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Retrospective

The Return of Julian Schnabel

Almost invisible to the American art scene for the past decade, the powerhouse neo-expressionist artist has returned for his first American survey since 1987.

Julian Schnabel is back with a vengeance.

Exhibiting exclusively in Europe for the past eleven years, the neo-expressionist artist has re-emerged on the American art scene with the same ferocity and vigor that put him at the top of a powerhouse list of artists in the 1980s.

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THOMAS LOHNES/Getty

In the late seventies, Schnabel was propelled to notoriety by his broken plate paintings—a series of large-scale works that involved broken ceramic dishes set onto a painted canvas.   When they debuted at the Mary Boone Gallery in 1979, the paintings sold out even before the exhibition’s opening night.  Prices continued to rise.  Works continued to sell.  Schnabel quickly became an art world elite.

Peace & Love

Life and Death in Technicolor

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Gautier Deblonde/Courtesy of David Zwirner

The Japanese artist may be 84 years old, but she’s not slowing down. In a new exhibition, Kusama explores her twilight years in bold colors and flashing LED lights.

In an art-world coup earlier this year, New York gallery David Zwirner poached Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama from Gagosian Gallery, one of the biggest art powerhouses in the world. Kusama’s last show in New York was just over a year ago in July 2012, when her monumental retrospective made a stop at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and her trademark polka dots popped up in a Louis Vuitton collection. For her first exhibition with David Zwirner, the artist took over all three of the gallery’s spaces in Chelsea—only the second time that has happened. Titled I Who Have Arrived in Heaven, the show debuts a new body of work by the 84-year-old artist as she contemplates the final years of her life.

Kusama emerged from the psychiatric hospital in Tokyo where she lives by choice to come to New York for the occasion. The artist, who arrived for the opening of the exhibition wearing an electric red wig and a black and yellow polka-dotted frock that she created, spread her message of peace and love to the audience.

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Pensive Night, 2013 (Yayoi Kusama/Courtesy David Zwirner)

“More and more I think about the role of the arts, and as an artist, I think that it’s important that I share the love and peace,” said Kusama through a translator as she greeted a room filled with press and art-world cognoscenti. “I would like to work with you together to make that happen, to deliver the joy of the art and love and peace to people who are suffering and don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the joy of the art.”

BWO

Banksy Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theories abound about who Banksy is—and how many powerful people may be protecting him in order to pull off his latest New York show.

In 2006, Damien Hirst and Banksy seemed to be on opposite ends of the art world spectrum. Hirst was a brand, an art phenomenon worth roughly £100m pounds (a year later he debuted his “For the Love of God” diamond-encrusted skull, which allegedly sold for £50 million or $80 million). Banksy was a faceless graffiti artist who was well known because his identity was unknown. “I have no interest in ever coming out,” he was quoted saying in a New Yorker article at the time. “I figure there are enough self-opinionated assholes trying to get their ugly little faces in front of you as it is.” Hirst was arguably one of the art world’s most “self-opinionated assholes,” and Banksy denounced the world in which Hirst reigned as ”a rest home for the overprivileged, the pretentious, and the weak.”

Banksy

Producers Distribution Agency/Everett Collection

Despite this ostensible aversion to personal fame and publicity, Banksy agreed to be featured in Hirst’s 2006 show at the Serpentine Gallery in London, “In the darkest hour there may be light." Speaking to The Guardian about Banksy's work, Hirst praised the pseudonymous graffiti artist. “I’ve always thought he was great. The streets are boring...anyone like Banksy who makes it entertaining and treats people like people instead of consumers is brilliant.”

It was the beginning of a collaboration that has fueled rumors about Banksy’s identity and associations—particularly amongst those who speculate that "Banksy" is in fact a sort of performance art collective funded by art world mandarins. Bettina Prentice, founder and owner of Prentice Art Communications, thinks Hirst has an Oz-like role—the man behind the street art curtain—in Banksy’s work. The theory stems in part from their playful, if strange relationship. Two years after the exhibit, Banksy’s “Keep It Spotless” collaboration with Hirst sold for more than $1.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction, Banksy's highest reported sale. In his 2009 show at the Bristol Museum in England, Banksy showcased another original Hirst spot painting with a large rat stenciled over it.

Art Without A Frame

Banksy’s Biggest Trick Yet

The street artist gave New Yorkers a big surprise: he sold his art on the street for $60. The catch? Almost no one noticed. Isabel Wilkinson reports.

This may be his greatest trick yet.

Banksy, the subversive British street artist, is two weeks into his month-long residency in New York. Every day this month, he has unveiled a new work around the city—a series of murals, videos, and two roaming trucks. Each new piece has attracted hordes of tourists and news crews—and even inspired some enterprising locals to charge tourists to see it.

Banksy

banksyny/Instagram

But this one may take the cake. On his website on Sunday, the artist announced that he had set up a stall along Central Park on Saturday—selling “100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each.” That’s right: Banksy, whose works sell for millions at auction, sold canvases for $60 on the streets of New York. And the most unbelievable part? Almost no one bought them. It was part stunt, part social experiment: If people don’t know they are looking at work from a world-famous artist, do they even care?

