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Art Market Italy

Art Market Italy: Bonhams to auction property of Martignone family

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Written by Silvia Anna Barrila   
Wednesday, 10 September 2014 12:34

The Milanese house of Count and Countess Martignone, image courtesy Bonhams

MILAN, Italy - Seventeenth-century paintings, Lombardy neo-classical furniture and 19th-century German silver from an important Northern Italian family will be auctioned September 24th at Bonhams' London gallery. The collection of antiquities -- approximately 500 pieces in all -- belong to Count and Countess Martignone, of a noble family originating from Como and raised to nobility by Ottone Visconti, Archbishop of Milan, in the 13th century. The objects come from the family's Milanese townhouse, in the heart of the city, and from their residency overlooking the sea on the Liguria coastline.

Bonhams describes the Martignone residences as the "homes where Kings, Popes and Prime Ministers revelled." The Martignones, in fact, were famous for their hospitality. Among their guests, for example, was the last king of Italy, Humbert II.

Count Ettore Martignone was an esteemed doctor who served in the Red Cross during the Second World War, while his wife Mariella (Maria) Martignone was an entrepreneur and founder of the chemical company VAMPA. Along with their hospitality, the couple was famous for their passion for decorative art and antiques. Their collection comes to auction with a total presale estimate exceeding one million pounds (US$1.6 million).

The Milanese house contained their collection of Old Master paintings, Italian and French furniture and objects of art from the 17th to early 20th centuries, as well as an extensive collection of silverware that includes not only dining room silver, but also animal sculptures and drinking vessels with unusual forms.

The walls of the Genoa residence also were adorned with Old Masters paintings, but the furniture there was of Northern Italian provenance, lending the house a more local character. Furthermore, the gardens of the Genoa house included a collection of Classical marble sculptures.

Among the most important Old Master paintings to be auctioned are an oil on canvas with blossoming flowers, cherubs and fruit by Franz Werner von Tamm from 1694, which is estimated at £25,000-35,000; two 17th-century oil studies by a follower of Alessandro Gori, both representing animals in a river landscape, offered as a pair for £10,000-15,000. Another highlight is "Portrait of a boy," attributed to the circle of Pier Francesco Cittadini, also from the 17th century, estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Among the furniture highlightd is a pair of Lombardy early 19th-century fruitwood and ebony card tables, probably by the renowned Giuseppe Maggiolini, the most famous ebeniste of the Italian Neoclassical period, who created pieces for various European royal families from his Milan workshop in the 1700s. The pair is estimated at £12,000-18,000. Lombardy, and particularly the city of Milan, was famous for its cabinetmaking in the Neoclassical period, a style which favored clean lines in comparison to the heavy and dramatic Baroque and the theatrically ornate Rococo styles. The Genoan style, instead, still retained some evidence of the Rococo. Another highlight is a fine French late 19th-century commode in the manner of Charles Cressent, which is offered at £10,000-15,000.

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The Milanese house of Count and Countess Martignone, image courtesy Bonhams 

The Genoese house of Count and Countess Martignone, image courtesy Bonhams

The Genoese house of Count and Countess Martignone, image courtesy Bonhams

Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 September 2014 12:56

Art Market Italy: 5 must-see exhibitions in August

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Thursday, 14 August 2014 15:14

Takashi Murakami, ‘Red Demon and Blue Demon with 48 Arhats,’ 2013, Acrylic, gold and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board, 3 x 5 meters. Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, ©2013 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

MILAN - August in Italy is synonymous with a sea and sun vacation. Yet there is still space for art and culture. Here are five must-see exhibitions on your trip through Italy, from the north to the south.

