21st Century

Caravaggio Sweatshirts & Shorts

May 7 2021

Image of Caravaggio Sweatshirts & Shorts

Picture: Defaultclub

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Instagram must be harvesting too much information regarding my interests, as it's decided to bombard me with adverts for Default Club's new range of Caravaggio 'streetwear' clothing.

I wonder if Caravaggio could have ever imagined his religious masterpieces being reused for printed clothing centuries after his death. Sweatshirts, t-shirts, backpacks and shorts can all be purchased with his paintings plastered over them, with prices ranging from €25 - €55 (excluding shipping).

Personally, I feel rather obliged to purchase this particular sweatshirt for myself.

Turner & Lowry Actor given First Solo Show

May 4 2021

Image of Turner & Lowry Actor given First Solo Show

Picture: Pontone Gallery

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Timothy Spall, who played both J.M.W. Turner and L.S. Lowry on the big screen, has been given his first ever solo show by the Pontone Gallery in London. Spall had received special tutelage from the painting consultant Tim Wright for a period of two years before the 2014 Turner biopic.

Spall is quoted as expressing:

“I started painting stuff that was based on very strong images that related to the mood and feelings that I had and then all of a sudden this thing started to happen,” he said. 

Wright said Spall could have been a “very good pastiche artist” after he worked on a copy of a Turner painting in the buildup to the biopic, and although Spall’s own paintings are mostly landscapes, they’re a world away from Turner, Spall said. “They’re pretty good benchmarks to reach for, wherever you get one millimetre towards it or not.”

The show Out of the Storm will run from 18th June - 18 July 2021.

Do Not Adjust Your Screens

April 16 2021

Image of Do Not Adjust Your Screens

Picture: smithsonianmag.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

"Why has AHN decided to utterly debase itself by using poor quality images?" - I know what you're thinking, but it's not my fault.

The picture above is a new piece of contemporary art by the Miaz Brothers in their upcoming show at the Maddox Gallery in London entitled The Past, Present & Imperceptible. The exhibition features blurred images of old master paintings by the likes of Caravaggio and Rembrandt.

Explaining these works in an article for the Smithsonian Magazine:

“[I]t is not possible to gaze passively. Instinctively, you are immediately prompted to engage on a physical level with what you see, moving closer or further away to decode what is before you,” say the brothers in a statement. “As memory begins to manifest and thoughts start taking form, emotions arise along with the possibility for reflection.”

Well, there it is.

Looking Under Paintings with AI

April 8 2021

Video: Oxia Palus

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's the latest collaboration between tech wizards and the art world. The art collective called Oxia Palus has been using AI to recreate paintings found underneath artworks. In this case, they've used scans of Picasso's The Crouching Beggar to digitally recreate an overpainted work that was discovered in 2018. It's believed that the painting underneath Picasso's is by Santiago Rusiñol, a modernist landscape painter and friend of the artist.

According to the article above:

The Oxia Palus team used a combination of spectroscopic imaging, AI, and 3D printing to actualize the visible trace of the landscape. They call the method “the neomastic process.”

The company has gone so far as re-printing 100 copies of the AI interpretation of the lost painting for sale.

Couple Accidentally Vandalise Abstract Work in Exhibition

April 8 2021

Video: newzee

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

An amusing story from South Korea regarding a couple who accidentally vandalised an abstract painting in a contemporary art exhibition in Seoul.

The couple assumed that the paints and brushes left underneath the work, a piece of set dressing intended by the artist, was encouragement for visitors to add to the piece. The work by the graffiti artist JonOne completed the work in 2016 for a live audience and has been valued at around $500,000. The work is now behind a small barrier with a newly installed 'Do not touch' sign.

Update - A reader has been in touch:

love the accidental vandalism, the question is…. without the cctv footage would anyone have noticed?

