August 21, 2019

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription


In this issue:

Hidden number discovered in conservation helps reveal painting is from Titian's workshop
Plein-air art occasionally involves dodging stormy weather
What’s it like to be an Amazon artist in residence?
Kennedy Center Picks George W. Bush’s Artwork For First Exhibit In New Venue
Culture Keeper
Torn between two interests, SIUC student finds a way to combine art and geology
Trump delays tariffs on Chinese goods until December—but not for art and antiquities
Isenheim altarpiece restorers invite visitors in
The Artist Bloc marks fifth anniversary, honors Triad artists with awards

 

 

 

 

 

Hidden number discovered in conservation helps reveal painting is from Titian's workshop
Part of the Wellington Collection in London, the picture was originally believed to be by a minor north Italian artist

A painting in the Duke of Wellington’s collection which was attributed to a minor north Italian artist is being upgraded to Titian’s workshop—or even possibly partly by the master. Since 1901, the 16th-century painting Orpheus Enchanting the Animals has been regarded as the work of Alessandro Varotari (known as Padovanino, since he was born in Padua). The picture was among those which the 1st duke brought to London in 1813 after the battle of Vitoria, in northern Spain.

Orpheus Enchanting the Animals goes back on display today in Apsley House, known as Number 1 London, the duke’s residence at Hyde Park Corner. English Heritage, which opens the mansion to the public, organised a project to reline the canvas and remove disfiguring old varnish.

During the work, a Spanish royal inventory number was discovered on the reverse of the original canvas which links it to a 1601 entry recording the picture as by Titian. At this date Varotari would have been aged 13, so he cannot have been the artist.

Josephine Oxley, the curator of the Wellington collection, studied the newly cleaned work and concluded that the body of Greek hero Orpheus and his red drapery is of high quality. “The picture appears to come from the studio of Titian, and the finer parts may have been done by the master,” she says, dating the work to the 1560s. Alice Tate-Harte, who conserved the painting, agrees, saying that Titian may have been responsible for “some of the underpainting or added finishing touches”.

Three leading Titian specialists were invited to inspect Orpheus Enchanting the Animals in the conservation studio, but all had differing views on the attribution. Now the picture is back on display, hopefully other experts will see the work and reach a consensus. A full report on the painting is due next year in a Titian monograph from the Italian conservation publisher Kermes. The Art Newspaper

 

Plein-air art occasionally involves dodging stormy weather

Plein-air painters get used to all sorts of weather. Because of the nature of their studio — outside, in the plain air — they operate without a roof over their heads. Unless, of course, they choose to bring one of their own.

“During the Paint du Nord Quick Draw competition in Duluth, Minn., we painted in a huge rainstorm,” watercolor artist Jan Vogtman remembers. “The competition lasted two hours, exactly — they blow a horn to start and stop.”

Told to paint what she saw, Vogtman took the challenge literally.

“My painting shows all the artists painting around me with colorful umbrellas.”

Another time, the Troy, Idaho, painter joined three artist friends in the wilderness, keeping a watchful eye as a memorable storm took an hour to build up.

“When the wind and rain came, we huddled in the car, ate lunch and had a few beers. But the storm had no intention of stopping anytime soon, so we gave it up and went home.”

Even Vogtman’s trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, had its moments. While the weather was grand during the Andy Evansen watercolor workshop she took there with a friend, sunny skies disappeared on the way back.

“We got stranded in Seattle during the Big Blizzard and got home two days later than planned.”

Weather inconsistencies, however, are so much a part of plein-air painting that one comes to accept them as constants. So is the matter of travel. Because landscapes do not transport themselves to the artist’s studio, it’s up to the artist to transport herself. And for Vogtman, who lives on Moscow Mountain, four miles from the nearest city of Troy, population 600, getting together with plein-air artist friends for an afternoon of painting often involves significant time in the car.

“Because I live rural, my travel time is normally one hour each way.”

Vogtman discovered watercolor 24 years ago while working at the University of Idaho. Side by side with students barely out of high school, she took as many university level art classes as she could while maintaining a full workload.

