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.

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:

The Plight of the Impudent Thief–UPDATE

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The Plight of the Impudent Thief

A 24 million dollar loss in the art world has been replaced in the news by a one billion dollar find.  Just weeks ago, the art world was lamenting the theft and probable burning of seven works of art from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.  Now comes a new report of the German find of over 1400 artworks in an apartment owned by an eighty year old man.  The pain of loss is overcome by the joy of the new find.  But the antics of the theft ringleader are quite entertaining.  And insulting.

The Romanian ringleader of the art heist gang first attempted to have his trial moved from Romania to the Netherlands in hopes of a more lenient sentence.    His bargaining chip was the promise to reveal the location of the art in exchange for the trial move.  However, his loving mother may have nixed that plan when in an attempt to save her son, she stated she had burned them in her stove.  The ashes in her stove have been confiscated and are being analyzed.  She, apparently, didn’t have enough sense to get rid of the ashes, too.  Forensic capabilities may have uncovered evidence that proves she did, in fact, burn the art in spite of a latter retraction.

When the trial move was denied, the ringleader’s next trick was to claim the museum had been complicit in the theft to benefit from an insurance claim.  Or perhaps, it was the owner of the collection who was complicit.  “Somebody”, claimed the thief, made the heist possible so “somebody” could get the insurance money.  “Somebody” or “anybody” but the thief is responsible for the thief’s actions.  He is certainly not responsible.  He’s a good boy.  Just ask his mother.

And if that wasn’t enough, he continued to add insult to injury.  When the insurance claim idea was denied, he then threatened to sue the Museum, claiming it was the museum’s fault he stole the works because the museum’s security was not sufficient to prevent his theft.  Essentially saying, “Its your fault I stole from you because you were not strong enough to stop me.”  The sound of heads shaking can be heard.  One wonders who is paying the lawyers to file this claim?

However, the pain of the theft was deeply felt by the art community and compounded by the continued brazenness of the ringleader.  But all is not lost!  The stolen Matisse and Picasso artworks were replaced in the heart of the art community by the newly found Matisse and Picasso artworks.  The German find is many times larger than the Dutch theft. Will the thieving ringleader or his loving mother take credit for the find?  Who cares?  His fifteen minutes are over.  Hope that Romanian prison food is tasty.

Note:  The thief’s name has purposely been withheld in compliance with the fifteen minute rule.

The Dutch Heist and the German Find have been covered extensively by The Guardian.  Read more here and here.

The Scotsman, the BBC, The Claims Journal, CNN, the New Yorker and more have all written about various aspects of the theft and trial.  Follow the links for more on this intriguing story.

Update and a second fifteen minutes:  The Ringleader and one of his accomplices have been sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.  The ringleader’s mother is also soon to stand trial for her role in the possible destruction of the art.  Hopefully, she will see a similar sentence.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer family!  Unfortunately, mom’s trial will add another fifteen minutes of fame to this thieving bunch.

 

The sentencing has been covered extensively.  For more go to the following links:

 

The Art Newspaper

The Daily Mail

The Japan News

Breitbart.com

Dw.De

Reuters News Service

Karma’s Little Spanker

 

The Plight of the Impudent Thief

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A 24 million dollar loss in the art world has been replaced in the news by a one billion dollar find.  Just weeks ago, the art world was lamenting the theft and probable burning of seven works of art from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.  Now comes a new report of the German find of over 1400 artworks in an apartment owned by an eighty year old man.  The pain of loss is overcome by the joy of the new find.  But the antics of the theft ringleader are quite entertaining.  And insulting.

The Romanian ringleader of the art heist gang first attempted to have his trial moved from Romania to the Netherlands in hopes of a more lenient sentence.    His bargaining chip was the promise to reveal the location of the art in exchange for the trial move.  However, his loving mother nixed that plan when in an attempt to save her son, she stated she had burned the stolen paintings in her stove.  The ashes in her stove have been confiscated and are being analyzed.  She, apparently, didn’t have enough sense to get rid of the ashes, too.  Forensic capabilities may have uncovered evidence that proves she did, in fact, burn the art in spite of a latter retraction.

When the trial move was denied, the ringleader’s next trick was to claim the museum had been complicit in the theft to benefit from an insurance claim.  Or perhaps, it was the owner of the collection who was complicit.  “Somebody”, claimed the thief, made the heist possible so “somebody” could get the insurance money.  “Somebody” or “anybody” but the thief is responsible for the thief’s actions.  He is certainly not responsible.  He’s a good boy.  Just ask his mother.

