She's feeling a little homesick
Girl with a Pearl Earring is getting a little bit homesick, the director of the Mauritshuis confessed this week at an event in London where she spoke about the reopening of the royal picture gallery in The Hague this summer. Emilie Gordenker was referring to the round-the-world tour of the portrait by Vermeer accompanied by other key paintings of the Dutch Golden Age from the collection, during the art gallery’s €30m renovation and expansion. Girl with a Pearl Earring’s and The Goldfinch's globetrotting is drawing to an end. After Tokyo, Kobe, San Francisco, Atlanta and New York, the travelling exhibition is now on show in Bologna’s Palazzo Fava (until 25 May). From there, it’s a short hop back to The Hague to get ready for the Mauritshuis’s reopening on 27 June.
Marrakech Biennale gets a visit from the storks
Competing with the spectacular sites of Marrakech is already a challenge, but rivalling the city’s large population of storks must be even tougher. For the fifth edition of the Marrakech Biennale, which opened to the public yesterday, the Istanbul-based artist Cevdet Erek has drawn inspiration from the birds for his piece Sounding Dots and a Prison (COSDP), 2014, at the 16th-century Palais Badii. Through loudspeakers placed around a courtyard, the work mimics the clattering bills of the storks nesting on the palace’s walls. The sounds come together under a central canopy where they form a rhythmic crescendo. “The palace is owned by the storks," says Hicham Khalidi, the curator of the visual arts section of the biennial. This is certainly something to bear in mind since disturbing one of these revered animals apparently carries a hefty prison sentence.
Race is on to design new Crystal Palace
Six stellar architects and one star artist, Anish Kapoor, are working up ideas at double quick speed for a new, £500m version of the Crystal Palace, Joseph Paxton's great glass exhibition hall that dominated the south London skyline from 1854 until its fiery demise in 1936. Among the shortlisted firms announced yesterday to design a 500m-long, six storey high building "in the spirit" of Paxton's are David Chipperfield, Grimshaw, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Zaha Hadid, who is collaborating with Kapoor. The chosen architect is due to be announced this summer. Funding for the ambitious project comes from Chinese property developers ZhongRong Group, which hopes construction could start next year if planning permission is granted. The Mayor of London is an enthusiastic supporter. Some locals, not all of whom are as positive, have dubbed it the world's biggest Chinese takeaway.
Beyond the tea cosy
If you think the British are particular about their tea, think again. The forthcoming exhibition “Chigusa and the Art of Tea” at the Freer-Sackler Museum in Washington, DC (22 February-27 July), offers a peek into Omotesenke, a secret society devoted to traditional Japanese tea-making. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a 700-year-old stoneware tea-leaf storage jar affectionately named Chigusa. Never before exhibited in the US, Chigusa was held in Japanese private collections until the Freer-Sackler purchased it at auction in 2009 for $662,500. Few jars with comparable documentation survive. Since the 16th century, tea connoisseurs have dressed Chigusa up in adornments, including gold-brocaded silk and a sky blue netted bag, before beginning the ceremony. The process remains a closely guarded secret: although the ceremony can be seen via a video in the exhibition, members of Omotesenke would not permit it to be broadcast online. Visitors to the Freer-Sackler can witness the entire ceremony and sample the traditional whisked green tea for themselves on 23 March, 6 April and 28 June.
Turtles have never made great artists. It may have to do with their lack of formal art education, or their inability to access cultural institutions. Maybe it has to do with their diminished visual sensibilities, or simply their lack of hands. Various forces seem to have conspired against the terrapins, making painting, sculpture and drawing all but impossible. But these are not grounds for discrimination, as the Turtle Conservancy, a conservation group, recognises. On 23 February, the organisation is due to host a “Turtle Ball” to raise money to protect the hard-shelled animals, which are “now among the most endangered creatures on earth”. Joseph Kosuth and Richard Serra are some of the artists whose work will be auctioned off to raise funds. But that’s not all: among the expected guests are a group of exotic river turtles, who have been invited despite their lack of sophistication.
