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International News Digest

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE SPONSOR GOES BROKE?

Die Welt’s Hannes Stein takes a look at the possible repercussions of the financial crisis on arts funding. “The bank crash in the United States will have a wide-reaching impact,” writes Stein, who is writing principally on the arts in New York. “When a giant collapses, it often crushes little ones standing in its shadow.” Except in this case, two financial giants—Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch—have fallen. In New York, the crisis could not have come at a worse time, since the city recently made cuts across the board to arts funding, from theaters to museums. “It’s an absolute storm,” says Jeffrey Peek, a curator at both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York City Ballet.

Digging below the surface, Stein demonstrates the close links between the art world and the financial world. Consider “the following detail: Kathleen Fuld, the vice president of the Museum of Modern Art, is the wife of Richard Fuld, the chairman of Lehman Brothers.” While the bank kept shares for MoMA, the Fulds privately donated not only money but also artworks to the museum. “No one knows how that’s supposed to continue now,” writes Stein.

MoMA is not the only institution to be threatened. Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch had each promised three million dollars to finance the renovation of Lincoln Center. “Up until now, they have made every payment, but who knows whether the next ones will come,” writes Stein. Even Reynold Levy, president of the Lincoln Center, has no answer. Ernesto Anguilla, a rep for the Bank of America, which purchased Merrill Lynch, stated that the bank usually respects promises made by firms they have taken over. But Stein doubts that keeping such promises will have much priority.

It is unclear what will become of the arts funding promised by Lehman Brothers, whether the three million dollars for the Lincoln Center or the one million dollars reportedly earmarked for Harlem’s Apollo Theater. More troubling is the fact that the firm’s commitments go far beyond the New York art scene. Lehman Brothers also supported the National Gallery and Tate Modern in London, the Louvre, and the Städel in Frankfurt.

PALAIS DE TOKYO’S TOUGH NEW LANDLORD?

Paris’s Centre Pompidou has not yet moved into the empty spaces of the Palais de Tokyo building. But tensions appear to be growing between the two entities, as the French minister of culture, Christine Albanel, prepares to make her official decision on the move at the end of the month.

In an interview with Le Monde’s Emmanuelle Lequeux, Palais de Tokyo director Marc-Olivier Wahler outlines his arguments against cohabitation. While welcoming stimulating neighbors, Wahler fears that the Pompidou may be given responsibility for managing the entire building. The Palais de Tokyo, which takes its name from the building, takes up seventy-five thousand square feet of the ground floor, while the Pompidou has been promised another seventy-five thousand square feet in the lower level of the building to promote midcareer French artists. If the Pompidou effectively becomes the owner of the building, Wahler fears that the Palais will be made to pay rent.

The Palais de Tokyo must find 55 percent of its own funding since it receives only $2.9 million annually in government funding. By contrast, the Pompidou gets $146 million per year in funding. Despite this financial advantage, Wahler believes that the Pompidou has its eye on $590,000 raised annually by the Palais’s concessions, bookstore, and restaurant. Wahler fears a rent that could be as high as $146,000 per year.

“Other signs show that the Centre Pompidou is behaving as if it were already here and as if we were already part of it,” Wahler told Le Monde. “For example, the Pompidou is negotiating with the bookstore and the restaurant without consulting us. At the same time, the Pompidou is not assuming its responsibilities as an owner when there is heavy construction to be done on the building, like the $129,000 worth of repairs to bring the building’s security up to standard.”

The model for the Palais-Pompidou fusion remains MoMA’s merger with P.S. 1 in New York. But Wahler finds the comparision troubling. “P.S. 1 was an independent art center,” he told Le Monde. “But for two years, it has been under MoMA. It has no more autonomy, and its director has been pushed into retirement.” Wahler has no idea how Albanel will decide on the move. “She has not followed up on our requests for a meeting.”

STEALING GOYA TO PROTEST ART BUREAUCRACY

A group of art activists has claimed responsibility for the recent theft of a Goya engraving from a museum in the Colombian capital, Bogotá. As Der Standard reports, the group—which calls itself the Free Art Commando S-11—stole the engraving in order to protest “art bureaucracy.” Titled Sad Forebodings, the two-hundred-year-old print belongs to Goya’s “Disasters of War” series. The work, which is on loan from the Goya museum in the artist’s native town of Fuendetodos, Spain, was one of eighty works in a solo exhibition organized at the Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño in Bogotá. In a message to the institute, Free Art Commando S-11 claimed that “Disasters of War” had become part of a struggle against art bureaucracy.

CHÁVEZ HITS THE AUCTION BLOCK

Damien Hirst is not the only artist to be obtaining spectacular prices by selling his work directly on the auction block. As Der Standard reports, a painting by Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez was sold last week for a record $231,000 at an auction in the capital, Caracas. The painting, titled The Moon from Yare, was created by Chávez sixteen years ago during a prison term in Yare. Over forty people bid on the painting, which started at the modest price of $14,000. The final sale price far surpassed expectations, as well as the average price for artworks by top Venezuelan artists. The money will go to Chávez’s United Socialist Party.

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