Category Archives: ARTS

Art traffic arrests in Paris

French police special unit have arrested five art experts this week as part of an investigation into trafficking of looted antiquities from the Middle East. According to Art Newspaper legal source, those arrested include a retired curator from the Musée du Louvre in Paris and an employee of the prominent Pierre Bergé & Associés auction house. The same source says the case concerns “the sale of hundreds of pieces for tens of millions of euros”, which were allegedly looted from Egypt, and conflict zones of Syria, Yemen and Libya. The initial criminal investigation into gang fraud, concealment of stolen goods, and money laundering was launched in 2018. (Image: illustration)

Without charges, the police can only hold the suspects in custody until Friday morning. Their names cannot be disclosed for legal reasons.
Pierre Bergé & Associés declined to comment on this week’s arrests and the Louvre says it does not have any reliable information on the arrest of the former head of its Near Eastern antiquities department.

The Art Newspaper can also reveal that the French criminal investigation may be related to inquiries over the past eight years in New York, Belgium and Switzerland, which led to a raid last year at Brussels-based Phoenix Ancient Art.

Hundreds of pieces were seized from storage in Brussels and thousands were frozen in Geneva to be checked for provenance; they have now partly been released to the gallery owners.

Hicham Aboutaam, the co-founder of Phoenix Ancient Art, says his gallery has consigned some objects to Pierre Bergé in the past, but “all were fully documented before the troubles erupted in the Middle East”. He adds: “It is a disgrace for the historically active Parisian market and I hope it will be an opportunity to establish clear legal guidelines, with a global database and a repatriation mechanism, which would allow us to have a more transparent licit antiquities market.”

High heels debate at new heights

Led by Yumi Ishikawa, an actress and writer, #KuToo campaign aims at criticising dress codes, requiring women in office to wear high heels. The hashtag trended on Twitter and resulted in 150,000 petition signatories as many compared the requirements to foot binding.

In traditional Asian culture, dress codes occasionally prohibit female employees also from wearing glasses. Based on strict patterns of the feminine beauty, the bans do not apply to male colleagues.

The outcry against the prohibitions received significant media coverage after trending on Twitter, and has risen to a top level, receiving the support of the Prime Minister Abe, who said employers should not force women to wear high heels. However it is difficult even for him to contradict regulations in private companies.

“I think the fact that high heels were forbidden played on the unconscious… there was also the mystery and the fetishistic side… the simple drawing of a high-heeled shoe is often associated with sexuality,” world famous French shoe designer Christian Louboutin said, defending his choice for legendary high heels of his artistic creations. He insisted that his art was not just about making heels “higher and higher”.

“Super-high heels can free women, Louboutin claimed, insisting that wearing his towering six-inch stilettos is a “form of liberty” to impose femininity.

While some feminists see vertiginous heels as sexual enslavement, Louboutin believes the opposite — even if it means women have to walk slowly and carefully in his iconic red-soled creations.

Women do not want to give up wearing high heels,” the designer said, commenting on his show “The Exhibitionist” (till 26/07), a retrospective of his 30-year career, ongoing in Paris until mid-summer.

Ukraine tourists vandalised Vatican fresco

A video was published in the “Italy for Me” community of the Facebook social network in which the user showed the names of tourists from Ukraine scratched on a Raphael fresco in the Vatican, the RIA Novosti news agency reports. The incident caused an outrage in social media, demanding the investigation into the this appalling act of vandalism.

Two Ukrainian tourists became notorious due to vandalism. Visitors of the Vatican’s Papal Palace discovered the clumsy scratched names of two residents of Vinnytisa on the fresco of the greatest genius of the Renaissance, Rafael Santi.

A video with traces of vandalism was published on Facebook by a user Alexander Voznesensky.

The graffiti were left on one of the frescoes in famous stanza of Rafael (from the Italian Stanze di Raffaello – the rooms of Rafael) – the precious masterpieces of the Papal Palace. The Italian genius painted the rooms in 1508-1517 with his apprentices. Each stanza has four fresco compositions of wall size.

For a minute I was even speechless from what I saw. It’s not even shame, it … I don’t have enough words. Some Lena and Tamara from Vinnitsa scribbled their names on Raphael’s mural,Alexander wrote on his page.

So far Ukrainian prosecution has not reacted yet upon the case of deplorable vandalism of World Heritage by two inhabitants of Vinnytsia, an industrial city of 370 000 inhabitants. There city also hosts the headquarters of the Ukrainian Air Force.