O Artista

Brazil's Kandinsky

With her exuberant murals bursting with Rio de Janeiro joie de vivre, Beatriz Milhazes is winning the art world's heart.

In a pale lavender blouse under a gray blazer, Beatriz Milhazes is a portrait in understatement. Soft-spoken and with a bonnet of brown curls, she might be a docent or an art teacher on a class tour. But the bustle of museum handlers orbiting around her today and the scrum of reporters and television crews stalking the corridors of the Rio de Janeiro gallery quickly shatter the idyll.

"As a plastic artist you never think you're going to be in the spotlight," Milhazes tells The Daily Beast on a recent morning in Rio de Janeiro. We have fled the crowded gallery showcasing her career to a quiet room on the top floor of the Paço Imperial, a 18th century palace converted to a museum in downtown Rio. This is the last in a series of interviews for the week, and Milhazes is savoring the rare moment of quiet. "Now I guess it's part of my life."

Judging from the reception in Rio, and beyond, that is unlikely to change anytime soon. For the last two decades, Milhazes has been quietly raising the bar for the Latin American art world. More recently, her paintings have shattered auction records, floored critics, and mobilized dealers and curators from Tokyo to Chicago. In 2009, the Paris based Fondation Cartier dedicated an exhibit to Milhazes. She represented Brazil at the 2003 Venice Biennalle. She designed a wall mural for the restaurant at the Tate Modern and was commissioned to create 19 separate vaulted panels for the Gloucester Road station of the London Underground.

Fortune has followed fame. Her 2001 canvas O Mágico (The Magician), a bold work of deep blues and flying geometric shards, was an art house sleeper for years until Southeby's sold it in 2008 for $1,049,000, at three times the floor price. In June of last year, O Elefante Azul (The Blue Elephant) auctioned for $1.5 million at Christies and in November, her picture Meu Limão (My Lemon), fetched $2.1 million at Southeby's, a record for a living artist from Latin America. "She is a leading talent, and a huge influence," says art dealer Ivor Braka. "There can't be many examples Latin American artists who have impacted people's minds and on markets that the way she has."

Cubism Bonanza

The New Best Museum Ever

With a huge gift of Cubist works, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art may now have the best collection in the world. But don’t believe that $1 billion price tag, writes Blake Gopnik.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has always been a contender for World’s Greatest Museum, and last night it may have won the title.

Pablo Picasso

La coquille Saint-Jaques (“Notre avenir est dans l’air”), The Scallop Shell. May 1912, Oil on canvas, Oval: 15 x 21 ¾ in. (Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection; 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York)

At 6:55 p.m., the Met announced that cosmetics tycoon Leonard Lauder, son and heir of Estee herself, had given the institution a collection of 78 important Cubist pictures that he has bought over the last 40 years. The trove include works by giants such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque as well as almost-as-greats such as Fernand Leger and Juan Gris. (The Met has released exhaustive details on the gift.)

Cubism was “invented” in Paris around 1908 by Picasso and Braque; their world-smashing, space-wrenching, light-twisting vision arguably launched the second most important movement in the history of Western painting. (The first came with the birth of Renaissance realism, either around 1300 or 1425, depending how you count.) The Met has always had a yawning gap in its early Modernist holdings, compared to what it has in Rembrandts and Cezannes and every kind of ancient art. Now it doesn’t. So it rules.

Sweet Art

Mona Lisa of the Coffee Shop

Creme Brulee doughnut from the Doughnut Plant

(Photo by Michael E. Mason for Doughnut Plant)

The Daily Pic: The crème brûlée "bismarck" from the Doughnut Plant is a great aesthetic creation.

For a foodie, trumpeting the crème brûlée doughnut from the Doughnut Plant, in New York, is like saying that you rather like the Sistine Ceiling. But, on the assumption that not everyone who reads the Daily Pic is a food fanatic, I’m still willing to proclaim this sweet, with its crisp-caramel outside and crème-y filling, one of the great aesthetic creations of recent years. My only problem with that proclamation is that I’d never rave about  fine art that was so mild-mannered in its innovation: I ought to demand a blood-flavored cruller with durian foam. Can I take refuge in the thought that the mash-up of French and American pastry idioms gives this donut some postmodern cred? Surely it thematizes globalization and post-colonial cultural collisions, with a nod to neoconcrete anthropophagy?

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

Design

Sofa For A Siding

A sofa by Florian Borkenhagen

(© Florian Borkenhagen, courtesy Gabrielle Ammann gallery, Cologne)

The Daily Pic: Florian Borkenhagen pitches high-end reuse.

A "recycled" sofa by the artist-designer Florian Borkenhagen, who shows with Gabrielle Ammann gallery in Cologne. As a one-off piece, it will hardly make much of a dent in our problem of overproduction and overconsumption, but it works, art-wise, as a fine pointer to both. It's also a rare pleasure to see a new piece of furniture that isn't just a rehashing or reheating of modernist cliches.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

Renaissance Art

News of a Verdant Virgin

An altarpiece by Girolamo dai Libri

(Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Daily Pic: Why did Girolamo dai Libri paint Christ and his mother as arborists?

