Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's the Art News Round-Up!

Just a few interesting stories from the art world over the last week:

Earlier this year, the arrest of 2 art-handlers by the Chinese government bewildered the art world, giving life to fears that have yet to subside. Mr. Jennrich (a German national) and Ms. Chu are being held indefinitely on charges of smuggling, due to an allegedly inaccurate valuation on customs forms. While it is not uncommon for art dealers to want (at least) to avoid the onerous 35% duty, it seems there is much more to this story. It would appear the Chinese government wants to get in on the art-handling game, establishing Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group 2 weeks before the arrests. Can we definitively say that the Chinese are attempting to scare privately-held businesses into falling in line? Perhaps not- but it sure doesn't look good. Read more here.

The looting of antiquities is notoriously difficult to police, as many objects are taken straight from the earth or sea to a seller; they've never been recorded and could not be registered by the Art Loss Register. Such difficulties are compounded by the existence of freeports, most notably in Geneva, that prove a safe haven for looters and smugglers. Hopefully, the nascent WikiLoot can help to change that. Learn more.

FBI agents recover Matisse's Odalisque in Red Pants in Miami during an undercover sting. See more here.

Downtown L.A.'s monthly ArtWalk turned into a chalk art protest fostered by the Occupy Movement, as the LAPD accused participants of vandalism and aggression. Learn more.

One of the rare commissioned art thieves, Laessio Rodrigues de Oliveira has been running an international art theft ring from Brazilian federal prison. See more here.

Tate Modern opens the Tanks, the first space dedicated to live art performances and installations. Learn more.

Michael Brand, former director of the Getty, resigned in 2010. Speaking out now, he lambastes the management hierarchy and professes a deep concern over Italian and Greek artifacts in the museum's collection. Read more here.

Resignations continue at MoCA, the chief curator following a number of artist-trustees. It seems that the  style of management, laid out by the billionaire businessmen-trustees, is not sitting well with those who have dedicated their lives to art. Learn more.

Leticia Rodarte creates art from found objects, thanks to hard economic times and conservation concerns alike. Read more.

The recently rediscovered Klimt painting may not be by Gustav after all, but by his brother, Ernst. See more here.

A fascinating look at an art forger's criminal career and his transition to "genuine fakes". Read more here.

Art and science working hand-in-hand, pushing each other to greater heights. Learn more.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art reports record-breaking turnout this fiscal year. See more here.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Just a Few Things I Would Like. . .

Some works and some artists speak to you on a spiritual, visceral level. Some are just "kindred spirits" that touch your heart and become a part of who you are. There are works that never become old no matter how many times you see them. Some that I know I would have to spend a lifetime with to stop being surprised by beauty. Well, in that spirit, here are just birthday presents I wish I had received:

Kazimir Malevich  White on White

Bernini Pluto and Persephone

Robert Rauschenberg Bed

Caravaggio Madonna di Loreto

Titian Danae
Velazquez The Rokeby Venus
Wonderfully beautiful works!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Arts, Schmarts- Right?

South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, has vetoed over eighty items in the state's 2012-2013 budget, affecting multiple sectors like healthcare and the arts. The veto package of $57 million, while not the highest in the state's history, is certainly hefty and is set to create serious ripples across the state's economy.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing cuts is that of $3.5 million earmarked towards the South Carolina Arts Commission. With Haley's veto, it has had to immediately close its doors due to its sudden and unprecedented lack of funding. Now, the arts are often the first thing out the door when it's time to crunch the numbers, so perhaps this isn't a complete surprise. What is a shock, however, is the complete shutdown of a government agency that is tasked with the care of South Carolina's artworks, with fostering artistic communities, with promoting arts education, and with doling out grants to support and to rejuvenate the arts. Moreover, according to Ken May (the director of the Arts Commission), the revitalization of downtown Greenville is thanks to a surge in the arts community, which had received large grants from- you guessed it!- the SC Arts Commission.

Source: SC Arts Commission

Even if the arts weren't an important sector in South Carolina's economy (which is untrue, as the arts provide an estimated 78,000 jobs and $9 billion in revenue), Governor Haley's veto reveals a state (and a governor) that does not value culture. This is downright unacceptable.

Fortunately, many politicians, constituents, and arts activists feel the same way and are organizing protests- Occupy the Arts- at the South Carolina Statehouse. They hope to encourage the state Senate to overturn Haley's vetoes next week on Tuesday, July 17 during a special budgetary meeting. If the funding to the South Carolina Arts Commission isn't restored it will further the erosion of the arts and continue its devaluation. And, that would truly be an art crime.

Learn more here, here, and here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's the Art News Round-Up!

