International News Digest


Although the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has banned visitors under eighteen years of age from seeing the current Larry Clark retrospective, some believe that the X-rating does not go far enough. As Le Monde’s Clarisse Fabre reports, an association has called for the entire show to be banned. Alliance Générale contre le Racisme et pour le Respect de l’Identité Française et Chrétienne (AGRIF) (General Alliance against Racism and for the Respect of French and Christian Identity) addressed a letter to the Paris police and the mayor of Paris. The association is headed by Bernard Antony, a longtime militant for the right-wing Front national. According to the police, the letter states that AGRIF is currently considering a legal complaint against the organizers of the exhibition for including pornographic images of minors in an exhibition. The infraction carries a maximum penalty of five years of prison and a $103,700 fine.


While Paris debates the X-rated Larry Clark retrospective at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Bern has taken more direct action. As Le Monde and Agence France-Presse report, two photographs of young nudes by Clark were removed from an exhibition at the Paul Klee Center. The organizers of the exhibition, which is dedicated to the seven capital sins, also removed a watercolor by the late German artist George Grosz. “If we have chosen to take out Larry Clark’s photographs, it’s because we realized, with the story in Paris, that they have the power to take all the attention, at the expense of the whole of our approach,” the director Juri Steiner told the Geneva daily La Tribune. “We are not doing an exhibition about Clark but on the seven capital sins with 250 works covering an entire millennium.” As for Grosz’s work, which shows the vulvas of two women, Steiner admitted that the decision to remove the work was last-minute. “There is a certain cruelty in Grosz’s approach, which was intentional for an aggressively politicized Berlin Dadaist.” While stopping short of introducing a ban for viewers under eighteen years of age, the center did warn visitors that the works were not suitable for those under sixteen years of age due to their “pornographic nature.” “Vice et Volupté, Les 7 péchés capitaux de Dürer à Nauman” (Vice and Voluptuousness, the 7 Capital Sins from Dürer to Nauman) continues until February 20, 2011.


Clark is not the only contemporary artist causing a stir in France. As Agence France-Presse reports, a group is undertaking urgent legal proceedings to stop the show of works by Takashi Murakami at the Versailles castle, just outside of Paris. The group includes a descendant of the Sun King Louis XIV and an association hostile to the exhibition of works by the Japanese artist. “The Prince Sixte-Henri de Bourbon and the members of Coordination Défense de Versailles (Coordination for the Protection of Versailles) announce a double urgent legal action for damaging the respect due to the work of Louis XIV, a legal action that they will start after a press conference on October 22,” said the group in a press release.

It’s not the first time that members of the former royal family have intervened into the installation of contemporary art at the former royal residence. Charles-Emmanuel de Bourbon Parme, the cousin of Sixte-Henri de Bourbon, tried unsuccessfully to stop the exhibition of works by Jeff Koons at Versailles in 2008. According to AFP, Versailles had no comment on the legal move but simply noted that visitor numbers to the castle have increased since the show began on September 14. If the courts side with the Versailles organizers, Murakami’s exhibition will continue until December 12.


Two artworks featuring the Israeli flag have been removed from an exhibition in Syria. As Agence France-Presse reports, the works by the Norwegian painter Håkon Gullvåg were taken out of a show at the Centre Culturel Français (French Cultural Center) in Damascus. The exhibition “Terre Sainte” (Holy Land) features works capturing the Israeli offensive in the Gaza strip in December 2008. According to a press release for the exhibition, Gullvåg hoped to create an “homage to the children of Gaza caught in the war.” But his paintings were unceremoniously removed, without any contact with him or with the Norwegian embassy in Damascus. Gullvåg, who was interviewed from Oslo by the AFP, said he was notified by the French embassy after students complained that the exhibition featured works showing the Israeli flag. “The paintings were shown to the directors of the French cultural center long before the vernissage,” said Gullvåg, who added the flag to scenes of soldiers and wounded children. “I wanted to express my sympathy for the cause (of the Palestinians) and their suffering.” Norway’s ambassador Rolf Willy Hansen said that removing the works without consulting the artist was “unacceptable.” “It’s a way of worming one’s way into artistic expression,” said Hansen, who has contacted the cultural center and the French embassy to find another solution. “Terre Sainte” continues until November 2.


Over three hundred employees of the Greek ministry of culture blockaded the Acropolis last week to protest their imminent dismissal. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports, tourists were not able to access the Acropolis on Wednesday and were left to view the country’s most famous site from afar as the site remained closed. Due to the ongoing financial crisis, cash-strapped and debt-ridden Greece has put a freeze on both hiring new employees and renewing work contracts.

According to a subsequent report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the blockade ended in violent chaos on Thursday morning when police used tear gas and truncheons to remove the protesters.