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.
The Daily Pic: Alexi Worth looks at us looking at conflict.
This painting, inspired by a view of protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, is by my friend Alexi Worth, from his solo show now up at DC Moore Gallery in New York. In the exhibition catalog, Worth says that he was especially intrigued by the strangely shaped scraps of plywood and furniture that Cairenes picked up to use as shields against Mubarak’s thugs. They remind him of the outline of American states on a map, but for me they somehow evoke shaped abstract paintings, in the kind of late-modern, Richard Tuttle mode that Worth himself doesn’t work in. Art has often seemed to have apotropaic powers, and here that’s made literal – but also absurd, given the obvious inadequacy of the protesters’ shields.
The other important component of this painting is the shadows cast by its viewers – us – onto both the surface of the picture and onto the shields depicted on it. Instead of giving us direct access to the thing it shows, here art seems to keep us at one remove, reminding us always that we’re safely ensconced in a gallery, safely looking at art, rather than facing a brutal regime thousands of miles away. “I tried to make a painting of my simultaneous nearness and distance …. I wanted to do a painting where we would belatedly recognize ourselves,” says Worth in his catalog.
An Italian organization is bringing new meaning to the concept of rehabbing old materials. Barrique is turning used wine barrels into high-concept furniture—all for the benefit of a renowned substance abuse treatment facility.
Touring the downstairs gallery at SoHo’s Poltrona Frau last weekend, you’d notice two common themes: every piece of furniture is constructed from the slats of wine barrels, and each is accompanied by a photo of what looks like adult summer camp. Those adults, at work and at play, are patients at the San Patrignano rehab facility outside of Milan.
Barrique: The Third Life of Wood is the brainchild of Letizia Moratti, the former Mayor of Milan and Italian Minister for Education. The concept: recruit top international designers to create furniture from wine barrels. Send those designs to San Patrignano, where patients build the products. Sell those products for a cool $1,000-25,000. Return the profits to the rehab facility.
With top designers like Mario Botta and Marc Sadler at the helm, Barrique’s furniture has the elegance that most recycled design lacks. The curves of the casks seem perfectly suited for the contours of the human body in a swinging loveseat or a leather-lined chaise longue. And the wood’s second life as a vessel for wine has stained it a lovely burgundy, an element most designers chose to keep (though some sanded it clean).
“There’s a difference between doing something different for attention and exploiting the intellectual possibility” of the material, said designer Karim Rashid at a party thrown for Moratti by her old friend Mayor Michael Bloomberg during her visit to New York. His piece is part-stool, part-table, created by simply turning the slats inside out. (“It was my third idea,” he said.)
Bestselling author Dan Brown likes to claim that the historical events in his novels are ‘fact,’ but how much is true? Noah Charney finds 10 mistakes and oversimplifications in the new book ‘Inferno.’
Many books have been published on the numerous mistakes in Dan Brown’s past books, especially The Da Vinci Code. The novel begins with a statement: “FACT, the Priory of Sion—a European secret society founded in 1099—is a real organization.” But there is little in The Da Vinci Code that is correct and well researched. For instance, the Priory of Sion is not a real organization, but the product of an infamous forgery by a Frenchman named Pierre Plantard, who planted fake medieval documents in order to convince people that he should be made king of France.
Like The Da Vinci Code, Brown’s new book Inferno begins with a page labeled “FACT” and goes on to tell a tale riddled with oversimplifications. There are fewer historical errors, à la The Da Vinci Code. Still, here are 10 of the most wincing howlers.
1. The David
Brown refers to Michelangelo’s David as “the David.” This is not a mistake an art historian like the protagonist Robert Langdon would make. Michelangelo’s David is not the only sculpture of David that is important, and not even the only one in Florence. To call Michelangelo’s sculpture The David is a shorthand that indicates a lack of serious knowledge on the part of the author.
The Daily Pic: The ICP's latest triennial expands what cameras can do.
