Cultural

Billionaire Nicolas Berggruen Just Opened a New Branch of His Globe-Spanning Cultural Institute in a Historic Venice Palazzo


Los Angeles’s Berggruen Institute, founded by Paris-born billionaire art collector Nicolas Berggruen, inaugurated its new European headquarters today in Venice’s Casa dei Tre Oci, a neo-Gothic palazzo on the island of Giudecca.

As part of the festivities, it announced philosopher Peter Singer as the 2021 recipient of the annual $1 million Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture.

Singer will receive his prize, which recognizes visionaries whose thinking advances human understanding, in a ceremony next spring in Los Angeles.

“I am delighted that my work has been recognized by the jury that awards the Berggruen Prize for Philosophy and Culture, and I thank Nicolas Berggruen for his commitment to honoring those who work in philosophy and the field of ideas,” Singer said in a statement, adding that he planned to donate half of the funds to The Life You Can Save, a charity he founded “to spread the idea of giving to the most effective charities benefiting the world’s poorest people.”

Berggruen Institute Chairman Nicolas Berggruen. Photo by Jason Carter Rinaldi/Getty Images for Berggruen Institute.

Berggruen Institute chairman Nicolas Berggruen. Photo by Jason Carter Rinaldi/Getty Images for Berggruen Institute.

The institute’s new building previously belonged to the Fondazione di Venezia, which hosted photography exhibitions by the likes of David LaChapelle, Helmut Newton, and Lewis Hine.

“We see Venice as a gateway for those seeking answers to the most pressing questions and challenges of our time—and Casa dei Tre Oci as the nexus of the institute’s work in developing ideas to build a better world,” Berggruen, the institute’s chairman, said in a statement.

Built as a private home and studio by by the artist Mario De Maria in 1913, Casa dei Tre Oci was recognized by the region’s cultural heritage directorate as an asset of historical and artistic interest in 2007.

The Berggruen Institute, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, plans to use the space to host international programming in the visual arts and architecture, including summits, workshops, symposia, and exhibitions. The organization has agreed to continue the space’s photography program for the next two years.

Peter Singer. Photo by Derek Goodwin, courtesy of the Berggruen Institute.

Peter Singer. Photo by Derek Goodwin, courtesy of the Berggruen Institute.

“With Casa dei Tre Oci continuing to be the site of constructive discussion on contemporary issues, we look forward to the prospects of its future cooperation with other institutions in Venice, placing it at the center of the city’s cultural life,” Michele Bugliesi, president of the Fondazione di Venezia, said.

The institute is also in the process of building a new Los Angeles flagship, near the Getty Center in the Santa Monica Mountains, designed by Swiss architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron.

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Panic Rips Through Europe As Dangerous Wildfires Threaten Historic Cultural Sites in Greece


The worst fires in decades have been ripping across southern parts of Europe, threatening lives, homes, and putting several ancient cultural sites at risks.

It’s summer vacation season in Europe, which means that masses of tourists from the North are peppered around the mediterranean, after borders were largely opened up in recent months following a winter and spring of lockdown. But early August has seen record-breaking temperatures, with the mercury reaching a scorching 47 Celsius (116 Fahrenheit) in parts of Greece this week, and causing numerous fires to break out.

Since Wednesday, hundreds of firefighters have been beating back deadly fires just outside the historic capital of Athens. The Acropolis and other ancient archaeological sites remained closed this week due to high temperatures, and many are now shrouded in smoke from the nearby fires.

Meanwhile, popular holiday destinations in Turkey, Italy, and Spain have also seen regions engulfed in fast-moving fires as the heatwave bakes on. Emergency service workers have been desperately trying to bring the dangerous blazes under control using water planes and helicopters.

A wildfire approaches the Olympic Academy in ancient Olympia in western Greece on August 4, 2021. Photo: Eurokinissi/AFP via Getty Images.

While the Olympic games continue to hand out medals in Tokyo, flames are burning dangerously near to its birthplace of Olympia, where hundreds of firefighters are working to evacuate locals, salvage homes and businesses, and to protect the world-famous site that dates back to 776 B.C., and where the games were held for more than a thousand years.

Culture minister Lina Mendoni assured media on Wednesday, August 3, that the fires near Olympia, which is now an archaeological site and museum, were coming under control. “Everything that can be done to protect from the flames […]  has been done,” she told the press.

