I was inspired– negatively, so... unspired?– by the fuss about a recent Frida Kahlo Barbie doll, of which the doll itself was probably the least offensive thing. Yes, it somewhat cleaned and prettied up a woman rightly famous for being a feminist and a communist who was ahead of her time in foregrounding … Continue reading All real artists get turned into a doll
Tag: dead artists
Costumes by Vahad Poladian. Photo by Hiroko Masuike, The New York Times
Some gems from Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond by John Maizels. Regular readers of this blog will know that I like a bit of O/outsider attitude.
“What country doesn’t have its small sector of cultural art, its brigade of career intellectuals? It’s obligatory. From one capital to another they perfectly ape one another, practising an artificial, esperanto art, which is indefatigably recopied everywhere. But can we really call this art? Does it have anything to do with art?” Jean Dubuffet in L’Art brut préferé aux arts culturels, 1946.
This was in 1946 and it’s still just as true seventy years later. Very, very depressing. This tale of masterful gallery fucking-uppery is much more comforting:
“Scottie Wilson (1888-1972)… had been a junk dealer, making a living by salvaging what he could from the bits and pieces that…
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“Everyone’s a winner, baby, that’s the truth.” (
Henrik Ibsen Hot Chocolate). Henrik Ibsen painted by Henrik Olrik, 1879.
From the book Creators: From Chaucer and Dürer to Picasso and Disney, Paul Johnson on the shitty, unfair and callously underappreciated lives of the world’s most undeniably creative people, who bring pleasure, beauty and inspiration to thousands or millions of people… plus Henrik Ibsen’s splendid but bonkers riposte.
“What strikes me, surveying the history of creativity, is how little fertile and productive people often received in the way of honours, money, or anything else. Has there ever been a more accomplished painter than Vermeer – a painter closer to perfection in creating beautiful pictures? How Vermeer must have cared about what he was doing! And how hard and intensely he must have worked to do it! Yet when he died, his widow had to petition the local guild for charity…
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Kakuzo Okakura, 茶の本 (The Book of Tea, 1906):
“We must remember, however, that art is of value only to the extent that it speaks to us. It might be a universal language if we ourselves were universal in our sympathies. Our finite nature, the power of tradition and conventionality, as well as our hereditary instincts, restrict the scope of our capacity for artistic enjoyment. Our very individuality establishes in one sense a limit to our understanding; and our aesthetic personality seeks its own affinities in the creations of the past. It is true that with cultivation our sense of art appreciation broadens, and we become able to enjoy many hitherto unrecognised expressions of beauty. But, after all, we see only our own image in the universe, – our particular idiosyncracies dictate the mode of our perceptions.”
“Another common mistake is that of confusing art with archaeology. The veneration…
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What better way to celebrate a major* exhibition of Dame Barbara Hepworth’s Modernist art at Tate Britain than spending £1200 in their gift shop to dress like a Hepster? Luckily the
costumes clothes don’t have bloody great holes through the middle of them like her sculptures. Rather than a real artist of Hepworth’s vintage, they’re more like the sort of slightly-too-on-point-to-be-real ensembles you’d see worn by a beatnik artist Don Draper was knobbing on Mad Men. They’ve also wisely stuck to mod and steered clear of Babs’ occasional sartorial forays into getting herself up like a forest witch from a Russian folk tale. Designer Margaret Howell says “She was a woman to roll up her sleeves, and a woman who needed pockets – for chisel, pencil, and pebbles from the beach.” Do my eyes deceive me or is this woman actually mansplaining pockets to women?…
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An interesting summary in MIT Technology Review of some recent research done on creativity in historical art, creativity here being taken to mean novelty in imagery or content that had an influence on other– by definition less creative and more derivative– works by the same artist or by others. A machine vision algorithm analysed “classemes”: visual concepts which “can be low-level features such as color, texture, and so on, simple objects such as a house, a church or a haystack and much higher-level features such as walking, a dead body, and so on.”
