‘The Final Member’ chronicles the race between a womanizing nonagenarian and a well-endowed kook to get a human penis in Iceland’s Phallological Museum. Only one penis can win.
Iceland is home to many wonders. Volcanic mountains. The Blue Lagoon. Musical acts Björk, Of Monsters and Men, and Sigur Rós. Four-time “World’s Strongest Man” winner Magnús Ver Magnússon. The evil ice hockey team in D2: The Mighty Ducks.
Icelandic Phallological Museum. A collection of penises from mink whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). (commons.wikimedia.org)
It also has the distinction of hosting the world’s only penis museum.
Located in Húsavik, a tiny waterside town about 50 km below the Arctic Circle, The Iceland Phallological Museum boasts the world’s largest display of penises—and penile parts. The collection consists of 280 specimens from 93 species, including foxes, pigs, and walruses. The biggest penis on display is that of a sperm whale, measuring 5 feet 7 inches and weighing 154 pounds—and that’s just the tip. The smallest item in the museum is the penis bone of a hamster, which measures less than 2 mm and has to be observed via microscope. There’s the penis of a Cave Bear, a species that became extinct 10,000-15,000 years ago, as well as the alleged penises of Huldufolk (Icelandic elves) and trolls.
To see how much it could raise.
As Detroit struggled with its descent into bankruptcy, it always had at least one bright spot: its world-class Detroit Institute of Arts. Now, as the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, pressures the museum to contribute to helping with municipal debt, experts from Christie’s have valued the most lucrative parts of its collection at between $453 million and $866 million. Creditors have been pushing for the museum’s assets to be auctioned off, saying the collection isn’t essential. Previously, art experts valued 38 of its masterpieces at more than $2.5 billion.
As Art Basel Miami Beach kicks off, Abramovic talks about her friendship with Lady Gaga, ignoring the critics, and how her early art teachers thought she should be committed.
Have we seen too much of Marina Abramović?
“A Portrait of Marina Abramović”, a striking, nude, 3-D film of the performance artist, premiered Tuesday night during Art Basel Miami Beach. For the full, six-minute movie, filmmaker Matthu Placek slides the camera sixty feet from the rafters of Abramović’s Hudson, NY, performance art space down to her naked body, then to her famous unblinking gaze.
The artist has seemingly been everywhere lately, and at this invite-only screening, there was much talk and joking about the risk of overexposure given her 2010 MoMA retrospective, frequent appearances at art galas, performances, and much-chronicled friendship with Lady Gaga. There’s even a non-profit group, Marina Abramović Retirement Fund Account, with the motto “Stop Marina Now,” noted Cecilia Dean, co-founder of Visionaire, which co-produced the film.
The artist said she’s heard the backlash buzz, but “what really saves me from all that” is that her art has been ridiculed for decades, and she’s always paid no mind to the critics. When she began in the 1970s, art teachers thought she “should maybe be put in a mental hospital.”
Reinhardt's Black Paintings demand to be seen in their magical flesh.
"Abstract Painting, No. 34", from 1964, is the third of my week's worth of Pics devoted to the Black Paintings of Ad Reinhardt, now on view in his centennial show at David Zwirner in New York. Compared to the others in the series, this almost-blue painting is so garish you might even be able to make it out in digital reproduction.
But here's the thing: Reinhardt's paintings don't really work except in the flesh. This is not, as is usually said, because of their sensory subtlety – that's only part of the story. Although their extreme refinement can make them seem almost immaterial, these paintings need to assert a direct, true, historical connection to their maker that only an encounter with their original matter can guarantee.
I recently argued in the New York Times that, in terms of sensory and semantic content, a forgery or copy can be as useful as an authentic work of art; since Reinhardt's abstractions are so pared-down, copies ought to be especially easy to make and should work as fine surrogates for the authentic pictures. There's so little there in a Black Painting, in the first place, that there's not all that much to get wrong in copying one. But I think that just because of their paring-down, the pictures are more than usually about the act of their making instead of any visual effect they produce. They get a lot of their meaning, that is, from being the product of an absurd – or at least unlikely – act or gesture of one man, at one watershed moment in history, who chose to produce hand-made objects that barely register as any human's production. Only the originals have a true, if impalpable, connection to that man and that moment of making. Actually, it's the impalpable nature of that connection that demands an encounter with the original objects; the connection doesn't reside in any sensory features that could be captured in a copy.
