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Speed Museum To Close Next October For Three-Year Renovation

Louisville’s Speed Art Museum will be closed for about three years while the facility undergoes a $50 million renovation.

The work will begin in October of 2012.

Director Charles Venable says the decision to shut down the museum for that long was a difficult one but made in the interest of public safety.

“We’re going to be a pretty complicated place to even be able to get the public into. Our front door is going to be torn down, things like that. It will be very hard to actually welcome people in the building and have them be safe,” Venable told WFPL.

Venable says the Speed will continue its outreach and other community programs during the shutdown.

The renovation project will double the museum’s overall square footage and create new galleries, an education center and sculpture plaza.

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Arts and Humanities Local News Uncategorized

Stolen Altarpiece Handed Over to US Government

After spending 40 years at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, a stolen 14th century work is going home.

The Speed Art Museum bought the piece from a New York Gallery in 1973 for 38 thousand dollars, not realizing the Italian art was stolen from a home in Italy two years earlier.

The work is a three panel altarpiece.  The center panel depicts the Madonna and Child, with the other panels portraying various saints and the crucifixion.

The United States government will hand it over to the Italian government, which will decide whether or not to return it to the family that was burglarized.

Museum Director Charles Venable said at a handover ceremony that it’s often difficult to verify the authenticity of stolen art.

“How many of you have ever been to an antique’s mall?  You can raise your hand, you’re not going to be arrested,” Venable said to the crowd of about 50 people.  “And if you’ve ever bought something at an antique’s mall, how do you really know where that object came from?  There are a lot of objects in the world, and it’s very hard to know where they are every single day.”

An Italian art researcher discovered the work was stolen using an online database in 2009.

The Speed museum has been reimbursed for the full 38 thousand dollars by the New York gallery.  The piece will remain available for viewing until Sunday afternoon.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Venable Discusses Stolen Art, Speed Fundraising

A stolen Italian painting that’s been in the Speed Museum’s collection for nearly 40 years is now on display in Louisville for the last time.

The Speed purchased the piece in 1973 for $38,000, and museum officials didn’t know it was stolen until a few months ago. The Speed worked with the U.S. and Italian governments to organize the art’s return. But before the painting is sent back to Italy it will be on display at the Speed through July 3rd.

Museum director Charles Venable says the likelihood that a museum could obtain stolen art again is greatly diminished now. And if a piece does turn out to be stolen, there are protections in place for the buyer.

“Back in the 70s, we basically would have gotten an invoice and after talking to the gallery and them saying they had clear title to it, we basically would have paid them just like a normal business transaction. Now we actually have like a 30-page document that a gallery owner would sign saying that if a problem ever came up and we had to turn a work of art over, they would have to stand by and guarantee the purchase price of that art.”

Most of the Speed’s collection is donated, but Venable says any pieces that are purchased are thoroughly investigated.

The Speed is also currently trying to raise $54 million by next year to finance a major expansion of its facilities on the U of L campus.

Venable says the previous, silent phase of the campaign was a success, and the goal is in sight.

“During this terrible recession, we were already able to raise $33 million and currently we have a $10 million challenge on the table from two anonymous board members. You can do the math, if we have $33 and we have $10 from them, and if we matched it that would give us $53, so we would be very close to our goal and we could go ahead and break ground on time next year to do that expansion,” says Venable.

This also comes in spite of a general malaise in the Louisville arts community, with funding for major institutions waning and Mayor Greg Fischer encouraging arts groups that receive grants from the city to put together a “Plan B’ for next year.

Venable made his comments in an interview with WFPL’s Graham Shelby.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Speed to Display Stolen Art

A stolen work of art will be on display at the Speed Art Museum this month before the U.S. government returns it to Italy.

The Speed purchased the three-panel painting, or triptych, of the Virgin Mary and child in 1973 for $38,000. Recently, however, it was discovered that the art had been stolen from an Italian villa in 1971.

The Speed obtained the work through an art dealer, and court records show the museum cooperated with U.S. and Italian officials to verify and relinquish the art. But before the art is returned, it’ll be the centerpiece of an exhibit that showcases its theft and sale.

“We’ll have a really interesting chronology that includes from the very beginning photographs of the villa in Italy that was unfortunately burglarized all the way to a photograph of the man, the dealer from New York who eventually bought the piece,” says museum director Charles Venable.

Stolen works have recently been discovered at museums across the country, but Venable says most of them have likely been in collections for decades and not obtained recently.

“You buy a Greek vase that’s 2,000 years old. There’s no way ever you’re going to know where that vase has been for 2,000 years. It’s impossible. Written history just doesn’t go back that far. We do our very, very, very best and we now sign agreements with galleries that say if it turns out something is stolen and we have to return it we get our purchase price back,” he says. “Everything we buy now, we have very extensive research that we do on the history of things. We have large contracts with the dealers signed with us. That’s something that just didn’t happen in museum history, not just the Speed, really, in the 70s or before.”

The piece will be on display from the 9th through July 3rd. Venable says he’s optimistic the Speed will receive some sort of refund for the art, though the details are being worked out.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Venable Confident About Speed Fundraising Campaign

The director of the Speed Art Museum is confident his organization can complete its capital campaign by the end of this year.

The Speed has quietly been raising money toward a $57 million goal for two years. On Friday, the public phase of the campaign began with $31 million already raised. Director Charles Venable says it’s likely the remaining funds can be raised through matching grants and individual donations.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Speed Museum Director Discusses Renovations, Fundraising

Speed Art Museum director Charles Venable discussed the museum’s impending $79 million makeover Saturday.

Venable told the crowd the capital campaign for the expansion and renovation is the largest ever attempted by a Kentucky arts organization.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Thornton’s Inc. Gives One Million Dollars To Speed Art Museum

by Sheila Ash

The Speed Art Museum as received a one million dollar donation from Louisville-based Thornton’s Inc.

The money will go toward the Speed’s $50 million capital campaign. Museum Director Charles Venable says the funds will be used to renovate and expand the museum.

“In the new space there’ll be a much more functional auditorium that can also be used for other things than just amphitheater style seating,” he says. “There’ll be new shop, new restaurants, whole new floor for contemporary art, new temporary exhibition space.”

Construction will begin next May on the first phase of renovations, which will include a new driveway and water retention system. Fundraising will continue, but Venable declined to say how much money has been raised so far.