Politicians call for head of arts chief

Yvette Jaggi says she will defend artistic freedom Keystone Archive

A leading Swiss political party is calling for the resignation of the president of the Arts Council in a row over a controversial exhibition in Paris.

This content was published on December 9, 2004 - 17:12

But Yvette Jaggi has rejected moves to punish Pro Helvetia and defended the right to artistic freedom.

The centre-right Christian Democratic Party said Jaggi was ultimately responsible for the exhibition by the renowned Swiss artist, Thomas Hirschhorn.

Hirschhorn's attack against Switzerland’s system of direct democracy and the justice minister, Christoph Blocher, have triggered a public outcry.

Senior party officials say they are prepared to consider overturning a parliamentary decision to cut the budget of the state-funded Arts Council - but only if Jaggi agrees to step down from her post.

The Christian Democrats are the fourth largest party in parliament.

Independence

For her part, Jaggi has defended the artist’s right to express his opinion.

In an interview in Thursday’s edition of the Geneva-based “Le Temps” newspaper, she said budget cuts for the Arts Council were “beside the point” and sent out a contradictory message.

“Those who criticise public funding of the arts are now suddenly advocating state interference. They even confirm Hirschhorn’s perception of Switzerland,” said Jaggi.

“I’ve always believed in a state which respects the independence of artists. The role of the authorities is simply to create favourable conditions for artistic projects,” she added.

Outcry

Earlier this week the Senate decided to shave SFr1 million ($866,000) off Pro Helvetia’s annual budget of SFr34 million, in response to a proposal by a Christian Democrat parliamentarian.

The other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives, has still to discuss the cut.

Switzerland’s cultural authorities have condemned the Senate’s decision as tantamount to state interference.

The interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, also criticised the Senate's move.

Ten years ago a work by the Swiss installation artist, Ben Vautier, also caused a public outcry.

Vautier’s slogan, “La Suisse n’existe pas” (“Switzerland does not exist”), at the 1992 World Exhibition in Seville prompted angry reactions from politicians.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Pro Helvetia aims to promote contemporary artistic production and facilitate cultural exchange at home and abroad.
It was set up in 1939 to defend Switzerland’s cultural heritage against totalitarian influence from abroad.
Its budget for 2005 is SFr34 million.

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