International News Digest


Kasper König will continue to direct the museum Ludwig in Cologne for another two years. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the city of Cologne extended its contract with the curator until November 2012. König’s original contract was due to end November 30, 2010.


The Centre Pompidou in Paris was evacuated on Sunday after a bomb threat. As Agence France-Presse reports, the national museum evacuated visitors and personnel at noon after an anonymous caller alerted the police from a public telephone booth. “Bomb experts came and found nothing,” said a representative from the museum, which was reopened later in the day.


Picasso’s antiwar masterpiece Guernica, 1937, will be staying in Madrid’s Reina Sofía museum, despite an interest expressed in the painting at the city’s Prado museum and from the Basque region. As Agence France-Presse reports, officials from the Reina Sofía and the government reaffirmed the painting’s “emblematic” and “central” position in the museum’s collection while insisting that the work is too delicate to be moved. Directors of the Prado museum expressed an interest in recuperating the painting, which Picasso completed in Paris as a protest against the bombs dropped by Nazi planes on the innocent civilians in the Basque city of Guernica in 1937. The painting, which has traveled the world, was exhibited for a long period at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it was restored, before being returned to the Prado in 1981 and then ending up at the Reina Sofía in 1992. The fragile state of the painting has been cited frequently to prevent the work from traveling to the Basque region in the north of Spain. Last March, the national Basque party made yet another futile attempt to have the painting exhibited in the region to pay homage to the victims of the tragic bombing.


Just more than half of France is “curious” about contemporary art. Citing a new survey from the BVA research agency, Agence France-Presse reports that 51 percent of French citizens were said to be “curious,” while yet another 11 percent expressed “enthusiasm” about contemporary art. But there’s clearly some work to be done. Of those polled, 32 percent were “indifferent” to contemporary art, while 15 percent were left in a state of “incomprehension.” Opinions on buying art held surprises—at least for speculators. For 35 percent, the acquisition of an artwork reflected individual passions, while 28 percent believe that acquiring art is for connoisseurs alone; 10 percent saw buying art as an “inaccessible dream” while 9 percent believed that such purchases were “foolish” and 9 percent believed that buying art was “ideal for decorating one’s home”; 5 percent perceived buying art was a “trend” and—surprise—only 4 percent of those polled believed that buying art was “a safe haven, an investment.” For looking at art, the French seem to prefer museums: 60 percent reported going to a museum at least once a year, while 42 percent went to fairs and 31 percent to galleries with the same frequency. The poll—taken by BVA in collaboration with the fair ArtParis, the review Journal des Arts, and other partners—was completed through the internet last February and based on the opinions of a representative national sample of 1,030 individuals aged eighteen and older.


Despite the popularity of museum exhibitions among the French, the French news agency Agence France-Presse ended its dispatches on “exhibitions and museums” in its cultural section this week. Readers hoping for the latest online news about museums and exhibitions were instead greeted with the message: “This dispatch no longer exists.” Agence France-Presse is the world’s oldest news agency, France’s biggest and the world’s largest alongside Associated Press and Reuters. The AFP culture section posts dispatches on general cultural news as well as reports on the specialized fields of cinema, festivals, music, and dance. There is also a collaborative dispatch with Reuters on the arts. Along with exhibitions and museums, AFP also ended its dispatches on publishing and literature.


The French museum world is taking a step toward multiculturalism—not in its exhibitions, but among its employees. As Le Monde’s Nathaniel Herzberg reports, three major elite institutions responsible for educating museum experts—the Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), the Ecole du Louvre, and the Ecole des Chartes—have just announced the creation of an “integrated preparatory class” for candidates competing for a study place to become a curator for heritage. The creation of the integrated preparatory class—which aims at making the pool of candidates more diversified—follows similar moves to open up other French educational institutions, from the elite political science institute to police training schools. “It’s the cultural sector’s turn to answer the call for diversity,” writes Herzberg.

After obtaining the prestigious title of heritage curator, an individual will have access to the best jobs in museums, libraries, and archival centers across the country. The competition for study places is tough and requires not only studies in art history but also “a considerable cultural and academic baggage” according to INP director Eric Gross—cultural capital that successful candidates have begun to accrue as children of privileged families. While Gross wants to give everyone the same chance, there will be no quotas, nor affirmative action. In August, ten to twelve motivated candidates will be picked according to social criteria that allow them to obtain grants for higher education. These candidates will be expected to pass the same tests and meet the same criteria as other hopefuls in the competition for study places at the institutions. But the candidates will come to the competition with the advantage of a different preparation.

The initiators behind the new project—which is being financially supported by the foundation Culture & Diversité—expect only 25 percent of the candidates to “win” the competition. That means only three from the ten to twelve candidates will actually become students next fall at INP, which has only forty study places available each year. According to Gross, only one candidate with a diverse background succeeded in obtaining a study place in 2009 at the INP—the very first in the entire history of the institution.


The screening-rooms-for-one in pornographic cinemas complexes are not cultural establishments. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung and DPA report, this decision was made by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg last week. The decision will have a direct impact on the operators of an “erotic center” in Belgium, although the center is not named in the report. The center hoped to use the cultural clause to reduce sales tax for its clients, who will now have to pay the full 21 percent sales tax instead of the reduced 6 percent culture sales tax when purchasing tickets to watch the films in the solo booths. By extension, pornographic cinema complexes that screen films for larger audiences can still benefit from the reduced sales tax. What emerges from the judgment is a new appreciation for collective experience: Watching porn films together can be considered part of the activities of a cultural establishment.