Art World News: August 21st!
Welcome back to work! As always, we have assembled the most important art world news for you to make sure you start the week off well-informed.
Following the spectacular mass resignation of the President’s Committee of the Arts and the Humanities last week (after publishing an open letter with a call to Trump’s resignation in light of the toxic comments he made regarding the events in Charlottesville) the White House issued a statement that the president was planning on dissolving the committee anyway, calling it a waste of tax money.
Thankfully, in the midst of the entire registration falling apart, some Americans are still able to reflect with humour:
From Mali to the Hague
For the first time ever in history, the International Criminal Court has made a ruling solely on cultural destruction. On August 17th, the court found the Islamic extremist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi guilty of destroying shrines in Timbuktu, Mali, causing €2.7 million worth of damages to a Unesco world heritage site.
After ordering Islamic extremists to destroy nine mausoleums and a centuries-old door of the Sidi Yahya mosque in 2012, Al-Mahdi was sentenced to 9 years in prison for his “war-crimes”.
However, the ICC judge acknowledges the fact that the terrorist is unable to pay for the damages, and therefore ordered him to pay a symbolic amount of €1 to the government of Mali and €1 to Unesco, following which the Trust Fund for Victims will come up with a reparations plan. The ruling has set a very important precedent for the years to come.
French and Malian soldiers patrolling the Djingareyber Mosque (Image: PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP/GETTY IMAGES).
From North-Korea to Goes
From August 12th until September 4th, visitors of the Grote of Maria Magdalenakerk in Goes (the Netherlands) have the unique opportunity to see more than 50 propaganda paintings from North-Korea, created between 1960-2000.
During the early 2000’s, businessmen Ronald de Groen bought his first pieces through Willem van der Bijl, one of the few foreigners that was allowed to have an office in Pyongyang. They would hold meetings with art dealers in their hotel room and payed for the paintings in cash.
The venture ended in 2011 when Bijl was arrested and detained by the regime’s officials, thankfully released after two weeks of interrogations. The propaganda paintings range from gruesome decapitations to more subtle scenes of victorious North-Korean sportsmen.
The timing of the exhibition couldn’t have been more relevant, considering the recent tensions between North-Korea and the US.
View of the exhibition in the Grote of Maria Magdalenakerk in Goes (image: Arie Kievit, NRC).
From Saudi-Arabia to Amsterdam
Aarnout Helb’s Greenbox Museum reached a million likes on Facebook last week, a considerable achievement for the collector. Helb, originally a lawyer, started collecting contemporary art from Saudi-Arabia 9 years ago, indignant about the fact that nobody was interested in anything beyond the Western borders and hoping to put a stop to the “us and them” attitude segregating these two sides of the world.
By collecting contemporary Islamic art, the collector was able to gain a better understanding of the current Saudi cultural climate. Ever since 9/11, the gap between West and East has been growing wider, but by exhibiting artworks that show signs of modernization and enlightenment, Helb aims to close that gap.
The museum is located in a green room within an office building in the center of Amsterdam, and contains around 140 pieces.
The Greenbox Museum (image: Jansje Klazinga).
And then there was Brad Pitt…
To finish off this update on a slightly lighter note, we are delighted to inform you about the fact that our favourite blonde actor is turning out the be quite the artist himself.
In an interview with GQ, Pitt opened up about the fact that he has been squatting in British artist Thomas Houseago’s studio for a couple of weeks now, after discovering the therapeutic powers of clay, plaster, rebar and wood.
He even sweeps the floor after a day’s hard work, admitting: “I’ve got to start from the bottom […]”.
Photographs of his work have yet to be released, but hopefully, we can get our hands on a piece of Pitt sometime in the near future.
We will, of course, keep you posted.