The army’s art archive
Just 20 miles outside Washington, DC, is the US military town of Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Many of the city ’s roughly 7,000 inhabitants work for the Department of Defence, which has headquarters for a number of its divisions in the area. But Fort Belvoir also hosts a group of unlikely curators who oversee the military’s collection of around 16,000 works of art, all housed at the Centre for Military History. The trove is tightly hidden away under lock and key, but the BuzzFeed reporter Benny Johnson was recently given a sneak peak. Much of the art was made by American soldiers, but the collection also includes work by Adolf Hitler, whose art was seized following the Second World War. Though none of it is publicly accessible now, the Army Historical Foundation hopes to raise $175m to build a museum for the collection by 2018.
Hunt continues for the 'real' Mona Lisa
Despite George Clooney's support, Italy is unlikely to retrieve the Louvre's most famous painting any time soon—but it might have a chance with the “real” Mona Lisa. A self-styled art detective, Silvano Vinceti, has told the Italian media about the latest red herring in his quest to unearth the remains of Lisa Gherardini, the woman widely identified as Leonardo’s enigmatic sitter. Three years after exhuming eight skeletons buried under Florence’s Convent of Saint Ursula, where Lisa Gherardini died in 1542, aged 63, the carbon-dating test results are in. Two of the three skeletons most likely to match Gherardini’s age turned out to have been buried decades earlier, while researchers’ attempts to analyse the third were foiled by its poor condition. Vinceti remains optimistic that he could find a “definitive answer” with DNA testing. Last August, his team opened the Gherardini family crypt to extract DNA from Lisa’s two sons. If a match can be made between, Vinceti promises a prize for Mona Lisa fans: a computer-generated reconstruction of the skull of Leonardo’s presumed model.
Anselm Reyle shuts up shop
The 43-year-old artist Anselm Reyle announced last month that he is retiring from the art world and closing his costly studio. The German artist–who at one point employed 50 assistants in his studio and was paying up to €800,000 a month on production–said that his rising costs caused his creativity to diminish. In an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt Reyle said: “The experimental nature [of my work] was fading more and more, partly because I had to finance the whole thing.” As commissions from collectors came flooding in, the commission were becoming “increasingly one-dimensional”, and focused primarily on his “foil paintings”, he said. “I could have kept producing and selling [the “foil paintings”], but that was not a good prospect for the future in my eyes.” Born in Tübingen in south-west Germany in 1970, Reyle moved to Berlin in 1997. After a solo exhibition at the Kunsthalle Zurich in 2006, prices for Reyle’s paintings rose astronomically (from $14,000 to $634,000 in two years), and his works began to attract high-profile collectors such as François Pinault, the owner of Christie’s. In 2007 the Gagosian Gallery started representing him in the US. In the Die Welt interview, Reyle credited the gallery for helping him avoid bankruptcy at the height of the recession by staging a major exhibition of his work in 2009. But he added: “Of course, I am also aware that other artists came first at Gagosian. I never had any illusions about that.” The artist says that he made enough money during his heyday to take a break, and has not ruled out a return.
Last Brucennial is ladies only
The fourth and final edition of the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s “Brucennial” exhibition (7 March-4 April) will exclusively show work by women artists, according to emails being circulated by the organisers. The Bruces, as the anonymous artists are collectively known, typically source the work included in the show via word of mouth, and rarely turn artists away. So, when the New York artist Elliott Arkin contacted the co-organiser Vito Schnabel’s office about participating in the upcoming event, he was surprised to learn of the new all-woman policy. “There certainly is an inequality in the art world, and it’s a serious issue,” Arkin says. “If this is a tongue-in-cheek response, is that really what they want? When asked via email, the Bruces were cagey: “We're not going to discuss the gender or sex of the artists involved in The Brucennial. As in previous years, the show will consist of a variety of artists exhibiting work across all mediums. It’s not a curated group show, it’s not an anointment ceremony into the art market or a codification of style. The Brucennial is a massive celebration of artists—knowns, unknowns, and known unknowns—the work they make, and the communities they build with each other.” But according to another email sent to artists, the group said that “for The Last Brucennial, we will spotlight all women artists. We see The Last Brucennial as a chance to focus on this crucial energy within the wider community. We won’t focus on this aspect of the exhibition in advertising the show as we think it will speak for itself. But if you have recommendations for other women artists to include, definitely send them our way!” The show is often characterized as an alternative to the coinciding Whitney Biennial (7 March-25 May). But this year’s event, taking place at a commercial building at 837 Washington Street, will be the last. The Bruces plan to refocus their energies on their free East Village art school, the Bruce High Quality Foundation University. “In other words,” the Bruces write, “THIS IS THE BIG ONE! The Grand finale!”
