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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
The Daily Pic: In 1904 in Manhattan, the great Guastavino Co. gave palatial roofing to a subway station that's now derelict.
Deep under New York City Hall sits this gorgeous abandoned subway station, with vaulting by the great Guastavino firm that ruled the most ambitious American ceilings of the early 20th century. The firm is the subject of a lovely little show at the National Building Museum in Washington. Rafael, the patriarch, got his start in Spain then moved to the U.S. in 1881, bringing along a way of using specially made tiles to roof vast expanses with a thin skin of ceramic. Both the engineering and the tiling were done pretty much on the fly, by rule-of-thumb, but it seems that not one vault by the firm has ever had a loadbearing problem. When today’s masons built a 1/2 scale reproduction of a Guastavino vault for the D.C. show, they had to support it with wood framing as they went – as the Guastavinos never did. A sad factoid from the show: Not all that long ago, contemporary engineers at the Metropolitan Museum couldn’t figure out how to judge the statics of an old Guastavino vault there; baffled by their predecessors’ craft (and maybe shamed by it, too), they simply ripped the roofing out.
The Daily Pic: In 1989, Larry Sultan caught his father being a 1950s dad.
“My Father Reading the Newspaper” was taken by Larry Sultan in 1989, and is now on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in the smart collection show called “Everyday Epiphanies”. Seeing the photo in the flesh, especially, the glowing newspaper gives a lovely sense that Sultan’s photographic paper is itself translucent and letting light through, almost as though his image were mounted in a light box – as though it were representing translucency by being translucent (and then you realize that it isn’t). There’s also something poignant in how the reflection of Sultan Sr. in the window at rear shows him just as remote and invisible as he is in our child’s-eye view from the front, where he seems to be all newspaper, all the time.
At a Brooklyn artRave, Lady Gaga unveiled new works by Jeff Koons, including a 3-D version of the cover art for her new album.
It’s a match made in pop culture heaven. Pop artist, Jeff Koons, and the Queen of Pop, Lady Gaga, are on a collaboration spree. Their artistic sparks ignited most recently for Lady Gaga’s artRave party at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 11, where she unveiled an installment of works created by Koons. These sculptures are in his typical style—figures molded out of colorful stainless steel with striking luminosity. The centerpiece of the work is a 3-D version of the cover Koons created for Lady Gaga’s newest album, ARTPOP, which depicts the superstar cast in white plaster giving birth to one of Koon’s shiny, blue Gazing Balls. The two have also recently collaborated to create a special logo to adorn USA Today’s Life section.
Evan Agostini/Invision, via AP