Model Mad, Masterpiece

Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” (1962). Credit Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

This isn’t the first time our Model Mad series has intersected with the Art World, but it may be the first for leveraging Art into action for social justice.  Channeling Pop Art speech bubbles we have to say, “You Go, Girl!”

Agnes Gund Sells a Lichtenstein to Start Criminal Justice Fund

In January, rumors swirled that the art collector and patron Agnes Gund had sold her prized 1962 Roy Lichtenstein “Masterpiece” for a whopping $150 million, placing it among the 15 highest known prices ever paid for an artwork.

Ms. Gund is confirming that sale now, revealing that she parted with the painting (for what was actually $165 million, including fees) for a specific purpose: to create a fund that supports criminal justice reform and seeks to reduce mass incarceration in the United States.

This new Art for Justice Fund — to be announced Monday at the Museum of Modern Art, where Ms. Gund is president emerita — will start with $100 million of the proceeds from the Lichtenstein (which was sold to the collector Steven A. Cohen through Acquavella Gallery).

“This is one thing I can do before I die,” Ms. Gund, 78, said in an interview at her Upper East Side apartment, where the Lichtenstein used to hang over the mantel, along with works by Jasper Johns and Mark Rothko. “This is what I need to do.” Continue reading

Biomimetic Yarn-Bombing

Image © 2016 CHOI+SHINE

I’ve long been fascinated with urban space art installations in general, and fibre based pieces in particular. Somehow I missed hearing about the Singapore based i Light Marina Bay Light Art Festival in March, but I’m happy to have discovered it now.

The festival is an annual event, and this year’s theme of Biomimicry and Sustainability strike multiple chords. London/Seoul based architectural firm Choi+Shine created The Urchins for this site specific installation. 

This project is inspired by sea urchin shells, which are enclosed yet light weight, delicate and open.  Their textured and permeable surface interacting with light creates openness, while the pattern’s mathematical repetition brings visual rhythm and harmony.  Against light, the sea urchin natural form reveals one of the most spectacular patterns found in nature. Continue reading

If You Happen to Be in Washington DC…

Frédéric Bazille’s The Family Gathering has none of the quick, airy brush strokes his future impressionist peers would discover; but the sunshine is there, as are the bright colors. Musée d’Orsay, Paris/Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art

Considering the changes in the air of the 1860’s Paris art scene, the “might have been” aspect of this story about a lesser known 19th century French painter is poignant, to say the least. Thanks, once again, to NPR for sharing this story about what could have been.

France’s ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, is a fan of 19th-century French painter Frédéric Bazille. But I had a confession to make when I spoke with him about the National Gallery’s “Frédéric Bazille and the Birth of Impressionism” exhibition. I said that I usually walk right past Bazille’s paintings and go straight to the impressionists — and I assume I’m not the only one who does that.

Araud understands, but says he likes Bazille for the opposite reason: The impressionists are so well-known, he says, “I’ve reached a point where I don’t look at them anymore.”

Those impressionists were also Bazille’s pals. Continue reading

Remembering Hurricane Earl

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Jill Magid: “Una carta siempre llega a su destino”. Los Archivos Barragán. MUAC, 2017.

Last year when I was first spending extended time at Chan Chich Lodge, I got to experience the reality of what had up to then been a cliche phrase–a force of nature. I had some minor experience with earthquakes, certainly other-worldy, and I have witnessed flooding and historic snowstorms. Nothing had ever exhilarated me for hours on end the way this hurricane did.

And what I chose to do during that experience has stuck with me as much as the hurricane itself. So I had to visit the website of the museum where this exhibit is hosted. And I had to read what happened after the end of that story:

…One premise of Magid’s work is that the ring is not and will never be for sale. It can be accepted only by Zanco and only in exchange for the archive… When addressing claims that she had disrespected Barragán’s legacy, she shook her head. “Not only do I love his work, but the questions around his archive—what is accessible and what is not—affect the way his legacy goes forward,” she said. Continue reading

James Prosek, Come to Chan Chich Lodge!

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A Sami reindeer herders’ hut on Lake Virihaure in Padjelanta National Park. Credit Paintings by James Prosek, courtesy of the artist and Schwartz-Wajahat, New York

We had a tradition from the moment we arrived in Kerala, inviting some of our favorite people to come see what we were doing there. This one’s work at Cornell was a lovely coincidence because of Seth’s work at the Lab of Ornithology. But mainly, a conservation-oriented naturalist illustrator seemed a perfect fit for what we do. So, seeing what he has contributed to the Travel section of the New York Times today I realize we are due to extend another invitation, this time for him to join us at Chan Chich Lodge in Belize:

A Botanist in Swedish Lapland

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The plan was to retrace part of a journey that Carl Linnaeus made in 1732 when he was 25, from Uppsala, just north of Stockholm, to the northernmost region of Sweden, known as Swedish Lapland. Linnaeus kept a detailed journal of his travels, often called his “Lapland Journal,” with maps of the mountains, rivers and lakes, drawings and his squiggly handwriting. Continue reading

Cry Sadness Into The Coming Rain

Gottlieb ǂKhatanab ǁGaseb aka Die vioolman (The Violinist) plays traditional Damara music at the funeral of Ouma Juliana ≠Û-khui ǁAreses on the family farm beneath the Dâures. Uis District, Erongo Region. December 2014

As an international company, our team tends to be spread out across the world, so more often than not many of our posts is a surprise to the rest. It was with that sense of synchronicity that I read Crist’s piece on Gerhard Steidl’s conservation work yesterday while I was in the midst of writing about this upcoming publication.

Born in Namibia, photographer Margaret Courtney-Clarke spent decades capturing life in remote places in Italy, the USA and numerous parts of Africa. Returning to Namibia after years away, she found the once familiar landscape drastically changed.

Cry Sadness Into the Coming Rain is a forthcoming publication by Steidl, Germany, 2017.

With strong memories of my formative years growing up on the edge of the Namib Desert in what was then known as South West Africa, I have returned to explore my obsession with this place and my lifelong curiosity for the notion of shelter. I have covered thousands of dusty kilometres across remote plains, through dry river beds, over sand dunes and salt pans, through conservancies and communal lands to photograph families in desperate, forgotten outposts. I try to capture the ‘transhumance’ – the search for work, forage and water – and the remnants of former habitats alongside once productive land.

In coastal towns I move with women and children across stretches of desert from one garbage dump to another – often with the loot they carry in their quest to create shelter and eke out a living. I focus on human enterprise and failure, on the bare circumstances of ordinary women and men forced to negotiate life, and of an environment in crisis. Continue reading

Entrepreneurial Conservation, Book

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Steidl (pictured here with the Italian photographer Massimo Vitali) is engaged in an effort to print and catalogue work that might otherwise not be available, and to use advanced industrial means to distribute it widely. It is a Gutenberg-like goal, with the history of photography substituting for the word of God. Photograph by Mark Peckmezian for The New Yorker

We have frequently sampled the publications of Phaidon when we see relevance to themes we care about. There are plenty of books they produce that are about frill or fashion, and we are less than not interested in those. But we assume those books we like least are likely the ones that sell well enough to pay for the ones we like most. It is a principle we can live with. In our own work we commercialize experiences in nature in order to fund the conservation of that nature, and we live with all the paradoxes inherent in that.

In this week’s New Yorker there is a profile of one man whose life’s work is more or less displaying the same principle, again in the realm of books with photographs, paid for by work in fashion. It caught my attention at first in the same way the Phaidon books generally do, with regard to craft, beautiful display, etc., but there is more here. This man does not just produce lovely coffee table books.  He is clearly on a mission we can relate to, recognizable for an entrepreneurial approach to conservation. Read the one paragraph sampled below for a taste:

GERHARD STEIDL IS MAKING BOOKS AN ART FORM

He is the printer the world’s best photographers trust most. Continue reading

Another Hirst Heist?

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HEAD OF IFE
Brass statue, from Nigeria (A.D. 1400-1500)
“It is one of a group of 13 heads, superbly cast in brass, all discovered in 1938 in the grounds of a royal palace in Ife, Nigeria, which astonished the world with their beauty. They were immediately recognized as supreme documents of a culture that had left no written record, and they embody the history of an African kingdom that was one of the most advanced and urbanized of its day.’’
Credit: Trustees of the British Museum

The first podcast I ever listened to was this one, back earlier in this decade.World100 Although neither the BBC nor the British Museum is maintaining the website, it is still there. I recommend getting ahold of the podcast that you can find here among other places.

