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Radical Islamist sentenced to nine years in jail for Timbuktu cultural destruction

Plus: Wim Pijbes quits as director of Voorlinden Museum | Barcelona councillors call for toppling of ‘colonialist’ Columbus statue | Cologne to return work bought by Hildebrand Gurlitt in 1939 | and Pierre Huyghe wins Nasher Prize

27 September 2016

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

ICC judges sentence Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi to nine years in prison for cultural destruction | In a landmark ruling, judges at the International Criminal Court in The Hague have sentenced an Islamist extremist to nine years in jail for his part in the razing of historic monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali. Ahmad Al-Faqi Al-Mahdi pleaded guilty to the charge that he had ordered the destruction of nine mausolea and the Sidi Yahia mosque. The case is the first in the ICC’s history to focus specifically on cultural destruction as a war crime, an act UN Secretary General has described as ‘tearing at the fabric of societies’. For more on the ethical and moral implications of the trial, click here.

Wim Pijbes quits as director of Voorlinden Museum | Less than a month after overseeing its opening, Wim Pijbes has announced his resignation as director of the privately funded Voorlinden Museum and returned to his former capacity as a member of its board. Having left his post as director general of the Rijksmuseum in March and officially taken up the job in July, Pijbes’s departure will surprise many art world watchers. In a telephone interview with the New York Times published today, Pijbes said that he and Voorlinden founder Joop van Caldenborgh ‘both had the feeling that it was better for both of us and for the museum to stop and to quit’. Pijbes, who will be succeeded by artistic director Suzanne Swarts, also told the NYT that he had no immediate plans for the future. Mind you, there are some big museum jobs going in London right now…

Barcelona councillors call for toppling of ‘colonialist’ Columbus statue | In an echo of other calls to remove statues associated with colonialism and slavery in the USA, UK and South Africa earlier this year, three left wing councillors in Barcelona are to submit a proposal calling for the removal of a prominent 19th-century sculpture of Christopher Columbus. The councillors, who belong to the Catalan nationalist CUP Capgirem group, argue that the city should not be honouring Columbus with a monument on the grounds that it is a celebration of colonialist oppression. Amongst other demands, the proposal also calls for the removal of a statue of Antonio López y López, Marquis of Comillas, a 19th-century merchant and slave trader.

Cologne to return work bought by Hildebrand Gurlitt in 1939 | The city of Cologne is to return an Adolph Von Menzel drawing purchased by art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt in 1939 to the descendants of its original owners, reports The Art Newspaper. In a statement, the city said that it could ‘presume’ the work was sold under duress to Gurlitt in order to finance its owners’ escape from Nazi Germany, and it should thus be returned.

Pierre Huyghe wins Nasher Prize | The Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas has awarded its annual $100,000 prize to Pierre Huyghe, reports the New York Times. According to Nasher director Jeremy Strick, Huyghe was chosen for his ‘expansive view of sculpture’ that challenges ‘the very limits of artmaking’.

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