Who knew that the art history lobby was so powerful? After President Obama said during a forum on job training last month that “folks can make a lot more [money] potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree”, art historians sounded the alarm. Ann Collins Johns, a professor at University of Texas at Austin, sent a letter to Obama via the White House website emphasising the merits of an art history degree. On 12 February, the president responded with a handwritten note. “Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks,” he wrote. “I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favourite subjects in high school.” The president’s apology follows several events that could be interpreted as conciliatory gestures toward the field, including the installation of paintings by Edward Hopper in the Oval Office and the decision to seat Thelma Golden, the director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, at the president’s table at a recent state dinner. Collins, for her part, now feels she owes Obama an apology of her own. “Now I’m totally guilty of wasting his time,” she wrote on her Facebook page.
A place for Miami artists
The Pérez Art Museum Miami (Pamm), we were told today in a press statement, is due to present a solo exhibition of new works by the Haitian-born, Miami-based artist Edouard Duval-Carrié (13 March-31 August). “Duval-Carrié has produced a very exciting new body of work with his dark 'Imaginary Landscapes',” says the museum's chief curator Tobias Ostrander. “This suite of sparkling paintings and sculptures dialogue dynamically with the characteristics of the gallery space at Pamm, as well as with the context of tropical Miami as a Caribbean city." This announcement is certainly opportune as Maximo Caminero, a Florida artist, is reportedly facing criminal charges after deliberately dropping a vase on show at the museum by the dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. "I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here," Caminero told the Miami New Times. "They have spent so many millions now on international artists." A museum spokeswoman tells us: "We have the highest respect for freedom of expression, but this destructive act is vandalism and disrespectful to another artist and his work, to Pérez Art Museum Miami, and to our community."
Street art protest at UN for Iranian prisoners
On a snowy Tuesday morning the street artist and photographer JR's Inside Out Project and Unlock Iran took part in a protest to put pressure on the United Nations to respond to human rights violations in Iran. The organisations joined to post portraits of 13 Iranian prisoners—two of whom were reportedly executed by the state last month—outside UN headquarters in New York. The protests were timed to coincide with the P5+1 negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme. On 22 January, the UN called on Iran to halt executions after discovering that at least 40 hangings had already taken place since the start of the new year.
The motorbike racer and shepherd who could also do Abstraction
Abstraction is all the rage now in the market and some truly awful artists, such as Hans Hartung with his scratchy lines and murky colours, are flooding into the art fairs. But there is some good stuff surfacing as well, such as the paintings of the Englishman, Brian Rice. Why haven’t we heard of him? “He had a VERY heavy 60s” says Conor Mullan, the curator of a Rice retrospective currently in London, “He dropped out in 1970 to become a shepherd in Dorset”. After military service, when Rice raced motorbikes for the army, he contributed to the Swinging Sixties with gusto. He began the decade with bold, painterly work in which a pillar-box red dominates, but by the end, his pictures had become hard-edged and geometric, with a wider palette of colours. Around 1975, tending sheep palled and Rice went back to painting and print-making, teaching at the Central School and becoming the chair of the Printmakers Council. There is work by him in the Tate, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Arts Council and so on, but he has been absent from the market and the works now on show have all come from his attic in West Dorset. Rice’s pre-drop out paintings (1959-70) are on show at the Redfern Gallery until 22 February.
