The Appearance of Rescue

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“Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.” George Bernard Shaw (from Brainyquote)

The Detroit Free Press and other news organizations are reporting that a group of foundations have stepped up to provide funding to save the art and the pensions of the city of Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Arts. As the city spiraled into bankruptcy, the DIA’s art was pitted against the lack of funding for the pensions of the city’s retirees. A battle had ensued suggesting the mean old art people were in favor of starving the pensioners in order to save the art. For the art it was an unwinnable war. A precious collection was in danger of being sold to the highest bidder to fund the pensions of the city’s retirees. No one wanted to see retirees starve and many art lovers had acknowledged that the art was the likely loser.

Screen shot 2014-01-13 at 7.44.48 PMThese foundations have stepped up to save both the art and the pensions so that no one is the loser. The Detroit Free Press states that nine foundations have come together to pledge $330 million to relieve some of the weight from the cities creditors. The foundations are the Kresge Foundation, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, McGregor Foundation, and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

As good as this sounds, it still may not be enough to rescue both the art and the pensions but it is great news. There remains much to be worked out in court. Time will tell. Last week what looked hopeless is now hopeful. It seems the mighty steed of rescue may be riding in after all. No word yet as to whether anybody has discussed what got the city into this mess in the first place. That bit of enlightenment has yet to dawn on anybody.

Photographs shown are from the Detroit Institute of Arts downloadable images page on the website. For more images go (here). Insert photo is the North Wall by Diego Rivera (1932-1933), fresco.

Taking Inventory

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“We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.” Bill Hicks (from Brainyquote)

Suppose you are stranded somewhere without any art supplies. What do you do? You could dissolve into a quivering lump of uselessness or you could look around and see what’s available. Sit down, think about it and have another cup of coffee. Suddenly the coffee stain on the napkin becomes a shape to be manipulated. Or you spot a lone ink pen on the table and decide to make a few marks. Better yet, you find your flashlight and start illuminating surrounding objects to see what shadows appear.

Artists frequently find ways to make amazing art from the most mundane of materials. Art News has an article on art made with the simple ballpoint pen. This simple instrument becomes an implement for creating amazing art. One artist has made the process of mark -making with a ballpoint pen into a performance as people gather to watch the process. Another artist will go through over 100 pens in one piece alone. The article has a lengthy and fascinating history of the invention and evolution of the ballpoint pen.

Hi Fructose has a wonderful article on the shadow art created by Kumi Yamishita. Simple sheets of paper become human faces on the wall. People appear through the shadows cast by a collection of wooden blocks. This is Colossal features art made from everyday objects by Javier Perez. Perez creates whimsical drawings out of ordinary objects such as old floppy disks. Yamishita and Perez are proof positive that traditional art supplies aren’t the only avenue to great art.

For the certified art supply junkie like me, acute withdrawal would likely ensue without a regular fix. Panic would set in. Disaster would strike. Or the alternative of a simple look around to see what’s on hand for something entirely out of character may be in order. Endless possibilities are everywhere when an inventory of routine surroundings searches for the unusual implement of art-making. Whole new worlds may open up.

Check out what this guy does with a toothbrush:

Connections

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“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker (from Skinnyartist.com)

Do artists feel connected to the coverage of arts in the major arts publications and other media? Are these publications out of touch with the majority of working artists? Many times the articles in these journals seem to be very novelty oriented. At other times, they can have a general air of elitism separated from most working artists. Connecting these publications and other media outlets with working artists would be a good thing.

One arts journalist would like to know what artists and others interested in the arts think. In so doing, this journalist is asking for input from her potential audience. Chloe Veltman of ArtsJournal.com would like to hear from the arts listeners to Colorado’s NPR. In an article on her Lies like Truth blog, she puts forth an argument for more transparency on arts journalism. She has a survey in her article to uncover what others would like to see in arts reporting. That’s refreshing!

Having a connection to what is covered in arts journalism would be nice. However, most artists today are carrying on without it. Artists continue to do what they do best whether or not any of the establishment types are paying attention. Most artists are concerned with creating art. If anybody is listening that’s grand. If they aren’t, artists will still be creating art. Artists just want to make art but it never hurts to speak up when the opportunity presents itself. You never know when a connection might happen.

Shakin’ it Up

“A little rebellion is a good thing.” Thomas Jefferson (From Goodreads.com)

A peak through the major arts publications is not very exciting. 2014 so far in the art world looks like more of the same. Installation art is still at the forefront of what many galleries in the major art centers are showing. Some paintings can be seen but most look like De Kooning retreads. Trolling around hoping for something to create a spark of excitement turns up a big fat zero. Where are today’s groundbreakers? They are out there. Have they been shut out by the establishment in the same way artists were in the time of the Impressionists?

