International News Digest


The Warburg Institute of the University of London is facing an uncertain future. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Alexander Menden reports, the source of the problem is the original foundational agreement between the institute and the university. The institute’s library, which was created by the German art historian Aby Warburg, became part of the University of London in 1944 with the stipulation that the university maintain the institute as an independent entity while providing it with adequate furnishings and personnel. That clause has put a damper on the university’s recent plans to amalgamate its many libraries––a move that would have threatened the Warburg Institute’s unique cataloging system.

While the Warburg Institute successfully avoided the library amalgamation––by citing its independence––there are new tensions. According to Menden, the university is seeking to annul the original agreement that guarantees the institute’s special status. “The university’s board of trustees is currently investigating possibilities to change fundamentally the relationship to the Warburg Institute,” writes Menden, noting that the minutes of a university board meeting show that a lawyer was contacted last October. The lawyer advised that the founding document be replaced with a new agreement which reflects the fact that “the circumstances of the university have changed since 1944.” A spokesperson for the university confirmed that there are plans to present a proposal to change the original agreement to the charity commission, which will decide whether or not a legal procedure is needed. Consulted by the institute and the university last year, the charity commission already came to the conclusion that there is a conflict of interest since the university acts as both a trustee and the main financer for the institute.

That conflict seems to be benefiting the university’s finances. “The university has apparently decided to make up for financial deficiencies in other areas at the cost of the Warburg Institute,” writes Menden. Between 2007 and 2009, the Warburg Institute’s rent paid to the university increased more than 250 percent, from $437,750 in 2007 to $1.1 million in the following year. At the same time, the institute’s support has declined slightly from $2.1 million in 2008 to $2 million in 2009. “The increase in the rent,” writes Menden, “which now suddenly makes up around one-third of the annual expenditures, has ‘led to an unsustainable deficit,’ according to an employee of the Warburg Institute.” There’s no comment from the university, but for Menden, the situation suggests that the university’s board no longer has any special value on the institute.


The city of Paris is currently looking for a new director from the failed artistic residency “104,” but Le Monde’s Clarisse Fabre wants to know what went wrong before launching the space all over again. The residency opened in the Nineteenth arrondissement in October 2008, only to see its directors Robert Cantarella and Frédéric Fisbach resign one year later in the face of a $932,610 deficit. Le Monde has obtained a confidential report written by Gérard Deniaux, a former adminstrator for the Festival d’Avignon who was hired by Cantarella and Fisbach as a financial director for 104––a position that he no longer holds but that might affect his assessment.

As Fabre reports, Deniaux does not blame the former directors but reproaches the city of Paris for delivering an incomplete building as well as blaming the construction project manager responsible for its completion. The 104 started by contracting a $2.8 million debt––controlled by the project manager––to finish spaces at the site slotted for commercial rents. Deniaux calculates that this debt may have increased by 2009 to over $4.3 million––an amount that exceeds the 104’s initial endowment of $4 million. “Errors were made even before the site was entrusted to the team in place there,” wrote Deniaux, who believes that the priority was to “over-protect” spaces instead of opening them.

Another problem: $3.3 million for security, cleaning, and upkeep costs as well as another $6.3 million in personnel costs, which eat up most of 104’s operating budget of $10.7 million. For the city, which will be conducting its own study in June, the revealing of the Deniaux report in the media has been received as “a declaration of war.”

Whoever is to blame for the failures of 104––the municipality or the directors Cantarella and Fisbach––it does not seem to matter to a new collective that took over the space on April 1. “Un autre 104 est possible” (Another 104 is possible) was launched by Jean-Marc Adolphe, the director of the publication Mouvement (Movement). The collective believes that the 104 can be run without renting out space to commercial interests in order to raise $4 million annually. But the city is not impressed by the initiative. “If this collective has a project, then why hasn’t it submitted the project, as have the fifty-six candidates who have applied to succeed Cantarella and Fisbach?” said Girard. The list of candidates––which includes Jean-François Chougnet, the former director of Parc de La Villette; Laurent Dreano, the head of culture for the city of Lille; and José Manuel Gonçalves, the director of the Ferme du Buisson in Noisiel––will be shortened to three to five names by the end of May, before a new director is chosen in June.


As if Belgium did not have enough problems after the recent breakdown of the coalition government, Le Monde’s Belgian correspondent Jean-Pierre Stroobants reports that a municipal employee has been “castrating” statues at an art academy in greater Brussels. The unnamed employee––who works for Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, one of nineteen municipalities in the greater capitol region––castrated five statues at the city’s Académie des beaux-arts because he felt that the statues, all of which are copies of male nudes from antiquity, were obscene. After cutting away the stone genitalia, the employee then remolded the area into a small bump on the statues. “The employee claimed to have wanted to protect the children from a nearby school,” writes Stroobants, “as he was worried that they might be ‘shocked’ if they passed by the statues.” One schoolgirl reportedly called the employee the “emasculator.” The municipality stated that the behavior of the employees had never been problematic. Since the damage was discovered, the employee claims that he had intended to “repair” the statues by reattaching heads and other missing members and ended up removing the genitalia with “ease.”