Thursday, December 28, 2006

National Palace Museum - Taipei, Taiwan - Design - New York Times

The National Palace Museum in Taipei is celebrating its rarest works. More Photos >

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Published: December 28, 2006

TAIPEI, Taiwan, Dec. 27 — After four years of renovations that closed two-thirds of the building, the museum housing the world’s most famous collection of Chinese art is reopening this winter and holding a three-month exhibition of its rarest works.

The National Palace Museum, home to the best of the 1,000-year-old art collection of China’s emperors, is often compared to leading Western institutions like the Louvre, the Prado and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But while this museum’s holdings are magnificent, the institution has been known for being a highly politicized place where priceless porcelain sat in poorly lit display cases and where invaluable paintings were kept in a damp manmade cave for fear of Communist attack from mainland China.

That has now changed. Heroic statues of Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan’s former leader, and of Sun Yat-sen, the founder of modern China, have been banished. New lighting, air-conditioning, climate-controlled storage vaults and other features rival the newest museums in the West. Even the wall labels attached to the artwork are now written in clear and specific Chinese, English and Japanese.

And after many years of hiding its most valuable and most fragile artworks — those from the Northern and Southern Sung dynasties that ruled China from 960 to 1279 — the museum has brought them out for a “Grand View” exhibition that opened on Christmas. Four of the best known Northern Sung dynasty paintings — one of them on loan from the Metropolitan Museum in New York — are being shown together for the first time, along with other rare paintings, scrolls and some of the world’s earliest printed books.

The four paintings are magnificent landscapes that tower over visitors but still have the exquisite detail of miniatures. The Chinese characters of the name of one artist are so subtly hidden in the trees of one painting that they went unnoticed until this century. A deputy director of the museum is credited with discovering them, although rumor says that a janitor was really the first to find them, said Ho Chuan-hsing, a museum specialist in early paintings and calligraphy.

Many of the pieces are so fragile that they are never lent to museums elsewhere. Some will only be on display here for half the exhibition: either from Christmas to Feb. 7 or from Feb. 8 to March 25. Museum policy allows these works to be shown only for 40 days, after which they are loosely rolled and placed in a vault to rest for at least three years; the exhibition here will not go on tour.

Art scholars describe the “Grand View” as unique.

“To see all of these paintings come out at one time again is just not going to happen,” said Marc F. Wilson, a Chinese-art specialist who is the director and chief executive of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., which lent two rare scrolls to the exhibition here. “These are the foundations of modern Chinese pictorial sensibility.”

Also on temporary display this winter in a single case are 50 of the 70 known examples of Ju Ware, one of the world’s rarest and most valuable kinds of porcelain. Manufactured for imperial use at a single kiln in central China for just two decades at the end of the 11th century, Ju (pronounced rue) Ware is glazed with a lustrous, green-tinged shade of blue that has a faint, rose sparkle.

Craftsmen ground up agate, a semiprecious quartz, to make the glaze, using a technique that was soon lost and has never been rediscovered. The 50 pieces on exhibit here include the museum’s own 21 examples and 29 borrowed from other collections around the world.

The presentation of the Ju Ware is raising eyebrows at a museum so conservative that many of the curators wore the traditional blue silk robes of Chinese scholars into the 1970s. The vases and dishes sit on a 100-foot-long, waist-high white surface that is an imitation of the runways on which models promenade at fashion shows.

Jimmy Yang, a 33-year-old Taiwan-born but Australian-educated architect and designer who showed up at the opening on Christmas in a black T-shirt and blue jeans, arranged the exhibition.

“We wanted it to be a little more up-to-date, a little humorous even,” he said as visitors began ogling the spotlighted vases.

Chi Jo-hsin, the chief curator of the museum’s antiquities department, acknowledged that the presentation had been controversial within the museum’s staff. “Some think it is good, and some think it should be different,” she said.

The Imperial Palace in Beijing, better known as the Forbidden City, became a museum in 1925 as part of a republican bid to prevent the restoration of the last emperor, Pu Yi. When Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists became worried in 1933 about a possible Japanese attack, they secretly sent the collection in wheelbarrows to Beijing’s train station to be transported south, the start of the collection’s 16-year odyssey during war with Japan and China’s civil war.

The Nationalists ended up shipping the most valuable art to Taiwan, where it has remained ever since. The mainland government has since gathered at museums in Beijing and Shanghai a large number of the works that were left behind, together with the fruits of archaeological excavations as well as the purchase or confiscation of mainland collections and gifts from tycoons in Hong Kong and elsewhere.

The exhibition here is taking place in rooms that have been heavily renovated as part of an extensive overhaul of the museum. Elevators and other features have also been added to make the building completely accessible to the elderly and the disabled, and the building has been strengthened to improve protection against earthquakes, including one that shook Taiwan on Tuesday evening but did not damage the museum or its collection.

Tu Cheng-sheng, who started the renovation as the museum’s director in 2002, said then that it would be too controversial to remove the memorial hall dedicated to Sun Yat-sen, a symbol of Taiwan’s ties to the mainland. But the hall and its giant bronze statue are gone now, a disappearance that Ms. Lin and Mr. Tu, now Taiwan’s education minister, declined in separate interviews to discuss.

The building’s exterior still has jade-green tile roofs and yellow walls designed to evoke the Forbidden City. But the museum’s celebrated tearoom has been transformed as part of an effort by Ms. Lin, the director, to address a problem facing art museum directors all over the world: how to draw the young and trendy.

While the museum’s collection has an international reputation among art connoisseurs, it has been distinctly less popular in Taiwan, and especially among young Taiwanese who feel little connection to the mainland. Slightly more than half the museum’s two million visitors a year come from outside Taiwan, mainly from Japan, Korea and other countries in Asia.

The tearoom, on the museum’s top floor with lovely views of the surrounding mountain valley, used to be a reproduction of the Three Treasures room at the Forbidden City, complete with an elaborately carved and flamboyantly painted ceiling. The ceiling has now been covered with gray-brown paint and the room turned into a very contemporary Taiwanese tearoom with sturdy furniture made of oak, not traditional sandalwood.

The “Grand View” this winter may also represent the last chance for visitors from the United States and elsewhere to see the best of China’s art without having to push through throngs of mainland Chinese tourists.

Taiwan is negotiating with Beijing officials to allow mainland tourists to start visiting here this spring. While the number of tourists is supposed to be limited to 1,000 a day at first, the tourism industry is expected to press for quick increases in that cap.

Jason Kuo, a Taiwan-born professor of Chinese art history at the University of Maryland who studied at the National Palace Museum from 1971 to 1973, said the museum faced a difficult balance as it prepares to handle more visitors, appeal to young Taiwanese and protect the art collection.

“They want to be open to the West,” he said, “but they want to maintain their heritage.”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

John Berger: Here Is Where We Meet, season of events in London, April - May 2005

I can't tell you what art does and how it does it, but I know that art has often judged the judges, pleaded revenge to the innocent and shown to the future what the past has suffered, so that it has never been forgotten.

I know too that the powerful fear art, whatever its form, when it does this, and that amongst the people such art sometimes runs like a rumour and a legend because it makes sense of what life's brutalities cannot, a sense that unites us, for it is inseparable from a justice at last. Art, when it functions like this, becomes a meeting-place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honour.
John Berger

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

De Kooning

I cant stand this artist works. I can somewhat understand his emotional demeanor behind the picture, but it is a demeanor I do not like. People are often afraid to say they don't like artist that have been accepted by society, often using the `I don't understand' comment. There , for me is nothing loving or positive about this work, and for me it cannot be considered beautiful and holds no referential value ( as being a portrait of a known person.) -Paul Grant (follower of Basho)

Willem de Kooning, American, 1904-1997, b. The Netherlands
Woman IV, 1952-1953

Oil, enamel, and charcoal on canvas
59 x 46 1/4 inches (149.86 x 117.48 cm)

Gift of William Inge, 56-128

Location: Gallery L2

In Woman IV a figural form, frontal and iconic, fills the surface of the canvas. The woman has enormous arms and breasts, bulging eyes and appears to either grin or grimace. Painted in intense and garish colors, she shifts, disassembles, reassembles and merges into a field of painterly brush strokes. Dramatic brushwork, over painting, scrapes and scumbles create a myriad of layered effects that set the canvas in motion and record the dynamic painting process.

