International News Digest

SEPTEMBER 1

The director of Kunsthalle Bern, Fabrice Stroun, has published a strongly worded statement—and circulated a petition—in defense of the institution he leads, after members of the local liberal party have called for an end to the public funding received by the kunsthalle. Monopol notes that Roland Jacob, the leader of the Swiss People’s Party, had decried the museum’s funding, saying: “It can not go on like this. There have to be cutbacks even in culture.” Now, in a statement—published in German on the kunsthalle’s website here—Stroun defends the institution’s worth, noting, “The Kunsthalle Bern remains one of the most important venues for contemporary art in Switzerland. Its national and international reputation benefit the entire city, including those citizens who never pay a single visit to the art gallery. This status is now hanging by a thread.” The online petition Stroun launched in support of his statement has now garnered over two thousand signatures, including those of curators Dieter Roelstraete, Urs Stahel, and Chus Martinez.

Sophia Kishkovsky reports in the Art Newspaper that police have seized several paintings by Konstantin Altunin—including one portraying president Vladimir Putin and prime minister Dmitri Medvedev in women’s lingerie—and have shut down the private museum founded by Aleksandr Donskoi which contained the works. Now, Altunin has fled to France, where he will seek asylum, according to Donskoi, who told the Komsomolskaya Pravda that the artist fears “he will be arrested and . . . doesn’t want to return.” Altunin’s artworks are being investigated for “extremism,” the Russian media reports. Yelena Altunina, the artist’s wife, has posted a request for legal and financial assistance on Facebook, saying that the couple and their young daughter are “on the verge of poverty” as Altunin seeks a French lawyer to help with his asylum application.

Who knew? The avant-garde is not only dead, it’s buried under a housing development. Kishkovsky also reports for the New York Times that the burial site of Kazimir Malevich has been found by an “enthusiast,” Aleksandr Matveev, who’d been looking for it for years. Malevich had requested that his body be buried under an oak tree in Nemchinovka, near Moscow; his grave was marked with a small white cube with a black square, designed by Nikolai Suetin, which was ultimately destroyed in World War II. Matveev told Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, that, after his discovery, he’d spoken with culture ministry officials who in turn promised to commemorate the site. But now, says Matveev, “Developers have already talked to the bureaucrats who are making the decisions. . . . They’ve already put concrete blocks on the site of the grave.” The development company has dismissed Matveev’s grievance, saying that “Malevich would be honored and that he was an inspiration for the complex,” but also insisting “that the urn with his ashes had been removed decades ago,” in Kishkovsky’s words.