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Factory 798 in Beijing
Factory 798 in Beijing
Marion Girault-Rime
Wang Jun

Two months ago, Uli Sigg, the Swiss art collector and Switzerland’s former Ambassador to China, donated 1463 pieces of his Chinese contemporary art collection to Hong Kong’s M+ museum. The bequest, which included works by 350 artists such as Ai Weiwei and Zhang Xiaogan, initially received widespread praise. Then on June 25,the Art Critic column of the Oriental Morning Post, a Shanghai-based Chinese newspaper, slammed the affair. “The donated works aren’t worth their HK$1.3 billion ($163 million) valuation.” the columnist Zhu Qi declared. “They are mostly junk.”

The column went on to state that The M+ Museum had purchased another 47 Uli Sigg works. “They are not worth their HK$177 million ($22.7 million) pricetag. In fact it’s just a preparation by Sigg to sell off the rest of his Chinese contemporary art collection.”

The article has set off a fierce debate within China’s artistic circle ever since. Sigg came to Beijing last week and accepted, for the first time since the bickering started, to give us an exclusive interview to respond to the questioning.

E.O.: The skeptics believe that the thousand-plus works of your donation have no great academic value. Zhu Qi said that “Among Sigg’s collection there are of course individual works of value, but quite a number of them are just trash.”

Uli Sigg: First, I am really astonished by such a discussion. At the same time, the answer to such a question is very simple. Apart from a few persons at the M+ Museum and myself, nobody else knows what I own and what I have donated to the museum this time, because it’s a huge amount and we haven’t announced the detailed list of the collection. Some works have been included in the ten published catalogues. But the 200 odd works in these published catalogues represent only one-tenth of my collection. Very few of the ten catalogues are actually present in China. I’m just so surprised that there are so many experts about my collection.

The doubters believe that you are giving the poorer quality pieces in your collection to the museum while planning to sell off the rest.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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