De Kooning identified the complex fusion of references present in Woman IV: Venus, the nude, ancient fertility goddesses, Mesopotamian idols, contemporary women, the pin-up of the early 1950s and even the abstract forces of nature.

Fully aware of the ambiguity of form and content in his paintings, he observed: "Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash." De Kooning's Women are never definitively interpreted. Instead, they remain open, inviting speculation, while suggesting the artist's intense engagement with the concept of woman.

Video - Picasso


Anew video on YouTube by ghaile123.

"Everyone wants to understand art. Why don't we try to understand the song of a bird? Why do we love the night, the flowers, everything around us, without trying to understand them? But in the case of a painting, people think they have to understand. If only they would realize above all that an artist works of necessity, that he himself is only an insignificant partjavascript:void(0)
Publish of the world, and that no more importance should be attached to him than to plenty of other things which please us in the world though we can't explain them; people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree."
-- Picasso

Monday, December 11, 2006

the Plain English Campaign

Germaine Greer, the British-based Australian academic and writer, won the campaign's Golden Bull award, which recognises the "worst examples of written tripe".

She wrote in her arts column in The Guardian on October 23: "The first attribute of the art object is that it creates a discontinuity between itself and the unsynthesised manifold."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson Symphonic Poem

Symphonic Poem

Fragment of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson's Symphonic Poem Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum


Columbus native Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson has created over 20,000 works, including cloth paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, book illustrations, and quilts. Her work is based on extensive research, oral history, and first-hand observation, but all of it is primarily concerned with documenting the lives and history of her family, friends, and community.

Robinson often works for many years on a fabric piece, incorporating buttons, shells, twigs, and fabric to create richly textured works that weave a memory into a colorful and grand collage. Her work is in the collections of, among others, the Columbus Museum of Art and the Wexner Center for the Arts.

My work is about people, historical data, traditions, lost communities. For me, there is no distinction between life and art. The button work is the core. It is important because of long traditions in my family, especially from my mother. These traditions are still being passed on today, not only through me but through the younger generation. It takes time to produce work. It takes everything you have because it takes your life to leave something for those who are coming after

African American artist Aminah Robinson (b. 1940) works her magic in a stunning array of richly textured, wildly colorful multimedia works. Grand collages on fabric, sculptures, drawings, paintings, carvings, quilts, and books weave memory into a moving and unique art that documents her own and her community's history. Symphonic Poem--the catalogue for a major traveling exhibition celebrating her work--brings together more than 100 of Robinson's works with essays exploring her life, African influences and spirituality in her art, and her work in relation to that of other contemporary African-American artists.

About the book

Throughout this book Robinson herself speaks about her life, her family, her travels, and her work, and provides a view of The Dollhouse, the workspace she has built in her backyard. This strikingly designed, oversized volume, complete with three gatefolds, is a lush and inviting look at the work of an exceptional artist.

About the Author

Carole Genshaft is Co-curator of the accompanying exhibition of Aminah Robinson's art. Leslie King-Hammond is Dean of Graduate Studies at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Romana Austin is Director of the Hampton University Museum of Virginia. Annagreth Nil, Curator of the Columbus Museum of Art, is Co-curator of the exhibition.

Friday, November 24, 2006 News - Latest News - Artists track every stuffed polar bear in UK

Artists track every stuffed polar bear in UK

By Paul Majendie

LONDON, Nov 24 (Reuters Life!) - Two artists prowled the country in search of stuffed polar bears -- and uncovered 34 of the proud Arctic icons discarded in stockrooms or languishing in stately homes.

The result is "Great White Bear" -- a new photo exhibition that explores mankind's fascination with the magnificent creatures and underlines the fragility of their future.

Mark Wilson and his Icelandic partner Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir -- her name means Snow Bear's Daughter --- spent three years tracking down and photographing their elusive quarry everywhere from dusty museum basements to a hotel's glass showcase.

Depending on the whim of the taxidermist, some stand proud, reared up to their full height, snarling in fury. One poses with a seal pup between his paws, another even gets used as a lampstand.

They were brought to Britain by aristocratic explorers, mapping expeditions and whalers who had no compunction about killing up to 50 bears on a hunt.

Today the Polar Bear faces an even more perilous future in a melting sea that is being inexorably diminished by global warming across the Arctic, with environmentalists petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to classify the bears as threatened because of the new difficulties they face.

"They are used to swimming 60 miles a day. Now they have to swim so much further to find sea ice from which they are able to hunt. So, as a result, many of them drown," Wilson said.

"We felt as many responses photographing the bears as viewers feel looking at the pictures," he told Reuters in an interview to mark the exhibition at London's Horniman Museum.

"There is very real pathos when you think how many were shot on a single expedition. Some were just shot and left there," he said.

"The settings for the stuffed bears are cluttered and decrepit, sometimes farcical. They set off uncomfortable little triggers when you look at the photos."

But are there any more stuffed polar bears languishing out there in some forgotten corner of a musty attic?

"The show has had a massive amount of publicity in the newspapers and we have had a couple of contacts by e-mail. Two more have come to light," Wilson said.

The photos lining two walls of the Horniman certainly do stir strong emotions -- and above all a poignant sense of regret over the cavalier way mankind can treat marvels of nature.

The Times, reviewing the exhibition, said: "The images send a chilling premonitory frisson down the spine. This is a species in the process of being junked."

And Wilson agreed: "The Polar Bear is in dire danger. There is no doubt of that. It is very iconic and acts as a kind of barometer for the Arctic itself."

(c) Reuters 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Top Indian artist bemoans "exile" over nude painting

Top Indian artist bemoans "exile" over nude painting
Nov 17 7:38 AM US/Eastern

India's most celebrated artist M.F. Husain says he is very homesick in London where he lives in voluntary exile to escape prosecution over his paintings of nude Hindu gods and goddesses.

"I am extremely homesick," the 91-year-old told The Hindustan Times, adding that he is yearning for Mumbai.

"I long to walk through the streets of Grand Road and Byculla where I have spent some of the best years of my life," he said.

"As far as I know there are at least 900 cases registered against me (in India). Matters are so legally complicated that I have been advised not return home.

"I have become an international gypsy. It is no secret that I am wandering around the world with only my art for company." His paintings fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

Last May, the Indian government alerted the police fearing Hindu-Muslim riots over a nude painting by Husain, a Muslim.

The work depicts a nude "Mother India" and raised the hackles of Hindu groups, one of which this year offered an 11.5 million dollars for Husain's murder.

One of the cases pending against Husain is for hurting the sentiments of Hindus.

The law ministry has examined half-a-dozen works by Husain and told the government that prosecutors would have a strong case against him if they sued him for deliberately hurting religious feelings.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Leonardo da Vinci's sketch becomes a reality : walking on water

gizmag Article: Patent granted for walking on water invention: "

October 31, 2006 History suggests humans have always been captivated with the possibility of walking on water with references to it in Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. In Egyptian mythology the god Horus walked on water, and in Greek mythology Orion, the son of the gods walked on water. Indeed, Leonardo da Vinci even conceived a set of shoes and stocks which would enable this highly improbable act.

Now, thanks to an invention by Massachusetts inventor Yoav Rosen, it seems we may be in need of a new colloquialism for the impossible. Rosen’s Da Vinci-like pontoon shoes have just been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for an “Upright Human Floatation Apparatus And Propulsion Mechanism” and enable him to do just that (video here). Rosen’s company wishes to focus its business activities on its equally remarkable standing kayaks, and is seeking to license or sell its water-walking technology. We spoke with Rosen about his invention.

The new water-walking patent (patent number 7,121,910) is a continuation to a previous patent (patent number 6,764,363) with an identical name that was published in August 2004.

Rosen’s company, Wavewalk makes kayaks that people can paddle while standing and is a firm proponent of offering people the alternative of standing instead of sitting in their recreational boating.

“Snow skiing and snowboarding are more popular than snow sledding, and surfboards are more popular than surf skis, and most people prefer to ride a cycle upright rather than recumbent, so why shouldn’t people do their boating standing up,” says Rosen. That was the standing rather than sitting imperative that motivated Rosen to begin work on his pontoon shoes for walking on water and subsequently to develop the WaveWalk.

“I was a teenager then, and I just couldn't accept the fact that walking on water wasn't possible. After all, people have been surfing standing for hundreds, maybe thousands of years!”
“Humans are bipedal, and we like using our legs,” he continues. “We're also very good in doing that, if and when we're given a chance."