These are tight croppings from “Windows, Ponte City” and “Doors, Ponte City”, by Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse, now in the International Center of Photography’s latest triennial, which previewed today. Curators are calling the show “A Different Kind of Order” – referencing the collapsing verities of photographic art, and of the worlds it points to. The triennial gives an excellent overview of the vast range of “lens-based” work being made today, from “straight” views of people living with the world’s rising waters (by Gideon Mendel) to distinctly arty, hand-made objects that use photos as art supplies (by art-world regulars Wangechi Mutu and Huma Bhabha). In between are projects like “Ponte City”, which is based in photography’s ability to document the world but doesn’t simply take it for granted. Subotzky and Waterhouse made a close study of a residential tower in Johannesburg, designed for white South Africans under Apartheid but now occupied by the country’s majority, and they present their images as lightboxes that recreate, in miniature, the tower itself. Other standouts in the show include A.K. Burns (with reperformances of ultra-esoteric YouTube porn) and Rabih Mroue (whose video about death-by-sniper was a gem of the last Documenta).
For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.
A 1991 portrait of Bea Arthur by John Currin—which sold for $1.9 million this week—got The Daily Beast temporarily kicked off Facebook. But whose responsibility is it to decide the difference between art and porn? By Isabel Wilkinson.
On Wednesday night, a topless painting of Bea Arthur by John Currin sold for $1.9 million in Christie’s Contemporary Evening Sale. On Monday, we posted a picture of that painting in a story about the upcoming auction—and shared that post on Facebook. By early afternoon, the post had been shared thousands of times. And, like clockwork, a few hours later, The Daily Beast’s Facebook page had been temporarily suspended—along with the individual Facebook pages of its 22 administrators.
“I have posted countless potentially offensive stories on our Facebook page,” wrote my colleague Brian Ries. “From the sexual proclivities of porn stars to purported cannibalism in Syria. But not until we linked to a piece about the Golden Girl’s breasts did Facebook shut us down.”
In the end, Facebook acknowledged its mistake—the company claimed that in the millions of posts it reviews for inappropriate content each day, someone had thought the painted boobs were real boobs and mistakenly blocked the page. “Our policy prohibits photos of actual nude people, not paintings or sculptures,” a company spokesperson told me. “Unfortunately, this image was erroneously removed under the same clause we use to prevent more graphic images from propagating on the site.” If anything, that’s a compliment to Currin—and the hyperrealism of his painting.
Unfortunately, Facebook censoring nude art is nothing new. Though the company says it allows nude art on its pages, it encounters a slippery slope when it comes to drawing the line between porn and nude art. It leads to a central question: what is art and—in this new constellation of social-media sites—who’s really responsible for defining it?
The Daily Pic: The German master made artifice seem inevitable.
A drawing of a seated “priest”, made in 1517 by Albrecht Dürer and now in the great Dürer exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington, which the Daily Pic won’t be done with until the show closes.
What specially interests me in this image is how the old man’s face seems so carefully observed from life, with a clear sense that we are below him looking up into his eyes, and yet the drapery of his robe is so clearly based on late-medieval stylizations. I think this is about much more than a “holdover” of archaisms in Dürer’s newly naturalistic art; I think it gives a crucial clue to his art’s fundamentals.
Bear with me – and click below – while I try to explain.
My overwhelming reaction to the Dürer show was one of immediate, simple pleasure and amazement at his art’s excellence, even beauty. And yet it so happens that I don’t believe in the inherent excellence or beauty of any work of art – I’m not even sure they are coherent concepts – just as I don’t believe in a work’s ability to directly and simply and inevitably tickle some aesthetic sense that we have. Art is so complex and bizarre in its rules and games, it seems the clearest of all candidates for being socially constructed. (I’m a believer in what philosophers call “institutional” and “anti-essentialist” theories of art.) So here’s my reading of my own reaction to Dürer: I think what he does, more than almost any artist, is “naturalize” (sorry for the jargon) the excellence of his own art. Through details such as this priest’s credibly real face, captured live by Dürer’s pen (or claiming to be so), the artist convinces us that all he is doing is reporting on the way the world is. And then that naturalism has a kind of contagious effect on the rest of the image, so that the evident artifice of its stylizations also end up reading as natural, and inevitable – and so as excellent, even perfect. It’s not that his scene is built to look like a simple view into some new and improved reality, as Raphael managed in his “Alba Madonna”, a few years earlier than this Dürer drawing. In the Dürer, even things that are obviously artful and unreal – the entire making of this image, in fact, including its stylizations – feel necessary and natural.
Jenna Lyons Will Not Wear Google Glass; UN Backs Woman Who Sued Prada Japan for Sexual Discrimination
and there's been another Cannes jewelry heist. More