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Vanessa Beecroft in Paris; Pierre Huyghe Interview; Three Articles on Stolen Art


Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Angelika Heinick was on hand for Vanessa Beecroft's inaugural performance at Espace Louis Vuitton in Paris. The new 400-square-meter (4,306 square foot) exhibition space is located inside the revamped flagship store at the corner of Avenue Georges V and the Champs-Élysées. Beecroft opted to stage the three-hour performance in the building's atrium: Thirty naked models—black and white—sat silently on shelves alongside classic Louis Vuitton handbags and luggage. Beecroft also showed “Alphabet Concept,” a series of thirteen color photographs that use women's naked bodies to form the ubiquitous LV letters of the luxury brand's logo.

“Who's serving whom the most here?” asks Heinick. “The commitment of powerful companies to contemporary art is all well and good, but perhaps it is not completely harmless, especially when the border between support and promotion begin to dissolve into a marketing strategy.” To let the readers decide, the FAZ also presents a selection of photographs of Beecroft's contributions.

In an interview with France 2, Beecroft denied that her artistic freedom had been compromised. “I absolutely never had the feeling of compromising myself while I made this alphabet for Louis Vuitton,” Beecroft said. “I was more worried about the idea of creating a performance for a store and not for a museum. But as I have said, I was very satisfied with the result.”

Beecroft is not the only artist showing at the new space. James Turrell added the light installation First Blush, Tim White-Sobieski installed a twenty-meter-wide video wall along the escalator, and Olafur Eliasson has designed the elevator interiors. The exhibition continues until March 31.


Die Süddeutsche Zeitung's Holger Liebs spoke with Pierre Huyghe at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, where the artist just completed installing the “prologue” to his exhibition “Celebration Park.” The two-part show now includes the film A Journey That Wasn't, which is also being screened at the Whitney Biennial. The film is based upon Huyghe's search for albino penguins in the Antarctic as well as a musical about his adventures, which was held last year in New York's Central Park.

“You can't bring these impressions along with you,” Huyghe said of his travels. “That would be exoticism. You already know beforehand that you're going to fail if you look for emptiness, the undiscovered country, the ‘someplace else’ and you want to snatch it up and bring it home. You lose that ‘someplace else.’ But I don't find that bad. Failure is a necessary condition of my work.” Liebs asked Huyghe if his failing method comes close to melancholia. “Melancholy means when you desire something, but the object of your longing disappears. Yes, that's right.”

The Paris show includes a phase written in neon letters on the wall—“I possess neither the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris nor the Death Star”—as well as a puppet with the artist's features who sits slumped in the corner. For Liebs, the work offers a sad portrait of the artist as an instrument of the museum who can and may possess as little as Darth Vader in Star Wars. “That's a legal formulation, which permits me to use what I do not own, to let it appear,” Huyghe told the newspaper.

“Today, one cannot and does not have to tell more stories,” Huyghe added. “One can only expand and change existing narratives. Technology allows us to use all sorts of things, to quote, to sample. There's a stronger output of images and stories as well as a stronger need to understand what one is being supplied with. But nobody wants to be just a continually fed terminal. One would like to be able to inhabit one's own culture, to participate in it.”


Die Welt's Johanna Di Blasi was on hand for “Hot Art, Cold Cash,” a symposium organized in Cologne by the Art Loss Register (ALR), the world's largest data bank for stolen art works. Over 160,000 artworks are currently listed with the registry, the latest additions being Matisse's Luxembourg Gardens, Edvard Munch's Scream and Henry Moore's Reclining Figure. Despite these recent incidents, almost one third of the artworks—50,000 in total—were stolen during the Nazi regime and WWII. “The problem of art theft is also a problem of the art market,” concludes Di Blasi. “Extremely liberal commercial practices, loose paragraphs in sales contracts, and a lack of consciousness for injustice all facilitate the dirty business of stolen art.”

Die Süddeutsche Zeitung features an interview with Ulli Seegers, the director of the German ALR branch. Seegers believes that financial gain, not a passion for art, is the motivation to steal works. While Old Masters and antiques from both private and public collections have been favorites among thieves, Seegers warns that contemporary works are far from safe. “The most recent stolen work was made in 2006,” he told the newspaper. “Basically, anything that can be bought and sold is unfortunately open to be stolen. Just last week, a work by Ed Ruscha was reported missing.”

Are there any other career options for an art thief? Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Niklas Bender asks the question about the French art thief Stéphane Breitwieser. “The Arsene Lupin of Museums,” Breitwieser was just released from prison where he served a three-year sentence for stealing 230 masterpieces from museums across Europe. Breitwieser, who claimed in a recent interview that he was motivated by his love of art, is thinking about a career as an art expert. “His experience,” writes Bender, “is supposed to recommend him as a specialist.”