1. Italy, UNESCO Team Up To Protect World Heritage in Conflict Areas
Italy’s government and UNESCO have joined forces to create an Italian group tasked with protecting international heritage sites in conflict zones, a realization of UNESCO’s October approval of the country’s proposal to create a task force that would promote peace through cultural preservation.
The task force may be summoned by UNESCO member states in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster; the team will arrive to assess damage to artifacts, coordinate conservation, train local restorers and prevent looting or trafficking in a disaster’s aftermath. The initial 60 appointees to this team will all be Italy’s police specialists against art crime as well as art historians, scholars and restorers from the top Italian conservation institutions. However, a training center will be created in Turin to allow volunteers to join in the future. Italian culture minister, Dario Franceschini, called the agreement an “Italian success in the name of the defense of culture and civilization.” The subject of cultural preservation has become especially relevant to international organizations in recent months, as ISIS has taken to destroying many historical sites and artifacts across the Middle East.
2. LA, Melbourne Art Fairs Cancelled
This week, the Melbourne Art Fair cancelled this year’s edition of the fair while Los Angeles’ Paris Photo LA was permanently scraped, less than two months away from its scheduled opening.
Scheduled to begin April 29 at Paramount Studio’s backlot, Paris Photo’s LA edition was cancelled due to consistently low sales. This also led its organizers, Reed Exhibitions, to cancel the Los Angeles satellite edition of Paris’ Fiac art fair that was supposed to begin this year (after being postponed in 2015). However, Reed Exhibitions maintains that it is looking to expand its fairs beyond Paris and that the original Paris edition of the photography fair is still on for November, unaffected by the cancellations. Similarly, the Melbourne art fair — one of Australia’s largest art events — was scheduled to hold its 15th edition in August. Yet the board unanimously voted to cancel the fair after the withdrawal of three galleries: Roslyn Oxley, Tolarno Galleries, and Anna Schwartz. While the fair could have filled the empty slots with additional galleries, chairwoman of the Melbourne Art Foundation, Anna Pappas, explained that the board “…realized the fair would not be cutting-edge without these major galleries, and we have no interest in becoming an affordable, mediocre art fair.” However, she also promised that the fair will return in future years.
3. Ai Weiwei Unveils New Refugee Artwork
This week one of the world’s most notable dissidant artists, Ai Weiwei, continued his fight for migrants and refugees fleeing to Europe with a major installation.
The Chinese artist covered the façade pillars of Berlin’s Konzerthaus performance space with 14,000 lifejackets, discarded by refugees as they arrived at the Greek island of Lesbos, whose authorities gave Weiwei’s team the vests from the many that litter the island’s beaches. The installation coincided with a gala for Cinema for Peace, an organization that promotes films exposing social injustices. The work is part of an ongoing effort by Weiwei, who has founded a studio in Lesbos to create works about refugees, posed as a drowned Syrian toddler and published countless photos of migrants and migrant camps. However, the public piece comes at an especially tumultuous time for migrants in Germany, with recent accusations of sexual assaultsouring some of the public’s sentiments toward welcoming refugees and leading to violence.
4. Extradition Order May Continue Knoedler Fraud Trial Proceedings
Less than a week after the Knoedler fraud trial seemed to have ended — with a rather quick out of court settlement between wronged art collectors and gallery leadership— Spain’s National Court ruled to extradite a businessmen accused of being a partner in the $33 million forgery scheme to the US. So it seems that the case may not be entirely closed…
Jesus Angel Bergantinos Diaz is thought to have aided art dealer Glafira Rosales (who pleaded guilty in 2013) in selling fraudulent paintings by the likes of Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell. In the 15 years that this operation went on, forty of these false masterpieces were ultimately sold through New York’s Knoedler Gallery. As the truth of the fraudulent paintings emerged, the gallery closed in 2011, after 165 years in business and with gallery leadership continually denying knowledge of the works’ fraudulent status. If extradited, Diaz would return to New York to face charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. However, it may take months for Diaz to actually arrive stateside, as he can still appeal he decision.
5. New Logo for The Met
This week, The Metropolitan Museum of Art revealed the new design for its official logo, which replaces the former Renaissance-inspired monogram with minimalist typography.
The change was met with strong backlash, with New York magazine’s architecture critic, Justin Davidson, calling the logo a “graphic misfire,” and designer Karim Rashid describing it to the New York Times as, “In capital letters: ATROCIOUS….the best thing they could do is hang on to keeping their mark — or their logo — historic.” The logo, designed by firm Wolff Olins, is part of a two-year project to rethink the Met’s public image, coinciding with the opening of the Met Breuer at The Whitney Museum’s former uptown location. Despite, the initial criticism, the Met has remained firm on their new choice of logo, asserting that it is more inclusive and thus representative of their collection — which spans more than 5,000 years of art history. In an official statement to ArtInfo, the museum said: “There may be debate about the logo because it involves change, but the museum chose it because it represents something simple, bold, and indisputable: The Met is here for everyone.”