Intriguingly, the algorithm is not restricted to figurative art and it can cope with abstraction and pop art, although at this stage they seem to be looking at painting. The software critic also tends to broadly agree with human assessments of the most influential works and artists even though it was not primed or biased in…
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I don’t condone the vandalism or destruction of art works. Attacking art in a public museum or gallery is a particularly dickish act, even by the normal standards of no, seriously, don’t fucking do it you idiot. However, I question the need to jail a man for six years simply because he punched a Monet painting. The incident took place in 2012 at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, but he’s only just been sentenced. Andrew Shannon (described here as a “French Polisher”, which I’m sure is some kind of obsolete sexual slang) claimed in court that he had a dizzy spell and fell fistwards into the painting. Witnesses said otherwise, and it didn’t look good that he’d muttered something about getting back at the state…
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OR: PEOPLE WHO THROW STONES SHOULDN’T LIVE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSES
The Louvre is shortly to open a new facility in Abu Dhabi, designed by Jean Nouvel and looking like some kind of Logan’s Run shit that nobody who knew anything about art would ever want to show art in, as is usual for 21st century art silos. Talk about sterile. An outpost of the Guggenheim is also in progress, which will probably be equally austere, inhumane, architect-cool and ghastly. Having realised that they probably need some art or something– even if most of the walls are wonky or fifty meters from floor level– the gold-plated Arabic Louvre flagship store just announced the loan of 300 art works from French institutions. So let’s explore beautiful Abu Dhabi as it uses up the Earth’s precious resources to water lawns in the desert, let’s check out some of the art works being…
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A listicle of famous art collectors, movers and shakers. See, I’m really getting the hang of this lazy journalism blogging clickbait type thing. Just string a bunch of clichés together, condescendingly pretend that the reader is a pal so we’re just hanging out shooting the shit, and Bob’s your uncle. Oops, there’s another one! I tried really hard, but unfortunately I couldn’t shoehorn anything funny and adorable about cats or pugs into this listicle. Sorry about that.
One of China’s leading commissioners of art, and of disastrously ill-conceived social engineering enterprises that lead to the deaths of millions. Doh. We’ve all done it at least once, right ladies? So embarrassing. Also one of China’s leading destroyers of art, literature, families, teachers, revisionists and running dogs of capitalism, pots and pans, sparrows, etc. Iconoclastic!
Having aggressively amassed a huge collection…
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Clockwise from top left: “God in a bottle”, chimney sweep trade mannequin, soldier’s pincushion, boody (broken china) mosaic tray with doll, papier maché meat from a butcher shop, carved bone chicken.
Tate Britain’s British Folk Art exhibition (continues in London until 31 August 2014, then moves to Compton Verney in Warwickshire) is one of the most inspiring collections I’ve seen in this country recently. I dislike terms like “folk art” or “outsider art” because to me if they’re art then they’re just art, but I acknowledge that these terms can have their uses. This is a minor quibble anyway, in the context of a show that clearly celebrates and validates the umtrammeled creativity of ordinary people in an intelligent and unpatronising way that few of our large art institutions would even bother to try. Most of the objects come from the collections of often sorely underappreciated museums in places like…
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“Painting is not made to decorate apartments. It’s an offensive and defensive weapon against the enemy.” Pablo Picasso.
WRONG, Picasso, you pathetic loser. You don’t know nuffing. Three Court of Appeal judges have ruled that the Joshua Reynolds painting Portrait of Omai (1775-76) is a piece of “plant or machinery” because it “had just as much function in the trade of the company (note: the tourist trade at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire) as the more prosaic tables, chairs, office and other administrative equipment.” Furthermore, the painting counts as a so-called “wasting asset” with a predictable life of less than fifty years. Well over ten times the average lifespan of a coffee table from IKEA, but still not very long. Omai was sold for £9.4 million in 2001. In 2012 its sale value was quoted as £12.5 million. The court case arose as a result of…
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The Photographers’ Gallery in London is concurrently showing three collections of photographs by David Lynch, William Burroughs and Andy Warhol. I’m such a huge fan of David Lynch that I’m even prepared to forgive him his ridiculous adverts for Calvin Klein and for letting Twin Peaks degenerate into an aimless soap opera clusterfuck for most of its second season. Burroughs is probably not the kind of writer anybody in their right mind would be a fan of, but I like his work and he was undeniably a powerful stylist and one of the most influential and subversive authors of 1950s and 1960s. I’m totally indifferent to the majority of Andy Warhol’s screen prints, and to most other Pop Art for that matter. His work being worth millions of dollars is totally absurd.
