International News Digest


There are mixed reactions in Europe to the recent appointment of Jeffrey Deitch as the new director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Le Monde’s Harry Bellet reminds us that the passage from art dealer to museum director is not entirely new, at least in the United States. “At the end of the 1950s, another gallerist, Walter Hopps, had quit business to direct—successively—the Pasadena Museum, the Washington Gallery, and then the Menil Foundation in Houston,” writes Bellet. “Former experts at auction houses have become very respected curators,” he notes, while adding that Deitch belongs to another caliber with his large-scale approach to financing art production.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Jörg Häntzschel covers the American reaction, from the positive report by Roberta Smith in the New York Times (a “brilliant” move) to the cooler report by Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times (a “reactionary” move to hand over the controls of a nonprofit institution to a businessman). Häntzschel sees Deitch’s appointment as merely the latest example of public institutions mixing with private and commercial interests.

“The exhibition planned for March at New York’s New Museum featuring works from the collection of the Greek industrialist Dakis Joannou is another such case,” writes Häntzschel. “Joannou, whose collection gains in value and prestige through the exhibition, sits on the supervisory board of the museum. And the role of curator will be played by none other than Jeff Koons, who is in turn one of the most important artists in Joannou’s collection.” If Deitch’s appointment is part of a trend, the fate of his gallery remains unclear. As Häntzschel notes, Deitch stated in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that he would “give up his New York City gallery” and possibly transfer “parts of the business to some of his current employees.” “Does that mean he’s going to sell [his gallery]?” asks Häntzschel. While Deitch has since stated that he would give LA MoCA first right of refusal on any piece he wanted to acquire, some are calling for the gallerist-turned-director to give up his collection entirely in order to avoid any possible conflicts of interest.


Whoever purchased the most recent edition of Helmut Newton’s SUMO might do well to hang on to the book, which may just become a collector’s item. Citing an article in Boersenblatt, Art-Lawyer Newsletter reports that a Cologne judge has upheld a request to have the newer—and cheaper—edition of the Taschen book shelved. The request was put forth in November by the Munich publishing house Schirmer Mosel in a move to protect its own publications of Newton’s work. The original SUMO book was published in 1999 by Taschen and cost $15,000, while the 2009 version goes for a mere $140. The judge ruled that the differences between the two editions were not clear enough in ads aimed at the new edition’s potential buyers. Compared with the original luxury edition, the bargain edition is missing seventeen images, while fifty-seven others are different. The judge deemed the number of alterations to be “relevant” in a book of four hundred images. The ruling is not yet in effect, as the Taschen publishing house has one month to challenge the ruling.


A professional photographer has burned one hundred of his negatives in order to protest the lack of support the profession is receiving from cultural and economic institutions. As Agence France-Presse reports, Jean-Baptiste Avril-Bodenheimer burned a series of negatives that captured the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv. The photographer posted the action online with the message: “Artists have the right to live with dignity from their work without being exploited.” Avril-Bodenheimer told AFP that his work was supported by UNESCO, applauded by the press, exhibited, and printed but “never paid for.” Citing the example of conference organizers who wanted to print the photographs for free in the conference proceedings, Avril-Bodenheimer wondered at the different attitudes toward remuneration. “The professors, the waiters, the drivers, who worked during this conference were paid,” said the artist. “Why not the photographer?” Avril-Bodenheimer bemoaned the tendency in the press and online to print images by amateurs, without the obligation to pay copyright fees. “But creating demands time, energy,” noted the artist, who would like to see a law requiring editors to pay copyright fees for each printed image.


Richard Prince and Andreas Gursky may be facing some new competition for top prices at auctions for photographs. According to Agence France-Presse, a photograph taken by the Russian president Dmitri Medvedev was sold for a whopping $1.7 million at an auction in Saint Petersburg last weekend. The buyer, Mikhaïl Zingarevitch, is reported to be a “local businessman close to the head of state,” and the black-and-white photograph—titled The Kremlin of Tobolsk—was taken by Medvedev from a helicopter. “Dimitri’s work is very professional and really pleases me,” said Zingarevitch. The photograph was among twenty-nine lots in a benefit auction that ended up raising $2.8 million for various charities, including a children’s hospital and an assistance program for veterans of World War II.

Prince and Gurksy should not be the only ones feeling the heat. Medvedev’s photograph garnered a higher price than a work of art by Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin. A painting by Putin sold at an auction one year ago for $1.2 million.


Twenty thousand people attended the event “Truc Troc” in Brussels’s Palais des Beaux-Arts last weekend. As Agence France-Presse reports, “Truc Troc”—literally “Thing Barter”—allowed the participants to exchange various goods and services for contemporary artworks. A place to stay in New York City, financial and legal consulting, language courses, dinners, and even a night of love were being offered by the visitors in the hopes of obtaining an artwork. First launched in 1975, the event was revived in 2004 and has since proved a success with the public, whose numbers rose to ten thousand in 2008 and twenty thousand last year. The “simple” idea was to “democratize art, make it more accessible to everyone, and allow young artists to be seen while adding a playful and user-friendly dimension.”

According to one of the event organizers, Solange Wonner, visitors were likely to bring fridges to barter way back in 1975, while today’s participants are ready to offer a whole range of services, from gardening to dental care, in exchange for an original artwork. “In a period of economic crisis,” said Wonner, “it makes even more sense.” This year’s edition featured works in various media by 143 artists chosen from five hundred applications. “I’m a bit fed up with the business of art,” said artist Lucas Racasse. “Here, we get back to sentimental values. For once, we’re not talking any more about cold hard cash!” Indeed, Racasse exchanged one of his illustrations for the opportunity to be a copilot in an upcoming car rally between Liège and Rome. Another artist Delphine Boël was offered a car, an hour of silence, and a kiss from King Albert of Belgium in exchange for one of her sculptures. No word on the final deal.