January 20, 2021


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In this issue:


 

 

 

 

Lawsuit claims $100m damages in tangled case of hidden Russian art worth $60m
Shchukin Gallery and its lawyers file new lawsuit against Russian financier Rustam Iseev, his lawyer and a New York Supreme Court judge in bid to uncover location of paintings

A tangled four-year-long legal struggle over $60m worth of Russian art that the financier Rustam Iseev allegedly stole from Shchukin Gallery—which previously had galleries in New York, Paris, and Estonia—has taken a new turn.

On 1 January, Shchukin and its lawyers Weingrad & Weingrad jointly filed a new lawsuit (first reported in the New York Post) to force New York Supreme Court Justice Paul A. Goetz to hand over a “secret letter” detailing the location of five early 20th century paintings, three by Kazimir Malevich and two by Natalia Goncharova. According to an independent appraisal cited in the suit, the works are worth over $60m.

Stephen Weingrad of Weingrad & Weingrad acknowledges that naming a judge in a lawsuit—the latest of several suits and appeals in the case—is “highly unusual.” But Goetz, the petition argues, is “the only person in the United States of America who knows the location of the ART and has denied Shchukin request for discovery, inspections, conservation, insurance, and bonding of the” art. The suit also notes that: “The Art is a century old and requires specific conservation as to temperature, humidity, and protection.”

Goetz dismissed an earlier suit brought by Shchukin Gallery on the grounds that had not turned over sufficient documentation of its claim to ownership of the paintings. Weingrad has appealed that ruling and is still awaiting the results.

In a memorandum filed on Monday night in support of the new lawsuit, Weingrad claims the gallery’s owners could have incurred as much as $103.2m in damages given the $60m worth of art that remains out of the Shchukins’ possession and what “could amount to $40m for three closed galleries”—though he acknowledges by phone to The Art Newspaper that the latter is only a rough estimate.

Shchukin alleges that Iseev took the works several years ago on the pretense of a sale involving Vladislav Gershkovich—who is named in the latest court filings as Iseev's “co-conspirator” and Shchukin’s “oligarch investor”—and never returned them when the sale was not closed.

Both Iseev and Gershkovich had invested in paintings owned by Shchukin Gallery, and Gershkovich had a 50% stake in four of the paintings allegedly taken by Iseev.

According to court filings, Iseev and his lawyer Irina Frolova do not dispute that the five works belong to Shchukin Gallery but is withholding them as collateral against a $2m loan that Shchukin owes to Iseev. “The fact is Iseev had the right to foreclose on paintings after the gallery's owner Nikolay Shchukin failed to repay $2m debt,” Frolova tells The Art Newspaper, adding that the paintings had been “pledged” to Iseev in order to secure the earlier loan.

According to Weingrad, Dmitry Shchukin signed the loan agreement under duress after Iseev had taken the paintings, in a settlement that would have returned the paintings to Shchukin—but Iseev then broke it.

In the new lawsuit brought on 1 January, Weingrad claims that his firm also has a lien on the art and that, as his client is unable to pay the years of legal fees it now owes, he and his client have the right to foreclose on the art. Moreover, he notes the disparity “ignored by The Court for the past five years” between the value of the art, estimated at $63.2m, and the value of the “fake debt,” $2m.

Weingrad is demanding that his firm be allowed the opportunity to inspect the works to ensure they are being kept safely in New York in accordance with an earlier court ruling, are adequately conserved, and that they have not been sold or in the process of being sold.

“Given the enormity of the heist and the squeeze placed on Shchukin with the three busted settlements,” Weingrad asserts in the memorandum on Monday, “there is no doubt that the ultimate suit against all three co-conspirators, [Frolova, Gershkovich and Iseev] will eventually find its way in to the international criminal justice system.” The Art Newspaper

 

The Musée du Louvre—the world’s most popular art museum—saw 72% drop in visitors last year
Despite kicking off 2020 with a record-breaking Leonardo exhibition, like many museums around the world, the Parisian institution was adversely affected by coronavirus lockdowns

A year ago, the Musée du Louvre was in the midst of a record-breaking Leonardo exhibition that looked likely to push its visitor figures for 2020 to new heights. But as the coronavirus pandemic began to overwhelm Europe in the spring, the Parisian museum, like many institutions around the continent, closed its doors as the country went into lockdown. Twelve months later and it has reported one of its worst attendance figures ever, with around 2.7 million visitors—a 72% drop compared to 9.6 million in 2019.

Following the first lockdown, the museum was able to reopen again in the summer with restricted visitor numbers. In total, the museum was closed for nearly half the year, open for only 161 days out of a possible 311, and lost around €90m in revenues. Around three quarters of the museum’s audience is usually from abroad but with flights grounded and an unprecedented drop in tourism to the French capital, the museum reported that around 70% of visitors in 2020 were from France.

The museum director Jean-Luc Martinez says that although the Louvre’s empty galleries saddened him and his staff, the institution’s long history (it was founded at the time of the French Revolution) is a reminder that despite hard times it is never in vain to hope for better days. The drop in visitor figures is not quite as high as the 80% that Martinez feared for in June last year.