We asked Rosen if he had seen Leonardo da Vinci's sketches before or after he had the idea? “I saw it recently, but if you look at Leonardo's sketch it's clear he wasn't thinking about walking on water at all but rather about human powered water skiing.”

“In the "prior art" section of my patents, I'm quoting some 70 patents and inventions, starting with ancient catamarans, Leonardo Da Vinci and the first known patent in the field of water-walking dating 1858, that was granted to a Bostonian named H. R. Rowlands. The problems with all prior water-walking inventions were mainly in the areas of effective propulsion and sufficient stability.

“Think about it this way. You load and unload a tiny "canoe" with your entire weight at a rate of once per second ... in this short period of time you also have to generate maximum water-resistance from one leg, while you minimize the water-resistance from your other leg that's making a full, long step forward.

“And you also have to be able to make turns without using a rudder or a paddle, and you should be able to keep a maximal distance between your "shoes" because if your legs spread you'll lose balance and fall ... and you need to be able to enter the equipment on firm land and then access the water since you definitely don't want to struggle with getting your feet into it while you're already in the water.

“It is no wonder it took so long for this apparently simple "technology" to mature,” he smiles. Why are you selling or licensing the walking on water patents rather than developing them yourself, we asked Rosen. His response: “I'm offering the patent for sale since my company doesn't have the resources to develop the potential markets for both Wavewalk and water-walking products.”

125th birth anniversary of Pablo Picasso

Madrid - As Spain celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) on October 25, nobody questions that he was one of the greatest artists of all time and perhaps the greatest of the 20th century.

In his lifetime, Picasso took such adulation for granted. The artist's last wife Jacqueline even used to kiss his hands and call him 'my God.'

Few people remember today that Picasso's works continued sparking scandals almost until his death.

Many of the people queueing to anniversary exhibitions in Spain, France, the United States, Austria or Germany this year would no doubt be reluctant to admit that often, in fact, they do not understand the master's Cubist paintings.

There is, in any case, no question that the painter born in the southern Spanish city of Malaga revolutionized the world of art. He may later be remembered as 'the great grave-digger of art or as its great fertilizer,' Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa writes.

Picasso's prodigious talent was evident from the beginning. His art teacher father soon had nothing more to impart to his young son.

When Pablo was 14, the family moved to artistically vibrant Barcelona where the boy began art studies. In 1897, Picasso was admitted to Madrid's Academy of Fine Arts at the young age of 16 years.

In 1904, he moved to Paris where, three years later, he painted Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, a key work in the development of Cubism.

For Picasso, life was an endless source of inspiration and experimentation, where he picked the women, harlequins, minotaurs, bullfighters, animals and children who populate his paintings.

He left behind no less than some 1,900 paintings, 3,200 pieces of ceramics, 7,000 drawings, 1,200 sculptures and 30,000 graphic works.

'The soul of beings does not interest him much,' the US writer Gertrude Stein once said. Picasso liked to keep his models at a distance and under control, deconstructing them in his Cubist fashion rather than studying them psychologically.

He displayed something of the same attitude towards his two wives, numerous lovers and four children.

Books by Picasso's lover Francoise Gilot and his niece Marina Picasso irritated many of the artist's admirers by describing his egoistic and callous treatment of those close to him.

After Picasso's death, his grandson Pablo, his former lover Marie-Therese Walter and his last wife Jacqueline Roque all committed suicide.

Jacqueline Roque

Portrait of Jacqueline Roque with Flowers

Portrait of Jacqueline Roque with Flowers

Giclee Print
Picasso, Pablo 13 in. x 20 in.
Buy at Framed Mounted

For the world of art, however, Picasso's contribution was invaluable. 'He represents a revolution of forms, a break with all that was before, but he also builds a bridge towards tradition,' Vargas Llosa writes.

Picasso, who experimented with art forms ranging from his 'blue period' to surrealism, was a chameleon who could make any style his own.

However, he claimed that there could be nothing new in art. 'Art does not have a past or a future, evolution or progress,' said the artist who integrated ancient African influences into his work.

Refusing to return to a Spain governed by General Francisco Franco, Picasso protested against the dictatorship by creating Guernica, his probably most famous work, for the Paris World Exhibition in 1937.

Guernica, 1937

Guernica, 1937 Art Print Picasso, Pablo 28 in. x 22 in.
Buy at Framed Mounted

The huge canvas depicting the bombardment of the Basque town of Guernica by Nazi Germany in support of Franco during the Spanish Civil War - brought to Spain from the United States in 1981 after the dictator's death - remains a powerful anti-war symbol.

Painting obsessively as if in a race against time, Picasso was still creating heavily erotic images shortly before his death in Mougins, southern France, at age 92.

© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Vietnamese-born artist Binh Danh

Binh Danh's chlorophyll prints

Vietnamese-born artist Binh Danh prints photographs onto living leaves. Seen here, The Leaf Effect: Study for Metamorphosis #2, 2006, 11.5 x 9.5 x 2 inches, chlorophyll print, butterfly specimen and resin. From Danh's artist page at the Haines Gallery:
 Images Bdan.8649.Lg Danh has invented a technique for printing found photographs (digitally rendered into negatives) onto the surface of leaves by exploiting the natural process of photosynthesis. The leaves, still living, are pressed between glass plates with the negative and exposed to sunlight from a week to several months. Coined "chlorophyll prints" by the artist, the fragile works are encapsulated and made permanent through casting them in solid blocks of resin. By conjoining his process into his conceptual ideas so completely, Danh is also able to reference the history and technical developments of photography.

He says of his work, "Throughout my education, I have always been very attracted to Art, History, and Science. The histories I search for are the hidden stories embedded in the landscape around me. The processes used in my work represent my interest in the sciences and photographic techniques."
Link to Haines Gallery, Link to an article about Danh's last exhibition, Link to NPR "Talking Plants" program about Danh from 2003 (Thanks, Jennifer Lum!)

UPDATE: Thanks to all the readers who pointed out that Grand Illusions has a page showing how to make your own chlorophyll prints using a similar technique. Link

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Picasso in the Vatican?

More ART TALK on Picasso:

Earlier this week there was a story of a guy putting his elbow through a Picasso, and a short while earlier there was a story about the Vatican wanting modern art to add to thier collection. I retitled the story - Whose going to pay for it? That little editorial barb was to call attention to the choice of where Roman Catholic Church funds were being spent. Should they spend one hundred million on a Picasso, or maybe spend the money instead on building homes for the homeless - or inproving the Church's own schools? This is just one take on the subject.

I found an interesting artical on the subject, a different view, from the Art Critic Elizabeth Lez

Picasso in the Vatican? A Possible Short List

By Elizabeth Lev

ROME, AUG. 31, 2006 ( This summer, Francesco Buranelli, director of the Vatican Museums, was interviewed by the Italian newspaper La Stampa, revealing his ambition to add a Picasso to the Vatican collection.

This struck me as somewhat strange. While Picasso was undeniably a great artist, why would the Vatican Museums want to display the work of a man who undermined the Christian message for seventy years?

Of course from a purely technical angle, Buranelli's aspiration makes good sense. What museum director, after all, wouldn't want a work by the most celebrated name in 20th century art?

But perhaps I am missing something. After all, there are so many styles and periods in Picasso's work, maybe one would indeed complement the art collection of the Catholic Church?

So I did a little research and compiled a short list of possible contenders for a place alongside Michelangelo, Raphael and other great Christian artists represented in the Vatican Museums.

"The Crucifixion"

This would be perhaps the most obvious choice, as this is the only religiously themed work by Picasso from 1897, until his death in 1973.

Pablo Picasso was born in 1881 into a Spanish Catholic family. He rejected his Catholic upbringing in his early 20s, mostly because he saw religious morals as an obstacle to the burgeoning sexual freedom of his age.

More prodigious than prodigal, Picasso never publicly returned to the church, although a priest was present at the artist's funeral.

Picasso sidelined Christ in the painting the way he had sidelined him in his own life. Picasso's "Crucifixion" features a small Christ at the top center. The crucified Jesus seems overwhelmed by what appears to be weeping women superimposed on him.

It is difficult to tell friend from foe in the work, and the clearest image of all is the soldier playing dice in the lower left.

Done in crayon colors, the painting seems more like a self-pitying tribute to Picasso's personal troubles (his wife and mistress were not getting along) than any real exploration of the meaning of Christ's suffering.

