Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Endangered Rhino Sculpture Made of Stainless Steel Wire

Rising Chinese art star Li Hui, who first caught our attention with his bright red LED installation, has just opened his new solo show at Zadok Gallery in Miami called Void and Substance. Eli Klein Fine Art, along with Zadok Gallery, have curated this exhibition and are using Zadok Gallery's entire 12,000 square feet of exhibition space to display Hui's groundbreaking works.

While you'll find many acrylic sculptures glowing from within (using LED lights), it's this silently powerful piece called Captured the Rhino that really caught our attention. Made of stainless steel coils, the huge, approximately nine foot tall, sculpture is meant to "ironically contradict the endangered species' actual vulnerability."

To create Captured the Rhino, Hui first generated an initial image on his computer. Using this sketch, he created a 1:1 model in clay. It was then wrapped with stainless steel wire which took a team of skilled welders over four months to complete.

Void and Substance will be on view through February 18, 2013 at Zadok Gallery.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Raphael drawing fetches record £29.7m at auction

Head of an Apostle (c.1519-1520), by Raphael The black chalk drawing has been at Derbyshire's Chatsworth House since about 1720

A Raphael sketch has fetched £29.7m at auction in London, setting a record price for any drawing in art history.

The small-scale Head of an Apostle prompted seventeen minutes of frenzied bidding at Sotheby's on Wednesday, almost doubling pre-sale estimates.

The 1519 chalk drawing, a study for Raphael's Transfiguration, was part of a private collection held at Chatsworth House, home of the Duke of Devonshire.

In 2009, Raphael's Head of a Muse sold for £29.2m at Christie's.

Fluctuating exchange rates suggest the Christie's drawing narrowly beat Head of an Apostle in dollar terms, but since both were sold in pounds, in London, Sotheby's is claiming a record.

"If you are lucky, at some point in your career a work like this comes along," said Gregory Rubinstein, head of old master drawings at Sotheby's.

"A number of the world's greatest collectors stepped up tonight in recognition of the genius of Raphael and the extraordinary beauty of this drawing, with its exceptional provenance."

Speculation suggests the winning phone bid came from Russia.

The Chatsworth House collection comprises about 3,000 old master drawings in total, including works by Rubens, Van Dyck and Rembrandt.

The Duke previously said the sale of the Raphael drawing, one of 14 he owns, will benefit the long-term future of Chatsworth and its collections.

The 15 inch by 11 inch (38 cm by 28 cm) Head of an Apostle is one of only three drawings of this calibre to have appeared at auction in the last 50 years.

Raphael's Transfiguration, which hangs in Rome's Vatican Museum, is considered one of the Italian painter's greatest Renaissance works.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We love: Chuck Close using tapestry!

Lou by Chuck Close

I’m not sure Jane and I would put ourselves forward as expert art critics, but we recognise a trend when we see one and tapestry is definitely having a ‘moment’ in art. Grayson Perry recently produced six beautiful tapestries for The Vanity of Small Differences show at the Victoria Miro gallery, which accompanied his BBC programme exploring class and taste.

While in New York last week I saw Chuck Close’s just-opened exhibition at the Pace Gallery, which features three tapestries including this breathtakingly detailed one of Lou Reed. You had to get up really close to realise it WAS a tapestry, the only give away was the velvety-depth of the black and the way the surface absorbed the light. It was mesmerising

Both Close and Perry had their tapestries woven at Flanders Tapestries in Belgium and there’s a good feature (by a proper art critic) on the subject here

That wasn’t all in terms of wow factor from Mr Close either. His felt stamp pictures were grids of layered colour circles stamped in orderly squares when viewed close up, but when you stood back they became complex portraits. How he gets the perfect colour combination and layering, heaven knows, but the effect is ravishing and makes you think -as all the best ideas do- perhaps I could do this at home? I doubt it, don’t you?

Kara by Chuck Close

Looks easy doesn’t it? All the clever ideas look simple till you try.

Detail, Kara by Chuck Close

For those of you not familiar with Chuck Close, he’s a portrait artist first known for amazing, large scale photo realism work. Then he had a spinal collapse that left him paralysed and wheelchair bound, but he fought back to continue to paint, changing technique to accommodate his restricted movement. His work is built up of hundreds of grids that he colours in a manner that when you see them close up you wonder how it’ll all hang toether as a picture, then you step back and everything magically falls into place

Chuck Close detail

Self portrait Chuck Close

If you are visiting or live in New York, try and see this exhibition, it’s a total gem, at The Pace Gallery


Monday, December 10, 2012

Naked or nude? Laying bare an artistic divide

A new book argues that the old pristine purity of the nude has been pushed aside by raw and dangerous images of the body. Well, not according to this art buff

Naked truth … Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995)
Naked truth … Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995). Photograph: AP

The comedy show Seinfeld once had a storyline in which Jerry Seinfeld's girlfriend kept casually walking around his apartment naked. He found this a lot less erotic than he expected. In the coffee shop, he pondered aesthetics.