Jeff's Valentine for Crystal Bridges
It lifts the soul on Valentine's Day to see Jeff Koons's Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta) newly installed at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. The 9 1/2 feet-wide, shimmering gold sculpture is now suspended from the ribbed ceiling of one of the museum’s glass-walled bridges. The press statement points out that the work, one of five unique versions created by Koons, is "the only one that was retained by the artist until sold directly to Crystal Bridges in 2013". The "Hanging Heart" sculptures are part of the series titled "Celebration", which began in 1994. A spokeswoman for Koons throws light on the matter, saying: "The 'Celebration' sculptures were all made in five unique versions so no artist proofs were made. Hanging Heart (Gold/Magenta) came from Jeff's collection." Jeff himself, is thrilled. "[The display] offers an opportunity for many people to view the work in a space that has a sense of not only romantic but also spiritual transcendence,” he says.
From stove-top to gallery wall
Burnt and banged up cooking pots, oil drums crushed like soda cans, stacks of enamelled tin serving plates and tidy boxes of cassette tapes make up the installations in Maha Malluh’s current show at the Selma Feriani Gallery in London. The exhibition “Distributed Objects” (until 30 March) places the young Riyadh-based artist in conversation with others who use found objects, including Arman, César and Daniel Spoerri. The idea of turning the cast-offs of consumer culture into art came to Malluh while exploring Saudi Arabia’s souks and flea markets, the gallery explains in a press release. “When an object can not longer be used for its original purpose, a new function through ‘adaptive re-use’ may be the only chance for it to preserve and communicate the heritage in term of its significance,” Malluh says. But the artist has taken these everyday items and through careful displays turned them into something more than ordinary.
A gif is worth a thousand words
The Google’s social media arm and the Saatchi Gallery have joined forces this month on an unlikely project: an award for artists that make gifs, the short, repetitive animations that are the internet’s favourite art form. And they’ve even given the micro-videos a much flashier name. The Motion Photography Prize, which is to have some suitably high-profile judges, including the film director Baz Luhrmann and the artist Cindy Sherman, will be given in six categories to users of a new feature on Google Plus that lets people create gifs quicker than ever. The finalists will get to travel to London and have their work shown at the Saatchi Gallery, while the overall winner will get the chance to go on “the trip of a lifetime with a photographer or filmmaker of their choice”, according to a press release. Not bad for a medium that is usually reserved for funny animal antics and celebrity outtakes.
Oceanic art survey clinches Art Book Prize
A sweeping survey of Oceanic art from the prehistoric period to the present day won the annual Art Book Prize, supported by The Art Newspaper and awarded by The Authors Club each year to a publication on art and architecture. The editors of Art in Oceania: A New History, Peter Brunt and Nicholas Thomas, enlisted a huge team of anthropologists, art historians and curators from across the globe to compile the hefty catalogue, published by Yale University Press. Bursting with illustrations of statues, fabrics, weapons and ritual objects, the book kept the picture researchers busy for three years bringing together all the images. Lissant Bolton, the Keeper of the Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the British Museum, who contributed to the book, was on hand at the award’s ceremony last night at London's National Liberal Club to collect the £1,000 prize from the former TV presenter and arts patron, Loyd Grossman.
Back to work, Maurizio
For someone who is supposed to be retired, Maurizio Cattelan is keeping mighty busy. Since the Italian sculptor announced he would stop making art in 2011, he has created a billboard for the High Line in New York and produced several issues of the art magazine Toilet Paper. Now, Cattelan is turning his attention to high fashion. The artist and his Toilet Paper co-founder Pierpaolo Ferrari have produced a fashion spread for the latest edition of New York magazine. The photographs put a surreal twist on spring style: a shot of disembodied Chanel heels hovering in front of a cloudy sky is reminiscent of René Magritte, while a picnic spread of meats and lace-up boots recalls the work of the Pop artist Tom Wesselmann.