"Man with Sheep"

This bronze sculpture, representing a man holding a sheep, was created in 1944 at the end of World War II. This piece could be displayed next to "The Good Shepherd" statue in the Pio Christian Museum.

Viewers could contrast the youthful gentle face of the good shepherd, one of the earliest Christian symbols for Jesus, next to Picasso's stark, distorted man with the bulging eyes and fierce expression.

In the Christian version of the subject, a tranquil lamb curls gently around the shepherd's shoulders, but in the modern vision, although the shepherd clasps the sheep in one arm like an infant, the animal twists its head away, open-mouthed and protesting. Unlike the good shepherd, the savior who has found a lost sheep, Picasso's figure seems like a butcher bringing a lamb to the slaughter.

Picasso sculpted this work at the same time he joined the Communist party, so the distortion of one of the oldest symbols of man's salvation makes an apt metaphor for the artist's new ideology.

"The Demoiselles of Avignon"

This work, painted in 1904, of course refers to Avignon, home of the Papacy for over 70 years in the 14th century, so it bears a nice papal point of reference.

The painting has all the hallmarks of a masterpiece; employing the techniques of the old masters, Picasso made 106 preparatory sketches for it, which resulted in an innovative, gripping effect.

Unlike Michelangelo's Mary in the Pieta, who renders the sublime beauty of God's grace and her exemplary obedience to divine will, Picasso's five female figures are imbued with a very different kind of "feminine genius." The demoiselles pose, strut and squat in a brothel.

Like Renaissance artists, Picasso explored the sacred in this work, except his "holy" inspiration was drawn from the tribal African masks. Speaking of the "Demoiselles," the Spanish painter said that the African masks "were intercessors … against everything," adding that the painting was his "first canvas of exorcism!"

True, this work is a watershed in the history of art and most curators would allow themselves to be contorted into one of Picasso's misshapen figures to own it, furthermore, they would be completely justified given the nature and function of their secular museums.

The Vatican Museums, however, were not intended to be just another general exhibition in the history of art.

Michelangelo and Bernini and Fra Angelico created works that incite devotion, glorify God and stir viewers to transcend themselves. Secular museums do not have to reckon with two thousand years of propagating the Christian message.

My real question became: What do these works have to offer to the Christian audience looking for signs of God's sublime presence in our troubled modern times?

One of Picasso's early works might offer a solution to the selection dilemma.

"Science and Charity" was painted in 1897 by a 17-year-old Picasso.

This academic painting shows a woman on her deathbed, a doctor on her right and a nun on her left. The doctor looks away from the patient as he takes her pulse and goes about his science. The religious sister holds the woman's soon-to-be-orphaned child, proffering a glass toward the woman offering comfort.

Both the nun and the doctor wear the same colors of black and white, and appear as two sides of a scale. But the balance is tipped slightly toward the sister as the light shines on her while the doctor is cast in shadow. At the moment of death his science is useless, but the charitable care of the sister can offer solace.

Given that Picasso was to reject religion and embrace science as his guide -- from optics in cubism to psychology in his surrealist phase -- if nothing else, this painting would serve as a reminder of how God's gifts of talent, vision and genius can be used for both good and ill.

Is there a place in the history of art for Pablo Picasso? Most assuredly. I doubt very much, however, that it is in the Vatican Museums.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Paul Klee - a missed exhibit

Opening Eyes, Belatedly, to Paul Klee

By Jessica Dawson
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 18, 2006; N01

A Paul Klee exhibition in the United States is bound to prompt a question:

What, exactly, does a Paul Klee painting look like?

We Americans aren't likely to know. Although the Swiss-born artist's fame came easily enough in Europe -- where his career flowered in the decades before his death in 1940 from scleroderma -- those on this side of the Atlantic missed the memo itemizing Klee's talent and influence.

Perhaps that's because the artist never traveled stateside and never really wanted to. Perhaps Americans didn't cotton to Klee's jittery lines, off-note color schemes and childlike surrealism. Or maybe his reputation as a fringe-dwelling visionary turned people off.

"Klee and America," on view at the Phillips Collection, offers alternate explanations for our country's slow warming to the idiosyncratic painter. This nation, after all, did accept him, although the embrace was warmest after his death.

The artist's American market witnessed its first uptick toward the end of his career, when his reputation in Europe soured due to Nazi interference. In the early 1930s, he benefited from the efforts of a strong cohort of expatriate American dealers who pushed his work stateside -- and by the middle of that decade, his work found Americans sympathetic to his talent and his persecution.

Later in the 20th century his impact was clear, but it's been 20 years since Americans saw a major Klee show. If we struggle to conjure a Klee in our minds, perhaps we can be forgiven our fuzzy-headedness.

The nearly 80 works in "Klee and America," organized by Houston's Menil Collection, serve as a barometer of the artist's rise in this nation's consciousness during his lifetime. Only those paintings and works on paper that landed on U.S. soil are on view.

Tracing Klee's relationship to the United States through the pictures Americans bought is an unusual curatorial tack, one that scholars might delight in viewing. For the everyday museum visitor, though, the exhibition performs a more urgent task: It shows us what Klee's pictures look like.

"Klee and America," it should be noted, is no survey. Only 10 percent of Klee's output is held by Americans, so this show registers the tastes of a discrete collecting population. The accompanying catalogue, a 315-page behemoth that's richly illustrated and thoroughly researched, parses the details of transatlantic Klee transactions and the early-20th-century tastemakers who brought his work here.

We learn about Katherine S. Dreier, who in the 1920s founded Societe Anonyme in collaboration with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray and organized Klee's first one-man show in the United States, in 1924. We learn that six years after that, Alfred Barr -- a man whose reputation requires no further gilding -- mounted the largest solo show of Klee's work outside Europe, at the Museum of Modern Art; Klee was the first living European artist to receive a solo show there. Also found in the catalogue's pages: The notion that Klee didn't gain traction here until his fortunes fell in Nazi Germany.

You'll have to crack the catalogue to get the details. The Phillips exhibition is mercifully free of didacticism. "Klee and America" asks us, quite simply, to look. And we've got some excellent pictures from the 1920s and '30s to feast on.

Many of Klee's pictures were made in Germany, where he spent most of his life. After moving to Munich at the turn of the century and abandoning a career as a concert violinist (he would continue to play all his life), he began painting lessons. Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, himself fresh from a career change, shared painting instructor Franz von Stuck, an artist specializing in the macabre themes of late symbolism and art nouveau.

Although Kandinsky and Klee shared a belief in the spiritual nature of art and its eruption from deep human drives, their work took very different forms.

When Klee worked in abstraction, as he did in "Gradation, Red-Green (Vermilion)," a 1921 watercolor on view at the Phillips, he never approached Kandinsky's bravado of color and scale. Klee's exercise in color and composition is much more intimate and subdued than any Kandinsky. Most of the Klees here are the size of postcards or notebook paper. (A few get larger as he approaches his final years. Most suffer a little for it.)

Although Klee lived in Germany, a strong strain of French surrealism ran through his pictures. The twitchy lines and oddball creatures of Klee's works from the 1920s show why the French considered him one of the fathers of dada. At the Phillips, the Duchampian "Twittering Machine" is on view, as is the anxiously Freudian "Girl With Doll's Pram," where the little girl's breasts are the size of Hindenburgs.

For most of the 1920s, Klee taught at the Bauhaus and later at the Dusseldorf Academy. But his time in Germany ended badly. His teaching emphasized individualism, and the Nazis found his lessons suspect, dismissing him from the Dusseldorf position in 1933. Several years later, Germany exhibited some of his most childlike work in its degenerate-art exhibition. Klee spent his final years in exile in Switzerland.

Klee's waning European fortunes offered more opportunities for Americans to acquire him. In "Klee and America," wall labels detailing provenance read like small-scale society rags. That the picture called "Plan of a Castle" (a spatial exercise in floating polygons) belonged to Philip Johnson in the years 1948 to 1961 comes as no surprise, given the architect's taste for geometry. That Johnson also owned the childlike ink drawing "Not Without Heart" (1928) -- in which Klee renders a dachshund out of a parallelogram with charming naivete -- seems rather out of Johnson's character. (A few years later, the collecting stars realigned when the piece turned up in gimlet-penned draftsman Andy Warhol's cache.)