"There's good naked, and bad naked," he concluded.

This is an issue art critics too have pondered. In the language of art, "good naked" is conveyed by the word "nude", while if you say "naked", you mean "bad naked". The nude is posed, perfect, idealised; the naked is just someone with no clothes on.

The naked is Lucian Freud standing unclothed waving his palette knife about. It is a gathering of models wearing nothing but boots in a photograph by Vanessa Beecroft. These and many more contemporary images of the body feature in a lavishly illustrated new book by art historian Frances Borzello called The Naked Nude.

The title plays on the old antithesis – going back in aesthetic discussions to the 17th and 18th centuries and popularised in the 20th century by the critic Kenneth Clark – between naked and nude or, as Seinfeld put it, bad naked and good naked. Borzello argues that in today's art, the old pristine purity of the nude has been pushed aside by raw and dangerous images of the body. The bland perfection of the classical Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican has been subverted by risky artists of today such as, er, Jenny Saville and, um, Ron Mueck.

Borzello's book is an attractive Christmas present for lovers of art and nakedness, but I am going to make an example of it. It typifies what are becoming the drearily predictable attributes of today's art coffee-table books. First, it crams as much contemporary art in as it can, totally uncritically. Ron Mueck? He's rubbish, but here he is treated as part of a modern pantheon alongside Freud. Coffee-table books that present today's art in this uncritical way do it a disservice by refusing to distinguish bad from good, better from best. They are the equivalent of books in previous generations that may have bored readers by elevating all the old art in museums in the same reverent way.

Got that off my chest – but there's more. Borzello, and again this is typical of a vast swathe of art writing today, sets up a contrast with the past that she does not seek to prove but takes for granted. She confidently declares:

"The representation of the nude in art is a victory of fiction over fact. Its great success has been to distance the unclothed body from any uncomfortably explicit taint of sexuality, eroticism or imperfection."

Really? Is that so? This is student-level art history cliche. A 10-minute walk through the National Gallery at lunchtime would tell you the truth is infinitely more complicated than that. Is Titian's Diana and Actaeon – painted in the 16th century and clearly a summit of nudity/nakedness in western art – a work that distances the unclothed body from sexuality and eroticism? Are you kidding me? As for the Rokeby Venus by Velázquez, painted in the 17th century and another famous nude of the National Gallery, it is so explicitly erotic that a suffragette was once moved to slash the canvas in protest at its exploitative nature.

Another work in the National Gallery, Marriage a la Mode by William Hogarth, shows an 18th-century aristocratic house in which nude art is covered by a curtain. Why such timidity? Because such paintings were always seen as sexy, erotic and dangerous.

And as for the real, fleshy, unidealised human body in art – ever heard of Rubens or Rembrandt?

Borzello's book sets up the entire history of the body in art before modern times as a straw man. Dismissing it all as a sexless fiction, she can then glorify a mixed bag of artists on the spurious grounds that they subvert something called "the nude". But the truth is that nude and naked are just words. Art cannot be contained by them. All nudes always have been naked.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why I'm seduced by Cindy Sherman's Sex Pictures

Sumptuous, serious and utterly unerotic, Sherman's pseudo-pornographic body parts amount to more than just sex art

Cindy Sherman's Untitled #342 (1999), part of the Vivisector at Spruth Magers London
Plastic fantastic … Cindy Sherman's Untitled #342 (1999) at the Vivisector exhibition at Sprüth Magers, London. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures and Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Cindy Sherman's Sex Pictures are just not sexy enough. Well, they are not sexy at all, nor are they meant to be. The artist has said they are not erotic in the least. So why call them Sex Pictures? Just to mislead and frustrate people?

Sherman is famous for taking photographs of herself posed, made up or masked to assume a range of imaginary people. Her Sex Pictures, however – which are currently on view in an exhibition which compares them with the works of the surrealist Hans Bellmer and other such engineers of the grotesque – do not feature her. They don't feature any real human faces or body parts. Instead, Sherman poses and dismembers plastic dolls in a variety of violent scenarios. Horror rather than eroticism is the dominant tone – although some of her Sex Pictures parody pornography, as when a female doll kneels for the camera, and there is even love, as two doll faces lie passionately close.

