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PALESTINE

Art prize scrapped after Lacoste vetoes Palestinian winner

The organisers of a €25,000 ($32,000) art prize said on Wednesday they have cancelled this year's competition after sponsors Lacoste objected to an entry by a Palestinian photographer.

Jerusalem-born artist Larissa Sansour said she was told the luxury clothing brand deemed her photo series “too pro-Palestinian”.

The Elysee Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, had offered €25,000 to the winner of the Lacoste Elysee Prize for a work with the theme of “joie de vivre”.

A jury was set to award the cash to one of eight candidates in January but the museum said this year’s award had been suspended.

“The private partner’s wish to exclude Larissa Sansour, one of the competition candidates, is behind the Elysee Museum’s decision,” the museum said in a statement.

Conceived in the wake of the Palestinian bid for UN recognition, Sansour said her photo series “Nation Estate” “envisions a Palestinian state rising from the ashes of the peace process.”

The artist said she was told by the museum last week that her nomination had been revoked by Lacoste who thought her project, although not directly anti-Israel, was “too pro-Palestinian” for the company to support.

“As a politically involved artist I am no stranger to opposition, but never before have I been censored by the very same people who nominated me in the first place,” said Sansour in a statement.

“Lacoste’s prejudice and censorship puts a major dent in the idea of corporate involvement in the arts. It is deeply worrying.”

The Elysee Museum said its decision reiterated its commitment the “fundamental value” of freedom of expression and that it had offered to exhibit Sansour’s work outside of the competition, which was established in 2010.

Lacoste was not immediately available for comment.

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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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