Every once in a while your students teach you something new…Part 1

Today, I was reading a paper by one of my students who was discussing a work of art I have never seen before. I am not 100% sure why this image arrested me the way it did and even caused a blog post about it. My first impression when I tried to process it was that it feels like what I have lost and gained about New York City in my life. I loved the gritty old dirty graffiti-filled dangerous city I wanted to run away to since I was a teenager but I love as well how the city is growing and changing; the cost of living not so much. I also feel a loss looking at this image, loss of the old ways in NYC, loss of affordable housing for artists, loss of a certain way of life.

The Death of Graffiti by Lady Pink

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Cao Fei’s First Solo US Museum Show Channels a Dystopic Future China (artnet news)

Cao Fei, Still from Haze and Fog.Photo: Courtesy of MoMA.

Cao Fei, Still from Haze and Fog. Courtesy of MoMA.

 

Cao Fei, La Town: White Street (2014).Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS1.

Cao Fei, La Town: White Street (2014). Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS1.

Cao Fei has seen the future of China and it looks like Detroit—after a Hollywood zombie apocalypse. That’s certainly the impression one receives on entering the 38-old artist’s eponymously titled exhibition at MoMA PS1. In this, her first US museum solo outing, she presents several roomfuls of dystopic scenarios that include alienated teens, utopian musings, digital escapism, and post-apocalyptic clichés.

Hailed as among the most innovative Chinese artists working today, Cao has made video and digital technology her media of choice in exploring the lives of China’s citizens—especially its young citizens—as they struggle with raised expectations, falling economic growth rates, and a repressive society that censors the press and the Internet. In Cao’s still and moving image works, her country’s messy prospects are characteristically seen through the prism of China’s 13-to-35-year-old demographic. Unfortunately, global youth culture is just as conservative in the East as it is in the West.

Born in Guangzhou, also known as the “world’s factory,” Cao has experienced China’s economic boom first hand as well as the topsy-turvy paradoxes brought by one party laissez-faire capitalism. Among these is the absurdity of life in a city like Guangzhou, where Zaha Hadid’s futuristic opera house rises and whose pollution has been likened to a nuclear winter. If there is a place that symbolizes China’s dangerous contradictions, it’s Cao’s hometown; in turn, this fact gives the artist’s predictions of a coming Asian rust belt both their bite and urgency.

Cao Fei, Cosplayers Series: A Ming at Home (2004). Image: Courtesy of artist and Vitamin Creative Space.

Cao Fei, Cosplayers Series: A Ming at Home (2004). Image: Courtesy of artist and Vitamin Creative Space.

Cao’s objects, C-prints, standalone videos, and film installations liberally mix together disparate cultural elements to comment on the roiling changes bedeviling Chinese society. Among the more frequently used tropes in her arsenal are Pop aesthetics, social commentary, digital animation, virtual reality, and an evolving preoccupation with youth subcultures. An artist seemingly addicted to the ideal of roleplaying, Fei uses her performances to embark on various analog and digital fantasies that star herself or others. As the artist told artnet News’s Kathleen Massara, she’s insistently in search of what she has termed “resistant power.”

Cao’s exhibition—tidily curated by Klaus Biesenbach, Director, MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large, the Museum of Modern Art—is arrayed around eight rooms on the museum’s first floor and also occupies the VW sponsored dome in the museum’s courtyard. This last space contains an especially raucous multimedia installation: It’s constituent parts include a stage set, fake Chinatown signage, reproductions of hanging birds, musical instruments and the music video stylings of the NYC-based hip-hop group Notorious MSG, one of Cao’s more entertaining collaborators. (Cao held a performance with the hip-hop group this past Sunday.)

Cao Fei

Notorious MSG, with Cao Fei.

According to the museum literature, the band’s three core members currently work at restaurants in New York City’s Chinatown. Their song “Straight out of Canton” captures a great deal of the joy and some of the potential “resistance” Cao ascribes to the group’s all-immigrant appropriation of American hip-hop. However spunky and fun-filled, though, the irony of VW—a company that has admitted to massively evading global emission regulations—sponsoring this portion of the exhibition should be lost on no one.

If Cao’s early films from the 1990s and early 2000s—eight of which are arrayed in a circle on monitors in one of the show’s last room—consist of low-fi abject fictions involving mostly friends and fellow students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, her ensuing projects feature a combination of social realist portraiture and escapist make-believe.

In 2004, for instance, Cao followed a tribe of Cosplayers around Guangzhou. In her photographs and videos a troupe of young adults lunge, thrust, and pose like American Civil War reenactors in full manga and anime costume. Like other global simulators in similar soul-killing locales—say, Brussels or Albany—they ritually refight their own Gettysburgs amid their city’s ubiquitous gray high-rises and concrete plazas.

