South Korea’s Culture Minister resigns over alleged cultural blacklist; Museum of Islamic Art Cairo reopens after three years

Cho Yoon-sun, former Culture Minister of South Korea, arriving at the Seoul Central District court on Friday 20 January. Courtesy: Stringer/Reuters

Cho Yoon-sun, former Culture Minister of South Korea, arriving at the Seoul Central District court on Friday 20 January. Courtesy: Stringer/Reuters

  • Cho Yoon-sun has resigned from her position as culture minister of South Korea, having been arrested this weekend for allegedly creating a blacklist of almost 10,000 artists, writers and other cultural practitioners who voiced criticism of the now impeached president Park Geun-Hye. Those who found themselves upon Cho’s blacklist were supposedly disqualified from receiving government subsidies and private investments, and were also placed under state surveillance. Writing for AFP, Park Chan-kyong reports that the list includes the names of Man Booker International Prize-winning novelist Han Kang, and acclaimed director Park Chan-wook, whose film Oldboy was awarded the Grand Prix at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.
  • The Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, Egypt, reopened last week, three years after it was severely damaged by a car bomb. The museum, home to one of the world's most extensive collections of Islamic artefacts, has been shut since January 2014, when an explosion targeting the nearby Cairo police directorate destroyed its façade, and damaged more than 170 artefacts from its collection. The lengthy rehabilitation project, which was part-funded by a number of surrounding countries, included the restoration of around 160 relics and the construction of three new galleries.
  • The so-called Islamic State has continued its campaign of ‘cultural cleansing’ in the city of Palmyra, destroying a tetrapylon (an ancient arrangement of four gateways demarcating the intersection of a road) and severely damaging a Roman amphitheatre that was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. In an official statement, UNESCO director general Irina Bokova described the attack as a ‘new war crime’, adding: ‘This new blow against cultural heritage, just a few hours after UNESCO received reports about mass executions in the theatre, shows that cultural cleansing led by violent extremists is seeking to destroy both human lives and historical monuments in order to deprive the Syrian people of its past and its future. This is why the protection of heritage is inseparable from the protection of human lives’.
  • Andrew Russeth of ArtNews reports that New York’s Paula Cooper Gallery has added two renowned dealers to its staff: Jay Gorney, formerly of Jay Gorney Modern, Gorney Bravin + Lee, and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, and Lisa Cooley, whose eponymous Lower East Side space ceased operations last summer. Both Gorney and Cooley have praised the integrity of Paula Cooper Gallery, with Cooley adding that the space is ‘the antithesis of all the bummer things in the art world of late.’
  • Following a continent-wide sting operation, European police have arrested 75 people on charges of art trafficking and have recovered around 3,500 stolen archaeological artefacts and artworks. The operation, which was code-named Pandora and targeted a criminal network that specializing in artworks looted from war-torn regions, was led by investigators in Spain and Cyprus, but involved police from 18 countries and received support from Interpol, Europol, and UNESCO.

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