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Displaced Ukrainian pianist holding concerts in Canada to build back Kharkiv Arts University

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Anna Sagalova’s school in Kharkiv will require major structural repairs.Handout

“My favourite time of the day was always late,” recalls Ukrainian musician Anna Sagalova. When she would finish work with her students at the I.P Kotlyarevsky National University of the Arts in Kharkiv, she would sit and play the piano on her own. “There was this total possibility to practise into the middle of the night,” she says.

Sagalova, who taught at the school for 17 years, fled Ukraine with her young son a week after the Russian invasion began in February, 2022. “It was impossible to stay,” she says, as her hometown’s proximity to the border made the city a strategic target early on. After first travelling to Lviv in Western Ukraine, the pair then stayed with an academic contact in Weimar, Germany, before arriving in Canada in June. Sagalova is now based in Vancouver while her husband, who is a musician and composer, remains in Ukraine.

Kharkiv became a UNESCO City of Music in 2021. Since the start of the war on Feb. 24, 2022, more than 4,000 buildings in the city have been damaged, with one third of them hit directly, according to Deutsche Welle. Sagalova’s school will require major structural repairs. Also known as Kharkiv Conservatory, the institution, established in 1917, reflects the city’s once-vibrant music scene. Its student ensembles include an award-winning folk orchestra, a chamber orchestra, a choir and a symphony orchestra. It also has an opera studio.

Ms. Sagalova’s choice to settle in Vancouver is largely owing to the support of friend and fellow musician Eugene Skovorodnykov.Handout

When the war started, staff and students scrambled to collect whatever instruments they could for safekeeping, but they couldn’t get the pianos – more than 60 in total – out of the building. The grand Steinways are still sitting in a room with cracked walls, dripping ceilings and no windows. Moisture, dirt and grime have resulted in snapped strings and warped wood, and rendered the inner mechanisms useless.

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In an effort to rebuild, the university has founded the Mystetskyy Allians Charitable Foundation, with Sagalova holding concerts in Canada to help raise funds. “I feel it is my duty to show the staff and students that they are not alone, that they are supported,” she says. Produced by Pickle Underground in partnership with Toronto’s Canzona Chamber Players, the performances so far include one in Vancouver last month, and a coming show in Toronto on Jan. 17.

The Toronto concert mainly features music by Ukrainian composers – Mykola Lysenko, Myroslav Skoryk, Mark Karmynsky and Volodymyr Ptushkin, who died six weeks after the start of the invasion.

“Ptushkin was one of my teachers and friends as well, though he was much older than me. But we were close,” Sagalova says. “I think it’s very important that his music be heard.”

Closing the programme is the work of Ukrainian-Canadian artist/musician Anna Pidgorna, whose composition Amhrain Chaointe: I. Caoineadh Eibhlin (Keening Songs: I. Eileen’s Lament), with the text of 18th-century Irish poet Eibhlin Dubh Ni Chonaill, will be performed by soprano Rachel Krehm. Sagalova’s presentations in Canada, including appearances at various Vancouver venues last autumn, have been met with enthusiasm. “I didn’t expect it was possible,” she says. “The people who are coming for the concerts are so warm – it feels amazing to see their reaction to the work.”

The Canadian venues are more intimate than the spaces Sagalova – who has also performed in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and China – is familiar with. In Ukraine she appeared at music festivals including Kharkiv Assemblies (of which she is artistic director), acted as a jury member for numerous music competitions and conducted regular cross-country tours. Her final performance there was at Kharkiv Conservatory on Feb. 22, 2022. “It was hard to manage,” she recalls.

The choice to settle in Vancouver is largely owing to the support of friend and fellow musician Eugene Skovorodnykov, a Ukrainian-Canadian pianist and artistic director of the Vancouver International School of Music. The institution shares an association with Kharkiv Conservatory, and it is currently where Sagalova teaches.

Life in Ms. Sagalova’s hometown is returning, she says.Handout

“I am very glad that now it’s possible for me to combine work here and in my home university,” she says. “Nobody knows how the war will finish, or when, so I thought I should have some way to be independent.” The 31 students Sagalova once had in Kharkiv have been whittled down to three, all of whom she now instructs online.

Life in Sagalova’s hometown is returning, she says, and Kharkiv Conservatory is setting up a small concert venue in the basement. “There are events in bomb shelters and on ground floors now, and people are coming for those concerts. They need the possibility to find something optimistic in terms of how to live, after everything.”

Would she return to Kharkiv? “I don’t know,” she says. “Nobody knows how or where this will finish. And when this war does end, then I will decide together with my husband if he will come here or if I will go there. But for now, I will try to do everything I can for my hometown.”