Takashi Murakami in Milan

From July 24 to Sept. 7, the Hall of the Caryatids of Palazzo Reale in Milan is home to an exhibition of recent works by Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, known for its mix of pop and traditional Japanese culture, manga and Buddhist iconography. The exhibition, titled "The cycle of Arhat" and curated by Francesco Bonami, presents works created over the past two years. Despite its flat aesthetics, the message and meaning of the works is deeper. It reflects on topics of recent history such as the earthquake and nuclear emergency in Fukushima. "The works speak of a world attacked by the forces of nature and the self-destructive forces of humans," Bonami explained in the press conference, "but the world is saved by ‘Arhat’: ancient characters, monks who lead us through the problems of life, not to solve them, but rather to learn how to live with them. Exhibited in the Hall of the Caryatids, which was damaged both by the WWII bombing and by climatic conditions, the works take on a deeper meaning."

Architecture Biennial in Venice

From June 7 to Nov. 23, the 14th edition of the Architecture Biennial takes place in Venice under the curatorship of star architect Rem Koolhaas. The theme chosen by Koolhaas for this edition is "Fundamentals." It includes not only the exhibition at the Central Pavilion, titled "Elements of Architecture," but also the national pavilions, which are usually free to choose the theme of their presentation. In fact, this year the pavilions welcomed Koolhaas' invitation to reflect on the theme "Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014." The curator has not limited himself to set up the presence of other architects called to present themselves and their work. This year's exhibition is the result of research conducted under the guidance of the curator with the aim to propose in a new perspective the reference elements for a new relationship between us, our civilization and architecture.

Arte in Centro

From 4 July to 28 Sept., the event "Art in the Center" gathers in a single network nine exhibitions, 20 events, 100 international artists, 13 curators and more than 10 venues. It is an initiative of six foundations from the regions of Abruzzo and Marche, which arose from the need to create an integrated cultural system in an area rich in specificities; a union which represents an incentive to innovation and at the same time a way to develop the individual identities. The events take place in seven municipalities. Ascoli Piceno, for example, hosts the exhibition "Amalassunta Collaudi. Dieci artisti e Licini," which put into dialogue the works by the painter native of the Marche Osvaldo Licini with those of national and international contemporary artists. In the Cathedral of Atri in Abruzzo there is the exhibition "Stills of Peace and Everyday Life," which puts into dialogue photography, video and installations by contemporary Italian and Pakistani artists.

Maria Lai in Sardinia

Sardinia celebrates Maria Lai, the Sardinian artist who died last year at the age of 94, with a retrospective titled "Ricucire il mondo." The exhibitions take place in three museums in Cagliari, Nuoro and Ulassai, the artist's birthplace. Palazzo di Città a Cagliari hosts, from July 10 to Nov. 2, the first part of the project, dedicated to the artist’s production from the 1940s to the 1980s, and includes a series of documentaries. The video of the collective performance "Legarsi alla montagna," realized in Ulassai in 1981, is a key work in the development of Lai's languages and unifying element of the three exhibitions. The MAN Museum in Nuoro hosts, from July 11 to Oct. 12, the second part of the project, dedicated to her production from the 1980s to 2000, a moment of particular creative intensity for the artist carried out in line with the contemporary developments of the international research in the field of performance, relational and public art. Finally there will be two itineraries in Ulassai, from July 12 to Nov. 2: "Una stazione per l’arte," the old railway station converted into a museum by Lai and staged according to its original design and environmental interventions implemented in the village since the early 1980s.

Ettore Spalletti in Rome and Naples

Another great Italian artist is celebrated in three museums. It is Ettore Spalletti, born in Abruzzo in 1940, whose works are on show at MADRE in Naples (from April 13 to Aug. 18), at MAXXI in Rome (from March 13 to Sept. 14), and at GAM in Turin (already concluded). The three exhibitions collect 70 works under the poetic title "Un giorno così bianco, così bianco." The MADRE exhibition traces the artist's research from the beginning in the 1960s until today, combining painting, sculpture, environmental installations, books and projects. All central topics in the work of Spalletti are included: the cancellation of the time as a linear progression and its exploration as an eternal present; the relationship between natural data and abstract language; the relationship between painting and sculpture as an articulation of colors and volumes in space; the memory of the classic combined with modernity; the centrality of the experience of landscape; and the exploration of monochrome as a metaphor of perceptual sensitivity. At MAXXI the artist is confronted with the strongly characterized architectural space and appropriates the space composing a path built by his most recent works.