A lovely altarpiece, almost 13 feet tall, painted in about 1520 by the ultra-obscure Veronese artist Girolamo dai Libri, now standing out in almost comic relief  against the grim architecture of the Lehman wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Click on the image to see it in detail.) I love the way Girolamo managed to stick to the sweetness of a 15th-century style while including some of the “modernizations” of 16th-century Florence and Rome. Of course, the central conundrum of this painting is the massive area given over to the foliage at its center. There are obvious iconological solutions to its unbalanced composition, but I like to think that in fact it’s all about how Girolamo was taken with the idea of fixed perspectival viewings of “modern” pictures: he imagined his tree would only ever be seen in peripheral vision, convincingly and impressively looming overhead as a “roof” of green, as our eyes kept their focus on the Mother and Child. In other words, he didn’t buy into the idea of painting as a composition in 2D, but thought instead in terms of giving us access to a three-dimensional world, where issues of “balance”, and of what appears where, have to be thought of in entirely different terms.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

An untilted 1949 painting by Mark Rothko

(National Gallery of Art)

The Daily Pic: Color starts dominating abstraction when books could reproduce it.

An untitled 1949 painting by Mark Rothko, from the National Gallery’s collection and until recently on view in a show at the Columbia Museum of Art. I’ve written a few times about the effect of black-and-white photoreproduction on Matisse and Picasso. Recently, I’ve begun to wonder if the rise of color plates in art books, after World War II,  affected the color-full and color-field abstraction that came to be made then. Who wouldn’t imagine their art forward to the day that it would be reproduced? Of course, there wasn’t color repro in Renaissance Florence, but that didn’t stop Botticelli and others from going for chroma. (Or is chroma/non-chroma only a salient binary after Daguerre?)


For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit BlakeGopnik.com/archive.

X-Rated Maestro

The Facebook Artist and the Porn Star

A year after David Choe became the most surprising multimillionaire to emerge from Facebook’s IPO, the bad-boy graffiti artist is making the publicity rounds with a new pornographic podcast featuring porn star Asa Akira. He talks to Lizzie Crocker about anal sex, his new gig, and more anal sex.

Tits, ass, and goblins. Bare-chested chicks straddling hellhounds. Perverse imagery has long permeated graffiti artist David Choe’s work, including the infamous murals he spray-painted at Facebook’s first headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.

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Adult film actress Asa Akira arrives at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Jan. 21, 2012, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty)

The company’s then president, Sean Parker, allegedly told Choe to “go crazy and draw as many giant ‘cocks’” on the walls as he wanted. Choe was paid for the job in Facebook stock, which was valued at $200 million when the social media behemoth went public last February.

Choe, 36, was instantly one of the most buzzed-about names to emerge from the IPO, but the Korean-American artist shunned the media attention, agreeing to interviews only with Barbara Walters and Howard Stern.

Expressionism

Indonesia's Master Lays It On Thick

A 1984 self-portrait by Affandi

(Courtesy Zemack Contemporary Art)

The Daily Pic: Affandi squeezed feeling straight from tubes of paint.

A 1984 self-portrait by the great Indonesian expressionist Affandi, who died in 1990. He painted by squeezing direct from the tube, and his art won all sorts of accolades in the ’50s – just the moment when you’d imagine it would. I have to admit  that I didn’t know his work until I saw it this week in Zemack gallery’s booth at the Art Stage Singapore fair. I love the way almost every country in the world has its own modernist heroes, and how many different solutions they come up with for similar artistic problems. Who knew that angst had so many faces, or that thick paint had so much to say?

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit BlakeGopnik.com/archive.

Close Reading

Geng Jianyi Turns a New Leaf

The Third Page (2000)

(Courtesy Shanghart Gallery, Singapore)

The Daily Pic: The Chinese superstar known for his grin takes a sober look at a book.

The Chinese artist Geng Jianyi became  a star in the 1980s for giant, splashy paintings of his own grinning face, but he’s done plenty of more sober, conceptual work as well. At Shanghart Gallery’s new Singapore space, he’s showing a piece where he’s taken a battered old notebook and, in an extraordinary act of homage, has hand copied each and every one of its page in colored pencils, recording every bit of damage the paper has suffered. In a sense he’s remade a humble object, point for point, but in the key of art. Maybe this is Geng’s version of close reading.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit BlakeGopnik.com/archive.

Subway Romance

In this clip from a video called "Wind Tunnel," New Yorker Neil Goldberg captures subway riders buffeted by the air from passing trains. It's a highlight from "Stories the City Tells Itself", his solo show at the Museum of the City of New York.

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The Daily Pic

The Guardian Mothers of Art

The Guardian Mothers of Art

The Daily Beast: Andy Freeberg shoots the female guards at Russian museums.