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Hawking a Revolution

The Cries of Havana

A video still from Neil Leonard's "True Bread"

(Courtesy Neil Leonard and Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, NY)

The Daily Pic: Neil Leonard captures the new street vendors of Cuba.

A video still from Neil Leonard's multimedia installation called "Pan Verdadero (True Bread)", now on view at Stephan Stoyanov Gallery in New York, where it comes paired with works by Leonard's wife, María Magdalena Campos-Pons. (Click on the still to watch a clip from Leonard's video.) Leonard's piece is built around a nice documentary premise: It records the newly-legal street hawkers of Havana, as they announce their goods to all and sundry. Artists' interest in hawkers' cries dates back at least 300 years, when the "Cries of London" became a standard theme for composers to riff on and for printmakers to depict. That means that Leonard's project situates Cuban society as at a point parallel to where England was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The question is whether that means it has hundreds of years to go before it works through the perils of capitalist culture – if, that is, one can imagine that other countries have come close to doing so. Still, the hawkers do seem to present an entrepreneurial model that's more appealing than most, and way more palatable than the cakes  they're selling.

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As It Was(n't?)

A Pre-Kodak Moment

Giacomo Ceruti's "Woman with a Dog", from around 1740

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 1930)

The Daily Pic: In the 1740s, Giacomo Ceruti made the real look realer.

A servant girl with a dog, painted in the 1740s by Giacomo Ceruti, who was nicknamed "Pitocchetto" (the little beggar). The painting is now up in the rehung Old Master galleries at the Met. It has an amazing, proto-photographic quality –  once reserved mostly for pictures of workers and animals, always somehow considered more "real" than the elites. Or maybe it looks photographic only because Ceruti chose to "real-up" his humble sitter, adding the gaps in her teeth and a slight double chin.

I spent five years of my life trying to figure out Old Master ideas about the real and its representation, and I still find the subject a hall of mirrors.

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Cézanne On Art

The French master wrote to fellow painter Camille Pissarro to cheer him up, jeer at Monet, and coin the saying that painting isn’t ‘a playing card.’

To Camille Pissarro 

L’Estaque, 2 July 1876 

Mon cher Pissarro

I’m obliged to reply to the charm of your magic pencil with an iron point (that’s to say a metal pen). If I dared, I should say that your letter is imprinted with sadness. The picture business isn’t going well; I fear that your morale may be colored a little grey, but I’m sure that it’s only a passing phase. 

O Artista

Brazil's Kandinsky

With her exuberant murals bursting with Rio de Janeiro joie de vivre, Beatriz Milhazes is winning the art world's heart.

In a pale lavender blouse under a gray blazer, Beatriz Milhazes is a portrait in understatement. Soft-spoken and with a bonnet of brown curls, she might be a docent or an art teacher on a class tour. But the bustle of museum handlers orbiting around her today and the scrum of reporters and television crews stalking the corridors of the Rio de Janeiro gallery quickly shatter the idyll.

"As a plastic artist you never think you're going to be in the spotlight," Milhazes tells The Daily Beast on a recent morning in Rio de Janeiro. We have fled the crowded gallery showcasing her career to a quiet room on the top floor of the Paço Imperial, a 18th century palace converted to a museum in downtown Rio. This is the last in a series of interviews for the week, and Milhazes is savoring the rare moment of quiet. "Now I guess it's part of my life."

Judging from the reception in Rio, and beyond, that is unlikely to change anytime soon. For the last two decades, Milhazes has been quietly raising the bar for the Latin American art world. More recently, her paintings have shattered auction records, floored critics, and mobilized dealers and curators from Tokyo to Chicago. In 2009, the Paris based Fondation Cartier dedicated an exhibit to Milhazes. She represented Brazil at the 2003 Venice Biennalle. She designed a wall mural for the restaurant at the Tate Modern and was commissioned to create 19 separate vaulted panels for the Gloucester Road station of the London Underground.

Fortune has followed fame. Her 2001 canvas O Mágico (The Magician), a bold work of deep blues and flying geometric shards, was an art house sleeper for years until Southeby's sold it in 2008 for $1,049,000, at three times the floor price. In June of last year, O Elefante Azul (The Blue Elephant) auctioned for $1.5 million at Christies and in November, her picture Meu Limão (My Lemon), fetched $2.1 million at Southeby's, a record for a living artist from Latin America. "She is a leading talent, and a huge influence," says art dealer Ivor Braka. "There can't be many examples Latin American artists who have impacted people's minds and on markets that the way she has."