Among the Important People who acquired Klees was Duncan Phillips. Visitors to this leg of "Klee and America" get a special treat: a re-creation of the Klee room that Phillips maintained for nearly 40 years, beginning in 1948. In a former sewing room on the second floor of the museum mansion, 13 tiny Klees hung shoulder-to-shoulder for the enjoyment of thousands of visitors, Kenneth Noland and Mark Rothko among them.

That little group, perhaps the strongest subset of "Klee and America," reminds us what fun Klee is, and what peculiar attraction his works offer.

Although the museum plans to rehang the Klee room after "Klee and America" ends, the when and where of that arrangement remain uncertain. For the time being, at least, our chance is now.

Klee and America at the Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW, Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m., through Sept. 10. $12 adults, $10 age 62 and older and students. Free to those 18 and younger and museum members. Call 202-387-2151 or visit .

posted by follower of basho

Paul Klee qoutes:

To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.

Paul Klee qoutes:

Democracy with its semi-civilization sincerely cherishes junk. The artist's power should be spiritual. But the power of the majority is material. When these worlds meet occasionally, it is pure coincidence.

Monday, October 16, 2006

oops! I put a hole in my Picasso!

The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town:

Issue of 2006-10-23
Posted 2006-10-16

You might have seen “Le Rêve,” Picasso’s 1932 portrait of his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, in your college art-history textbook. The painting is owned by Steve Wynn, the casino magnate and collector of masterpieces. He acquired it in a private sale in 2001 from an anonymous collector, who had bought it at auction in 1997 for $48.4 million. Recently, Wynn decided that he’d like to sell it, along with several other museum-quality paintings he owns. A friend of his, the hedge-fund mogul and avid collector Steven Cohen, had coveted “Le Rêve” for years, so he and Wynn and their intermediaries worked out a deal. Cohen agreed to pay a hundred and thirty-nine million dollars for it, the highest known price ever paid for a work of art.

A few weeks ago, on a Thursday, a representative of Cohen’s came from California to inspect the painting. She removed it from the wall, took it out of its frame, and confirmed that it was in excellent shape. On Friday, she wrote her condition report, and so, according to their contract, the deal was done. All that was left was the actual exchange of money and art.

That weekend, Wynn had some friends visiting from New York—David and Mary Boies, Nora Ephron and Nick Pileggi, Louise Grunwald, and Barbara Walters. They were staying, as they often do, at his hotel and casino, the Wynn Las Vegas. As they had dinner together on Friday night, Wynn told them about the sale. “The girls said, ‘We’ve got to see it tomorrow,’ ” Wynn recalled last week. “So I said, ‘I’ll be working tomorrow. Just come on up to the office.’ ” (He had recently moved “Le Rêve” there from the hotel lobby.)

The guests came at five-thirty, and Wynn ushered them in. On the wall to his left and right were several paintings, including a Matisse, a Renoir, and “Le Rêve.” The other three walls were glass, looking out onto an enclosed garden. He began to tell the story of the Picasso’s provenance. As he talked, he had his back to the picture. He was wearing jeans and a golf shirt. Wynn suffers from an eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, which affects his peripheral vision and therefore, occasionally, his interaction with proximate objects, and, without realizing it, he backed up a step or two as he talked. “So then I made a gesture with my right hand,” Wynn said, “and my right elbow hit the picture. It punctured the picture.” There was a distinct ripping sound. Wynn turned around and saw, on Marie-Thérèse Walter’s left forearm, in the lower-right quadrant of the painting, “a slight puncture, a two-inch tear. We all just stopped. I said, ‘I can’t believe I just did that. Oh, shit. Oh, man.’ ”

Wynn turned around again. He put his pinkie in the hole and observed that a flap of canvas had been pushed back. He told his guests, “Well, I’m glad I did it and not you.” He said that he’d have to call Cohen and William Acquavella, his dealer in New York, to tell them that the deal was off. Then he resumed talking about his paintings, almost, but not quite, as though he hadn’t just delivered what one of the guests would later call, in an impromptu stab at actuarial math, a “forty-million-dollar elbow.”

A few hours later, they all met up for dinner, and Wynn was in a cheerful mood. “My feeling was, It’s a picture, it’s my picture, we’ll fix it. Nobody got sick or died. It’s a picture. It took Picasso five hours to paint it.” Mary Boies ordered a six-litre bottle of Bordeaux, and when it was empty she had everyone sign the label, to commemorate the calamitous afternoon. Wynn signed it “Mary, it’s all about scale—Steve.” Everyone had agreed to take what one participant called a “vow of silence.” (The vow lasted a week, until someone leaked the rudiments of the story to the Post.)

The next day, Wynn finally reached his dealer, and told him, “Bill, I think I’m going to ruin your day.” The first word out of Acquavella’s mouth was “Nooo!” Later that week, Wynn’s wife, Elaine, took the painting to New York in Wynn’s jet, where she and “Le Rêve” were met by an armored truck. Cohen met them at Acquavella’s gallery, on East Seventy-ninth Street, and he agreed that the deal was off until the full extent of the damage could be ascertained. The contract, at any rate, was void.

The painting wound up in the hands of an art restorer, who has told Wynn that when he’s done with it, in six or eight weeks, you won’t be able to tell that Wynn’s elbow had passed through Marie-Thérèse Walter’s left forearm.

Last Friday, when Wynn’s alarm went off, at 7 A.M., his wife turned to him in bed and said, “I consider this whole thing to be a sign of fate. Please don’t sell the picture.” Later that morning, Wynn called Cohen and told him he wanted to keep the painting, after all.

— Nick Paumgarten


Nora Ephron

My Weekend in Vegas

We got there Friday night and went straight to dinner at the SW Restaurant, which is of course named after Steve Wynn. I'd never been there. It has a strip steak that I honestly thought was the finest steak of my life, and let me tell you, I eat a lot of steak. (This reminds me, someone at our table ordered a steak made of grass-fed beef, it was the second time I'd had grass-fed beef in less than a week, it's become a big trend, and may I say that someone should stamp out grass-fed beef because it has no taste whatsoever.) Anyway, while we were eating, Steve and Elaine Wynn stopped by the table. Wynn was in a very good mood because, he told us, he had just sold a Picasso for $139 million. I was surprised he'd sold it, because the Picasso in question was not just any old Picasso but the famous painting Le Reve, which used to hang in the museum at the Bellagio when Wynn owned it, and no question it was Wynn's favorite painting. He'd practically named his new hotel after it, but at some point in the course of construction he'd changed his mind and decided to name the hotel after himself, which, when you think of it, was a good idea, what with the homonym and all. Meanwhile, he named the Cirque de Soleil Show at the Wynn after Le Reve.

The buyer of the painting, Wynn told, was a man named Steven Cohen. Everyone seemed to know who Steven Cohen was, a hedge fund billionaire who lived in Connecticut in a house with a fabulous art collection he had just recently amassed. "This is the most money ever paid for a painting," Steve Wynn said. The price was $4 million more than Ronald Lauder had recently paid for a Klimt. Oh, that Klimt. It had set a bar, no question of that, and Wynn was thrilled to have beaten it. He invited us to come see the painting before it moved to Connecticut, never to be seen again by anyone but people who know Steven Cohen.

The next day, after an excellent lunch at Chinois in the Forum Mall, which is the eighth wonder of the world, we all trooped back to our hotel to see the painting. We went into Wynn's office, which is just off the casino, past a waiting area with a group of fantastic Warhols, past a secretary's desk with a Matisse over it (a Matisse over a secretary's desk!) (and by the way a Renoir over another secretary's desk!) and into Wynn's office. There, on the wall, were two large Picassos, one of them Le Reve. Steve Wynn launched into a long story about the painting -- he told us that it was a painting of Picasso's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter, that it was extremely erotic, and that if you looked at it carefully (which I did, for the first time, although I'd seen it before at the Bellagio) you could see that the head of Marie-Therese was divided in two sections and that one of them was a penis. This was not a good moment for me vis a vis the painting. In fact, I would have to say that it made me pretty much think I wouldn't pay five dollars for it. Wynn went on to tell us about the provenance of the painting - who'd first bought it and who'd then bought it. This brought us to the famous Victor and Sally Ganz, a New York couple who are a sort of ongoing caution to the sorts of people who currently populate the art world, because the Ganzes managed to accumulate a spectacular art collection in a small New York apartment with no money at all. The Ganz collection went up for auction in 1997, Wynn was saying -- he was standing in front of the painting at this point, facing us. He raised his hand to show us something about the painting -- and at that moment, his elbow crashed backwards right through the canvas.