The BBC introduced a documentary a few years ago with the title, “The Impressionists and Revolution.” Waldemar Januszczak shares a look at how the Impressionists changed the art world during their time. Monet and his painting buddies, Renoir, Pissarro, and Bazille faced a cold reception from the established art world of the time. But did they slink away into oblivion? No! They created their own establishment. They set up their own Salon to rival the main Salon venue of “acceptable” art at the time. In doing so, Monet and friends paved the way for Van Gogh, Cezanne, and many more who followed.

It took courage, determination and fortitude to do what the Impressionists did. They swam upstream against the flow. But they made it. They broke the art dam at the time. They shook things up. Judging by what’s out there today, it may be time for some shaking. How that happens is another question. Some banding together may be in order. Artists band together and start shaking! A little Jerry Lee Lewis music may be needed to get the ball rolling. May we soon see a “Whole lotta shakin goin on!”

Here’s Jerry Lee firing it up:

Art as Tragic Victim

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“He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot, is victorious.” Sun Tzu (from Brainyquote)

For years the museum carries on its function of sharing great art with the world, opening its doors so young and old can enjoy the treasures it holds.  Its sole purpose is to give the joy and beauty of art to others.  The museum carried on quietly without engaging in politics or giving its opinion.  It asked only to continue with its purpose.  Without warning it was suddenly thrust into the limelight and held hostage by the very politics it chose not to take part in.

Suddenly this museum is fighting to stay out of the raging battle for the fiscal salvage of the bankrupt city.  The PR war being waged basically says that art must be sacrificed to pay the pensions of the city’s retirees.  Nothing is being said about how the pensions got in this mess in the first place.  It wasn’t the art that did it but the art will be made to pay the price.

Lee Rosenbaum, author of the CultureGrrl at Arts Journal blogs, was interviewed by NPR on Christmas day about this subject.  Follow the link for a wonderful interview.  During the interview, there were several attempts by the interviewer to engage Rosenbaum in the game of pitting the art against the pensioners.  Rosenbaum’s response on her blog was, “Its wrong to put this as an either-or between pensions and art.  There are so many other players here.  It makes it sound like this mean museum is holding onto its art while people are starving.  Its not that.”  It may not be that but the museum will still likely lose this war.

As each day goes by it is looking more and more likely that much if not all of the fabulous treasured art of the Detroit Institute of Arts will be sold to pay for the fiscal hole of the city of Detroit.  Art has no hope of winning a PR war with pensioners whether or not the art had anything to do with the state of the pensions. This war is best not fought at all.  Art has become another victim in this sad tragedy.  We can hope for a victory by not getting sucked in to this battle.   Perhaps the art will end up in a place where it can continue its role of bringing joy to others.  That would be a victorious ending to this tragic war.

Colorful Fridays–Everything’s Coming Up Orchids

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“A captivating harmony of fuchsia, purple and pink undertones, Radiant Orchid emanates great love, joy and health.” Leatrice Eiseman executive director, Pantone Color Institute

Frantically searching through paint boxes, “Radiant Orchid” is nowhere to be found. No “Radiant Orchid” in the watercolor box or the oil box. Can’t find it in the pastels either. Horror of horrors! What if the 2014 Color of the Year can’t be added to new paintings? Pantone has declared “Radiant Orchid” the 2014 Color of the Year. Nothing easy this year compared to last year’s Emerald. Anybody can find some Emerald and squeeze it right out of the tube. Not “Radiant Orchid!” No tube comes with that label. How can an artist paint something to go with all the “Radiant Orchid” furniture, walls, and other interior design features of 2014? The only option is to mix it.

Screen shot 2013-12-26 at 7.45.22 PMLeatrice Eiseman of Pantone describes “Radiant Orchid” as fuchsia, purple and pink undertones. That could be any number of color combinations available in the average artist’s paint supplies. The quinacradones, magentas, and cobalts possibly added to ultramarine or alizarin crimson. And don’t forget the mauves. The only way to find “Radiant Orchid” is to start mixing. The problem is in knowing when the exact match for “Radiant Orchid” has been achieved. Which orchids are the radiant ones?

But, have no fear! Pantone also states, “An invitation to innovation, “Radiant Orchid” encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is increasingly valued in today’s society.” While mixing the various reds and blues to come up with a personal version of “Radiant Orchid” that “expanded creativity” will be available to draw on. What more could an artist ask? So get those paint tubes out and start mixing. Or risk being undervalued in today’s society!