Takashi Murakami, ‘Red Demon and Blue Demon with 48 Arhats,’ 2013, Acrylic, gold and platinum leaf on canvas mounted on board, 3 x 5 meters. Courtesy Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, ©2013 Takashi Murakami/Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Elements of Architecture, Central Pavilion, 14th International Architecture Exhibition, Fundamentals, la Biennale di Venezia, photograph by Giorgio Zucchiatti. Courtesy La Biennale di Venezia.

Iacopo Pasqui, ‘Roseto degli Abruzzi,’ 03/03/2010. Courtesy Arte in Centro.

Ettore Spalletti, ‘Movimento trattenuto,’ 2001, color impasto on white Sivec marble, 16 elements, 110 x 15,5 x 17,5 cm each, photograph by Mario Di Paolo. Courtesy Madre Napoli.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 August 2014 16:40

Art Market Italy: Design at Nova Ars

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Thursday, 24 July 2014 15:18

Alessandro Mendini, ‘Superego Totem,’ An enameled totem sculpture, signed and numbered 1/8, 23 x 10.6 x 8.3 inches. Courtesy Nova Ars.

ASTI, Italy – Form or function? Decorative or utilitarian? Artwork or design object? Questions that designers and architects have always engaged and that run as a leitmotif through the lots offered on July 31 by Ars Nova, the Asti-based auction house specializing in design. The auction will be an original mix of approximately 140 pieces of design and works of contemporary art from the 1930s until today, with estimates ranging from €500 to €18,000.

The sale includes, for example, sculptures created by designers such as Separazione nostalgica by Angelo Mangiarotti (lot 11, estimate €3,000-3,500). The Plexiglas sculpture by Milanese architect and designer has created in other materials, as well, such as marble and bronze, and is composed by two items without function that one can bring closer or draw apart. There’s also the golden ceramic totem Superego by Alessandro Mendini (lot 42, estimate €3,000-4,000), a sculpture that was realized in an edition of eight on the model of 13 unique sculptures designed for the “Arts & Crafts and Design: Alessandro second time Mendini and his craftsmen” project in 2013. And, also, the perforated sculpture created by Giò Ponti for Sabbatini in 1978 (lot 8D, estimate €2,000-2,500), or the recent series of ceramic sculptures by Massimo Giacon (lots 126-143, estimate €2,000-4,000): an original series of figures in edition of 50, which combine design, comics and pop surrealism and were recently shown at the Milan Triennale.

But there will also be various pieces of design in which the decorative element prevails over function. For example, the "Hérisson" armchair by Marzio Cecchi (lot 38, estimate €13,000-15,000). Cecchi is a little-known designer, mainly known among collectors because he worked little for the industry and much more for galleries, and because he was for a long time active in the United States. Shaped like a hedgehog, the armchair was made in very few editions in 1969 and anticipated the provocations of the 1970s and 1980s, the abandonment of the dictates of function in favor of form and decoration – changes that reflected new trends in taste but also in society.

Then, there will be examples of the pop design from the 1970s, such as "The Témoin," an armchair in the shape of an eye by Dino Gavina and Man Ray (lot 18, estimate €2,000-2,500), or "Magritta," an armchair inspired by a Magritte painting by Dino Gavina and Sebastián Matta (lot 19, estimate €2,000-2,500).

Among the most important pieces in the auction there will be a pyramidal chest of drawers by Shiro Kuramata (lot 30, estimate €15,000-18,000). It was produced by Cappellini in 1968 in few editions and it was difficult to realize because it is entirely in Plexiglas and all drawers are one different from each other and inserted in a nearly 2-meter-high pyramid. Shiro Kuramata was very active in Italy and also worked with Ettore Sottsass at Memphis. Sottsass is represented in the sale with different pieces: some furniture (lots 22, 25, 32, 36, 44, estimates €3,000-10,000) and a series of jewelry (lots 67-72, estimates €3,500-6,000).

