International News Digest


The French architect Jean Nouvel’s project was chosen last week for the redevelopment of Île Seguin. According to a report from Agence France-Presse, the mayor of Boulogne-Billancourt made the announcement about the project on the twenty-seven-acre island, which was the site of a Renault car factory until 1992. Nouvel’s proposal was chosen from six and will be realized through a collaboration between public and private investors. The development envisions a “musical pole,” which will be managed by the local government, and a “contemporary art pole,” which will be run by the French minister of culture. Private investors will also be called on to finance “a cinema pole” in the project as well as art galleries, an open-air concert area, and an “extraordinary garden” covering nearly ten acres. While the completion date has been set for 2014 or 2015, locals can look forward to enjoying walks on the island as early as next year, when the removal of the old factories will be completed.


A group of photographers have protested for copyright at Rencontres Photographiques, the photography festival in Arles, France. As Agence France-Presse reports, more than a dozen professional photographers denounced “abusive practices that are endangering the profession,” including the “widespread” use of photographs without copyright or with rights reserved. The group was responding to the call of the Union des Photographes Créateurs (Union of Creative Photographers), which had also demonstrated in the city against the use of copyright-free images in publications—a practice that “harms creativity and leads to the slow death of photographers.” The photographers have promised to make their demonstration into a regular one during the festival. “Today, no one looks for the photographer,” said a spokesperson for the Union des Photographes Créateurs. “Journals and magazine thus make savings on the backs of the photographers.”


Wolfgang Tillmans has been honored with the 2009 Kulturpreis (Cultural Prize) by the German Society for Photography in Cologne. The society singled out Tillman’s work as “influential” and “style-forming.” The German photographer, who was born in Remscheid, splits his time between London and Berlin.


The Herzliya Museum just outside Tel Aviv is making some waves with an exhibition featuring artworks made by Palestinian male artists. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung's Thorsten Schmitz reports, “Men in the Sun” brings together many works that hold up a mirror to Israel. “The museums in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa make an effort to bring international artists to the Holy Land and are pleased when Wolfgang Tillmans or Norbert Bisky can be had for exhibitions,” writes Schmitz. “By contrast, the Herzliya Museum has placed their space at the neighbors’ disposal.” In the video To You with Love, Fahed Halabi does a belly dance dressed up in a construction worker’s uniform, only to lift up his T-shirt—a gesture familiar to Israeli army controllers who ask Palestinians at checkpoints to raise their shirts in order to show that they have no explosives wrapped around their waists. In another video work, Raafat Hattab shows an Arab gardener taking care of an olive tree to the tune of Lebanese music, only to reveal that the olive tree is located at Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square: the site where Itzhak Rabin was murdered and where fireworks are lit every year to celebrate Israel’s independence.


In the same article, Schmitz reveals a new acquisition at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Sharif Waked’s video To Be Continued will soon become part of the museum’s permanent collection. Waked—an Arab Israeli living in Nazareth—created a video reminiscent of terrorist testimonies. An actor dressed as a terrorist reads out what appears to be a final statement before a suicide-bombing attack. But his statement turns out to be both familiar and never-ending: A Thousand and One Nights, a reading that will defer his mission.


The Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Laura Weissmüller takes a look at Super Art Market, a new German documentary film about the business side of the art world. The director Zoran Solomun, who has already made documentaries about psychiatric inmates and Eastern European smugglers, followed five international art dealers with a camera over three years. As Weissmüller notes, the stars include “the youthful Leo König, who shuffles through his success like a lad; the folksy Gerd Harry Lybke, who goes on a first-name basis with everybody and never loses his grounding, despite his cream-colored summer suit; the taciturn Lorenz Helbling, with a Western gallery in Shanghai; the Londoner Laura Bartlett; and the upward climber Mihai Pop from Romania.” While completed before the fall 2008 crash, Super Art Market seems to point to the bubble's bursting by watching it blowing up to extreme dimensions. Highlights include König talking turkey on pricing: “To some extent, we are completely making it up.” Lybke tells a buyer interested in a David Schnell painting: “If you don’t take it, it’s your own fault.” With a group from Swabia—a region famed in Germanyfor penny-pinching—Lybke explains that art must cost so much that it hurts and that 98 percent of art has no more value as soon as it is carried out the gallery door. Reviewing the film himself, Lybke would have liked to see more scenes showing the dealers’ fine art of mediating artworks. Weissmüller notes the predominance of sound-bite scenes with collectors—dominated by lines like “cool” and “wonderful”—and would like to have seen more about the relationship between artists and their dealers as well as the secondary market of auctions, where the bubble grew the most. Of course, there’s always room for a sequel. Perhaps Super Art Market Savings?

Jennifer Allen