International News Digest

Just when we all thought that Germany couldn’t get any more “kunst-y,” Akademie der Künste der Welt has opened in Cologne. According to Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, the academy—which has elected not to tie itself down with a permanent building—has thus far proven to be exciting and refreshingly international. With an annual budget of $1.5 million, the institution will be led by president Galit Eiat. The academy celebrated its launch at the rented Colonia Theater and then went on to stage a panel discussion on circumcision, in which Germany-based Iraqi Najem Wali recalled how traumatic it was to be circumcised at the age of twelve, while Austrian Robert Schindel, the child of Jewish Communists, explained how happy he was after choosing to have the surgery performed as an adult. Meanwhile, intersexual artist Ins A Kromminga spoke about being a hermaphrodite, and Senegalese hip-hop artist Sister Fa—known for her anti–female mutilation activism—performed her songs.

Elsewhere in Germany, Max Hollein, the director of the Städel Museum, spoke with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s Rose-Maria Gropp to discuss the controversy surrounding the museum’s purchase of a Raphael painting of Pope Julius II. An article in Die Süddeutsche Zeitung accused the museum and its director of turning the acquisition of the work into a mass public spectacle. Hollein countered: “We knew that the attribution was going to be controversial. That’s why it was so important for us to not simply hang it in the museum, but to present all the facts we had gleaned over the years. I don’t see this as sensationalist, but rather as a very open and transparent process.” He added, “We researched [the work’s history] at length, then decided in favor of the purchase, aware of the risk. Not as speculation, neither for the market nor for our museum, but because we knew that our estimation had been solidified. There will still be discussions about this painting in years.” The work will be exhibited in the show “Raphael: Drawings,” opening this month at the museum.

Over in Asia, the Chinese art market has been “faltering,” according to Die Zeit, even with the growth of the nation’s creative class and universities’ continuing expansion of their art departments. Last year, when sources reported that 30 to 40 percent of the world’s revenue from art sales was based in China, Chinese auction houses had a stranglehold on the market, even as buyers were charged 30 percent taxes on art sold. However, with the recent raids on auctions houses, the imprisonment of a German art shipper, and the looming credit shortage, the oversaturated market has slowed down significantly. Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s in Asia pointed out that this year’s auctions brought in $580 million as opposed to last year’s $1 billion. Some say it’s a product of the foothold Western auction houses have gained in the Chinese market, but considering the strategic partnerships that Western institutions and Chinese auction houses are forging, as well as the heavy restrictions placed on non-State owned houses, the truth about the rise and fall of the market remains complicated.

Even if Asian art markets might well be losing steam, Hong Kong artist Pak Sheung Chuen should have nothing to complain about. Pak just took home the best artist award at the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards, established by curator Uli Sigg to recognize outstanding achievements by Chinese artists and critics. A regular art critic for the Sunday Ming Pao Daily News from 2003 to 2007, Pak has had his art featured in the Taipei Biennial, the Yokohama Triennial, and the Guangzhou Triennial. He represented Hong Kong at the Venice Biennale in 2009. Artist Geng Jianyi, meanwhile, won the CCAA’s lifetime contribution award, and Yan Xing received the best young artist award.