The Mouse, an Unexpected and Enduring Art Muse (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on November 12, 2014 original article here.

Shibata Zeshin, Mouse, nineteenth century, lacquer on paper. Object reg. no: 1928,0720,0.35, British Museum, London, United Kingdom. © The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY.

Shibata Zeshin, “Mouse” (19th century), lacquer on paper. (© The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY)

As one of the most common mammals on our planet, the diminutive mouse has been scurrying its way into art for centuries. The rodent has now finally received its own art compendium with Lorna Owen’s Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art, out next week from Monacelli Press.

Cover of "Mouse Muse" (courtesy the Monacelli Press)

Cover of “Mouse Muse” (courtesy the Monacelli Press)

Much of the book is derived from her Mouse Interrupted blog, which seeks out the animal in all eras and forms of art, like the wide-eyed creature gazing at a human in a glass cylinder among the wild symbolism of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” or the live creatures roaming through contemporary work by Carsten Höller and Liselot Van der Heijden. Owen explained her interest in the art mouse to Hyperallergic:

“The mouse is a remarkable mammal. In broad strokes, it has an acute sense of smell that actually surpasses that of cats and dogs; it is an excellent swimmer; and it’s been found to sing, ultrasonically, with actual repertoires of specific phrases. But what is provocative is that here we have a mouse, which many consider to be an insignificant creature; yet its well-known traits have sparked in art some of the most powerful expressions of who we are as humans — qualities that are often diametrically opposed: good and evil, industrious and shiftless, cowardly and courageous.”

Mouse Muse includes over 80 works in a compact hardback, with each example joined by a short essay exploring its history and reason for having a mouse, the full print of the piece paired with a detail of the mouse embedded in the text. And the reasons for including mice have changed over time, from empathetic bronzes in ancient Rome found in nearly every household, to an unwanted symbol of mortality lurking in still-lifes. Owen tracked down the vermin by examining works by artists known for their love of nature like Frans Snyders and Franz Marc, and even delved into journals and letters by artists, finding some surprises along the way such as that “Kandinsky was inspired by the placental tissue of a mouse for his biomorphic abstract painting ‘Capricious Forms.’

Art by John Constable in "Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art" (photograph of the book by the author for Hyperallergic)

Art by John Constable in “Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art” (photograph of the book by the author for Hyperallergic)


Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (center panel, detail), c. 1490-1510, oil on panel. Prado, Madrid, Spain/Bridgeman Art Library.

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights” (center panel, detail) (1490-1510), oil on panel. (courtesy Prado, Madrid, Spain/Bridgeman Art Library)


Giovanna Garzoni, Ceramic Bowl with Quinces, Morning Glories, Figs, Hazelnuts and a Mouse, 1651–1662, tempera on parchment. Collection of Silvano Lodi, Campione D’Italia. Courtesy of the Galleria Silvano Lodi & Due Milano.

Giovanna Garzoni, “Ceramic Bowl with Quinces, Morning Glories, Figs, Hazelnuts and a Mouse” (1651–1662), tempera on parchment. (Collection of Silvano Lodi, Campione D’Italia. Courtesy of the Galleria Silvano Lodi & Due Milano)


Art by Trey Friedman in "Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art" (photograph of the book by the author for Hyperallergic)

Art by Trey Friedman in “Mouse Muse: The Mouse in Art” (photograph of the book by the author for Hyperallergic)


Plenty of these discoveries are pocketed in Mouse Muse, some that show the woe that is the role of the animal model. While John Constable, who painted an 1824 portrait of “A Mouse with a Piece of Cheese,” delighted in caring for his mouse named Jack, for Sir John Everett Millais it was easier to have a more inert subject. In his 1851 “Mariana” a mouse quietly moves in the daylight shining through the stained glass by his Pre-Raphaelite lady. The little animal had been found by Millais in his studio right when he was wanting to include one in the painting, and as it darted behind a portfolio he kicked the case over and killed it, as he put it, “in the best possible position for drawing it.” Yet whether reviled infestation or resilient beast, the mouse definitely seems to have in its quiet way burrowed into the history of art.

Sir John Everett Millais, Mariana, 1851, oil on panel.  Tate, London, United Kingdom/Art Resource, NY.