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Hermès Wins MetaBirkins Lawsuit, With Jurors Deciding NFTs Aren’t Art

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Perturbed when an artist made a digital version of its coveted Birkin handbag with a reproduction of a mature fetus inside it, the luxury fashion brand Hermès watched in shock as other iterations popped up online. A Birkin with mammoth tusks affixed to it. One sporting the Grinch’s shaggy green fur. Others stamped with van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or populated by smiley emojis.

Hermès swiftly sued the artist, Mason Rothschild, over the NFT project he called “MetaBirkins,” arguing that the company’s trademark was being diluted and that potential consumers might be fooled into buying the unaffiliated virtual goods.

The case’s ramifications extended far beyond Hermès. In some of the first litigation to scrutinize the nature of digital assets sold on the blockchain, up for debate was whether NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, are strictly commodities or art shielded by the First Amendment.

On Wednesday, a nine-person federal jury in Manhattan determined that Rothschild had infringed on the company’s trademark rights and awarded Hermès $133,000 in total damages. The jurors also found that his NFTs were not protected speech.

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Rothschild’s defeat was a major blow for the NFT market, which has often described itself as part of the creator economy. But the jury determined that MetaBirkins were more similar to commodities, which are subject to strict trademark laws that prevent copycats, than to artworks where appropriation is protected.

In a statement after the verdict, Hermès said it was compelled to act to protect consumers and the integrity of its brand. “Hermès is a house of creation, craftsmanship and authenticity which has supported artists and freedom of expression since its founding,” it said.

One of Rothschild’s lawyers, Rhett Millsaps II, called it a “great day for big brands” and a “terrible day for artists and the First Amendment.”

Rothschild criticized the jury, the justice system and a luxury fashion house that he said was emboldened to determine who qualified as an artist.

“What happened today was wrong,” he said in a statement. “What happened today will continue to happen if we don’t continue to fight.”

The verdict could provide some guidance for brand owners, said Megan Noh, an art lawyer unaffiliated with the case, “about the line between works of artistic expression and commercial goods.”

Birkin bags, named after the actress Jane Birkin, are made by hand and take specialized artisans a minimum of 18 hours to make. Hermès does not disclose how many of the bags it has made since they were first created in 1984, but some researchers of luxury goods have estimated that there are now more than a million Birkins in the market. In 2021, the auction house Sotheby’s sold a Birkin for more than $226,000.

Rothschild had plans to create 1,000 MetaBirkins, which he has described as an “ironic nod” to the renowned brand, but only 100 have been released since the project began in 2021.

Each was priced at $450, and Rothschild also received 7.5 percent of secondary sales. Hermès has claimed in court filings that MetaBirkins reached about $1.1 million in total sales volume. Rothschild has estimated that he made about $125,000 from the NFTs, including the initial sales and royalties.

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A metallic silver Birkin handbag.
A Birkin handbag by Hermès that sold for $136,617 at auction last year. The popular bags take specialized artisans a minimum of 18 hours to make.Credit…Sotheby’s
A metallic silver Birkin handbag.

“What we see in the Hermès case is how emerging technologies and historic, age-old brands collide,” said Ari Redbord, head of legal and government affairs at TRM Labs, a blockchain analytics firm.

Over the past decade, the French company’s Birkin collection has steadily generated $100 million in sales each year. In recorded testimony played during the trial, Robert Chavez, president and chief executive of Hermès of Paris, said he was not aware of any revenue that the company lost because of MetaBirkins.

During opening arguments in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Oren Warshavsky, a lawyer representing Hermès, argued that MetaBirkins confused consumers who thought they were connected to the fashion brand.

“The reason for these sales was the Birkin name,” he said.

Rothschild’s legal team questioned whether people wealthy enough to afford Birkins, which cost thousands of dollars and often have yearslong wait lists, would be genuinely misled by his art project.

Millsaps also argued that the NFTs were art that was protected under the First Amendment as free speech. The lawyer said Birkins were a “cultural symbol of rarefied wealth and status,” ripe for artists to explore as metaphors of consumerism.

“Art doesn’t exist in a vacuum — it’s often about context,” he said.

Blockchain assets like MetaBirkins were part of the financial boom-and-bust cycle in cryptocurrencies over the past few years. At the market’s height there was a $40 billion industry around digital collectibles, but fortunes eroded last year as the volume of NFT sales fell by 97 percent.

Yet lawsuits are still playing out across the beleaguered industry, including trademark fights focused not on the technology itself, but the essence of what users have stored on the blockchain.

Yuga Labs, the creator of the NFT franchise Bored Ape Yacht Club, has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the artist Ryder Ripps, accusing him of copying its imagery. (Ripps has said the lawsuit attacks his free speech rights.) The company announced on Monday that it had settled a separate case against Thomas Lehman, a developer on Ripps’s NFT project, who admitted to infringing on the Yuga Labs brand.