And then, again, there will be artworks related to the design, such as some photographs of design objects made by Occhiomagico and used as covers of Domus magazine (lots 82-113, estimates €800-6,000). "Occhiomagico is a group that started working in the 1970s with Studio Alchemia," says Ars Nova specialist Edoardo Scagliola. "It has been somehow forgotten but is in the process of re-evaluation. Already last October there was a retrospective dedicated to this group in Moscow during the Design Week."

However, the sale will also offer some more classic pieces, like a big table with wrought iron and marble top by Pierluigi Colli from circa 1930 (lot 2, estimate €10,000-15,000); a floor lamp by Cesare Lacca from the 1950s, which still bears the decorative style typical of the previous decade (lot 8M, estimate €1,500-2,000) and a few lamps from the 1950s, which are again fashionable, including a Max Ingrand lamp for Fontana Arte that is currently very desirable (lot 8E, estimate €3,400-4,000).


Alessandro Mendini, ‘Superego Totem,’ An enameled totem sculpture, signed and numbered 1/8, 23 x 10.6 x 8.3 inches. Courtesy Nova Ars.

Shiro Kuramata, produced by Cappellini, Pyramid, drawers, wheels, black methacrylate, circa 1968, 27.5 x 23.6 x 72 inches. Courtesy Nova Ars.

Marzio Cecchi, Studio Most, Hérisson, silver vinyl cloth seat in the shape of a big hedgehog, circa 1969, 31.5 x 59 x 51 inches. Courtesy Nova Ars.

Occhiomagico, ‘Tin Douf,’ 1979, 33 x 51 cm, vintage, c-print, hand-painted, unique. Courtesy Nova Ars.

Massimo Giacon, ‘Love carrot,’ pottery sculpture, edition of 50, Superego Editions, 2009, 22.8 inches high. Courtesy Nova Ars.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 16:49

Art Market Italy: Dylan Dog comics at Little Nemo

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Monday, 14 July 2014 13:29

Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 1, ‘L'alba dei morti viventi – Jack lo squartatore – Le notti della luna piena.’ Courtesy Little Nemo, Turin.

TURIN, Italy – Good results for the exhibition "Dylan Dog in Turin - Bruno Brindisi and Fabio Civitelli," organized by Turin-based auction house and art gallery specialized in comics Little Nemo, once again confirms the popularity of this character in Italy.

For the occasion, in fact, Little Nemo has created a portfolio with the five most beautiful covers of the show printed on fine paper in an edition of 99 priced at 60 euros ($82), which was immediately sold out. "We could have made three times as much," the director Sergio Pignatone said. "It is a confirmation that all the merchandising products around the figure of this Italian comic hero is very sought-after."

The character Dylan Dog, a "nightmare investigator" struggling against the paranormal, is interesting in the history of comics because it has been able to reach a very wide audience, including women, and greatly expand the market. The character’s debut in 1986 (it was already in the drawer for a couple of years) was a turning point for the publishing house Sergio Bonelli Editore, which before was known for comics such as Tex, Zagor and the Little Ranger. Along with the comic book Martin Mystère, born in 1982, Dylan Dog has managed to rejuvenate the publisher.

It was born from the mind of Tiziano Sclavi, who was already working for Bonelli Editore, and initially met Sergio Bonelli's hesitation because it was a horror comic. The quality, however, was so high that the project was launched, and within 30-40 issues it became an epochal phenomenon.

The success is due to the combination of brilliant stories by Tiziano Sclavi on the one hand, and the drawing skill of the other Angelo Stano, who knew how to create elegant reminders to Schiele and Klimt, creating a successful crossover between the popular genre of comics and the highest expressions of art. Also it is a strong character with a romantic allure that was missing the other characters in the comic world – which were limited to the adventure. Plus, he was surrounded by other strong characters such as Groucho, Xabaras and charming female figures such as Morgana.