Sir John Everett Millais, “Mariana” (1851), oil on panel. (courtesy Tate, London, United Kingdom/Art Resource, NY)


Frank Moore Wizard, 1994 oil on canvas with pharmaceuticals cast in lucite in aluminum frame 68 x 95 1/2 in. (172.7 x 242.6 cm)  SW 94116

Frank Moore, “Wizard” (1994), oil on canvas over wood with pharmaceuticals cast in lucite in an aluminum frame. (Private collection, Italy. Courtesy of the Gesso Foundation and Sperone Westwater, New York)


Joan Miró, Red Mouse with Mantilla, 1975, aquatint. Private Collection. © 2014 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. © Christie's Images/Bridgeman Art Library.

Joan Miró, “Red Mouse with Mantilla” (1975), aquatint. (Private Collection. © 2014 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. © Christie’s Images/Bridgeman Art Library)


Mac Adams, Empty Spaces: Mouse, 1997, silver print. Courtesy of the artist.

Mac Adams, “Empty Spaces: Mouse” (1997), silver print. (Courtesy of the artist)


The Barbed Noose with the Mice. 1923. Watercolor and gouache on paper, bordered with gouache. The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1987 (1987.455.13).

Paul Klee, “The Barbed Noose with the Mice” (1923), watercolor and gouache on paper. (The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1987 (1987.455.13), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY)


Roman empire, Figure of dormouse eating nut and Lamp lid with crouching mouse holding a Papposeilenos mask, first century, cast bronze. Object reg. no: GR 1873,0820.257, British Museum, London, United Kingdom. © The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY.

Roman empire, Figure of dormouse eating nut & Lamp lid with crouching mouse holding a Papposeilenos mask, first century, cast bronze. (© The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY)





How Not to Write About Women Artists (Hyperallergic)

August 27, 2014, Original article here.

Spread from Boris Friedwald’s ‘Women Photographers’ (all photos by Alex Heimbach/Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

Gertrude Käsebier and Rinko Kawauchi have two things in common: they’re women and they’re photographers. Käsebier was an early American photographer who took portraits of Native American medicine men and worked with Alfred Steiglitz. Kawauchi is a contemporary Japanese artist who makes abstracted images inspired by Shintoism.

Nonetheless, they sit right next to each other in the aptly titled Women Photographers: From Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman, Boris Friedwald’s survey of female photographers published by Prestel this past spring. The book collects the work of 55 practitioners, from pioneers of the form to contemporary photojournalists. Friedwald also includes short bios of each artist as part of his goal to present “the variety and diversity of women who took—and take—photographs. Their life stories, their way of looking at things, and their pictures.”

Cover of ‘Women Photographers’ (via

Sounds admirable enough. Yet it’s impossible to imagine an equivalent book titled Men Photographers: From Eugène Atget to Jeff Wall. Male photographers, like male painters, male writers, and male politicians, are the default. The implication, intentional or not, is that no matter how talented, female photographers are women first and artists second.

Ideally, endeavors like Friedwald’s serve to illuminate lesser-known artists, who may have been discounted because of their gender (or race or sexual orientation or class). But more often such exercises become a form of de facto segregation, whether it’s a BuzzFeed quiz on how many of the “Greatest Books by Women” you’ve read or a Wikipedia editor isolating female novelists in their own category. These projects are often undertaken in a spirit of celebration, but their thoughtlessness generally renders them pointless at best and misogynistic at worst.

Unfortunately, Friedwald’s editorial choices only exacerbate the project’s questionable gender politics. As the unlikely pairing of Käsebier and Kawauchi suggests, the photographers are arranged in alphabetical order, which allows for little meaningful interplay between them. And without any general background to give them historical or artistic context, the artist bios feel equally unhelpful. By striving for breadth over depth, Friedwald has created one more collection unified only by the gender of its artists, thus suggesting that being a woman is the most important factor in these photographers’ work.

The issue with Women Photographers isn’t just that it bunches female photographers together; more importantly, it fails to justify how they’re important to each other. Context is vital to historical surveys, and Friedwald provides almost none. That’s too bad, because the overlooked role these women have played in the development of their medium is well worth exploring.