Empty Old Masters

April 1 2021

Image of Empty Old Masters

Picture: Octobrium

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The website designboom.com have featured works by the contemporary artist Octobrium who has been digitally manipulating old masters to create 'paintings from an alternative position in time'. Essentially, the artist carefully samples images and removes the figures from scenes to reveal the settings in their most pure form. The picture above is after Jan Gossaert's The Adoration of the Kings in the National Gallery, London.

As the website explains:

octobrium invites the audience to consider the moment when the actors have departed and to reflect upon the landscapes and structures that form the backdrop to the composition. in the absence of representations of living characters that had previously inhabited the scene, viewers are compelled to relate to the picture from solely their own perspective and thought; and the picture then assumes a different meaning. a meaning informed by our memory of the original painting.

_____________

A very neat trick I suppose, which does remind us how marvellous and interesting the architectural settings of such paintings can be. Regular readers might remember artist José Manuel Ballester undertaking the same effect with a Canaletto last June. Turn this into an NFT, and they might just start realising more money at auction than real old master paintings (perish the thought).

Hermitage to put on NFT Exhibition

March 26 2021

Image of Hermitage to put on NFT Exhibition

Picture: hermitagemuseum.org

Posted by Adam Busiakeiwicz:

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, has announced that it will be hosting an NFT exhibition later this year. This will make it one of the first major museums to host a show dedicated to these digital artworks which have become the latest craze in the art world. The show will be supported by the Aksenov Family Foundation and aims to 'study new forms of audience involvement in cultural practices.'

The Emperor's New Clothes

March 12 2021

Image of The Emperor's New Clothes

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

History was made yesterday at Christie's. A total of $69m (inc. fees) was paid by a anonymous bidder for the artwork above. Indeed, this work of art is not physical at all, but a digital NFT (non-fungible token) dreamt up by the digital artist Beeple. It consists of a collage of thousands of images created daily by the artist over a period of thirteen years.

Zoom in closer and you'll see the ephemera that has been spliced together to create this confusion. Why exactly has this type of digital creation being heralded as the new craze in art? It seems that the fad for NFTs is bound up in the zeitgeist of our age. They are seemingly promoted and collected by the fashionable entrepreneurs of big tech companies. People can spend their money as they wish, but will these works be of lasting interest? Or will they be discarded as quickly as an old electric car, and survive as long as it takes for the artwork's memory card to corrupt.

Tune in to Bendor and Waldemar's podcast on Sunday to hear their live reaction to the sale.

Banksy vs. Banksy / Christie's vs. Sotheby's

February 23 2021

Image of Banksy vs. Banksy / Christie's vs. Sotheby's

Picture: Christie's and Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

At first I put it down to lockdown fever, but no.

I've been rather stumped by this very curious happening on the Christie's and Sotheby's auction calendars. Both auction houses will be organising Banksy auctions on exactly the same day, in the same city and seemingly selling the exact same works.

It seems that both auction houses will be selling print versions of Love is in the Air and have picked them as the thumbnail for their sales. The Sotheby's version is estimated at £80k - £120k.

How can this make any commercial sense? Or is this the latest publicity stunt which is set to unfold in spectacular fashion?

Twombly Foundation Threatens to sue Louvre over Renovation

February 19 2021

Image of Twombly Foundation Threatens to sue Louvre over Renovation

Picture: artnews.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Here's an interesting story that's been developing over the past week. The Twombly foundation, the self-appointed guardians of the work of the late Cy Twombly, have threatened to sue the Louvre after a slight alteration to a monumental ceiling painting by the artist "was made without any consultation with, much less permission from, the foundation." The work was unveiled in 2010.

A recent renovation of the Salle des Bronzes by the museum included the changing of the floor, lighting and colour of the walls to red. The museum have defended their decision as their right to change displays over the centuries, but the Twombly foundation think otherwise. The foundation has claimed “The deep red that has been introduced violates these harmonies and entirely destroys the balance of Twombly’s sensitive and memorable installation" which has caused “serious damage” and a “violation of the artist’s moral rights.”

