Thursday, December 1, 2011

November Art News

By Charles Kessler

There’s been a lot of big news in the art world this month including yet another Leonardo da Vinci find. Last month I reported on art historian Martin Kemp’s extraordinary rediscovery of Leonardo’s La Bella Principessa, a portrait in ink and colored chalks on vellum. Artinfo interviews Kemp here about an even more important find, Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi.
Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, c. 1500, oil on walnut panel, 25 13/16 X 17 7/8 inches  
Due to the blockbuster Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery, London, there’s been more than usual  written about Leonardo. One of the most interesting is this post by Jonathan Jones, a Renaissance man himself, on Leonardo as an animal rights activist and a vegetarian. All this has added so much to the already wildly popular Leonardo exhibition that the National Galley had to crack down on ticket scalping — tickets were going for up to £800 ($1242) on eBay.

Then there’s the Met’s new Islamic wing.
Damascus Room, 1119 A.D., Syria, Damascus, 22 ft. 1/2 in. x 16 ft. 8 1/2 in.
(Gift of The Hagop Kevorkian Fund, 1970 #1970.170).
The Met’s website once again does an excellent job of providing visual and art historical information including several videos showing the installation and conservation process. Holland Cotter has an enthusiastic review of the new galleries in the Times.

And finally, there’s been more on Pacific Standard Time — the encyclopedic series of exhibitions about the history of Los Angeles art. Two reviews I'd recommend are by Roberta Smith and Peter Plagens.
Hard Edge group exhibition with works by Ronald Davis and Judy Chicago at Rolf Nelson Gallery in Los Angeles,
May 1964. The Getty Research Institute, Gift of Rolf G. Nelson, 2010.M.38.2.
Plagens also wrote my favorite article on another big art event, the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver.
The Clyfford Still Museum's center exhibition gallery.

Other Art News:
Paddy Johnson reports that even more galleries are moving into 56 Bogart Street in Bushwick. And to help you keep track, Pernod, the company that sells Absinthe liqueur, and WAGMAG, the online Brooklyn gallery guide, have teamed up to create an app that’s a guide to Brooklyn galleries and to nearby bars that serve Absinthe. It’s doesn’t have nearly the number of galleries as our Bushwick guide, and it doesn’t provide an efficient route to take, but like ours it’s free; and if they ever include a lot more of the galleries, it will be useful.

Bryan Appleyard on the website reports that in 2010 Andy Warhol’s work sold for a total of $313m and accounted for an astounding 17% of all contemporary auction sales. Appleyard does a good job of putting this in context. And on the topic of Warhol and Pop Art, here is an excellent interview with Art Historian Hal Foster.

Also from is this entertaining piece about an exchange of letters between Groucho Marx and, of all people, T. S. Eliot. The exchange was initiated by Eliot, a great fan of the Marx Brothers movies. One of my favorite of Groucho’s letters to the famously buttoned-down and anti-semitic poet includes this: “The name Tom fits many things. There was once a famous Jewish actor named Thomashevsky. All male cats are named Tom—unless they have been fixed. I would be interested in reading your views on sex, so don’t hesitate. Confide in me.”

Damien Hirst is one of those artists I hate to love. Jonathan Jones doesn't have this problem. In advance of Hirst’s upcoming exhibition at the Tate Modern next year, he wrote this appreciation:
Hirst stands far above his British contemporaries. The depth of his early work is extraordinary and dazzling. The intensity of his imaginative grasp of reality is unique. He makes art that is about life, and death, and money too, which is another absolute truth of our world – unfortunately. The whole of recent British art is a footnote to his brilliance.
Richard Prince, on the other hand, is an artist I love to hate — Laura Gilbert uncovered documents filed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on October 26 that show what a phony the guy is.

The Daily Beast/Newsweek has an excellent profile on the art dealer Marian Goodman. It corresponds nicely with a 1992 profile of Betty Parsons from the archives of the New York Times that’s been tweeted around (is that a term?).

Finally, there are two informative posts by Jonah Lehrer about creativity:
Need to Create? Get a Constraint:
"It’s not until we encounter an unexpected hindrance – a challenge we can’t easily resolve – that the chains of cognition are loosened, giving us newfound access to the weird connections simmering in the unconscious."
And The Importance of Mind-Wandering:
"...not all daydreams are equally effective at inspiring new ideas. ...According to Schooler’s data, individuals who are unaware of their mind-wandering don’t exhibit increased creativity."

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