International News Digest


London’s National Gallery is moving one step closer to virtual visits. As Agence France-Presse reports, the museum made an application to make 250 works from its permanent collection available to users of the iPhone and iTouch. Described as a first in the museum world, the move would create a virtual tour with both audio and video commentary for the works. Dubbed “Love Art,” the tour would be organized thematically through twelve of the museum’s galleries. Users-cum-visitors would be able to admire the best of the permanent collection, including works by Leonardo, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Renoir, and Botticelli. In a press release, the National Gallery noted that the application would be free for a limited time, without adding any further details. The two-hundred-plus minutes of commentary would include an interview with museum director Nicholas Penny or the American author Tracy Chevalier, who penned the best-selling Girl with a Pearl Earring. Users will also be able to zoom in on paintings to examine them more closely, albeit without the danger of breaking that golden rule of all museums: Do not touch.


Come September 1, the European Union has banned the sale of incandescent lightbulbs. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Till Briegleb reports, the ban will have an impact on art, specifically works that use lightbulbs for either functional, aesthetic, or historical effects. A case in point is the work of the Russian artist Ilya Kabakov, who often hangs a bare lightbulb in his installations as a melancholic homage to the Soviet-era ideal of electricity, which was not always available to the citizens.

“Unfortunately, there are no exceptions to [the law] 2005/32/EG” writes Briegleb. “And thus artists, restorers, and museum technicians find themselves faced with the bizarre necessity of small-time criminality.” Kabakov is not the only artist to use bulbs. There are 140 in László Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space-Modulator; the German post–World War II Group Zero was fond of lightbulbs. There’s a host of contemporary artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller, Jorge Pardo, Valie Export, Stephan Huber, Isa Genzken, Mike Kelley, and Adrian Paci. Even artists who did not work explicitly with lightbulbs have used them: Rauschenberg, Kienholz, Tinguely, and Beuys.

As Briegleb notes, the illegal sale of lightbulbs—even to museums—comes with a hefty fine: $70,000. Even if the existing bulbs could be saved, it’s clear that the supply will eventually be exhausted. To keep a lightbulb work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres or Höller shining bright, museums and collectors will need more than one thousand bulbs, since the traditional ones tend to last on average sixty to eighty days under the kind of constant use that is typical for such installations.


Multitasking mobile phones are also making an impact at Paris’s Pompidou Center, just beyond the museum’s walls. As Agence France-Presse reports, nearly 250 fans offered an homage to Michael Jackson by participating in a flashmob in his honor in front of the Pompidou’s entrance. Following the instructions sent by a text message, participants began dancing the choreography of “Beat It,” much to the surprise and the enthusiasm of crowds lingering in front of the museum. Rehearsals had taken place earlier in the day at a dance center in the Marais while the radio station Skyrock took care of the music. “With a handful of friends, we wanted to pay homage to Michael Jackson by taking up the idea of other flashmobs that took place on the same theme in London and Stockholm,” explained the Paris organizer Roxane Planas. “Everything was done very quickly, with small means.”


The Finnish artist Riikka Kuoppala took apart her own installation, only to donate the parts to those in need in Helsinki. As Agence France-Presse reports, Kuoppala’s installation in a Helsinki shop window consisted of food that can be preserved at room temperature. After being on display for three weeks in the capital, the entire work was given away to twenty families in order to raise consciousness about poverty in the Nordic country. “Poverty is increasingly affecting children,” Kuoppala told the AFP. “It’s shocking that society doesn’t take better care of young people.” The twenty-nine-year-old artist may have struck a sympathetic chord among passersby. The installation grew over its three-week display, as people donated more and more food to the project. After Kuoppala was approached to make a work for the shop window, the idea for the project arose when she realized that the shop was located beside a food bank that would be closed for the summer vacations. “I thought that people who were hungry would not be able to wait a month and a half.”


Venice’s Museo Correr could have used a few donations. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Henning Klüver reports, the museum initially postponed the exhibition “Abstractions,” due to financing problems. The show—the second part of an exhibition trilogy celebrating Futurism—was focused on the artist Giacomo Balla. Now that the Venetian region has taken back $700,000 in promised financing, the exhibition will simply not take place at all. The three-part exhibition began in Rovereto and was to close in Milan this fall.