Showing posts with label destruction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label destruction. Show all posts

June 7, 2014

Marc Balcells reviews Robert Bevan's "The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War" in the Spring 2014 issue of The Journal of Art Crime

Marc Balcells, a criminologist and an associate editor for The Journal of Art Crime, reviews Robert Bevan's 2006 book, The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War (Reaktion Books) in the Spring 2014 issue:
I was drawn to Robert Bevan’s book after conducting a literature review for an article I was working on. After reading the sections I was interested in, I left the book nearby, as I was eager to read the entirety of its contents the sooner the better. Bevan, former editor of the magazine Building design, chronicles and deeply analyzes along the 240 pages of the book (divided in seven chapters) several cases of architectonical destruction and how it has an impact in obliterating not only an ethnic group but also what they represent. 
Chapter one sets the tone for the chapters that follow: in an introductory, broader approach if compared to the rest of the chapters, which are more specific and deal with particular issues of cultural heritage destruction, the author explains how architecture achieves a totemic status with a meaning that needs to be destroyed in order to ensure the eradication of a particular ethnic group. It is interesting to see how the author delineates the history of architectonical destruction, and for the readers interested in the legislation related to destruction of cultural heritage, it is also briefly described in this chapter. 
Chapter two talks about cultural cleansing: the author looks for similarities and differences between kristallnacht and the beginning of the treatment of the Jewish by the Nazi regime, and the Balkan wars. The genocide of the Armenians, another important one of the twentieth century, is explained in order to highlight the need not only to eradicate the individuals but also its collective memory and identity.
You may finish reading this review in the Spring 2014 issue of ARCA's Journal of Art Crime by subscribing through the website or ordering a printed copy through

September 6, 2013

Essay: Can there be a balance between the expansion of Makkah and the preservation of cultural heritage?

The Independent: 'Photo taken by activists in Saudia Arabia
 showing the destruction of the Grand Mosque.'
by Christiana O'Connell-Schizas

As the week of Hajj (October 13-18, 2013) is approaching, millions of Muslims around the world are preparing to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Medina. However, unlike any other year, the Ministry of Hajj is trying to reduce the number of foreign and domestic pilgrims due to the ongoing £690 million expansion work at Makkah's Grand Mosque. Islam is the fastest growing religion and every Muslim has to perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime. Twelve million pilgrims visit Makkah and Medina every year with the numbers expected to rise to 17 million by 2025. This justifies the infrastructure developments in Makkah. But at what cost?

Over the past twenty years much of Makkah's cultural heritage has been destroyed to facilitate the expansion and modernization of the city with luxury five-star hotels, skyscrapers and shopping malls. On the edge of the Grand Mosque, the house of Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him), was demolished for public toilets. The grave of his mother Amina bint Wahb was bulldozed and gasoline poured over it. The house of the Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr is now the Hilton Hotel. The house of the Prophet’s grandson Ali-Oraid and the Mosque of Abu-Qubais is now the location of the King's palace in Makkah. The Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress was dynamited to build a skyscraper. Some clerics want the Mountain of Light, where the Prophet received the first verses of the Qur'an, demolished. There are plans to destroy the Grand Mosque's Ottoman columns that contain the names of the Prophet's companions. The Islamic Heritage Foundation fears for the house the Prophet was born in and the Ottoman and Abbasi sections of the Grand Mosque.

Why is it that the cultural heritage of these cities which have a spiritual and material significance, as they have a direct link to the Prophet himself, are being annihilated? First and foremost, Wahhabism, the Kingdom's fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, prohibits idolatry. This means that the cultural heritage associated with the Prophet, such as those mentioned above, encourage shirq, the worship of false or many gods, shrines and tomb visitations. (According to the Qur'an, verse 9.5, blasphemy is punishable by death: 'kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush'.) Secondly, some argue it is greed and opulence. The King Abdul-Aziz Endowment Project funded the $533 million Abraj al Bait Towers, the second tallest building in the world in 2012. These towers were built on the aforementioned Ajyad Fortress. They house the Makkah Clock Royal Tower, a 29-story Fairmont Hotel with 858 rooms renting for a minimum rate of $200 per night. Turkey protested the demolition of the fortress as cultural erasure. The Project planned to reconstruct it in the same traditional way as it was first built in the same location. This is not possible as the entire fortress was destroyed and the hotel now sits in its place. Today, eleven years on, there is no indication of it being rebuilt.