She discovered plein-air in 2009 and since then has competed in regional plein-air competitions as well as the event in Duluth. She is a member of the Palouse Watercolor Socius, the Idaho Watercolor Society headquartered in Boise, and the Northwest Watercolor Society in Seattle.

And while art is something she was interested in from a very early age, it was not something she was able to focus on until she was an adult and had a “real career” in the business and academic worlds. That’s just the way things were when she was growing up, even though all her A’s in school were in art, not math.

Vogtman recalls the time she entered a drawing competition sponsored by the Minneapolis Art Institute in her hometown.

“I was maybe around 12 years old — and when I saw this competition in the newspaper, I entered. I think the amount of the prize was $250, which had to be used for classes.

“My parents could not afford to send me then or at any time for art education. I was told I could not collect the award.”

She went to school to become a secretary. In a career spanning 36 years, Vogtman worked up to executive assistant to the vice president of Northern Europe for the Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis, and later, upon moving to Idaho, served as the coordinator of the Executive Speaker Series, reporting to the dean of business and economics at the University of Idaho. On retiring in 2000, she challenged herself to dive into the art world, returning to her childhood passion.

In addition to plein-air, Vogtman paints in her studio, a daylight basement of her home where furry forest friends peek through the window and watch.

Most recently, she has added teaching workshops to taking them herself, conducting an introductory course for 20 students at the Center for Arts and History in Lewiston. She has had a studio at the Artisan Barn in Uniontown, Wash.; earned her merit membership with the Idaho Watercolor Society upon being juried into three annual shows; and served as treasurer of the Palouse Watercolor Socius.

What started out as a hobby has become a business. And what’s perfect about that is how the non-art experience blends and melds well with the brush work of paint.

It’s unexpected and not something that could have been predicted when she exchanged an art scholarship for business school. Life, though, like weather for the plein-air painter, is never static. The best stories — and often paintings — involve stormy days. Union-Bulletin.com

 

What’s it like to be an Amazon artist in residence?

When Celeste Cooning entered her workspace in one of Amazon’s buildings last year to start her stint as the company’s first artist in residence, she was immediately encased by four glass walls. She, her materials, and her art were on display for all of Amazon to see. Then she got to work.

She took a large old rope — from Seattle’s boating industry — and suspended it between two columns, and also used her signature cut-paper method, where she hand cuts different shapes and patterns into her material, to create a site-specific installation in Amazon’s Bigfoot building. It took 10 weeks, but the delicate piece of work provides contrast to Bigfoot’s darker architecture.

Cooning is among six artists who have taken part in Amazon’s 2-year-old artist-in-residence program, which is issuing its third call for artists to apply for the 10-week stint; applications are due Aug. 22. The gig comes with a $15,000 stipend and a 450-square-foot glass studio in Amazon’s Doppler building to call their own.

It’s a chance for artists to get paid for their work and have it seen by people who otherwise might not be familiar with their art. But it also means grappling with an unfamiliar work environment while continuing to create and evolve as artists, and wrestling with the idea of working, not just for a corporation but a company that has changed so much of Seattle — for better or worse.

Cooning has been working in Seattle’s arts community for seven years, making her living creating installation pieces with cut paper, soft materials and suspensions. She’s always had an eye out for opportunities to make art and — preferably — get paid. That’s what makes the Amazon residency program so competitive. Since Amazon started the program, it’s received between 150 and 170 applications. Only four artists are selected each year.

“There’s a lot of value in being the first [resident],” said Cooning. “The fact that there’s never been one way this program has ever been done before means there’s an opportunity to figure out the best way to move forward.”

The program began as an effort to support creative spaces, said Lara Hirschfield, senior program manager at Amazon. There was a demand among Amazon employees to dedicate more space and resources to the arts. After piloting a slightly different form of the program in 2016, Hirschfield and her team considered what their next steps should be.

“We thought it would really be an amazing opportunity to have an artist come into our space with a bit more intention and a more formalized program,” said Hirschfield. “We wanted employees to connect directly with our artists over a 10-week program.”

With that, the artist-in-residence program was born. Some of the artists created poured glass work, others experimented with cut paper and kinetic sculptures. Artists are expected to bring their own art supplies. Within the glass studio, the artist’s work and process will be on full display to passersby and curious Amazon employees, who can ask questions while they work.

