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House votes against punishing Arts Council

Pro Helvetia's director Pius Knüsel and president Yvette Jaggi can breathe a sigh of relief Keystone

The House of Representatives has refused to back a controversial decision by the Senate to cut the budget of the Arts Council of Switzerland, Pro Helvetia.

This content was published on December 13, 2004 - 17:34

The Senate wants to reduce the organisation’s budget by SFr1 million ($880,000) after seeing red over a controversial Swiss exhibition in Paris.

On Wednesday the House of Representatives voted for a second time against cutting Pro Helvetia’s annual budget of SFr34 million.

This was in direct contrast to the Senate, which has voted in favour of the budget cut – a move that caused an outcry in the arts world.

The exhibition at the centre of the controversy is by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn and was sponsored by the Arts Council.

Entitled “Swiss-Swiss Democracy”, some of works in the exhibition attack Justice Minister and rightwing People’s Party figurehead Christoph Blocher. It also takes aim at the country’s system of direct democracy.

One of the provocative images is a sketch showing someone urinating on a poster of Blocher.

Mud

Some members of the Senate complained that Hirschhorn’s exhibition at the Swiss cultural centre had dragged Switzerland’s “most intimate values” through the mud.

This argument was also put forward in the House of Representatives on Monday by some members of the Swiss People’s Party.

Party representative Jean Fattebert argued that such an expense – the exhibition cost Pro Helvetia SFr180,000 to stage – was not justified if it brought the country into disrepute.

Others attacked Pro Helvetia for allowing the event to take place.

But members from the political Left fought the corner of artistic freedom, with Social Democrat Géraldine Savary calling on members to renounce “reprisals not worthy of our parliament”.

In reaction, Pro Helvetia said on Monday that it was satisfied with the House of Representative's decision not to cut its budget.

It added that it hoped that this position would be maintained in future discussions.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The "Swiss-Swiss Democracy" exhibition taking place at the Swiss Cultural Centre in Paris until January 30, 2005.
Pro Helvetia contributed SFr180,000.
The annual budget of Pro Helvetia is normally SFr34 million.

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In brief

The move to cut Pro Helvetia budget's was put forward by Christian Democrat Peter Bieri following a controversial exhibition in Paris that criticised Swiss democracy.

The Senate voted in favour of slashing the budget by SFr1 million on December 7, by 24 votes to 13.

But the House of Representatives has twice voted against the decision.

End of insertion

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