Cao Fei, RMB City - A Second Life City Planning (2007).Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS 1.

Cao Fei, RMB City – A Second Life City Planning (2007). Photo: Courtesy of MoMA PS 1.

A second project that goes all-in with a richly evasive Western subculture is the artist’s embrace of Second Life: Linden Lab’s formerly hot, now not virtual world that companies like Amazon, American Apparel, and Disney rushed to brand in the early 2000s (sales in that virtual universe peaked at $64 million in 2006). From 2007 to 2011, Fei purchased enough alt-real estate to build RMB City, a digital mashup of various global gothams she ghosts with China Tracy, her own Western-looking avatar.

In real life—or at least in the artist’s exhibition—the project is represented by a promotional video, white construction tools, and a broker’s reception desk. In the wall text, Cao describes the effects of her installation: “It’s perhaps no longer important to draw the line between the virtual and the real, as the border between the two has been blurred.” The reaction of hardline Chinese officials to this fanciful fairytale is easy to fathom: From Cao Fei’s mouth to Xi Jinping’s ears.

But not all of Cao’s elaborate artworks sound the same naïve fugitive note. In 2006, for instance, she took advantage of a residence in a Siemens lighting factory to juxtapose the daydreams of workers with their lives as they are actually lived inside a manufacturing plant. The ensuing project, Whose Utopia?, materializes these workers aspirations through photographs, a newspaper titled “Utopia Daily,” and a video by the same title. In Cao’s film a prima ballerina in wings and a fuzzy white halo dances amid shop machinery, an older gentleman slides silkily around the factory floor to Chinese pop music, and a young man acts out the dream of being a rock guitarist. Extravagant fantasies all, they are saved from mere amusement by one true thing. They are located inside a place of actual exploitation.

Cao Fei, My Future is Not a Dream No.2 (2006). Courtesy of Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. © Cao Fei / Deutsche Bank Collection.

Cao Fei, My Future is Not a Dream No.2 (2006). Courtesy of Hara Museum of Contemporary Art. © Cao Fei / Deutsche Bank Collection.

Cao’s most recent project, La Town, on the other hand, falls back on Hollywood boilerplate to depict the kind of post-apocalyptic imaginings that animate mass entertainment vehicles like HBOs The Walking Dead and MILFs Versus Zombies. The film, which opens Cao’s current survey, enlists 3D dioramas to present a Breugel-like portrait of civilization struck by an unspecified disaster. As such, it begs for something more specific, less generic, more critical and less dependent on Western clichés—including copycat subcultures—to convincingly make its dystopic point. Despite some inventiveness, the first US museum show by this fast-rising Chinese art star invites adult skepticism. Escapism is not resistance, and fantasy is not utopia.

Art World Scientists Discover the Legendary Secret Behind the ‘Mona Lisa’ Smile (artnet news)

by Amah-Rose Abrams, Friday, August 21, 2015 original article here.

Leonardo da Vinci, "Mona Lisa" (1503–1517)

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa (1503–1517) Photo: Wikipedia Commons

One of the greatest mysteries in art history has been solved: British academics say they have discovered the secret behind the smile of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa by studying a recently discovered portrait by the Renaissance master, La Bella Principessa.

By comparing the techniques employed in the two works, scientists from Sheffield Hallam University claim to have proved that the enigmatic “now you see it, now you don”t” effect of the Mona Lisa smile was intentional on the part of da Vinci. They have named it “the uncatchable smile.”

The epiphany came by studying La Bella Principessa. The earlier painting, which portraits the young illegitimate daughter of a Milanese Duke, has the same effect as the Mona Lisa: from some angles the young lady seems to be smiling, from others, the smile appears to have vanished.

Leonardo da Vinci , <i>La Bella Principessa</i> (c. 1496)<br /> Photo: via <em>Art Daily</em>

Leonardo da Vinci , La Bella Principessa (c. 1496) Photo: via Art Daily

La Bella Principessa‘s mouth appears to change slant depending on both the viewing distance and the level of blur applied to a digital version of the portrait,” the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal, Vision Research, according to the Telegraph. “Through a series of psychophysics experiments, it was found that a perceived change in the slant of La Bella Principessa‘s mouth influences her expression of contentment.”

Volunteers were asked to look at the painting from a variety of angles and distances. The conclusion was that, when focusing on the eyes of the painting, viewing from a distance, or when digitally blurred, a delicate smile could be seen. When viewed close up, or focusing on the mouth, however, the smile disappears.