According to Mai Yamani, author of The Cradle of Islam: The Jijaz and the Quest for Identity in Saudi Arabia (London: I. B. Tauris, 2009) told The Independent, "what is alarming about this, is that the world doesn't question the Al-Sauds' custodianship of Islam's two holy places. These are the sites that are of such importance to over one billion Muslims and yet their destruction is being ignored... when the Prophet was insulted by Danish cartoonists thousands of people went into the streets to protest. The sites related to the Prophet are part of their heritage and religion but we see no concern from Muslims."
Why is this? With the exception of Turkey and Iran, many Islamic countries fear that any critical statement toward Saudi Arabia and its policies would reduce the number of its citizens' annual pilgrimage visas. Many locals are wary of what they say or are indifferent to the matter. Why the lack of concern from non-Muslims? Is it because they are not allowed visit these holy cities and have therefore never seen any of these sites? Maybe the international arena is not aware of the extent of the destruction due to the Kingdom's closely regulated press. These devastating events have been occurring over the past two decades yet have only gained recognition the past three years. What is left of early Islamic heritage needs to be saved and preserved. The monarchy and relevant ministries and authorities should act swiftly in finding a balance between cultural heritage and the expansion of Makkah and Medina.

Christiana O'Connell-Schizas, a solicitor, lived in Saudia Arabia for 18 years and returns frequently to visit.

July 17, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Journalists weigh in on reports of stove ashes evidence that suspects' mother destroyed stolen paintings when a buyer could not be found

Was this painting destroyed in Romania?
Alison Mutler for the Associated Press reported on July 16th in "Romania: Museum checks if paintings burned" that Romania's Natural History Museum is examining the ashes found in the stove of Olga Dogaru, the mother of Radu, one of the three suspects charged with stealing seven paintings from the Triton Foundation while on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16, 2012.
Dogaru told investigators she was scared for her son after he was arrested in January and buried the art in an abandoned house and then in a cemetery in the village of Caracliu. She said she later dug them up and burned them in February after police began searching the village for the stolen works.
Ms. Mutler quotes prosecutor spokesman Gabriela Chiru as saying that it will take months to confirm Olga Dogaru's story.

In late May, the Agency France-Presse reported that Romanian prosecutors suspected that the paintings had been destroyed. Here's a link to that ARCA blog post and others about the art heist.

The Washington Post published an article ("Ash from the stove of woman who claims she burned stolen artworks contains canvas, paint") from the wire service the Associated Press claiming that the results from analyzing the ashes in the stove will be presented to the prosecutors next week:
A Romanian museum official said Wednesday that ash from the oven of a woman whose son is charged with stealing seven multimillion-dollar paintings -- including a Matisse, a Picasso and a Monet -- contains paint, canvas and nails.
The finding is evidence that Olga Dogaru may have been telling the truth when she claimed to have burned the paintings ... Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, director of Romania's National History Museum, told The Associated Press that museum forensic specialists had found "small fragments or painting primer, the remains of canvas, the remains of paint" and copper and steel nails, some of which pre-dated the 20th century.

"We discovered a series of substances which are specific to paintings and pictures," he said, including lead, zinc and azurite.
He refused to say definitively that the ashes were those of seven paintings stolen from Rotterdam's Kunsthal gallery last year, because he said it was not his postion to do so. He said justice officials would make that decision. 
He did venture, however, that if the remains were those of the paintings, it was a "crime against humanity to destroy universal art." 
"I can't believe in 2013 that we come across such acts," he said. 
Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said forensic specialists at the museum have been analyzing ashes from Dogaru's stove since March, and will hand their results to prosecutors next week.
In The Atlantic Wire, Alexander Abad-Santos speculates that the mother of one of the thieves burned the stolen paintings because the thieves could not find any buyers for the artworks:
According to Romania-Insider, an English-language news site, the suspects stashed the paintings at Olga's house because they were having trouble finding buyers. And citing a local report from Romania, the NL Times is reporting that experts have confirmed that the ashes are the burned remains of Monet and Picasso work. It should be noted, however, that the AP story conflicts with that local report, saying that the main prosecutor and officials said it could take months for the results to be confirmed.

May 31, 2013

Will the ashes in a stove in Romania prove to be the remains of the seven paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation exhibit at the Kunsthal Rotterdam?

Photograph of the image of the Matisse
painting from the Triton Foundation
 stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam
 on October 16, 2012.
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA blog Editor 

The prosecutor's office in Romania suspects the seven Triton Foundation paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam last October 16 may have been destroyed, Agency France-Presse reported May 29. Art Hostage blogger blames this rumor on the failure to offer a reward for the return of this and other stolen art. Two years ago, reports surfaced that the paintings stolen from the Museé d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris had been thrown in the trash.

