International News Digest


There’s bad legal news for Andrej Jerofejev and Jurij Samodurov, the two Moscow curators who were taken to court after organizing the controversial exhibition “Forbidden Art” at the city’s Tretjakov gallery. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Frank Nienhuysen reports, a Moscow judge in the appeals court ruled against the curators and has upheld an earlier charge against the pair for “inciting religious hatred.”

The exhibition included, among other works, a black Madonna made from caviar and Mickey Mouse on traditional religious icons. Due to the scandal surrounding the show, Jerofejev lost his job as the head curator at the Tretjakov gallery. In July, Jerofejev and Samodurov were charged with inciting religious hatred and ordered to pay fines of $5,300 and $7,000––and these will stand after the most recent court decision.

As Nienhuysen notes, the case is not over. The curators’s opponents, including powerful representatives of the Christian Orthodox church, are now calling for the destruction of the artworks. “In our country, everything is possible,” said the curators’s lawyer Anna Stavitzkaja, “but I do hope that it doesn’t come to the works’s destruction.” Stavitzkaja wants to pursue to case outside the country, if necessary, right up to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. “On this question, the state supports the church,” said Samodurov after the ruling. “And the position of the church is that society must be protected from such exhibitions.”


Der Standard reports that Heimo Zobernig has won the seventh Friedrick Kiesler Prize for architecture and art. The prize, which is doted with $76,000, was awarded to the fifty-two-year-old Austrian for “excellence in the fields of architecture and the arts.” The jury––including Tony Fretton, Francesca von Habsburg, Moritz Küng, Frédéric Migayrou, and Nasrine Seraji––praised Zobernig’s “unparalleled oeuvre and development” and “artistic agility in subtly undermining established ways of seeing things and uncovering unexpected aspects.” The award, named after the late Austro-American architect Frederick J. Kiesler, honors his experimental, innovative conceptions and his theory of correlated arts. The prize will be presented to Zobernig on October 18 during the opening of this artist’s show at the Kiesler Foundation Vienna.


The Swiss artist Gianni Motti is taking a hands-on approach to Italian politics by creating a soap allegedly fashioned from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s body fat. As Agence France-Presse reports, the little bar of soap, titled Mani Pulite (Clean Hands), is in the group exhibition “Une Idée, une Forme, un Être – Poésie / Politique du corporel” (An Idea, a Form, a Being – Poetry / Politics of the Body) at Zurich’s Migros Museum.

How did Motti get the fat? According to the museum press release, Berlusconi underwent a liposuction treatment in 2004 at a Swiss clinic. A clinic employee allegedly gave the leader’s removed body fat to Motti, although the clinic has denied that such a transaction could have taken place. “At the time, some people told me that everything was fake, but, no, really it’s Berlusconi’s fat!” said Motti, who is ready to do a DNA test to prove his point. While Berlusconi is no stranger to public appearances, the Migros exhibition marks the first time that Motti’s work has been shown in public after being picked up by a private collection at Art Basel in 2005. The exhibition is on view until November 28.


There’s good news for the proposed German art academy Villa Tarabya in Istanbul. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, the “milestone” project, reminiscent of Germany’s Villa Massimo artist residence in Rome, was to be set up inside Villa Tarabya, the German embassy’s summer residence on the Bosporus. While the parliament agreed on the academy in 2009, the project mysteriously hit the rocks last month after the federal foreign office started citing many murky hurdles, from economic to diplomatic. Now, the various fractions in the parliament seem to have explained to the federal foreign office exactly how these hurdles can be overcome to restart the Villa Tarabya project. A cultural politician for the conservative CDU party Monika Grütters calls the recent turn-around “a decisive victory” while adding that the federal foreign office had finally understood, “They can’t avoid the artist academy.” According to the report, the renovations in the villa will begin before the end of the year.


Marrakech Art Fair (FIAMC), Morocco’s first fair for modern and contemporary art, got off to a good start. As Agence France-Presse reports, the fair opened last Saturday in Marrakesh with many European galleries according to the event organizers. “We are doing everything for Marrakech Art Fair to become, not just another fair, but a fair that has a sense for the whole African continent,” said Hicham Daoudi, FIAMC founder and one of the event organizers. “With seventy galleries opening from Casablanca to Rabat in five years, we are in the midst of a Moroccan movida.” From thirty-one participating galleries, nineteen are from Europe––including Guy Pieters (Paris), Caprice Horn (Berlin) and Laurent Godin (Paris)––while ten galleries hail from across the Maghreb and two from the Middle East. For the organizers and observers, Morocco seems to be experiencing an “emergence” and an “evolution” in art, especially in painting through works by artists like Fouad Bellamine and Mahi Binebine. “This evolution is due precisely to the work of galleries and auction houses which have multiplied in the last years,” said Brahim Alaoui, an art historian and the former director of the Musée de l’Institut du monde arabe in Paris.