Object #63 did not particularly stand out more than any of the others chosen for this innovative historical exhibit that I listened to without visual cues. But I do remember it because the description was as vivid as any (pasted after the jump). So, I am sorry to be reminded of this piece again due to the modern world’s confused and confusing approach to art as represented by this so-called bad boy (aka fraud), who is still at his naughty ways according to this news item today:

There’s controversy in Venice for Damien Hirst, the British artist who has occasionally drawn accusations that his pieces are not always wholly original but inspired by others’ work.

At the Venice Biennale this week, the Nigerian artist Victor Ehikhamenor accused Mr. Hirst of copying a well-known ancient Nigerian brass artwork, “Head of Ife,” found in 1938 in Ife, Nigeria, without giving it the proper historical recognition it deserves. Continue reading

Bedazzled

Works that can be seen in “CHIHULY,” Dale Chilhuly’s exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden. Credit Photographs by Vincent Tullo for The New York Times

Although fairly ubiquitous in Botanical Gardens and museum rotundas, Dale Chihuly’s colorful and primarily organically shaped glass installations add an intriguing juxtaposition with the spaces they inhabit. Despite his popularity, opinion varies whether his work enhances or detracts. Whichever camp you choose, there’s a fertile ground for conversation.

The single-word, all-caps title — “CHIHULY” — of a new show at the New York Botanical Garden conveys immediately exactly what visitors will be getting: vibrant glass sculptures in a familiar style, one that often recalls nature, and sometimes competes with it.

He started by weaving glass into tapestries but, eventually, the weaving part, once his primary technique, fell away.

“There is something about glass, one of the few materials that light goes through,” Mr. Chihuly said. “You’re looking at light itself.”

The shapes that Mr. Chihuly has spread to institutions worldwide remind many people of organic forms. But he has always maintained that copying nature has never been his goal. “I’m not conscious of mimicking,” he said. “I don’t study plant books. Glass wants to make forms like that, if you let it.” Continue reading

Model Mad, Painter

Mr. Bradford surveying the rotunda of the pavilion replica. Joshua White

We appreciate Mark Bradford’s concern about how he can represent the United States when he no longer feels represented by his government. Many of us on this platform are trying to find ways to express the same concern without resorting to nihilism, dystopic or other forms of hopelessness.

It takes an artist like Mr. Bradford to remind us of how we can creatively address this concern. It has the true ring of the same core concern driving others in the arts we have been pointing to in the model mad series. Thanks to Jori Finkel and the Arts section of the New York Times for An Artist’s Mythic Rebellion for the Venice Biennale:

LOS ANGELES — Mark Bradford, one of America’s most acclaimed painters, could not figure out what to put in the grand rotunda.

This artist, who is set to represent his country in May at the 2017 Venice Biennale, found an unusual way of working long-distance. In a warehouse in South Los Angeles, not far from where he grew up, he created a full-size model of the Biennale’s United States pavilion, a stately building with echoes of Monticello. Continue reading

Escapist Noir

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In Melville films starring Alain Delon, cops and robbers feel interchangeable. Illustration by Malika Favre

In these pages our norm is to give visitors reasons to escape urban life and immerse in nature, join conservation initiatives, support communities at home and in faraway places alike. When we need a brief getaway from all that, we occasionally do it in reverse. In places where we can be reminded of mankind’s occasional flashes of genius. One of my favorite critics has me thinking about being in a big, dark room in New York City in the coming days:

This is how you should attend the forthcoming retrospective of Jean-Pierre Melville movies at Film Forum: Tell nobody what you are doing. Even your loved ones—especially your loved ones—must be kept in the dark. If it comes to a choice between smoking and talking, smoke. Dress well but without ostentation. Wear a raincoat, buttoned and belted, regardless of whether there is rain. Any revolver should be kept, until you need it, in the pocket of the coat. Finally, before you leave home, put your hat on. If you don’t have a hat, you can’t go.

