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Monthly Archives: September 2018

Everybody Knows … Elizabeth Murray

While she achieved a good deal of recognition in her lifetime, Elizabeth Murray, the subject of this fine yet too-short documentary, remains an American artist who hasn’t quite gotten her due. One hopes “Everybody Knows … Elizabeth Murray” changes that at least a little.

This cogent, fascinating portrait of the artist, who died in 2007 at 66, was made over several years by Kristi Zea, best known for her work as a production designer on notable films directed by Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme (among them “Goodfellas” and “The Silence of the Lambs”). The movie shows the great variety of Murray’s always vivid, colorful work, and culminates with a triumph not just for Murray but also, as the film takes pains to point out, for women in American art: a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (An exhibition of her work is at the gallery Canada through Jan. 29.)

Murray comes across as personable, friendly, extremely thoughtful and wholly admirable. The movie, perhaps without intending to, demonstrates that one needn’t be a prickly person to be a wonderful artist. Meryl Streep, reading from Murray’s journals, does well communicating her emotional and intellectual acuity. While remaining upbeat about the artist’s legacy, “Everybody Knows” is underscored by a sense of just how much the art world lost when Murray left it.

This brief feature is accompanied at Film Forum by a 30-minute short,“The 100 Years Show,” a lively look at the Cuban-born artist Carmen Herrera, an art-world “discovery” as she approached her centenary. Now 101, she finally received a solo exhibition at a major New York museum (the Whitney Museum of American Art) last year.

Digital Art’s Aesthetics

While borrowing many of the conventions of traditional media, digital art can draw upon aesthetics from many other fields. But various criticisms have been made against it: for example, given the variety of tools at their disposal, how much effort do digital artists really have to put into their work?

I asked Jan Willem Wennekes, also known as Zeptonn, for his opinion on this. He is a freelancer who specializes in illustrative design and art direction, with a focus on eco-friendly and environmental projects.

Jan Willem Wennekes: The question seems a bit ambiguous. On the one hand, there seems to be a question about the effort required to create digital art. That is, some people may think that using digital media to create art is easier than using traditional media. On the other hand, there seems to be a question of whether digital art is an art form in itself (or maybe at all?).

With respect to the first question, I think that working with digital media (mostly the computer, mouse, Wacom, scanner, software, etc.) does not have to differ from creating art in other media. The computer and all the tools generated by the software are still what they are: tools! You have to master those tools just as you have to master any other tools. For example, if you do not understand how light works, you won’t be able to create artwork with correct lighting, and so on. If you don’t know how the pen tool works in Illustrator, then you won’t be able to create good artwork, just like a traditional artist who doesn’t know how to use a pencil. You still have to master color theory and all the other things that are essential to creating a good or stunning piece of art. In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether it is a painting or a print. Simply put, you have to master all the tools and theory, just as you had to master them before. And the better you master them, the better your artwork can be.

Three lucky artists work in Alexander Calder’s Loire Valley studio

Three artists have been chosen this year to move in to Alexander Calder’s former home studio in Saché, in France’s Loire Valley, which the artist designed and built in 1962. The three-month Atelier Calder residencies, organised in collaboration with the US-based Calder Foundation, provide artists who produce three-dimensional works with a stipend for living expenses, funding and technical support to create new work. “Our mission is to offer the time and space to make work, so although we do open the studio to the public for two days at the end of each artist’s stay, our emphasis is not on exhibiting,” the Calder Foundation’s president, Alexander S.C. Rower, told The Art Newspaper over email.

The spring 2017 artist-in-residence is the Tehran-born, Toronto-based artist Abbas Akhavan, whose previous works explore the domestic space and domesticated landscapes, including site-specific ephemeral installations, drawing, video and performance. Akhavan’s exhibitions this year have included the group shows Making Nature: How We See Animals at the Wellcome Collection in London, and But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The Vancouver-born, New York-based artist Rochelle Goldberg, who is the summer 2017 artist-in-residence, creates sculpture in both organic and inorganic material, including live chia grass, steel, crude oil and ceramic. She had a solo show, The Plastic Thirsty, at the Sculpture Center in New York this year and was included in the group show Mirror Cells at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The fall 2017 artist-in-residence is the Prague-born and based Eva Kot’átková, who showed work at the Parcours sector at Art Basel Miami Beach in June. Other exhibitions include the group show Bedlam: the Asylum and Beyond (until 15 January 2017) at the Wellcome Collection in London and a solo show at the Maccarone gallery in New York. She works in a variety of media, including sculpture, collage, performance, installation and film.