Noh said the best protection artists have against trademark disputes is the Rogers test, a legal standard established in 1989.

In that case, the actor Ginger Rogers had sued the movie producer Alberto Grimaldi, arguing that the film “Ginger and Fred” violated her trademark rights because it used her name in connection with its fictionalized depiction of a pair of washed-up Italian dancers. But a federal appeals court determined that the use of the name Ginger was an expressive element of the title, artistically relevant to the underlying film, and therefore subject to First Amendment interests that needed to be weighed against the risk of misleading consumers.

Rebecca Tushnet, a Harvard Law School professor who helped prepare Rothschild’s defense, said the Rogers test meant “you can’t hold someone liable for infringement unless their work is artistically irrelevant or explicitly misleading.”

During the trial’s opening arguments, Hermès attempted to minimize Rothschild’s credibility and artistic intent by focusing on his business strategy, displaying text messages in which he asked social media influencers to “do one more shill post” that might raise demand for his NFTs. The company’s lawyer also told the jury that Rothschild had publicized its cease-and-desist letter on social media, hoping that conflict might drive interest.

Judge Jed S. Rakoff granted Hermès’s motion to exclude a report prepared by the art critic Blake Gopnik that favorably compared the MetaBirkins to artwork by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. (Gopnik contributes to The New York Times.)

The defense painted a more sympathetic picture of Rothschild, 28, who worked in retail for streetwear brands and luxury brands like Saint Laurent after dropping out of college. In 2021, he and Ericka del Rosario, now his fiancée, opened a concept store in Los Angeles called Terminal 27. He often hired assistants with the technical skills he lacked to work on projects, including MetaBirkins.

Rothschild was “a conceptual artist,” Millsaps, his lawyer, said. “The idea guy, not the guy who executes the job.”

The strength of trademark rights will soon be tested again when a case between Jack Daniels and VIP Products, which sold squeaky dog toys resembling the whiskey maker’s bottles, goes in front of the Supreme Court.

Some veterans of the fashion industry wondered why Hermès had bothered litigating the case at all. Although Chavez testified that the company had been experimenting with its own NFTs, including a project intended for release this year, it has let other unsanctioned projects slide, like when the Brooklyn collective MSCHF turned the Birkin bag into $76,000 “Birkinstocks.”

Ian Rogers, the former chief digital officer of the fashion conglomerate LVMH, who currently works at a crypto company named Ledger, said the company’s preoccupation with Rothschild was puzzling.

“Maybe this hit close to home,” Rogers said. “Luxury people should understand NFTs, because if you have been in the business of explaining why someone would spend $18,000 on a bag then you are pretty well-suited at explaining why someone would pay $3,000 for an NFT.”

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The Guardian view on arts education: a creativity crisis

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t Winchester college, the alma mater of Rishi Sunak, students can take classes in wood carving and sculpture, perform on a proscenium stage at the school’s 240-seat theatre, or make use of the 2,000 books in its art library. The story is very different at state schools, which have seen a steep reduction in arts provision over the last decade. “The moment that convinced me to go on strike was when my school lost its specialist art teacher,” one striking teacher wrote in this newspaper last week. “Activities such as art [and] music … are the highlight of the week for a lot of pupils, but they’re the first to go when resources are short.”

English state schools are facing a creativity crisis. Since 2010, enrolment in arts GCSEs has fallen by 40% and the number of arts teachers has fallen by 23%. This shift is most pronounced among state schools in deprived areas, where pupils are far less likely to sing in a choir or play in an orchestra. Meanwhile, private schools have invested substantial resources in art and music provision, according to research from Warwick University. This depressing trend is part of a wider and self-reinforcing pattern. As fewer state students have the opportunity to engage with arts or music, fewer go on to study these subjects at A-level or university. The risk is that arts subjects will be restricted to a privileged few, shrinking the cultural horizons of everyone but the elite.

Art makes a person broader-minded and more imaginative. Yet the government’s bleakly utilitarian attitude to education has narrowed the opportunities available to state school students. Artists and teachers have long railed against the English baccalaureate, the system introduced without consultation under the former education secretary Michael Gove in 2010. The Ebacc excludes all arts subjects. It is also the bedrock on which a school’s Progress 8 score is based, which determines its place in performance tables. This gives schools an incentive to focus on “core” subjects – English, maths and sciences. Independent schools are not bound by these rules or performance tables, and are free to do what they deem best for their pupils.