“Much of what the panelists are looking for when going through submissions are artists whose creative journey is something that people can engage [with] before the artist is finished with the piece,” said Line Sandsmark, executive director of Shunpike, a Seattle-based group that provides fiscal sponsorships and opportunities for artists. Shunpike is working with Amazon to issue the call for local artists to apply to the residency program.

This setup may not be for all artists, said Cooning and Markel Uriu, another former Amazon artist in residence. You have to be comfortable being exposed.

“I don’t think this residency is for everyone — I think there has to be a willingness to be uncomfortable,” said Uriu. “I’m actually a fairly private person and the studio is a very personal space to me. For me, being who I am, it could be intense at times. But I also had some really meaningful interactions.”

Uriu is a late-night worker, so she ended up meeting more Amazon employees than she intended; she became friends with the security and cleaning crew. The glass box led her to meet people who were interested in looking at her work, either late at night or in the middle of the afternoon.

“In that way, there were certain elements that were uncomfortable and others that I thought were really fruitful,” said Uriu. “I like interacting with people, I like talking to people about ideas and about art.”

Another challenge was learning how to work and exist within a corporation — especially one with the power and influence of Amazon.

“I think I have an overarching issue with a lot of corporations. There’s a lot of ways the systems need to be overhauled,” said Uriu. “But if corporations do exist, I believe they should engage morally or with the consciousness and awareness of a community outside their corporation.”

During her time at Amazon, Uriu was researching and experimenting with invasive species and how that translated into Western attitudes about foreignness. The longer she stayed at Amazon, the more curious she got about the space. She got to learn about Amazon from the inside out — but it also pushed her out of her element.

“I almost felt like I was doing more research because I had never been in a corporate environment,” said Uriu. “I was getting pretty obsessed with even a glimpse into how Amazon works. It is an insular space and not many people have access to that.”

She struggled with the idea of working for a corporation, she said. But “within the context of this program, for me, it felt like an opportunity to start finding that kind of support with hopes it can start a positive interaction [between corporations and the arts].”

Cooning saw working for Amazon as a venture into a strange land. She didn’t speak the same language or have the same cycles and rhythms as other Amazon employees.

Since moving to Seattle several years ago, Cooning says she has had an ambitious dedication to her career, leading to her “different perspective on the notion of selling out.” The Seattle Times

 

Kennedy Center Picks George W. Bush’s Artwork For First Exhibit In New Venue

Paintings by former president George W. Bush will be the very first exhibit at the Reach, the Kennedy Center’s brand new arts space.

“Portraits of Courage,” a collection of 66 oil paintings of military veterans, will be displayed this fall from October 7 to November 15 at the Reach following a 16-day inaugural festival for the venue in September.

Bush’s paintings have been on a North American tour since last year, with previous stops in Ottawa, San Antonio, and Palm Beach, Florida. In a press release, Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said that Bush’s artwork will be a “fitting first exhibition” for the Reach.

“The Kennedy Center is proud to share these works—painted by a living president—that honor the men and women who defend our freedom to explore, celebrate, and create art,” Rutter said. “This collection, arriving at the REACH on the heels of its public opening in September, showcases the versatility of the space, inviting patrons and tourists to experience the new expansion for the first time.”

Bush’s artwork has received a fair amount of public attention in the past. In 2013, a Romanian hacker named Guccifer stole a trove of personal data from the Bush family, and leaked two unfinished self-portraits depicting the former president bathing.

While some of Bush’s earlier work, like his expansive collection of dog paintings, have been mocked by the media, “Portraits of Courage” has received favorable reviews from several major newspapers. In a 2017 review, the New York Times described Bush’s paintings as “haunting” work from an “evocative and surprisingly adept artist who has dramatically improved his technique.”

But other critics have pointed out the inescapable irony of a president paying artistic tribute to the same members of the military that he sent to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Portraits of Courage” emerged from Bush’s ongoing work with veterans through the Military Service Initiative, an organization that helps members of the military transition back into civilian life, according to the website for the George W. Bush Presidential Center.

