A diplomatic tussle between Mexico and France has led to the cancellation of 350 exhibitions and events that were to be held this year as part of the “Year of Mexico in France.”
Tensions began with the recent sentencing in Mexico of 36-year-old French citizen Florence Cassez to 60 years in prison in a five-year-old kidnapping case involving two adults and a young child. Her boyfriend confessed to the crime, claiming she didn’t know about it. Mexico has refused to repatriate Cassez to France, where the maximum penalty would be 20 years. Cassez maintains her innocence.
The final straw for Mexico came in mid-February. After his repeated request for Cassez’s return was denied, President Sarkozy dedicated the yearlong, $30-million Mexican festival, organized by the Institut Francais for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to her. Public officials and art observers had hoped that Sarkozy’s retraction might put things back on track, but that retraction never came. The French administration’s position is that Cassez has been denied justice.
A statement issued by Mexico’s Foreign Ministry said: “It is really surprising that a head of state would make a foreign policy decision that affects ties between two nations and governments in consultation with a person condemned by Mexican justice for a particularly serious crime.”
So, on Mar. 8, with Mexico refusing to send works to France, it was announced that the entire year of festivities would be cancelled, leaving museums and cultural institutions scrambling to fill their schedules.
Culture is often the olive branch in political denouements, so some French institutions have taken matters into their own hands. According to Le Monde, French Cinémathèque took the lead by deciding to proceed with its screenings of Mexican dramatic films, set to begin Apr. 13. It will pay for shipping and other expenses.
Musée d’Orsay director Guy Cogeval has corresponded with Carlos Philipps Olmedo, head of the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City, in an effort to continue their collaboration on two exhibitions. A Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition, which was in the works before “Year of Mexico” was announced, is scheduled to open at the Orangerie on Oct. 5, concurrent with “Under the Volcano: Art in Mexico from independence to revolutions, 1810–1920” at the Musée d’Orsay. Cogeval is waiting until Mar. 30 before making any decisions.
Among the other shows canceled is a Rufino Tamayo retrospective at the Petit Palais.