Art world: Ego-seums are coming to Europe

24 June 2010
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Frankfurt

Olafur Eliasson's "Berlin Colour Sphere" (2006), exhbited at the Christian Boros bunker in Berlin
Olafur Eliasson's "Berlin Colour Sphere" (2006), exhbited at the Christian Boros bunker in Berlin

A rift is emerging in the European art scene: as public establishments languish under budget cuts, private museums are booming. But the latter are generally showcases for self-serving oligarchs, warns the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Museums, places where our society portrays and projects itself, may be becoming an endangered species.

This past May will go down as a fateful month in the history of European museums. An unknown culprit broke into the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris one night and, cool as a cucumber, cut five masterpieces by Braque, Léger, Matisse, Modigliani and Picasso out of their frames. The canvasses are worth about a hundred million euros all told. Afterwards people puzzled over why anyone would steal such famous works that can’t be sold legally anywhere. The answer is “artnapping”: art thieves squeeze a museum, or rather its insurers, who would rather hand a lavish sum to a middle-man who guarantees the return of the works than award a much higher indemnity to the owners. Only – and here’s the rub – there’s no insurer for the pictures in Paris, which hung in the museum uncovered – and actually unprotected: the alarm system had apparently been out of order since March.

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