As a newer art form that requires relatively little training, photography was open to women from its inception in a way that painting and sculpture weren’t. But, as Naomi Rosenblum writes in the introduction to her 2010 book A History of Women Photographers, despite women’s comparative success in the medium, histories and critical surveys of it often ignore their contributions. As such, Rosenblum’s book aims not only to highlight the work of female photographers, but also to dig into what their gender means for their lives and careers. Rosenblum offers not just a who but a why.

Spread from ‘Women Photographers’

Friedwald, on the other hand, fails to provide a compelling reason for grouping these women together or to illuminate any connective tissue between them — and in doing so ends up creating exactly the sort of gender ghetto he supposedly wants to avoid. He would’ve been better off listening to the artists he aims to champion, including Eve Arnold, whom he quotes: “I didn’t want to be a ‘woman photographer.’ That would limit me. I wanted to be a photographer who was a woman, with all the world open to my camera.”

Boris Friedwald’s Women Photographers: From Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman is published by Prestel.

Museum Insiders Behind Massive $250M Turkish Art Heist (Hyperallegic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on November 12, 2014 original article here.

State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara


Corruption is on the rise in Turkey, and the State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara is no exception. A new report in the newspaper Hurriyet has revealed that museum staff participated in a $250 million art heist of 302 works in their own institution between 2005 and 2009. The organized crime scheme replaced paintings with fake replicas, selling the original ones to businessmen. When the Turkish Cultural Ministry examined the Ankara collection they found that 302 objects were stolen, which included 46 objects and paintings that have been replaced with forged replicas, including 13 charcoal sketches by artist Hacı Ali Rıza.

The revelation was made by an anonymous antique dealer calling himself “daylight.” Phoning the Turkish culture minister Ertuğrul Günay, he claimed he was approached by ringleader Ahmet Sarı, allegedly enlisted by the museum’s female deputy director to sell authentic works in the museum’s collection. Sarı wanted “daylight” to participate in the plan, which replaced 46 of the museum’s holdings with forgeries created at the Aivazovsky Painting Academy in the Crimea. It also removed scores of others.

The art was allegedly sold to businessmen “through mediators and antique dealers known in their fields.” A famous oil painting by Turkish artist Hikmet Onat was acquired by an antique dealer for $210,000; he then passed it on to a “famous businessman” for $350,000. One of Vecihi Bereketoğlu’s painting was similarly sold to an auctioneer, accused of selling it to the son of another businessman. Since the revelations, three of 18 suspects have been arrested: Ahmet Sarı, museum security official Veli Topal, and antique dealer Mete Aktuna. Just a few of the works have been recovered, while 30 other works in the museum are now considered to be of possible “dubious authenticity.”

Writing on ARCA, Lynda Albertson makes an important point that the case exposes the increasingly favorable climate for trafficking antiquities in Turkey and the region, boosted by wars in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq:

The fact that this group of criminals were able to operate so freely and for so long within Turkish borders and within the legitimate art market without detection reflects the country’s heritage vulnerability as a trafficking conduit not just for its own works of art but also for objects originating from nearby nations such as Syria and Iraq where trafficking and looting have been reported.


Archaeologists Unearth Three Ancient Greek Mosaics in the Ongoing Excavation in Zeugma, Turkey (Laughing Squid)

by at 2:58 pm on November 18, 2014 original article here.


Workers clear a mosaic depicting the nine Muses

The Zeugma excavation project conducted by Oxford Archaeology and supported by Packhard Humanities Institute and the Ministry of Culture of Turkey has recently unearthed three ancient Greek mosaics in the Turkish city of Zeugma. Zeugma had received some press and support in 2000 after flooding caused by construction began to bury and damage artifacts in the region.

The mosaics, created in the 2nd century BC, are constructed of boldly colored glass and are being covered for protection until excavation is complete. The head of the project, Professor Kutalmis Görkay, recently gave the Hurriyet Daily News more details about the plan for the future of the excavation.

“From now on, we will work on restoration and conservation. We plan to establish a temporary roof for long-term protection. We estimate that the ancient city has 2,000-3,000 houses. Twenty-five of them remain under water. Excavations will be finished in the Muzalar House next year.”


