International News Digest

BELLE HALEINE IN BERLIN

Marcel Duchamp’s only surviving readymade, the perfume flask Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette, 1921, made a rare and brief appearance last week in Berlin. As Monopol and the Süddeutsche Zeitung report, the work used to be part of Yves Saint Laurent’s private collection until it was auctioned off two years ago for eleven million dollars in Paris. The buyer remains unknown. This solo exhibition––for only three days and nights––marks the work’s first appearance since the auction. Unlike Duchamp’s other readymades, which disappeared after their exhibition, Belle Haleine survived because the artist gave the work as a gift to his then-lover Yvonne Crotti.

ADS ON MONUMENTS

Another brand of perfume has appeared in an advertisement covering the façade of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. As Le Monde’s Florence Evin and Laurence Girard report, the model is not Marcel Duchamp in drag as Rrose Sélavy but rather Kate Moss, hocking Yves Saint Laurent’s perfume Parisienne. The giant ad, which covers nearly three-thousand-square-feet of the museum’s facade, is contributing to the museum’s current renovations while advertising not only perfume but also the scarcity of funds for public institutions in France.

There was an uproar when the Centre Pompidou covered its façade with an ad for Swatch watches during renovations between 1998–2000. But in 2007, France’s heritage law has been changed to make such ads on public monuments legal. The only restriction seems to be in size: The law states that only 50 percent of the entire scaffolding is permitted to be covered with advertisement. Other institutions who have turned to ads during renovations include the Grand Palais (Air France) and the Opéra (whose ads shifted between Vitamin Water from Coca-Cola, H & M and Ralph Lauren––a cooperation that brought in $905,000 in ten months, after costs). According to the report, the Louvre is the next public monument to explore this new branch of funding. A feasibility study is underway for an ad on the Apollon Gallery during its renovation, which is estimated to reach eight million dollars. “We are waiting for proposals,” said a representative for the museum. The wait doesn’t seem long. One advertiser is ready to pay $274,000 for one month on the building, a key spot along the river Seine where advertisements are normally prohibited.

THE LOUVRE BEHIND BARS

While advertisers are scrambling for a spot on the scaffolding during the Louvre’s upcoming renovations, the stately museum is showing its collection in an unlikely place: a prison. As Le Monde’s Philippe Dagen reports, a recent collaboration has allowed reproductions of paintings from the Louvre’s collection to be shown in an open courtyard of the Poissy prison. The ten reproductions––including works by Caravaggio and de la Tour––are part of the exhibition “Au-delà des murs” (Beyond the walls) which was organized by a group of inmates.

While film, theater, and literature have long been brought into French prisons, this collaboration marks the first exhibition by a museum. The project began in 2010 with ten inmates, including five who had worked in the prison’s ateliers for painting and sculpture. The Louvre came with a selection of works, which the prisoners, acting as quasi-curators, then narrowed down to ten. Each detainee chose one image, wrote about it for the catalogue, and decided upon its installation. The head of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette, visited twice, while the writer Luc Lang assisted with the catalogue and the architect and stage designer Philippe Maffre helped with the installation. Many picked the same works, such as Caspar David Friedrich’s painting The Tree with Crows, 1822. “It represents a lot for us,” said one participant. “A tree with crows, that’s the weight, that’s prison.” ”We don’t see the same things as you,” said another.

PROBLEM WITH LOUIS VUITTON PROJECT

The new Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris is facing some challenges by local citizens groups. As Le Monde’s Frédéric Edelmann reports, the new foundation, designed by star architect Frank Gehry, is being constructed in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, a children’s park adjacent to the vast Bois de Boulogne park on the west side of Paris. Although much of the building has been completed, its construction permit was canceled on January 20 by an administrative court. The group Coordination pour la sauvegarde du bois de Boulogne, a collective of twenty associations based in the west of Paris, are pleased with the decision. “Our statutes are simple: to protect the Bois de Boulogne, especially against reinforced concrete,” said the director of coordination François Douady.

After the construction site’s status in urban planning laws changed, the court found a problem with the building: not its height but an alteration to what the courts see as a public road. Edelmann points out that the Coordination group has fought several commercial and public projects planned for the Bois de Boulogne as well as public housing projects. As for the Foundation Louis Vuitton, the roof still remains to be installed. A “cloud of glass” will reach 151 feet in height—a horror according to the Coordination group, “a gift to Paris and Parisians” according to a representative for Bernard Arnault, the head of the LVMH group that includes Louis Vuitton. The foundation building, estimated at $137 million, all paid by LVMH, was to be completed by 2012. But now the project could face a legal marathon of appeals, which could last from two month to six years.

OPPOSITION TO BERLIN’S “KUNSTHALLE” EXHIBITION

Approximately two hundred Berlin artists, curators, and critics have signed an open letter opposing the mayor’s plans for a “Kunsthalle” exhibition this summer. As Monopol reports, Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit proposed the exhibition as a study to demonstrate the need for a permanent Kunsthalle in the city, albeit without actually building one. The open letter of protest––initiated by the collective Salon populaire and sent to the four thousand members of the artist association Berufsverband Bildender Künstler––criticizes the “neo-liberal” rhetoric” in the project, which has been billed by the mayor’s office as an “Achievement Show of Young Berlin Art.” For the signatories, the exhibition’s punctual nature, as a one-time event, does more for city marketing than for long-term investments in the conditions of production and presentation for Berlin artists. Moreover, the exhibition’s two million dollar budget offers a conspicuous contrast to the city’s five million dollar annual arts budget, which is allocated to artists, projects, and institutions collectively. The signatories promise to boycott the exhibition and demand a revision of the project as well as a public dialogue.

Jennifer Allen