Sex in art is not always about gratifying the viewer. It can obviously be about shock. Bellmer's surrealist dolls still shock long after they were created. But the physical nightmares and gross travesties Sherman creates in her Sex Pictures are not very shocking. There is none of the disturbing charge of eroticism Bellmer brought to his doll-games. With Sherman, there is no real sense of perversity. We are simply looking at dolls – two dolls made to be used as medical educational models, to be exact, that she arranged and pulled apart at will. Like much of her work, these photographs are beautifully lit and richly composed. Their beauty mutes the impact of their macabre imagery. Does that mean Sherman comes a cropper as a sex artist, that her art is just not … well, dirty enough?


Cindy Sherman, Untitled #347 (1999), part of the Vivisector at Spruth Magers London Model behaviour … Cindy Sherman's Untitled #347 (1999). Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures and Sprüth Magers Berlin London

They may not be sexy or shocking, but so what. Art can be serious. Sherman's Sex Pictures are contemplative works of art that (in that old cliche) "make you think". They create a distance between the hottest of subjects and the reasoning mind. Art here is a cooling shower, giving the onlooker a chance to consider the sheer strangeness of bodies, love and looking.

Sherman is a humorous, ironic – and perhaps wise – artist. Far from aping the shocking art of a Bellmer, she uses her doll parts to make us stand back and think about the power of fantasy and the will to play. Sex Pictures do not have to be sexy, after all. They can be metaphysical when they are made by an artist as subtle as Cindy Sherman.



Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fascinating Models in Famous Art



For many masters of the art world, scenes of a lake, forest or even a tree has brought them great fame and fortune. But there are some other works of art by these same artists where the model is the focus yet in many instances we know nothing about these subjects. Well, it’s time to give these models their due, so here are twelve  models from famous paintings and their stories:

American Gothic (1930) - Grant Wood

The story of American Gothic begins with a trim white cottage in Eldon, Iowa, that Grant Wood, an Iowa-born artist with European training, spotted from a car window in August 1930.  He decided to paint the house along with “the kind of people I fancied should live in that house.” Wood recruited his sister Nan as a model for the woman, dressing her in a prim, colonial-print apron. He based the man on his stern-looking Cedar Rapids dentist, Byron McKeeby, whom he posed in a black jacket, collarless shirt, and clean denim overalls. What’s interesting however, is that Wood modeled each element of the painting separately—Graham and McKeeby never actually stood together in front of the house! Also interestingly, it was said that Nan Wood was embarrassed at being depicted as the wife of someone twice her age, and began telling people that the painting was of a man and his daughter. In a letter written by Grant Wood in 1941, he seems to confirm that the woman is indeed the man’s “grown up daughter”. Nevertheless, the painting became one of the most famous images in the world and one of the most parodied.

Pinkie (1794) – Thomas Lawrence

Pinkie is the portrait of Sarah Barrett Moulton, who was approximately eleven years old when she was painted. Sarah was the daughter of a wealthy Jamaican plantation owner named Charles Barrett Moulton. She was born and raised in Jamaica, and traveled to England to further her education. While in England her grandmother commissioned Thomas Lawrence to paint the, now famous, portrait. Sadly, Sarah died on April 23, 1795, just one year after the portrait was completed, due to whooping cough, which she most likely contracted from one of her brothers. Her brother Edward, who would later own the portrait, changed his surname to Moulton-Barrett and became the father of one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, making Sarah Elizabeth’s aunt.

The Scream (1893)- Edvard Munch

As anyone who has gazed at The Scream can attest, it’s rather difficult to tell whether the figure is that of a man or a woman,  Well, turns out the answer is…neither.  According to a page in his diary, Munch described his inspiration for the image thusly:  “I was walking along a path with two friends — the sun was setting — suddenly the sky turned blood red — I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence — there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city — my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety — and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”  Nice.  Another inspiration that has been suggested for this figure is a Peruvian mummy, which Munch could have seen at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

Whistler’s Mother (1871)  – James McNeill Whistler

Most would consider Whistler’s Mother a strictly all American iconic symbol. However, many are not aware that she was actually painted, and died, outside the US. Anna McNeill Whistler was born in 1884 in North Carolina. In 1831, Anna married widower George Washington Whistler and soon gave birth to two sons, James and William. In 1842 the family moved to Russia when her husband was hired as a railway engineer. After her husband died from cholera in 1849, she returned to the US to live in Connecticut. During the Civil War, Anna crossed lines to be with William, who was a surgeon in the Confederate Army. She then went to London where James moved after getting kicked out of West Point. Anna encouraged his painting and agreed to pose for her son. It was then that James painted the now famous Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1 Portrait of the Artist’s Mother commonly referred to as Whistler’s Mother. Anna died in Hastings, England, in 1881.

