International News Digest

POMPIDOU CRITICIZED AFTER PURCHASE OF SEHGAL WORK

Not everyone is happy with a recent acquisition made by the Centre Pompidou: Tino Sehgal’s This Situation, 2007. As Le Monde’s Michel Guerrin reports, the artist Fred Forest has used the purchase to reopen an ongoing debate about the prices museums pay for artworks. In the early 1990s, Forest asked the public museum to be more transparent about acquisitions to avoid paying higher prices. In 1997, the Conseil d’Etat (State Council) sided with the Pompidou while noting that museums actually pay lower “privileged prices” which could not be divulged to the public without destabilizing the art market.

The acquisition of Sehgal’s This Situation, in April 2010, has given Forest a chance to revive the old debate. On his website webnetmuseum.org, Forest recently posted an open letter to Alain Seban, the president of the Pompidou, and asked him to divulge the conditions behind the purchase of Sehgal’s work, a performance piece involving six actors discussing themes, determined by Sehgal yet inspired by a host of thinkers. Of course, Sehgal is well known for transferring his works in person; there are meant to be no documented traces of the performances, whether photographs or certificates.

Sehgal’s distinct conditions raise the question of how the Pompidou will recreate This Situation for future exhibitions. “This purchase was the subject of an oral meeting on April 20, 2010 at a lawyer’s office,” explains Alfred Pacquement, the museum’s director. “The artist was there, a curator [from the Pompidou], a representative from the Marian Goodman gallery, and myself. The artist set out the rules that govern this work so that we have them in mind and so that we could then record them in a dossier kept at the museum.” As Pacquement explains, other museums, like MoMA, acquired Sehgal works in the same way.

For Forest, what’s troubling is not the ephemeral performance piece but the financial transaction. While the buyers must pay in cash, according to Forest’s own research, Sehgal does not deliver an artist certificate or a receipt. Only the lawyer’s oral testimony allegedly serves to seal the deal. Forest wonders how a public institution like the Pompidou can operate without receipts. But Pacquement contests that version of the sale. “We have a bill from the Goodman gallery,” he explained to Le Monde. “And we did not pay cash. We followed the normal rules. If we had had to pay cash without receiving a receipt, we would have been embarrassed.” Forest, not one to be discouraged, sees this exchange as compromising the intellectual, moral, and commercial value of Sehgal’s work.

Guerrin assumes that Sehgal’s terms and conditions have evolved with his success, both institutional and financial. “No doubt he worked differently when he did not have a gallery,” says Pacquement. He is not the only one to confirm a change in policy. “Sehgal’s first collectors could have paid cash,” noted Agnès Fierobe, director of the Goodman gallery, “but this is no longer possible, it’s become forbidden.” Some subtleties remain intact: “The bill is sent by mail,” added Fierobe, “it is never in the form of a written trace.” While explaining the details of the sale, no one––neither Pacquement nor Fierobe––divulged the price.

ART BASEL JURY TURNS DOWN EIGEN + ART AND GITI NOURBAKHSCH

Two gallery stands, Eigen + Art of Leipzig and Berlin and Giti Nourbakhsch of Berlin, will be missing from this year’s Art Basel. Both dealers were quick to issue statements about their exclusion from the forty-second edition of the international fair. Nourbakhsch, who represents Tomma Abts, Karl Holmqvist, and Joachim Koester, among others, believed that the rejection could not have been “objectively justified.” Speaking to Monopol, Eigen + Art’s Gerd Harry “Judy” Lybke, who represents Neo Rauch, Christine Hill, and Martin Eder, among others, said that he was “shocked” and would challenge the decision, which he also believed could not have been made on the basis of “artistic assessment.”

In fact, the six jury members––dealers Xavier Hufkens of Xavier Hufkens in Brüssel; David Juda of Annely Juda Fine Art in London; Jochen Meyer of Galerie Meyer Riegger in Karlsruhe; Tim Neuger of neugerriemschneider in Berlin; Claes Nordenhake of Galerie Nordenhake in Stockholm; and Eva Presenhuber of Galerie Presenhuber in Zürich––did not mention anything artistic in their response to Lybke’s application for a stand. “Owing to the limited amount of space available at the show, your gallery was unfortunately not among those initially chosen for inclusion in Art 42 Basel. However, the Art Basel Committee has placed your gallery on the waiting list for the Art Galleries sector.”

Die Welt’s Cornelius Tittel sees a “Berlin conspiracy” in the decision. While the jury looks international, he notes that three of its six members––Tim Neuger, Claes Nordenhake, and Jochen Meyer––have a foot in Berlin. Neuger has a gallery, Nordenhake has a branch of his Stockholm gallery, and Meyer has a recent residence. Whatever the jury’s reason, Titel argues that the “preposterous decision” was affecting a man “who stands internationally […] for the recent success story of German painting and for Berlin’s rise to an international art capital.” Titel added that Eigen + Art’s star artists with other galleries, such as Hauser & Wirth and David Zwirner, would not be participating at the fair out of solidarity with Lybke.

As Monopol reports, Art Basel was careful not to add to the fray. “As a matter of principle, we do not comment on any decision made by the selection committee,” the Art Basel representative Maike Cruse told Monopol.

PARISIAN MUSEUMS “DISCONNECTED” FROM PARISIAN LIFE?

Opening hours, not acquisitions, are at the heart of criticism about the lack of local user-friendliness at museums run by the city of Paris. As Le Monde’s Eric Nunès reports, a 2010 study commissioned by the mayor’s office found that the city’s twelve museums––from Musée des Beaux-Arts to the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris––have not fully adapted to the lifestyles of Parisians. An exhibition, however successful and however long the waiting lines, close down between 5 PM and 5:30 PM, except for some later closings one evening a week at certain institutions. According to the daily Le Figaro, which also reported on the study, the museums are weighed down by administration and lack flexibility, whether at the box office or in the book store.

“In the capital, after 5 PM, museums, libraries, and swimming pools close one after the other to be locked at 6 PM,” said Thierry Coudert, a municipal councilor for the political party Parti radical valoisien. For the last two years, Coudert has been trying to convince the municipal government to adapt the opening hours of cultural and sport centers to the lifestyle, and longer days, of Parisians. His efforts have been “in vain.” “Reconnecting the municipal administrative hours with the life of users is a taboo for [the mayor’s office]. But the recent study seems to have had an impact. A representative for the mayor’s office told Le Monde that the report was being discussed.

ART’S BIRTHDAY

On January 17, the Viennese artists Brigitte Wilfing und Jorge Sánchez-Chiong marked an important yet often forgotten date: art’s birthday. As Der Standard reports, the day was determined in 1963 by none other than the French Fluxus artist Robert Filliou who claimed that art was born when an unknown artist let a sponge fall into a bucket of water. While art’s birthday was first recognized in the late-’60s, art is much more ancient. According to Filliou’s dating system, art turned 1,000,048 years old this year.
To celebrate the occasion, Wilfing, a choreographer and a dancer, and Sánchez-Chiong, a composer and a DJ, put together a “viral radio” performance project for the Austrian ORF radio station. Guests include Kid 606, Pure, Martin Siewert, Ernesto Molinari, Thomas Wagensommerer, Magdalena Chowaniec, Peter Kozek, Jan Dekc, and Anne Grabs. With so much art on hand, there was no need to invite the birthday guest: art itself.

Jennifer Allen