The Louvre have rebuffed these claims, stating that there was nothing in their agreement with the late artist that demanded that the room stay frozen in time.

Enforcing Resale Clauses in Contemporary Art

November 19 2020

Image of Enforcing Resale Clauses in Contemporary Art

Picture: artnet

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Artnet.com have published an article regarding attempts by some dealers in the contemporary art world to legally enforce reselling restrictions on artists they represent.

The enforcement of 'non-resale' and 'first-right-of-refusal' clauses have been justified as "a wish to maintain control over the market in the artist’s work, and the desire to ensure that the artworks are sold to buyers who appreciate rather than speculate." Some legal opinions have called these attempts and covenants "unenforceable."

As AHN has pointed out before, it is a curious feature of the contemporary art world that some dealers bid-up artists they represent in order to keep up bubbles from bursting. This question is unlikely to go-away anytime soon, but is an interesting debate to follow.

New Wollstonecraft Statue

November 10 2020

Image of New Wollstonecraft Statue

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Shockwaves have been sent through social media today at the unveiling of a new statue dedicated to the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). Readers of this blog will be familiar with the rather iconic portraits of her by John Opie (1), (2).

Maggi Hambling's new sculpture, unveiled in Newington Green, London, has been described as showing "a silvery naked everywoman figure emerging free and defiantly from a swirling mingle of female forms... [it] is the world’s only memorial sculpture to a woman known as the “mother of feminism”." The Guardian reported that £143,000 was raised to complete the community project.

Supporters of the project have celebrated the sculpture's ability to "start a conversation", whilst others have used the terms 'botched', 'disrespect', 'sex object' and 'emerging from a lump'.

Sell the Michelangelo, say some Academicians

September 20 2020

Image of Sell the Michelangelo, say some Academicians

Picture: RA

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian have published an article regarding a group of Royal Academicians who want to force a debate on the sale of the Royal Academy's Taddei Tondo by Michelangelo (pictured).

The tondo is of course the only example of Micheangelo's sculptures in Britain. This lovely fact, the article makes clear, has been inverted by some to suggest that the work is an 'anomaly' and thus is worth cashing in. This proposal has been supported by a group of academicians as a necessary measure to protect 150 jobs at risk and plug an £8m gap left by the covid crisis.

The article quotes a 'well-known' by unnamed academician:

The sale of the tondo has already been discussed... It is worth so much, it could save jobs and get the RA out of the financial mess they have got themselves into.

A spokesperson for the RA has strongly rebutted the claims that the organisation is considering to sell the tondo.

__________

I was wondering when this day would come, but it finally has.

On one hand, it is unsurprising that some contemporary artists and academicians no longer find masterpieces like the Taddei Tondo worth keeping. So much contemporary art focuses on laying scorn on, subverting and demonising the art of the past. Afterall, the RA is at its heart an educational institution for the training of artists. It's historic collection, therefore, is probably viewed by some contemporarists as a needless albatross rather than objects and masterpieces worthy of study and inspiration.

This is a debate that is unlikely to go away any time soon. But must we sacrifice everything for the living? If the UK government is wilfully removing the ability of organisations such as the RA to fend for itself financially, then it seems only reasonable that it foots the bill in the short term. These bail-outs, or selling of the family silver for that matter, can't go on forever either. Thus, removing the threat of covid is an imperative.

Update - It's not the first time that the sale of this important treasure has been discussed. The Art Newspaper had published an article three years ago giving an account of the debates which surrounding the sale of the sculpture in the late 1970s. It was then valued at £6,000,000. A loan to the MET in New York was suggested to try and raise funds, but never happened partly due to conservation concerns.

The article quotes advice and a warning that was given to the Queen at the time:

We could sell possessions, but this is a slipery slope. The only one which might solve the problem [the tondo] is looked upon by many as a national treasure.

The RA at the time took 'internal measures' to save funds and the idea to sell the tondo was dropped.