There was a terrible noise.

Wynn stepped away from the painting, and there, smack in the middle of Marie-Therese Walter's plump and allegedly-erotic forearm, was a black hole the size of a silver dollar - or, to be more exactly, the size of the tip of Steve Wynn's elbow -- with two three-inch long rips coming off it in either direction. Steve Wynn has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that damages peripheral vision, but he could see quite clearly what had happened.

"Oh shit," he said. "Look what I've done."

The rest of us were speechless.

"Thank God it was me," he said.

For sure.

The word "money" was mentioned by someone, or perhaps it was the word "deal."

Wynn said: "This has nothing to do with money. The money means nothing to me. It's that I had this painting in my care and I've damaged it."

I felt that I was in a room where something very private had happened that I had no right to be at. I felt absolutely terrible.

At the same time I was holding my digital camera in my hand - I'd just taken several pictures of the Picasso - and I wanted to take a picture of the Picasso with the hole in it so badly that my camera was literally quivering. But I didn't see how I could take a picture - it seemed to me I'd witnessed a tragedy, and what's more, that my flash would go off if I did and give me away.

Steve Wynn picked up the phone and left a message for his art dealer. Then he called his wife Elaine. "You'll never believe what I just did," he said to her. From where we stood, on the other end of the phone call, Elaine seemed to take the news calmly and did not yell at her husband. This was particularly impressive to my own husband. There was a conversation about whether the painting could be restored - Wynn seemed to think it could be - and of the two people in America who were capable of restoring it. We all promised we would keep the story quiet - not, you understand, to cover it up, but to make sure that Wynn was able to deal with the episode as he wished to until it came out. We all knew it would come out eventually. It would have to. There were too many of us in the room, plus all the people in the art world who were eventually going to hear about it.

Meanwhile, we were not going to tell anyone.

We promised.

I promised.

That night we went to dinner, once again at SW because that's how great it is, it's worth going to two nights in a row. They were serving creamed corn with truffles, which was amazing. Once again the Wynns joined us. They were in a terrifically jolly mood, all things considered, and Wynn told us that he planned to tell Steve Cohen the next day that of course Cohen was released from the deal because the painting had been damaged.

After dinner I threw eight or nine passes at the craps table, one of which included a hard ten.

The next day one of my sons came to meet us in Las Vegas, and we went to Joe's Stone Crab, which is excellent, and where the key lime pie may be even better than the key lime pie at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach, if such a thing is possible. I told my son the story of what had happened to the painting, but it didn't really count because my son is completely trustworthy.

Nine days passed and I told no one else. It was the most painful experience of my life. But I felt good, too, because, as I say, I knew the story would come out eventually and when it did, I didn't want it to be my fault. And the story did come out.. Ten days after Wynn put his elbow through the painting, there was an item about it on Page Six of the New York Post. It was very clear who had given Page Six the item, and it wasn't me. I was thrilled that I had managed to keep the story (more or less) to myself and celebrated by calling several friends and telling them my version of what had happened.

Two days later, I got a call from a reporter at the New Yorker who said he was going to write a piece about the episode. I still didn't feel comfortable discussing the event, but I called Elaine Wynn and told her the New Yorker was going to write a story and that Steve should call the reporter back and tell him about it, since no question the story was out there.

Elaine told me that she was glad I'd called because she had awakened that morning with the realization that Steve's putting his elbow through the painting had been a sign that they were meant to keep the painting. So they were going to.

Now, in today's New Yorker, there's a very charming piece about the incident, and as far as I'm concerned I am entirely released from my vow of silence on the matter.

So there it is.

My weekend in Vegas.

Chinese Contemporary: Artist Zhao Nengzhi

Chinese Contemporary: Artist:
Zhao Nengzhi lives in Chengdu, near the Yangze river in Sichuan province. He is one of a community of artists who gathered around the famous painter Zhang Xiaogang.

Zhao Nengzhi’s work is typical of many of the Sichuan artists, that is, they are lyrical and subtle. He is investigating the individual, the personality, the development and expression of the self in the new liberalizing China. He insists that his paintings are not portraits. Zhao Nengzhi is interested in finding the temperament behind the face, transferring moods and emotions to canvas. He uses photos to capture himself and his friends at various instants as these may provide an insight into facets of their personality. These photos then serve as inspiration for his oil works. The finished paintings are blurry and have but one figure. The indistinct image often focuses on one part of the face, the part key to the expression captured.

The concept of face (ie one’s honor) in China is all important and it is significant that an artist tries to delve behind this facade of his countrymen. The face of China was all that was allowed in the propaganda posters and official paintings of earlier eras. Now, however, young artists such as Zhao Nengzhi can search, investigate and express what they find behind the Chinese face."

tags: Chinese Artist, Zhao Nengzhi

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Follow up on the Nazi stolen Klimts

Adele Bloch-Bauer II

Selling art once stolen by the Nazis sparks controversy.

Friday, September 29, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Christie's recently announced that, in November, it will sell four paintings by the early-20th-century Austrian modernist Gustav Klimt, works whose combined estimated value is between $93 million and $140 million. The news has caused a sensation, and not only because of the greatness of the art and the size of the price tag.

These Klimts, three landscapes and a portrait, are part of a group of five turned over to Maria Altmann by the Austrian government earlier this year. After a seven-year campaign by Ms. Altmann, 90, Austrian officials finally acknowledged her legal right to ownership. It was, of course, the confiscatory practices of the Third Reich that had disrupted a continuous line of family ownership and had made Ms. Altmann's claim an emblem of postwar property-rights justice.

Ms. Altmann's uncle, Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer, had originally owned the five paintings, two of which are portraits of his wife, Adele, who died in 1925. Bloch-Bauer had fled his native Austria in 1938 following the Anschluss, whereupon the Nazis seized his property. Beginning in the early 1940s, the paintings entered Austrian museums, there to remain until this year. Bloch-Bauer spent most of the war in Switzerland, dying in 1945.

Soon after recovering the paintings last winter, Ms. Altmann lent them to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and then to the Neue Galerie, a New York City museum for modern German and Austrian art founded by cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder. (The paintings are still on display there, until Oct. 9.) She also sold the most magnificent work of the five, the shimmering gold portrait "Adele Bloch-Bauer I," to Mr. Lauder for the eye-popping sum of $135 million.

The reaction to that first sale focused on Mr. Lauder, who had put his five-year-old institution on the map with the acquisition of a major piece of 20th-century art. The reaction to the upcoming Christie's sale has been, well, different.

New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman inveighed against the sale. Ms. Altmann and her relatives, he declared, were "cashing in," turning a "story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust" into "yet another tale of the crazy, intoxicating art market." The family should give the works away, donating "one or more" to a public institution, or negotiate "a private sale to a museum at a price below the auction house estimates." He even came close to stating that Ms. Altmann's museum loans weren't a sign of her generosity but a kind of profiteering, since "the museums provided presale publicity of a sort that no auction house could organize."

The blogosphere promptly lit up. On his blog Modern Art Notes (, Tyler Green responded by blaming the museums, not Ms. Altmann. "If you want to be angry at someone for not ensuring that the Klimts ended up in private collections," he wrote, "what about the wealthy trustees at major museums?"

In a post on her site CultureGrrl (, Lee Rosenbaum (a frequent contributor to the Journal) raised another concern. She observed that "rushing to auction rather than cherishing objects that were once important to lost loved ones reinforces the pernicious stereotype that we Jews are always up against--that we are enamored of money."

Follow up in her defense: She (Ms. Altmann) couldn't afford to keep them

But what if Ms. Altmann had decided to hold on to her Klimts? Once Nazi-looted art is restored to its rightful owners, the bills start coming in. Lawyers in some restitution cases may work pro bono, but their costs cannot be waived, and these can quickly pile up. Randol Schoenberg, Maria Altmann's attorney, says that he has been willing to overlook even those on occasion. But "when you get cases that require substantial litigation, then you have to have a more professional kind of arrangement." The fight for the Klimts was one such case, observes Mr. Schoenberg, who will only say of the total legal bill that it "was quite a lot" and that he and Ms. Altmann "shared the costs."

