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Metropolitan Monday

A Painter's Work Kills Him

Pietro Testa's "Alexander the Great Rescued from the River Cydnus", from circa 1650

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Eula M. Ganz, in memory of Paul H. Ganz)

The Daily Pic: In 1650, Pietro Testa painted a picture of drowning, then drowned himself.

For this second Monday selection from the Metropolitan Museum’s rehung Old Master galleries, I’ve chosen ”Alexander the Great Rescued from the River Cydnus”, an utterly obscure subject painted by Pietro Testa in Rome, probably in 1650. That’s the year Testa died, apparently a suicide who threw himself into the Tiber. There was a story that during his Persian campaign Alexander had some kind of fit as he bathed, and it looks as though that could have inspired Testa’s own tragic death. I wonder if any other artists have pretty much painted their own self-portrait in death, then made that picture come true. 

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Bring Your Birthday Suit

Skinny-Dip Nirvana


The Skinny Dipping Report

Ever felt the urge to dive into glistening water sans clothing? You’re in luck! The Skinny Dipping Report reveals nine fabulous spots around the world to swim in the nude. (Images NSFW.)

Self-described as "the world's leading authority on swimming naked and doing it well," The Skinny Dipping Report compiles an annual list—in the form of a calendar—of the best places to skinny dip around the globe. After receiving photography submissions, The Skinny Dipping Report edits its favorite selections down to 12. Each photo includes the photographer's name, story, and the best places to stay, eat, and drink in the location. Inspired by Paul Émile Chabas' painting, "Matinée de Septembre" (which caused a controversy in its day for featuring a nude woman bathing on a beach), TSDR aims to "make you want to be there (and who wouldn't?), to feel what the person in the photograph is feeling, to understand the particularity of the place and the moment through the lens of skinny dipping." Now wrapping up its 2014 issue (available in December), The Daily Beast commissioned The Skinny Dipping Report to curate nine fabulous places to skinny dip around the world. From Lahti, Finland to Livingston, Texas, a look at the best spots to swim nude.

Location: Stavros, Greece

Photographer: Aleksandra Martinovic

"It was one of the hottest days while on holiday in Greece. My friend, her boyfriend, and I woke up to find a wild, empty beach where we sunbathed, swam naked, and laughed all day. I always feel nostalgic about those times."

Butterfly Kisses

Skinheads with a Delicate Touch

A video still from "The Meaning of Style," by Phil Collins

(Courtesy Shady Lane Productions, Berlin and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York)

The Daily Pic: Phil Collins shows how the toughest style can clothe a heart of gold.

Phil Collins’s latest video installation at Tanya Bonakdar gallery in New York, in which he presents a fake shopping channel, gives a fascinating look at consumption and our need for potent experiences, both real and artistic. I wrote about it in the latest e-issue of Newsweek – and this still image is not from it. It’s from a  single-channel video called “The Meaning of Style” that is being projected upstairs at Bonakdar and is more traditional in its poetics. (Click on my image to watch a clip.) Over almost five minutes, Collins lets us watch a group of Malaysian skinheads who have rejected the normally Fascistic ethos of their style, opting instead for values that are much more pacific. A moment when one boy releases a flock of butterflies seems to stand for the entire group’s way of being and thinking.

For some time it has been taken as art-critical gospel that form and content make for an indissoluble package; that style always comes freighted with meaning as well as a look. This video implies that style may always have meaning, but we get to decide what it is.

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Art for Ears

A Silence Worth 1,000 Pictures

Yves Klein's 1956 monochrome.

(© Yves Klein, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2013 / Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York)

The Daily Pic: Yves Klein's one-chord symphony, and 20-minute silence, outdoes his own abstractions.

This untitled blue monochrome, painted by Yves Klein in 1956, is just a stand-in for another, unreproducible Klein that I had the luck to experience last night in New York. Dominique Levy’s new gallery, where the monochrome is now on view in her inaugural show, also organized the first American presentation of Klein’s “Monotone-Silence Symphony”, in which a full orchestra, with chorus, hold a single chord for 20 long minutes then rests for another 20, during which the audience is also expected to maintain silence.

I had thought  the work would be a clever piece of absurdist conceptualism, as I’ve insisted that many Kleins really are. Instead, it turned out to be richly perceptual and affective.

The 20-minute single chord leads you to notice every minute variation in its sound: One bass-player’s bowing; one soprano’s warble; the pulse of the orchestra’s thrum. It seems you can be far more immersed in a single sound, and more attentive to it, than you can ever be in a sight. It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever attend to a monochrome painting for the twenty minutes that you attend to Klein’s monotone; as is often said, and as Klein proves, you can turn your eyes from a sight as you can’t turn your ears from a sound.

In fact, Klein’s sound attracts your eyes as much as your ears. Looking intently at the endlessly open mouths of Klein’s choristers, I couldn’t help comparing them to the mouths of the chorus of angels in a Renaissance altarpiece, open for all eternity. And the aural evocations are similar: Klein’s piece calls to mind the crashing opening chords and fanfares of Monteverdi’s celebratory vespers of 1610, but with the celebration dragged out for the length of his piece.


