International News Digest


Safety measure or budget cut? As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, fire prevention is being named as the official reason for temporarily closing down Hamburg’s Altona Museum and Galerie der Gegenwart (Contemporary Gallery) which is located inside the city’s Kunsthalle. According to city officials, the fire prevention systems in both of the buildings must be revamped. While the closure of the Altona Museum may last for up to two and a half years, the Galerie der Gegenwart is expected to remain closed only until September.

Some believe that “safety first” is not the real priority, especially in light of the city’s need to cut its billowing deficit. The Altona Museum director Torkild Hinrichsen said that, “one could come to conclusion that it’s not entirely by chance that we are now coming up against a measure to toughen up fire prevention.” When confronted with the same requirement, Kunsthalle director Hubertus Gaßner identified municipal budget cuts as the real cause for the Galerie der Gegenwart’s closure.


Over in Paris, there seem to be other ways to avoid saying the words “budget cut.” As Le Monde reports, the Musée d’Orangerie and the Musée d’Orsay are heading for a longer union. The French minister of culture Frédéric Mitterrand presented a decree that would officially attach the Orangerie to the Orsay, whose permanent collections both feature Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings. The fusion is being presented as part of the ministry’s general revision of public policies, which has caused controversy, protests, and strikes with its massive cuts and reduction of jobs in the cultural sector. According to a spokesperson for the ministry, the Orangerie-Orsay fusion “will allow for the improvement of their management but also bring together their collections around a larger project about impressionism.”


Three artists from the Gaza Strip will not be able to attend their exhibition in Paris. As Der Standard reports, Israeli authorities refused to give exit visas to Raed Issa, Abdel Raouf Ajjouri, and Mohamed Al Hawajri. The cultural branch of the French consulate in Jerusalem delivered the news about the painters who had planned to attend an exhibition of their works at the Paris gallery Arcima. The exhibition was organized under the patronage of the city of Paris. As the French consulate noted, “as usual, no reason was named” by the Israeli officials for refusing to grant the visas to the artists.


The Romans are not afraid to talk about budget deficits––and call for some help. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Andrea Bachstein reports, the Colosseum is in desperate need of restoration, which is estimated to cost twenty-seven million dollars. It’s not surprising for a structure that’s almost two thousand years old and welcomes over four million visitors per year. Since the city’s coffers are more than empty––the municipal deficit has surpassed the eleven billion dollar mark––Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno hopes to find sponsors and optimistic about the search.

Apart from sponsors to fund the restoration, the city is also considering measures to protect its world-famous landmark. Both archeologists and preservationists have called for the creation of a pedestrian zone around the Colosseum, which is being damaged by car-exhaust fumes and the vibrations of the traffic. Roberto Cecchi, a special commissioner for Roman and Ostian antiquities, has even higher hopes for an archeological park that would link the Colosseum with the Palantine Hill and the Circus Maximus––a plan that would necessitate the removal of two streets. Public toilets and tourist stands would disappear from around the Colosseum and eventually be brought into a large visitor center. Of course, that would require even more money, more sponsors, and, of course, more hope for culture in the era of economic crisis.