International News Digest

MARCH 20

A Vienna court has released a report confirming that Peter Noever—former managing director at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts and Contemporary Art in Vienna, or MAK—mismanaged the museum’s budget. The court pronounced Noever’s seventy-nine travel days per year—and average annual travel costs of over $100,000—“very high.” Noever was taken to task for other spending decisions as well: In 2007, he charged the museum for fifty-eight bottles of alcohol at an event for eight people. He also held ten birthday parties for his mother on the museum’s tab, and then asked an employee to hand over paper records of the events and delete corresponding digital records. According to Thomas Trenkler in Der Standard an Austrian national television has reported that Noever, in self defense, argued that a court doesn’t know how to operate a museum. He pointed out that the celebrations for his mother had brought in patrons.

At TEFAF in Maastricht last Friday, economist Clare McAndrew presented a report showing that the US has overtaken China in art sales, reclaiming the top spot after coming in second place last year. In the Art Newspaper, McAndrews noted, “Most European markets performed poorly in 2012. Sales were virtually stagnant in the UK, while nearly all the other large markets such as France, Germany and Italy experienced declines, and overall sales in the EU down by 3 percent.” Meanwhile, “Strong US sales, particularly for fine art, and a slowdown across the board in the Chinese market, meant that the US again regained its number one ranking. The US accounted for 33 percent of the overall art market in 2012, up 4 percent from the year before, while China took a 25 percent share, a drop of 5 percent, although it remained ahead of the UK, which was in third place with 23 percent.”

TEFAF itself is suddenly the subject of much attention: Bloomberg reports that the world’s biggest art and antiques fair is in talks with Sotheby’s about the possibility of collaborating with the auction house, as well as China’s state-owned Beijing GeHua Cultural Development Group, to stage “TEFAF Beijing 2014,” a China-based outpost of the fair. The collaboration will allow all parties to “take advantage of a planned free port project that GeHua is developing within the Tianzhu Free Trade Zone in Beijing, which will serve as a tax-advantaged storage location and provide a platform for various activities,” Sotheby’s stated. As Bloomberg’s Scott Reyburn noted, “A venture between a dealer-organized fair and an international auction house is unusual, emphasizing the importance of China for the West’s art and antiques trade.”

If art markets seem poised to reach new heights, so too do Christo’s artworks—quite literally. According to Deutsche Welle, the artist’s record-breaking installation, Big Air Package—an inflatable sculpture in which visitors can enter—is the single largest indoor piece ever created, reaching up to 295 feet. The artist’s first work without his wife Jeanne-Claude, Big Air Package has been installed in the Gasometer Oberhausen in Germany. It was officially unveiled four days ago, and will be on view until December 30, 2013.