He’s Watching You Sleep

Minimal Art

Our Family Pet Was a Sculpture

John McCracken’s “Green Slab in Two Parts” (1966)

(© The Estate of John McCracken)

The Daily Pic: John McCracken's minimal slab just wanted some attention – any attention.

John McCracken's "Green Slab in Two Parts" (1966) comes from the retrospective of his work now at David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea. Disclosure: My parents own the mustard-yellow version of this same work, so I encountered it daily right into my early twenties. That disclosure also leads to what I want to say about it. There's often a sense that Minimalism is a rigorous movement with a fixed set of goals that must be understood in order to get readings of it "right". In living with my parent's piece, however, it always felt quite independent of specific manifestos and readings – it was just a thing (a 'specific object', even) that waited there for some attention, like an unusually patient pet. I believe that works of art only come to life when they're read by a viewer – the production of meaning is their bread and butter. But I'm not sure they have any investment in which meanings they produce.

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Nose-to-Tail Theater

Warhol's Piggery

Leee Black Childers, "Anthony Zanetta in Andy Warhol's ‘Pork’," London, 1971

(Courtesy The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art and Kymara Gallery)

The Daily Pic: in 1971, Leee Black Childers documented "Pork", Warhol's only play, in all its scatology.

This is a production still from the 1971 London run of “Pork”, Andy Warhol’s only play, with the actor Tony Zanetta playing the silver-wigged artist himself. The shot is by Leee Black Childers, one of many of her photos up last weekend at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York. The other photos, many showing lots of naked flesh, give a sense of how naughty avant-garde theater could get at that time. At the exhibition launch, a reading from the deeply scatalogical, largely non-sensical play gave an even better idea of Warhol’s pleasure in ruffling feathers and breaking rules; even after all these years, the old Warholians at the opening showed how deeply committed his crowd could be to the values of bohemia. If in his later years Warhol embraced the moneyed establishment, it was always with the knowledge that his roots lay outside of it – he enjoyed rank and money as living examples of camp.

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Non-Surgical Strike

NSFW, in 1641?

"Marcantonio Pasqualini Crowned by Apollo", by Andrea Sacchi

(Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, purchase, Enid A. Haupt Gift and Gwynne Andrews Fund, 1981)

The Daily Pic: In his portrait of a castrato, Andrea Sacchi let a well-hung Apollo make up for the singer's loss.

In honor of the glorious rehang of the Metropolitan Museum’s European Old Masters, and of the museum’s new Monday hours, this will be the first of the Daily Pic’s “Met Mondays”, a series to run over weeks to come. I want to start with an image that, you could say, is less about art-for-art’s-sake than about achieving an almost practical goal, as is so often the case with pre-Modernist art. In 1641, the painter Andrea Sacchi depicted the great castrato singer Marcantonio Pasqualini being crowned in his art by Apollo – who happens to have the most prominent Old Master penis I know of, staring us right in the face. (Please don’t bombard me now with more prominent ones.) I can only read Sacchi’s gesture as deliberate compensation for Marcantonio’s loss, with the implication that the glory of his art makes the singer as whole as his Olympian patron. I wonder how Marcantonio felt about it?

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Animal Art

Live Bear Is World's Biggest Paintbrush

"Brown Bear" (2013) by Michael Gunzburger

Courtesy the Michael Gunzburger, Christinger De Mayo Gallery, Zurich and Winkleman Gallery, New York; photo by Etienne Frossard)

The Daily Pic: Michael Gunzberger gets sleeping beasts to make pictures of themselves.

I recently saw this pelt-of-a-print by Swiss artist Michael Günzburger at Winkleman Gallery in Chelsea. Günzburger tells me that it was made by taking a large and live brown bear, already doped for a medical procedure, and manhandling him onto the lithographic plates for this life-size image. (Question: Is it a self-portrait by the bear, or a bear-portrait by the human?) Printmakers have often tried to take direct impressions of objects, usually as monotypes or soft-ground etchings, but this is my first encounter with a litho done from a living, biting beast. There's something poignant about the similarity between the bear stretched out here as an art supply – almost a giant paint brush – and our frequent encounters with such bears stretched out as pelts. In a way, the print emphasizes the pelt-like nature of all images, as they flatten out the world and hand it over to us. All us subjects are just artists' road-kill.

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"Hustlers" Returns To New York

"Hustlers" Returns To New York Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

The artist's famous '90s exhibit is back, porn flicks and all.

During the height of censorship placement on exhibitions funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, Philip-Lorca diCorcia subtly challenged the system by paying male prostitutes their going rate with grant money he received from the same independent government agency. Creating fictitious settings in various locations throughout the Los Angeles area, diCorcia utilized ambient and artificial light blurring the lines of fact and fantasy. Twenty years after its Museum of Modern Art debut, “Hustlers” has returned to New York. The 36-photograph exhibition is accompanied by the video installation “Best Seen, Not Heard,” which juxtaposes the entire collection, many not exhibited, with opening and closing text of old porn flicks. “Hustlers” will be showing at David Zwirner’s 525 West 19th Street gallery. The opening reception is tonight from 6pm-8pm and will be on exhibition through November 2.