Then there is insurance. A premium calculated at below 10 cents per $100 of appraised value is about average, says Christiane Fischer, president and CEO of AXA Art Insurance. But "once you cross the $100 million mark, the entire world of insuring art changes." In other words, only the superwealthy can afford such protection.

But there is a principle at stake bigger than cash flow, namely: Long-denied heirs like Ms. Altmann should be allowed to do as they please with their property once they have recovered it. Isn't that, so to speak, the whole point? The "story about justice and redemption after the Holocaust," to borrow Mr. Kimmelman's phrase, surely includes the right of the descendants of Nazi-era victims to exercise the freedom their families were denied.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Gmail - Stunning Glass Sculpture for KU Med

my friends at Leopold gallery just sent me this interesting email:

We recently completed an enormous sculpture in blown glass for KU Medical Center. The armature was designed by Leopold, the glass created by Vernon Brejcha. The piece, titled PulseFlow, is for KU Med’s new Cardiac Center, and incorporates over 300 pieces of glass.

Brejcha, who has been blowing art glass since 1970, is considered one of the pioneers of the contemporary art glass movement. His work is in the collections of more than 40 museums, including the Smithsonian Institute, the Los Angeles County Museum, and the Wedgewood Museum in England. The image below also shows a work he recently did for a private collector.

If you find these images as stunning as our clients have, please pass them on.

327 East 55th St. Kansas City, MO 64113 ·

(p) 816-333-3111 · (f) 816-333-3616

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Artist focus: four by August Walla

aFairy tale
"God Devil Walla"

August Walla
30 x 40 cm

(jpg from Galerie Altnöder, © Haus der Künstler, Gugging)

August Walla
Fire House, 1999
Pencil, colored pencil and ballpoint pen on white wove paper
Signed, upper right, and inscribed throughout. Extensively inscribed in colored pencil, verso
17 3/8" x 24 5/8" (44.1 x 62.5 cm)
G 99-246

August Walla’s paintings and drawings show many affinities to contemporary art in his use of bold, striking imagery and aggressively rendered forms, signs, and symbols.

He was very keen on language, and foreign words and phrases had a significant and magical meaning to him.

Painter, photographer and calligrapher August Walla has created his own mythology of invented creatures, gods, signs, words and languages. The symbols and figures of his polytheistic universe can be found throughout his work. August Walla is particularly known for his method of intervening directly in his environment, leaving his mark everywhere. In projecting a personal symbolism on his surroundings, particularly on functional elements, August Walla gives them an autonomy and life of their own.

August Walla has documented the result of his land art interventions and installations, collecting them in a sort of personal photographic journal. Over time, this journal has grown to be an accurate and lively reflection of the continuum of his work. Dazibao is showing a section of this photographic journal, covering the period between 1980 to 1983.

Not only do the works of August Walla offer us a singular language and an unusual world view, but they question the very notion of creation, the nature of the artistic act.

Born in 1936, August Walla has lived in the Gugging artists’ residence since 1983. The house, located near Vienna in Austria and founded in 1981 by the psychiatrist Leo Navratil, harbours several well-known artists of the Art Brut movement, of whom August Walla is one of the more versatile representatives. His work has been shown in a number of major European and American museums, and has greatly influenced many artists, including Julian Shnabel.

Walla died of cancer in July, 2001 at the age of sixty-five.

see also

Outsider Artist August Walla


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Adam and Eve returned to Mexico

Museum of Art returns stolen painting to Mexico


August 24, 2006

San Diego Museum of Art
This is a copy of “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden,” an 18th-century oil painting stolen from a church in Hidalgo, Mexico, and sold to the San Diego Museum of Art. The painting is being returned to Mexico.
Mexican authorities reclaimed an 18th-century painting yesterday that had been stolen from a church and then sold to the San Diego Museum of Art six years ago.

Many questions remain unanswered as to how the painting ended up at the museum. No arrests have been made despite a two-year investigation into how the artwork was smuggled into the United States.

During a news conference yesterday at the Mexican Consulate in San Diego, Mexican authorities thanked museum officials for their cooperation, but no one from the museum was present.

A framed copy of the painting, “Expulsion From the Garden of Eden,” was displayed during the news conference, but the actual artwork had been removed from the museum yesterday morning to be placed on a plane.

Mexican Consul General Diego Luis Cabrera thanked museum officials and U.S. authorities for ensuring the return of “a work of great artistic value.”

The stolen painting in San Diego, as well as an investigation into a former antiquities curator for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, who is on trial in Rome accused of trafficking in looted artifacts, have brought attention to the international problem of smuggled artwork.

Greek officials are trying to reclaim ancient artifacts held by the Getty museum, which recently agreed to turn over two pieces. And Boston's Museum of Fine Arts has agreed to return to Italy an unspecified number of Italian artworks believed to have been stolen.

In San Diego's case, the stolen painting was linked in Mexico to Rodrigo Rivero Lake, a well-known art dealer and expert, but apparently no charges have been filed against him in Mexico.

U.S. authorities said their investigation in San Diego was ongoing despite a five-year statute of limitations on this case. They didn't say when that would expire.

“The statute of limitations is expiring, but the investigation is still ongoing because we are pursuing other angles,” said Lauren Mack, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's San Diego office.

The painting, by an unknown artist, was stolen in 2000 from a Mexican church in the tiny community of San Juan Tepemazalco, in the interior state of Hidalgo. Thieves stole two other paintings from the same church.

The painting came to the museum's attention through a curator hired to help boost their collections. The curator, Marion Oettinger, who later said he wasn't aware the artwork was stolen, put the museum in touch with Rivero, the painting's Mexican vendor.

The museum, under former director Don Bacigalupi, bought the painting in 2000 for an undisclosed price. Yesterday, U.S. and Mexican authorities said in a news release that it had been bought for $45,000.

The Mexican vendor was never identified by the museum, but was determined through other sources to be Rivero.

Cabrera said yesterday that Mexican authorities had interviewed Rivero, but he was unaware of the status of the case.

“It's part of the investigation,” he said. “I don't know if this person is responsible or not . . . for unknowingly buying the artwork.”

Rivero didn't respond to a request for an interview yesterday.

Museum officials said they weren't aware the painting was stolen until it was already in their possession and they did further research.

A new director, Derrick Cartwright, announced stricter policies to verify artworks' origin.

The painting turned out to have been sold to the museum the same year it had been stolen, despite strict Mexican laws that provide little leeway for exporting Spanish Colonial art.

Oettinger told the Union-Tribune in 2004 that he thought the painting was actually in Arizona, being held by an associate of Rivero's.

Cartwright said last night that the museum assisted in the investigation and was eager to have the painting returned to its rightful owners.

“I've been very committed to making sure the museum did the right thing in this case,” he said, adding that the museum prepared a protective crate for the painting's journey back to Mexico.

Mexican authorities said the painting will be turned over to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History. Cabrera said the Institute will decide with the state of Hidalgo's cultural office where to keep the artwork to ensure its security.

Michael Unzueta, special agent in charge of the San Diego office of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, said the case's outcome is positive because the painting is going back where it belongs.

“The Mexican people can now proudly share this piece of art with the world,” he said.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A "presidential bust" of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

Clinton busts out at Museum of Sex

‘Presidential bust’ designed to spark discussion of sex, politics, celebrity.

NEW YORK - A "presidential bust" of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was unveiled Wednesday at New York's Museum of Sex, where sculptor Daniel Edwards hopes it will spark discussion about sex, politics and celebrity.

Edwards, the artist who also created a life-size nude of Britney Spears giving birth on a bear-skin rug, said he wanted to capture Clinton's age and femininity in the sculpture.

Clinton's office had no immediate comment.

Edwards said his work features a soft "presidential smile" and wrinkles framing her eyes. A floral pattern runs across her breasts, part of Edwards' effort to present Clinton "as a woman — not a covered-up person, but as a woman."

"I didn't want to give her a face lift or change her age," he said of his work.

"The key was to reveal her chest a little bit. She usually covers herself up, but I don't think that's necessary."

Perhaps getting ahead of himself, the artist has titled the sculpture "The Presidential Bust of Hillary Rodham Clinton: The First Woman President of the United States of America.