The recent case of vandalism involved 17-year-old Bulgarian studen, who has been accused of aggravated damage to a building of historical and cultural interest after carving her initial into a wall of the Colosseum in Rome.

The student was visiting the monument on a school trip on 28 April 2019 when she engraved the letter “M”, the intital of her first name, on an interior wall of of the ancient amphitheatre.

The Bulgarian tourist actions were noticed by security staff who immediately called police.

Following a sequence of barbaric incidents in 2016 Italian legislators approved a bill, introducing the specific offence of defacing or damaging cultural heritage or landscapes, and increased the penalty to a maximum of five years imprisonment. Previously the vandals were changed with €20 000 fine, which was not effective, preventing vandals from their barbaric actions.

Berlin Wall fragments sales at BRAFA

The 65th edition of BRAFA art fair, which will take place from 26 January until 2 February 2020 in Brussels, Belgium, will be celebrated in a highly original manner with the exclusive exhibition and sale of five segments of the Berlin Wall.

The proceeds from the sale will be split among five beneficiaries (associations and museums) in the areas of cancer research, the social integration of people with disabilities and the preservation of art heritage. This initiative is only possible due to BRAFA’s nonprofit status which it has retained for 65 years and allows for greater investment in the arts and support of other non- profit organisations.

BRAFA’s visitors have come to expect a different guest of honour every year. These have included international museums, foundations and artists, who have all added their own unique touch to the event. In 2020, the art fair is choosing an innovative approach, launching an unusual initiative on the occasion of the 65th BRAFA in the form of a charity sale of original segments of the Berlin Wall.

These segments were already acquired in 2018, in anticipation of the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 2019. They were taken from the Hinterlandmauer, or the 68-km ‘inner wall’ that blocked off the border strip to East Berlin. The segments were dismantled by the armed forces of the former German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, during the demolition works following the Fall of the Berlin Wall. They were subsequently acquired and re-used by a public works company that is based in a Berlin suburb. The segments, which are 3.8 m tall and 1.2 m wide, weighing 3.6 tons each, feature graffiti on both sides by anonymous street artists from different periods.

‘Mad Meg’ is back to Antwerp Museum

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Mad Meg is back home at the Mayer van den Bergh Museum in Antwerp after a two-year absence. The painting will be back on show as one of Mayer van den Bergh’s star attractions from 22 January onward. Having undergone thorough restoration at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA) in Brussels, the painting first travelled to the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna for the major Bruegel exhibition there.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s Mad Meg has come home. Visitors can renew their acquaintance with the work from 22 January at the home of its discoverer, Fritz Mayer van den Bergh, where it will be on prominent display once more as one of the museum’s star attractions. Previously known as a dark and weird landscape, with a deep-red sky and touches of brown, the painting looks considerably fresher since its restoration. The yellowed layers of varnish and later overpainting have been removed and the splendid original colours are back. The palette of colours has become brighter and more varied, and the panel reveals details that were long invisible, such as the teddy bear, the finely executed helmets and the magnificent landscape in the background. Bruegel’s brushwork and exceptional painter’s talent are visible once more. The sense of space has been restored and the scene as a whole displays a much clearer effect of depth.

In addition to the general Bruegel celebrations in 2019, the Mayer van den Bergh Museum has another reason to mark the return of Dulle Griet: on 5 October, it will be 125 years to the day since Fritz Mayer van den Bergh bought the painting at an auction in Cologne. The strange work was hung high up on a wall and attracted little interest from prospective buyers. Fritz Mayer van den Bergh proved more alert than the various prestigious museums and was able to acquire the painting – a masterpiece previously believed lost – for just 448 old Belgian francs. Mayer van den Bergh had a nose for brilliant discoveries like this and he was fascinated by art that had fallen out of fashion and been forgotten.

Florent Van Ertborn, who acquired around a hundred of the masterpieces now in the Museum of Fine Art in Antwerp, was similarly ahead of his time and also had an eye for the beauty and quality of medieval and Renaissance art.

Starting on 5 October 2019, the Mayer van den Bergh Museum is devoting an exhibition to the shared passion of these leading Antwerp collectors. In addition to Mad Meg and masterpieces by Jean Fouquet, Rogier van der Weyden and Gerard David, visitors will discover the stories behind the acquisitions. Whether these were bargains, investments or brilliant discoveries, Fritz and Florent had a connoisseur’s eye that is clearly visible in the chosen works from their collections. In collaboration with the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.

