Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

The world's first commercially produced
 Christmas card, designed by John Callcott Horsley for
Henry Cole in 1843

I'll be taking a couple of weeks off from blogging to enjoy the holiday (and to clean out the garage which is starting to look like an episode of Hoarders). I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading, clicking and responding to my various musings on art this past year, and to wish you a wonderful holiday season! See you in January.

Here's my favorite French Christmas carol performed by Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1982 (thanks Kendra for reminding me). Enjoy!

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery

January 8 - February 12, 2012
Bianca Kolonusz-Partee: Countries of Origin
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 8, 2-5pm
Closing Reception: Sunday, February 12, 2-5pm

January 8 - February 12, 2012
Megan Madzoeff:Cut It Out!
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 8, 2-5pm
Closing Reception: Sunday, February 12, 2-5pm

January 20, 2012
Offramp Gallery Director Jane Chafin will be participating in a panel discussion at the 17 Annual LA Art Show at the LA Convention Center on Friday, January 20 at 4pm: A MATTER OF DEGREES -- MFA, PhD in Art: Is it all BS?, sponsored by Artillery Magazine. Other panelists include: Betty Brown, Tucker Neel, Austin Young and Anuradha Vikram.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Myron Kaufman's "Horse Scents" | Feud Update: Is The Art World's One Percent Imploding?

Myron Kaufman, Big Bertha Gives Birth, 2011,
acrylic on canvas, 18" x 24"
Congratulations to Offramp Gallery artist Myron Kaufman, on the publication of his first short story, Horse Scents, in Bomb Magazine. Horse Scents, which is also illustrated by Myron, is the offbeat story of a man who falls in love with a horse. It begins with a touching introduction by Myron's son, filmmaker and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. If you're familiar with Charlie's work, you're about to learn that in the Kaufman family, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Hold on to your hats -- it's a wild ride.

Click here for Part I of Horse Scents

Click here for Part II of Horse Scents

Click here to learn more about Myron Kaufman

* * *

Feud Update: Is The Art World's One Percent Imploding?

Last week I blogged about a public feud that had erupted in the upper echelons of the art world. The emperor is suddenly naked and his minions are scrambling to publically cover their asses. Mud is being slung far and wide.

Here is a recap of where things stood when I posted last week:

*Son-of-a-billionaire art collector Adam Lindemann had written in the New York Observer that he wasn't going to Art Basel Miami Beach because he didn't want to be "seen rubbing elbows with all those phonies and scenesters, people who don’t even pretend they are remotely interested in art . . ." And then he went.

*Advertising mogul/art collector and owner of the Saatchi Gallery, Charles Saatchi threw his hat in the ring with an article in the Guardian stating,""Even a show-off like me finds this new, super-rich art-buying crowd vulgar and depressingly shallow."

*New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz jumped in and neatly analyzed the feud with an article titled:
The Prince of the One Percent [Lindemann] Would Like You to Know That Buying Art Is Less Fun These Days.

On Wednesday evening Lindemann responded to Saltz by posting this article, Columnist Adam Lindemann Responds to the Critics of “Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now!” on GalleristNY. Lindemann defends his actions by saying that his article was "meant to stimulate dialogue" and ends with another promise I'm sure he has no intention of fulfilling: "Nonetheless I apologize to any and all of you who in sympathy with him have taken offense, and so that we may be friends again I promise that I will never attend another art fair, buy another work of art or express my views in print."

Early Thursday this video of a secret meeting of Jerry Saltz & Charles Saatchi in a sauna appeared on FaceBook:

On Friday afternoon Jerry Saltz suddenly called for a truce in a FaceBook post:

"Not that it matters to anyone; but it matters to me - so I want to get this on the record. I have met Mr. Adam Lindemann. I like Adam Lindemann. I bear [sic] him no grudge.

"He and I disagree on a lot of stuff. He had his say in print; I had my say in print. We had a critical cat-fight in public (always good to watch critics go at it). But I'm okay with him; and look forward to going at it in print again, or not. Kumbyeya"

German artist Anselm Kiefer got his hands dirty in this article in the Guardian. He started out taking the high road:

"Art is difficult," says the 66-year-old firmly. "It's not entertainment. There are only a few people who can say something about art – it's very restricted. When I see a new artist I give myself a lot of time to reflect and decide whether it's art or not. Buying art is not understanding art."

But then he lobbed this grenade, using Charles Saatchi's own words against him:

"It sounds as though Kiefer, who was born in the Black Forest but has lived in France since 1991,
endorses Charles Saatchi's view that the art world is eurotrashy, vulgar and masturbatory. 'He described himself, no?' says the artist, laughing uproariously. '[These days] art becomes fashion, it becomes [financial] speculation, but Saatchi started it.'"

Mom, he started it!