The collection has also been turned into a hardcover book that includes stories of the veterans depicted in each painting written by the former president himself.

The Reach is a three-building, 72,000 square-foot addition to the Kennedy Center that is made of various rehearsal and performance spaces. The new space marks the Kennedy Center’s first major expansion since it opened its doors to the public in 1971. The venue’s opening in the fall comes two years later than projected, and with a price tag $100 million over budget.

The “Portraits of Courage” exhibit will be on display from October 7 to November 15 in Studio K at the Reach. FREE timed-entry tickets available starting September 3. dcist

 

Culture Keeper
Pete Salcido's Flat Black Art Supply is leading the Coachella Valley's urban art movement.

Back when he was “bombing,” or scrawling his name on freeway overpasses, Pete Salcido didn’t foresee that one day he would be an entrepreneur with a retail store in a shopping mall. The space he calls Flat Black Art Supply used to be the security office, a sweet touch of irony for someone who ran from cops.

Today, Salcido is busy in totally different ways. The 37-year-old street artist’s phone buzzes every few minutes with another message related to one of his ventures. His team of six artists landed a commission to paint graffiti on an Airbnb near Pioneertown. He’s partnering with the management of Westfield Palm Desert to hold weekly Art Labs, where kids, teens, and adults create custom clothing and artwork using spray paint and markers. In tandem with his wife, Laura Salcido, he’s launched monthly Art Walks at the mall, where more than 30 artists and craftspeople display paintings, sculpture, woodworking, jewelry, and skincare. He’s bringing in new artists to add more murals inside and outside Westfield Palm Desert, and to refresh the extensive collection on the top floor of its parking garage.

Salcido and collaborator Aaron Hansen recently wrapped up a project for the Palm Springs Public Arts Commission, recruiting 20 artists to spruce up concrete footings at the site of the future Virgin Hotel in downtown Palm Springs, along with the surrounding construction fence. This month, the team will roll out more classes and workshops, including one on podcasting.

The headquarters for all this activity is what Salcido calls “the shop”: Flat Black, an almost 3,000-square-foot mix of art supply store, clothing boutique, gallery, and studio space. The name refers to Krylon’s Ultra Flat Black, a classic spray color favored by taggers. The shop is more than twice as big as Salcido’s previous location on the corner of Highway 111 and Panorama Drive in Palm Desert. Flat Black officially opened July 13 with a party that served as a record release for hip-hop musicians Provoked and WillDaBeast and a solo show for the painter Boise.

“There’s always been a scene here for what I do, but I think it’s been more on the underground,” Salcido says. “It’s not so out in the open as in Los Angeles or any big city where young people’s voices are a little louder.”

Salcido estimates that between 300 and 400 people attended the event. The laidback, eclectic crowd ranged in age from toddlers to grandparents. Leslie Malloy came from Rancho Mirage with a friend in tow. A recent convert to street art, the party’s vibe “made her feel 12 years younger” — a testament to the appeal of an art form that was once in the shadows.

“We didn’t start as street artists trying to sell art supplies,” Salcido says. “We started as graffiti writers trying to sell supplies to graffiti writers for vandalism.”

As street art continues to move into the mainstream, the dynamic between rebellion and respectability hangs in the air like a whiff of weed. Graffiti traces its lineage to the first marks made on a wall — the term derives from Italian and Greek words meaning to scratch or scribble — and street art exploded in sophistication in the 1970s and ’80s, when artists learned how to manipulate aerosols for eye-popping three-dimensional effects. Despite that, the genre didn’t receive full-fledged endorsement until 2011 when the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles hosted “Art in the Streets,” billed as the first major U.S. museum exhibition of graffiti and street art.

Eight years later, it’s still hard to shake questions of legality. The morning after Salcido and his team began painting the construction fence in downtown Palm Springs, a city subcontractor mistakenly “buffed,” or erased, the art, returning the fence to bland beige. The team had to redo almost four murals. They took it in stride. Salcido compares spots like downtown Palm Springs or the Westfield parking garage to “a revolving door.”

“Your art might be there for a year, but then it’s gone,” Salcido says. “That’s one of the things we’ve always faced. None of our art is permanent.” He notes, “This culture is always going to be here, regardless.”

