International News Digest


To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Fluxus movement, Monopol interviewed Mary Bauermeister, whose apartment in Cologne was home to the original meetings of the Fluxus group. Bauermeister began the interview by locating herself in the lineage of salon hosts, saying “There’s a long tradition of salonières, from Madame de Staël to Rahel Varnhagen. Had I been a man, I would never have been able to get these people together. Only women can do that, not having to be dominant.” She explained that it was at her home that Nam June Paik first began to generate ideas for his video art. Bauermeister also said, “We weren’t interested in excessive consumption, but in excessive thinking. The exchange was ecstatic enough for us. Also, there was no money. We were hungry, and that was our consciousness-expanding drug.” When asked about her eventual move to New York, she said that, stateside, “artists welcomed me with open arms: Rauschenberg and Johns. Merce Cunningham and Carolyn Brown performed at my place . . . . In the US I didn’t have to work my way up among the artists.”

German art shipper Nils Jennrich has been in Chinese custody since March 30, but was released earlier this month after pressure from the German government. He was accused of underreporting the number and value of artworks that his company Integrated Fine Art Solutions was importing to China, notes the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. While Integrated Fine Art Solutions denies these allegations, the crime and detention of Jennrich has been part of a greater political strategy, reportedly begun in March by Chinese authorities to curb tax evasion in the art market. Wu Jin, art broker and editor-in-chief of an art magazine; Huang Yujie, head of investment firm Bonwin Art; and several employees of another shipping company, Noah Fine Arts Shipping, have also been arrested, while many others have been interrogated. China demands 12 percent in import duties on art, or 6 percent on works originating in the country. This, coupled with a 17 percent sales tax, means that a buyer who purchases work abroad must pay up to 30 percent when bringing their acquisitions back to the Asian nation. According to FAZ, there was a great deal of flexibility in the enforcement of the written law in the recent past, known in China as “hidden rules,” making the practice of undervaluing work quite common. There a several theories as to what changed: Some point to Ai Weiwei’s detention as an indication that Chinese officials have started seeing the financial viability of the nation’s art market, whereas others simply see this rash of arrests as an indication that the state wants to rein in speculation.

In other news, Gareth Harris reports in the Art Newspaper that Riyadh’s first curated exhibition space—Alāan Artspace—will be opening next month, as part of what Harris identifies as the continuing growth of contemporary art’s presence in Saudi Arabia. “There is a tremendous amount of energy around the arts in Saudi, but relatively few institutions,” said Alāan’s founding director, Neama Alsudairy. “Revenue from the shop, restaurant, and cafe gives us the flexibility to hold noncommercial exhibitions, commission new works, stock an art research library, and offer free nonprofit educational arts programming.” In addition, Harris notes the presence of Lam Art Gallery in Riyadh among other venues, and nods at the auction-block successes of Saudi artist Abdulnasser Gharem, whose work Message/Messenger, 2010, was recently the top lot at Christie’s Dubai, selling for over $800,000.