The Weeping Woman (1937)  – Pablo Picasso

The Weeping Woman series is regarded as a thematic continuation of the tragedy depicted in Picasso’s epic painting Guernica which was Picasso’s depiction of the  bombing of Guernica, Basque Country.

The model for the painting, indeed for the entire series, was Dora Maar, who was working as a professional photographer when Picasso met her in 1936. Dora was Picasso’s mistress from 1936 until 1944. In the course of their relationship Picasso painted her in a number of guises, some realistic, some benign, others tortured or threatening. Picasso explained: “For me she’s the weeping woman. For years I’ve painted her in tortured forms, not through sadism, and not with pleasure, either; just obeying a vision that forced itself on me. It was the deep reality, not the superficial one.” Picasso also referred to Dora as his “private muse”. Dora eventually came to suffer from their relationship after discovering she was unable to have children. Dora spent her last years living alone in a house near Paris that Picasso had given her.

Madame X (1884)  – John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent, the most successful portrait painter of his era painted this portrait near the start of his career. He had hoped it would win him fame – and it did, but not particularly in the way he had imagined. The artist approached Virginie Gautreau, a famous society beauty and wife of a French banker, who agreed to being the model for his painting.  When the portrait of “the beauty with the hourglass figure and ivory complexion” was finally completed and put on display at the Paris Salon in 1884, it created a full fledged cultural scandal. The public was shocked by her low-cut dress, deathly white make up, and outraged by the fact that one of her dress straps (“sacre bleu!”) was hanging off her shoulder – a sure sign of impropriety. The scandal caused Virginie to retire from society and forced Sargent to repaint the shoulder strap once the exhibition was over.  This is the repainted version:

John left France shortly afterwards never to truly regain his former standing as the darling of Paris.

Girl With a Pearl Earring (circa 1665) – Jan Vemeer

No, it’s not Scarlett Johanssen.  This “Mona Lisa of the North” or the “Dutch Mona Lisa” is one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s masterworks and uses a pearl earring for a focal point in the picture. The picture is not a portrait but a study of a woman’s head known in Vermeer’s day as a tronie. Like in all of Vermeer’s paintings, the subject for this painting has never been confirmed.  In any case, the most frequently mentioned candidate for the model for the Girl with a Pearl Earring has been Vermeer’s eldest daughter Maria. Magdalena, the only daughter of Vermeer’s principle patron, Pieter Van Ruijven, has also been proposed as a possible candidate.

The Birth of Venus (circa 1483) –  Sandro Botticelli

The Birth of Venus is Botticelli’s depiction of the Greco-Roman goddess Venus coming to life on a shell. The model for the portrait is thought to be Simonetta Cataneo Vespucci, the mistress of Giuliano di Piero de Medici, the co-ruler of Florence, Italy. Simonetta was renowned for being the greatest beauty of her age – certainly of the city of Florence.  Countless poems and canvasses by many other painters were also created in her honor.  Simonetta did not have a very long life though, as she died from pulmonary tuberculosis at the tender age of twenty-two . When she died, the entire city was reported to mourn at her death and thousands followed her coffin to its burial. Botticelli finished painting The Birth of Venus in 1485, nine years after her death. Some suggest that Botticelli also had fallen in love with Simonetta, a view supported by his request to be buried at her feet in the Church of Ognissanti – the parish church of the Vespucci – in Florence. His wish was in fact carried out when he died some thirty-four years later, in 1510.

Christina’s World (1948)  – Andrew Wyeth

Andrew Wyeth was inspired to create this painting at his summer home in Cushing, Maine, when he was looking through his window and saw a woman crawling across a field. The woman’s name is Christina Olson (1893-1969). Christina had a degenerative muscular disorder (sometimes identified as polio) that took away her ability to walk. Wyeth met Olson and her brother, Alvaro, in 1939 when they were introduced by a woman named Betsy. (Betsy would later become the artist’s wife.) There are two models who posed for the woman in this painting. The figure’s thin legs, arms and pink dress belong to Christina, who was in her mid 50′s at the time. The head and torso belong to Wyeth’s wife Betsy, who was in her mid 20′s at the time. Christina Olson lived in her house her entire life, and neighbors say she had no idea that she, or her house, had become famous. In the year 2000, Andrew and Betsy Wyeth celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans” (“Little Dancer of Fourteen Years”), (c. 1881) – Edgar Degas