Pol Bury at BOZAR

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BOZAR 23/2-4/06/2017  The Belgian artist Pol Bury (1922-2005) is one of the founders of kinetic art. After his beginnings in painting, marked by the influence of Magritte, and time spent with other members of Jeune Peinture belge and CoBrA, he decided to follow a new path. His fascination for the art of Alexander Calder resulted in him turning towards sculpture and incorporating motion in his work. Thanks to his deeply personal work, which is both a successor of surrealism and bursting with innovation, he made a name for himself in the Paris and New York art scenes, thus obtaining international recognition.

This retrospective is an opportunity to discover Bury’s vast and diverse oeuvre. Paintings, sculptures, mobile works, fountains, jewellery, graphic and written creations are all on display in the biggest exhibition Belgium has dedicated to this major artist in twenty years.

 

 

 

EP: Holocaust Remembance

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To mark the International Holocaust Remembrance Day  27 January, the European Parliament and the European Jewish Congress will hold a ceremony on Wednesday. EP President Antonio Tajani and European Jewish Congress President Dr Moshe Kantor will deliver the opening speeches.

UNESCO Ambassador for Education about the Holocaust Beate Klarsfeld and European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation Chairman Tony Blair will also be among the speakers.

President Tajani will open the ceremony, followed by a contribution from Dr Kantor.

After Ms Klarsfeld’s speech, Mr Blair will hand the “Medal of Tolerance Award” to Russian film director Andrei Konchalovsky, for his film “Paradise”, about a relationship between a concentration camp inmate and an SS officer.

Europol reports on stolen artefacts

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The aim of Operation Pandora was to dismantle criminal networks involved in cultural theft and exploitation, and identify potential links to other criminal activities. Moreover, there was a special focus on cultural spoliation, both underwater and on land, and the illicit trafficking of cultural goods, with a particular emphasis on conflict countries.

From the start of the operation, Europol played a central role in coordinating and directing the entire operation. In addition, the agency supported the concerted action from its 24/7 operational coordination centre in The Hague by providing operational and analytical support and facilitating information exchange.

Operation Pandora took place in October and November 2016 and had a joint action week from 17 to 23 November 2016. Several police officers were deployed on the spot during this week to assist national authorities with inspections and searches.

Europol reports 3561 works of art and cultural goods were seized, almost half of which were archaeological objects; 500 archaeological objects were found in Murcia, Spain, of which 19 were stolen in 2014 from the Archaeological Museum in Murcia; over 400 coins from different periods were seized following investigations into suspicious online advertisements; 75 individuals were arrested.

The following EU Member States participated in Operation Pandora: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. Non-EU countries involved: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Switzerland.

UNESCO contributed to the operation by providing training materials and offering recommendations to the participating countries.

Illustration: courtesy of Europol

BRAFA: hommage to Julio Le Parc

 

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BRAFA 2017 pays homage to an artist who is a major influence behind contemporary art, Julio Le Parc. Born in 1928, a pioneer of Op Art and Kinetic Art, a founder member of G.R.A.V. (Groupe de Recherche d’Art Visuel), winner of the international Grand Prize in Painting at the Venice 1966 Biennale, Julio Le Parc is a forthright, committed artist. His abundant work, in its many forms, imbued with a spirit of research and experimentation, explores the visual field, movement, light, and the relationship between the work and the viewer.

“We want to interest spectators, release them from their inhibitions, make them relax. We want to get them to participate. We want to put them in a situation which they themselves initiate and transform. We want them to be oriented towards interaction with other spectators. We want to develop a great capacity for perception and action in the spectator.” – Julio Le Parc.

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Lugansky concert: eulogy

sam_5644Anyone talking about magnificent Nikolai Lugansky has no other option, but a genre of eulogy: Russian piano virtuoso continues to enchant public with his sophisticated interpretations of classics, especially Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, included in his Brussels concert programme. The event became a highlight of “Russian Days” festival taking place during weekend 16-18 December in a prestigious Flagey concert hall.

Belgium art loves enjoyed pieces of composers, inspired by nature as ‘The Seasons’ by Tchaikovsky, as well as César Frank, Franz Schubert, and an amazing reading of Sergei Rachmaninoff Six moments musicaux Op.16 . The latter has a special place in Lugansky’s repertoire, as many consider him as the best contemporary performer of Rachmaninov’s oeuvre, achieving both technical perfection and emotional depth.
For those who could not attend Lugansky masterpiece performance to come in touch with his genius live, have an opportunity to acquire his new album of music inspirit by nature. The Brussels concert has been conceived as an “exclusive preview” for
this latest gift of Lugansky to the audiences.