The works were observed from different angles <br> Photo: via the <i> Telegraph</i>

The works were observed from different angles Photo: via the Telegraph

The effect, evident in both paintings, was achieved by using the sfumato (which means “soft” or “pale” in Italian) technique, which uses color and shading to create an optical illusion around the mouths.

“The results from the experiments support the hypothesis that there is a gaze-dependent illusory effect in the portrait of La Bella Principessa,” said Alessandro Soranzo of Sheffield Hallam’s psychology department. “Although it remains a question whether the illusion was intended, given Leonardo’s mastery of the technique and its subsequent use in the Mona Lisa, it is quite conceivable that the ambiguity of the effect was intentional, based on explicit artistic skill and used in line with Leonardo’s maxim that portraits should reflect some ‘inner turmoil of the mind.'”

Until recently, La Bella Principessa was thought to be the work of a 19th century German painter, until it was discovered to be the portrait of 13-year-old Bianca Sforza, the illegitimate daughter of Ludovico Sforza, commissioned on the eve of her marriage in 1496.

Greek Art Dealers Tell Us How to Run a Gallery in Athens On 60 Euros A Day (artnet news)

by Rozalia Jovanovic and Eileen Kinsella, Friday, July 10, 2015 original article here.

camhi_pic4

Rebecca Camhi. Photo: via Madame Figaro.

A little over a week ago at the Athens art gallery of Rebecca Camhi, a new client walked into the space and selected two works to purchase: one was a photograph by Nan Goldin and the other was a work by British artist Clare Woods. Soon after, Camhi called the client with a price quote: $14,000 for the Goldin, 15,000 pounds sterling for the Woods. It didn’t matter. The next day, June 29, the banks were shuttered and Camhi’s client disappeared.

“This literally broke the deal,” said Camhi. “She never got back to us.”

Even if she had wanted to buy the works, Camhi said, given the circumstances—holders of Greek bank cards continue to have a 60-euro daily limit on ATM withdrawals and restrictions on moving money abroad—proper transactions were all but impossible.

“Even if she deposited the money in our account,” said Camhi, “we wouldn’t be able to pay our artists abroad. Maybe later I would be able to, but who wants to take that risk?”

Opened in 1995, Camhi’s gallery is housed in a neoclassical structure in the hip downtown Athens neighborhood of Metaxourgeio. She represents important contemporary artists including Rita Ackermann, Karen Kilimnik, and Sean Landers. Like many art dealers in Athens, she’s feeling the effects of the most recent economic crisis that has befallen Greece, especially since June 29, when banks were shuttered and limits were placed on the amount of cash that Greeks were allowed to access.

Installation view of a show at Rebecca Camhi Gallery.

Installation view of a show at Rebecca Camhi Gallery. Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca Camhi.

“What’s been happening in the past few weeks is completely crazy,” said Camhi. “You can’t do any business. It’s not like people are just having financial problems. This is like you’re paralyzed. You can’t get paid, you can’t pay people.”

In the face of the economic instability, collectors are staying safe and angling for more established artists. “[Collectors] are interested in spending money but on internationally established art,” said Camhi. “I suppose there is a sense of safety—as opposed to lesser known artists. If it’s an established artist they would feel that if they have to sell, they could sell it on an international market.”

Other galleries, like Ileana Tounta’s Contemporary Art Center, which opened in 1988 and consists of two exhibition spaces and an art shop, have amended their hours. Tounta’s has shifted from full days to being open only in the afternoons, from 3-8pm. As for paying employees, “We’re trying,” Ileana Tounta told artnet News during a phone call, “but it’s hard.”

While there has been a reported fervor in stocking up on luxury goods like watches and handbags (things that could later be sold abroad), there hasn’t been a similar interest in stocking up on art. In fact, according to Sofia Vamiali of Vamiali’s, traffic to galleries is waning. “People have other priorities and are less interested to visit galleries and exhibitions in general,” Vamiali told artnet News over email.

Installation view of Athanasios Argianas's 2011 solo show. Photo: Courtesy of the Breeder.

Installation view of Athanasios Argianas’s 2011 solo show. Photo: Courtesy of the Breeder.

stablished in 2004, Vamiali’s was the first contemporary art gallery in the Metaxourgio district, which is home to many galleries, museums, and cafes. But now it’s struggling, and it has had to postpone some of the more ambitious projects of the kind it had organized in the past.

“The art market is basically dead right now in Athens,” said George Vamvakidis in a telephone interview. Vamvakidis is a co-founder of The Breeder, a successful gallery that specialized in Greek contemporary artists and is known on the international art fair circuit. “The state is unable to fund the arts and the private collectors, the biggest ones, choose not to support the local market. So as a result almost every single commercial gallery of our generation has closed its doors.”