Talk about a sad story. Marie Geneviève van Goethem was the model for The Little Dancer. She was born to working-class Belgian parents in France on born June 7, 1865 and became a student of the Paris Opera Dance School along with her older sister Antoinette and younger sister Charlotte. Based on accounts in Degas’ notes, all the sisters had been his models, particularly in his works featuring ballet dancers. The relationship between Marie and Degas is one of debate, however. It was usual for 1880 that the ‘Petits Rats’ of the Opera of Paris sought protectors from among the wealthy visitors at the backdoor of the opera. By posing for artists Marie and her sisters probably earned up to 6 or 10 francs per sitting. Marie and Charlotte both moved up the ladders of the ballet hierarchy, becoming prima ballerinas. But by August 1882, at age seventeen, Marie was no longer to be found on the roster for the ballet. She disappeared completely. It is said that the death of Marie’s tailor father further pushed the family to rock-bottom existence. A very inconvenient situation which forced the mother, a laundress, to prostitute her daughters. Meanwhile, the reception to the sculpture when it was first unveiled was mixed. While some praised the authenticity–Degas used real fabrics dipped in wax–some criticized it for the same reason. Ballet dancers are supposed to be dreamy subjects depicted in dreamy landscapes. And Marie’s face, which some described as monkey-like, and unrealistically proportioned legs didn’t escape the onslaught.  The last verifiable account about Marie before she was dismissed from the opera ballet was that she was arrested for trying to to pickpocket one of her ‘clients’.

La Goule Arrives At the Moulin Rouge (1892) - Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

La Goule (the glutton) was the nickname given to one of the most popular star dancers at the Moulin Rouge, Louise Weber, because she can “drain the glasses dry in bars.” She popularized the cancan and was among the muses of Toulouse-Lautrec who, despite the criticisms coming from the snobbish and elitist art circles of the time, frequented the place and even made posters for the club. Weber was a provincial girl whose passion for fancy living also earned her the title “Shameless Queen of Montmartre”.  La Goulue was fiercely ambitious and the idea of being only one of the featured dancers at the Moulin Rouge did not suit her. After just a few years there, she left the Moulin Rouge to start her own dance hall. But people didn’t follow La Goulue, and her club was a dismal failure. She next attempted to capitalize on her fame by traveling as a belly-dancer, with her own booth, in fairgrounds. But somehow, La Goulue outside the Moulin Rouge was just not what people wanted. Her alcoholism got worse over the years, and she got fatter and fatter. When she eventually returned to Montmartre, no one recognized her. She scraped an existence by selling peanuts, cigarettes, and matches on the streets. On her deathbed in 1929, Weber asked a priest, “Father, will God forgive me? I am La Goulue”.

Mona Lisa (c-1503-1506) –  Leonardo da Vinci

No painting or model is more famous nor fascinating than the Mona Lisa!  Even though Mona Lisa’s real name and identity was first linked around 1550, it wasn’t until just a couple of years ago that it was 100% confirmed. Her real name is Lisa del Giocondoa, member of the Gherardini family. She was born in Florence on the 15th of June, 1479, and was the oldest of seven children. At age fifteeen she married Francesco del Giocondo, a cloth and silk merchant. After some business success in 1503, her husband was able to buy a house next door to his family’s old home, in the Via della Stufa. It is believed that it was then that her portrait was commissioned by her husband, perhaps to celebrate their new house, or maybe to mark Lisa’s second pregnancy. During the painting of Lisa, Da Vinci’s handwritten notes make reference to Lisa’s cheerful personality and her engaging laughter. Lisa and Francesco had five children: Piero, Camilla, Andrea, Giocondo and Marietta. Lisa also raised Bartolomeo, the son of Francesco and his first wife, who died just a year after he was born.  Accounts of Lisa and Francesco’s days together differ, but there is no dispute over Francesco’s undying love for his wife, Lisa. Francesco died at the age of 80, around 1538, when the plague swept the city. Some historians claim Lisa died four years later, but same say she lived into her seventies, dying around 1551.



Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Famous Artists with Day Jobs

  Corinna Kirsch  


As a profession, “artist” ranks pretty low in terms of financial reward. Most artists schlep their way through menial professions for years before being able to give them up for more rewarding work. Those jobs are not always fun, but sometimes, they influence an artist’s practice.

As such, we’ve gathered a list of ten common art world day jobs, listed a few famous artists who’ve held down the position, and given some pros and cons to taking on each one. Friday we’ll reveal part two of the list with ten more. Your future as a Met security guard awaits!

1. Museum security guard

Artists who made this job famous: Wade Guyton, Robert Ryman, and Fred Wilson

Pro: You get to be around art all day, and you get to go home knowing that many artists have done their time, just like you.

Con: Nobody actually enjoys the long hours of standing and staring off into space for hours for low pay.

2. Teacher

Artists who made this job famous: Mark Rothko (primary school), Marilyn Minter (high school), Lisa Yuskavage (continuing education), Sarah Lucas (day care)

Pros: Dealing with all types of people and all types of backgrounds, while navigating your way through bureaucracy will help out when you’re dealing with museums and galleries.

Con: Most full-time teaching positions will end up consuming all of your time; you’ll be lucky if you feel up to working in your studio after the kids get off school.

3. Studio assistant

Artists who made this job famous: Darren Bader (to Urs Fischer), Jeff Koons (to Ed Paschke), Rachel Howard (to Damien Hirst)

Pro: If you’re lucky, you get to work closely with an already famous artist. Eeee! But really, an actual pro: working as a studio assistant gives you a glimpse of how to manage your own career by running a small business.

Cons: Carpal tunnel syndrome. If that doesn’t happen, there’s still no guarantee you’ll become buddies with that aforementioned already famous artist. At least not when some artists like Jeff Koons, often cited for managing dozens of studio assistants at any one time. He can’t give them all a boost in the art world.

4. Art handler

Artists who made this job famous: Shane Caffrey, Paul Outlaw, and Dave Choi

Pro: Sometimes your gallery will give you a show. Plus, as a freelancer, you’ll make connections with countless dealers, artists, and collectors.

Con: Workplace injuries and the problems ensuing from less-than amazing healthcare.

5. Corporate types

Artists who made this job famous: Jeff Koons

Pro: You’ll have money.

Con: With the exception of Koons, most stockbrokers would need to take a hefty paycut to resume their job as an artist.

6. Graphic designer

Artists who made this job famous: George Maciunas, Andy Warhol, and Barbara Kruger

Pro: It’s not a total mind-suck, and it can inform your own work. Kruger’s text-based work is a perfect example of this, hinging on a knowledge of aesthetics, publishing, and advertising.

Con: It’s still a day job, and one with overbearing monster clients who will rarely understand your vision.

7. Construction worker

Artist who made this job famous: Damien Hirst

Pro: You learn how to build stuff.

Con: You might die.

8. Welder

Artist who made this job famous: Tom Sachs

Pro: If you’re making large-scale work, this job will help hone your welding skills.

Con: You might die.

9. Gallery assistant

Artists who made this job famous: Lynda Benglis, Wendy White, and Louise Lawler

Pro: In the rarest of instances, you could be like Louise Lawler who ended up being represented by Metro Pictures, where she worked for a stint in the 1980s. But really, as an administrative assistant, you’ll get first-hand knowledge of the artist-dealer relationship.

Con: Dealers are not known for being kind to their assistants.

10. Male model

Artist who made this job famous: Matthew Barney

Pro: Money and attention.

Con: Everyone will think you’re vain and superficial. You probably are.



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Damien Hirst is a national disgrace

First he abandons his early promise to focus on raking it in – then he goes on Blue Peter and attempts to inflict his stale, jaded, cynical views on children

Damien Hirst, whose sping paintings were allegedly inspired by Blue Peter's John Noakes.
Art history … Damien Hirst, who said his spin paintings were inspired by Blue Peter's John Noakes. Photograph: Shaun Curry/AFP/Getty Images

Damien Hirst's appearance on Blue Peter later today, and his admission that he got the inspiration for his not-particularly-loved spin paintings by watching the show's great presenter John Noakes using a painting machine on telly in 1975 is his most striking public comment in years. A shame he has to spoil it by encouraging children to be lazy, cynical idiots.

Blue Peter in the 1970s was a richly educational children's programme. Of course it inspired an artist; it surely inspired many children to do many things. Noakes in particular was a kind of hero who climbed chimneys and was always saying "Get down, Shep" to his beloved pet dog.

1970s Blue Peter was worthy – "too middle class", it might be called by a modern TV executive – and promoted intelligence as well as fun. It was definitely the bookish kids at primary school who won Blue Peter badges. So young Damien Hirst, like me, sat watching Valerie Singleton narrate illustrated biographies of Grace Darling.

I happened to see the 2012 version of Blue Peter the other day and the top feature was about how to be a pop star. Although it still has educational aims, everything has to be filtered through a desperate down-with-the-kids style.

