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Mario Testino’s Incan Style

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Mario Testino

The famed fashion photographer strays from his typical celebrity subject matter to shoot the brilliant colors, patterns, and fabrics worn by locals from his native Peru.

Alta Moda is quite different from the portraits I am perhaps best known for,” famed fashion photographer Mario Testino said of his latest exhibit.

Taking a bold approach in his newest venture, Testino has strayed away from his typical subjects—celebrities and fashion models—and traded them in for natives of his home country, Peru. Alta Moda—which translates from Spanish as “high fashion”—examines traditional Peruvian dress from the Cusco region of the country.

“I usually try to capture the moment,” Testino said. “But with this series, I wanted to do something very different—not just with my own work, but also with the practice of photography. I tried to fit as much time and history into each frame as possible—from the traditional and festive clothing to the Chambi backdrops to the Peruvian people in them.”

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Mario Testino

Corrected Canon

Better Than Vermeer

"A Woman Playing the Theorbo with a Cavalier", by Gerard ter Borch the Younger

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913)

Gerard ter Borch made headlines, while his rival in Delft was painting maids with earrings.

Here we are again, on our regular Monday visit to  the Metropolitan Museum in New York. This picture was painted in around 1658 by Gerard ter Borch, and is now on display in the Met's newly rehung Old Masters galleries. It is by Vermeer’s much more famous and successful contemporary, and lacks much of what we moderns love in Vermeer: His proto-photographic light, his cryptic, event-free subjects, his wide-angle deep space. That “lack” may be precisely why pre-modern Dutchmen so preferred ter Borch. As I’ve argued before, we may want to put ourselves in their eyes, and redress the balance between the two artists.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

Framed Faces

The Portrait Gallery Face-Off

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National Portrait Gallery London

Selfies may be all the rage, but there’s still nothing like a framed portrait. From famous faces to twins, a look at the spontaneous collection of winners at London's Portrait Gallery.

In the age of selfies, Instagram, and Snapchat, it’s almost impossible to peruse the sixty new portraits selected for this year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in London’s National Portrait Gallery without considering the difference between an image framed on a wall and one that has a brief life on your smartphone. The question is: does the installation of an image in the hallowed halls of a venerable institution hamper a feeling of familiarity? Is an image on a cell phone—up-close and personal—always a friendlier face?

The first image that you see when you enter the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition space swiftly stomps out any such assumption: Rosie Hallam’s Lily Cole greets gallery-goers with a warm and welcoming smile. Model-cum-actress-cum-art-historian (with a degree from the University of Cambridge no less), Cole effortlessly straddles the realms of social media and the arts. Here, she’s caught on camera in an informal portrait, fresh-faced, free of make-up, with loose hair, and wearing a floral dress and cosy knit cardigan.

The sixty portraits on show have been whittled down from the 5,410 submissions entered by 2,435 contemporary photographers around the world. Works by young students hang alongside those of established professionals; portraits printed in brilliant color are juxtaposed with ones in black and white; formal commissions of famous faces accompany spontaneous snapshots of family and friends. The question on everyone’s lips: “Which is your favorite?” The answer, more often than not: “It’s too hard to choose!”

The curation of such a merry (and complex) company was surely no easy feat. Yet somehow, despite the divergent approaches and subjects, the captured characters converse with ease.

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The Bronx Riviera

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Explorers on the Auction Block

Dara Friedman, "Total" from 1997, as installed in "Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950" at the Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC.

(Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz Collection; photo by Cathy Carver)

In the Hirshhorn's "Damage Control", a woman has a different take on breaking things.

