International News Digest

AUGUST 22

Various critics have continued to debate the plan to move Berlin’s Old Masters collection from Kunstforum to Bodemuseum. Dieter Bartetzko of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung predicted that the Old Masters collection would be cramped in the Bodemuseum, and the move would be a colossal waste of money that does no good for the cultural landscape of Berlin. He stated, “Under these conditions, and this is truly where the scandal lies, art will no longer expand our horizons; rather, it will promote the general dulling of our senses.” The alternative proposal—to move the Old Masters to the Kronprinzenpalais—is even more absurd, argued Andreas Kilb of FAZ, because it doesn’t even have the air-conditioning to care for the collection. In Die Welt, Cornelius Tittel accused the plan’s critics of being hypocrites, citing their support of a similar 1999 plan to move the collection to the Bodemuseum.

Monopol spoke with Áron Fenyvesi, curator at the independent Budapest art center Trafó, about the current state of art in Hungary and its relationship to national history, on the occasion of the show “Haunting Monumentality,” which Fenyvesi organized in Berlin’s Plan B gallery. Said Fenyvesi, “For a long time there’s been a tendency to lead people to forget decades of communism. Monuments are being taken down, the square in front of the parliament is to be rebuilt in its supposedly original form from 1944, which means that undesirable monuments will be blotted out there as well.” When asked about the leadership of current prime minister Victor Orbán, Fenyvesi spoke of “new forms of national hero worship,” stating, “In Budapest’s National Gallery there was a controversial show titled ‘Heroes, Kings, and Saints’ at the same time the Orbán regime’s new constitution was approved. Artists were commissioned new interpretations of famous history paintings. A rather flat propaganda.” And when Monopol asked Fenyvesi’s decision to juxtapose older works with contemporary pieces, Fenyvesi said that it was an unconventional choice, explaining, “In contrast with the West, such a mixture is still unusual in Hungary. I suppose it has something to do with the regime changes: Younger artists cannot imagine having anything in common with someone of their parents’ generation.”

Klaus Brill of the Süddeutsche Zeitung has written a feature on the present state of Romania’s new government majority and the changes it has imposed—including a lamentable cultural policy overhaul. According to Brill, Romania’s new government head—Social Democrat and “Ph.D. thesis plagiarizer” Victor Ponta—had promised an “honest and competent government,” but has largely failed to deliver. Brill noted that the government’s majority is currently composed of Social Democrats, liberals, and a conservative splinter party bound together by a general sense of bourgeois nationalism—and fabricated credentials. With this new government came a sweeping replacement of directors at cultural institutions such as the National Archive and the Romanian Cultural Institute. Film director Cristian Mungiu called this move a “purging of the worst kind.” Brill suggested that Horia-Roman Patapievici, who was the dismissed head of the cultural institute, is likely being penalized because he was on the side of conservative president Traian Basescu, who brought him into office. Brill also observed that, in the context, today’s cultural creatives in the former Eastern bloc tend to be on the conservative side of the spectrum, by contrast with their Western counterparts, because of their negative experiences with Communism.