No telling what will happen with all that expanded creativity. A completely original version of “Radiant Orchid” may be revealed. The new mix can become, as Pantone says, “a dazzling attention-getter” possibly hurling the artist into the glare of a radiant spotlight. Soon everything will be coming up orchids. Isn’t that “everything’s coming up roses?” Not this year, it isn’t. This year, it’s coming up orchids, at least the radiant ones.

For more on the Color of the Year 2014 click on the link to Pantone:

http://www.pantone.com/pages/pantone/pantone.aspx?pg=21128&ca=10

Happy Thieving

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“Bad artists copy. Good artists steal” Picasso (from Austin Kleon)

Did you ever think you would like to own the work of a major artist, like say, Picasso? What would you do with your Picasso? Would you have friends over for cocktails and appetizers so you can show off your newly acquired masterpiece? Would you hang it in the foyer where everyone entering your home would be able to lay eyes on your Picasso as soon as they set foot inside your house? Would you decorate your home in a color scheme to match the colors of your Picasso? Before acquiring your Picasso, you must take these things into consideration. And there are other important details you must consider.

For around 100 euros you can buy a raffle ticket from a charity for the chance to win your very own Picasso. Imagine that! Say you are the lucky winner, what do you do next? Eleanor Steafel, writing in The Telegraph, gives you the details. The first step Steafel recommends is to get insured. Most homeowners or renters policies likely won’t cover a million dollar work of art so you’ll need a better policy. Why so much? There just happens to be a major international wave of art theft crime.

The BBC will be airing a new film by Alastair Sooke on the growing worldwide problem of stolen art and the black market it thrives in. Most of these major art works disappear into the black market never to be seen again. In an article for The Telegraph, Sooke explains why. When major drug cartels and other criminal gangs, can’t deal in currency, they turn to art. Art is often a better bargaining chip. Your newly acquired Picasso just became a target. Whatever security you have is not likely to equal that of a museum, so hopefully you have that insurance up to date.

Or you leave the real Picasso’s to the museums with their better security and just steal a fake one. How can you do that? If you’re an artist, Austin Kleon tells you how on his blog post, “25 quotes to help you steal like an artist.” “I don’t steal!” you say. Sure you do. If you learned any techniques in painting by copying another artist, you’re stealing. Only this is good stealing. Yes, there is good stealing! And good stealing is a whole lot cheaper than buying the real thing. Plus no criminals are going to want your “stolen” Picasso meaning you won’t need that extra insurance.

Once, I needed some doughnuts so I stole them from Wayne Thiebaud. I didn’t actually steal a Thiebaud painting. Just a few doughnuts. He didn’t miss the doughnuts and I didn’t have to insure them. Next time you are inclined to buy a multi-million dollar painting, don’t. You’re an artist. Steal it. And while you’re stealing it, you can smile at all the good you’re doing by stealing your own. No criminals will come looking for it. Your insurance agent is relieved. The new security system won’t be needed. Everybody’s happy.

The Granddaughter’s Residual–UPDATE

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“Do your job and demand your compensation—but in that order.”  Cary Grant (from Brainyquote)

In two of my previous posts, the lack of resale compensation for visual artists, illustrators, photographers and sculptors was discussed.  The United States Copyright Office has now partially reversed the previous ruling on resale royalties for visual artists.  Visual artists have not had the same rights to royalties as composers, playwrights and screenwriters.  There is a bill coming up in congress and the senate to grant full residual rights but this move by the Copyright Office signals a hopeful direction.

Judith Dobrzynski has covered the issue for the Arts Journal blogs and has a full report on what these changes mean.  She received a report from the office of Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY-10) on his upcoming bill.  Please go to her post for the full story here.  There are also links in her article for the U.S. Copyright Office report on the reversal.

“Droit de Suite” is the title of these laws in Europe that came about from the destitute state of the granddaughter of artist Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875).  Millet sold his painting, The Angelus for 1000 francs in 1865.  14 years after his death the painting was sold for between 553,000 francs and 800,000 francs depending on the report, while his family lived in abject poverty.  His granddaughter was found selling flowers on the streets of Paris to survive.  The laws only granted a very small amount to the artist and/or his family negating the complaints from art dealers about loss of compensation for the dealers and galleries.

The United Kingdom has very recently enacted a “Droit de Suite” law but the U.S. so far has not.  This hopeful sign from the U.S. Copyright Office may signal an approaching change in this process for artists in the U.S.  One can hope.  And one can also contact his/her representative and senator to suggest they support “Droit de Suite” in the U.S.  Perhaps visual artists dying in penury will soon be a thing of the past.  No more granddaughters selling flowers on the street for survival.