Melville was born almost a hundred years ago, on October 20, 1917. The centennial jamboree starts on April 28th and ends on May 11th, followed by a weeklong run of “Léon Morin, Priest” (1961), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role. (Thanks to Godard’s “Breathless,” released the year before, Belmondo was at the time the coolest Frenchman alive, so what did Melville do? Put him in a dog collar and a black soutane.) In all, the festival, which after New York will travel to other cities, comprises twelve features and one short. Only a single work is missing, a rarity entitled “Magnet of Doom” (1963). Continue reading

Public Domain Cultural Jukebox

Alan Lomax, in 1992. As computer technology progressed, Lomax envisioned a searchable database for music from around the world. Credit G. Paul Burne

Some say music is the earliest communal art form, and one that continues to connect us. The inclusiveness of Alan Lomax’s vision with the Association for Cultural Equity and the Global Jukebox carries that inspiration further, with interactive features that connect the dots between music, culture and geography, paying “tribute to the expressive styles of all peoples within the framework of cultural equity and the diversity which is crucial to our survival as a species.”

Alan Lomax Recordings Are Digitized in a New Online Collection

Alan Lomax made it his lifelong mission to archive and share traditional music from around the world. He spent decades in the field, recording heralded artists like Muddy Waters and Woody Guthrie, as well as far more obscure musicians, from the British Isles to Haiti. He also created systems to classify this music and explore the links between cultures.

Lomax died in 2002, but the organization he founded, the Association for Cultural Equity (ACE), is hoping to further his research with the Global Jukebox, a new online database. The project, an interactive website, allows users to listen to and learn about more than 6,000 songs from 1,000 cultures — including many from Lomax’s personal collection. Continue reading

Plant, Coffee Table Baiting

9780714871486-940-ahsPhotos by Penn, Steichen and other classic masters share the pages with some of today’s greatest photographers in this book. It brings our attention to flora in both natural and still-life settings, making this kind of debate irrelevant.

Floral arranging, an art form, can be seen as baiting, in a way. We are mindful of the fact that most of the world increasingly lives in urban settings. While our job is to provide access to the wonders of wild nature, there is a vital role for plants in the daily lives of urbanites to remind them to get back to nature from time to time. If this book provides coffee tables daily reminders of that imperative, we are all for baiting.

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Single Oriental Poppy (C), 1968 by Irving Penn. From Plant: Exploring the Botanical World

Plant wins American Horticultural Society Book Award!

Plant is ‘an art exhibit in book form’ says one of the judges – and who are we to disagree? Continue reading

Model Mad, Icon

 

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A new anthology of the work of Harry Belafonte, pictured here in the nineteen-forties or fifties, reiterates his standing in American music. PHOTOGRAPH BY BETTMANN / GETTY

There was an editorial a few days ago that alerted us to the birthdays of two buddies, each on icon in his own right, who have 70 years of solidarity in the tough times, and best of times too. It also alerted us to the time since our last post with the model mad theme, so here is one more:

HARRY BELAFONTE AND THE SOCIAL POWER OF SONG

By Amanda Petrusich

Sixty-one years ago, in 1956, Harry Belafonte recorded a version of the Jamaican folk song “Day-O,” for his third studio album, “Calypso.” It opens with a distant and eager rumbling—as if something dark and hulking were approaching from a remote horizon. Belafonte—who was born in Harlem in 1927, but lived with his grandmother in a wooden house on stilts in Aboukir, a mountain village in Jamaica, for a good chunk of his childhood—bellows the title in a clipped island pitch. The instrumentation is spare and creeping. His voice bounces and echoes as it moves closer. It sounds like a call to prayer. Continue reading

Model Mad, Music

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In the face of Trump, many artists report feelings of paralysis. Should they carry on as before, nobly defying the ruination of public discourse? Or seize on a new mission, abandoning the illusion of aesthetic autonomy? PHOTOGRAPH BY ERICH AUERBACH/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY

Alex Ross asks the right question, in our view of the importance of finding a new model of behavior to reflect mad, with his opening question and the whole first paragraph prepares you for a worthy read:

MAKING ART IN A TIME OF RAGE

What is the point of making beautiful things, or of cherishing the beauty of the past, when ugliness runs rampant? Those who work in the realm of the arts have been asking themselves that question in recent weeks. Continue reading

Art as Public Domain

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher by Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, Delft 1632–1675 Delft)

Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
by Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, Delft 1632–1675 Delft)

In these current times when Art, Culture and Civility appear to be under constant attack, news that museums and galleries – both private and public – are opening their virtual archives of Public Domain artworks to be just that, public, is newsworthy.

For example, a click on the image to the left takes viewers to the Metropolitan Museum’s website that includes not only the full details of the painting (description, catalogue entry, provenance and exhibition history, etc.), but also a hyperlink to a map of the gallery where viewers can find the actual painting, and related objects within the museum’s vast collection.