In making these pictures, Reinhardt is often billed as a kind of saintly figure, rejecting the world in a moment of such abnegation that it's almost spiritual. I don't much buy that reading of him (just look at his earthy cartoons!) but I think I sense where it comes from: The Black Paintings don't function so much as images, whose value comes from what they look like and show, but as relics, whose value comes from their contact with a particular person, and the presence of that person in them. The Black Paintings reveal their maker, acting at the moment of their making, the way a relic of the True Cross reveals and connects to Jesus at the moment of his crucifixion – and in both cases a copy, however accurate, can't make the connection that the original relic can. Also in both cases, the object may not have much in it to impress our eyes – yet it matters to us anyway. (Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, ©2013 Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London)
Tech geeks aren’t the only people trying out Google Glass. One artist is debuting a Glass-based work of art in Miami—in which the viewer looks at art that looks back.
David Datuna's vision for his collaboration with Google Glass via app developers BrickSimple, is, as the title suggests, nothing short of vast: he hopes his "Viewpoint of Billions" will go viral. What artist doesn't?
Jens Kalene/DPA via Landov
But in Datuna's case, it's built into the plan.
In the same way that you get an endless reflection when you stand between two mirrors, Datuna’s art concept is to create an echo chamber with technology. First, he's created an artwork that can stand-alone, made of glass frame lenses that allow viewers to see things from different angles, depending on their position. But when you stand in front of it wearing Google Glass and opt in to the special feature, the ricocheting can begin.
By the artist's grandson.
A $135 raffle ticket doesn't seem as extravagant when a $1 million painting by Pablo Picasso is up for grabs. The famed painter's grandson Olivier is promoting a Sotheby's raffle on Dec. 18 that will sell a signed 1941 work, L’Homme au Gibus. Proceeds will go to a charity hoping to raise $5 million to save the ancient Lebanese city of Tyre. The painting was previously purchased by an anonymous buyer in New York and gifted to the International Association to Save the Tyre. It's believed to be the first time a piece of art of this level has been raffled.
The great Black Paintings are handmade, but refuse to show it.
This is a second of Ad Reinhardt’s Black Paintings in the current Zwirner show, from the week’s worth that I’ll be Daily Pic’ing. If you were looking at it in good lighting, you’d be able to tell that it was different from yesterday’s choice, but it wouldn’t be easy. Among other things, Reinhardt insisted that his pictures show no trace of their maker’s hand – traces that had helped differentiate and personalize other abstractions of his era. But he also seemed absolutely keen to make each picture himself, with his own two hands.
If the Black Paintings were about absolutely pure perceptual effects, as critics often imply, Reinhardt might have got better, cleaner, purer results by having them mechanically printed. Handpaintedness is important to these pictures, however, because they want to be in close and complex dialog with all the notably, aggressively handpainted pictures that came before – they want to be seen as part of the same old conversation. The refusal of the mark of the hand, that is, has more rhetorical power when that refusal is made via the hand of a painter; the abnegation of expressive mark-making is more impressive when such marks are an obviously available, desirable, even inevitable option. (A horny monk resisting sex is more impressive than a eunuch doing so; some medieval monks and priests slept with gorgeous naked youngsters, to test their own powers of resistance. In the 1950s and 60s, that was what it felt like for Reinhardt to take up a paint-laden brush, and then produce an untouched surface.)
The fact of the handmaking of these pictures, which is such an important part of them, is hardly perceptible in their presence. Does that mean that their handmadedness is yet another of the conceptual facts and ploys backing up these apparently perceptual artworks, as per yesterday’s Daily Pic? Or does it mean precisely the opposite: that the paintings demand you do the work of looking and looking and looking – and only barely finding – the traces they preserve of the hand that made them, and that worked so hard to hide itself. The eyes take in that hiddenness in a way the mind alone never could.
In the 1960s, the great abstractionist reveled in making absurdist pictures of (almost) nothing.
If you can barely make out this image, that's as it should be. It's one of the black-on-black Black Paintings made by Ad Reinhardt between 1960 and 1966 and now on view in the important survey of them at David Zwirner in New York, where I spent a solid four hours the other day. In honor of Reinhardt's centennial, I'll spend all week indulging in the absurd gesture of commenting on one Black Painting daily, even though the differences between them are likely to be invisible.
The absurdity of my gesture is, I think, vital to understanding these pictures. They are usually treated with the utmost sobriety, pondered as great works of formalist – even spiritual – exploration. They are read as being about blackness, as both color and mental state, or even as metaphysics. But I think the Black Paintings are also funny, even whacky, or maybe just mean: What's not to laugh about in a picture that's so barely there, it can barely be seen? I think that Reinhardt's Black Paintings are meant, in part, as a poke in the eye of the art world and its pretentious, overprecious art appreciators. The room just before them at Zwirner is full of the zany, often vicious cartoons that Reinhardt published to lampoon that art world, and I think this Mad Magazine spirit needs to cross the threshold into the gallery that holds his abstractions.
In making the Black Paintings, Reinhardt may have been as indebted to Duchamp as to Malevich and Barnett Newman. (Although Malevich was probably more Duchampian than we realize.) What could come closer to the anti-retinal position of Duchamp than paintings so dark they can barely impinge on our retinas? The gesture of putting one black paint on top of another has to be as much about trying out a crazy, impossible artistic idea as it is about seeing what aesthetic dividends that idea pays. At Zwirner, there's a case full of vintage New Yorker-ish cartoons that poked fun at Reinhardt's Black Paintings; I can't imagine that Reinhardt wasn't expecting, and inviting, that response to his work from his cartoonist colleagues.
I visited the Reinhardts with a scholar who has just written a book about how some art demands the slowest of looking, but even this exemplary contemplator admitted that "Reinhardt would have smiled at the rubes who walk right past his pictures, but maybe also at the rubes who stick around" – including Reed and Gopnik. How can we not be meant to laugh, or at least to exclaim, at the absurdity of the endless labors Reinhardt went through to make pictures that end up looking like nothing? (Our laughter, of course, dates back to William Hazlitt, who described Turner's most misty pictures as "pictures of nothing, and very like.")
A 21-year-old Chicago native captures the emotional impact of solitude in his haunting, surreal self-portraits.
A self-portrait is an age-old act that has transitioned from the hands of highly trained painters and photographers to the fingers of anyone with a camera. We just call them “selfies.”
Their presence has undeniably permeated our culture and we have all mastered the art of the “selfie.”
But, few of us will ever master the art of a self-portrait. Kyle Thompson, a 21-year-old Chicago native, has.
Donna Tartt built her latest novel around a 350-year-old portrait of a goldfinch. A visit to the Frick reveals this painting’s astonishingly undimmed power.
Carel Fabritius’s The Goldfinch is a small painting, roughly 9 x 13 inches, but it holds its own in a room filled with 15 Dutch master works by the likes of Hals, Steen, and Rembrandt. It is a potent little masterpiece.
Earlier this week, I went to see it at the Frick Collection in New York City, where it is on display as part of a traveling exhibition of paintings on loan from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands. In the hour or so I spent circling the room—with side trips back to the room where the exhibit’s marquee painting, Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring, hangs alone—I kept returning to the Fabrituis. His portrait of a songbird chained to a perch couldn’t be simpler, or more compelling. The painting of the bird alone is a master class in technique. Look closely and it’s just a collection of brushstrokes—but exquisitely well-placed brushstrokes, some feathery, some almost slashed in with a master’s confidence. You can count almost every one. Step back a few inches, though, and paint, just like that, becomes a living thing.
At one point three men stood beside me examining the painting. One of them was explaining to the others that finches in Fabritius’s day were kept as pets and taught to do tricks. They could lower a tiny, thimble-sized cup into a glass or pitcher and draw up their own drinking water. Their Dutch nickname, putterje, comes from the verb putten, meaning to draw water from a well.
In 2003, Marshall painted a nautical scene that echoes a picture by America's most recent Old Master.
“Gulf Stream” was painted by Kerry James Marshall in 2003, and is now in his small solo show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The gallery points out that the painting is clearly related to Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Stream” from 1899, in the Metropolitan Museum collection. The Homer shows a shipwrecked black man whose little boat is surrounded by sharks, and that precedent adds an undercurrent of angst to a Marshall that might otherwise seem perfectly cheery. But another comparison that seems equally apt to me: Down the road at the Corcoran museum, there’s "Ground Swell", a 1939 painting by Edward Hopper, which, in colors very much like Marshall’s, shows a bunch of white people out for a day’s sailing in the most yar of yachts. I think there’s a sense that Marshall is trying out what it might look and feel like to insert African Americans into a cheery world and culture that they’ve never had a place in. (The fisherman’s net around the edge of Marshall’s picture evokes the ersatz New England of a bad lunch spot in the Hamptons.)
Of course, if you buy Alexander Nemerov’s reading of the Hopper, which says that it’s a picture about the gathering clouds of war, then Marshall’s two sources aren’t that far apart.
The ‘Bloomberg New Contemporaries’ exhibit has always been a springboard for young artists seeking to make the climb from obscurity to enduring fame. This year, the unorthodox rules.
“The work I like best made you feel something,” says London-based figurative artist Chantal Joffe in the exhibition catalogue that accompanies this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries, an annual touring exhibition open to all fine art students and recent graduates based in the UK. Since 1949, the exhibition has played host to the likes of Jake and Dinos Chapman, Anthony Gormley, Damien Hirst, and David Hockney. It’s a tried and tested springboard for artists seeking to make the climb from obscurity to enduring fame.
Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2013, on display at London’s Institute of Contemporary Art from November 27 until January 26, showcases fresh work by the latest generation of artists out to make a mark—to make Joffe and her fellow selectors feel something. The lucky artists who succeeded now have a foot securely planted on one of the lower rungs of the art world.
Along with British artists Ryan Gander and Nathaniel Mellors, Joffe had the difficult task of whittling down the 1,500 submissions to the 46 included in this year’s exhibition. Both Joffe and Mellors were familiar with the process—each were chosen as New Contemporaries in their youth—but that can’t have made the task any easier. This crop was lucky: last year, there were only 29 places to fill.
Unfortunately, more participants means tougher curation. For the fourth year running, the ICA has had to grapple with the complexities of coordinating a group show. In the catalogue, Mellors says that the trio of selectors “have not curated anything.” “It’s more a case of editing and hoping you can preserve the quality that’s already there,” he adds. ICA curator Matt Williams was happy to step up to the plate solo: “You know, too many cooks…” He’s intentionally edited the show loosely. Works by individual artists appear in individual alcoves here and there, but there are no clear favorites—a fact reflected in the catalogue, whose alphabetized black and white images emphasize the competition-free atmosphere. The works make their own statement, without accompanying words of wisdom, explanation, or criticism. And there are no restrictions on the display: As you near the end of the first space, you become aware that the artworks are unstoppable, as they creep along the corridor from the institute’s ground-floor gallery and make their way to another space upstairs.
Bruce Nauman, our greatest artist, tries a feline focus.
A still from Bruce Nauman’s “Pencil Lift/Mr. Rogers”, one of the videos in his current solo at Sperone-Westwater gallery in New York. At its best, Nauman’s work is brilliantly, unutterably peculiar – and the new pieces qualify. Nothing he does is easily turned into a pat paraphrase, but the new series is all about fingers and the tricks they play: counting and touching and holding pencils aloft by their tips. The idea of the “digit-al” came into my mind, with the digit-y cat feet in the background representing the normal domestic space that Nauman’s work seems to take place in. It’s as though he’s telling us that his work isn’t so much about the world of art, as about the weirdness that’s there in all the places we know.