In another one of his now-famous “poison pen” letters, activist investor Dan Loeb aims to shake up storied auction house Sotheby’s
Most bigtime hedge fund investors are interested in big brands. But Dan Loeb, the billionaire activist investor, is more interested in shaking up the companies behind them than in acquiring the products they produce. In recent years, Loeb, founder and proprietor of Third Point has gone and acquired stakes in companies like Yahoo! and Sony, and then encouraged management to make significant changes. At Yahoo!, Loeb helped install new CEO Marisa Mayer and then sold most of his stake after the stock appreciated significantly.
On Wednesday, Loeb announced his latest target: Sotheby’s. Loeb, who already owns a stake in the auction house, released another of his acid-tipped letters. This one was aimed squarely at Sotheby’s CEO William Ruprecht.
Loeb’s letter details what he sees as the failings of Ruprecht and the company management. The bill of particulars: too much focus on high-value lots, the lack of a good digital strategy, and not enough emphasis on the contemporary and modern art market. (On Wall Street, you can never be too money. But Ruprecht is apparently too Monet for Loeb).
The Daily Pic: Debra Ramsay records nature as a series of computer-mixed stripes.
A second day of stripes, in a painting on paper called "Yellow Trail Spring with Gray", made this year by the young artist Debra Ramsay and now in a group show at Pocket Utopia in New York. The piece is clearly meant to recall the stripe-works of Gene Davis (as per yesterday's Daily Pic), and to add new meaning by changing the process that gets Ramsay there.
The piece has roots in photos shot during nature walks she took while on a residency in upstate New York. She says she chose a salient color from each image, then mixed a paint to match it using the Virtual Paint Mixer application from Golden Artist Colors, then applied those new hues in the stripey "landscape" painting she produced. The result, Ramsay says, is "a direct experience of color in nature [filtered] through a rules-based and technological approach to the collection of color data" – but it's also a clear mash-up of traditional landscape painting, Color Field formalism and conceptual, process-based work. You could say it's a grand experiment in deliberate pseudomorphism, pillaging art history to produce something that looks old but is new.
The anonymous British street artist announces a month-long residency in the Big Apple.
Get ready, Big Apple—Banksy is back.
After “Banksy Oct 2013” posters began appearing around Los Angeles weeks ago, rumors have been flying that the elusive and anonymous British artist would be coming stateside to stage one of his famous guerrilla graffiti projects that turn empty walls into high-priced works of art.
The mystery of where Banksy’s show would pop up was solved on Tuesday, when the first in his series, Better Out Than In, mysteriously appeared on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. (The same day, Banksy’s website announced that the show would be “an artist’s residency on the streets of New York.”) The painting depicted two young boys, one atop the other’s back, reaching for a can of spray paint, and a sign stating “Graffiti is a crime.” As with most of Banksy’s works, the image was quickly tagged and subsequently painted over. Luckily, a new work appeared this morning on Manhattan’s West Side, with the words “This is my New York accent” in iconic graffiti typeface. Underneath, “…normally I write like this” is neat and simple.
With Banksy’s involvement confirmed by images on his blog—as most of his works are—fans are buzzing about where the artist might strike next. Each image in Better Out Than In will be accompanied by a phone number and extension for an audio guide to the works. The artist is not revealing exact locations, but it’s predicted he’ll be doing a piece a day. So, if you see something—say something.
The Daily Pic: Gene Davis can seem to tickle the retina, but he’s digging deeper than that.
Gene Davis painted the huge Queen’s Gate in 1980, and it’s now up in his solo show at Ameringer McEnery Yohe gallery in New York. More often that not, Davis seems to get dismissed as a provider of intriguing visual fun, pretty much in the mode of op art. After having spent some time with his work recently, I think it’s more profound than that. Rather than catering to visuality, it defeats it: his pictures are hard to look at, hard to absorb, hard to register in full with anything like stable results. That makes them almost as philosophical as they are visual. Lately Bridget Riley has been billed as the philosopher’s op-ster, but I think Davis may deserve the title.
Banksy is in New York! Follow his residency on The Daily Beast's interactive timeline and Livefyre Media Wall of the artist’s daily works.
The Daily Pic: Amie Siegel's new video shows us how utopian treasures become fancy goods.
A moment from Amie Siegel’s brilliant new video called "Provenance", up for another few days only at Simon Preston Gallery in New York. Siegel traces the fate of the furniture designed in the early 1950s by Le Corbusier, with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, for his government complex in Chandigarh, then the new capital of the Indian state of Punjab.
Siegel begins at the story’s end, as it were, by showing us restored tables and chairs in the homes of Western millionaires – in a London townhouse, a New York apartment and, on the high seas, in a yacht that comes complete with elevator and electric doors. Then Siegel shows us similar pieces set in the fancy shops and auction houses where the super-rich, or their decorators, sourced their finds. (We watch as one Chandigarh table gets hammered down for almost $100,000.) We next see the furnishings in wholesalers’ warehouses and restorers’ workshops, then in containers on ships heading to Europe from India – shades of Allan Sekula’s great “Fish Story” – and finally we see them where they started life in Chandigarh itself. At home, they mostly sit neglected in odd office corners or stacked pell-mell and rotting in storage; only a few still get some respect in more ceremonial spaces.
Siegel lets us watch the process whereby objects conceived in a brief moment of utopian hope, for use by a government of and for the Punjabi people, get turned into deluxe goods for an international oligarchy.