Stano was joined by other top illustrators who have maintained a high graphic level such as Claudio Villa, Corrado Roi and Bruno Brindisi. To the latter is now dedicated the exhibition of Little Nemo, still ongoing until Thursday, July 19. In the coming months the exhibition will be repeated in Lucca at Lucca Comics and in Padua during the Arte Padova art fair.

The great popularity of the character has immediately fostered a diffuse phenomenon of collecting of Dylan Dog. A legend is told that a copy of the No. 1 in the 1990s was paid as much as a million lire, a high figure for a comic book published just 10 years before. The correct figure today would be around €200-€300 ($272-$408).

For ordinary copies, on average, the cost is between €2 and €5 ($2.72-$6.80). Some important numbers reach €50 ($68), such as the number 13. The price depends of course on the state of conservation, a factor not to be overlooked because of the type of paper and the fact that black covers are easily perishable.

For an entire collection (about 300 numbers), the price ranges from €500 to €1,500 ($680-$2,040). Another element to be taken into account is the fact that right from the beginning many reprints have been made. So it is not a market for big investment but certainly widespread.

With regard to original drawings used to do the comics, prices range from €100 to €600 ($136-$816) depending on the artist. Original covers reach even higher prices, ranging from €1,500 ($2,040) for the covers of the latest issues, designed by Stano, to €5,000-€6,000 ($6,800-$8,160) for the covers of the first 41 numbers, designed by Claudio Villa. In the 1990s one of these covers cost 1 million-1.5 million lire, so now the price has increased considerably.

The covers on display at Little Nemo, instead, are as we said before by Bruno Brindisi, an illustrator who until 2013 has made only the interior of the comics and then found himself confronted with the cover – and with the great masters Villa and Stano – on the occasion of the reprint of 50 numbers in colors by the publishing group L'Espresso. On display are the covers and the sketches showing the not easy task to reinvent the cover without betraying the great legacy.

In general, the comics market today continues to reward quality, rarity and excellent conditions. Especially for the tables there is a real boom at an international level. Think of the Artcurial auction, for example, but also of the arrival in this market of the giants like Christie's, which has recently held an auction totaling 4.5 million euros (46.1 million), and Sotheby's, which is preparing to enter the market in Brussels in the beginning of 2015.

Among the most popular authors on the market there are also many Italians such as Hugo Pratt, Milo Manara, Vittorio Giardino, Guido Crepax and Dino Battaglia. Dylan Dog is a very Italian comic book, even if it is printed also in other countries including France, Turkey, northern Europe. At the international level it is especially popular in Croatia and Slovenia.


Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 1, ‘L'alba dei morti viventi – Jack lo squartatore – Le notti della luna piena.’ Courtesy Little Nemo, Turin.

Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 22, ‘I segreti di Ramblyn.’ Courtesy Little Nemo, Turin.

Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 43. Courtesy Little Nemo Turin.

Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 15, ‘Storia di Nessuno.’ Courtesy Little Nemo Turin.

Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 19, ‘LA Mummia.’ Courtesy Little Nemo Turin.

Bruno Brindisi, ‘Dylan Dog,’ Vol. 20, ‘La clessidra di Pietra.’ Courtesy Little Nemo Turin.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 July 2014 14:52

Art Market Italy: Bibliopathos presents Old Masters, books

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Written by Silvia Anna Barrila   
Thursday, 03 July 2014 13:28

Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Sacrifice of Isaac, Oil on canvas, Courtesy Bibliopathos

After ten years as antique book dealers and an art gallery, Bibliopathos started in 2013 an auction house. Since the beginning of this activity, Bibliopathos has already held six auctions, and in July three more are scheduled. On July 9, Bibliopathos will hold in Turin an auction of Old Master paintings consisting of 59 lots (24 paintings and engravings and drawings for the rest), with estimates ranging between €500 and €100,000. It includes works by great masters from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, but also some minor works with more affordable prices for new collectors.

