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Plans to rebuild Berlin Wall for art project blocked

German authorities said Friday they were blocking a proposal to rebuild part of the Berlin Wall for a massive film-art project in the German capital.

Plans to rebuild Berlin Wall for art project blocked
Tourists at the Berlin Wall. Photo: DPA

Citing security concerns and fire risks, Berlin city authorities said they would not grant a building permit to the “DAU” project by Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky, DPA reported.

The plan had been to erect 900 concrete wall slabs, each 3.6 metres tall at a city block on Unter den Linden boulevard, for the €6.6 million event.

The walled-in “city within a city” was meant to have its own visa checks, and visitors to the parallel world have had to apply online for entrance permits.

But the project sparked controversy, with critics labelling it a stunt hurtful to people who lived in communist East Germany.

Sabine Weissler, the councillor in charge of the Berlin district concerned, said there had not been sufficient time to obtain views from residents who could be affected by the project.

“It has not been possible for the organization to guarantee that the event would be carried out safely,” she added. Building applications for such a major undertaking should be filed a year before construction is due to begin, she noted.

The organizers had only put in their application at the beginning of August for a project to be launched on October 12th before ending with a ritualistic tearing down of the wall on November 9th, the day of the historic event in 1989.

As we reported in August, the aim was not to create “a Disney GDR” (German Democratic Republic), according to Thomas Oberender, director of culture festival Berliner Festspiele which was to host the mega-event.

“It is not a film premiere but a mixture of social experiment, artistic experiment and… an impressive form of world-building,” he had told a Berlin press conference.

The aim, said organizers, is to spark “a political and social debate about freedom and totalitarianism, surveillance, co-existence and national identity”.

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ART

Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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