Pinault vs. Guggenheim; Ex-CAPC Director Faces Pornography Charges; De Appel Fails to Secure New Site; New Curator at KW; News in Prizes


Shortly after unveiling his collection at Venice's Palazzo Grassi last spring, French billionaire and collector François Pinault expressed an interest in opening up a second exhibition space inside the Dogana, an old customs post at the tip of the Grand Canal. But as Le Monde's Jean-Jacques Bozonnet reports, Pinault is facing some tough new competition from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. On July 24, Pinault officially submitted his project, which includes a €20 to €30 million ($25.6 to $38.4 million) investment and a design by the Japanese architect Tadao Ando, to the Venetian municipality. By September 20, the Guggenheim Foundation—already present in Venice via the Peggy Guggenheim Collection—made a surprise bid for the location, naming Zaha Hadid as the architect. A committee headed by Achille Bonito Oliva plans to reach a verdict in a few weeks.

“How to choose between the Pinault and Guggenheim collections?” asks Bozonnet. The “battle of the Dogana” is not only about the quality of each collection; it also pits two rival architects against each other: the “minimalist” Ando and the “exuberant” Hadid. Local politics also plays a vital role. While Massimo Cacciari, the left-wing mayor of the city of Venice, supports Pinault's project, Giancarlo Galan, the right-wing president of the region of Venice, is said to back the Guggenheim Foundation. According to Bozonnet, Galan persuaded the Guggenheim to collaborate on the finances with Alberto Rigotti, the founder of the bank ABM Network and a patron of the Munus society, which specializes in the promotion of cultural events. Bozonnet adds that the Guggenheim attempted to open a new space there in 1999 with a design by the Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti, but that this project was never realized.

For some, the competition would be more interesting with a few more rivals. “A cultural system for contemporary art in Venice must be instituted, and only the Biennale could pilot it,” said Marco de Michelis, rector of the IUAV university of Venice. “Pinault and Guggenheim are already there—they won't add anything else.”


Henri-Claude Cousseau is facing a judicial inquiry in Bordeaux for organizing a “pornographic” exhibition at the city's Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporain (CAPC) in 2000. Cousseau, currently the director of the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris, was the director of CAPC Bordeaux when the exhibition “Présumés Innocents—L'Art Contemporain et l'Enfance” (Presumed Innocent—Contemporary Art and Childhood) took place from June to October 2000. As Le Monde's Claudia Courtois reports, Cousseau is being questioned for two possible infractions: first, distributing violent messages of a pornographic nature or making messages contrary to the dignity accessible to a minor, and second, distributing images of a minor that present a pornographic nature. The two curators of the exhibition—Marie-Laure Bernadac, who is a curator at the Louvre, and art critic Stéphanie Moisdon-Trembley—have also been summoned to the inquiry in December. According to the curators' lawyer, they could face similar charges.

The complaint was lodged in 2000 by La Mouette, a children's protection association in Agen. “It also took aim at twenty-five artists and their works, from the eighty artists invited by the exhibition,” writes Courtois. The artists included Annette Messager, Christian Boltanski, Mike Kelley, Cindy Sherman, Tony Oursler, Nan Goldin, Marlene Dumas, Gary Gross, and Carsten Höller. The examining magistrate who first handled the complaint was unable to secure support to remove the artworks from the exhibition. The lawyer for La Mouette claims that the complaint was made not to restrict the liberty of the artists, but rather to protect minors from seeing such an exhibition. CAPC Bordeaux insists that sufficient measures were taken to prevent minors from seeing the most “disturbing” works in the show, including a special itinerary created for schoolchildren and a separate room manned by a guard.


Amsterdam's De Appel has failed to secure a new location in the city's center. As Het Parool's Kees Keijer reports, De Appel's director Ann Demeester had hoped to obtain a space in the ROC building on Westerstraat; De Appel's lease on its current building on the Nieuwe Spiegelstraat runs out in 2009. But the local city administration for the Centrum neighborhood decided that the building should go to designer Marcel Wanders, who will set up the studio for his label Moooi while offering spaces to small creative companies.

As Keijer notes, Demeester is disappointed with the local administration but doesn’t hold the decision against Wanders. “We've even been talking about developing a plan together,” Demeester told Het Parool. “But I find it very strange that the local city administration first sent out a signal that it wanted to invest in art, only to sell the building subsequently to a commercial company.” Demeester's proposal for the ROC building included space for De Appel, Montevideo, the galleries Juliëtte Jongma and Paul Andriesse, a media library, and artist studios. Now the search is on for another new home. “North, east, who can say?” said Demeester. “We may well go to Rotterdam.”


Berlin's Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art has a new curator. Susanne Pfeffer, currently artistic director at Künstlerhaus Bremen, will take on the position January 2, 2007, with her first exhibition planned for summer 2007. The thirty-three-year-old art historian and curator worked as an assistant at Cologne's Kunstverein and later with Udo Kittelmann at the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main. The artistic director at Künstlerhaus Bremen since 2004, Pfeffer has organized shows with Emily Jacir, Jonathan Monk, Pawel Althamer, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ceal Floyer, and Isa Genzken, among many others.


Der Standard reports that Swiss duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss have won this year's prize from the Roswitha-Haftmann-Stiftung, named after the late Zurich gallerist. The prize, which will be handed over to the artists in the Kunsthaust, comes with 120,000 Swiss francs ($96,000). After Walter De Maria, Maria Lassnig, Jeff Wall, Mona Hatoum, and Robert Ryman, the two artists are the sixth recipients of the prize.

In other prize news, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam has announced that Polish artist Wilhelm Sasnal is the winner of this year's Vincent Award. Sasnal beat out Urs Fischer, Andrei Monastyrski, Dan Perjovschi, and Cerith Wyn Evans for the €50,000 ($64,000) prize. An exhibition with works by all five artists is on view at the Stedelijk through January 14, 2007.

For those artists who still haven’t won anything, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung has some small consolation. Barcelona's Joan Miră foundation has just created a €70,000 ($90,000) prize to be given to a contemporary artist every two years.

Jennifer Allen