Artifacts of key historic and artistic value were removed from the Tatoi palace, a former royal residence, as a precaution, although the site remains unharmed as of this writing. In another part of Greece, fires threatened the 14th century Monastery of St. David the Elder and Drymonas, near Kalamoudi. Several monks refused to leave despite pleas from authorities. So far, no deaths have been reported in Greece.

The neighboring country of Turkey was not in a better place in the early hours of Thursday, August 5. Fires raging in the south-western part of the nation have so far killed eight people, and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes. So far, the Turkish government, which did not sign on to the Paris Climate Agreement, has been mute on whether climate change was a cause of the flames, and its President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is facing criticism for the lack of help and resources being offered to local communities.

Elsewhere, this summer’s extreme weather is also threatening parts of Albania and high temperature warnings have been issued in North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and regions of Romania and Serbia. Earlier this summer, Germany was caught unprepared for devastating floods, which killed 177 people.

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A New Museum Network Is Focusing On the Monuments Men’s Long-Overlooked Postwar Cultural Contributions


During World War II, a group of American and British curators, art historians, librarians, architects, and artists were tasked with the daunting mission of recovering artworks looted by the Nazis in real-time. This group (which included women, it should be noted) came to be known as the Monuments Men. Their unique mission, and their daring, is most likely familiar from George Clooney’s 2014 movie of the same name. But well before and after their stories came to the silver screen a group of scholars and writers had been devoted to preserving and promoting this unique legacy, known as the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art (MMF). A best-selling book penned by MMF founder Robert M. Edsel was the basis of the movie, in fact.

Anna Bottinelli, MMF President.

Anna Bottinelli, MMF President.

While the MMF has garnered the most attention for its continuing restitution work, the foundation has expanded the mission in a new direction with the recent launch of the Monuments Men and Women Museum Network. Rather than focusing squarely on wartime efforts, this organization of museums aims to showcase the cultural contributions of these men and women well before and after World War II, and how they were pivotal to returning works to their rightful museums as well as contributing to scholarship. Currently, twenty leading institutions in the US, UK, Germany, and New Zealand have joined the network, including the Courtauld Gallery, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Berlin State Museums—with the list growing steadily.

Anna Bottinelli, president of MMF, spearheaded the network. “The success of our efforts to honor the Monuments Men and Women has, until now, been focused on their wartime service,” noted Bottinelli. “The creation of the Monuments Men and Women Museum Network will, for the first time, bring much-deserved visibility to their immense contribution to museums and cultural life in the United States and elsewhere, both before and after the war.” 

MMF Founder, Robert M. Edsel, and former Chief Archivist of the United States, Prof. Allen Weinstein, at the donation ceremony of ERR Album n.8 to the National Archives in November 2007.

MMF Founder Robert M. Edsel and former Chief Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein at the donation ceremony of ERR Album n.8 to the National Archives in November 2007.

Member institutions have pledged either free and reduced admission or store discounts to those belonging to the Foundation’s membership program —and are sharing their unique connection to the Monuments Men and Women on social media. Bottinelli underscores that the coordinated effort to share each museum’s connection with the heroes of yesteryear is “part of the educational component of the Foundation’s mission” — a mission focused on restitution, education, and preservation. 

‘[The Foundation’s] initiative to strengthen the ties between the MMF and institutions that the Monuments Men and Women helped build into what they are today is remarkable” noted Michael Eissenhauer, director-general of the Berlin State Museums. 

As part of the official launch of the Museum Network, the Foundation has been sharing each museum’s important ties to the “heroes of civilization” through social media campaigns, newsletters, and other channels, encouraging museums and institutions to scour their records, archives, and collections for links to the Monuments Men and Women. The Museum Network says it is likely that hundreds of works displayed in public institutions have unrealized connections to WWII —and that many former staff members participated in the recovery of looted art. 

More information about the Monuments Men and Women Museum Network can be found here.

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Struggling Nightclubs in Germany Are Petitioning to Be Recategorized as Cultural Institutions to Get Better Tax Breaks


The German government decided on Friday to proceed with a motion that would designate music clubs and live venues as cultural facilities. (DJs, presumably, are stoked.)

In rapidly gentrifying cities like Berlin, clubs, which are a major tourist draw and important to the city’s social fabric, have been increasingly vulnerable in the face of new real estate development projects.