Let's take a look at some fascinating current events in the art world!

After three weeks of impressive auction sales, it seems that the art market has never been better. The big numbers of the summer auction season do not tell the full story, however, as many sales are courtesy of super-collectors and the artworks bought are incredibly high-end. Thus, the numbers put out belie the increasing stratification of the art world and downplay the squeeze low-end galleries are feeling. Learn more here.

The destruction of cultural and art objects in Mali, at the hands of extremists, is now being categorized as a war crime by the International Criminal Court. Read more here.

After running into difficulties finding gallery space to display their art in Boston, several artists started White Walls Boston, which consists of a U-Haul truck -filled with works- that travels to different neighborhoods. What a great way to bring art to under-served communities and to break free of the standard gallery system! See more here.

Purportedly by a young Caravaggio, a large collection of drawings has been discovered in the Lombardy workshop of Simone Peterzano, his master. While significantly more research much be done as to ascertain the works' authenticity, the similarities in style across Caravaggio's ouevre certainly seem compelling. Read more here.

Ghiberti's marvelous Gates of Paradise will once again be accessible to the public after 34 years of conservation work. All the panels will be displayed at the Museo dell'Opera, just down the road from the Baptistry, the work's original home. See more here.

Repairs on the Washington Monument will extend into 2014 and almost certainly keep it closed until then. Learn more here.

In efforts to put more pressure on Syria, the EU has stepped up its cultural sanctions. It has now banned the movement of art and cultural objects between Syria and the constituent nations of the EU. While some argue that this measure is merely symbolic, it shouldn't be taken too lightly. The loss of cultural exchange affects the entire country, not merely the dictator Al-Assad, his wife, and others in power. See more here.

Social justice and the arts: what role can unions play? Learn more here.

With business tycoons increasingly at the helm of museums, the objectives of these institutions seem to be changing from the art itself to blockbuster shows with matching attendance. So, what exactly is the problem with this? Well, to quote Phillippe de Montebello, "The museum first of all is the only chartered, formal body with the responsibility for collecting and exhibiting works of art ... The one mantra that every museum director should have: First comes the work of art. Everything else devolves from it." Read more here.

Ringo Starr is trying his hand at the visual arts! See more here.

Graffiti in Greece: Turmoil & Self-Expression

One thing that I really enjoy is seeing live stand-up comedy, which is actually quite unfortunate since I have a terrible propensity toward giggling that never fails to attract comedians' attention. Suffice to say, I don't go to a lot of shows and instead prefer to listen to routines at home. Well, one of my favorite bits is by Demetri Martin and it goes like this, " I think graffiti is the most passionate literature there is. It's always like, 'Bush sucks. U2 Rules.' I wanna make indifferent graffiti. 'Toy Story 2 was OK. I like Gina as a friend, but I'm not sure about taking things further. This is a bridge.'" As you might imagine, that routine has inspired some rather tongue-in-cheek graffiti scrawled on wall, bridges, and bathroom doors across the U.S. (You can see some fun examples here.

And it's true- graffiti is an extremely passionate form of expression. It champions political ideologies and religious groups; it expresses love and hatred; it gives voice to hope and discontent.
Source: New Castle Radical Art
I've posited before that incidences of graffiti tend to increase significantly during times of turmoil, whether that turmoil is social, political, or religious in origin. People who see the world, their country, their neighborhood overcome with difficult or destructive changes naturally want to have their concerns and voices heard and, hopefully acted upon. But what can you do when things seem to spiral out of control and no one is listening to you? 

Well, you find a way to make your fellow citizens and those in authority see and hear you. Graffiti provides an immediate, bold, visual answer to this need. When your heartache and anger are scrawled across the very fabric of your land, how can it possibly go unnoticed? How can you go unnoticed? Quite simply, you can't. You will be noticed, you will be counted, you will matter. And so, even when graffiti is seen as mere vandalism, there is no denying the underlying discontent.

Today, we can see this phenomenon happening in Greece. With the country in turmoil, still precipitously close to economic meltdown, still grappling with austerity measures, and, perhaps, inching closer to a departure from the eurozone, Greeks are not happy. Perhaps more significantly, their government seems to be doing little to assuage citizens' fears, as coalitions in Parliaments have continually failed to solidify. So if you live in a crisis-riddled country overseen by an ineffectual government, wouldn't you want to make your displeasure known in the loudest way available to you? 

