Except for a small piece of paper, Konstantin Simun might have worked with oil and canvas rather than the sculptures for which he is internationally known.Originally hoping to be a painter, Simun was accepted to art school in his native Russia when he was 11 years old. He was given a piece of paper directing him to his first class.“It was such a small piece of paper,” Simun said. “When I lost it, I was so disappointed. I went to the school anyway, and I decided to open every classroom door to find my class.”After opening a few doors, Simun spotted a child making sculpture from clay. “The teacher in the room saw me and said, ‘Come in, come in.’ She gave me some clay, and I started to sculpt.”While he enjoys oil painting and drawing, Simun has been sculpting ever since.Simun emigrated to the United States in 1988 with his family and now lives in Allston. This month, three of his art pieces — Venus, Allston Venus, and Highway Flower — are gathered in a free public exhibit titled “Happy Birthday, Venus!” at the Harvard Ed Portal. A reception for the exhibit, which is on display through June 21, will be held June 2.Simun’s sculptures are on display at the Ed Portal gallery through June 21. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerThe Ed Portal exhibit is “a tribute to Botticelli,” Simun said, referring to Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus,” a 15th-century painting depicting a naked Venus emerging from the ocean. Simun’s tribute detours from Botticelli’s work mainly because of the Allston artist’s primary art medium: found objects.“The question is: Trash or treasure?” he said. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”Working with found objects, Simun said, he sees art everywhere: in plastic bottles, recycling bins, milk crates, and discarded briefcases.“When I came to America, I saw trash on the street, which was so foreign to me,” he said. “Also, the trash here was so interesting. Here, trash is colorful, almost like toys. And the technology in something as simple as a plastic bottle — it’s incredible.”Simun’s exhibit became possible when his daughter, Sonia Simoun, also a local artist, approached the Ed Portal about its gallery space.“We have been members of the Ed Portal for at least 10 years now,” Simoun said, adding that her children have been mentored at the Ed Portal during that time. “I pass by the Ed Portal gallery nearly every day, and often thought it would be a perfect space to show my father’s work. It has so much light, and the huge windows turn passers-by into an audience.”The Harvard Ed Portal’s Crossings Gallery routinely showcases work from both local and Harvard artists. Simun’s project is the first of what the Ed Portal hopes to be many outdoor exhibits.Pieces, such as these box-shaped objects, await their destiny while residing in the artist’s yard. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff PhotographerWhile Simun’s primarily focus is art made from found objects, one of his most renowned works is the 1966 monument Broken Ring near St. Petersburg, which honors the millions of lives lost in the World War II Leningrad blockade.Simun, who was born in Leningrad, was just 5 years old when the siege began, and was one of many children evacuated from the war zone. “I was very young when it began,” he said. “But I remember it very well.”Simun’s work can be found in Russia’s largest museums and in the streets of Cambridge. He created the whimsical Igor Fokin Memorial Sculpture, honoring a street puppeteer who was also born in St. Petersburg.While he realizes not everyone may see the same potential for art in found objects, Simun said the important thing is to “learn how to see” art.“I see art everywhere I look. Sometimes people ask me how I work, and I say: ‘I’m just cleaning the street,’” he said, laughing. “But everything I pick up either is, or it becomes, a work of art.”This month, three of Simun’s pieces — Venus, Allston Venus, and Highway Flower — are gathered in a free, public exhibit titled “Happy Birthday, Venus!” at the Harvard Ed Portal. A reception for the exhibit, on display through June 21, will be held June 2.
The European Commission has fined five banks more than €1bn in total for their involvement in two cartels in the spot foreign exchange market.The two settlement decisions are the result of an investigation into Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Citigroup, JPMorgan, UBS and MUFG Bank in relation to 11 currencies, including the euro, dollar, sterling and yen.The first decision imposed a total fine of €811.2m on Barclays, RBS, Citigroup and JP Morgan in relation to a case referred to as the “Forex – Three Way Banana Split” cartel.The traders in this cartel were from UBS, Barclays, RBS, Citigroup and JP Morgan, and communicated in three different online chatrooms between December 2007 and January 2013. The second decision by the Commission related to the so-called “Forex – Essex Express” cartel and resulted in a total fine of €257.7m for Barclays, RBS and MUFG Bank.Traders from UBS, Barclays, RBS and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (now MUFG Bank) communicated through two chatrooms, the Commission said, between December 2009 and July 2012.According to the Commission: “UBS received full immunity for revealing the existence of the cartels, thereby avoiding an aggregate fine of circa €285m.”Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said the decisions would “send a clear message that the Commission will not tolerate collusive behaviour in any sector of the financial markets”.She added: “The behaviour of these banks undermined the integrity of the sector at the expense of the European economy and consumers.”The Commission’s investigation found that some individual traders in charge of FX trading on behalf of the banks exchanged “sensitive information and trading plans”, which then “enabled them to make informed market decisions on whether to sell or buy the currencies they had in their portfolios and when”.A spokesperson for MUFG Bank said: “The European Commission has found that the high standards that we aspire to in our business were not met on this occasion. We are committed to ensuring integrity and compliance with the regulatory authorities in every jurisdiction in which we operate, and have taken a number of measures to prevent this occurring again.”In a statement, RBS and its subsidiary NatWest Markets (NWM), said: “RBS, together with NWM, have been fined a total of €249.2m relating to conduct which took place in two groups of chatrooms in periods between December 2007 and November 2011. The aggregate fine is fully covered by existing provisions in NWM.”A JP Morgan spokesperson stated: “We are pleased to resolve this historical matter, which relates to the conduct of one former employee. We have since made significant control improvements.”Citigroup and Barclays declined to comment.