Watch a clip from Dara Friedman's "Total", a 1997 film which I recently saw in the show called "Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950" at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. (I previewed it in the New York Times.)  Friedman's conceit is simple: She filmed herself tearing a room to shreds then projects it in reverse, so we see the decor reassemble itself. The piece drove home something I noticed throughout the Hirshhorn show: that the few women who've  made art about destruction have had a quite different take than the boys' (and I do mean "boys"). Yoko Ono offers herself up to the scissors of strangers; Mona Hatoum makes hand grenades of delicate glass; Laurel Nakadate mourns 9/11 (or at least plays at it). And Friedman presents herself as undoing any destruction she's caused. It's not hard to think of her piece as a response to Jeff Wall's seminal (pun intended) "Destroyed Room", from 1978, a huge photo for which he carefully staged the utter destruction of an unnamed woman's room. He constructs, but plays at destruction; Friedman destroys but presents it as tidying up.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

'Art & Place'

Destination Art Worth the Trip

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Easter Island, Isla de Pascua, Valparaiso, Chile. (Stephen Alvarez/National Geographic Stock)

Not all art is easily placed in a museum; some pieces are intrinsically linked to the location in which they were created. A new book collects the best of these works in the Americas.

Site-specific art is some of the most exciting art on the planet. It’s not the art that’s generally in museums and galleries. More often you’ll find it in open fields, in libraries, in opera houses, in caves, on highways, in plazas, in sculpture parks, in state capitols, on the street, in the desert, in office buildings and even in hydroelectric plants. “Site-specific art.” It doesn’t sound good does it? It sounds formal and restricted, but at its best, it is immersive, moving, and very often overwhelming.

Five years in the making, Art & Place (published this month by Phaidon) includes some of the most outstanding examples of site-specific art in the Americas: from the markings of hunter-gatherers who stencilled the shape of their own hands onto cave walls some 9,000 years ago in a canyon in Patagonia, Argentina, to Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate that reflects the constantly changing city and sky in Chicago’s Millennium Square. The book’s geographical structure allows for an exciting sequence of works that vary in time, medium, and approach. Here, Neolithic monuments are juxtaposed with land art, jungle carvings with downtown murals, and public works with personal projects, such as the sculptures—and folly—of the wealthy eccentric Edward James, in the tropical rain forest a ten-hour drive from Mexico City.

There are sites that are familiar to everyone, like Easter Island with its enormous Moai figures standing over eight feet tall, but also far lesser known works, such as the totem poles of the Haida people on the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. Some are the creations of renowned artists, like Mark Rothko’s murals in the chapel commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil in Houston, or Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels that lie in the desert forty miles from the nearest town in Utah. Others express the genius of unknown artisans, such as the grisaille murals of the Monastery of San Nicolas de Tolentino in San Luis Potosí in Mexico, or of whole communities, like the caves painted in bright colors by the Chumash of California in a quest to communicate with the spiritual world.

What binds these works together is an overriding sense of place: the subject or meaning of all these works is closely intertwined with the location in which they are situated. And it is this that makes them some of the most adventurous, bold, and exciting to experience.

Raymond Depardon

France’s Footloose Photographer

Since the late 1950s, Raymond Depardon has been traveling the world capturing the beauty and despair of life’s “sweet moments.” A new exhibit focuses on his stunning use of color.

The first image in the new Parisian exhibition Un Moment Si Doux (A Sweet Moment) is a photo of a man lying on a bed; behind him, two walls of brilliant turquoise/blue meet over his left shoulder. Upon closer inspection, the image, taken in Vietnam in 1972, is grainy, almost hazy. Though the scene is spare, the effect is powerful: bright, solemn, contemplative. Such is the visual output of French photographer Raymond Depardon. A compendium of moments he captured the world over are displayed in their greatest breadth yet at the Grand Palais, adjacent to the annual Paris Photo festival occurring this week.

Van-Tao, Vietnam, 1972

Click image to view more. (Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos)

Curator Hervé Chandès selected what he deems Depardon’s color “moments”—images where color is truly the element that brings out the allure of the image. “Raymond Depardon and color photography are indissociable,” Chandès says emphatically.

Art Is Bullion

Warhol's $105M 'Crash'

Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster), a 1963 silkscreen by Andy Warhol

(Courtesy Thomas Ammann Fine Art AG, Zurich, © 2013 Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts / Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York)

Warhol's masterpiece sells for a fortune, and becomes the commodity that it's all about.