And if that wasn’t enough, he continued to add insult to injury.  When the insurance claim idea was denied, he then threatened to sue the Museum, claiming it was the museum’s fault he stole the works because the museum’s security was not sufficient to prevent his theft.  Essentially saying, “Its your fault I stole from you because you were not strong enough to stop me.”  The sound of heads shaking can be heard.  One wonders who is paying the lawyers to file this claim?

However, the pain of the theft was deeply felt by the art community and compounded by the continued brazenness of the ringleader.  But all is not lost!  The stolen Matisse and Picasso artworks were replaced in the heart of the art community by the newly found Matisse and Picasso artworks.  The German find is many times larger than the Dutch theft. Will the thieving ringleader or his loving mother take credit for the find?  Who cares?  His fifteen minutes of fame are over.  Hope the prison food is tasty.

Note:  The thief’s name has purposely been withheld in compliance with the fifteen minute rule.

The Dutch Heist and the German Find have been covered extensively by The Guardian.  Read more here and here.

The Scotsman, the BBC, the Claims Journal, CNN, the New Yorker, the Atlantic Wire and more have all written about various aspects of the theft and trial.  Follow the links for more on this intriguing story.

Gallery Medicine

Art galleries should be apothecaries of our deeper self.”  Alain de BottonScreen shot 2013-10-10 at 11.50.06 AM

A growing body of research is revealing what artists have long known.  There is healing in art.   As more research is conducted more will be known.  Medical and nursing schools are beginning to incorporate more arts in curriculum.  Even though artists know of the healing potential of art, do galleries and museums know?

Two studies, (Lazarus 2003, Riis 2000), have shown the potential for art to lead to a better understanding in medical students of the human condition by helping the students relate to various emotions depicted in art.  Students visit a museum and are encouraged to examine the emotion portrayed in the art and compare to situations encountered in medicine.  The results have revealed the students gain a greater expression of empathy.  In the second study, the authors conclude, “ …the humanities and the arts offer approaches and inspiration that are of the greatest value to the education of doctors of all levels, (Tidsskr 2000).

Yet museums have not seemed to embrace this.  In an article in The Guardian’s arts section, Alain de Botton suggests that museums and galleries arrange art according to emotion.  There would be sections for love, hope, mood and more.  He believes art has the ability to “rebalance our moods, lend us hope, usher in calm, stretch our sympathies, reignite our senses and awaken appreciation.”  As such, if galleries recognize these facts, they could promote art as healing

I have seen this aspect of art in my own work and wonder why the concept of art’s healing potential has not yet gained wider recognition.  It is a slow process and takes time.  Or that “science versus art” thing remains a major barrier.  Hopefully, the barrier will continue to come down and art will become a more widely utilized tool for the medical profession, in galleries and in hospitals.

Kathe Kollwitz was a master at depicting human emotion.  Visit the Kollwitz Museum website for more on her work.

References:

1.  Lazarus PA, Rosslyn FM.,(2003). The Arts in Medicine: setting up and evaluating a new special study module at Leicester Warwick Medical School, Medical Education, 2003 Jun;37(6):553-9

2. Riis P. (2000). [Humanities and art as a part of medical education]. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2000 Dec 10;120(30):3738-40 (article in Norwegian)

Energy…Magnetism…What??

What makes people want to spend millions to acquire particular paintings or stand in line for hours to see a museum exhibition of art?  We have likely read many different accounts on the subject from art historians, curators and critics.  But do they really answer the question?  Descriptions of paint applications, color combinations, subject matter, composition all come in to play.  When looking at a great work of art, all of those features are plainly visible.  Walking through a street fair featuring original contemporary art will likely also invoke descriptions of paint applications, etc.  One such street fair I attended recently had many very good paintings.  Why aren’t some of those artists in museums?  What sets certain ones off as different?  I doubt it has anything to do with cutting off one’s ear but that does add to the drama! One guess of mine is energy and magnetism.  There is a palatable energy that surrounds the works.  That statement may elicit metaphysical connotations but that is too simplistic!  The energy and magnetism certain paintings arouse defies the average explanation.  People are magnetically drawn to some art. Van Gogh’s paintings invoke that magnetic energy.  His sunflower paintings are well known world wide.  Much has been written and said about his life and his work.  Do those accounts actually explain why many of us will wait in line to catch a brief glimpse of the sunflowers paintings?  Does that explain why one sunflower painting went for multi-millions at auction in recent years?

Van Gogh's "Sunflowers"

Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”

The Van Gogh museum website carries a wealth of information about his life and work: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?lang=en The Yellow House Museum contains information on Van Gogh’s life at Arles where the sunflower paintings were created: http://www.parisprovencevangogh.com/arles/the-yellow-house