The two most important pieces are the "Lamentation over the Dead Christ" by Bassano, which once belonged to the royal of Spain King Felipe V and his wife Isabel and was published in the official catalog of their collections (lot 2, estimate €80,000-100,000), and the "Sacrifice of Isaac" by Giulio Cesare Procaccini, a recently discovered autograph work (lot 10, estimate €100,000-120,000). Other important paintings are the Madonna by Van Orley, also signed (lot 18, estimate €25,000-30,000), and "Leda and the Swan," a painting on panel from the mid-sixteenth century in excellent condition attributed to the Flemish painter Sellaer (lot 13, estimate €70,000-90,000). "For lovers of music," specialist Antonello Privitera recommends, "there are also two beautiful paintings on this subject: "Allegory of Music" by Van Ehrenstrahl (lot 3, estimate €20,000-25,000) and "Young Lady Playing the Lute" by Backhuyzen, signed and dated (lot 1, estimate €20,000-30,000)."

On July 10, instead, in Verona, Bibliopathos will hold two auctions of books. One is dedicated to Renaissance books, with rare specimens such as lot 104, Henricus Petrus' "Mikropresbutikon," a collection of apocryphal texts of the Early Church, which show its links with the pagan culture (estimate €2,000-3,000). The other one is an auction of "Ghosts" books - books which were unknown to librarians, universities and collectors. There will be 33 examples, including a 1498 missal printed on vellum (lot 16, estimate €40,000-50,000), and the only circulating manuscript of the "Picatrix," a book of Arabian magic, never printed as forbidden and known as "the stairway to hell."

"The market for antique books, in Italy and abroad, has changed enormously in recent years," Antonello Privitera says. "There is increasing attention to the splendid specimens, possibly in their first edition. Moreover, the interest of collectors has moved—but this already for twenty years or so— more and more toward science books. I see this trend almost as a consequence of what happens in the present: the spirit of the time is more technologic and more willingly to rely on science for the search of the truth rather than on philosophy or the thought."

And the art market in general? "The trend is definitely on the rise compared to previous years," Privitera says, "even though the market has shrunk already for the past five or six years. There is an attention on the part of the customers only to works of quality, partly due to the uncertainty given by the general world economic situation but also, in my opinion, to a greater awareness on the part of collectors, which has developed also from the enormous range of works of art and antique books available online."

As an auction house, Bibliopathos stands for a policy of zero or low fees for the buyer. "According to our philosophy, in fact, it is especially the seller who must bear the cost and pay for the services of the auction house. We do not want to burden those who are already exposing themselves to the purchase." Their policy was welcomed by the buyers and the percentage of sales were above 50%.

Other features of the auction house are: first, they do not offer too many lots in order not to tire collectors and in order to devote themselves more to cataloging and exhibiting the works; secondly, they provide catalogs which are extremely rich in information, so that even those who do not know art can get an idea.

If Bibliopathos' specialization is currently on Antique books and manuscripts and Old Masters paintings, in the future the plan is to open new departments, with special attention to contemporary art and Russian art.

"The decision to offer contemporary art is for adherence to our times," Privitera says. "It speak a language that has great expressive power, and I think it is right to run it alongside ancient and modern art.

Russian art, especially the Avant-garde, but also Soviet art, is my personal passion and I also believe that, together with attention to emerging authors, it is an excellent ground for pure investors. Indeed, Socialist Realism has remained one of the few areas of contemporary art yet very underrated, even for the difficulty of finding paintings that have an artistic value that bypasses the diktats imposed on painters by the Communist ideology and regime. After all, even the ancient painters had to work while trying to untangle between the whims of the rulers and the impositions of the Catholic Church and most of them were simple artisans of which no traces remain. In a similar way, it is necessary to look for the masterpiece also in Soviet art. It appears every thousand paintings, but when it appears it is a small miracle for the eyes and for the heart."

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Giulio Cesare Procaccini, Sacrifice of Isaac, Oil on canvas, Courtesy Bibliopathos

Bassano, Lamentation over the Dead Christ, 1580-82, Oil on canvas, Courtesy Bibliopathos

Picatrix, 1624, Courtesy Bibliopathos

Mikropresbutikon, 1550, Courtesy Bibliopathos

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 July 2014 13:38
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