Talk to artists and the lines between graffiti, street art, and murals are made clear. Those distinctions are often lost on the public. In San Francisco, sanctioned street art was defaced when it was associated with encroaching gentrification. In Austin and Miami, unsanctioned murals became beloved by the community, who fought to keep them. The difference often comes down to aesthetics, context, and intent.

With graffiti, “the concept is to put your name in as many places as you can in order to get recognition from society, basically leaving a stamp on society,” Salcido says. “That’s where I started, that’s where a lot of my friends started. If you want to, you grow into doing custom pieces or gallery stuff. But in my eyes, you have to earn that.”

Salcido honed his talent in L.A. alleys, and his burly forearms bear tattoos from crews that he ran with. A large one, “NBC,” stands for “No Brain Cells.” He started working at age 18, helping his dad deliver alternators around West L.A., and became a father himself that year.

It was an accelerated transition from youth to adult. As he moved up through a variety of jobs — hotel desk clerk, general manager of a taxicab company — his self-image changed. He saw that he had a future, one that didn’t involve jail time.

“There’s this misconception, when you’re young and you’re from a lower-income community,” he says, “Basically, that’s what you are.” Taking on responsibility put him “in a position of hope. I was definitely not used to that. I didn’t see anything further than the environment I was in. That’s just how it was.”

In 2006, while in the middle of a divorce, Salcido visited the Coachella Valley to relax. Expecting to find tumbleweeds and not much else, the desert surprised him. He stayed. Now, when he’s stocking the shop or planning a mural, he looks for artisans who tell their story of desert living — not poolside martinis and golf greens, but the way the pavement feels when it’s 106 degrees at night and the fierce pride of being a local in a town that loves its tourists.

Salcido aims for Flat Black to be a place where all artists are comfortable, regardless of style, experience, or background. He knows what it’s like to walk into a gallery and not feel welcome. He believes that if an artist is ready to move to the next level, they should be given the opportunity to prove themselves “just like anybody should.” As a result, Flat Black is more than a commercial venture; it’s a social hub, a nexus for the large network of artists in the valley.

“People take to this because they see a success story from someone who started right where they started,” Salcido says. “I’m one of them, and they’re me. We earned the right to do this. We fought to do this. A lot of people that I know have paid fines and been to jail. To be able to do this for money and have someone admire it — it’s a blessing.” Palm Springs Life

 

Torn between two interests, SIUC student finds a way to combine art and geology

When first walking on campus at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, it is often hard to choose from the 200 degree plans available. Bill Sieber faced that problem as an undergraduate, until he found a way to do it all.

A non-traditional student when he first came to campus, Sieber started his undergraduate degree in the geology department. While he soon decided to switch gears and follow his passion in art, he could not completely abandon his love for geology. Now as he finishes his MFA program, he has found a way to create beautiful pieces with strong geological themes.

“All of the pieces have roots in my interest in geology,” Sieber said. “I have really come full circle from where I began. I have not abandoned my interest in geology; I am just now translating it into artwork.”

Before Sieber ever picks up a piece of metal or starts pouring concrete, he starts with a simple sketch of his idea. Anytime an idea hits him or he sees something unique and inspiring, he jots down his thoughts and creates rudimentary sketches. Many of these sketches turn into masterpieces, while others fall by the wayside.

After he develops an idea and sketch, Sieber picks which type of material to use for the project. While he has many options to choose from, he is intentional about matching the material with the core feelings and message of the piece.

“I love sculpture, because you aren’t stuck with just one material,” Sieber said. “I like to use different materials and processes for each unique project; I can use glass, metal, concrete, among others.”

While each piece has a certain amount of thought behind it, much of his work turns into trial and error.

“I usually start to make something, and then I discover what I did wrong and I make something else,” Sieber said.

Instead of seeing this process as a failure, Sieber just makes quick adjustments and creates new pieces as he goes. Often, he will tackle several works in a series at the time, designing unique but similar pieces for various exhibits.

With such a diversity of interests, Sieber often works on multiple projects at once. He may create a piece in printmaking while waiting for concrete to dry, or experiment with a wooden sculpture while waiting for a glass piece to cool. The goal is to always be learning and growing as an artist.

