Floods Close the Louvre—and the 9 Other Biggest News Stories This Week
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.
(via the Washington Post)
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.
(via the New York Times)
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.
(via artnet News)
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.
(via the New York Times)
Duke Riley’s 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.
One of two curators selected is Jarrett Gregory, a contemporary art curator at LACMA, who will take over the Focus section. Under the direction of the fair’s executive director, Benjamin Genocchio, Focus will shift from highlighting artists who share a common geography to featuring 15–20 solo artist presentations of new or rare work. The second curatorial announcement is Eric Shiner, the director of the Andy Warhol Museum. Shiner will helm Platform, a new section dedicated to large-scale artworks, installations, and performances created in response to Manhattan’s Piers 92 and 94, where the fair is held. In a statement, Genocchio said, “As we approach our 23rd year, we remain committed to providing new opportunities for our galleries to create a sense of discovery and encounter at the fair. We are particularly excited to support this mission by selecting dynamic curators for the Focus section and new Platform initiative.” The words echo sentiments expressed in a February interview with Artsy, where Genocchio spoke of his plans to continue to build up and hone The Armory Show.
07 After five years with Gagosian Gallery, William Eggleston is swapping dealers—the American photographer joined David Zwirner’s roster on Friday.
(via the New York Times)
The 76-year-old artist is generally acknowledged as the driving force behind color photography’s acceptance as a fine art. Images from Eggleston’s 1980s project “The Democratic Forest”—a period during which he traveled to familiar locations like Memphis and Dallas, but also to places as far-flung as the Berlin Wall—will be featured in a fall show at Zwirner’s West 20th Street space. “I think the photo community sometimes takes their own and holds them hostage,” the dealer told the New York Times. “It’s important for Eggleston’s work to be seen among the great art that’s being made. I know that’s very important for him in choosing our gallery.” Zwirner also noted that Eggleston has served as an influence for other artists represented by the gallery, including Wolfgang Tillmans, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, and Thomas Ruff.
08 Spanish police have arrested seven suspects in conjunction with a €25-million theft of five Francis Bacon paintings from a Madrid apartment.
(via the Guardian)
Although the works were snatched in July 2015, the crime only came to light in March of this year. The operation appeared professional—the thieves carefully monitored the owner’s schedule, striking when he was out of town in London and successfully dismantling the alarm system to escape without a trace. However, British private investigators later received an email containing photographs of the stolen paintings, which they shared with Spanish detectives in February. Investigators were able to trace the camera back to a man who has since been arrested for suspected involvement in the crime; a Madrid art dealer and his son have also been detained. The paintings have not yet been recovered, although it’s unlikely the thieves have located a buyer—an expert noted that “it is not at all easy to sell a Francis Bacon, large or small, without that getting to the ears of those who pore over such a rarified sector.”
09 A summary of the long-awaited U.S. Senate report on private museums has been submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.
(via The Art Newspaper)
Included in the report’s findings, summarized in a letter written by Orrin Hatch, the Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is information on the attendance, opening hours, loan policies, and other aspects of 11 major private museums in the United States. Among the more notable details is that four of the institutions receive fewer than 6,000 visitors per year. The investigation originally arose amid concerns that some private museums were essentially mechanisms by which collectors could dodge taxes, while providing little benefit to the public. In his conclusion, Hatch doesn’t put these fears to rest, nor does he ignore the potential benefit of such institutions, writing that “despite the good work that is being done by many private museums, I remain concerned that this area of our tax code is ripe for exploitation.” It is expected that increased Senate scrutiny will lead the IRS to pay closer attention to private museums, potentially auditing some.
10 As political scandals continue to rock Brazil, artists have called for a boycott of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The artists in question were participating in a 14-day program in Hamburg called “Projeto Brasil.” While there, they called for the boycott of forthcoming Olympics to be held in Brazil’s capital in a few months. One artist, Daniel Lee, referenced the recent impeachment of Dilma Rousseff: “In Brazil a political coup has just occurred. We have to create awareness. We believe that democratic conditions are the prerequisite for the Olympics.” This is not the first time the arts have become embroiled with the larger political upheaval in the country. Following Rousseff’s ouster, the country’s interim government abolished the Ministry of Culture, prompting widespread outcry from artists. Though the government backtracked just two weeks later, trust between the authorities and the artistic community is, according to some reports, fatally ruptured. The feelings of the cultural class are in line with those held by many Brazilians who have protested the rule of interim president Michel Temer.
Cover image: Photo of Paris during recent flooding by @alexandrefrd, via Instagram.