International News Digest

MARCH 16

Over the past several weeks, artists across Europe have intensified calls for a Russian cultural boycott in light of developments in Crimea, according to Radio Free Europe’s Dmitry Volchek. A petition started by artists from Amsterdam and Dusseldorf urged Kaspar König to “suspend Manifesta 10, 2014 in St. Petersburg until Russian troops are withdrawn from Ukraine.” While the petition’s garnered over 1,500 signatures, Monopol reported that Manifesta organizers are thus far sticking with the plan to hold the festival in the Hermitage Museum. As Monopol explained, organizers see Manifesta as a part of a bigger process—including not only art but also public discussion and education—that can encourage critical responses and also make space for contradictions and discussion. Manifesta has been staged every two years in a different country since 1996.

Hong Kong’s M+ Museum was the subject of a recent article in the South China Morning Post. In particular, according to Post reporter Vivienne Chow, the museum’s managed to acquire a significant number of politically sensitive artworks over the past several years. Thus far, its collection includes not only Ai Weiwei’s Tiananmen (in which the artist raises his middle finger toward the famous square) and Liu Heung-shing's “China After Mao” series, but also vivid photographs taken during the Tiananmen Square crackdown, like Couple Hiding Under the Bridge (in which a man and woman avoid the sight lines of patrolling tanks) and Rushing Students to Hospital (which captures the bloodied bodies of activists being transported on bikes). “Freedom of expression is an important factor,” said the museum's executive director, Lars Nittve. Nittve also praised the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority for not interfering with any of the museum’s acquisitions.

Swedish artist Jonas Dahlberg’s been chosen to design a memorial to the victims of the July 22, 2011, attacks in Norway that left seventy-seven dead and hundreds wounded. Dalhberg’s proposal, which was unanimously selected by judges, plans to cut a channel through Utoya Island, where a right-wing extremist shot sixty-nine of the victims—many of them youth attending a political camp. The vertical cliffs on each side of the channel created by Dahlberg’s piece will be polished and will include the names of the victims. A rendering of the project has been published on Designboom.com.

Sylvie Kerviel wrote a piece in Le Monde about the possibility that a prison in Angers, France, will be converted into a contemporary art museum. The plan was originally proposed by Christophe Béchu, a French senator who’s also president of the General Council of the Maine-et-Loire region. Béchu, who unsuccessfully ran against the incumbent mayor of Angers, had proposed moving prisoners to a healthier (and presumably newer) site, “opening the space to contemporary art in all its forms.” As Béchu envisioned it, one wing of the building would be devoted to urban culture and the second to visual arts, while the third would become an artists’ residency. While Béchu lost the local election, officials are still considering the plan to convert the prison to a museum. A final response, pending the approval of the ministry of justice, is expected soon.

Artist Hermann Nitsch gave a candid interview to Die Presse’s Nicole Stern and Jeannine Hierländer. Touching briefly on the castle he calls home, and its thirty rooms, Nitsch mostly answered detailed questions about his relationship to money. “Money is an interesting abstraction,” he told the two reporters. He said that he’s been able to live off his art since the 1972 Documenta, but claimed overall ignorance when it came to his finances, saying that the women in his life have always managed his money. “Women have treated me generously,” he said.