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International news in brief — May 2010

RAF death masks cause a stir in Germany, Zaha Hadid to design Jordan cultural centre, Reykjavík approves display of protest photos, V&A at Blackpool to launch architectural competition

Terrorists’ death masks cause a stir in Esslingen.

The recent display of the death masks of Red Army Faction terrorists Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader and Jan-Carl Raspe in Esslingen’s Villa Merkel museum (until 6 June) has caused quite a stir. The death masks, made by sculptor Gerhard Halbritter, are on public display for the first time in an exhibition entitled “Man Son 1969: The Horror of the Situation”, which offers 34 artistic insights into the political and historical events that shaped the 1960s. A member of the city’s municipal culture office has called the Villa’s decision to display the masks “undignified” and refuses to visit the show. However, the director of the Villa Merkel, Andreas Baur, told The Art Newspaper that he sees “no reason to change the exhibition—as of yet”. Halbritter crafted the three masks on 18 October 1977 only hours after the trio committed suicide in the maximum-security prison Stuttgart Stammheim. After Halbritter’s death in 2002, his daughter found the masks and sold them to art dealer Andreas Albrecht in 2009 for €20,000. Ever since, Albrecht has been trying to place them in a German museum—the “Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” in Bonn has already refused the offer. J.v.P.

Zaha Hadid to design Jordan cultural centre

The Iraqi-born, London-based architect Zaha Hadid, who has designed the Maxxi museum of 21st-century art in Rome, has won a competition to design a major new cultural centre for the Jordanian capital Amman. The King Abdullah II House of Culture & Art, which will be run by the Greater Amman municipality, is set to include galleries, a 400-seat theatre and education centre. Hadid reportedly said that her winning design was inspired by Petra, an ancient city carved out of stone located in southern Jordan. “Petra is an astonishing example of the wonderful interplay between architecture and nature, as well as the intricate complexity and elegance of natural forms,” she added. A spokesman for Zaha Hadid declined to comment on the future gallery exhibition programme. The completion date is as yet unannounced. G.H.

Controversial images to adorn buildings in Reykjavík

copenhagen. The city of Reykjavík has withdrawn its opposition to the display on public buildings of large-scale photographs depicting the 2008 political demonstrations. The images—part of a project by Icelandic artist Hlynur Hallsson for the Reykjavík Arts Festival 2010, running from 12 May to 5 June—were taken during the political unrest following the collapse of Icelandic banks in October 2008, when thousands of Icelanders urged the government to step down, a wish fulfilled in February 2009. “Initially the city regarded the works as too political, especially with local elections coming up at the end of May,” Hallsson told The Art Newspaper. It was only in mid April that permission was finally granted to show Hallsson´s work, which forms part of the exhibition “Reality Check”, curated by Æsa Sigurjónsdóttir. Artists Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson, representing Iceland at the 2011 Venice Biennale, are also participating in the show. C.B.

Architectural competition set to be launched for V&A at Blackpool

An announcement is due in May on the “V&A at Blackpool”, which will be set up in an iconic new building at the seaside resort. An architectural competition for the exhibition centre is to be launched, administered by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Funded by Blackpool Council, the new venue will present V&A-generated exhibitions under a ten-year partnership. The V&A currently provides exhibitions to the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. In January an architectural competition was launched for a V&A-supported exhibition centre in Dundee, funded locally to the tune of £47m and due to open in 2014. M.B.

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