Original Story:

Paul's comments:

Here we have an artist who uses sexuality and current celebrity to get his name in the news. As a stratagem this is working, I think, mostly because he does such technically good work Although there is some criticism of the portrayal of Mrs. Clinton's Breast.) I have often dealt with the concept of an artist choice of subject and the move historically away from subjects such as in abstract art - but it then began to shift to non- specific representations of individuals. In other words, you didn't know the subject. Most of the work of celebrity art was done in cartoon, with the remaining work being a bit cheesy. This Clinton statue could be considered cheesy, I think.)

It also is a political statement - meant to present a foreshadow of the next Presidential election. And though it seems as though Edwards wants to be supportive, I think this work will garner more criticism than praise about it's subject.

Edawards controversial work has even gained him a listing in Wikepedia:


Daniel Edwards is a controversial sculptor.

His works include a sculpture of the disembodied head of Ted Williams, a life sized statue of Britney Spears giving birth while nude on her hands and knees on a bearskin rug, and a nude bust of Senator Hillary Clinton.."

There are many interesting links on Edwards on the bottom of his Wikkepedia page including links to short movies about his work- including one about this statue at:

-Posted by Paul Grant (follower of Basho)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Shouldn’t museums be free?

Met to Raise Admission to Twenty Dollars

07.13.06 - The Metropolitan Museum of Art is raising its recommended admission price for adults to twenty dollars from fifteen dollars, reports Carol Vogel in the New York Times, making it one of the most expensive museums to visit in the world. Museum spokesman Harold Holzer said that the increase, which takes effect August 1, is intended to remedy an annual operating deficit that has averaged three million dollars in recent years. He emphasized that the fee was suggested, not obligatory. MoMA drew broad attention in 2004 when its compulsory admission fee soared to twenty dollars from twelve dollars upon opening its expanded home in Midtown Manhattan.

July 22, 2006
Critic's Notebook

Should Art Museums Always Be Free? There’s Room for Debate

A museum’s admission policy is charged with meaning. It encodes the institution’s core values — its sense of itself, its mission and its public — and broadcasts them to that public. It’s like a thumbprint, a tiny yet accurate key to a whole identity. It is also, periodically, a hot-button issue.

In a 2002 panel discussion at Harvard University that was recently quoted on the art blog Culture Grrl, Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, remarked that “it’s almost a moral duty that museums should be free.” Another panelist, Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, emphatically differed. Noting that people pay “huge amounts to money” to attend rock concerts and sports events, he asked, “What is it about art that it shouldn’t be paid for?”

That excellent question is front and center in New York this month, now that the Met has announced a rise in its suggested admission fee, to $20 from $15. Those who were upset by the increase should remember that the Met’s admission is still suggested, a voluntary donation. (Hello? You can pay a penny.)

The real offense is the museum’s coyness about publicizing this fact, having some time ago deleted from its ticket-desk signs the sentence “Pay What You Wish but You Must Pay Something.” Nonprofit institutions aren’t exempt from truth in advertising, and partial truth is not sufficient. On the other hand, the $20 admission fee is absolutely required at the Museum of Modern Art, which raised it from $12 — a 67 percent increase — in 2004.

To justify such fee increases, or for that matter the very existence of fees, this country’s museums have come to cast themselves as a blend of popular entertainment, corporation and school. From this has descended a confused identity and any number of ills: mall-like, low-functioning new wings and expansions; museum bookstores largely devoid of books; ever-larger departments of “education’’; and boards of trustees too willing to approve impulse sales from the permanent collection or to siphon authority from seasoned curators.

But museums only partly resemble popular entertainment. Unlike corporations, they were not founded out of a profit incentive. They are only marginally like schools, where the overriding goal is the learning of basic skills.

As has been said before, museums are most comparable to libraries. Like libraries, they are repositories of knowledge. Like books, artworks are tools for lifelong self-education; it is through them that we discover and explore important aspects of our humanness. They should be equally available to all, for the good of the individual and society as a whole. Most Americans would be appalled if public libraries charged entrance fees.

Setting out to write this article, I expected to make a plea for free museums and to propose that all museums pledge publicly to the principle and then work toward it, the way car manufacturers are working toward zero-emission engines. I call it the free-for-all pledge.

But my research revealed that an impressive number of museums appear to have made this pledge — that they have recently “gone free” or have been free, or almost free, to the public for quite some time. In late May, Baltimore’s most prominent museums — the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum — announced that they would eliminate admission charges on Oct. 1 with the help of an $800,000 grant from the city and the county.

Baltimore follows the example of St. Louis, which in 1971 started using city and county tax revenue to guarantee free admission at the St. Louis Art Museum (a good thing, since the phrase “Dedicated to Art and Free to All” is engraved in the stone facade of its 1904 building), as well as the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center and the Missouri History Museum.

In 1988, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts went from pay-what-you-wish to free admission, with help from the Ford Motor Company, which supports Ford Free Museum Days at museums in five American cities. The Dayton Art Institute went free in 1994 with an endowment from Bank One. The Cincinnati Art Museum did the same in 2003 with an endowment from the Richard and Lois Rosenthal Foundation. Ford sponsorship and parking garage fees enabled the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., to go free in 1998. And it will remain free when its new wing, designed by the architect Stephen Holl, opens next June.

Of course, the Smithsonian’s Washington art museums and the National Gallery of Art are free. They are supported almost entirely by taxpayer dollars, which makes it hard to deny that the public owns them. Other museums that have long been free include the great Cleveland Museum of Art; the Toledo Art Museum in Ohio; the Kimbell Art Museum, the Menil Collection and the Amon Carter Museum in Texas; the Des Moines Art Center; the Virginia Fine Arts Museum in Richmond; and the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego. These museums usually charge for special exhibitions and have donation boxes prominently displayed. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is free.

Finally, the Brooklyn Museum, the Seattle Art Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts are among the encyclopedic big-city museums that, like the Met, have pay-what-you-wish policies, with suggested admissions ranging from $5 to $8. A glaring exception is the Art Institute of Chicago, which on June 3 converted its $12 admission from suggested to mandatory. A press release huffed that the change is “NOT a fee increase,” citing research that showed most visitors already pay the full admission. But given that one could get in for a penny before, the increase is astronomical. The Art Institute is free one evening a week (two in summer), thanks to Ford.

Maybe the free-for-all pledge has to be preceded by a freer-for-all pledge: museums that charge admission should get serious about expanding both their free times and the categories of people who are granted free admission. (The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston sets a standard of almost cynical frivolousness: anyone named Isabella gets in free. The Los Angeles County Museum, which is open till 8 p.m. five days a week and till 9 on Fridays, is free after 5, the result of sponsorship from Target.)

Big museums in Philadelphia, Boston and especially New York, the country’s most expensive, should shake off their sense of incurious entitlement and try their hardest in this regard. The Philadelphia Art Museum, which charges $12 for adults normally, is pay-what-you wish all day Sunday. The Whitney Museum (normally $15) and the Guggenheim ($18) are pay-what-you-wish for a few hours on Friday evenings, while the Modern, thanks to Target, is free from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Museums speak of wanting to attract larger, more democratic audiences. They cannot even begin to know this audience, much less accommodate it, until they lower the barriers, at least to their permanent collections. Doreen Bolger, director of the Baltimore Museum, told The Washington Post that the number of nonwhite visitors nearly tripled during the museum’s free hours. Nor can museums begin to know themselves until they make reduced admission a top priority and start combing through their budgets to see how to make it happen.

The spokeswoman for the Toledo Art Museum, whose free admission is dictated by its 1901 charter and supported by its endowment, summed it up: “Our founders had a huge institutional commitment to always remaining free.”

According to the Association of Art Museum Directors, museums earn an average of 5 percent of their revenue from admissions. The Met and the Whitney say their admission revenues constitute 12 percent; the Modern says 15 percent. While these amounts are hardly negligible, there are other sources for this money, including corporate donations. And eliminating admission fees can attract new community support. When the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston stopped charging admission in 1995, public donations increased enough to make up for the loss of income.

If museums were to broadcast unequivocally that their first priority is art and the public’s contact with art, their public image would improve and sharpen. And other things about them would start to change, from the people who sit on their boards, to the buildings they build.

While the art world often wonders out loud if art can change society, it seems fairly certain that museums can. They put us in touch with the world and its history. They reveal to us our own feelings, talents and capacities, shaping our idea of what we can become. They give us the visual equivalent of things sorely needed today: an understanding of difference, and therefore, of tolerance.

In times as dire as ours, everything matters more than art. Yet in such times, art matters more than ever.

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