International News Digest

AUGUST 18

Israel has lifted the travel ban placed on Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar, who’s now been able to leave for Finland, reported the Art Newspaper. Jarrar went to Helsinki to work on a performance piece involving fifty volunteers that was based on his recent experiences. Perpetuum Mobile, the group supporting Jarrar’s recent project, noted that the artist managed to cross the Allenby Bridge to Jordan—the same bridge where he was stopped and sent home earlier this summer. He’d been trying to get to an opening at the New Museum in New York.

The Frankfurter Rundschau looked at the poor condition of the Prague Trade Fair Palace, which has been used by the National Gallery since 1995 for its collection of modern and contemporary art. The “masterpiece of functionalist architecture” was destroyed by a fire in 1974 (which was apparently the most destructive in Prague’s history, causing around $13 million in damage). After two decades of reconstruction, the building reopened in 1995. “The Trade Fair Palace is one of the most interesting and striking buildings in Prague. Built in the late twenties, it was influenced by political, social and cultural events of the era,” said Helena Musilová, the head of the collection of modern and contemporary art in Prague National Gallery which has used the building for twenty years.

But because its post-fire reconstruction occurred during Communist rule, when high-quality materials weren’t available, the building has seen the ravages of time. Glass roofs are leaking, the plaster is crumbling and rusting of steel frame parts. It’s up to the Ministry of Culture to provide missing funds needed for the building’s upkeep, and Musilová has issued an urgent call for renovation, due to the fact that energy costs currently gobble up about 55 percent of the National Gallery’s operating costs. But because the $12 million needed just to revamp the building’s energy system is more than the entire annual subsidy allocated to the National Gallery by the Ministry of Culture, Musilová’s also apparently considering the alternative of relocating to a new space entirely.

London’s National Gallery has lifted the ban on photography, allowing visitors to snap photos and film most of the paintings on its walls, reported Sarah Crompton in The Telegraph. By relaxing its former rule, the National Gallery is joining the ranks of Tate, the Louvre, and the Metropolitan, which all allow photography (but prohibit flash). Crompton is none too pleased by this development, writing, “Oh, how the heart sinks.” She added, “By allowing photography, galleries are betraying those who want to reflect rather than glance.”

Die Zeit’s Veronica Frenzel took a tour of the Thai art scene with the forty-three-year-old artist Natee Utarit, who said “Art has it hard in Bangkok! Most people have other things to do.” He said that galleries could hardly survive without the good will of businesspeople, in part because most artists “sell directly to collectors; they don’t want to pay any commission to intermediaries.” But there are significant institutions nonetheless, like MOCA Bangkok, which houses the collection owned by telecommunications tycoon Boonchai Bencharongku, and the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, which is remarkable because it exists thanks to the tenacity of a group of artists, who apparently, by insisting that tourists would be interested in contemporary Thai art, fought a government plan to replace the center with a shopping mall.