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Please join us for our 12th annual meeting,
Wednesday, December 8th at 6:00 PM,
Art Students League,
215 West 57th Street, NYC

Dear ArtWatcher,

It is ironic that more money is raised to finance unnecessary cleanings and the ‘sprucing up’ of famous objects to the absolute neglect of monuments desperately in need of critical intervention and conservation. For more than a year ArtWatch battled the aggressive and pricey cleaning of Michelangelo’s <i>David</i>, located indoors at Florence’s Accademia. When the intervention was proposed, several organizations and celebrities stepped up to contribute large sums of money for the project. Consequently, the Accademia — in order to justify the allocated funds — opted for an excessive cleaning (that is to say, an excessive spending). In the end, they saw to it that the donors got their money’s worth.

Meanwhile, only blocks away from the crowds lining up to see the newly cleaned David, another major monument is literally disintegrating. For years, the roof of Santissima Annunziata has been leaking from rainwater, resulting in calcium deposits that have leached through the architectural trompe-l’oeil decoration of the entire tribune and transept vaults. Despite the need for urgent attention, the Florentine city council has announced that they do not have the funds to make necessary repairs, which would account for a full quarter of their annual budget. This is not a new problem, but one that has been ongoing for many years and had been observed by ArtWatch already in the summer of 2002. There is no mistake that the “David dollars” would have better spent at the Annunziata. Had the matter been addressed in its early phase or as a maintenance issue, then perhaps lesser budgetary allocations could have minimized what is now a serious problem. And this is but one example.

It is all about media and hype. In this respect ArtWatch believes that the flagrant misuse of funds for the cleaning of the David is not unlike the recent purchase by the London National Gallery of the so-called Raphael <i>Madonna of the Pinks</i>. Although there are as many as 48 different versions of the picture, the National Gallery purchased one which has only been known since the 19th century belonging to the Duke of Northumberland. More than half of the record 60 million dollar cost came from tax abatements and public funds, obtained by the National Gallery by pulling the public’s heartstrings and arguing that this work should remain in the country.

Despite all of this, ArtWatch is making a difference. Our effort opposing the cleaning of the David resulted in an intervention that was decidedly less severe than that which had been planned, and thus our campaign must be regarded as a success. Beyond this, there is a lot more art to save.

ArtWatch needs your help. We are unique in our mission since there is no other organization that seeks to protect cultural heritage on this level. This mission can be accomplished, but we need your membership and contributions to carry on the work. Donations can be made by credit card on this website, or by checks mailed to ArtWatch, c/o Prof. James Beck, 826 Schermerhorn, Columbia University, New York, NY, 10027.

Sincerely,
James Beck

ArtWatch gratefully acknowledges the support of the Bunnelle Charitable Trust, the Dino Olivetti Foundation, Inc., the Peace Foundation, the Charles H. Stout Foundation, the Friends of ArtWatch, and all of our individual donors.

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