Van Gogh's 'Repetitions' Opens in D.C.


Remembering Mike Kelley

The late Mike Kelley – a hugely influential LA artist – is the subject of a new retrospective, opening at MOMA PS1 this weekend. Justin Jones reports.

Mike Kelley always said that his formative years of childhood can shape personal identity, it’s no surprise that a new retrospective of his work, opening this weekend at MoMA’s PS1, is focused around a reformed elementary school.


Justin Jones, Estate of Mike Kelley

Kelley, who died last year of apparent suicide, was raised in a middle-class family in suburban Detroit, attended CalArts, and had a tremendously impactful thirty-five year career producing genre-defying works in every medium: from massive stuffed-animal sculptures to installations.

At the time of his tragic death last year, planning for a retrospective  was already underway at the Stedeljik Museum in Amsterdam.  For the New York leg of the tour, Peter Eleey, curator and associate director at PS1, was able to add works that had not been previously displayed due to extra space. The exhibition marks the first time the space has dedicated its entire facility  to a single artist.

The Miraculous Journey

Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates, © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2013

The fourteen giant sculptures are said to represent fetal development, from conception to birth.

Damien Hirst is at it again with provocative work: this time, the artist has unveiled fourteen enormous bronze sculptures in front of the Sidra Medical and Research Center in Doha, Qatar. The series of sculptures, called The Miraculous Journey, narrate the various stages of fetal development, from conception to birth. It ends with a colossal, anatomically correct forty-six foot tall baby boy. The statues (which reportedly cost $20 million) were considered a bold move for Doha, which is considered a conservative Middle Eastern city. But the chairwoman of the Qatar Museums Authority, Sheikha al Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who commissioned the piece three years ago, said she sees them as a way to develop the city into an arts and cultural hub.  [New York Times]

The Miraculous Journey

New installation by British artist Damien Hirst entitled 'The Miraculous Journey', which was commissioned exclusively for the public space outside the new Sidra Medical and Research Center in Doha, Qatar. (Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates, © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved, DACS 2013)

Way of the Dodo ...

If It Blooms, It Leads

Becca Albee's "War Plan Requests, Newspaper & Flowers" (2008)

(Courtesy Becca Albee and Momenta Art, NY)

The Daily Pic: Becca Albee imagines a world of flowery front pages.

Some nice wishful thinking – or maybe magical thinking – from the artist Becca Albee, in the group show called "Burying the Lede" at Momenta Art, the non-profit in Brooklyn. The exhibition looks at artists who use the printed newspaper as subject or art supply – so it's no wonder an old print-hound like me would like it. Albee's contribution is simple: She scans war stories from the New York Times front page and inserts amateur flower photos where the blood and guts used to be, as though giving a glimpse of a better, and possible, future.

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Going Zen

The “Rebirth” of Mariko Mori


Japan Society

The Japan Society unveils meditative new works by Nineties Japanese Pop Art icon Mariko Mori. Justin Jones reports.

Museums are often a way to reclaim calm moments of meditation; to recharge and emerge renewed. This week, the Japan Society unveils a new exhibition, Mariko Mori’s Rebirth, which offers exactly that. 

The show marks the first time the Japan Society has dedicated its entire space to a single artist.  Completely transforming the gallery to reflect Mori’s vision, Rebirth takes the viewer on a meditative journey through the cycle of life, focusing on humankind’s balance and harmony with nature.

The exhibition is divided into three sections: origin, rupture, and rebirth.  Upon entering Origin’s small, darkened exhibition space, the prehistoric Kaen-doki “flame vase” to the left marks one of the most important sources of  inspiration for Mori according to Dr. Miwako Tezuka, curator of the show. 

In 2003, Mori began researching ancient sites of the Jōmon culture – a prehistoric Japanese civilization that lived very closely to nature.  The Jōmon used stone formations to create shrines, temples, ceremonial stages, and even grave markers, which represented both life and death. In her show, Mori simulates the Jōmon ancient stone formations, as a way connecting to their sense of balance and harmony.