“The thing that excites me the most is little details,” Sieber said. “Some people like to step back and admire their finished work, but I like when I come up with small solutions and figure out the little pieces as I go. The best part is when you struggle through an issue, and then it finally works.”

Earlier this year, Sieber won second place for his unique sustainability-focused piece at Reclaimed!, a juried exhibition at the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County in North Carolina. The exhibition worked to promote recycling by accepting art pieces that reused materials in new ways.

Sieber designed a large fishnet like piece, titled “Ocean Sweep” from plastic drinking straws and fishing line. Following the guidelines of the exhibition, over 70% of the piece came from reused materials. The giant fishing net stretches out over 20 square feet, and is on exhibit until Aug. 17.

“A lot of my work has environmental elements to it,” Sieber said. “When I made this piece last year, it was first becoming popular for people to opt out of using plastic straws. I wanted to make something that reflected that movement.”

As Sieber continues to explore new techniques and ideas for his pieces, he is also building a name for himself in the art field. Just in the last few weeks, he has driven over 2,400 miles to drop off his pieces, with several others shipped to their exhibition location.

Currently, Sieber’s work is in five different shows, stretching from Denver, to Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Fayetteville, North Carolina.

One of Sieber’s favorite parts of the MFA program is the continual collaboration and inspiration from his peers in the program. He also keeps busy with two graduate assistantships, including acting as an instructor of record, teaching a beginning sculpture class. The past two years he has also served as president of Critical Forum, a sculpture student organization.

Sieber plans to continue his work and artistic discovery after graduation, with many other exhibits and competitions in his future. The Southern Illinoisan

 

Trump delays tariffs on Chinese goods until December—but not for art and antiquities
New 10% tax will come into force on 1 September and apply to all works originating from China, regardless of where they are imported from

Christmas came early for some as Donald Trump delayed new tariffs on Chinese goods until mid-December in order to buoy holiday sales on consumer products. It is "bah humbug" for the art trade, however—a new 10% tariff on art, antiques and antiquities will take effect 1 September, continuing the ongoing trade war between the US and China.

Although the US president’s announcement offered a welcome reprieve from the escalating tensions between the two countries, around half of the proposed $300bn worth of goods will still be subject to tariffs within weeks under the revised list of items published yesterday by the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Among them are many collectibles, including paintings, drawings, engraving, prints and lithographs, sculptures and statuary of any material and antiquities more than 100 years old, as well as stamps and collectors’ pieces of archaeological interest.

“The US import tariff will apply to all Chinese art sourced anywhere in the world, not simply Chinese art imported from China. [It] will act as a tax on all US collectors, curators and dealers buying anywhere on the international market,” says the New York-based dealer James Lally. He specialises in Chinese art and antiquities and has lobbied vociferously against the inclusion of these items on the 10% tariff list since they were proposed—and then removed—from the items list last year.

Whether art and antiquities would remain subject to Trump’s tariffs has weighed on many dealers and auction houses since June, when they were re-added to the USTR’s list of goods subject to a sizeable 25% tariff rate. Throughout the summer, art and antiquities dealers, as well as numerous cultural advocacy groups, beseeched the USTR to remove the items from consideration in a series of hearings held on Capitol Hill. They argued that such border taxation would represent a significant departure from longstanding US government policy to encourage the free exchange of cultural goods by making their import duty free.

“I expect this will cause US residents to be more selective and less active on the international market,” Lally says. “The US import tariff will also add complications and costs for any dealer [in Chinese art] outside the US interested in participating in a US art fair or auction.”

“Today’s decision will hurt small businesses and the art trade between the US and our allies in the UK and Japan more than it will hurt trade with China which already bars exports of most Chinese antiques and antiquities,” says Peter Tompa, a lawyer at the Washington, DC-based law firm Bailey & Ehrenberg and the executive director of the Global Heritage Alliance.

While there is still an opportunity for dealers to seek specific exemptions, such requests may be difficult to formulate.

