A giant lobster in the Salon de Mars

Bringing contemporary art into heritage sites… and vice versa. In France, this practice has developed widely since the 1980s. From Jeff Koons to Paul MacCarthy, we retrace a French cultural exception… that gives off a whiff of scandal.   It’s a fact… The integration of recent artworks on heritag sites is far from being a new phenomenon. Over the centuries, monuments have always submitted to the transformations brought by artistic modernity and the sensibilities of individual artists and artisans. But in France, from the second half of the 19th century onwards, a desire to safeguard and protect historic constructions began to somewhat overturn this practice; for the sake of “collective consciousness”, it was deemed necessary to preserve these monuments as witnesses to the past which defines our own history. It was thus timidly that art, as an expression of its times, began turning its attention afresh to heritage buildings, following 1945. The installation in the Cathédrale de Metz, in the 1950s, of the first stained-glass windows by internationally renowned and independent painters, inaugurated a new artistic direction for the French Historic Monuments office. Jacques Villon, Roger Bissière and of course Marc Chagall opened the way for modernity to be assimilated in buildings hitherto synonymous with the past – not without causing debate. What can be noted is that the first orders of this type were mainly stained-glass windows intended for cathedrals and other churches. Next to come were André Masson’s ceiling for the Théâtre de l’Odéon and Marc Chagall’s ceiling for the Opéra Garnier – the leading works to be carried out during the years when André Malraux was France’s culture minister (1959-1969), attesting to his commitment. At a time when examples from overseas still couldn’t be found, contemporary-art commissions for historic monuments were backed up in France by...

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Jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi pleads guilty in Hague court

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, accused of war crimes following the destruction of nine shrines and the Sidi Yahya mosque in Timbuktu dating from the 15th century, has pleaded guilty and apologised for his acts. This is the first case to be held at the International Criminal Court in the Hague regarding the destruction of world heritage. Al-Mahdi once belonged to Ansar Dine, a group with links to al-Qaeda, and was head of a terrorist brigade called Hesbah, which imposed the charria following a decision of the Islamic Court of Timbuktu during the conflicts in Mali from 2012 to...

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François Hollande wants to create a right of asylum for endangered works

On 17 November 2015, the French president François Hollande declared at the Unesco headquarters, in Paris, that he wishes to create a right of asylum for endangered works. During his speech to the delegates of the 195 states member of ONU at Unesco, François Hollande expressed the determination of France to be actively involved in the preservation of the heritage of humanity. With Jean-Luc Martinez, the director of the Louvre, to whom he asked for a set of concrete proposals on the day of the attack on the Bardo in Tunis, the President of the French Republic wishes to create a right of asylum for endangered works by destruction and the black market. François Hollande thus explains this organized looting: “The terrorist organization Daesh issues permits for excavations, levies taxes on works that will then feed into the global black market, passing through free ports that are havens for stolen goods and money laundering, including in Europe.” For Jean-Luc Martinez, we must create a special status for expatriate works for their safety, while waiting to be returned to their country of origin. In addition, the looting of unknown works must be anticipated and countered by an important work of documentation intended to preserve the memory of sites. These efforts would add to the already colossal measures in place: in Syria, for example, the director of antiquities Maamoun Abdulkarim, managed to protect thousands of objects, even in Palmyra, where 400 sculptures were evacuated before the arrival of...

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Success at Heritage’s first Contemporary New York Evening Sale

Heritage auctions held its first New York sale of Contemporary art on 28 October 2015 receiving $3.85 million. Twenty-one lots out of the thirty offered were sold. The highlight of the auction was Robert Motherwell’s Untitled (Ochre with Black Line) (1972-73/1974), which sold for $965,000 in its auction debut having been in a private collection for more than forty years. Other top lots sold include: Ai Weiwei’s Surveillance Camera (2010) which sold for $401,000; Tom Wesselmann’s Blonde Vivienne (Filled In) (1985/1995) receiving $317,000 which was more than double its $150,000 estimate; Warhol’s silkscreen Lola Jacobson (1980) which is an iconic society portrait which fetched $185,000. The auction was held at the Ukranian Institute of America at the Fletcher Sinclair...

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The adoption of the Bill related to the freedom of creation, architecture and heritage

On 6 October 2015, the National Assembly, in Paris, voted for the adoption of the Bill related to the freedom of creation, architecture and heritage, presented by the Minister of Culture and Communication Fleur Pellerin. In its principles, the new law intends to asset and guarantee the freedom of creation and modernise the protection of heritage. With the first article titled “The artistic creation is free”, this freedom of creation becomes thus a public freedom, like the freedom of speech. In terms of heritage, the state recognises in its right the World Heritage of Humanity classified by UNESCO. The protection areas, the protection zones of architectural, urban and landscape heritage and the development areas of architecture and heritage are met are the status of “historic city”, of which the local plan of urbanism of historic city is now at the initiative of the town. Besides that, the law expects that the archaeological remains will become, after their discovery, property of the Nation while the state will provide more tools to strengthen preventive archaeology. The zones of architectural experimentation, where it will be possible to not respect the rules of urbanism, should equally be put in place. The law recognises also the public character of collections of Fonds Regionaux D’Art Contemporain and strengthen...

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