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Zilkens' News Blog

Dr. Stephan Zilkens

Stephan Zilkens

Zilkens' News Blog 19 2023

Maurizio Cattelan is regarded by some as a gifted artist, by others as a clever plagiarist who has succeeded in marketing Warhol's preference for artistically designed bananas much better than Thomas Baumgärtel, the "banana sprayer", who would have gladly received 150,000 USD for a banana stuck on the wall. Now, in a Korean museum, a student allegedly ate the banana stuck to the wall because he was hungry and stuck the peel back on the wall, with the original tape, of course - and the whole thing was filmed, too. From an insurance point of view, this raises some interesting questions. Assuming the work was insured: Is it a total loss? What about the restoration? Has there been any damage at all? After all, the banana is a natural product whose shelf life is limited - and damage resulting from the natural condition of the work is not insured, as is well known. The museum would have replaced the banana in two days anyway, because otherwise the rotting smell would have slowly become problematic for visitors. So no damage and - excuse me - no great art that deserves such attention.

After just 10 years, Sandra Aebersold and Frank Häcker, the previous owners of Accurart in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, have sold their company to Arthur J. Gallagher, the American listed major broker. They remain managing directors, but the company loses the character of an owner-managed medium-sized business and is absorbed into a company with a turnover of 7 billion USD.

The Austrian National Committee of the International Council of Museums, with the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Public Service and Sport (BMKÖS), has carried out another aid transport to Ukraine. The shipment of urgently needed materials recently reached museums in the Mykolayiv region near Odessa, shipped by Kunsttrans Vienna and Kyiv.

The German Registrars elected a new board at their annual meeting in Braunschweig: Chairperson of the Board: Nicole Schmidt, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (Deputy on the Board since 2015); Deputy Board: Robert Hintz, Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum, Braunschweig and Member Administration and Treasurer: Marianne Aselmeier, Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim. We wish them a happy hand and more consideration of their competence by the public tendering bodies, where the principle, we can only do it cheaply, therefore we need more publicly paid staff, has prevailed. A Propos - with the help of the Administrative Court in Berlin, the legality of the suspension of 5 publicly financed posts in the area of disposal of a former Federal Chancellor has now been confirmed for the time being. Let's take it as a good signal that public administrations do not only want to grow - or was it just an easy way to get one over on a former head of government who no longer wants to be understood ... .

Well meant is not always well done, as Annalena Baerbock and Claudia Roth had to learn now. Shortly before Christmas, with a lot of self-generated public pressure and the woke claim of opinion leaders who support this, but do not form the majority, they ceremoniously handed over the Benin bronzes in German public ownership to Abba Isa Tijani, the director of the National Museum Commission of Nigeria. The city of Cologne, led by the museum director Nanette Snoep, who comes from Holland, has also bequeathed its collection of Benin bronzes to Nigeria, as the supposed legal successor of Benin, which was famous for its extensive slavery policy. All this was done to make amends for the cultural artefacts unlawfully stolen by the British military at the end of the 19th century, many of which had changed hands several times through the auction trade. They all did not count on the Nigerian President Muhammdau Buhari, who had transferred the ownership of all Benin bronzes looted from the Royal Palace of Benin in 1897 and collected elsewhere in the Benin Empire to the Oba of Benin by decree of 23 March 2023 - i.e. to the descendant of the Oba whose ancestors had committed the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity until their subjugation by the British. (More in the article by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin from the FAZ of 6 May, which Stefan Kobel also lists). Thus, public property from Germany becomes the private property of a former potentate who can do with it what he wants. Even a distribution via the art market. The question is whether the Nigerian president's decision is tantamount to a breach of contract - then the pieces that have not yet been delivered could be left in the country and in the responsibility of the museums, which are presumably less interested in historical reappraisal than an inner-Nigerian conflict that feminist and moralistic foreign policy positions have not seen or do not wanted to have seen.

In this sense, we wish you a pleasant week and if you had been looking for time for an art fair outside Germany at the weekend - Busan in Korea offered itself, quasi as a new Hong Kong and further away than Karlsruhe.

Stephan Zilkens and the team of Zilkens Fine Art Insurance Broker GmbH in Solothurn and Cologne

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