George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis of the Breeder, Athens.

George Vamvakidis and Stathis Panagoulis of The Breeder, Athens. Photo: via artnet.com

Despite the galleries of his generation—roughly 8-9, which, like The Breeder, opened in the early 2000s—having closed, The Breeder has just launched a new artist residency program. The artist—LA-based Ben Wolf Noam—arrived just as the crisis struck.

“The day he landed,” Vamvakidis, a co-founder of the gallery, said, “was the first day of capital controls.”

Yet, despite the odd timing of the residency, it seems the setbacks for The Breeder were mostly logistical. “We had to pay for the production of the work that he’s doing. Everybody here wants to be paid with cash. You can’t take cash out of the bank, the businesses won’t accept credit because they’re insecure.”

Installation view of site specific graffiti project at Vamiali's. Photo: via Vamiali's website

Installation view of site specific graffiti project at Vamiali’s. Photo: via Vamiali’s website

For example, something as simple as the purchase of an air compressor (to create airbrush art) for Noam, whose show will open next at the gallery, was a nightmare. “You can’t pay through PayPal or iTunes. You can’t use your credit card to buy from a foreign company. You can’t buy something online.”

A number of galleries also noted that as a result of the crisis, they’re unable to participate in art fairs.

“It has been hard for the last two years I have to say,” said Ileana Tounta whose gallery’s roster is heavy on Greek artists and who regularly participated in international fairs including Art Basel, Art Frankfurt, ARCO, and Art Cologne. “We’re trying to keep the gallery open and at least we try to bring people in to exhibitions.”

Though The Breeder specializes in Greek contemporary artists—like Jannis Varelas and Andreas Angelidakis (whose work took over the gallery’s booth at this past iteration of Frieze New York)—it has managed to stay afloat, because of its international collectors. In October, the gallery will go ahead with plans to attend Frieze London.

Installation view of the current solo show of Dimitra Vamiali "The Fine Qualities of Distressed Paper."Photo: via Ileana Tounta's website.

Installation view of Dimitra Vamiali’s solo show “The Fine Qualities of Distressed Paper” at Ileana Tounta. Photo: via Ileana Tounta’s website.

The upshot of the crisis, according to some of the dealers, is that it has caused something of a renaissance in the country. Vamiali said the crisis became “an inspirational turning point for many artists.” Vamvakidis said that artists are “liberated from the forces of the market” and for this reason Athens has become something of a creative hub because of the resultant creative energy and the low cost of living. “Artists that are working under those circumstances—who have the balls to produce work that is totally unconventional,” said Vamvakidis, “are producing really brave work.”

Camhi says it’s not the end of the gallery business in Greece. Her gallery continues to be up and running despite the financial pressures. Currently on view is “Ormiale,” a group show with “works and objects” by Fabrice DomercqJasper Morrison and Marc Newson that runs through July 25. The opening included the presentation of wine from the vineyard that the three designers own in Bordeaux.

“It’s not like galleries have collapsed or anything,” she said. “We have opening hours. We continue our emails.”

Greek Artist Demolishes His Own Work to Avoid Bizarre Government Fine (artnet news)

By Christie Chu, Tuesday, August 25, 2015 original article here.

Photo: via Greekreporter.com

Photo: via Greekreporter.com

A statue of a mermaid by Greek artist Dionysis Karipidis, which was created in 1997 on the Portokali beach in Chalkidiki, Greece, has been destroyed by the hands of its own maker.

The artist took to his statue with a sledgehammer when he was asked by the area’s tourist authorities to pay a fine for “destroying the natural landscape,” according to the Greek Reporter.

Chalkidiki is known for its three peninsulas that stick out into the Aegean sea like Poseidon’s trident. Famous as a tourist spot, the Greek peninsula is also known as the birthplace of Greek philosopher Aristotle.

The mermaid, which is carved from the natural limestone on the beach, has been a tourist attraction for almost a decade. The issue arose a little over a year ago when the artist, who has largely remained anonymous, received a letter from the local municipality leveling a 533 euro fine for the work. In March 2014, Karipidis responded with his own letter stating that if he was forced to pay the fine, he would destroy his work.

Photo: via  Moco-Choco.com

Photo: via Moco-Choco.com

According to the town’s mayor Yiannis Tzitzios, the fine was imposed by the tourist authorities even though the municipality did not want the sculpture to be destroyed. Why did the authorities wait almost two decades to level the fine? Perhaps it has something to do with the country’s economic crisis.

