling spirituality linked to traditional Afrakan masks, presenting a dialogue between the past and present.

One of the central themes in Ehiko’s work is health and wellness, particularly within the context of the Black community. She addresses the often-overlooked aspects of mental health and the importance of wellness practices rooted in African traditions. Through her art, Ehiko encourages a reconnection with these practices, promoting healing and resilience.

Sexual violence is another critical subject Ehiko tackles with sensitivity and boldness. Her works often depict the pain and trauma associated with such experiences while also highlighting the strength and resilience of survivors. By bringing these issues to the forefront, she fosters conversations that are essential for societal change and healing.

The representation of melanated hair in Ehiko’s art is a celebration of Black identity and beauty. Her pieces challenge societal norms and stereotypes, presenting Black hair in its diverse and natural forms. This representation is not only about aesthetics but also about reclaiming cultural identity and pride.

Ehiko’s exhibitions in Lagos and Toronto have garnered significant attention, and her private collection of purchased work is available upon request. Her contributions to the art world extend beyond her creations; she is also an advocate for using art as a tool for social change and empowerment.

In every piece, Ehiko weaves her experiences, heritage, and vision, creating a tapestry that speaks to the heart and mind. Her work is a powerful reminder of the role of art in decolonization and healing, and her journey continues to inspire and influence the global art community.


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Home + Away artwork opens in Vancouver’s Hastings Park



A new art installation now towers over Vancouver’s Hastings Park fields in celebration of the city’s history of spectators and sports.

Home + Away is a sculpture by Seattle artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo of Lead Pencil Studio, which opened Monday in the southeast end of the historic park.

It’s a 17-metre-tall structure that resembles a narrow set of bleachers — similar to the stands of the Empire Stadium, which stood on the site of the park from 1954 to 1993 and hosted The Beatles, among many others. It recalls a covered ski jump that stood there in the 1950s and the nearby wooden rollercoaster at the PNE.

The city says the public is invited to walk the stairs and sit on the benches.

“In addition to being visually striking, this artwork is intended to be ascended, sat on and experienced. It offers exciting experiences of height and views and provides 16 rows of seating for up to 49 people, making for a unique spectator experience when watching events at Empire Fields,” the city said in a release Monday.

The idea for the park to include public art was outlined in the Hastings Park “Master Plan,” first adopted by the city in 2010. The city says Han and Mihalyo first presented their design in 2015.

“It’s wonderful to see this piece realized within the context of such a well-used public space,” said Han.

Home + Away was inspired directly by the site history of spectatorship, and we hope it will connect Hastings Park users to that history and the majestic views of the environment for many decades to come,” added Mihalyo.

The artwork features a large light-up sign, in the style of a sports scoreboard, that reads “HOME” and “AWAY.”



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Bill Viola, Video Artist Who Established the Medium as an Integral Part of Contemporary Art, Dies at 73



Bill Viola, whose decades-long engagement with video proved vital in establishing the medium as an integral part of contemporary art, died on July 12 at his home in Long Beach, California. He was at 73 years old. The cause was complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. The news of his passing was confirmed by James Cohan Gallery.

Viola’s works are centered around the idea of human consciousness and such fundamental experiences as birth, death, and spirituality. He delved into mystical traditions from Zen Buddhism to Islamic Sufism, as well as Western devotional art from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in his videos, which often juxtaposed themes of life and death, light and dark, noise and silence. These explorations were achieved by submerging viewers in both image and sound with cutting-edge technologies for their time.

“I first used the camera and lens as a surrogate eye, to bring things closer, or to magnify them, to experiment with perception, to extend vision and make lengthy observations of simple objects,” Viola said in a 2015 interview. “Once you do that, their essence becomes visible. So I suppose I was always interested in the inner life of the world around me.”

Beginning in the 1970s, Viola created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, flat panel video pieces, and works for television broadcast—all of which expanded the scope of the medium and established Viola as one of its most notable practitioner.

Video still of a man diving into water that has been reversed. The image is mostly black and teal.

In 2003 the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Tate, London; and the Centre Pompidou in Paris jointly acquired Bill Viola’s 2001 three-channel video installation Five Angels for the Millennium.

Photo Kira Perov/©Bill Viola Studio

Bill Viola was born in 1951. He grew up in Queens and Westbury, New York, and attended P.S. 20 in Flushing, before receiving his BFA in experimental studios from Syracuse University in 1973. There, he studied with visual art with the likes of Jack Nelson and electronic music with Franklin Morris.

Following his graduation, between 1973 to 1980, Viola studied and performed with composer David Tudor in the music group Rainforest, which later became known as Composers Inside Electronics. He also worked as technical director at the pioneering video studio Art/tapes/22 in Florence, Italy from 1974 to 1976. During that time he encountered the work of other seminal video artists like Nam June Paik, Bruce Nauman, and Vito Acconci.

Viola was subsequently an artist-in-residence at New York’s WNET Thirteen Television Laboratory between 1976 to 1983, wherein he created a series of works that premiered on television. He traveled to the Solomon Islands, Java, and Indonesia to record traditional performing arts between 1976 and 1977. Later that year, Viola was invited to show work at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, by cultural arts director Kira Perov, with whom he married and began a lifelong collaboration.

He was appointed an instructor in advanced video at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 1983. He was the Getty Research Institute scholar-in-residence in Los Angeles in 1998 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2000.

In 1985, Viola received with a Guggenheim Fellowship for fine arts, and later that decade, in 1989, he was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship. His work was also featured in some of the world’s most notable exhibitions, including Documenta VI in 1977, Documenta XI in 1992, the 1987 and 1993 editions of the Whitney Biennial, and the 2001 Venice Biennale.

In 1995, he represented the United States at the 46th edition of the Venice Biennale. For the pavilion, Viola produced the series of works “Buried Secrets,” including one of his most known works The Greeting, which offers a contemporary interpretation of Pontormo’s oil painting The Visitation (ca.1528–30). The Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin and New York’s Guggenheim Museum commissioned the digital fresco cycle in high-definition video, titled Going Forth By Day, in 2002.

Viola’s work was the subject of a major 25-year survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997, which subsequently toured internationally. His work has been the subject of major museum retrospectives in the years since, including at the Grand Palais in Paris (in 2014), the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2017), the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain (2017), and the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia (2019), as well as an exhibition pairing his work with that of Michelangelo at the Royal Academy of Art in London in 2019.

Viola is survived by his wife Kira Perov, who has been the executive director of his studio since 1978, and their two children.

“One thing that’s very exciting about video that has turned me on since I first saw this glowing image way back in 1970 is that it can be so much,” Viola said in a 1995 with Charlie Rose on the occasion of this US Pavilion at the Biennale. “Furthermore, what’s really exciting is I don’t think it’s been since really the Renaissance where artists have been able to use a medium that one could say is the dominant communication form in society.”


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