Cuts have made this picture worse. In the 10 years after 2009, spending per pupil in England fell by nearly 10% in real terms. As support staff have been cut, overstretched teachers have less capacity to run choirs or put on school plays. Although the government announced an additional £2.3bn in school funding in last year’s autumn statement, most of this will be eaten up by the growth in school costs. Because arts subjects require space and resources, they are often most vulnerable to budget cuts. In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservatives promised a £110m arts premium to help schools fund arts programmes and extracurricular activities. This was whittled down to £90m in Mr Sunak’s 2020 budget. He promised this money would arrive by September 2021. But it has still yet to materialise.

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The investment that private schools have made in arts provision refutes the notion, favoured by Conservative ministers, that education is simply a training ground for the labour market. But even on a purely economic basis, the government’s approach to arts education is self-defeating. In a recent speech, the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, noted that the cultural industries had grown at twice the rate of the UK’s economy over the last decade. Tackling the creativity crisis in state schools is a matter of urgency, both for pupils and for the country as a whole.

Poor old Britain. It’s been a terrible few years. After a succession of crises – austerity, Brexit, partygate, cronyism and sleaze – the country is limping towards a general election, the government out of steam, the public poorer than at any point for perhaps 40 years.

It’s important that everyone, including those like you in Canada, understand this story of sorry decline. The Guardian uncovers the truth about British life every day – its political scandal, royal rows and economic rout – and tells the world about it. That’s a valuable service. Will you invest in the Guardian this year?

Unlike many others, the Guardian has no shareholders and no billionaire owner. Just the determination and passion to deliver high-impact global reporting, always free from commercial or political influence. Reporting like this is vital for democracy, for fairness and to demand better from the powerful.

And we provide all this for free, for everyone to read. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of the events shaping our world, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action. Millions can benefit from open access to quality, truthful news, regardless of their ability to pay for it.

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See Inside Actor Jim Carrey’s Art-Filled Home, Now on the Market for $29 Million (Art Not Included)

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A new real estate listing from actor-turned-artist Jim Carrey is offering a glimpse of the longtime star’s art-filled Los Angeles home—which could be yours, for a cool $28.9 million.

The sprawling two-acre estate in the city’s Brentwood neighborhood features a 12,700-square-foot ranch home where Carrey has lived for 30 years. It is listed for sale with Sotheby’s International Realty.

“Every night the owls sang me lullabies and every morning I sipped my cup of joe with the hawks and hummingbirds, under a giant grandfather pine,” Carrey told the Wall Street Journal, calling the home “a place of enchantment and inspiration.”

Over the decades, the actor, who has painted since childhood, has filled much of the space with his own art, especially after splitting with actress Jenny McCarthy in 2010 after five years of dating.

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Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million, with his painting <em>Hooray We Are All Broken</em> on the living room wall. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million, with his painting Hooray We Are All Broken on the living room wall. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The brick facade home has five bedrooms and six bathrooms, plus a gym, a tennis court, an outdoor yoga and meditation platform, a rocky-lined pool with a waterfall, a spa, and a pool house with an infrared sauna and steam room.

Among the works seen on the walls of the home are Carrey’s massive painting Hooray We Are All Broken, hanging behind the sofa in a white-walled living room beneath a pitched beam ceiling with skylights.

He’s been quoted describing the work: “so-called reality is energy and color creating forms that rise out of nothing. Broken figures dancing for each other filled with pain and polkadots, sharing one frequency, yet believing they are separate.”

Carrey also has work outside, with his sculpture Ayla, of a naked woman looking through a window frame, displayed on the lawn. Other personalized decor details include costumes from some of Carrey’s most memorable film roles, such as the green Riddler suit from Batman Forever.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million, with his sculpture <em>Ayla</em> on the lawn. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million, with his sculpture Ayla on the lawn. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

The artwork and costumes don’t come with the house, but they do make prominent appearances in many of the listing’s photos—and some of Carrey’s work is still listed with Signature Gallery Group, which held a solo show of his work in Las Vegas in 2017.

It was Signature Galleries that helped publicize Carrey’s artistic side with a six-minute documentary film, I Needed Color, that same year. In the years since, the actor made headlines for sharing his political cartoons skewering President Donald Trump on Twitter—before quitting the social media platform in December in protest of its new owner, Elon Musk.

Carrey, who has shown his art with Maccarone gallery in Los Angeles, was also among the celebrities to join the NFT space in recent years, releasing a wellness-inspired piece to benefit the charity Feeding America in 2022.

See more photos of the home below.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million, with his painting <em>Hooray We Are All Broken</em> on the living room wall. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million, with his painting Hooray We Are All Broken on the living room wall. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey's Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby's International Realty.

Details from Jim Carrey’s Los Angeles home, now on the market for $28.9 million. Photo by Daniel Dahler, courtesy of Sotheby’s International Realty.

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