10 Museum Acquisitions of 2016

J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Orazio Gentileschi’s Danaë
The J. Paul Getty Museum paid a record $30.5m at auction for this Baroque painting of Zeus sneaking into the bedroom of a princess as a shower of gold coins (1621). Another work from the three-part series, Lot and His Daughters (1622), has been in the Getty’s collection since 1988. Their reunion “not only makes art-historical sense but multiplies the visual impact of both works”, says Timothy Potts, the Getty Museum’s director.

Musée d’Orsay, Paris
Post-Impressionist art collection
The US collectors Marlene and Spencer Hays pledged around 600 post-Impressionist works by artists including Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard and Odilon Redon. The gift is the most important a French museum has received from a foreigner since 1945. The Musée d’Orsay has promised to display the entire collection in a dedicated gallery space.

Museo del Prado, Madrid
Fra Angelico’s The Virgin of the Pomegranate
Strengthening its collection of early Renaissance Italian art, the Prado purchased this 15th-century Florentine painting of Christ and the Virgin Mary—one of the last great works by the artist in private hands—from the 19th Duke of Alba de Tormes. The Spanish aristocrat also donated another Renaissance work that the museum recently attributed to Fra Angelico.

Centre Pompidou, Paris
20th-century Russian art
More than 250 works of Russian and Soviet art from the second half of the 20th century were donated by a group of artists and their heirs as well as the Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin and other private collectors. The additions aim to fill the blanks in the Pompidou’s “map of international Conceptualism”, says the museum’s curator Nicolas Liucci-Goutnikov.Atelier von Behr’s Hands (1930s) (Photo: © NMPFT/Royal Photographic Society/Science & Society Picture Library)

Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Royal Photographic Society collection
In a controversial move, more than 400,000 photographs housed at the National Media Museum (NMM) in Bradford, UK, were transferred to the Victoria & Albert Museum. The collection includes early daguerreotypes as well as albums and cameras, many from the Royal Photographic Society collection. The transfer is said to “create the world’s foremost collection on the art of photography” in London, but local politicians described it as a “cultural rape” of Bradford.

Royal Museums Greenwich, London
Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I
This portrait of Elizabeth I (around 1590) was acquired by Royal Museums Greenwich after a £10.3m national fundraising appeal. Painted by an unknown artist to mark England’s victory over the Spanish Armada, the work is considered a masterpiece of the English Renaissance. It is on show in the newly renovated Queen’s House, built on the site of the palace where Elizabeth I was born.

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
Minimal and conceptual art
The Düsseldorf state museums began negotiations to acquire the Dorothee and Konrad Fischer collection in 2009; the half-purchase, half-gift was finally completed this year. The collection of more than 200 works by artists including Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman and Sol LeWitt will dramatically expand the museums’ holdings of post-war American painting, conceptual art and Minimalism.

Philadelphia Museum of Art
American art bequest
The bequest from the late philanthropist and art collector Daniel W. Dietrich II includes more than 50 works of American art by Cy Twombly, Philip Guston and Agnes Martin, as well as a $10m endowment to support contemporary art programmes. Edward Hopper’s Road and Trees (1962), the first painting by the US artist to enter the collection, complements the museum’s extensive holdings of Hopper’s graphic works.

Museum of Modern Art, New York
Latin American art donation
The Museum of Modern Art cemented its position as a leading centre for the study of Latin American art with this gift of 102 Modern works by Brazilian, Venezuelan, Argentinian and Uruguayan artists from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Gustavo Cisneros. The couple also endowed a new research institute at the museum dedicated to Latin American art.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
James Goldstein House
This John Lautner-designed Modernist home near Beverly Hills is the first work of architecture to enter the museum’s collection. The house, owned by the eccentric real estate investor James Goldstein, was featured in the Coen brothers’ 1998 film The Big Lebowski. Goldstein will donate the estate and its contents as well as a $17m endowment upon his death.

