International News Digest

MAY 22

Around thirty artists and activists were camped out in the entrance hall of the Ludwig Museum in Budapest, angry that the contract of the museum’s director, Barnabas Bencsik, was terminated. The group, “United for Contemporary Art,” has accused the committee formed to find a replacement for Bencsik of being “secretive and biased,” and for drawing four of its six members from the ministry of human resources and culture, according to Julia Michalska in the Art Newspaper. “The functioning of Hungarian public administration lacks transparency and, for this reason, does not serve the needs of its citizens,” the protesters said in a statement. The Ludwig Foundation, which loans the museum a major part of its collection, has also gone public with its disappointment in the ministry’s decision to search for a new director. Michalska writes that the controversial decision is but one in a string of what critics call “anti-democratic practices” in Hungary’s cultural landscape since Viktor Orban and his right-wing party came to power.

The Art Newspaper also reports that German galleries have successfully managed to block the proposed 12 percent increase in the value-added tax on original artworks. The European Commission has been trying it best to raise the VAT tax on works bought through galleries and dealers from 7 percent to 19 percent, closer to rates in the rest of Europe. But, for now, the Bundesverband Deutscher Galerien und Kunsthändler, the German federation of galleries and dealers, has managed to keep the tax increase at bay. If the federal assembly cannot agree again on June 4, it’s likely the lower tax rates will hold steady for another full year. A spokesperson of the BDGK, which has enlisted the help of cultural and economic policy experts in its lobbying efforts, said, “We still can’t predict anything concrete but this is what we’re hoping for.”

The winners of this year’s Ars Electronica prize have been announced, which recognizes digital and net art. Der Standard reports that the winner in the hybrid art category was Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen, who has worked since 1999 to breed a “cosmopolitan” animal which carries the genetic information of all chicken populations worldwide. In the digital communities category, the prize went to a Spanish project, El Campo de Cebada, for which citizens recreated, in virtual Internet space, a public square torn down by developers.