According to AFP, investigators are examining ashes taken from the home of the mother of one of the suspects Kunsthal Rotterdam thieves to determine if they include remains of the stolen paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet and Matisse. Seven Romanians have reportedly been charged with the theft. Destruction of the paintings would eliminate evidence in the even the stolen works could not be sold or ransomed back to the art gallery in The Netherlands.

The Dutch website NU.NL quotes the lawyer for one of the suspects as denying that the ashes are any proof that the paintings were destroyed.

Here is a link to previous posts on the ARCA blog covering the Kunsthal Rotterdam theft, including information about the stolen paintings.

On the blog Art Hostage, Paul "Turbo" Hendry, a self-described former stolen art trafficker, blames destruction of stolen paintings on the lack of financial incentives to recovering or returning stolen art.

June 14, 2012

Destroyed in WWII: Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano" (1899)

Gustav Klimt's "Schubert at the Piano", 1899
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
 ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

Mizzi Zimmerman was the red-haired teenager in Gustav Klimt's 1899 painting, Schubert at the Piano.  In Anne-Marie O'Connor's 2012 book, Lady in Gold, the journalist mentions this work in describing the seduction powers of the artist.  In this painting of the Austrian composer, Mizzi is pregnant with Klimt's son.  The 'whispery silk gown' Mizzi models is lent by Serena Lederer, a wealthy Viennese art patron who collected 14 of Klimt's paintings, including a portrait by Klimt of Egon Schiele's mistress, Valerie Neuzil.

Mizzi also posed nude for another of the artist's works, Naked Truth, but Klimt had no intention of marrying the pregnant Catholic girl, O'Connor writes.  Klimt, who had also impregnated another woman at the same time, told Mizzi that he would be focusing his energies on a big commission to paint ceiling murals for the University of Vienna -- Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence.   Mizzi told her mother of her pregnancy, O'Connor reports: her stepfather threw Mizzi out of the house and she begged the artist for financial support.

But we can't see Schubert at the Piano in any museum.  This and the other Klimt paintings collected by Lederer, were destroyed in 1945 when retreating Nazis set Schloss Immendorf on fire.  The paintings from the Lederer collection had been placed at the residence of Baron Rudolf Freudenthan, an officer in the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), for safekeeping in 1943.  O'Connor recounts that the Lederer Klimt collection of "as many as fourteen spectacular Klimt paintings" included Golden Apple Tree, Philosophy and Jurisprudence (which the Lederers had purchased when the University of Vienna rejected them), Girl Friends and Music II ("The precise number of paintings burned at Schloss Immendorf is unknown, O'Connor notes).

May 20, 2012

Theft Anniversary: Two years ago five paintings stolen from Museé d'art moderne de la ville de Paris

Braque's beautiful Olive Tree Near Estaque
 on display in the museum in January 2009/Photo by C. Sezgin
Detail from Braque's painting
 Olive Tree Near Estaque/Photo by C. Sezgin
By Catherine Sezgin,
ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Two years ago this painting was one of five masterpieces stolen from the Museé d'art moderne de la ville de Paris within view of the Tour Eiffel.

Last October, newspapers and bloggers reported police rumors that the paintings had been thrown away by an accomplice when two suspects had been arrested one year after the theft.

You can read about the theft and the condition of the museum on the ARCA blog as previously reported here, here, here, and here.

November 15, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - ,, No comments

LA Times' Richard Winton Reports on the LA City Council's Mural Ban and the Lost Art

Street art and advertising mix (Beverly & La Brea)
Photo by Catherine Sezgin
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCA Blog editor-in-chief

Richard Winton reported for the Los Angeles Times on October 24th "L.A. to draw a finer line on murals as art, not ads". In his article, Winton reports that Los Angeles' City Council "is revising a 2002 law regulating the artworks as a commercial signage. He reported:
"Officials estimate that more than 300 murals have been painted over in the last several years, a fact that has frustrated artists as well as property owners who commission murals."
The issue is not graffiti, but the rights of building owners to commission art for the exterior buildings which apparently conflicts with the rights of advertisers to monopolize billboards and building façades in the city. Mr. Winton reports:
Mural near Gold Line stop in Little Tokyo
(Photo by Catherine Sezgin)
"City officials said they need to make a better distinction between art, which should be protected under the 1st Amendment, and commerce, which should be covered by the sign ordinance."
He identifies the destruction of "some of Los Angeles' most famous murals on public and private property".

Los Angeles' streets, filled with cars and slowed by traffic, are more interesting and more human with the display of public art.