International News Digest

JULY 21

Acclaimed Syrian artist Youssef Abdelke has been arrested by Assad forces at a checkpoint in Tartous, according to Ellie Violet Bramley for Now. Abdelke, whose work was included in the 2011 Sharjah Biennial, is no stranger to detention: He was incarcerated from 1978 to 1980, after which he decamped to Paris, to live in self-imposed exile until his return to his homeland in 2005. A member of the Syrian Communist Party and vocal critic of the Syrian government, the artist was with two friends when he was arrested, according to Abdallah Amine el Hallak, a Syrian writer working for the Kassir Foundation. Said Hallak, “the regime doesn't want any free democratic voice during its war against the Syrian people . . . . Today it was Youssef’s turn.” Bramley notes that, in a prescient interview three years ago, Abdelke said, “The world media knows when a dissident is jailed, which wasn’t the case when I was imprisoned. But this creates an impression that there’s less of a problem, when actually things are just as bad or worse.”

The curious consequences of a mother’s love now have art lovers around the world wringing their hands: A Romanian woman, Olga Dogaru, told investigators that she had burned seven works of art, by Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Lucian Freud and Meyer de Haan, in an effort to protect her son Radu, who recently admitted to stealing the masterpieces from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, in a high-profile heist last October. Two months ago, Dogaru told investigators that she’d “shoved them into a stove used to heat a sauna at her family home and then set them alight, in a desperate attempt to destroy evidence and save her son from going to jail,” according to Andrew Higgins in the New York Times. Since then, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, the head of Romania’s National History Museum, called her act a “barbarian crime against humanity.” The strange thing is, Dogaru’s now recanted her tale, in a hearing staged earlier today. “I believed that what I said before was the best thing at the moment, that this was the right thing to do,” said the mother, who is facing charges of “destruction with very serious consequences” that could have her in jail for three to ten years.

Let’s hope, meanwhile, that whoever just stole ten paintings from the Van Buuren museum in Brussels doesn’t have any overprotective parents. Martin Bailey reports in the Art Newspaper that the artworks that have gone missing from the museum's collection include Kees van Dongen’s The Thinker, 1907, valued at over $1.3 million—as well as a James Ensor painting, and a drawing thought to be by Van Gogh. Bailey notes that the thieves broke in a back door of the museum at 4 AM on July 16; neighbors spotted four men leaving in a BMW.