Finally, this article about son-of-a-car-salesman artist Damien Hirst appeared in the LA Times: Damien Hirst prepares to unleash another blizzard for buyers. In January, Gagosian will fill all eleven of its galleries worldwide with Hirst's "spot" paintings, about 300 altogether, the vast majority of which were made by his assistants.

Hirst defends the ubiquity and inflated value of his assembly line work by saying:

"You also have to ask yourself as an artist, 'What would be more appealing … to have made the Mona Lisa painting itself or have made the merchandising possibilities — putting a postcard on everyone's walls all over the world? Both are brilliant, but in a way I would probably prefer the postcards — just to get my art out there.'"

It's the merchandising, stupid!

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is the Art World's 1% Unraveling?; A Fantastic Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

In the last couple of weeks a feud has erupted in the upper echelons of gazillionaire art collectors. Three articles making the rounds on social media are at the center of the controversy. First there was Occupy Art Basel Miami Beach, Now! by son-of-a-billionaire art collector Adam Lindemann, in the New York Observer in which Lindemann emphatically states:

"I’m not going to Art Basel Miami Beach this year. I’m through with it, basta. It’s become a bit embarrassing, in fact, because why should I be seen rubbing elbows with all those phonies and scenesters, people who don’t even pretend they are remotely interested in art?"

And then emphatically re-states:

"How many celebrities will I meet? How many mega-collectors will I greet? How many curators will I schmooze and how many artists will I chat up? None, because I’m not going."

Then he promptly did go Miami and did do all of the aforementioned things he said he wasn't going to do.

The next to enter the fray was advertising mogul/art collector and owner of the Saatchi Gallery, Charles Saatchi, with an article in the GuardianThe Hideousness of the Art World. At least Saatchi is self-deprecating as the pot calls the kettle black:

"Even a show-off like me finds this new, super-rich art-buying crowd vulgar and depressingly shallow."

New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz jumped in yesterday and neatly analyzed the feud in his article, The Prince of the One Percent Would Like You to Know That Buying Art Is Less Fun These Days:

"It looks like the art world has entered an ugly finger-pointing period. Call it the Shoot the Wounded Phase: Players at the top are starting to accuse each other of being craven, cronyistic bad actors. Everyone knows something bad is brewing, that some end or explosion is imminent amid the obscene prices, profligate spending, celebrity-artist worship, obnoxious behavior of the rich, and art as entertainment. People are showing up to say, 'It wasn’t me. It was him! It was her! It was them!'"

Stay tuned -- I'm sure we haven't heard the end of this one.

* * *

Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

Albertus Seba (1665-1736) was a Dutch apothecary and passionate collector of natural specimens. After a lifetime of collecting, he commissioned various artists to make copper-plate engravings of his specimens which were first published in several volumes, some posthumously, between 1734 and 1765. Using reproductions from a rare hand-colored original belonging to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Taschen brings us yet another luscious and affordable coffee table book, Albertus Seba: Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. Eye-popping displays of birds, butterflies, snakes, seashells, sea urchins, exotic plants, crocodiles, crustaceans and more, ignite the imagination and leave us in awe of the diversity of the natural world as well as the engravers' skill in producing these beautifully detailed plates.

In her essay, Albertus Seba's Collection of Natural Specimens and its Pictorial Inventory, Irmgard Musch writes that in Seba's day, "Doctors and apothecaries were pioneers of the empirical sciences, which had been growing significantly in importance since the Renaissance. Unlike today, medications were not synthetically made but mixed together from natural constituents. A whole range of traditional recipes were available to those versed in the art of creating remedies from animal, vegetable and mineral ingredients. But many did not stop there. They continued the search for new methods, collecting natural specimens from distant lands, studying them, and testing their potential uses. Their passion for collecting and researching often extended beyond immediate pharmaceutical applications. In many instances apothecaries started major natural history collections and contributed personally to the growing knowledge of nature."

Arrow squids/Flying squids; 7-8 Ovum, Sepia eggs; 9-10 Sepiidae, Cuttlebone of a sepia. Credit: Taschen

Albertus Seba was so passionate about collecting that he would meet ships as they pulled into harbor in Amsterdam and buy specimens from all corners of the globe directly from sailors before they had a chance to disembark. Snakes and mammals were preserved in jars of alcohol, often resulting in distortions in form and coloring that we see in some of the plates. Seba's success as an apothecary and reputation as a collector was well known, even to the Russian tsar, Peter the Great, who often bought medicines from him and eventually bought the entirety of his first collection.

Albertus Seba, Volume I, Plate 39; 1 'Didelphis marsupialis', Southern common opossum, credit: Taschen

Among the thousands of specimens depicted, there are few interesting anomalies thrown in: siamese goat twins, a flying dragon, a mythical seven-headed hydra and a fictive (and very convincing) metamorphosis of frogs into fishes. Three essays round out our understanding of Seba's life and the scientific value of his collections, but it is the plates themselves that provide endless fascination.

credit: Taschen
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