The Daily Pic (Venice Biennale Edition): Sarah Sze reps the U.S., and shows us at risk.
Barely a few hours into the 2013 Biennale, and here’s an image of the facade of the U.S. Pavilion, which this year was given over to New York artist Sarah Sze. In recent Biennales, a number of the artists repping the U.S. have had a strong political dimension, and at first sight it looked as though Sze was breaking that mold. Her fantastical accumulations of detritus and throwaway goods can seem to pack more whimsy than wallop. But as her trademark agglomerations mounted to the building’s pediment, half concealing the Italian words that identify its owners, there was a sense that we were looking at a possible future for our nation, where all the stuff we make and own leaves no room for a true civic life. Her work may also speak to the larger condition of art in our times … but I’ll tackle THAT in a few days, in my full-scale Biennale review for Newsweek.
Through the decades, the toys that bring the battle home.
War is not child’s play—except when it is. In a new exhibition called War Games, which opened May 25 at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, curators Ieuan Hopkins and Sarah Wood bring together more than 100 objects in an effort to explore how the worlds of warfare and childhood have intersected and influenced each other since 1800.
Today, many of these objects—Get Rid of the Huns, a British puzzle from 1914; a deck of cards hand-drawn by Buchenwald prisoners; a doll’s house designed to teach soldiers about house-to-house combat—can seem “quite horrific,” admits Hopkins. “But once children get a hold of them, the imagination takes hold, and you have Boer War soldiers fighting space aliens with World War II bombers flying overhead. War surrounds us. It surrounds children. Toys—and play in general—are just ways for them to make sense of the world.”
Below, Hopkins and Wood give Newsweek a tour of a dozen key objects from the exhibition.
Tin soldiers, 1885. (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
If the rain lets up, that is.
Sorry it's raining, Instagram-happy New Yorkers. Tuesday, and again on July 12, Manhattan will experience its solstice—the time of year when the sun aligns perfectly with the street grid, casting a magnificent glow on the city’s skyscrapers as the sun sets over the Hudson River. This phenomenon will happen at 8:15 p.m. (although arriving a half-hour early is recommended), and two of the best viewing spots are 34th Street and 42nd Street, where the light will reflect off of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings ... if the weather cooperates.
This is a still from a film series called "Film Montagen", by the German artist Peter Roehr, born in 1944 and dead already 24 years later. (Click on the image to view a clip from one piece). There's a tiny Roehr survey up now in a small New York gallery called Osmos Address, run by the itinerant editor and curator Cay Sophie Rabinowitz. One wag described Roehr to me as a cross between Warhol (for his Pop and advertising imagery) and Sol LeWitt (for his rigor and grids and repeated modules). In Roehr's "Film Montagen", built from tiny loops of found commercial footage, there's also a big dose of the narrative experiments of Christian Marclay and Douglas Gordon – except of course that they were working with found film decades after Roehr already had.
And I love this factoid culled from the press release: "In 1968, in the midst of Vietnam and as part of a generation of determined, hedonistic, and controversial intellectuals Peter Roehr – only 24 years old and already in the last year of his life – decided to abandon institutional art, go underground, and open a head shop called Pudding Explosion."
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Presents Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Masterpieces of Modern Mexico
The Daily Pic hits 100K fans, and they get a gift of this Titian miracle.
In celebration of the Daily Pic getting its 100,000th follower, I wanted to show the DP’s fans the single work of art that means most to me – which I’ve decided is this 1542 portrait of the 12-year-old aristocrat Ranuccio Farnese, painted by Titian and now in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. I’m not saying (quite) that this is the most important work of Western art. I’ve already voted for Velazquez’s “Las Meninas” as filling that spot. I just feel that this portrait is the earliest work that seems to me fully modern, in its thinking about people and about paint (look at the stunning brushwork on Ranuccio’s doublet) and even about art, as a cultural game played independent of others. Also, it so happens that this portrait gives me huge pleasure every time I see it – maybe because it is one of the rare works where I can’t spot a single flaw, or any room for improvement.
How did Renaissance masterpieces survive the carnage of World War II? Noah Charney on a team of U.S. soldiers who rescued the world’s greatest objects from being stolen or destroyed by the Nazis.
The Second World War altered the map of Europe, and redistributed art on an unprecedented scale. But few people know the astonishing extent of art looting during the war. Adolf Hitler and his deputy Hermann Göring raced one another to steal artworks. Goring “collected” a private gallery of thousands of stolen masterpieces, displayed in a hunting lodge outside of Berlin as an enormous shrine to his deceased wife, while Hitler ordered art stolen both for his personal enjoyment and to fill his planned “super museum,” a conversion of an entire city in Austria to contain every important artwork in the world. Hitler’s boyhood town of Linz would be leveled and rebuilt, with masterpieces like The Ghent Altarpiece and the Mona Lisa as centerpieces in this definitive collection. It would even feature a gallery of horrors, a wing dedicated to “degenerate” art that did not meet the Nazi standards of racial purity of artist and subject matter. This wing would show the world from which the Nazis had saved humanity. Taking a note from Napoleon, whose army featured the first dedicated art theft unit, the Nazi army established the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR), assigned the task of collecting documents, archives, and art for the Nazi cause.