Dealers, Museums and the Art Market - Free Lecture

September 2 2020

Image of Dealers, Museums and the Art Market - Free Lecture

Picture: Bowes Museum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Furniture History Society are hosting a free online lecture by Dr Mark Westgarth of Leeds University on the Bowes Museum's 2019 exhibition SOLD! Dealers, Museums, and the Art Market.

This exhibition examined the history of the antique trade in Britain through objects from leading public collections. The stories of how objects came into various collections can often be just as intriguing as the objects themselves.

The lecture will be streamed live on Zoom on Sunday 6th September at 19.00 (BST). It is free to attend but registration is required.

Christie's Refute Accusations

September 1 2020

Image of Christie's Refute Accusations

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Telegraph have published an article relating to Christie's public rebuttal of what it calls false accusations from academics and protest movements as to the provenances of cultural artefacts passing through their hands.

The row began over accusations on social media in regards to the sale of a fifteenth century manuscript of the Qur'an which realised £7,016,250 (inc. fees) at auction earlier this June. Despite the work having a secure provenance back to the 1980s, the auction house has been accused of a lack of transparency.

In a statement the auction house said:

We are mindful that there are nuanced and complex debates around cultural property and wish to listen and engage appropriately. However, we are also concerned that there has been a rise in unfounded accusations, spread far and fast on social media, that question the legitimate and legal exchange of these objects and collecting areas.

As a marketplace we should all be concerned and ensure that the debate is balanced.

__________________

As previous court cases have highlighted, providing evidence seems to be key here. Auction houses undergo a strict measure of checks as part of their legally required 'due diligence' to ensure no known stolen property passes through their hands. However, as every picture researcher will know all too well from practical experience, finding evidence for provenance can be a very fruitless and time consuming process.

Picasso Vandal Sentenced

September 1 2020

Image of Picasso Vandal Sentenced

Picture: Artsy

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A twenty-year-old student who vandalised Picasso's Bust of a Woman (1944) at Tate Modern last December has been sentenced to eighteenth months in prison. The student, who attacked the work with metal padlocks, managed to punch through the protective glass and tear it off the wall. Fortunately, the judge managed to see through the defendant's claims that this was part of an elaborate piece of performance art. It also transpires that the painting was in fact a loan from a private collection. One can only imagine how awful that telephone call must have been.

Furthermore, artnet have reported:

In court, experts testified that repair efforts would take up to 18 months and cost over $450,000.

Although it seems that the damage was extensive, these costs do sound quite astronomical. It reminds me of the $487,625 figure that was supposedly spent on fixing a tear in a Picasso that was damaged at Christie's in 2018.

National Trust to 'dial-down' Mansions (ctd.)

August 21 2020

Image of National Trust to 'dial-down' Mansions (ctd.)

Picture: The Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Times have published more details today on the National Trust's plans to scrap its experts. They have indicated which jobs and departments might be affected including its heads of archaeology, architecture and design, as well as its national specialists in paintings conservation, photographic materials, decorative arts, furniture, libraries, pictures, sculpture and textiles. Hilary McGrady (pictured), the director-general of the Trust, has explained that the redundancies will save £960,000. The article also features details that the Trust is set on keeping only 20 of its properties continually open to the public. 

Bendor has penned this piece for the Art Newspaper with his own views on the proposed changes.

National Trust to 'dial-down' Mansions

August 19 2020

Image of National Trust to 'dial-down' Mansions

Picture: The Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Times have published an article on news that the National Trust is due to 'dial down' its role from being the custodian of the country home.

This change of direction seems to be related to a new ten year plan envisioned by its directors to reconfigure the 'outdated mansion experience...serving a loyal but dwindling audience' and reprioritise itself as a 'gateway to the outdoors'.

Bendor, who has written a thread detailing his views on the changes, posted a screen shot on Twitter detailing what the Trust are planning for their mansions:

Mansions - from evolution to revolution

The changes we'll need in our built places are revolutionary not evolutionary. We won't get there by encouraging local innovation and gradual scaling of good ideas, which is how we've approached this up to now. We will need a much more directed approach to change, and these are the first steps:

- We urgently need an alternative to the current mansion opening model - with its unsustainable reliance on large numbers of static volunteer roles.

