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UNESCO MAKES MOVE TO PROTECT HAITIAN HERITAGE

UNESCO has called for a ban in the trade and transfer of cultural goods and artifacts from Haiti. As Agence France-Presse reports, the specialized branch of the UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization will be taking an active role in the struggle to prevent the country’s heritage being pillaged in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12. UNESCO’s director-general, Irina Bokova, made references to the “past experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq” in launching the campaign, which will also protect “collections of art presented in the damaged museums, galleries, and churches.” Bokova requested the UN’s Security Council to vote on a resolution to establish a temporary ban on the sale and transfer of Haitian cultural artifacts. While sending an envoy to assess the situation, Bokova asked UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon to use UN structures inside the country “to ensure, as much as possible, the immediate security of the sites where these works of art are to be found.” But there is some good news amid the destruction. The Haitian National Historical Park—which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site with its royal palace and fort—was spared in the devastating earthquake, as well as many of the country’s principle museums and archives.

DONATING ART TO CUBA

American philanthropist and dealer Gilbert Brownstone has donated a major set of works to Cuba’s Museum of Fine Arts in Havana. As Agence France-Presse reports, the donation includes 120 graphic works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Camille Pissarro, and Roy Lichtenstein. The seventy-year-old Brownstone, who also has Swiss citizenship, has resided for many years in France, where he also has a foundation that has been active in organizing exhibitions in Cuba and in awarding grants to Cuban artists. Part of the donation was presented to the president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, and the minister of culture, Abel Prieto, during a ceremony last week. The rest of the donation will arrive over the coming months. While kept at the museum, the works will also be exhibited around the country, so that “as many Cubans as possible . . . have access to the works,” noted Jean-Marc Ville from the Brownstone Foundation, which was created in 1999 to support cultural and educational projects in underdeveloped countries. Brownstone himself noted that there is a “great demand for culture in Cuba,” but the necessary funds are lacking.

VIENNA’S KUNSTFORUM TO CLOSE?

Bank Austria Kunstforum in Vienna may be the next victim of the economic crisis, which is turning the relationship between arts and banking into a perilous one. As Der Standard reports, the city’s mayor, Michael Häupl, and the municipal cultural councilor, Andreas Mailath-Pokorny, sent a note of protest to Bank Austria and UniCredit against the “suspected closing” of the Kunstforum. Rumors of the closure first circulated in the Austrian magazine Profil. As reported, the building where the Kunstforum is located has indeed been sold to René Benko’s Signa Holding. Kunstforum’s program of events, which has been planned until 2012, has been secured only until the end of the current year, according to Kunstforum director Ingried Brugger. As the report adds, Brugger may have another future in the wings; she is a “favorite for the direction of the MUMOK.”

TACHELES FIGHTS AGAINST CLOSURE

Berlin’s Tacheles—a makeshift arts and cultural center that grew out of the ruins of a department store bombed during World War II—is fighting for its survival in the city’s Mitte district. The building has been sold to investors as part of a larger package deal, which does not foresee the continuation of the artist-run initiative, despite its popularity with both locals and tourists. According to Martin Reiter, the director of the Tacheles association, seventy thousand signatures have been collected to save the center. The Tacheles association is calling for the building to be excluded from the larger property that has been sold to investors. The association wants the site to be turned into a foundation.

MORELLET AT THE LOUVRE

François Morellet is the latest living artist to make a contribution to the stately Musée du Louvre in Paris. As Agence France-Presse reports, the eighty-three-year-old master of geometric abstraction created a stained-glass window for a staircase in the museum’s Richelieu wing. L’Esprit d’escalier (The Wit of the Staircase) features seven stained-glass panes in a shifting grid over the monumental staircase designed by the architect Lefuel during the Second Empire. “I wanted to do something discreet that the many visitors will not notice,” said Morellet. His contribution is the latest in the Louvre’s effort to renew its monumental decor with contemporary artworks. In 2007, Anselm Kiefer made a painting and two sculptures for the museum while Cy Twombly was entrusted with the ceiling of the hall housing the museum’s Greek bronze sculptures.

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