With recognition as cultural sites, clubs could benefit from tax reductions and gain leverage against displacement. While museums and theaters enjoy these privileges already, clubs have been given similar legal status to brothels, arcades, and other entertainment venues.

The motion from the parliamentary committee for building, housing, urban development, and communities calls on the federal government to reclassify nightclubs as venues with a “cultural purpose.” The text includes a “clause on noise protection” that would help settle disputes between clubs and new developers.

Germany’s parliament has until September to decide whether to implement the proposed change into law.

With an “annual turnover of approximately €1.1 billion, clubs are an important part of the cultural and creative industry,” wrote the Parliamentary Forum Club Culture, which is behind the initiative. “We want to preserve diversity everywhere in Germany… Clubs are entrepreneurial, cultural, social, and architecturally open spaces that invite you to experiment, encounter, and experience.”

Clubs around the nation have been shuttered since March 2020. In Berlin, the country’s most famous nightclub, Berghain, collaborated with the Boros art collection to host a successful art show with paid ticketing to help support the club while it was closed to music events. In a first, the cultural department in Berlin provided funding for the unique partnership between private collectors and the notorious club, which itself was granted special cultural status in 2016.

“We are counting on the federal government taking up this parliamentary mandate quickly and implementing the amendment of the building use ordinance in this legislature,” Thore Debor, a spokesman for club commission stakeholder LiveKomm, said in a statement to Resident Advisor. “Especially now… we need this overdue step more than ever.”

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Eli Broad, the Proudly ‘Unreasonable’ Art Collector Who Changed the Cultural Landscape of Los Angeles, Dies at 87


Billionaire art collector, philanthropist, and entrepreneur Eli Broad—a towering figure in the cultural scene of the United States, and most of all, in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles—has died at 87. His reign culminated with the founding of the Broad, a contemporary art museum showcasing the collection he and his wife, Edythe Broad, built together, which opened in 2015.

In his cultural pursuits, business activities, and education and science philanthropy, Broad proudly proclaimed himself “unreasonable.” (The title of his 2012 book was The Art of Being Unreasonable.) He helped define what it meant to be a 21st century philanthropist, importing the kind of high expectations, metrics, and authority he embraced in business into his charitable activities. This approach, which he has described as “venture philanthropy,” made him widely influential—and also divisive.

“Eli saw the arts as a way to strive to build a better world for all,” Joanne Heyler, the founding director of the Broad, said in a statement. “He was a fiercely committed civic leader, and his tenacity and advocacy for the arts indelibly changed Los Angeles.”

Broad died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to his foundation. The cause of death has not been given, but comes after a long illness.

With a net worth estimated at $6.9 billion by Forbes, Eli made his fortune in the home construction and insurance industries, founding Kaufman and Broad Home Corporation and insurance company SunAmerica. He is the only person to found Fortune 500 companies in two different industries.

Eli Broad with his parents. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Eli Broad with his parents. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Born in New York in 1933, Eli and his family moved to Detroit in 1940. He met his wife while completing his studies at Michigan State University, where he graduated in 1954.

A friend suggested they might be a good match, and gave Eli her phone number. Even though she didn’t know who he was, Edythe agreed to go on a date. They were engaged within months. (Eli is survived by Edythe and the couple’s sons, Jeffrey and Gary.)

Eli Broad at his graduation. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

The Broads moved to Los Angeles in 1963. At first, it was Edythe who was the art lover, buying works on paper from local galleries such as Ferus and Nicholas Wilder. But Eli soon grew to share her passion.

“Edye was the first collector in our family, and I came along later—later being some 50-odd years ago. She was my inspiration to collect art,” Eli told Haute Living in 2016. “I would go off on business trips, and when I was overseas, she would buy prints. One day, she bought a wonderful poster by Toulouse Lautrec, which I recognized. That got me curious.”

His first purchase was a Vincent van Gogh drawing, and the collection blossomed quickly from there.

Eli Broad presenting at Kaufman and Broad Homebuilding. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Eli Broad presenting at Kaufman and Broad Homebuilding. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

As their holdings grew, the Broads sought to share their collection with the world, founding the Broad Art Foundation in 1984 to arrange loans of their art. In the years since, the foundation has loaned 8,700 works to over 550 museums and galleries worldwide. Eli retired from the foundation in 2016.

