International News Digest

JUNE 23

Jeu de Paume director Marta Gili and other administrators at the French museum have come under fire—and have even received threats of violence—for staging the exhibition “Phantom Home,” the first complete survey of work by Palestinian photographer Ahlam Shibli. The exhibition features a series that explores the treatment of Palestinian suicide bombers as “martyrs”; according to the Art Media Agency, the museum has been “accused of producing pro-Palestinian propaganda which justifies terrorism.” In response, the Jeu de Paume issued a statement saying that it “strongly refutes all accusations surrounding the apology of terrorism and its tolerance. The museum is planning on pressing charges against all threats.” Apparently, the threats received by museum staffers have been extreme enough that even the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art has begun a petition, on change.org, in support of Gili and other Jeu de Paume employees. The petition, which states, “We are against such pressures on any cultural institution dedicated to promoting the principles of artistic expression and freedom,” has so far garnered nearly 1,500 signatures.

Eva González-Sancho, the director of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, has resigned from her position after assuming her duties just three months ago; the curator left MUSAC on the grounds that the Fundación Siglo—which oversees MUSAC and other institutions as an executive arm of the regional government—was constantly meddling with her administrative and artistic program. “This has been an extremely hard decision for me to [make],” González-Sancho told artforum.com. “The constant interfering of Fundación Siglo in my work at all levels and the differences in our opinions forced me to take a stand. It was for me a matter of professional integrity and ethics. I had no other choice. I am very grateful to all people and colleagues that have expressed their support throughout this painful process.” In addition, the entire MUSAC advisory committee chose to resign in support of González-Sancho. ADACE, the Spanish association of contemporary art museum directors, has expressed solidarity with the curator and has criticized the Castilla y León administration’s actions in two open letters, one of which proclaimed the group's “disagreement with the political decisions that resulted in this resignation and that unfortunately reflect a kind of behavior that has yet to be eliminated from this country's political practices.” Meanwhile, enumerating reasons for her departure in her resignation letter, González-Sancho cited the government’s decision to use nearly $80,000 of MUSAC’s budget to pay for a collateral event featuring regional artist Ángel Marcos at the Venice Biennale. Meanwhile, Laurie Rojas reports in the Art Newspaper that Manuel Oliveira, the former director of the Centro Galego de Arte Contemporáneo, will fill the position being vacated by González-Sancho, who is now cocurating the Lofoten International Art Festival, with Anne Szefer Karlsen and Bassam El Baroni.

Rojas also writes in the Art Newspaper that Spain’s minister of education, culture, and sport, Jose Ignacio Wert, has indicated that he will consider reviewing the country’s unusually high VAT rate, after the president of the Spanish autonomous region of Extremadura submitted a proposal to reduce the VAT rate from 21 percent to 13 percent. The VAT, a tax on cultural goods (from which nonprofits and public museums are exempt), rose from 8 percent to its current rate last September. Rojas writes that Spain currently has the highest VAT rate, and that the majority of European countries have their tax rates set to less than 10 percent.

Der Standard reports that police have discovered and raided an international art forgery gang based in Germany, Switzerland, and Israel. The six suspects who’ve been apprehended are said to have forged more than four hundred valuable works in the style of Russian avant-garde artists and to have sold these fakes for many millions of euros. They claimed to be offering works by Kandinsky, Malevich, and Goncharova, among others, and provided certificates of authenticity that gave the impression that the works had previously gone undiscovered. Many of the paintings have been sold and exhibited in Germany and abroad; most have been auctioned off to private collectors. The German Federal Criminal Police has reported that the two main suspects––one German-Tunisian and one Israeli––were taken into custody in Wiesbaden. Investigators found more than one thousand fabricated paintings and documents of sales and provenances, as well as jewelry and other valuables.