International News Digest

FEBRUARY 14

Sooner or later, it seems, Jean-Jacques Aillagon will have left his mark on every cultural institution in France: Aillagon has now been elected president of Les Arts Décoratifs, a nonprofit multisite museum of decorative arts in Paris. A close friend of Jacques Chirac, Aillagon became president of the Pompidou Center in 1996. From 2002 through 2004, he served as France’s minister of culture, and at the end of his term was named the director of Palazzo Grassi. He was then appointed president of the Château de Versailles in 2007. Said Aillagon in response to his appointment, “I would like to say that my action will be guided by my goal to ensure that this institution, in the Parisian, French, and international cultural landscape, will see enhanced visibility and will contribute to the development of the culture of decorative arts.”

Over in Russia, the collective Voina has sued filmmaker Andrey Gryazev over Tomorrow (2012), his documentary featuring the group, according to Artinfo. Voina’s members are seeking over $30,000 in damages from Gryazev. According to Voina, Gryazev promised that the footage he shot of them planning protests, urinating on cars, and shoplifting would only be used archivally. Upon learning that Gryazev’s documentary won him over $6,000 at Copenhagen’s documentary festival, Voina sent him a letter demanding payment of the sum. Voina also sued Dieter Kosslick, director of the Berlin International Film Festival, demanding that the film be pulled on the grounds that it used unauthorized footage. Gryazev, meanwhile, produced contracts, which Voina has since claimed used their forged signatures.

Publications around the world have given fresh life to debates surrounding masterpieces by Courbet and Leonardo, respectively. Last week, a French collector claimed to have found the head to Courbet’s Origin of the World. Courbet expert Jean-Jacques Fernier told Paris Match that he supported the hypothesis, believing that the artist separated head and body to protect the identity of the model, believed to be Joanna Hiffernan. Le Figaro seemed skeptical, citing other experts who doubted Fernier’s theory, and pointing out that no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that Courbet’s Origin was part of a bigger whole. Responding to the possible revelation that Courbet’s nude had a head, Jonathan Jones wrote in The Guardian, “In fetishising The Origin of the World, art historians may have falsely invented a dada masterpiece instead of paying Courbet his due homage as an artist who saw life and death in all their grandeur.”

Meanwhile, The Independent reported that new tests have determined that the Isleworth Mona Lisa is indeed an early version of its famous counterpart. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich carbon-dated the Isleworth piece to some time between 1410 and 1455, refuting doubters who claimed it was a sixteenth-century copy. Italian geometrist Alfonso Rubino studied the proportions of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man and found a similar geometry in the Isleworth piece. “When we add these new findings to the wealth of scientific and physical studies we already had, I believe anyone will find the evidence of a Leonardo attribution overwhelming,” said David Feldman, vice president of the Mona Lisa foundation. Of course, the case isn't quite airtight—and probably never will be.