01 As Paris’s river Seine reaches historic water levels, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay closed their doors early Thursday evening in order to transfer artworks to safety.
Following days of heavy rain, the Seine is expected to reach depths of 21 feet by Friday evening—17 feet more than normal, marking the highest the river has risen since 1982. Curators at the Louvre
have been tasked with moving some 250,000 works located in at-risk areas, particularly basement storerooms. The Mona Lisa
(1503-1517), however, is high and dry in an upper-floor gallery. Other than periods of renovation, the last time this quantity of artworks were transported in such a hurry was most likely the years preceding the Nazi invasion of France in 1940. The weekend is expected to bring drier weather, with authorities predicting that the water will slowly begin to recede next week.
02 A UNESCO report takes an in-depth look at 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites, finding that the impacts of climate change will pose a significant threat to many.
Focusing on sites that are at-risk major tourist attractions, the “World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate” report examines only a fraction of the over 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage sites that can be found across 163 countries. Drawing on a comprehensive array of sources that includes peer-reviewed papers, local experts, and World Heritage Committee evaluations, the report forecasts that climate change will pose challenges to the preservation of cultural sites across the globe. Rising sea levels, superstorms, and other volatile weather conditions that are the hallmark of global warming pose grave, even existential, challenges for heritage sites including the cities of Venice and Cartagena, The Statue of Liberty, the Galapagos, and Stonehenge of Easter Island. Likely billions of dollars in preventative and restorative funds, along with a meaningful international commitment to the Paris accord, will be required to stave off the impact of climate change. Barring that, the destruction wrought by climate change “could eventually even cause some World Heritage sites to lose their status,” said Adam Markham, the lead author of the report, in a statement.
03 One of the Spanish businessmen accused by U.S. prosecutors of organizing an $80-million forgery ring—responsible for the fake Rothko that sparked a contentious lawsuit between the De Sole family and New York gallery Knoedler & Company—will not be extradited for trial.
Spain’s national court ruled last week that, due to health problems, 60-year-old José Carlos Bergantiños Díaz will not leave the country to be tried. Although accounts of his condition varied, doctors agreed that he faces increasingly severe neurological issues and requires daily assistance. Bergantiños Díaz’s brother, Jesús Ángel, is also being charged for his involvement in the crime; in February, the Spanish court ruled that he could be sent to New York for trial. A former girlfriend of Bergantiños Díaz, working as a Long Island art dealer, sold the fakes to Knoedler & Company over a period of several years. She pled guilty in 2013 to a handful of criminal charges, although she has yet to receive a sentence.
04 Just a month after government forces retook the city of Palmyra—garnering much international attention—a major German archeologist has accused Syrian troops of looting the ancient city.
In an article for German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, archaeologist Hermann Parzinger minces no words. Referring to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Parzinger writes that “Assad’s soldiers too plundered the ruins of Palmyra before the ISIS takeover, and their rockets and grenades indiscriminately pounded the antique columns and walls when this promised even the slightest military advantage.” Parzinger’s article offers something of a corrective to the narrative that emerged last month, one that saw Assad’s retaking of Palmyra from ISIS as putting an end to the destruction wrought on the historic city. Though ISIS wrought untold damage upon Palmyra during the roughly 10-month period when they controlled the city, Syrian cultural heritage will remain caught in the crossfire so long as the Syrian civil war rages. “This victory has not made Bashar al-Assad and his backers the saviors of cultural heritage,” writes Parzinger.
05 Duke Riley’s illuminated-pigeon project has become mired in further controversy, with a Dutch artist claiming that the idea was originally his.
illuminated-pigeon show, Fly by Night
, organized by New York nonprofit Creative Time, has been mired in more criticism this week. The Dutch artist Jasper van den Brink is claiming the idea for Riley’s avian display originated with an article he published in the magazine Cabinet
in 2004, in which he imagined releasing a flock of pigeons with LED lights attached to their legs. Riley—who has kept pigeons for years, has ties to New York’s pigeon community, and borrowed the majority of his winged troupe from friends—denies any connection between his performance and van den Brink’s idea. As a lawyer told the New York Times
, there is no legal foundation to the Dutch artist’s complaint since ideas are not protected by copyright. Creative Time has declined an invitation to discuss the issue with van den Brink’s lawyers. This comes on the heels of a change.org petition signed by over 5,000 people to close the series of performances based on the possibility that the birds may become harmed. This despite the fact that Riley’s birds are able to fly quite freely in the sky during the run of show, and—as a pamphlet distributed by Creative Time points out—these variants of doves have been domesticated for thousands of years.
06 The Armory Show announced the curators of the New York art fair’s 2017 edition.