The Greeks are doing just that. It seems that there is hardly a square foot of Athens left un-tagged. The capital city's public buildings, private residences, and historical monuments have all been put under the spray can to voice the people's outrage. 
Source: The Greek Reporter
As Kostas Kallergis, whose blog documents the crisis in Greece (You can visit it here.), stated, "The last two years have seen a boom as part of the social anger is excluded from the mainstream media and is rather expressed on Athens' walls." Moreover, the increase in anarchist graffiti has served both to reflect the sense of a country rushing headlong to disaster and to criticize the ineffective morass of economic policies. The rise in graffiti in Greece has been directly tied to the turmoil of the Greek state; what remains to be seen if the driving anger will continue to explode in artistic expression alone. 

Ultimately, I think the final judgment on the proliferation of graffiti in Greece belongs to Katarina Adam (who is not an artist but an ordinary Greek citizen) when she says, "The time we live in is aggressive. Art expresses life so if we follow that definition it is reasonable that graffiti is aggressive." Art and graffiti are not entities separate from life; they respond to life.

For more information, check out this, this, and this.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Summer Hiatus is Over!

This blog's summer hiatus is now over! We're back with lots of posts forthcoming. If there's anything you want to hear or learn more about, let me know and I'll look into it. So let's get back down to business!

Untitled by Keith Haring     Source: Brooklyn Museum

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's the Art News Round-Up!

Time to gather round once again for some important and fascinating stories in the art world.

Art 43 Basel, the art world's best-known fair, has been called a success from all corners, with Marc Glimcher of Pace Gallery saying, "The fair took another step up this year. The level of art and the level of conversation were at an all-time high. As a dealer, the caliber of art that one feels comfortable bringing is rapidly ascending beyond anything we ever thought an art fair could handle."  Read more.

A couple of interesting observations were made at Art Basel: 1. Beautiful works, even when expensive, will sell in a down market and 2. Investors from the eurozone seem to believe art is a more solid investment than their fragile currency. Learn more.

As the Holocaust and World War II begin to pass out of living memory, stolen art objects more easily pass through international borders and arrive at auction houses and estate sales. To stymie this flow and to attempt to return these objects, conferences have been called in Germany and Israel and a Provenance Research Training Program has been established. See more here.

Without a doubt, the universal museums (e.g. the Louvre, the Met, the British Museum) have marvelous collections of everything from mummies to Pollocks. The problem is, many antiquities and "global" art objects were looted from their country of origin. Unfortunately, many of these nations have neither the money nor the political clout to recover their own heritage. Well, Turkey has found a way to fight back: exhibition loans to any museums that deny its claims. It's a serious blow to international accessibility, museum cooperation, and, potentially, international relations. Only time will tell how effective a strategy this will be. Learn more.

Before the economic downturn, it seemed that Dubai was poised to be the next great art market. That turned out not to be the case, in part due to the global recession and in part due to cultural differences. Yet, it seems the Arab Spring has inspired young collectors, who are eager to obtain art that reflects their struggles and their place in the world. Read more here.

Proposed legislation by the European Commission almost certainly will not deter money-launderers and will make business more difficult for smaller art-dealers. What is admirable, however, about the proposal is its underlying thesis: the art world has a responsibility to ensure that art objects do not disguise or launder crime proceeds.Transparency is the name of the game. See more here.

The oldest Australian cave art to-date has recently been discovered. The interesting thing about these cave paintings is that they're made with charcoal (not the more typical oil paints) so scientists should be able to accurately carbon-date them! Learn more.

New York has long been the undisputed center of the art market and, in fact, the art world. Yet, London seems to be closing the gap, looking to hit the $1 billion mark for this auction year. This huge uptick in sales seems to be entirely due to Russian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern collectors, for whom the London scene is geographically desirable. Read more.

Time and again, I've asserted that art isn't just for the elite, that it's part of a common cultural patrimony and, moreover, any person can be moved by beauty. Well, it seems funding for the arts benefits everyone as well. See more.

The proliferation of fine art start-ups gives emerging and struggling artists a wider audience without needing the backing of a gallery while providing an inherently egalitarian hub for art sales. A more interesting idea posed, however, is the blurring line between bona fide artist and hobbyist. Can such a distinction truly exist anymore? Read more here.

There have been a few glowing reviews of the Barnes Collection's new home and, admittedly, the notion of greater accessibility and superior lighting is appealing. Yet, after recently re-watching The Art of the Steal (which I highly recommend to everyone!), I know that I'll never feel quite right about it. See more.

So, you've heard of modern art, performance art, and street art. But have you heard of invisible art? Read more here.

If you're interested in issues of race in Western art, Awol Erizku's new show is not to be missed! Learn more here.

Some people say fan art is merely derivative, as though this were the most insulting thing to say. Well, most art is derivative, whether through thematic or visual tropes. And that's OK! So here's a mash-up of two things I really enjoy: fan art and the TV show Community. See more.