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More than 30 dead after fire in artists’ warehouse

Plus: Vladimir Putin vows to stop artistic censorship in Russia | Artefacts reportedly stolen from Palmyra and Yemen seized in Geneva | Restituted Reinhold Begas sculpture to remain on display at Alte Nationalgalerie | and recommended reading

5 December 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

More than 30 dead in fire at artists’ warehouse in California | At least 36 people have died after a fire broke out in a warehouse that was home to an artists’ collective in Oakland, California. According to The Art Newspaper, the fire began during a party at the complex on Friday night, engulfing the entire building. The warehouse, known as the ‘Ghost Ship’, housed multiple studios where artists produced work in a variety of media. The New York Times reported on Sunday that the premises had been under investigation by health and safety officials for code violations: the property had a permit to operate as a warehouse, but not as a party venue or residence.

Vladimir Putin promises to stop artistic censorship in Russia | In a meeting with film directors and artists on Friday, Russian president Vladimir Putin vowed to defend artistic freedom in his country. Describing interference with theatrical performances and art exhibitions as ‘absolutely inadmissible’, Putin discussed artists’ fears over pressure from religious conservative groups. However, he also defended a court ruling to imprison Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov to 20 years in jail, claiming the sentence was levied not for Sentsov’s films, but for his involvement with ‘terrorist activities’.

Artefacts reportedly stolen from Palmyra and Yemen seized in Geneva | Swiss authorities have seized artefacts reportedly looted from Yemen, Libya, and Palmyra after they were discovered in Geneva’s free ports. According to the Independent, the relics date back to the 3rd and 4th centuries. Geneva’s public prosecutor says that some of the artefacts arrived in Switzerland via Qatar and were deposited in the storage facilities in 2009–2010.

Restituted Reinhold Begas sculpture to remain on display at Alte Nationalgalerie | A sculpture by Reinhold Begas, which was seized from the collection of a Jewish newspaper publisher by the Nazis, is to remain on loan to Berlin’s Alte Nationalgalerie after being restituted to its rightful heirs. According to The Art Newspaper, the statue, which once belonged to Berliner Tageblatt publisher Rudolf Mosse, was seized by the Nazis after his heirs were forced to emigrate to the United States in 1933.

Recommended reading | In the Guardian, Morgan Quaintance argues that the Tate’s Turner Prize should champion more political art in order to ‘generate more pertinent and in-depth social, cultural and personal debates’. Meanwhile in the FT, Jan Dalley takes Marina Abramovic out to lunch in New York. Over veggie miso soup and (complimentary) sea tout and more besides, the artist describes her remarkable career and new memoir and looks to the future: ‘You know, it’s the last phase of your life, and you have to be ready,’ Abramovic says. ‘I’ve been dealing with the idea of dying every single day since I was 17 — it makes you see what’s really important, that what is now is now.’


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