Sochi opening ceremony embraces the avant-garde
Malevich! Kandinsky! Chagall! While the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi on Friday pirouetted through Russian cultural history, from Tchaikovsky to pop duo Tatu, some of the most visually arresting segments included references to avant-garde artists. Imagery from Rodchenko, Malevich and Tatlin, to Vera Mukhina’s Stalin-era “Worker and Collective-Farm Girl” statue, was used to describe the dizzying spin from revolutionary innovation to repressive bloodshed that marked the first decades of the Soviet era. After the ceremony, Russian artists and the liberal intelligentsia struggled to decode the disconcerting embrace of the avant-garde by a regime they’re used to deriding. Many who had spent weeks denouncing the impending Olympics as an epic waste ended up praising the ceremony as a sign that Russia’s leadership wants to be part of Europe. Others saw troubling parallels to Leni Riefenstahl’s glorification of Adolf Hitler’s regime during the 1936 games in Berlin. The contemporary cultural impresario Marat Guelman saw potential for softening Putin through praise: “He needs to feel that attempts to become European are immediately appreciated and not rejected, otherwise if he sees that whatever he does he is trashed, he’ll spit on it all and start building an Orthodox Iran.”
Howard's sporting efforts for Sochi
We've been gearing up to watch today's opening ceremony at the Winter Olympic games in Sochi (7 February), and thought we'd look at some of the art created for the sporting event. The British Olympic Association commissioned Sir Howard Hodgkin to create a limited-edition print to benefit the UK team. The light blue abstract composition, Ice, produced in partnership with Counter Editions, comes in an edition of 350 and is priced at £1,000. This is not the first time the Turner Prize-winning artist has created work for the Olympics; he also designed one of the official posters for the London games in 2012. Like Ice, the Swimming piece took water as its theme. (Hodgkin says water is an enduring source of inspiration despite the fact that, ironically, he cannot swim.) But not everyone is thrilled with the artist’s abstract approach to the games. After Team GB published an image of the print on its website, several people voiced their disapproval in the comments. “If this is the best GB can come up with, roll on Scottish Independence!” one reader spluttered.
The price of Bacon
In 1988, a portrait of Francis Bacon by his friend Lucian Freud was stolen from the walls of the Neue National Galerie in Berlin. Although the thief is suspected to be a Bacon-obsessed art student rather than a trained criminal, the painting’s whereabouts remain a mystery. (Freud himself designed a wanted poster for the work in 2001, promising a reward of 300,000 Deutsch marks, but found no success before his death.) Now, the art crime researcher Charles Hill wants to crack the case. He hopes that the recent publicity surrounding the sale of Bacon’s portrait of Freud, which fetched a headline-making $142.4m at Christie’s in November, will inspire a worldwide search for the missing work. In the pages of the spring issue of Garage Magazine, he calls for information that could lead to the recovery of the work. “There may well be a reward comparable to the one advertised on the 2001 poster, but that has yet to be decided,” Hill writes. Will that be enough to bring home the Bacon?
Pussy Riot comes to New York
In New York for a concert tonight hosted by the human rights group Amnesty International, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been making the media rounds. The pair sat down last night with the satirist Stephen Colbert to talk about their time in prison and their thoughts on Russia’s anti-gay laws. “They're about to make being part of the gay community a criminal offense,” Masha explained to Stephen, who jokingly asked: “Do you think gay people will make the right decision and stop being gay?” “I don't know, in our experience, it just turns them on even more,” Nadya quipped back.
Living it up at Frieze
The organisers of the Frieze London art fair plan to dedicate free floor space to live performances during this year’s edition (16-19 October). The section, called Live, will be for “ambitious participatory works—for example, interactive installation, architectural intervention and timed or durational performance”, according to the application form. Nicola Lees, the curator of Frieze Projects, will advise on the project, which will take up around 120 sq. m of the tent, although proposed interventions in other areas, such as the lavatories, are also encouraged. The Art14 fair (28 February-2 March) also returns to London with its popular performance booth this month.