Warhol's "Silver Car Crash" sold for $104.5 million last night at Sotheby's in New York, which was either too little, or too much. Too little, because the night before, a much less important picture by Francis Bacon sold for $142.4 million at Christie's, breaking every record for an artwork at auction. It might have been nice if, for once, there were some correlation between such a record and the historical importance of the work that set it – as would have been the case with the "Car Crash". Last night's $104.5 million was too much, by exactly $4.5 million, because at an even $100 million, Warhol's picture would have matched the fake $100 million price tag that Damien Hirst, a Warhol devotee, attached to his diamond-studded skull in 2007.  Hirst created a work, and a social "performance", of sorts, that was all about how art and artists enter the marketplace, but Warhol had staked out that territory 45 years before, in even more subtle and complex ways. It started in 1962, with the Campbell's soup can as iconic commodity, then within a year Warhol had expanded the idea to cover the commodity status of celebrities – Marilyn and Jackie and Liz (so famous that their first names are still enough to call them to mind) and soon Andy himself and the Superstars he created from scratch. And then Warhol's notion spread further, to cover even the calamities served up to us over and over again in tabloids and on the news – poisoned cans of tuna, suicide leaps and fatal car crashes. (The celebrities Warhol chose and created were also all calamities, of a sort, since even Liz had just survived a calamitous illness when Warhol pictured her and had starred on screen as a car-crash victim, and of course Warhol and his Superstars were models of broken lives.) 

Warhol silkscreened his "Crash" in several "colorways" (he borrowed the concept from fabric and housewares marketing) but this silver version is  best of all, because the shiny paint itself stands for the bullion that's at the symbolic heart of every transaction in a commodity culture. It's presented .999 "pure" in the work's right panel, and then on the left with a black image of disaster that reads as a tarnish on its surface. (This is just about the moment when Ralph Nader was starting to rouse the nation's consumers against the hazards built into the cars they were buying – although I note that this wasn't a movement against consumption itself, but in favor of a safer, purer form of it.)

So Warhol's Pop art – a misnomer if ever there was one – isn't a cheery celebration of Pop-ing commodity culture, though that's how it was often billed (sometimes by Warhol himself). And it's not a preachy, political attack on that culture, which was another common reading. It's a full-bodied portrait of commodification, with its lights and darks left intact and in play against each other, and in which we see ourselves. (The blank right-hand panel could be mirror as well as bullion.)

That portrait saw a kind of apotheosis last night, in an auction that declared and celebrated the greatness of this work of art but that also laid bare a culture of consumption that, more than ever, has escaped the bounds of reason. Warhol saw consumption as a force for democratization in an America where, he wrote, "the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.... A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke." . But last night at Sotheby's, we saw consumption's new, darker side, as our insane economic divide (read this terrifying report) made itself clearer than ever and infected even a great work of art. After all, one way or another, every dollar of the record millions that got spent at Sotheby's was a dollar not paid out to the poor suckers making our cars and feeding on Campbell's soup – when they can afford even that.

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Warhol Sells for $105 Million

Warhol Sells for $105 Million Getty

Depicts a mangled body in car crash.

It's a gruesome thing to hang on your wall, but on Wednesday, an unidentified buyer shelled out a record-setting $105 million for Andy Warhol's "Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster)." The 8-feet by 13-feet piece depicts a mangled body in a car's destroyed interior. It's part of Warhol's "Death and Disasters" and is signed by the artist, dated to 1963. It's considered a rare work because it has been only shown once publicly in 26 years. The previous record for Warhol's art was set six years ago when  "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I)" fetched $71.7 million.

Read it at ABC

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The World’s Most Expensive Art

Eyewitness

The Rebirth of 1800s Paris

Paris wasn’t always the city of wide boulevards and elegant parks. A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art displays Charles Marville’s photographs of the city in transition.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize an important artist. In the case of French photographer Charles Marville, the wait has lasted two-hundred years.