Funny thing is, as design the furniture itself is not all that great; it can’t compete with Le Corbusier’s chrome pieces from the 1920s. In fact, some of its pieces have a stuffy, club-chair quality that rather suits the “exclusive” designer decors where it is now ending up. The only reason a Chandigarh piece counts as a treasure is because it has ties to a famous man and has a certifiable source in a celebrated project of his – a project that happens to have a spirit completely opposed to the ethos of the one-percenters who have looted its treasures. (No one spending a fortune on a Chandigarh piece can be blind to the fact that such a treasure ought to return to its home in India – even if Indian bureaucrats once sold it as junk and are only now waking up to its virtues.)
The Daily Pic: In around 1475, Hugo van der Goes paints what he can count on as truth.
This portrait was painted by Hugo van der Goes (pronounced “Hose”, more or less) in about 1475 and is now in the rehung Old Masters galleries at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I’m fascinated by the contrast between the lack of spatial naturalism in such Flemish pictures (there’s something a bit off in the rendering of this sitter’s head) and their extraordinary surface illusionism (his sandpaper beard and liquid eyes could not be more convincing). It’s as though the artists are unwilling to commit to the ontological solidity of things in the sublunary world, but are happy to capture their superficial appearances.
While parts of the country are accelerating in terms of gay rights, the South has moved a bit slower. One photographer headed south to document that change.
That’s the best word to describe the current attitudes toward homosexuality in the American South, according to photographer Christian Hendricks.
“The explicit notions of … homophobia are mostly gone,” he says—but in their place, an unspoken discomfort reigns. So what better way to capture that silence than a photograph?
Hendricks, a 24-year-old documentary photographer and filmmaker from Cincinnati, Ohio, took a seven-week journey through the South beginning in August to document queer culture in small towns and major cities, including Corinth, MS, and Atlanta, GA. The project, titled “South of the Ohio” and funded by Kickstarter, is already starting to generate buzz through the Internet.
The Daily Pic: In South Africa, Pieter Hugo shoots five boys in their new adult garb.
"Loyiso Mayga, Wandise Ngcama, Lunga White, Luyanda Mzantsi, Khungsile Mdolo after their initiation ceremony, Mthatha, South Africa," is a photo taken in 2008 by South African photographer Pieter Hugo and now in his powerful solo show at Yossi Milo gallery in New York. I'm told that these young men are supposed to wear their Burberry-ish plaid for a full year after circumcision ushers them into adulthood. Funny, but I've known wealthy young people in America who seem to follow the same rule, minus the cutting. If it were a matter of choosing, I might pick the knife over the plaid.
A new exhibition at the Palais Galliera in Paris pays homage to the legendary designer Azzedine Alaïa. Sarah Moroz reports.
The Palais Galliera, Paris’s most famous fashion museum, has reopened its doors after four years of closure for renovations. And, this week, it’s back on the cultural scene with bang with a tribute exhibit to legendary designer Azzedine Alaïa. Or, as Olivier Saillard, the curator of the exhibit and the director of Palais Galliera calls him: Monsieur Alaïa.
There’s certainly good reason that Alaïa is spoken of so reverentially: the couturier is a kind of style sensei, a horse-whisperer of the female form. His made-to-measure garments were inspired by and brought to life on the haunches of the most legendary, glamorous figures: Louise de Vilmorin, Arletty, Greta Garbo in the1960s and 70s, and a slew of marquee supermodels such as Stephanie Seymour and Veronica Webb.
Basically, to employ the bons mots of Cher Horowitz: he’s like, a totally important designer.
The Daily Pic: In 1961, Lucio Fontana portrayed his female dealer as a cut – hold the "n".
This is “Spatial Concept: Portrait of Iris Clert”, painted by Lucio Fontana in 1961 and now on loan from a private collection to the exhibition called “Audible Presence”, which inaugurates the new Dominique Levy gallery uptown in New York. The piece has been billed as Fontana’s tribute to his famous dealer, but – how to put this delicately – there’s something a bit … special … about portraying a woman as a bejewelled slit. It also gives a new twist to how we read the “abstract” knife-slits in Fontana’s other “Spatial Concepts”.
I think Fontana’s work runs the same danger as the work of many other official geniuses (especially in Europe, and especially when it has a posh market): The work gets deprived of its faults, and thus of its energy. Fontana, as Levy’s show proves, could veer from brilliant composition to tacky decoration, and sometimes into bad taste. Good for him. (Photo by Tom Powel Imaging, Courtesy Dominique Levy, New York.)
The Daily Pic: Artist Heather Cassils moved toward an uber-male ideal, gaining 23 pounds in 23 weeks.
These are two of the 100 photos that make up the latest iteration of “Cuts: A Traditional Sculpture”, a work from Heather Cassils’s solo show at Ronald Feldman gallery in New York. It is, of course, a kind of remake of the documentation from Eleanor Antin’s 1972 piece called “Carving: A Traditional Sculpture”, a 45-day diet that let Antin carve herself into a feminine form that came closer to our culture’s longstanding (and confining) ideal. In Cassils’s riff, the artist became a bodybuilder, gaining 23 pounds in 23 weeks to achieve a more powerful, masculine idea of perfection. “Opposing the notion that in order to be officially transgendered one has to have surgery or take hormones, Cassils performs Trans not as a crossing from one sex to another, but rather as a continual process,” reads the show’s press release. In other words, we are all trans, one way or another, as we try to build our picture of which gender we belong to.