The Fake and Real From Leonardo da Vinci

1. INDISPUTABLE WORKS BY THE MASTER

“Portrait of a woman (Ginevra Benci)”
1474-76
Washington , National Gallery
Although that in late 19th and early 20th century some discordant voices were heard (5) now nobody doubt of the authorship of this little jewel, appropriately called “cossa belissima (very beautiful thing)” by Vasari. First masterwork by Leonardo

“Saint Jerome”
c.1480
Roma, Pinacoteca Vaticana
Nobody have ever doubted of this unfinished work

“The adoration of the magi”
1481-82
Florencia, Uffizi
As the above, unquestionable

“The Virgin of the rocks”
1483-86
Paris , Louvre
Unquestionable work by Leonardo, with abundant documentation

“The Virgin of the rocks”
1483-86
London , National Gallery
The attribution of Leonardo, unquestionable in the 19th and early 20 th century, was questioned in the late 20th century due to the stylistic differences with the Louvre version. Nevertheless, recent in-depth studies of the work (6) have proved the authorship of Leonardo. The work was probably unfortunately repainted, and it is even possible that the two wings of the triptych were painted by a pupil, but the central panel is free of any doubts.

“The last supper”
1495-97
Milano, Convento de Santa Maria
Logically unquestionable

“Saint Anne, the Virgin, the child and Saint John”
c.1498
London , National Gallery
Another unquestionable work

“Portrait of Isabella d’Este”
c.1500
Paris , Louvre
Unfinished and in a mediocre state of preservation, however free of any doubts, with the only exception of Goldscheider (1952), who affirms that only the head is by the master

“Portrait of a woman (Gioconda, the Monna Lisa)”
1503-05
Paris , Louvre
Obviously unquestionable

“Head of a girl (La Scapigliata)”
1508
Parma , Galeria Nacionale
Few discordant voices, among them Ricci and Suida (1929). However, the mastery of the drawing and the numerous historical documents make it an unquestionable work

“Saint Anne, the Virgin and child with the lamb”
c.1510
Paris , Louvre
A never questioned masterwork, although numerous copies are known.

“Saint John the Baptist”
1513-16
Paris , Louvre
A supreme masterwork, with an astonishing technical perfection, and never discussed in a serious way, although Müller-Walde and Berenson (who later changed his opinion) considered it a work by the workshop.

The total is a dozen of works, and we can add two special cases:

“The baptism of Christ”
c.1472-75
Florencia, Uffizi
Work by Verrocchio (Leonardo’s master) but it is firmly believed by most critics that one of the angels and the landscape behind it were painted by Leonardo

Arts Education Matters

Though the arts receive relatively little attention from policymakers and school leaders, exposing young people to art and culture can have a big impact on their development. The problem is that almost no one is bothering to study and document the extent to which the arts and culture can affect students. Instead, policymakers, researchers, and schools are typically focused on what is regularly and easily measured: math and reading achievement. This leads defenders of the arts to attempt to connect the arts to improved math and reading scores—a claim for which there is almost no rigorous evidence. Other arts advocates believe that the benefits cannot and need not be measured.

But the important effects of art and cultural experiences on students can be rigorously measured. In fact, we recently conducted two studies that used random-assignment research designs to identify causal effects of exposure to the arts through museum and theater attendance. In the museum study, we held a lottery with nearly 11,000 students from 123 Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma schools, roughly half of whom were assigned to visit Crystal Bridges of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., while the other half served as the control group. In the live-theater study, we conducted a lottery to offer free tickets to roughly half of the 700 Arkansas students applying to see “Hamlet” or “A Christmas Carol” at a professional theater in Fayetteville.

By comparing outcomes for students who had these art experiences—by chance—with the outcomes of those who did not, we can identify with confidence what the arts do for young people. The approach we took, which is typical in medical research, creates treatment and control groups that are, on average, identical in their backgrounds and prior interests, with only chance determining the distinction between the two groups. Therefore, any subsequent differences we observed in the students were caused by touring an art museum or seeing live theater, not a result of pre-existing differences among them.

We were also careful to focus on outcomes that could plausibly be altered by the arts. We didn’t look at math- and reading-test scores because we have no reason to expect that arts experiences would have an impact on them. Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner, who are affiliated with the education research group Project Zero at Harvard University, have conducted systematic reviewsof the research literature and found little credible evidence that the benefits of the arts transfer to other academic subjects. We should no more expect the arts to boost math scores than expect math to enhance appreciation for the arts.

Instead, we looked at whether exposure to the arts affected students’ knowledge of the arts and altered their desire to consume the arts in the future. We also looked at whether art experiences had an effect on student values, such as tolerance and empathy. Finally, we looked at whether students’ ability to engage in critical thinking about the arts was affected by these experiences.