Prior to opening their own museum, the Broads were instrumental in the founding of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1979, donating $1 million to the $13 million initial fundraising campaign. Eli served as its founding chairman, and helped secure the purchase of 80 Abstract Expressionist and Pop works from Italian businessman Giuseppe Panza di Biumo. The acquisition instantly transformed the institution into a world-class destination for 20th century art.

Eli Broad with Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Eli Broad with Robert Rauschenberg and Roy Lichtenstein. Photo courtesy of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

The transaction was a testament to Broad’s hard-driving approach. Once museum leadership had agreed amongst themselves to offer Panza up to $12 million for the collection, Broad closed the deal within 24 hours for $11 million—$1 million less than they had been prepared to spend. Today, the works, which include seven Rothkos, 12 Klines, 11 Rauschenbergs, four Lichtensteins, and eight Rosenquists, are estimated to be worth more than $1 billion.

Broad also figured into the turbulence that shaped MOCA in the years that followed, advocating for the hire of controversial art dealer-turned-director Jeffrey Deitch; pushing for the ouster of chief curator Paul Schimmel; and attempting to broker a (failed) merger with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., when the museum was facing a formidable budget shortfall.

In 1996, the Broads threw their support behind long-delayed plans to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, a $300 million project designed by Frank Gehry that opened in October 2003. Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it has become one of the city’s best-known buildings.

Gehry himself was among the most candid about the experience of working with the exacting Broad, telling 60 Minutes in 2011: “Eli is a control freak.”

All told, the Broads have given nearly $1 billion to Los Angeles-area arts and culture institutions.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center at the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA. Photo courtesy of UCLA.

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center at the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA. Photo courtesy of UCLA.

The couple also gave a $60 million gift to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in the mid-2000s to fund a new contemporary art building. Broad’s fingerprints were all over the project: he personally recruited architect Renzo Piano and insisted the building bear his name. But he shocked the museum world when he decided at the last minute not to gift his collection to the Broad Contemporary Art Museum when it opened in 2008. Instead, he and Edythe decided to build their own museum.

The opening of the Broad on Grand Avenue—home to both the Broad-funded MOCA across the street and the Disney Concert Hall next door—marked the culmination of the couple’s efforts to transform the street in downtown Los Angeles’s Bunker Hill neighborhood into a thriving cultural corridor.

“It is difficult to overstate Mr. Broad’s importance to Los Angeles,” wrote the New York Times in 2017. “His contributions to the city’s art and cultural world may well prove the most enduring legacy—particularly for Los Angeles’s now-thriving downtown.”

The Broad, Los Angeles. Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of the Broad, Los Angeles.

The Broad, Los Angeles. Photo by Iwan Baan, courtesy of the Broad, Los Angeles.

The museum, designed by architect Diller Scofidio + Renfro, became an immediate hit, attracting more than 900,000 in 2019—over three times the projected attendance.

When it first opened in 2015, some criticized its focus on mainstream (often white, often male) market stars. The institution proudly showcased Jeff Koons’s Rabbit, another edition of which sold for $91 million in 2019, becoming the most expensive work to ever sell by a living artist at auction. The Broad also boasts deep holdings of work by artists including Cy Twombly, Takashi Murakami, Cindy Sherman, Christopher Wool, Jasper Johns, and Yayoi Kusama (whose “Infinity Room” drew lines around the block).

Despite mixed reviews, the museum, which offers free admission, managed to attract audiences that other institutions in the city had struggled to engage; 70 percent of its visitors identify as non-white.

Eli and Edythe Broad. Photo Ben Gibbs for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Eli and Edythe Broad. Photo by Ben Gibbs for the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

The couple’s impact on Los Angeles culture is felt in other corners, too. They created a $10 million endowment for programming and arts education at the Santa Monica College performing arts center, now home to the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage and the Edye Second Space, and were major contributors to the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA, creating the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center.

Eli also gave generously to his alma mater. The couple donated $26 million in 2007 to establish the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, designed by architect Zaha Hadid.

A life trustee of MOCA, LACMA, and the Museum of Modern Art, Eli was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The nation of France presented him with the Chevalier in the National Order of the Legion of Honor in 1994. His other honors included the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in 2007 and the David Rockefeller Award from the Museum of Modern Art in 2009.

“Civilizations are not remembered by their business people, their bankers or lawyers,” Broad said in a 2011 interview with CBS. “They’re remembered by the arts.”

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