Indeed, dealers have already been feeling the tariff throttle even before they have gone into effect. Last month, Pace Gallery closed its mainland China outpost after a decade in its space in Beijing’s 798 art district, citing the US-Chine trade war as a pain point. “The last straw is Trump’s duty on Chinese art coming into this country and Xi Jinping’s duty on American art coming into China,” founder Arne Glimcher told Artnews.

The administrative burden imposed by the tariffs will be sizeable. Essentially, each collector, curator or art dealer will have to decide what to do on a “case-by-case, item-by-item basis”, according to Lally. He is quick to add, however, that dealers will not be the only ones affected. International auction houses operating in the US will be likely to advise non-US sellers not to send their Chinese art to New York for sale, and US residents may not wish to send Chinese art to sale at auctions outside the US because unsold lots would be subject to the tariff upon return to the US.

“There is not an easy remedy to alleviate the confusion, complications and additional costs this US import tariff will cause,” Lally says. The Art Newspaper

 

Isenheim altarpiece restorers invite visitors in
Laser imaging comes to aid of restoration of 16th-century paintings and sculptures

The restoration work on the Isenheim altarpiece in Colmar, eastern France, has reached the halfway point. Over the past four months, restorers have removed most of the old varnish on four of the 11 biblical scenes, painted five centuries ago by Mathis Gothart Nithart (also known as Matthias Grünewald). The works were rehung in July in the city's Unterlinden Museum and restoration of the other panels will resume on 12 October. The difference between the cleaned compositions—St Anthony assailed by the demons, his encounter with St Peter, the Nativity and the concert of the angels—and those yet to be treated is striking.

Although a forensic examination by the Research and Restoration Centre of the French Museums concluded that the whole work was remarkably well preserved, the now restored scenes had been coated in a heavy, yellowed varnish, with some parts heavily obscured by the migration of copper-ions from the green pigments.

Now visible once more are a palm tree in the desert and fir trees in the mountains, little black demons bouncing in the sky, and a charming cherub peering from a window over the angel musician, who has recovered his delicate pastel colours. The average 30-micron thickness of the varnish has been reduced to around eight microns, says Anthony Pontabry, who is in charge of the restoration team that has been working on the project with the University of Nottingham.

Visitors can also see cleaning tests on the panels still to be treated. The most difficult task will be to restore the large Crucifixion, which is much darker—and not only because the artist wanted to evoke a gruesome scene.

Another team has cleaned the wooden sculptures of St Anthony and the apostles by Nicolas de Haguenau that formed the core of the altarpiece, recovering some of the ancient polychromy. Overall, more than 30 people are working on the restoration of the sculpted group and the paintings as well as the wooden panels and frames. The work is scheduled for completion in 2022.

The ambitious project started in 2018, seven years after a bold attempt had been made to remove most of the varnish in just a few days without any scientific guidance. That attempt was halted by the French culture minister. Pontabry says the earlier restoration resulted in no serious damage, although the cleaning was "quite uneven". This time, the restoration team wants to do everything right. Pontabry says that a new generation of nano-particle gels is being used to limit the penetration of the solvent in the thinnest areas of varnish.

The paintings have also been screened by an optical coherence tomography machine that the Research and Restoration Centre acquired in 2017. More commonly used in ophthalmology, the device generates 3D images that can accurately map the inner structure of paint and varnish layers as thin as 0.003mm. This laser-aided system, says Vincent Detalle, who is responsible for this area of research on the altarpiece, “allows for a real-time control of the varnish removal” to avoid any contact between the solvent and the paint layers. “For this, old-time restorers relied on their instincts; now we can put an exact figure on this ‘feeling’,” he says. The Art Newspaper

 

The Artist Bloc marks fifth anniversary, honors Triad artists with awards

It’s Drink & Draw night at The Artist Bloc.

Patrons sip coffee, beer, and non-alcoholic and mixed drinks as they sketch or paint. A jam band plays onstage. Others just listen and chill.

This month, The Artist Bloc marks its fifth year in business in the West Lee Center, a strip shopping mall at 1020 W. Gate City Blvd. amid the UNCG campus.

It operates as an art supply store, coffee shop and bar that offers arts programming.

“I am amazed that we were able to sustain ourselves this long,” said Darlene McClinton, a co-owner and N.C. A&T art professor.

