Elmgreen & Dragset Among Artists Boycotting Museum Over Kreuk-Vō Conflict

Michael Elmgreen says the museum is in the pocket of a private party.

Gemeentemuseum, the Hague.
Photo: courtesy Gemeentemuseum.

Several artists have rejected nominations for the Vincent Award given by the Gemeentemuseum, at least one due to the museum’s role in a dramatic conflict that began in 2014 between artist Danh Vō and collector Bert Kreuk. Nairy Baghramian, Jutta Koether, and David Maljkovic have rejected nominations from the museum for the award, which carries a prize of €50,000.

Independent of the Vincent Award, artists Elmgreen & Dragset have also declined to work with the Hague-based museum on a project there.

Related: Danh Vo Tells Collector Bert Kreuk to “Shove It” in Stunning Private Letter After Contentious Court Ruling

The museum offered Iranian-born, Berlin-based Baghramian a nomination for the 2016 Vincent van Gogh Award for Contemporary Art in Europe (often referred to as the Vincent Award). The prize is “affiliated,” according to the award’s website, with the Monique Zajfen Collection, which is on loan to the museum and includes works by the winners along with other major contemporary artists. The museum “organizes” the award and hosts a related exhibition.

“Even though I’m aware that the Vincent Award is independent from the Gemeentemuseum, where the exhibition of all nominees will take place this time, I have to question the involvement of the museum in the legal case between the artist Danh Vō and the collector Kreuk,” Baghramian told artnet News.

The parties settled the complicated case last month, after heated accusations on both sides. In brief, it resulted from differing accounts of an agreement that Kreuk and Vō supposedly reached over a piece Kreuk wished to commission for a show of his collection that was to take place at the museum. Kreuk accused Vō of breach of contract.

Related: Bert Kreuk and Danh Vō Speak Out on $1.2 Million Lawsuit

“Based on my insights, to me it seems safe to say that the museum didn’t assume a neutral stance in the private confrontation between two parties, but rather played an active role in this legal dispute and even stood against the artist who was invited to and exhibited in the museum,” Baghramian said. “This makes the whole situation at hand seem quite precarious to me and it makes me feel weakened in my position as an artist in the context of institutional representation.”

Baghramian said the museum, as an institution of the public sphere, should have remained independent—or it at least should have kept a neutral position in a private affair, if it didn’t feel capable of standing in for and protecting the artist it had invited to exhibit.

When Baghramian declined a spot on the shortlist, the museum approached Maljkovic about taking her place, the artist told artnet News in an email. He also declined.

Related: Danh Vo, Bert Kreuk, and Isabella Bortolozzi Settle Dispute after Bitter Two-Year Legal Battle

“The museum is in the pocket of a private party,” Michael Elmgreen told artnet News by phone. Elmgreen was approached by the museum during the lawsuit about a possible project. “It took me about 30 seconds to decide,” he said.

“There’s no reason for this in a heavily state-funded country like Holland,” Elmgreen added. “Especially there, it’s insane for the museum to have to depend on private parties this way. When they behave in the interest of the collector against the artist, I have no interest in working with them. It’s also very weird to have public institutions working to increase the value of a private collection.”

The artist also pointed out that the museum had suddenly approached a number of artists who are close friends of Vō.

“Can that be a coincidence?” he said.

In a statement to artnet News, the Gemeentemuseum said:

Two years ago, the museum was unfortunately the context for a dispute between artist Danh Vō and art collector Bert Kreuk. This led to a lawsuit. In this case the museum was called to appear as witness. In court, the museum answered questions under oath of both the judge and both parties’ lawyers. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag was never party to this case. Nevertheless, Nairy Baghramian has withdrawn as a nominee for the award, citing the dispute.

The statement indicates that Koether withdrew “for private reasons.”

Director Benno Tempel is chairman of the 2016 jury, which also includes independent curator Sabine Folie; Hubertus Gassner, director of the Hamburger Kunsthalle; Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine, London; and Jarosław Suchan, director of the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, Poland.

The Broere Foundation launched the award in 2000. Among previous winners are Eija-Liisa Ahtila (2000), Neo Rauch (2002), and Anri Sala (2014).

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