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Düsseldorfer Kunststreit: donated monument pits artists against city council

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

By Alex Stuart Düsseldorf’s city council has gone against the advice of the city’s Art Commission, a board made up of artists and politicians, to accept the donation of a monument dedicated to reunification. Designed by the sculptor Thomas Schönauer, a Düsseldorf-born artist, the 30-metre-high column is to be built on the banks of the Rhine. The Art Commission made no aesthetic protest but advised that the design of such a monument be decided democratically through an artistic competition. FAZ calls such a reason ‘unconvincing’ - is there not something meaningful about such a generous donation, should Düsseldorf’s citizens not be grateful? This rejection of a valuable sculpture reminds of the 2018 debate in Paris surrounding Jeff Koons’ gift to the city, with specific instructions that Bouquet of Tulips should be placed in the prominent position of the Palais de Tokyo’s central square. French cultural personalities signed an open letter condemning Koons’s gift as ‘shocking’ on many levels, namely symbolically, democratically, architecturally, artistically, technically and financially. Unsurprisingly, the Düsseldorf Art Commission’s letter doesn’t quite rise to French levels of indignation. The commission criticises the monument as ‘backwards-looking’ since it reduces the development of unification to a linear, simplistic and already-complete process.

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