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Art Outlook

28 May 2015

Some of the news and comment we’ve spotted online this week

Fighting in Palmyra

The ancient town of Palmyra in Syria has seen further violence after ISIS seized it last week. The Syrian government, anxious to reclaim control of Tadmur (the neighbouring modern town) has launched airstrikes in the area, while Islamic State militants have reportedly used the ancient theatre as a stage for public executions.

Tania Bruguera detained in Havana

Tania Bruguera was briefly detained after completing a public reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951) in her own home. The Cuban artist, who had her passport confiscated after a similar incident late last year, had timed her performance to coincide with the opening of the Havana Biennial.

Chinese police arrest 175 people in art looting network

Authorities made the arrests after finding evidence of illegal excavations in Niuheliang, a Neolithic archaeological site in the Liaoning province. According to the Ministry of Public Security, they also secured 1,168 relics with a combined value of 500 million yuan (around £52.7 million).

Christoph Büchel’s temporary mosque shut down in Venice

The Icelandic contribution to the 56th Venice Biennale – a temporary mosque in the deconsecrated church of Santa Maria della Misercordia in Cannaregio – was closed on 22 May. The Venetian authorities cited health and safety concerns, but the Icelandic Art Center (which commissioned the work) thinks otherwise: a statement released shortly after the closure complained that the biennale ‘is not a venue for truly free artistic expression’.

Italy takes back more stolen treasures

The USA has returned 25 stolen artefacts – including ancient vases, a marble sarcophagus, and fragments of ancient Pompeiian frescoes – to Italy after another successful repatriation operation led by the Carabinieri. A specialist police squad dedicated to tackling art and antiquities crimes worked with Homeland Security to retrieve the items from venues across the country.

Richard Prince sells other people’s Instagram photos for huge prices

Richard Prince has commented on other people’s Instagram pictures, printed the images out, and put them up for sale in New York. Richard Prince’s patrons have bought them for a reported $90,000 each. We don’t know which of those facts is the most absurd.