International News Digest


A press representative for the EU energy commission has reacted to the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s recent article on how the upcoming EU ban on incandescent lightbulbs will push artworks that use the traditional lightbulbs into extinction, from László Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space-Modulator, 1922–30, to Felix Gonzalez–Torres’s Untitled (For Stockholm), 1992. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the EU press representative Ferran Tarradellas was “astonished” to learn that the energy commission’s decision would endanger artistic creativity and the exhibition of art in museums. Tarradellas questioned the argument that lightbulbs are as common to the artist’s materials as canvas, paint, and marble. “A visit to any museum for contemporary art demonstrates the contrary,” said Tarradellas.

The EU ban on the energy-wasting bulbs with a glowing filament will be gradually implemented, beginning on September 1, when one-hundred-watt incandescents along with all frosted lightbulbs will be banned from either production in or import into the EU.

By September 1, 2010, the ban will affect seventy-five-watt bulbs; September 1, 2011, targets sixty-watt bulbs. By September 1, 2012, the ban will be all but complete, with the final stage outmoding forty- and twenty-five-watt bulbs. While the EU wants consumers to switch to the more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, news of the ban has led many Europeans to start hoarding traditional bulbs. According to a report in Der Spiegel, sales of the traditional bulbs are up by as much as 150 percent. Despite their cheap price, incandescent bulbs are considered wasteful, since only 5 percent of the energy they consume goes into light production, while the rest becomes heat. The EU is not the first governmental entity to ban the bulb.

Despite the ban, Tarradellas insists that the vision of a future lit up by CFLs only is “false.” “The regulation takes only the most inefficient lamps (the lightbulbs) off the market, and thus minimizes the million of emissions and the waste of energy.” Tarradellas notes that there will still be “a whole palette of different products” left on the market, including lamps with halogen technology, “which look very similar to traditional lightbulbs.” “It’s utterly ludicrous to ask the commission for the sake of art to leave a product on the market that could be dangerous for the environment, health, and the consumer,” said Tarradellas. “Otherwise exceptions could be asked for when an artist wants to use antiperson landmines, enriched plutonium, or CFC.” Tarradellas adds that all lightbulbs in stock at the stores can still be purchased. “Only the production and the import of new lightbulbs will be gradually forbidden. In the meantime, artists can make beautiful artworks with lightbulbs that are allowed by the EU regulation, for example improved bulbs with halogen technology or LED lights.”


The Paris art fair FIAC is taking a few measures to weather the economic crisis, despite a strong performance at last fall’s edition during the onset of the downturn. As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Angelika Heinick reports, FIAC has allowed eight galleries—including Krugier, PaceWildenstein, Acquavella, and Malingue—to show two to three works each in a central space in the Grand Palais.

FIAC has also taken on the French department store Galeries Lafayette as an “official partner,” which will support the participation of fourteen young galleries at stands in the Cour Carrée; each will cost a little over six thousand dollars. Guillaume Houzé, a collector and heir to the founding family of Galeries Lafayette, is being presented as the fair’s “third man” alongside the artistic director, Jennifer Flay, and the fair director, Martin Bethenod. The Prix Lafayette will be given to an artist from one of these galleries, while the department store will purchase one of the winning artist’s works.

Heinick also takes a look at Art Paris, namely a new concept developed by “strategic director” Lorenzo Rudolf. “Art+Paris+Guests,” which will take place in the Grand Palais, encourages Paris galleries to create an “Event in the Event” with a wide array of guests: other dealers, collectors, foundations, designers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, and even star chefs. “It’s art as a component of the lifestyle industry,” writes Heinick. FIAC takes place October 22–25, while Art Paris runs March 17–22.


The City of Vienna is the latest entity to put its collection online. As Der Standard and the APA report, twenty thousand works of contemporary art are now available in the databank “MUSA—Museum auf Abruf” (Museum on Call). The collection, which was initiated in 1951, features works from thirty-five hundred contemporary Viennese artists and artists who lived or who are living in the city. To date, the collection, which was acquired through the recommendations of a specialized jury, could be seen only at exhibitions.


An interactive Bible artwork that garnered criticism from the pope has been placed under protective glass. As Agence France-Presse reports, Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art was forced to take the measure in the wake of the controversy surrounding the work. The installation, Untitled, 2009, is part of the “Made In God’s Image” exhibition at the museum and was curated by local artist Anthony Schrag. The intention was for homosexuals and transsexuals who felt left out of religion to “write their way back in” to the holy book. But visitors—offered pens to make personal comments in the margins of the scriptures—tended to add negative, if not profane, remarks, which have angered believers, from local ministers right up to the pope.


Censoring critics made their mark on a work created by the painter Ernest Pignon-Ernest for the facade of the Montauban cathedral in France. As Agence France-Presse reports, three young Catholics used newspaper to hide the genitals of two angels featured in the painting. Shocked by the representation of female genitals on a religious building, a brother and his two sisters—aged between twenty-three and twenty-eight—were captured by surveillance cameras, which filmed them using a broom, glue, and newspaper to deface the work. Picked up by police, the trio was released after interrogation. “I wonder about the fantasies of these young people,” the artist said in an interview with La Dépęche du Midi, cited by AFP. “Where are they to be troubled by such images?” Pignon-Ernest’s drawing, inspired by Ingres’s 1824 Le Voeu de Louis XIII (The Vow of Louis XIII), is part of the exhibition “Ingres et les Modernes” (Ingres and the Moderns), which includes works by various artists, including Picasso, Dalí, and Bacon, who were inspired by paintings and sculptures by Ingres. The gender of angels was the focus of many debates in medieval Christianity until the Second Council of Nicaea decided in the year 787 that celestial creatures have no bodies. The exhibition continues until October 3.


Times must be tough for the British artist Jasper Joffe. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the thirty-two-year-old sold off all of his personal possessions at London’s Idea Generation Gallery. In an interview with the newspaper’s Marten Rolff, Joffe explains the sale. “I divided up my property into thirty-three groups,” said Joffe. “One can buy, for example, all of my books, all of my furniture, or packets featuring 7 of my 146 paintings, which one can pick for oneself. Every commodity group costs 3,333 pounds sterling.”

Yet for Joffe, the project grew out of a “personal crisis” instead of a financial one: breaking up with his girlfriend and deciding to stop working together with his dealer. Moreover, the artist will soon turn thirty-three, which also happens to be the age of Jesus at his death. “Did it get any less lofty?” asks Rolff. “Well, I’m not really saying that now I’m going to be born again. And I’m an atheist. It’s more about inspiration for me.”

Joffe describes the sale as “odd.” Strangers come in and rummage around through my clothes, read my letters, or look at my photographs," said the artist, who believes that most come out of curiosity. “Normally, one would say, ‘Hey, would you kindly get your fingers off?’ But in this case, I made the decision myself. It’s OK.”

Does Joffe have any plans for his possession-less future? “We’ll see—first, vacation.” The sale, which ended last weekend, should have left him extremely free to move around. According to the plan, Joffe hoped to sell everything except the clothes on his back.

Jennifer Allen