International News Digest


If the Chinese artist Ko Siu Lan had expected more democracy by studying in France, he must have been gravely disappointed by an incident of censorship that raises questions about the country’s dedication to freedom of expression. As Le Monde and Agence France-Presse report, the thirty-two-year-old student at Paris’s art academy Ecole des Beaux-Arts hung a set of banners on the academy’s facade that play on a 2007 election slogan from president Nicolas Sarkozy: “Travailler plus pour gagner plus” (Work more to earn more). By contrast, Ko’s black banners feature the words TRAVAILLER (work), MOINS (less), GAGNER (earn), and PLUS (more). But her installation was dismantled after hanging only “a few hours” on the Beaux-Arts building located in the city’s sixth arrondissement. The reason? The academy judged that the work could be viewed as making an “attack on the neutrality of the public service” while instrumentalizing “the establishment.”

The artist denounced a “brutal censorship, without discussion.” The school has proposed to reinstall the work inside the building—a solution that Ko does not find satisfactory. The artist is not alone. The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, also denounced a “targeted censorship” that is “particularly frightening, since it calls into question the role and legitimate expression of artists in the city and our collective life.” While calling on Parisians and artists to show their solidarity with Ko, Delanoë offered to exhibit the work at the 104 space in the city. The French Socialist Party also denounced the act as censorship but demanded that the work be reinstalled on the Beaux-Arts facade. “It’s clearly an act of censorship for political reasons toward a work of art,” said the party. While expressing its “total condemnation” of the work’s dismantling, the party expressed its “complete solidarity” with both the artist and the curator of the exhibition.


Questions of authenticity are plaguing the estate of the late German painter Jörg Immendorff, who allegedly fabricated, signed, and sold copies of his own works. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, problems first arose when an unnamed collector attempted to auction off the Immendorff painting Café de flore, which the collector had originally purchased at a gallery in Bad Honnef, Germany. Just when the painting was set to go on the block, another unnamed collector came forward with a similar work. The dealer Michael Werner—who represents Immendorff’s estate—was not convinced by the authenticity of the painting up for auction. Yet the signature on its authenticity certificate proved to be “undoubtedly” from artist. “Connoisseurs are not excluding the possibility that Immendorff, who employed assistants during the last years of his life due to illness, sold the paintings himself,” notes the newspaper report. To solve any future problems, a catalogue raisonné is being compiled by the former director of Cologne’s Museum Ludwig Siegfried Gohr, who has been given the task by Werner. In the future, “real” Immendorff works will be only those that are included in this catalogue. Of course, the question remains regarding just how many fakes allegedly faked by the artist himself are still in circulation. Despite the fact that the signature on the fake Café de flore was found to be authentic, Werner compensated the “duped” collector with a sculpture of similar value.


The Grässlin family of art collectors has been awarded the Art Cologne Prize for 2010. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, Anna, Bärbel, Thomas, Sabine, and Karola Grässlin will be awarded fourteen thousand dollars at the upcoming fair in Cologne for their “outstanding service” regarding the mediation of art. The family’s collection includes artworks from the past thirty years.


Wim Delvoye’s latest exhibition at Nice’s Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain is creating waves—not among art lovers, but among animal lovers. As Agence France-Presse reports, the Belgian artist’s exhibition features seven pigs—tattooed and stuffed—which has angered animal-protection associations. While threatening to protest the opening last week, the associations have asked that the offending work be removed from the exhibition. The vice president of the Mouvement Écologiste Indépendant (Independent Ecologist Movement), Didier Le Gall, denounced Delvoye for using “the animal as if it were a simple object.” The Fondation Brigitte Bardot was “deeply shocked” by Delvoye’s installation. While the museum acknowledges the disturbing side of the work, the artist renews the debate about how animals are treated in today’s society. As for the pigs themselves—tattooed under anesthesia and raised in a farm near Beijing—if they hadn’t ended up as art, they would have ended up as a meal. “While they were alive, the animals have been pampered, treated as stars, free to move around, and constantly filmed,” noted the museum in a press release on its website. Although, if the pigs had been real movie stars, one thinks Delvoye could have simply re-created them as wax figures à la Madame Tussauds.