The muse Thalia


Ocean and Tithys

The Centro di Conservazione Archeologica created this video about the flooding and excavation projects at Zeugma.

photos via Greek Reporter

via Greek Reporter


The War of Art … in Florida Real Estate (Allen Morris)

Written by Allen Morris, original article here.

Botero SLS LUX

With the arrival of Art Basel and Art Miami, the war of art is on!

This is different than the Art of War by Sun Tzu. But in many ways there is a war of art as investors compete for the pieces of modern and contemporary art that flood into Miami the first week of December each year.

To buy the works of the next rising stars in the art world or to own a cherished piece by Jeff Koons or a classic Warhol, art is more than a great investment that stands the test of time. Art has also become woven into the world of Florida real estate.

It’s no accident that Jorge Perez, the largest developer of condominiums in America and avid art collector, has underwritten the new Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). One of the ways he differentiates his condominiums in the marketplace is with the striking statements of the sculptures and paintings in his projects.

In the new SLS LUX Hotel and Condominium Tower, co-developed by Perez and myself, we are infusing art around, in front of, and inside our luxury tower. In front is a striking and world famous sculpture by the famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, wrapping around the lower eight floors is a mural by artist Fabian Burgos, and inside are works of art by other famous contemporary artists. The interior design scheme itself is an art form with a team of “artists” in George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg (Yabu Pushelberg) from New York.

Why all this interest in art in Florida real estate?

  1. Art defines who we are; our culture and values. It makes a statement about the places we live and work.
  2. As a developer, we use art as a distinctive way to differentiate our projects from everyone else’s. It’s an important amenity that speaks to the quality of the project.

In the case of SLS LUX, we may have gone ‘overboard’ with the acquisition of our multi-million dollar sculpture out front. But it lets the residents of our luxury condominiums and the outside world know that this project is ‘over the top’ inside as well as out.

It’s the War of Art…in Florida real estate.

We plan to break ground on SLS LUX in December (our 80th project). Shortly after that, the Allen Morris Company will break ground on The Hermitage Apartment Homes (our 81st project)on a full city block in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. As you may know, St. Petersburg is named after the famous city in Russia, and The Hermitage is named after its famous museum.

The Hermitage lobby will be an active, revolving display of art by the most accomplished local artists in a joint venture with the Morean Arts Center and Gallery in St. Petersburg. Our club dining room on the penthouse level will be named the Backus Room after the famous Florida landscape artist, A.E. “Beanie” Backus. The walls will be covered with examples of his diverse Florida landscapes from the Allen Morris collection.

Fountains and sculptures and designs integrated into the actual building materials will complement the artistic signature as you approach and enter the building. It’s a way of saying to the community and to the residents that this is more than just another apartment building. This is inspiring – and an inspiring place to live.

That’s why we define our mission statement as to Inspire, Impress, and Improve. To Inspire people with the beauty of our projects, to Impress them with the excellence of our services, and to Improve the quality of life of all those we touch.  Art in Florida real estate is integral to inspiring, impressing and improving.

If you want to see an example, drop by our offices in Alhambra Towers in Coral Gables for a personal tour of our collection of paintings and sculptures that help define who we are.

It’s the War of Art…a battle in which everyone wins!

Amal Alamuddin (Clooney), George Clooney, and the Elgin Marbles

This article has NOTHING to do with George Clooney, but let’s be honest, in the news recently we can’t see Amal Alamuddin’s name without being mentioned along side George Clooney and that’s a shame! Alamuddin has an extraordinary reputation on her own as a human rights lawyer and activist who specializes in international and criminal law. Now Ms. Clooney (she took her husband’s name) is on a crusade to rescue the Elgin marbles and have them returned to Greece.

