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Syrian Heritage Destruction: No Faction is Innocent

21 October 2015

Our daily round-up of news from the art world

Syria: Heritage Destruction not Limited to ISIS | A study published in the Near Eastern Archaeology journal has claimed that the Assad regime and the US-backed opposition are as culpable of damaging Syria’s heritage sites as ISIS. The report, which is based in part on satellite data, concludes that damage to archaeological sites is a by-product of war, and though damage inflicted by Islamist militants is by far the most ‘brazen and egregious’, they are behind only about a quarter of recorded lootings. The question now is how best to save what remains untouched. (More on this issue: Peter Stone on protecting cultural heritage in war zones.)

UNESCO Approves Sending Peacekeepers to Safeguard Heritage Sites | The answer may lie in a decision taken in Paris on Saturday. UNESCO has approved a proposition to send UN peacekeepers to protect heritage sites under threat from war damage and natural disasters, reports Le Journal des Arts. The operational details of the resolution are yet to be decided. It is a laudable initiative – but for Syria, could it be too little, too late?

Cuba Releases Jailed Street Artist | Cuban authorities have freed street artist Danilo Maldonado, who was imprisoned last December having apparently showed disrespect towards the country’s leaders, Raul and Fidel Castro, reports The Guardian. The move comes as Cuba comes under the international spotlight again, and it can only be hoped that Maldonado’s release sets a precedent for freedom of expression on the island nation.

Anish Kapoor’s Olympic Tower ‘Losing £10,000 per Week’ | Anish Kapoor is having a troublesome autumn. According to The Independent, the artist’s ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, which was built as a symbol of the 2012 London Olympics, lost an average of £10,000 per week last year. Officials hoped that the £19 million structure would attract in excess of 300,000 visitors per year, each paying £10 to climb its distinctive helix structure. The target has since been reduced to 150,000.

Renzo Piano Unveils Plans for New London Skyscraper | Architect Renzo Piano, the designer behind London’s ‘Shard’ tower, has unveiled new plans for a skyscraper in the west of the city, reports Dezeen. His proposal for the redevelopment of the former Royal Mail sorting office beside Paddington Station incorporates a 224m cylindrical tower, which, he says will do for the area what ‘the Shard did for London Bridge’. It might be time to ask the question: does London really need a new skyscraper?

Milwaukee Museum to Buy Adjacent Park for around $14 million | Grand designs in the Mid West. The Milwaukee Art Museum is preparing to make an offer for the neighbouring O’Donnell Park, despite cautious advice from auditors. Director Daniel Keegan has stated that the museum’s offer may exceed $14 million. However, it is likely that further development and refurbishment will also be extremely costly.