We’re happy to know that museums, whether virtual or physical, still provide inclusive space to breathe deep.

Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free

Continue reading

Grrreat Print, Walton Ford

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We  studiously avoid wading into the realm of popular music here, but today we make an exception. Not for the sake of the music itself (the greatest hits of a band celebrating 50 years of working together), but because we have just discovered that one of our favorite artists, featured here more than once, was the cover artist for the album above. Yes, we see we are a few years behind the times on this story, but better late than never when it comes to Walton Ford:

Rolling Stones Gorilla Logo Artist Slams Critics

Walton Ford offering limited-edition etching of widely seen gorilla logo Continue reading

Model Mad, Museum

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“K+L+32+H+4. Mon père et moi (My Father and I)” right, by Charles Hossein Zenderoudi, on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

When the two words model mad first occurred to us, it was simply to thank one of our favorite people for continuing to resist wrongness in new, clever manner, without losing his cool and thereby keeping it effective. Since then we have found a story almost every day that illustrates the fertile ground of protest created in recent times. And today, thanks to the New York Times, we see another one:

MoMA Takes a Stand: Art From Banned Countries Comes Center Stage

By

President Trump’s executive order banning travel and rescinding visas for citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations does not lack for opponents in New York — from Kennedy Airport, where striking taxi drivers joined thousands of demonstrators, to the United Nations, whose new secretary general, António Guterres, said the measures “violate our basic principles.

Now the Museum of Modern Art — which in past decades has cultivated a templelike detachment — is making its voice heard as well. In one of the strongest protests yet by a major cultural institution, the museum has reconfigured its fifth-floor permanent-collection galleries — interrupting its narrative of Western Modernism, from Cézanne through World War II — to showcase contemporary art from Iran, Iraq and Sudan, whose citizens are subject to the ban. A Picasso came down. Matisse, down. Ensor, Boccioni, Picabia, Burri: They made way for artists who, if they are alive and abroad, cannot see their work in the museum’s most august galleries. (A work from a Syrian artist has been added to the film program. The other affected countries are Somalia, Yemen and Libya.) Continue reading

Scientist, Illustrator, Forgotten Metamorphosist

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In some of Merian’s drawings, butterflies and caterpillars didn’t match. CREDIT MARIA SIBYLLA MERIAN, METAMORPHOSIS INSECTORUM SURINAMENSIUM, AMSTERDAM 1705, THE HAGUE, NATIONAL LIBRARY OF THE NETHERLANDS

Any story with Metamorphosis in it is bound to get our attention, but a long-forgotten scientist getting her due is the intrigue that makes this story by JoAnna Klein–A Pioneering Woman of Science Re‑Emerges After 300 Years–coinciding with the republication of this book below, worthy of the read:metamorph

Maria Sibylla Merian, like many European women of the 17th century, stayed busy managing a household and rearing children. But on top of that, Merian, a German-born woman who lived in the Netherlands, also managed a successful career as an artist, botanist, naturalist and entomologist.:

“She was a scientist on the level with a lot of people we spend a lot of time talking about,” said Kay Etheridge, a biologist at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania who has been studying the scientific history of Merian’s work. “She didn’t do as much to change biology as Darwin, but she was significant.” Continue reading

If You Happen To Be In Williamstown

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Thanks to Louis Menand, whose post THE MAJESTY OF EARLY PHOTOGRAPHY brought to our attention this exhibit (his comment on the museum itself, shared at the end of this post, is worthy of a read to the end):

…Right next to “Photography and Discovery” is another small exhibit, also of works the Clark owns, of early-nineteenth-century British paintings, many by Turner and Constable. I looked in to try out Galassi’s thesis, and you really can see the continuity between what those painters were doing, exploring the effects of sunlight on everyday subjects, and what the photographers would start doing a few years later…

The museum’s description makes us think of the parallels between photography and travel in terms of opening up horizons to an ever-widening audience:

When photographs were first widely produced and distributed during the second half of the nineteenth century, they offered viewers new ways to discover unknown people, places, and things. This exhibition explores how photographers considered these subjects during the medium’s first seventy-five years. During this exciting period, images were captured for many different reasons—from documentation to curiosity—and they came in many forms, including deluxe book illustrations, portable portrait cards, and frame-worthy landscapes. Continue reading