International News Digest


Rebecca Horn has been awarded the Hessian Cultural Prize for 2010 in Germany. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the sixty-five-year-old was praised as “one of the outstanding visual artists” in the country. Among her many accomplishments, the multitalented Horn was the first woman to be awarded Goslar’s Kaiserring prize in 1992. The prize is accompanied by approximately sixty-three thousand dollars.


The director of the Museum Valencian of Enlightenment and Modernity (MUVIM), Ramâ de la Calle, has resigned to protest an act of censorship from the local government. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the incident begins with the “belt” corruption affair that has hit Spain’s political elite. The entrepreneur Francisco Correa—whose last name translates in English to “belt”—is suspected of heading a vast network of corruption that allegedly involved politicians from Spain’s main opposition party, the conservative People’s Party, in bribes and kickbacks. When the MUVIM recently opened an exhibition featuring the best press photographs taken in Valencia in 2009, many of the shots had to do with local politicians alleged to be part of the belt affair, including the regional head of government, the Francisco Camps party; and the mayor of Valencia, Rita Barberá, from the People’s Party. For this unappealing appearance, the regional government mandated that the offending photographs be removed from the exhibition. Now the walls at the MUVIM are empty. The government also attempted to push de la Calle to agree to the removal of the works, but the director was not interested. “I have never seen nor experienced anything more heavy-handed,” said de la Calle as he defended his resignation last week at a meeting with a timely theme: the aesthetics of memory.


At an auction in Cannes, a painting by the German Romantic master Caspar David Friedrich was mistakenly put on the block for $140. As Agence France-Presse reports, a Parisian dealer saved the day by recognizing the painting, which was subsequently marked up to $490,000 by the auction house Azur. “Auctioneers are often presented as the only actors in the art market,” said the dealer Bertrand Talabardon, who purchased the small-scale work, which shows an owl sitting in a tree. “This [incident] proves that competence is not one-sided.” Yet the affair is far from over. The final price—still estimated to be below the market value—has not pleased the family, which acquired the painting through an inheritance and put the work up for sale. According to the report, the family has taken legal action to annul the sale for the error.


There’s a last-minute move under way to halt Sotheby’s auction of a large collection of Polaroids brought together by the defunct company’s founder Edwin H. Land. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the former judge Sam Joyner will try to appeal the decision made by the Minnesota judge who ordered the sale. The last owner of Polaroid, Tom Petters, was convicted of fraud and other charges last August by a Minnesota bankruptcy court, which ordered Polaroid to sell part of its collection to pay off creditors. But Joyner contends that many of the works in the Polaroid collection still belong to the artists and were left with the company only for exhibition purposes and other events. Sotheby’s argues that the artists—many of whom are deceased—had sufficient time to assert their claims and to get their photographs back. Yet as the Süddeutsche Zeitung notes, some artists did attempt to retrieve their works from Polaroid through legal action but consistently failed in the courts. The auction—which is expected to raise $11.5 million with spectacular works by Ansel Adams, Chuck Close, William Wegman, Robert Rauschenberg, David Hockney, Robert Frank, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Lucas Samaras, and others—is due to take place at Sotheby’s in New York on June 21–22.


Here’s a new tactic for frustrated artists with a performative bent. As Agence France-Presse reports, an artist covertly hung one of his own works in an exhibition at the Musée Maillol in Paris. The artist, Pascal Guérineau, tacked the paper work—a drawing showing a skull—in the exhibition “Vanités de Caravage à Damien Hirst” (Vanities from Caravaggio to Damien Hirst). “It’s quite difficult for an artist to be able to get into this environment,” Guérineau told the radio station Europe One, cited by AFP. “So I took the initiative and hung myself. I can tell you that people admired my work.” But the president of the Maillol, Olivier Lorquin, was not among his admirers. “Monsieur Guérineau came to the Maillol Museum Sunday in the afternoon,” said Lorquin in a press statement on the affair. “Taking advantage of the darkness in the room where Christian Boltanski’s installation Théâtre d’Ombres [Theater of Shadows, 2009] is projected, this monsieur nimbly tacked a piece of paper showing the sketch of a skull [to the wall].” During a patrol check after the museum had closed and the lights were turned on, guards found the parasite exhibition piece in the Boltanski room and promptly removed the drawing. “Monsieur Guérineau did not defeat an army of guards, who are of course always vigilant,” insisted Lorquin. “His ‘work’ remained in the dark until the visitors had left.” Despite the intrusion, the museum has no intention of making a formal complaint against Guérineau. And unlike Polaroid and Sotheby’s, apparently, the museum is prepared to give the work back to the artist.


In light of the child-abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI may be hoping to put a better face on the faith. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Kia Vahland reports, the Leipzig painter Michael Triegel has been chosen to paint the pope’s official portrait. Influenced by the DDR painters Werner Tübke and Arno Rink, the forty-one-year-old Triegel has made a name for himself in recent years with the sacred genre. “Oh, you are my Raphael!” the pope is said to have exclaimed to Triegel after the fellow German completed a few preliminary sketches during an audience with the pontiff. With the exception of some elements borrowed from Neo Rauch, Vahland sees “very neat” quotations of the old masters such as Giovanni Bellini, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, and Velázquez in Triegel’s work. But the artist has raised a few eyebrows with his interpretation of the resurrection for painting Christ’s genitals photorealistically with “all the crinkles,” according to Vahland. Despite the slight scandal, Vahland does not consider Triegel to be a bold choice: “Everything that was once revolutionary, upsetting, and ambivalent is clean and distant here, made for people who have never lapsed in faith or love religion as folklore.” The choice of a living painter is part of a step toward contemporary arts from the Vatican, which will also have a pavilion at the upcoming Venice Biennale.