So what does Hirst do? He goes on today's Blue Peter and mocks the educational values of 70s Britain and the traditional BBC that he and I both benefited from. He tells kids that at first he assumed the spin machine was just fun, "whereas art is something more serious. And then as I got older, I started thinking about Van Gogh and all those painters, and cutting your ear off when you're painting, and at that point I just thought: 'Why does it have to be like that?' I thought: 'No, actually, the better art is the art made with the spin machine.'"

So, wait – poor Vincent, who spent his lonely life learning to draw, who finally encountered the impressionists in Paris and broke through to an intense visionary style of his own, who painted some of the most moving and enduring art of all time – Van Gogh was just some loser?

Don't be a loser like Van Gogh, kids. Be a winner like Uncle Damien. Forget talent, forget work, forget the imagination and creative energy that burned in Vincent van Gogh. Art is just a laugh and a con. So is everything else.

The tragedy is that Hirst was once a serious artist consumed by the terror of death. Now what is he doing? Well, raking it in. But it's gross and horrible for him to inflict his stale, jaded, cynical views on children.

Hirst once promised so much. Now he is a national disgrace, a living example that talent is nothing and money is king. How pathetic for him to go on the programme he says inspired him and use it as a platform to corrupt the young.



Friday, November 30, 2012

Van Gogh and Gauguin letter tells of artistic hopes that turned sour

'Electrifying' missive written by artists on pages of French exercise books goes on sale in Paris next month

Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin letter
Part of the letter written by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin which is being sold at Christie’s Paris.

The handwritten letter, penned jointly by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin on cheap paper torn out of a school exercise book, speaks of friendship and hope. Written at a critical point in the careers of both men, it refers to dreams of founding a utopian community of brother artists, of a new artistic renaissance, and of paintings now recognised as masterpieces.

The reality was to be less idyllic. Shortly after the missive was sent, the pair quarrelled violently and in one of history's most notorious acts of self-mutilation, Van Gogh sliced off his right ear. It was an act that marked the Dutchman's final decline into madness and suicide.

Now, the four-page letter signed by both artists has emerged from a private collection before its auction in Paris next month, where it is expected to fetch up to €500,000 (£405,000).

Thomas Venning, an expert with the auction house Christie's, said the document offered an insight into the "most famous artistic menage in history".

"I spend my life dealing with letters and this is one of the greatest, most electrifying I have ever seen," he said. "It takes you into their house, into their lives at this particular moment.

"You can imagine Van Gogh sitting down to write the letter on cheap paper because they didn't have much money, then saying to Gauguin: 'You finish it off'."

The letter is written on the square-ruled paper of French exercise books and addressed to Emile Bernard, a young avant garde artist who inspired both men. It was composed in November 1888 at Arles in Provence, where Van Gogh had rented two floors of a private house, 2 Place Lamartine, the subject of the painting La Maison Jaune.

The previous week, after months of procrastination, Gauguin had arrived to live and paint with Van Gogh for one or two years. At the time, the French art world was moving from impressionism to modernism and surrealism, but Van Gogh and Gauguin had yet to be widely recognised.

Van Gogh, mentally fragile and prone to violent mood swings, was fired up with childlike excitement. In the letter, he gives his first impressions of the French painter.

"Gauguin interests me much as a man – very much – I have long thought that in our dirty profession as painters we have the greatest need of people with the hands and stomachs of a labourer – and more natural tastes – more amorous and benevolent temperaments – than the decadent and exhausted Parisian boulevardier.

"Now here without the slightest doubt we are in the presence of a virgin creature with the instincts of a wild animal. In Gauguin, blood and sex prevail over ambition."

He adds: "We have made several excursions to the brothels and it's likely that we will end up working there often. Gauguin has at the moment a painting under way of same night café that I also painted, but with figures seen in the brothels. It promises to become a beautiful thing.

"I've made two studies of falling leaves in an avenue of poplars and a third study of this whole avenue, entirely yellow." [Les Alyscamps.]"

Van Gogh writes that he and Gauguin are discussing "the terrific subject of an association of certain painters" and of his "presentiment of a new world … and a great artistic renaissance" that will find its home in the tropics.

On the final page, Gauguin adds: "Don't listen to Vincent, as you know he's prone to admiration and ditto indulgence. His idea about the future of a new generation in the tropics seems absolutely right to me as a painter, and I still intend to return there when I have the means to do so. Who knows, with a bit of luck …?"