“The fine has not been attested by the municipality, but since the offense took place in our area, we were forced to collect it. Once we received Karipidis’ letter we sought every legal way to delete the fine or pay it with municipality expenses,” said the mayor. “However, we found this to be illegal. Therefore, the city council chairman proposed that we pay the fine ourselves, as individuals, and not with the municipality’s money. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, we did not have enough time to sort out the issue.”

Jasper Johns’s Non-Profit Creates Space Dedicated Exclusively to Artist-Curated Shows (artnet news)

By Christie Chu, Thursday, May 28, 2015 original article here.

Installation shot of “6 Doors”. Photo: courtesy of the Other Room.

Jasper Johns is spearheading a new project space in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District dedicated exclusively to artist-curated exhibitions.

The 496-square-foot space, aptly called the Other Room, sits adjacent to the offices of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), the non-profit the painter co-founded with John Cage in 1963. The converted space was previously used as an occasional meeting place for the organization. Executive director of the foundation, Stacy Stark, told artnet News over the phone, the name for the space came about from the “colloquial” expression used by its staff members. Ms. Stark went on to say the mission of the venue is to provide another platform for “artist-centric” projects and expand on the foundation’s initiative of bestowing grants to those working in dance, music, theatre, poetry, and fine arts.

It’s inaugural show titled “6 Doors” brings together six works that evoke a doorway, portal, or barrier.

Installation shot of “6 Doors”. Photo: courtesy of the Other Room.

The selected works by six artists include a digital print Let ’em (2005) by Trisha Donnelly, a site-specific work titled Dark Corner (2015) by Andrea Longacre-White, a trompe l’oeil work made from purpleheart wood named The New International Atlas (2010) by Alex Robbins, a torn black cloth called Shroud (2014) by Melanie Schiff, a new large-scale sculpture Joint Fence (for Jasper) (2015) by Marianne Vitale, and a painting titled Midnight Union Ave. (2012) by Mary Weatherford.

Curated by artist Rachel Foullon, a founding member of the initiative Public-Holiday Projects and former program manager for the foundation (she worked there in 2005 to 2006), all pieces in the show are on sale except for the Mary Weatherford painting. Prices range from $4,500 to $40,000.

Plans include two to three shows per year, that will be up for two months organized by an invited artist who will have free rein to curate experimental shows, as no “restrictions or parameters” will be set—the foundation’s role is to be purely administrative.

“Six Doors” is on view at the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, 820 Greenwich Street, New York from May 19, 2015 through August 7, 2015.

Installation shot of “6 Doors”. Photo: courtesy of the Other Room.

 

 

Long-Lost Masterpiece by Ingres Discovered in Hospital Attic in France (artnet news)

By Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, Friday, April 24, 2015 original article here.

A detail of the Ingres painting found in Jura<br>Photo via: La Voix de Jura

A detail of the Ingres painting found in Jura Photo via: La Voix de Jura

A painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres has been found in the French province of Jura completely by chance, Le Monde reports (see Long Lost Masterpiece Discovered in French Attic Comes to Auction).

The piece is only the latest in a spate of “lost” masterpieces that have turned up in recent months sometimes to huge auction success (see Scholar Denies Authenticating ‘Lost Leonardo’ Found in Swiss Vault and Lost Klimt Portrait Unveiled In Prague).

The discovery was made during an inventory conducted by Emmanuel Buselin, curator and advisor of historical monuments of the region, in the attic of the chapel of the former hospital Hôtel-Dieu, located in the town of Lons-le-Saunier.

Buselin saw a huge canvas rolled and covered in dust and, intrigued, sat down to unroll it. A large Ingres masterpiece—measuring 4.30 meters wide by 3.40 meters high—depicting a Madonna with child and kneeling king, slowly unfolded before his eyes.

The painting, which dates to 1826, is thought to have been gifted to the town after Ingres completed it. It hung in the local church of Saint-Désiré.

The found painting is thought to be the second version of Ingres's Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII, 1824)<br>Photo via: Wikipedia

The found painting is thought to be the second version of Ingres’s Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII, 1824) Photo via: Wikipedia

In 1936, according to the municipal archives, the church was refurbished and the painting stored in the former hospital, where it had languished forgotten ever since.

The priceless masterpiece is thought to be the long-lost second version of Ingres’s Le Vœu de Louis XIII (The vow of Louis XIII), which King Charles X of France originally commissioned from the Neoclassical master in 1820.

Buselin’s incredible discovery took place last autumn, but it remained secret until this week in order to protect the artwork, which could not be safely removed from the old hospital immediately.

The painting is now being repaired in the conservation area of the Museum of Fine Arts of Lons-le-Saunier, where it is expected to be displayed once it is completely restored.