Previous posts by me on “Droit de Suite” laws:

Visual Residual

The Case of the Destitute Granddaughter

Other blog posts on the subject:

BCA Galleries

Adam Lilith’s Art House

 

The Farce of a Superficial Theft

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“Well there are times when one would like to hang the whole human race and finish the farce.”  Mark Twain (from Goodreads)

Falling under the category of “you can’t make this stuff up,” was the report of the recent theft of two Damien Hirst dot paintings from a gallery in the Notting Hill district of London.  The two paintings were rather simply lifted right off the wall in plain view of a video camera and multiple street windows.  What I can’t get over is why?  Someone just needed to have some dots really, really badly, I guess.  These dots weren’t that valuable compared to other recent art heists.  Maybe we have been light of entertainment lately in the art world?

The video of the theft is hilarious at the very least (see below).  Even a six year old could have done this heist.  Unfortunately, illusionist Derren Brown (story from The Drum) was forced to disavow any knowledge of the heist because of an ill timed Tweet.  Judging by the video, it would be a major stretch to accuse this thief of being anything remotely resembling an illusionist.  Had Brown been part of this theft, his vociferous denial would be from a need to save his reputation from accusations of imitating an illusionist than from the commission of a crime.

Screen shot 2013-12-15 at 8.17.39 PMDigging a little deeper into Hirst’s recent past, unearths a spat between the artist and a teenager over the lifting of a few pencils from a Hirst exhibit at the Tate.  (The Independent has the story.)  This spat also conjures up visions of six year olds.  It seems the teen, who goes by the name Cartraine, had used an image of a Hirst artwork to make collages he then sold over the internet.  That had set off a firestorm from Hirst leading to legal action against the teen.  In retaliation, the teen stole a few pencils from a large Hirst installation (seen in the photo from The Independent) on exhibit at the Tate.  So incensed was Hirst over the pencil theft, he had the teen and the teen’s father arrested and charged with theft of the pencils.  Seems a bit like killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer, to me but it’s been a long time since I was six years old.

Topping off the hilarity is the article on the heist for The Guardian by Jonathan Jones.  To add insult to Hirst’s injury, Jones states, “Will history miss these pieces?’” My guess would be, “No!”  Who’s going to miss a few dots?  But its Jones’ final bit that deals the killing blow to this heist.  “Hirst’s spots are icons of superficiality for a superficial age.  In that sense, they are contemporary classics.  But I wouldn’t cross the road to nick one.”  Neither would I.  Or I doubt you would either, for that matter.  Cue the clowns.  It’s time to end this superficial farce.

Youtube has the full theft video:

More from Sky news: here.

Top photo from The Guardian

Museum Babies

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What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.” George Bernard Shaw (from The Painter’s Keys)

Art museums are increasingly working to draw in children. New programs for children are springing up everywhere in museums. The museums are relaxing behavior standards in this effort. Where once a museum was a place of refuge where anyone could spend time in thoughtful contemplation of art has now become a refuge for the tired parent to dump the kids. How many children are able to contemplate art? Children are unquestionably creative and curious but is an art museum a good place to encourage this?

In an article for The Scotsman (through Artsjournal.com), Tiffany Jenkins discusses the drawbacks of having the museum doors thrown wide open to school age children with free rein. The museums are making a point to discourage the “shhhushing” of children in the museum, allowing children to run and play throughout the museum. Jenkins says of this policy, “It accommodates everything to those who don’t really want to be in a museum, rather than showing them something challenging and worthwhile.” Are museums encouraging children to learn about art or are they collecting babysitting fees?

A couple, with three small children were in the museum when some friends and I attended an exhibit of the Dutch Masters. While contemplating these wonderful masterpieces, we were treated to crying, toy throwing, screaming and other sounds of children being children. The parents made very little attempt to suppress any of this behavior. It went on for the entire time we were there. Some of the toy throwing came very close to these beautiful works of art. Like Tiffany Jenkins, I felt a bit curmudgeonly for thinking that perhaps the museum was not the best place for children of this age. I couldn’t see that the children were getting anything out of the experience either.

Are we helping children understand and appreciate art by encouraging them to use an art museum as a playground? The interactive play rooms that some museums have added is a good thing, but is allowing children to run and play through exhibits of art, teaching them anything about art? As my inner curmudgeon has come out on this one, I would love to hear what others have to say about this issue. Is it a good thing or not??

Imagine the following exhibit with children running around being children while you contemplate this art: