The dealer who sold off modern art that Adolf Hitler considered garbage saved masterpieces from destruction – and for himself. His billion-dollar stash has now been uncovered.
The Nazis had a deadly aesthetic. In the 1930s, long before they turned to the wholesale extermination of people they deemed sub-human, they burned books and paintings they considered “degenerate” in their rage to “purify” their culture as well as their race.
1,500 priceless artworks, including from top left, Otto Dix, Franz Marc and Marc Chagall were found at this apartment building in Munich, Germany on November 4, 2013. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty)
But the Nazis’ savagery had a cynically mercenary side as well. They would sell what Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering called “garbage” seized from Jews and stripped from the walls of museums -- paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Kandinsky and others -- to raise millions of dollars in hard currency for their favored projects.
One of the Reich’s four specially appointed art dealers, employed by the Nazi Commission for the Exploitation of Degenerate Art, was the late Hildebrand Gurlitt. This former museum director, who’d been fired by the Nazis in 1930 for exhibiting modern masterpieces -- and because his grandmother was Jewish -- was rehired later in the decade for his expertise. And by the end of the war he had managed to hoard at least 1,400 hugely valuable works for himself.
The Daily Pic, Met Monday Edition: A forger's Rembrandt may carry us back to the master's own day.
This is that rare thing – a Pic I haven’t seen in the flesh, because I couldn’t, because this “Rembrandt” has been declared an 18th-century British fake and therefore consigned to the vaults of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which has owned and even loved it it since long before it was doubted. (Click on my image to see the piece in great detail.) In yesterday’s New York Times, I argued for the value of forgery, for reasons such as that a picture like this, which gave pleasure and insight as a Rembrandt until something like 1940, ought to still give the same kind of joy and knowledge – maybe even knowledge of Rembrandt’s art. (If it succeeded in fooling and pleasing people, it was because it had enough genuinely Rembrandtian features to work as a Rembrandt.)
But today I want to voice a caveat. Works of art aren’t only about providing sensations and pleasures and insights to us, now, in the 21st century. They also function as historical documents, pointing back to past moments. As such, we want and need them to have an accurate connection to the past they represent, regardless of what they may do for modern art lovers. Thus, despite my doubts about connoisseurship, it could be that authentication and correct attribution are useful insofar as they create a kind of visual “chain of evidence” that certifies the link between a current object and the moment of its birth.
Then again … as I said, for a forgery to deceive at all, it has to preserve a great many features of a genuine object. So, in evidentiary terms, it may be best to think of a fake as being quite like a later, slightly corrupted edition of an ancient text whose earliest manuscripts no longer exist (which is the case with the vast majority of very old writings) or even as a blurred photocopy of a lost document. If someone launched a new kind of fake-bomb that destroyed every original Rembrandt, the surviving forgeries would still give us a strong link to the art he made, and to the moment of its making. Maybe we need to stop thinking, as the market does, of works as either by a given artist or not. We may want to think in terms of a complex Venn diagram which maps a series of works as being more or less closely linked to a given moment of important art making – a diagram that would register Rembrandtism, rather than Rembrandt himself. And could it even be that a work by a follower, or even by a much later forger, gets closer to the core of the concept than a lame piece by the master himself?
Artist Will Cotton opens a new show of prints in New York featuring Elle Fanning as a candy princess. He talks about diving into the world of high fashion and his new macaroon flavor.
Will Cotton is a master of fantasy. He deals in worlds we only dream of—or at least faintly remember from a childhood game of Candy Land.
His paintings are literally other-worldly: giant expanses of Cotton Candy clouds emanating seductive nudes, treacle gingerbread houses dripping with sweets; striking, almost-Renaissance portraits of individuals topped with candy headpieces. In 2011, Cotton painted Katy Perry on a candy cloud—a piece that later became the singer’s album cover—and also designed the sets of her famous Candy Land-inspired “California Gurls” music video.
Now, he releases another body of work: a set of striking prints at PACE Prints in New York, many of which are the product of a commission from New York magazine earlier this year. The subject is the dough-eyed actress Elle Fanning dressed in current fashions, all rendered with a highly imaginative (and subversive) Cotton twist. There’s Elle piping frosting onto a Dolce & Gabbana cage dress, an elaborate headpiece constructed out of cupcake foils, and a Dior dress wrapped in a giant candy wrapper.
The Daily Pic: Scholar Beatriz Colomina bills Playboy as nakedly favoring modern design.
Today’s image, appropriately, shows “Miss November, 1954”, who starred in a recent lecture at the Artist’s Institute by the great architectural historian Beatriz Colomina. Colomina presented research by her team at Princeton showing how, throughout the 1950s and 60s, Playboy magazine was a crucial promoter of modern design. It published features on cutting-edge architects and designers and often posed playmates in their classic pieces – as here, where model Diane Hunter sits in a butterfly chair by Jorge Ferrari Hardoy.
Colomina didn’t mention it, but it seems to me there’s some kind of equation, both social and formal, between the pared-down chairs and the girls perched on them – something about men’s ownership of biomorphic (and biological) modernity. (Interesting that the bodies now look vintage but the chairs haven’t dated at all.) Colomina did show how Playboy, with its circulation of seven million, would have had vastly more reach and influence than any design magazine. Any architect featured in Playboy – Mies and Wright and Bucky Fuller, but also the radicals at Ant Farm and Yale’s dean of architecture – “becomes a model poised at the very heart of the Playboy dream,” said Colomina.
Strangely, from his very first editorial Heffner felt a need to apologize for keeping his readers inside the well-designed home, and away from the woods and wilds found in other men’s magazines. Colomina argues that this is because home decor was traditionally women’s territory, and a manly man wouldn’t go there.
Rather than pretending to buy the mag for the writing and really ogling the girls, which was the classic Playboy-reader excuse, many playboys were pretending to buy for the babes, while actually hunting for decorator tips. “Architecture turned out to be much more seductive than the Playmates,” Colomina said.
World-famous architects build highly creative miniature homes to benefit a children’s charity.
Tucked away in the attic of our minds, we all have an image of our perfect home, be it a duplex on Fifth Avenue or a cozy cottage in the country.
Now, UK-based property developers may not have made our dreams come true—good luck squeezing through the door of one of these pint-size properties—but they’ve come pretty darn close.
Earlier this year, the Cathedral Group commissioned 20 of the world’s top architects and designers (in collaboration with high-profile artists) to build dollhouses to raise money for KIDS, a British charity that supports disabled children. The project was inspired by the dollhouse British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens designed for The British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1922. A gift for Queen Mary, Lutyens’ dollhouse is a mini stately home. Imagine Downton Abbey cut down to size.
The dwellings that A Dolls’ House project has inspired are just a tad wackier. The one design requirement for the project: each house includes at least one feature that makes life easier for a child with a disability. From there, the world was the architect’s oyster (or King Crab, in one notable instance). Each practice was given a miniscule plot of land—a 750mm square plinth—on which to build a property, an excuse for a bunch of top-flight modern architects and designers to strut their stuff.
The artist has "vandalized" a landscape—which will be sold to fight homelessness and AIDS.
UPDATE: The final sale of the painting was $615k.
On Thursday, Banksy’s month-long New York City “residency,” Better Out Than In, came to an end. The whirlwind of a month left fans trying to locate the works and attempting to catch the artist in the act—even the NYPD made it a priority to catch the “vandal.” Through graffiti, mobile installations, performances, and pop-up exhibitions, the still-unidentified Banksy left the Big Apple with one memorable month, over fifteen new pieces of public artwork, and soon, a lot of money to donate to charity.
The painting that appeared in the window of Housing Work Thrift Shop’s 23rd Street location on October 29 is now up for grabs. The two-day pop-up auction, which concludes Thursday evening, has the price for the "vandalized" oil painting at over $310,000.
Banksy purchased the original artwork, a traditional landscape oil-painting, from the Housing Works and added his own mark—a Nazi soldier sitting on a river-side bench, gazing into the distance. The image was re-titled The Banality of the Banality of Evil, signed by Banksy, and donated back to the thrift store.
The Daily Pic: In turning gum into art, Alina Szapocznikow showed that it didn't need to be art to be good.
One photo from a series of 20 called “Photosculptures”, made by the Polish artist Alina Szapocznikow in 1971 and now on view in a group show at Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York. Szapocznikow said they came about when she needed a break from the laborious polishing of her marble renditions of Rolls Royces, and they are clearly meant to be a humble counterpoise to those deluxe objects. They are also in complex tension with the biomorphic monuments of heroic male artists such as Henry Moore: They buy Moore’s notion of beauty in the everyday, but resist the idea that such beauty needs elevation to count. Bubble gum itself comes chock full of aesthetics, and doesn’t need to be enlarged or cast in bronze. Of course, the aesthetics on view here are all about comedy, and irony and poking fun and paradox. Szapocznikow knows that elevation inevitably happens as soon as chewed gum gets presented as art, or used as the subject of elegant photos.
The Daily Pic: Alison Elizabeth Taylor's marquetry is about more than just its amazing craft.
Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s “Optimist’s Ennui”, from her current solo at James Cohan Gallery in New York, is almost entirely made of inlaid woods. As always with Taylor, her art runs the risk of being too much about the clever marquetry that makes it, but in this piece that craft seems an especially tight fit with its subject. That’s because Taylor’s wood represents the wood that would normally be underneath the surface of a fine picture, but literally exposes it – and also pierces it to reveal a lumber-filled scene beyond. The always-vexed relationship between pictorial surface and depth here gets an extra note of complexity thanks to Taylor’s technique. (The fact that her show is called “Surface Tension” makes clear that she understands and intends this reference.) It also doesn’t hurt that Taylor’s using the finest hardwood veneers to represent crude plywood, thereby revisiting the everpresent tension between a picture as a deluxe object, and a picture as just a bunch of crude materials in a particular configuration.
The Daily Pic: Before Robert Rauschenberg learned to recombine the leavings of American culture, his photos had already seen it as fractured.
This shot, titled “Charleston Street”, was taken in 1952 by Robert Rauschenberg and is on view for a view more days in a show of his photos at Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York. There’s something about the way shapes crawl across the surface of this single image that reminds me of how Rauschenberg composed his composite works. Also, because the walking figures are a bit blurred by their motion, the details of their clothing get evened out into areas of more uniform tone – again, like some of the printmaking artifacts that Rauschenberg went on to play with. And of course this photo gives us a preview of Rauschenberg’s lifelong commitment to demotic American life: Note the man drinking inside the bar, and the fact that the dive is called Dixie.
The Daily Pic, Met Monday Edition: From the Metropolitan Museum, a Chinese textile that inspired weavers in Peru.
This embroidered silk panel was made in China sometime in the 17th century, apparently for export to the West. It is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum as well as in its current show called "Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800". (Click on the image to zoom in.) Other than everything about how it looks, what makes this embroidery utterly peculiar – and a perfect illustration for the show's theme of "globalization before globalization" – is the fact that it or a textile like it seems to have influenced the weavings of colonial Peru, apparently after arriving by way of the annual trips of Spain’s Manila galleons between Lima and the Philippines.
I wonder if textiles have an easier time crossing cultures than pictures and sculptures do. They seem so evidently desirable, and precious, that I kept wanting to see the cloths in "Interwoven" in somebody's home, somewhere, rather than in the Met's galleries. (I always feel precisely the opposite about works of Western fine art.)
A new book, City Parks, features essays from contemporary writers and luminaries—from Zadie Smith to Bill Clinton—on their favorite parks. Isabel Wilkinson talks to its editor, Catie Marron.
Everybody knows it, that feeling of entering a park: peeling off the city streets and into that nourishing sense of calm. And then, after the kids on bikes, the joggers, and the dogs playing fetch have faded, the thrill of being perfectly alone sets in.
That feeling of calm greets you upon opening City Parks: Public Spaces, Private Thoughts, a glossy new collection of essays and photographs highlighting some of the most luscious and mysterious parks in the world. Edited by Catie Marron, Vogue contributor and former board chair of the New York Public Library, the book pairs great writers – Zadie Smith, Andre Aciman, and Pico Ayer among them – with celebrated urban parks. There’s Jonathan Alter on Lincoln and Grant Park in Chicago, Candice Bergen on Griffith Park in Los Angeles, and President Bill Clinton on Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.
“I really wanted to capture parks in their inherent mood, and not just in the summertime, when loads of people are there,” said Marron. And indeed, many of the photographs, taken by Oberto Gili, reflect the mood of each park as if it were a character with its own story.