- Differentiation - so we're really clear about the scope of potential change at each place.

- New guidance on collections - We need to be much clearer about the places where we can begin changing our approach to collections display - moving objects or taking them off display where needed to make spaces more flexible and accessible.

- A major change in collections presentation and storage: without this we'll be unable to flex our mansion offer to create the more active, fun and useful experiences that our audiences will be looking for in future.

It seems that some treasure houses, such as Petworth for example, will be preserved in their current format for now. Others though will have many parts of its collections put into storage. The changes will also affect the structure of the curatorial departments, with fewer specialists in individual fields such as 'furniture' and due to be replaced with time-period specialists instead.

__________

Overall, the leadership of the National Trust seem to be suggesting that they have lost faith in the cultural significance of the Country House. It is possible they have followed the advice of ‘Marketing specialists’, who have suggested that it is impossible to be both a custodian of historic houses and beautiful landscapes.

Afterall, it is possible that they are simply reacting to the increasingly vocal side of the argument that claims that the Country House conceals irredeemable evils that must be rejected outright.  Instead of instituting gradual changes, that don't dismantle the knowledge and expertise which these cultural institutions hold and nurture, such ‘activists’ seem to enjoy advocating the tearing down institutions whilst reverting to nature worship. Furthermore, the virus context has given many organisations the opportunity to make use this crisis to push forward vast and overtly radical changes which will alienate vast swathes of loyal visitors and art lovers.

 

Museums to Turn Visitors into Environmental Activists

August 12 2020

Image of Museums to Turn Visitors into Environmental Activists

Picture: Visitlondon.com

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Nick Merriman, chief executive of the Horniman Museum & Garden in South London (pictured), has penned an article for Artnet on what he thinks the role of museums should be in tackling the environmental crisis. The piece makes quite clear which camp Merriman might sit in during the recent 'What is a Museum' debate.

In his own words:

Museums are well practiced in developing exhibitions, events, and activities to engage audiences with key issues. The work of artists, in particular, brings the emotional perspective which psychological research shows is needed to prompt action. An acceleration in this work is necessary given the urgency of the climate and ecological breakdown.

____________

No doubt we all have our own perspectives on what is likely to prompt change in the way we treat our shared environment. Yet, I can't say that notions of 'prompt[ing] action' and 'acceleration' have ever come to me whilst admiring exhibitions of landscapes by the likes of Gainsborough, Turner and Towne etc. They tend to have the opposite effect.

What is a Museum?

August 10 2020

Image of What is a Museum?

Picture: ICOM

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The New York Times have published an article summarising a disagreement that is currently going on in the International Council of Museums (ICOM). The organisation is in disagreement with itself over the question 'What is a Museum?'.

Five proposals were drawn up, with one being picked out that consisted of 99 words and two paragraphs. It included the following statements:

“Museums are democratizing, inclusive and polyphonic spaces for critical dialogue about the pasts and futures,” it said, adding that museums work “with and for diverse communities” and aim “to contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality and planetary well-being.”

Several countries have rejected the proposals, with claims that it represents an political and ideological manifesto rather than a definition of what museums do. Arguments have been made that although such values are supported, they belong in an institution's individual mission statement. On the other hand, the statement is said to have had wide support from African institutions, who have made issues such as human rights a key element of their social function.

Charles Saumarez Smith, whose recent post on the subject drew me to the article, has summarised the two opposing views most succinctly:

[the article] encapsulates the generational divide between those who still feel that they are pre-eminently about a collection of objects or works of art however interpreted – what in the 1970s was described as ‘the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity’ – and those who feel their social mission should come first and be stated more radically.

__________

If the study of international organisations over the past decades has suggested anything, it is that the search for universal values across such infinitely varying peoples, traditions and cultures is a slow and difficult process.

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