International News Digest


As reported earlier this year, France and Germany had suggested that there were general plans for the two countries to collaborate at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Now, details of that collaboration have been announced: The two countries will trade pavilions. Anri Sala, who is representing France, will exhibit his work in the German pavilion while Susanne Gaensheimer’s group exhibition, which includes work by Ai Weiwei, Romuald Karmakar, Santu Mofokeng, and Dayanita Singh, will take place in the French pavilion. The Institute Français explains that such a move has been discussed for decades and that the aforementioned curators and artists see it as a way to facilitate a constructive discourse without actually collaborating: “International dialogue is a given in today’s art world, which seems much more defined by the meeting of cultural spheres than by the rigidity of national borders. Moreover, the curators as well as the artists feel committed to the vision of a common European culture in the larger framework of a global cultural community,” stated the institute in a press release.

A small Hindu temple in Hyderabad has provoked increasingly violent protests in recent weeks. Critics have accused the Archaeological Survey of India of allowing the construction and subsequent expansion of the temple—which abuts one of the minarets of the Charminar, a monument and mosque built in 1591—and thereby failing to protect the city’s Islamic heritage. The Hindu reports that protesters have burned cars and attacked people to express their frustration with the temple and more than two thousand other illegal constructions at the Charminar and at Golconda Fort, both of which are jockeying for World Heritage Site status. Sajjad Shahid, a member of the Heritage Conservation Committee, lamented, “Hyderabad was the second city in the country after Mumbai to bring in legislation to protect heritage structures. But all that enthusiasm and benefits of an early start were lost. A general apathy has set in and planning has failed. The government has no political will and had not upheld the law. The Charminar incident is an instructive example.”

Hannah Xu of the South China Morning Post took stock of Beijing’s Poly International Auction and the inaugural Hong Kong sales it has planned for this Saturday and Sunday, on the same weekend that Christie’s will stage its major autumn sales. The “largest auctioneer on the mainland” according to Xu, Poly drew attention last year by announcing plans to expand to New York and Europe, even while being dogged by accusations that it originated as an offshoot of Chinese military–run enterprises. Ji Tao, a researcher with the Auction Research Centre of Central Finance and Economics University in Beijing, said that the tightening policies faced by art sales in mainland China would “propel the leading houses to look for their second option overseas.” Added Ji, “Poly will probably keep its high-end inventory in Hong Kong, which may lower its sales in Beijing.”

Elections taking place next weekend in Catalonia—Spain’s northeastern nationality containing Barcelona and bordering France—will determine whether the region will move forward with a declaration of intent to secede from Spain. Critic Adrian Searle of The Guardian weighed in on the debates by suggesting that Catalan’s arts and culture might fare poorly if the region were to become an independent state. “When numerous artists and other cultural figures left Catalonia during the oppressive decades of the Franco regime, especially during the 1960s and ’70s, they did so in order to breathe as much to join a wider, international art community,” wrote Searle. He continued by pointing out that Barcelona’s “sense of itself, its urbanism and its collective spirit, can also be a trap. There’s always the rest of the world to think about. A living culture has always depended on openness, reciprocity, and exchange.”