For the first three years, the three artist owners drew on paychecks from their other full-time jobs to keep it afloat.

That picture has brightened.

The business that started with $1,200 from owners’ pockets now brings in annual revenue of $100,000 and growing, owners say.

McClinton owns The Artist Bloc with Watricia Shuler, a filmmaker who teaches at Winston-Salem State University, and entrepreneur Sunny Gravely.

An Aug. 23 event will mark its fifth anniversary, while celebrating Triad artists.

The Bloc Awards will be at 8 p.m. at Harrison Auditorium on the N.C. A&T campus.

Nominees have been narrowed to five in 14 categories of visual and performing arts including the entertainment, fashion, cosmetic and culinary industries.

More than 16,000 public votes already had been cast online for winners, two weeks before the awards ceremony.

Winners will receive trophies created by the company Pendragon 3D in The Forge, the makerspace downtown on Lewis Street.

This marks the second year for The Bloc Awards. The first in 2017 attracted 350 people.

“I believe the Triad has a lot of talent,” McClinton said. “People could be getting Grammys and Oscars, but they don’t get a lot of exposure.”

The Artist Bloc offers creative activity and exposure. With a slogan of “Where Creative Minds Meet,” it now attracts about 100 artists each week.

Many customers are not artists, but lovers of art.

“Everyone is welcomed at The Artist Bloc,” McClinton said.

Against a backdrop of artwork, they perform music, dance and comedy. They network. They come for painting nights, poetry slams, dance battles, Creative Infusion talent showcases, artist talks, open mic nights and movie nights.

Patrons pay a small fee to participate.

Some rent the space for birthday and graduation parties, bridal showers, vendor markets and album release and company launch parties.

Owners hire artists to work there. One bartender is a spoken word artist; another, a sculptor.

On a chalkboard, artist Coka Coleman created a decorative list of signature drinks, named for famous artists, owners and employees.

Jasmine Spears, project manager for The Bloc Awards and event assistant for The Artist Bloc, is a UNCG senior who started as an intern.

“Now, we’re known as one of the hottest arts venues in Greensboro,” McClinton said. “Everybody knows about The Artist Bloc, and they love being here. They call The Artist Bloc home.”

McClinton, a Grimsley High School graduate, and Shuler met in 2001, during their freshman year at A&T. McClinton even talked back then about having an arts supply store, Shuler said.

Both began teaching jobs after they finished graduate school. Then Shuler got a call from McClinton.

“She said, ‘Addams Bookstore on Tate Street is going out of business,’” Shuler recalled. “’It’s time to open The Artist Bloc.’”

Shuler and McClinton joined forces with Gravely, who taught McClinton art at A&T, and Amber Iciano, a dancer and engineer. Iciano eventually left, saying she couldn’t work full time elsewhere and be an entrepreneur, too.

They deliberately chose the word “bloc,” defined as a group united for a particular purpose.

“I wanted The Artist Bloc to be a place where artists could come to get through their creative blocks,” McClinton said.

At first, they sold art supplies and coffee, Shuler’s passion. They discovered that art supplies were a seasonal seller, most popular with students at the start of a semester. They learned that summer and holidays would be their slowest seasons.

“None of us went to school for business,” McClinton said. “When people say, ‘Be prepared for weathering the storm,’ we didn’t know what weathering the storm looked like.”

They joined the business accelerator program Collab to learn how to structure and grow the enterprise. Because the bar and programming brought in money, the program’s leader suggested increasing programming.

It paid off.

The Artist Bloc owners are pleased with their creation, but they also plan to change and expand.

They spun their art classes for children and Alzheimer’s patients into a nonprofit entity, TAB Arts Center, run by Gravely. Gravely remains a silent partner in The Artist Bloc.

The Artist Bloc aims to phase out selling art supplies after this fall and focus on events. They want to move to a larger building and sell food, T-shirts and other merchandise.

They want to turn The Artist Bloc into a chain, with possible locations in Charlotte and Washington, D.C.

“We’re getting to a place where we finally really understand what we’re doing and understand the business model that we have created,” Shuler said. “The only thing that can stop us is us.” News & Record