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International News Digest


The Bank of Ireland has begun to sell off its art collection. As Agence France-Presse reports, the decision has attracted criticism of a “cultural suicide” as well as interest from investors. Last week, the auction began at Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel where 145 paintings and sculptures were put on the block, including Paul Henry’s painting Clouds at Sunset which was sold for a modest $87,000. At the end of the auction, 144 works from the lot had been sold for a total of $1.9 million, an amount that will hardly put a dent in the country’s staggering debt. The sale, which attracted 4,000 potential buyers, is the first in a series that will sell off 2,000 artworks that have been collected by the bank in past centuries. “It’s shameful,” said Breda O’Byrne, a retired worker who was one of a dozen or so protestors who came to the hotel. “The collection should have been kept as a guarantee for all the money that the taxpayers have had to give.”

Founded in 1783, the Bank of Ireland is the country’s oldest bank. “We have decided to reinvest in art,” said a bank representative Anne Mathews about the sale. “All the profits will go to artist organizations.” Bruce Ballagh, the son of a painter who refused to let one of his paintings be auctioned, does not agree with the principle. “The banks belong to us,” said Ballagh. “I would like the paintings to go public museums.”


The retrospective “Claude Monet 1840–1926” at the Grand Palais in Paris is promising to become the city’s most popular exhibition. As Le Monde’s Michel Guerrin reports, more than 400,000 visitors have seen the show since it opened September 22, with an average of 7,000 visitors per day. Although it is no longer possible to reserve tickets, that fact has not deterred would-be visitors from waiting for up to three hours in line at the Grand Palais for a ticket at the door. Since many works have been loaned from foreign museums with strict return dates, the exhibition cannot be prolonged. Now organizers have decided to open the show around the clock for the final three days and nights: from 9 AM on January 21 to 9 PM on January 24. Nineteen thousand “nocturnal” tickets will be made available, and can be reserved, for the nonstop run. As Guerrin reports, it’s the first time that a Paris blockbuster has turned into an all-nighter. The Grand Palais took a similar approach to extend visitor hours for the exhibition “Picasso et les maîtres” (Picasso and the Masters) in 2008.


The exhibition “Gaza 2010” featuring works by the German photographer Kai Wiedenhöfer has reopened at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. As Agence France-Presse reports, the exhibition was temporarily closed down last week due to pressure from pro-Israeli protestors. Wiedenhöfer, whose has documented the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1989 and received the Carmignac Prize to continue his work, captures the impact of the Israeli offensive during the winter of 2008–2009. After the incident, the museum reinforced security services for the exhibition. “Gaza 2010” continues until December 5.


An exhibition by the Australian artist Mark Rossell at the Landhaus in Saint Pölten, Austria, has proven unpopular with some locals. As the Austria Presse Agentur reports, a statue of the Virgin Mary featured in the exhibition has been sprayed with red paint and a small sculpture has been stolen. Many locals have criticized the show, including the right-wing FPÖ party, which has called for an end to the exhibition and has filed a complaint with the public prosecutor for the vilification of religious teachings, practices, and symbols. According to the party, the large Virgin Mary statue in the exhibition, now vandalized with red paint, was presented sealed in a used condom while several smaller statues of the Virgin Mary resemble sex toys. While Rossell filed a complaint with the police about the attack and the theft, the artist has not requested any extra security for the exhibition. Despite the incident, the exhibition is to continue as planned until this week.