In October of 2014, Ms. Clooney began the process of repatriating the Elgin marbles for the Greek government. If you are unfamiliar about the history of these ancient Greek marble sculptures from Greece, here is your history lesson. The Elgin marbles, also called the Parthenon marbles, once were part of the Parthenon and other buildings that make up the Acropolis in Athens. These classical Greek works of art were mostly made by Phidias and his assistants and are made up of sculptures, inscriptions, and other features of the original architecture of the buildings at this historic site. More specifically, the collection includes 247 feet of the once existing 524-foot frieze, 15 of 92 metopes, 17 figures from the pediments, and an assortment of additional pieces of architecture. This by no means is the only remaining collection of the sculptures that still exist from the Acropolis and Parthenon. Long before Lord Elgin took possession of his portion of the sculptures, many other sculptures were pillaged from this historic site prior to the Ottoman occupation of Greece in the 1800s and are held in other museum collections in the US like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Europe such as The Louvre. Athens also removed all the art from this historic location and relocated it to the museum build especially for it, the Acropolis Museum, in 2007.

These British possessed sculptures received their name from Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, better known as Lord Elgin. He “acquired” these works of art during his time as an ambassador to the Ottoman court of the Sultan in Istanbul between 1799-1803. Lord Elgin later sold them to the British Parliament in 1816 and after, they were gifted to the British Museum. They were put on display in the Elgin Room of the British Museum after its completion in 1832.

File:Elgin Marbles British Museum.jpg

The room containing the Elgin marbles at the British Museum. From Wikipedia Commons © Andrew Dunn, 3 December 2005.

Repatriation talk began approximately 40 year ago spearheaded by the late Melina Mercouri, then the Minster of Culture of Greece in the 1980s, but the British government argued that Athens did not have the space or the means to present or maintain the marbles. Many have taken up the fight for the return on the marbles since Mercouri such as Queen’s Counsel Geoffrey Robertson and Norman Palmer, Clooney, and current Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Once Greece completed the Acropolis Museum however, it was apparent that this was merely an excuse for the British government to keep the Greek treasures. They claimed the possession of the marbles in the museum “allows different complementary stories to be told about them.” (Guardian, 2014)

There are others that don’t feel the marbles should be returned to Greece, specifically of course, the British government. They have made the case that the British Museum attracts a wider audience and therefore more people will be able to experience these sculptures. The are also quick to point out that the existence of the marbles in London for over 200 years is itself a part of history influencing architecture and design in Britain during that period. The New York Times put it best when it said “imperialism isn’t an endearing argument.”(New York Times, 2009)

For more info check out these additional sources:

“What are the ‘Elgin Marbles’?.” British Museum – What are the ‘Elgin Marbles’?. The British Museum, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <;.

Smith, Helena. “Parthenon marbles meet Hollywood as Amal Alamuddin Clooney advises Greece | Art and design.” The Guardian. Guardian News, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <;.

Michael, Kimmelman. “Abroad – Athens Museum Opening Reprises Debate on Elgin Marbles –” The New York Times – Art & Design. The New York Times, 23 June 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2014. <;.

Calvin College openURL resolver

Ai Weiwei @ Alcatraz, and legos, lots of legos

Thor Swift for The New York Times

Jori Finkel of the New York Times described the scene at Alcatraz as artist Ai Weiwei prepares for his multiple installation show.

“Judging from the large bags of colorful Legos on the floor and dozens of plastic base plates piled on tables, this room could have been the activities station for a well-funded summer camp. And the five women and men drifting in and out, slicing open boxes and rooting around for the right size toy bricks, were young enough to pass as camp counselors.”

This scene (and subject matter, freedom) is antithetic for the venue of his newest show, the infamous prison Alcatraz. This assembly Lego masterpiece is taking place in the building where prisoners once laundered military uniforms and is normally off limits to the tourists visiting this national park. In With Wind, one part of the show, birds (paper kites) fly around with a large dragon kite wrapped through the ceiling pipes. The dragon carries coded messages and quotes on his scales (actually hand cut paper).


Photo by Hyperallergic,com


Photo by Hyperallergic,com

This show by the artist Ai Weiwei opened September 27 and one installation features 176 portraits of politically exiled and imprisoned men and women from around the world made up of over 1 million Lego blocks. This show, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, will be open until April 2015 and was made possible by Cheryl Haines and her team of volunteers who helped to construct the works based off of the designs from a 2,300 page instruction manual. Absent from these portraits is the artist himself who was also a victim of political imprisonment in 2011. He was detained for 81 days, many spent in solitary confinement, and his passport is still being withheld from him today. Those days are fuel for his current show. He is not present at his show; he is still not allowed to leave China. He has never set foot on Alcatraz.