Previous Posts: June 2012

'HRH Royal Britania'

June 3 2012

Image of 'HRH Royal Britania'

Picture: Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin, Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy, has published the above portrait of the Queen to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. It is called 'HRH Royal Britania', and appears to be done in biro. But (gasps) I think it's really rather good. It follows on from Tracey's well-received drawing of Kate and William for the Royal Wedding. Is Tracey now the nearest thing we have to an Artist Laureate?

More details on Tracey's admiration for the monarchy here. Just one thing though, about that title; the jubilee celebrates the fact that it is 60 years since HRH Princess Elizabeth became HM Queen Elizabeth II. 

Update: It seems Tracey wasn't the only one to get the Queen's title wrong - the BBC's occasionally lamentable coverage of the Jubilee saw her called 'Her Royal Highness the Queen' more than once. 

Museums, copyright and photography

June 1 2012

Image of Museums, copyright and photography

Picture: BG

An article by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker on e-literate* looks at how digital access to museum collections will change the way museums control their online presence:

There are some hopeful signs. Recently, a few museums (The National Gallery of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for example) have begun to offer public domain images for download. We hope more museums will recognize that in the digital era, the old model of controlling and charging for reproductions of public domain work flies in the face of their mission. Museums, and the artists’ rights organizations (such as ARS and VAGA) and the estates they work with, need to do far more to make the shared cultural heritage they hold in trust, accessible. Peter Samis, Associate Curator, Interpretive Media at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently asked, “Are the artworks ours to give? Are they ours to withhold?”

Now that the value of a global art platform is evident, will museums think differently about sharing resources with each other and the public? The Google Art Project shows what can happen when museums work in parallel; now imagine what could happen if museums choose to work together.

Quite. As AHN has said before, the way some UK museums restrict their online presence merely to protect copyright achieves nothing other than to turn people away from their websites. People these days expect high-res images like those on the Google Art Project. Anything less just looks ancient. And of course, the most pointless copyright defenders of all are those that prevent photography.

Personally, I'm not a fan of museums charging for scholarly reproductions. But for those museums that do, it should be perfectly possible to maintain a decent image reproduction revenue and still allow both decent images on websites, and photography. The vast majority of publishers will always pay for image fees, not least because they tend to obey the law, and there's very little point in sending a photographer to a museum just to save £50 on a reproduction fee. And no matter how hard museums try, it's too late to stop those ubiquitous Chinese reproduction sites.

* via the Association of Art Historian's Pontus Rosen

'Framing is presentation, not covering.'

June 1 2012

Image of 'Framing is presentation, not covering.'


Following  my post of the 18th Century miniaturist William Wood's hanging instructions, a reader sends in this note on the back of a painting by John Bratby. The last line is particularly noteworthy - how often have I found pictures shrunken by an over-generous frame rebate. 

Not to be tried at the National Gallery

June 1 2012


After all the talk of flashmobs and the National Gallery, a reader sends in the above, from the 1964 Jean-Luc Goddard film Bande a Part, and says:

Well, that would cause the NG security guards a nervous breakdown!

Wrong on so many levels

June 1 2012

Image of Wrong on so many levels

Picture: Huffington Post

Just when you thought every possible Mona Lisa rip-off had been done, here she is in balloons. Other examples here

Update - a reader writes:

Balloons? Or a variety pack of condoms?

When is a Degas not a Degas?

June 1 2012

Image of When is a Degas not a Degas?

Picture: TAN

The Art Newspaper has more news of a scholarly 'boycott' over a set of mystery Degas sculptures:

After the scholarly boycott, the Degas plasters and the resulting bronzes remain in limbo. It is now clear that they are not late 20th-century fakes, but the key question is when they were made. 

The experts believe the plasters were made after the Second World War and are, therefore, fairly far removed from the artist’s intentions, while those who commissioned the casts are convinced that they are much earlier and may well be from Degas’s lifetime. The story began two years ago, when a set of newly cast bronzes was unveiled at the Herakleidon Museum in Athens (The Art Newspaper, March 2010, p29). Earlier bronzes, which are in numerous museums, were cast from 1917 to 1936 and from 1958 to 1964 and were made via the original waxes, which survived after the artist’s death.

Two New York-based dealers discovered the plasters: Walter Maibaum, who runs Modernism Fine Arts and the Degas Sculpture Project with his wife, Carol Conn, and Gregory Hedberg, a consultant at Hirschl & Adler. The plasters were found at the Valsuani foundry, outside Paris, which had taken over the stock of the Hébrard foundry. Hébrard had earlier cast Degas’s bronzes for the artist’s descendants.

Leonardo Benatov, who owned Valsuani, agreed to cast a new set of bronzes for Maibaum. So far, 16 sets have been cast and rights have been acquired to cast a further 13. Their value will depend on whether they are accepted as authentic, but appraisers suggest that a set of 74 could be worth around $20m. On this basis, all 29 sets would be worth more than $500m.

Personally, I have great trouble accepting the whole Degas bronze question. If they were all made from wax originals after his death, even the ones that make millions at auction, then aren't they all just posthumous copies? In which case, does it matter whether they were cast in the the 1920s, or in 2012? People would laugh at me if I invented some clever way of 'casting' paintings, so that endless reproductions of a single original could be made. Even an Andy Warhol 'painting' has to have been reproduced in his lifetime to have value. Why are the rules different for sculpture?

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