International News Digest

FEBRUARY 17

The nation of Georgia has just witnessed the abrupt dismissal of its first deputy minister of culture and monuments, Marine Mizandari. The PirWeli Information Agency reports that Mizandari was let go for a “gross violation of official duties.” But Mizandari believes she was axed after seeking heritage status for a 5400-year-old mine in Kazreti, in central Georgia—which would interfere with a government decision that allows mining company RMG to extract gold from the same site. As many will note, Mizandari was also the commissioner of the Georgian Pavilion at Venice’s most recent art and architecture biennales; she was reportedly let go hours after confirming details about Georgia’s project at the upcoming architecture biennale. A petition to reinstate Mizandari in her position has gathered over 350 signatures.

Artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Odawara Art Foundation, is receiving a grant of six million dollars from the Japan Society. The funds will go toward the new multidisciplinary arts complex that Sugimoto’s foundation is building in Odawara, sixty miles west of Tokyo, according to Carol Vogel of the New York Times. Motoatsu Sakurai, president of the Japan Society, told Vogel, “We have been thinking about what kind of base we can have in Japan and this is the perfect foothold.”

Scandinavia, meanwhile, is losing one high-profile source of arts funding. According to Pernille Albrethsen in Kunstkritikk, the Carnegie Investment Bank will no longer fund the Carnegie Art Award, which was founded to promote Nordic contemporary painting. The Carnegie Art Award office, which has administered the award for over sixteen years, will also shut its doors, laying off two full-time staffers. Financially speaking, the Carnegie award has typcially been one of the largest in the world, with over $150,000 going to the first-prize winner.

Montreal’s Musée d’art contemporain has unveiled a new plan to expand, according to the Journal Métro’s Laurence Houde-Roy. Costing around $40 million, the renovation will double the museum’s gallery space—an expansion that will still only allow 1.5 percent of the museum’s 7600 works to be exhibited, as Houde-Roy points out. The government of Québec, meanwhile, spent $550,000 conducting a feasibility study of the project, and has since given it a green light.

Plans for a new Islamic Art Museum in Venice have divided the city, raising the ire of right-wing politicians and their supporters, according to the Christian Science Monitor’s Nick Squires. Enrico Letta, the prime minister of Italy, had announced plans for the museum on a diplomatic mission to Qatar. (Letta, it should be noted, resigned from his position this past Friday for reasons unrelated to the museum.) The plans in particular riled the Northern League, a political party with “a track record of xenophobia and opposition to multiculturalism,” in Squires’s words. Luca Zaia, a regional governor and league member, said he couldn’t believe Italy's government had money to “throw away” on an Islamic museum in the face of bigger problems, like rising sea levels and overwhelming numbers of tourists. Giorgio Orsoni, the city’s mayor, was among those who defended the plan, saying that the museum would generate “openness to dialogue between cultures and religions.”