Eight weeks later, on 23 December, the partnership came to a violent end when the pair quarrelled violently over, it is believed, Van Gogh spending the meagre household budget on prostitutes, and his refusal to stop drinking absinthe.

Van Gogh threatened his "friend" with a razor before slicing off his own ear. Shortly afterwards he entered the first of a series of asylums and died in 1890 aged 37 after shooting himself.

Gauguin returned to Paris and later set up a studio in French Polynesia where he died in 1903, aged 54. The pair never met again, though they subsequently corresponded.

Venning says the letter reveals the two men's different characters, and the calm before the storm in their relationship.

"It's a moment of friendship, optimism and shared work. It looks like everything is going to be OK and they achieved a lot of work in a short period of time."

He added: "The dramatic events that followed the writing of this letter make it rather sad. It's a mind blowing document."

The letter is part of the Pierre Berès Collection, being sold at Christie's Paris on 12-13 December.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Abandoned Old Masters Paintings

In this fascinating series of works, Hungarian new media artist Bence Hajdu has removed the figures from a series of Old Master paintings with such precision that it’s almost hard to believe. While some compositions, like Jacques-Louis David’s “Oath of the Horatii” (1784) seem perfectly suited to such background reconstruction (see its clean, minimal lines and crisp shadows), others like Claude Lorrain’s “Seaport with the Embarkation of St. Ursula” (1641) seem like a more difficult selection, because of the picky details — in this case, waves and small scattered figures.

Hajdu’s works, which I’ve converted into GIFs (apologies to the artist) to make it clear what a fantastic visual feat the artist has achieved, also highlight the theatricality of the scenes. The pieces, which he has previously exhibited accompanied by smaller versions of the original images (a set up pictured below), have a silence that the original images lack. It is as if the characters have wandered off the stage and we’re left to ponder the world where such drama occurs.

Bence Hajdu with his “abandoned” Old Masters works on display with the original images at the bottom right corner. (images via Bence Hajdu’s Facebook Page)

In some cases, his erasures give a new life to the works, like Leonardo’s “Last Supper,” which seems a natural fit for the process as we’re all familiar with the table clutter of a meal. Somehow it makes the scene appear more human when the frozen figures disappear. I can’t say I had ever pondered the meal Jesus and his disciples shared in Leonardo’s masterpiece but it’s a curious revelation — is it just me or do the disciples on either end appear to be hoarding most of the food? #LOL

 Others, like Botticelli’s “The Annunciation” don’t benefit much from the editing, as the sparse interior and idyllic view through the window tell us little if anything about the original scene.

In the case of Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, Hajdu has taken the liberty to leave a scarf behind for where the Virgin Mary was sitting. In this one scene, we’re left to feel that the angel has just left and the Madonna gone inside. And even if the floor shadows are a little bizarre in Hajdu’s rendering, it only helps us to see that the geometric arrangement of the scene in general is quite peculiar in and of itself.

One of the things I keep thinking about as I look at these scenes is how much I’d love to play a video game that wanders through familiar scenes like this. It’s like visiting a childhood home that you see anew after all these many years. The Old Masters don’t disappear, they’re just constantly reinvented.





Polystyrène, résine
110 x 100 x 300 cm

Crédit photo : Geoffrey Cottenceau


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Art of Rosa Verloop

by Nastia Voynovskaya

Using nylon stockings and pins as her primary materials, Dutch artist Rosa Verloop creates sculptures that appear to stem from primordial depths. Resembling both fetuses and octogenarians, her figures sit at an uncomfortable place in the life cycle between birth and death. Despite the simplicity of her chosen materials, the works appear delicate and ethereal, as if the figures are floating peacefully through a sleepy spirit world. The tan nylon stalkings eerily resemble skin, which the artist folds and bends into a twisted cacophony of wrinkles that give each form a unique, organic structure. Verloop currently has work on display in the Hague Municipal Museum in the Summer Expo 2012 group show. Take a look at some images courtesy of the artist. 



Saturday, November 24, 2012

BBC David Hockneys Secret Knowledge

The Dreamy, Nostalgic Paintings of Dan Voinea

by Nastia Voynovskaya

Romanian artist Dan Voinea creates hallucinatory paintings of characters descending into madness and fantasy. Roughly painted figures appear doubled or translucent; sometimes different bodies melt into one another, blurring the lines of identity. Featuring wardrobes reminiscent of the 20th century and a color palette derived from early color photos, Voinea’s work is imbued with a twinge of nostalgia for a time that perhaps never existed in the first place. We find characters floating or lying supine — an allusion to an alternate dream world we watch them experience with their eyes closed. Take a look at some of his works below.