Lady Gaga’s New Album Cover Was Designed By Jeff Koons

A nude sculpture of the pop-icon, designed by the artist, appears on the cover of ARTPOP and billboards across the world.

Lady Gaga, performance artist and pop-icon, was being literal with her lyric “One second I’m a Koons, then suddenly the Koons is me” from her song “Applause.”  She announced the cover for her upcoming ARTPOP album early Monday via Twitter and—surprise, surprise—it’s a Koons. Unveiled on billboards across the world, the cover is a sculpture by Jeff Koons. It shows Gaga clutching her breasts and a strategically based blue ball—an object that Koons has used for many of his works—between her legs.  The cover will also be exhibited at the artRAVE ARTPOP’s release party along with the sculpture and appearances by artists Robert Wilson and Marina Abromović and the directors of the Applause music video.

Read it at The Daily Beast

Guerrilla Graffiti

Banksy’s Unexpected Turn


The street artist caught fans by surprise this weekend with two non-graffiti works—a mobile garden and a satirical video. Justin Jones reports.

The hype is contagious—and everyone is drinking the Kool-aid.  This past weekend, I took to the streets to see just how quickly the buzz surrounding the world’s most anonymous street artist had spread. 

Just to refresh, the graffiti artist Banksy started a month-long residency in New York City at the beginning of this month. He’s already tagged seven areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, unleashed a mobile installation, and produced a short video in the past six days.  That may seem no different than any other street artist—but, this is Banksy, and anything he touchés could fetch upwards of a million dollars on an auction block.


Camera Work

When Bad Photography's Best

An untitled 2013 photo by Annette Kelm

(Image © Annette Kelm, and courtesy Kelm, Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York, and Johann König, Berlin)

The Daily Pic: At MoMA, Annette Kelm channels past mediocrity, and excels.

This is a recent photo by Annette Kelm, now on display in the "New Photography 2013" show at the Museum of Modern Art. I've been following Kelm's photos since her appearance in the Venice Biennale, and I remain pleasantly puzzled by them – which as far as I'm concerned stands in their favor. They are clearly not meant to be "good photos", in anything like the standard sense: They look like really crummy commercial photography from the 1970s. (In photography school in 1979, I took a shot that was remarkably similar to this one, complete with badly prepared striped background.) So I guess this is a kind of skilled restaging of an earlier photographic moment, with its virtue and interest lying not so much in the photographic end product itself – which is no better than its crummy prototype – but in Kelm's act of staging, which is virtuosic. (Especially since she's managed to channel a form of incompetence that almost predates her birth, as executed at a lousy photo school in Montreal by someone who luckily left the profession behind.) I like the idea that the excellence of a photograph could be, or maybe always is, as much in the act and moment of making as in the image produced by it. 

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We The People

Constitutional Performance Art?

A few days into the government shutdown, one Bulgarian artist is hoping to create a commentary about democracy—by staging a “bed time” reading of the Constitution. Ann Binlot reports.

Battles over the nation’s budget went unresolved on Thursday, resulting in the third day of the government shutdown. That same day, Bulgarian artist Borjana Ventzislavova was putting the finishing touchés on a performance art piece that reflects on the very documents that serve as the basis for American democracy: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.


Dakota Fine/Borjana Ventzislavova

It may seem like an unlikely marriage of ideas—the Constitution and performance art—but this weekend, Ventzislavova will debut a piece that seeks to fly in the face of that. She has assembled a makeshift bedroom in a corner of the parking garage at Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Skyline Hotel for 15-Minute Constitutional Bed Stories, a participatory performance piece that will take place for three hours each day of the (e)merge art fair, which takes place this weekend at the hotel.

The artist will invite visitors to participate in the piece by joining her for a 15-minute session in the bedroom, which is furnished with a bed, lamp, recliner and bedside table. Participants are free to move about and recite the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence out loud, state their opinions on them (or even ignore them) while Ventzislavova documents each “performance” by filming it and taking a Polaroid of the happening. Participants will get to keep a Polaroid snapped by the artist. “I really want to let people open up and show their thoughts or feelings—their relationship to those documents and what democracy means,” says Ventzislavova.