Bearing all this in mind, it’s surprising that my opinion of these three mini exhibitions in completely inverse…
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Evidently Herbert Draper (1863-1920) was an artist dedicated to solving one of the age-old problems of mankind, i.e. the impossibility of a man getting his end away with a sexy mermaid when she’s a fish from the waist down. Herbert– the dirty perv– provided an ingenious answer: when they emerge from the water their tails turn into legs. Brilliant.
As the caption says, technically these are sirens rather than mermaids. The picture shows a story from The Odyssey, in which Ulysses has himself tied to the mast of his ship so he can hear the fatal call of the sirens without being lured into wrecking his ship, as was their desire. The crew had their ears stopped with wax. Until their mythology got completely jumbled up with mermaid stories in the middle ages, sirens were originally…
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The first lesson is that during the late 1880s Vincent was more or less ignored by everyone in the art world except his brother Theo, and there was absolutely no prospect of any exhibition for Vincent’s work. In spite of this, he set himself the firm and no-excuses goal of making fifty paintings “worthy of exhibition” anyway. In the process he painted some of the works that are regarded as among his best. If I had £1 for every time an artist or a student told me they didn’t have time to make any work, I could probably just live from the proceeds of people saying they don’t have time to be artists. If it’s important to you, MAKE TIME.
The second lesson relates to the damage commerce does to art and artists. It comes from a letter to Theo about the July 1889 sale of a painting by Millet…
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The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam sells lots of bourgeois knick-knacks and posh toys, as all art museums do nowadays. Exit through the gift shop and all that. Along the lines of the previously mentioned Edvard Munch Screaming Hello Kitty, here’s the (quote) “authentic Miffy as a painter! Has she painted the ‘Night Watch’ maybe?”
Yes. I’m sure she has. If anybody needs me I’ll be in the museum painting over some priceless Rembrandt selfies to reflect this astounding new information.
Update: Giant version of Miffy as an artist in the Rijksmuseum shop, photographed with my own fair hand. Or with a camera that was in my fair hand, to be pedantic. I don’t think this oversized Miffy artist was for sale.
I was very disappointed that they didn’t have any of their Rembrandt-shaped candles in stock, because I always wanted to set Rembrandt’s head alight. I did visit his…
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Portrait of the young geisha Ochie from Kitagawa Utamaro’s series Edo’s Celebrated Beauties (circa 1792). She’s reading a kibyoshi (“yellow-covered book”)– thirty or so woodblock printed images hand stitched into paper covers– making this one of the first ever depictions of a teenager reading a comic.
On the frame of Edvard Munch’s 1895 version of his iconic Skrik (AKA The Scream or Der Schrei der Natur), the artist wrote:
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
Now, what does this art work and description bring to mind? Expressionism in perhaps its rawest, most personal and most affecting form? The visual expression of an individual and a societal existential crisis? The anguish of a man who suffered great loss in his life, while trying (and sometimes failing) to master his own bouts of mental illness? A freak out, the beginning of…
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Jean-Pierre Lehmann, New York art collector, describes a particularly annoying trait of contemporary artists:
“One of the problems artists today are going to face is that life, in general, is much longer than it used to be. You don’t have artists dying of tuberculosis or alcoholism when they are thirty-five or forty and leaving very interesting works– but very limited quantities, because their lives were limited. Now, most artists will probably live like everybody else until eighty, ninety or one hundred, and if they want to produce until the end, they’ll have problems, because their productive years will be much longer. Probably then you will see the difference between the good and the less good.”
If you’re an artist who just graduated you’d better get cracking on drinking yourself to death. If you’re over forty, ugh, why are you even still alive? The first of a few choice quotes from…
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To the manor born
Although it now predates any living memory, it’s a very recent Western notion that artists are unique and delicate snowflakes pursuing a vocation for the love of it. Historically artists were valued as craftsmen and artisans, on a par with carpenters or stonemasons. Being an artist was certainly better than being a peasant, but among the aristocratic classes for whom artists generally worked there was still a hint of the base or the vulgar clinging to anybody who got their hands dirty and needed to actually do anything for a living. Henri Rousseau, for example, was lambasted by the art establishment because he had the audacity to be self taught and to have worked solidly in the same relatively menial clerical job for about forty years before he took early retirement in order to pursue painting.
So there was a certain degree of inevitability in the…
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