International News Digest

BERLIN’S NEWEST ARTIST: AI WEIWEI

Ai Weiwei is the latest artist to make Berlin into a second home. As Monopol and dpa report, the Chinese star––a staunch critic of the Chinese government––is planning a partial move to the German capital to pursue his activities in Europe. But the partial move is not entirely a positive one. “I want to be in Europe as little as possible,” said the fifty-three-year-old artist. “But I would have no other choice if my life or my existence were to be somehow threatened.” For the past few months, a studio space has been under preparation in the district Oberschöneweide. “The atmosphere in Berlin is good,” said the artist, “and it’s comparatively inexpensive. I have a lot of work in Germany and Europe, so I need a working space.”

According to an additional report in the Berliner Zeitung, Ai will be setting up his space inside four halls measuring a total of 16,000 square-feet in the former AEG premises. There, he plans to open an exhibition on April 29, during the upcoming Gallery Weekend event. Ai has recently had trouble showing work in China. A retrospective planned for the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing’s 798 artist district was canceled, due to political pressure. His newly built studio in Shanghai was destroyed last January. “It’s true that the possibilities for artistic expression are very small in China,” said Ai. “But I’m not planning to emigrate to Germany. China is the place I’m most familiar with, and, in the end, I’m a Chinese citizen. I will do my best to improve the working conditions there.”

BEUYS WORKS STOLEN FROM DEUTSCHE BANK

Two works by Joseph Beuys have been stolen from the Deutsche Bank collection in Frankfurt am Main. As Monopol and dpa report, the works––two watercolors titled Schwäne (Swans) and dating from 1963––disappeared from an office in the bank. The value of the work is estimated at $281,000. According to the police, there are no good leads in the case. A representative for the Deutsche Bank confirmed that the works had been stolen but did not offer any further details, although the bank is working closely with the police. According to a police search bulletin, the works were already stolen by February 9. The Deutsche Bank’s collection was founded at the end of the 1970s and is reputed to be one of the best business art collections in the world, with over 56,000 artworks in the bank headquarters and in its many branches around the world.

MUNCH SCREAM THIEF SHOWS ART

Norway’s most renowned art thief is trying out the life of the artist. As Der Standard reports, Pal Enger––who stole Edvard Munch’s Vampire from the Munch Museum in 1988 and then Munch’s Scream from the National Gallery in 1994––is exhibiting fourteen of his own works in an Oslo Gallery. “I think that (my works) are not much worse than many works in the big galleries,” said the forty-three-year-old, who also noted that he had nothing to do with the robbery of a version of Scream from the Munch Museum in 2004. Yet many of his fellow Norwegians will remember security camera images of Enger climbing up a ladder in the night and into the National Gallery in 1994. In addition to the Munch robberies, Enger has a criminal record for fraud, a jewelry store heist, and, most recently, drunken driving.

CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP OF THE ARTS SUFFERS

Corporate sponsorship for art and culture has taken a deep dip in France. As Le Monde’s Marie-Aude Roux reports, the low numbers are reported in a recent study commissioned by Admical, an association for the development of industrial and commercial sponsorship. Between 2008 and 2010, sponsorship for culture dropped from $1 billion to $535 million––a 63 percent decrease. While the total amount of sponsorship money has dropped, the number of sponsors actually increased by 17 percent in this period. But the problem is that “culture” constitutes only 19 percent of the total support and sits in third position after social-education-health and then sports.

“Cultural sponsorship is dying out, or it’s changing radically,” said Admical’s president Olivier Tcherniak, who adds that the economic crisis is one of many factors, including the size of the cultural event. “Instead of funding fifteen little structures, (sponsors) prefer to invest in a large project that’s more visible.” the highly visible profile of company managers, who must answer to both shareholders and employees, is another factor. “Doing something social, humanitarian, or environmental has become easier.” Given the obligation to respect a socially responsible and publicly useful code of ethics in France, many companies exclude culture de facto or focus on cultural projects that also include a social dimension, such as public education.

Tcherniak is not alone in his evaluations. For Christophe Monin, who is in charge of the fundraising department at the Louvre, today’s corporations are less interested in the beauty of art and more interested in culture as a factor of social equilibrium. Jean-Yves Kaced, the director of development at the Opéra de Paris, agrees. “It’s easier to find funding for our pedagogical program […] than for a piece being staged for the first time.” The drop in arts and culture funding from the public sector could be made up for by the private commercial sector. “But it’s not up to companies to make the cultural policy of a country!” says Martine Tridde-Mazloum, director of the Fondation BNP Paribas. “Sponsorship is very clearly linked to the affirmation of a strong cultural policy. Yet the disengagement of public powers and the absence of large cultural projects discourages companies.” In light of the drop in commercial sponsorship, the funding from the French state seems more crucial than ever.