The mind of the forest and Western amnesia

Until 8 January 2017, the Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève is playing host to “Amazonia, The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest”. An ethnographic exhibition that can also be described as…  a political act. Amazonia remains a poor relative in the world of art exhibitions and ethnography. Preference goes to Pre-Columbian art, Mayan, Aztec or Incan cultures — all far more likely to get crowds through the doors. In recent years, exhibitions in Europe on Amazonia can be counted on the fingers of one hand — the British Museum in 2001, the Mona Bismarck Foundation in 2002 or the Grand Palais in 2005, to name the most important ones. “I want to stir things up, heuristically speaking,” exclaims Boris Wastiau, director of the Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève (MEG) and curator of the exhibition. “Amazonia, The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest” sets out to get things moving and offer reparation for an injustice. What will we find at this exhibition in Geneva? An introduction to the region, which blends voices from the present day to those which have marked its History. Portraits — by Daniel Schweizer — of caciques and shamans, such as Raoni Metuktire, who have done so much towards preserving the Amazonian forest and indigenous culture, stand alongside maps, documents and other more archaeological objects. Further off, displays show tools used by shamans to pierce through the planet’s veil and to penetrate the invisible: psychotropic drugs, flutes and outfits donned for their dances. Finally, the exhibition takes visitors on a voyage to different Amazonian ethnic groups making up the region, including the Kayapos, the Bororos and the Karajas. Flamboyant adornments, masks, crowns and diadems bring colour to the displays, fashioned from mother-of-pearl, plant fibres and feathers. Lots of feathers, in a myriad of bright, vivid colours. Meanwhile,...

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artgenève closes on a successful note

The 5th edition of artgenève concluded on 1 February, leaving the organisers with a positive assessment of the event. Visitor rates went up, totalling over 15,000 visitors a few hours prior to its closing. This success is inspiring for the organisers who now aim to set up a second fair based on the artgenève model, this time in Monaco. Called artmonte-carlo, it will be open from 30 April 2016 to 1 May in the Grimaldi Forum. Artgenève is a fair drawing together gallery owners and art lovers, and is a venue for a few important sales. It is also on this occasion that the Prix Solo artgenève – F.P JOURNE is awarded to the best monographic exhibition by a gallery owner. In the last edition, it was the Eberhard Havekost exhibition, presented by the Gebr. Lehmann gallery that won the prize. The award consists in the acquisition of a work by the artist, which is then given to a public institution, in this case, the Fonds Municipal d’Art Contemporain in Geneva. The next edition of artgenève will be on from 26 to 29 January...

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A new comer in the secondary market

Launched in July 2014 in Geneva, Auction after Sale is an online platform dedicated to the unsold sales at auction. The aim of the site: after any sale in the world, the client has ten days to acquire the unsold lots via the platform. To find out more, Art Media Agency went to meet the founder, Jean-Baptiste Fabre, and his partner Ugo Scalia. How was the Auction after Sale project born? Jean-Baptiste Fabre: I spent 15 years in the universe of auction sales. The media puts a lot of attention on the records; that is the tip of the iceberg. In fact, behind the scenes there exists a large quantity of very important lots which do not find buyers. Today, in the domain of contemporary art, around 37% of lots are not sold, 50% in China. This is a real loss to auctioneers, who do not have the time to process all these unsold lots afterwards. Auction after Sale does not come to lecture for all that, we just provide a service. I want to present the after sales as an opportunity and not as a scrapheap. I want to operate a very short manoeuvre, on the few days following the auction, during which it is necessary to make the seller understand that the price they was demanded for was not right. We propose the lot for ten days maximum. But we do not put it in auctions: the first offer is the first served and the lot is immediately taken off the site. When we have reached our cruising speed, I hope to reduce this period to seven days to stay in the dynamics of the auction. We have listed 1,300 auction houses in the world. The internet today allows to bring to the client very diverse offers, thinking...

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Switzerland approves stricter regulations on free ports which will shake the art market

On 18 November 2015, the Swiss government announced that parliament is permitting stricter regulations for free ports and customs warehouses. The regulations are part of a wider crackdown on money laundering, smuggling and other illegal activities that Switzerland has launched. The amendment to the Swiss Customs Act, which comes into effect on January 1, 2016, also grants the Federal Customs Administration (EZV) new power to monitor and control the entry and exit of goods more efficiently and effectively. Under the new regulations, the government introduced a six-month time limit on the storage of goods intended for export. This storage limit imposed by the Swiss government will likely have the greatest impact on the art market. Equally significant is the requirement to reveal the identities of the owners of goods coming in to Swiss free ports and the identities of buyers of goods going out. The Swiss legislature introduced these measures to ensure the clear distinction between goods intended for storage in free ports and ones intended for export abroad. Furthermore, free port managers will be required to register the goods and their owners in an inventory record. The Swiss government said, “With the introduction of the new amendment, the legislature wishes to ensure the required transparency towards domestic and foreign authorities on the stored goods. In addition, Switzerland’s position in the fight against money laundering has been...

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Free-ports or the elusive treasure chests of art

Discretion, confidentiality, security, financial franchise and customs, the free port has everything it needs to attract collectors, as well as international art dealers and museums. Historically created to store raw materials and later to hold manufactured goods for a short period of time before their transportation, transit and reshipment, some have now made use of the ‘abandoned cemetery’ for works of art. Currently, suspicions of deviance are weighing on these ‘lawless zones’: money laundering, smuggling stolen cultural goods…Their recent history is punctuated with scandal, while the Commission for the Federal Control of Finances spoke of the need to increase the customs controls in a press interview from 14 April 2014, following the Yves Bouvier affair which has not ceased to attract extensive press coverage. Zoom onto these hallowed haunts shrouded in mystery where millions have flocked to. At this moment in time, there are several tens of free-ports in the world and in Europe, but five of them have specialized in stocking works of art. The oldest, founded in 1850 and located since 1965 in the area, La Praille, is found in Geneva, Switzerland; the second, in Singapore, was created in 2010; the one in Monaco in 2013; while the two most recent ones opened during summer 2014 in Peking and Luxemburg. A sixth one, in Shanghai, is planned for 2017. What can explain this explosion? These zones remove the obligation from the reseller to pay the tax corresponding to the custom and income rights of the TVA during the duration of the (unlimited) holding of their works. These sizeable financial advantages tend to transform the warehouses into long-term holding zones, keeping objects for many years. Tax only applies when the work leaves the warehouse. If it is sold within the walls of the free-port, the owner will not...

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