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Percement de l'avenue de l'Opéra (Construction of the avenue de l'Opéra), December 1876

On the bicentennial of his birth, Marville and his work are featured in a fantastic new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., titled “Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris.”

Over a hundred years before sections of news sites and Flickr pages devoted to “ruin porn” sprang up, Charles Marville set out to document a Paris that had been subjected to an incredible amount of destruction, and would undergo its most dramatic changes yet under city-planner Baron Haussmann.

A Billionaire’s Dream

Bacon’s Overpriced Triptych

Francis Bacon’s 1969 “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold for $142.4 million, proving once again that the price of a work doesn’t tell us anything about its worth as art.

 

So Francis Bacon’s 1969 “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” was auctioned off for $142.4 million at Christie’s in New York last night, becoming the most expensive art-auction sale ever. (Although it’s utterly ludicrous that no one adjusts these records for inflation—without that, they mean almost nothing.)

 

I’m not at all surprised that the picture set a record. It’s just what megacollectors are looking for: it’s huge, figurative, colorful and ultra-splashy, full of supposed “feeling,” and fitting every old romantic cliche that says that art is about something called “self-expression” that gets at the “universal, timeless truths” at the heart of the angstful “human condition”. "Lucien Freud" is easy on the eyes, while pretending to be hard on the brain and the soul. It’s also a picture of a famous artist, by a famous artist, both famous people having lived famously nutty lives. And, hell, it’s a triptych, so you get three for the price of one, while the thing looks almost like it’s made of gold. What more could a billionaire want for over his sofa?

Loot

Billion-Dollar Nazi Art Bonanza

The 1,400 looted Nazi artworks found in a Munich apartment are just a small percentage of the thousands that disappeared during World War II. What else is out there waiting to be found?

Before the Nazis founded the ERR, their military unit dedicated to art and archive theft; before Hitler conceived of converting the entirety of his boyhood town of Linz, Austria into a “super-museum” containing every important artwork in the world; and long before the Allied armies, aided by the Monuments Men, liberated hundreds of thousands of looted artworks, the Nazis were stealing from their own people. Thanks to George Clooney’s upcoming film, a fictional drama based on historical fact (but bending it to the will of Hollywood), the world has become familiar with the “Monuments Men:” a group of several-hundred Allied officers from the art community, who were charged with locating, protecting, and recovering art and monuments that were in the line of fire during the Second World War. But fewer will be aware that the conquered European nations were not the only—nor the first—victims of Nazi art theft.

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US soldiers carrying some of the priceless collection of paintings discovered in an Austrian castle. The Nazi loot was intended to go into a huge art gallery at Linz. (Keystone/Getty)

Last week in London, I spoke as part of an art crime symposium, held at the V&A Museum and organized by ARCA (the Association for Research into Crimes against Art). While the symposium focused on art recovery, rewards, and art forgery, the talk of the coffee breaks and beers afterward was all on the recently-discovered Gurlitt collection of Nazi-looted art: some 1,400 works, many of them masterpieces, which had been stashed in an apartment in Augsburg, Germany since the war’s end. What has been less-frequently cited is that these works were not stripped from the walls of French and Italian museums, churches, and private homes. The majority of these works were “appropriated” (read as: stolen) by the Nazis before the war began. And this horde of 1,400 treasures, with an estimated worth of around $1 billion or higher, is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is much, much more buried treasure to be found.

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Francis Bacon Sells for $142.4M

Francis Bacon Sells for $142.4M VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty

Breaks record for art sold at auction.

Francis brought home the bacon. Selling for an incredible $142.4 million, a triptych by Francis Bacon depicting Lucian Freud shattered the record for art sold at auction at Christie's on Tuesday night. The three-panel piece, called Three Studies of Lucian Freud, was sold for $20 million more than Edvard Munch's The Scream, which held the record. It also broke the record for highest pre-sale estimate, which was set at nearly $85 million.

Read it at The New York Times

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