The Allies only became aware of the true, systematic extent of Nazi art theft in 1943, years into the war. They knew of the infamous “degenerate” art exhibition that had toured Nazi-controlled Germany before the war, curated in such a way as to demonstrate the “inferiority” of these abstract contemporary works. They knew of the fire-sale of art seized from German citizens before the war, and sold at an auction at the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne—many of these works were bought by American and English collectors, whose desire to add to their collections helped finance Nazi armaments. But it was only in 1943 that a fortuitous toothache brought American soldiers Lincoln Kirstein (who would found New York City Ballet with George Balanchine after the war) and Robert Posey to a dentist near Trier, Germany. The dentist’s son-in-law, who was hiding in a cottage in the forest, was SS officer Hermann Bunjes, former art adviser to Göring. Kirstein and Posey tracked down Bunjes, and, assuming that they already knew of the Linz super museum, revealed to them the ERR’s systematic looting of Europe’s art collections.
The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program under the Civil Affairs and Military Government Sections of the Allied armies was established in 1943, and the 400 service members in the MFAA were mostly art historians and museum personnel who were known as Monuments Men. In anticipation of the Allied invasion, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower issued a statement to the Allied Army during the summer of 1944, regarding the protection of art treasures:
Bought the painting for $1.9 million.
The Daily Pic: Two artists get a program to merge our idols.
This very strange image shows a moment of desperation as a computer tries to stitch together two digital photos, of an Egyptian priest figure and a carved antelope head, that were never meant to live as one. It is part of a witty show called “Iconoclashes” by the artists Erik Berglin and Clement Valla, now at Mulherin and Pollard gallery in New York.
The artists accessed digital photo files for objects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, selected only those keyworded “god” or “religion”, then let Photoshop’s “merge” tool loose on them, telling the program to assume the images were parts of various panoramas, and to hunt for the bits that it should stitch together. (The white divot at bottom right comes from an unresolvable conflict between the edges of a vertical and a horizontal image.) As the artists put it in their essay, they ended up with “chimeric deities, hybrid talismans, and surreal stellae”. The photos work as a kind of send-up of syncretic religious ideas, often presented as a solution to the world’s conflicts over the sacred. On the other hand, Photoshop’s relative success in finding some kind of order in the mess, and producing vaguely credible objects, seems to argue for a certain underlying uniformity in human thinking and making.
At Sotheby’s for £150,000.
Horcruxes, quidditch, and galleons, oh my! Today at the Sotheby’s “First Editions, Second Thoughts” sale, the 1997 first edition of Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone sold for £150,000. The edition, which was annotated and illustrated by Rowling herself, came down to two dogged bidders, with the final winning bid coming in over the phone.
The Daily Pic: Albrecht Dürer's redefined realism.
Yet more drawings from the wondrous Albrecht Dürer show at the National Gallery in Washington. Dürer was in at the birth of Western realism’s full complexity and potential, and he works away at all of its classic stratagems.
In his drawing of a rare black man in Renaissance Europe, he conjugates realism as “verism”, by presenting the exotic and unusual as somehow more real than the day-to-day or the ideal. The drawing looks more strikingly modern than anything else in the show – maybe because we moderns feel we “own” issues of race more than any other period has. In his peculiar drawing of a man – his brother – turned almost fully away, Dürer plays on the notion, standard in art’s rhetorics of realism, that the accidental and casual somehow counts as more “real” than the planned and the posed. Logically, that’s not particularly cogent – but realism works its magic on us by making all of its conceits, however unlikely, seem natural, even necessary.
The Daily Pic: Nina Katchadourian shows that old books still speak.
This is an image from the most recent series in Nina Katchadourian’s “Sorted Books” project, ongoing now for 20 years – and recently published as a book from Chronicle and feted at Catharine Clark's New York space. Katchadourian “curates” selections of books from private or public libraries, and presents her poetic cullings in photographs. Here, her cull took place at the Delaware Art Museum’s M. G. Sawyer Collection of Decorative Bindings, where the artist found much more than mere decoration: “I noticed a curious surge in late 19th-century fiction romanticizing Native Americans and despaired when I realized how this coincided with their violent displacement and decimation.” As with most of Katchadourian’s works, the titles here come together as a single meta-title: “Indian History For Young Folks: Our Village, Your National Parks.” (Another meta-title I love: “Somewhere in France/The Anglomaniacs/Meet the Germans”.)
For the first time.
Pope Francis has made another major step toward taking on an insular, wealthy, and powerful community—no, not the Curia, but rather the contemporary art world. For this first time, the Vatican will have a pavilion at the Venice Biennale and will feature the same theme as the famous frescoes by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel: the first few chapters of Genesis. The pavilion will be made up of three different rooms: “Creation,” “De-Creation,” and “Re-Creation.” The artists assigned the rooms are Studio Azzurro, Josef Koudelka, and Lawrence Carroll, respectively. The man behind the move, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture Gianfranco Ravasi, is said by TIME to want to change the tone regarding religious symbols in art and sees the Biennale as a space to do just that.
and Mulberrry gifts bags to each of the G8 Summit's Leaders. More