Read it at The New York Times

Sounding Off

A New Masterpiece, Built on an Old One

The speakers from Janet Cardiff's "Forty Part Motet", as installed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Wilson Santiago)

The Daily Pic: At the Met, Janet Cardiff's sound art is much more than the great old music it riffs on.

The speakers for “Forty Part Motet,” Janet Cardiff’s great 2001 sound piece, were recently installed in the Fuentidueña Chapel at the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum’s special venue for Medieval art. Cardiff’s piece takes the 40 polyphonic parts of Thomas Tallis’s great “Spem in Alium”, composed around 1570, and spreads them across as many loudspeakers. When I raved about this piece in my recent sound-art feature in the New York Times, I caught flack from some members of the modernist wing of the discipline (the “honk-tweeters”, as they just hate being called). How could Cardiff lose, they asked, when she was piggybacking on the tonal pleasures of established classical music? Hearing her piece yet again, I was struck by my favorite aspect of it: That listening to the voice coming from any one speaker, you might think it was singing Webern or Schoenberg; it is only when all the voices combine into Tallis, in the room’s center, that classical ease takes over. That is, a honk and a tweet may lie near the heart of any easy listening. In fact, after lending an ear to Cardiff's individual voices, honking and tweeting come across as the natural and most human mode, with "music" then registering as an imposition, however glorious, on that state of nature.

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Twombly Board Director Accused of Theft

Twombly Board Director Accused of Theft Christophe Ena/AP

$750,000 taken from foundation.

The boom of the art market has caused a fury of accusations over custody, authentication, and prices of prominent artists over the past few years. Ralph E. Lerner, a high profile New York art lawyer, is just one more coming under fire for allegations of taking more than $750,000 in unauthorized fees from the foundation of late American artist Cy Twombly where he sits as secretary and board director. The foundation’s president and Twombly’s companion Nicola Del Roscio, along with Julie Sylvester, vice president, are accusing Lerner and fellow board director, Thomas H. Saliba, of the hidden transactions. Lerner’s lawyer claims that his actions were “established by Mr. Twombly when he was alive” and the board members had received the financial statements.  Twombly died in 2011 and is best known for his “scribble” technique. His artworks are in prominent international museums and personal collections.

Read it at The New York Times

Visual Poetry

The Writer and the Potter

One of England’s most famous potters—and the author of the surprise bestseller The Hare with Amber Eyes—makes his American debut today at Gagosian Gallery. He talks to Iain Millar about the writing and potting life—and his next book on the color white.

“Being trapped by genre is pathetic,” says Edmund de Waal. Given what he’s done, it’s hard to take issue.

His book The Hare with the Amber Eyes, a record of the travels of a collection of tiny Japanese Netsuke carvings in the hands of family members, enduring fortune and folly across Europe and Japan over three centuries, sold by the truckload and won a shelf of awards. By then he had confirmed his position as one of the leading ceramic artists of his generation, exhibiting at the best museums and selling to the pickiest collectors. His art has brought him to New York, where he’s been signed up by Larry Gagosian for his first US show at the gallery on Madison Avenue.

Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal in his studio in London on July 3, 2013. (Andrew Testa/The New York Times, via Redux)

He’s been making pots since he was five and now he’s 48 or thereabouts. For a long time these have been mostly white or very nearly so, simple in form and mostly arranged in multiples displayed in cabinets and vitrines, often juxtaposed with other objects in unconventional settings, the roof of a museum gallery, say, or in the elaborately decorated rooms of a country house. And he’s even working on a new book about the color white.

A Different Kind of Billboard

Robert Montgomery’s Words of Wisdom

The artist, who has become famous for his use of text-art installations, is the subject of a sweeping new exhibition in New York this month. He talks to Amelia Martyn-Hemphill.

Woven in electric lights, plastered on billboards, and even written in fire, Robert Montgomery’s installations have a tendency to burn, fade—even disintegrate. But once seen, his words are unforgettable.

Inspired by the situationist text-art movement of the 1960s, the artist’s poetic pieces present a subversive take on advertising culture and explore the unstable spectacle of modern urban life.


Courtesty of the artist

From September 12 to October 26, New York’s C24 gallery will present an in-depth show of the last four years of Montgomery’s work: a distilled concoction of poetry, philosophy, and street art. The collection will bring together graphic poems (which have appeared on billboards in Berlin, London, and Paris) as well as major new light works, called Recycled Sunlight Pieces, and a large-scale Fire Poem. Montgomery will also install a series of pieces on the city streets, placing his works back into the communal, urban environments that generated them.

Art Sales Move Online

Art Sales Move Online Amazon

Creates new market for artists and buyers.

Forget online dating; try falling in love with artwork…online. Novices to art collecting no longer have to feel intimidated by “elitist” institutions thanks to the launch of Amazon Art and over 300 like-minded platforms. This is also good news for artists. Living in art capitals or schmoozing their way into physical gallery representation is becoming less of an obstacle for success. While the prestige may always lie in these spaces, some galleries themselves are accepting that the art world is migrating to the interweb. Even better news—71 percent of collectors are admitting to having dabbled in the act of online purchases.

Read it at The Huffington Post