The museum has regularly topped The Art Newspaper’s annual survey of exhibition and museum visitors, Art’s Most Popular, for well over a decade hitting a whopping 10.2 million in 2018. But it will likely not be the biggest loser in a year when museums around the world were, and continue to be, heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the large drop in attendance, with 2.7 million visitors the Louvre would have still been the 21st most visited museum in 2019’s attendance survey, largely thanks to the near half a million visitors who came for the Leonardo show in January and February.

The museum is currently closed because of the coronavirus lockdown in Paris, check its website for the latest opening news. The Art Newspaper

 

Mexican Printmaking Tradition Lives On In Chicago

A Chicago Public Schools teacher took an early retirement to pursue his dream to continue in the long line of Mexican artists who excel at printmaking. From depicting calaveras – the skulls seen in the Day of the Dead celebration – to pursuing themes of social justice, Rene Arceo is the heir apparent to an enduring tradition.

“Chicago Tonight” has a portrait of a Chicagoan who has recommitted himself to his art.

TRANSCRIPT

Marc Vitali: When we visited his studio in pre-pandemic days he was working alone, but this artist has a talent for collaboration.

René Arceo, artist: I’m René Arceo. I’m a printmaker. I have a collaborative place, which is called Arceo Press where I publish prints with artists from not only across the U.S. but from different parts of the world. There’s somebody from Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Spain, Canada, France. There (are) several South American artists that are living in the U.S. that have collaborated: some Venezuelan, Argentinian, Peruvian.

Vitali: From linocuts and silkscreens, to wood engravings and etchings – printmakers need a wide range of skillsets. We first learned about Chicago’s Arceo Press when the Bridgeport Art Center hosted an exhibit of work by René Arceo and the artists he works with. That show was called “The Border Crossed Us.”

Arceo grew up in a small town near Guadalajara. He told us the story of his own border crossing in 1979 when, as a 19-year-old, he left Mexico and came to the U.S. His family hired a coyote to guide him, his brother and a cousin.

Arceo: Oh, I remember going through from Tijuana. There was a coyote that took a group of us in the middle of the night, probably around 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. We crossed the border… We saw some of the helicopters flying overhead and down the hill we saw several groups that had been caught.

We just stayed put there for a few hours, I don’t remember how long, until there were no more helicopters flying around, and then a leader took us and we were walking I don’t know for how long, until sunrise practically. Then that afternoon they put us in a trunk of a car, a big car, I think there were 5 or 6 of us, and then took us out past a checkpoint and then from there we went to the outskirts of Los Angeles.

It’s something that is very common among many other immigrants that have gone through similar experiences, and also I see and realize how lucky I am in the sense that I didn’t suffer as far as many people who’ve died or nearly, so in that sense I feel lucky, and also that I have been able to make something of myself while coming to the states.

Vitali: René Arceo came to Chicago, married, and became a U.S. citizen. He studied at the School of the Art Institute and worked at what later became the National Museum of Mexican Art. And he taught at a Chicago elementary school for 20 years, through the beginning of the pandemic.

Arceo: We did do virtual teaching for a few months actually. It was a lot more difficult because most of the kids were not getting connected. A lot of them didn’t have devices, didn’t have access to the internet, so it was very difficult.

Vitali: For years, he’d been planning to retire and focus on his art. His work is part of the heritage of Mexican printmaking that started with the artist Jose Guadalupe Posada in the late 1800s – including works that feature calaveras.

Arceo: And also the use of the skeletons that are doing a lot of different things. Not in the bloody, spooky way like Halloween, but they are doing regular activities as if they were alive because to us it is an extension of life and it is what remains of this body once we die.

Vitali: Arceo’s artistic output is very much alive. While his early works were more political, his latest artwork concentrates on people. One is a tribute to the first responders to covid-19 – and includes a bat taking flight.

Arceo: I’ve been able to get my artwork out there. At the same time I continue to produce every day. Very happy to be able to do that. So essentially just getting ready until the pandemic is over till I can do more dispersing of my work through exhibitions and collaborations with other artists as well. WTTW

 

Artyst, the premium fine arts store opens at Al Khawaneej Walk
Al Hathboor Group celebrates the opening of the one-stop shop for artists

UAE artists can now enjoy a selection of premium fine arts brands at Al Hathboor Group's newly launched store, Artyst. Opened at Al Khawaneej Walk, Dubai, it offers artists access to the full portfolio of Daler Rowney, Canson, Colart, Derwent, FM Brush, Mabef, Sargent Art and much more.

Emirati art pioneer Abdul Qader Al Rais was the guest of honour at the inauguration of the premium fine arts store, which was attended by Emirati calligraphy artist Fatima Al Hammadi, Chairman of Al Hathboor Group, Abdullah Al Hathboor, Vice-Chairman Jamal Al Hathboor, Director Majid Al Hathboor, and CEO Jaiganesh V.

“It is a delight to be here to see premium products being shared under one roof,” said Al Rais. “This is a unique concept and will encourage budding and established artists to come and seek what they desire for all types of art forms. As a long-time consumer of Al Hathboor products for my paintings, I wish the best for this venture.”

Al Rais is a multi-award-winning Emirati painter noted for his abstract art, which combines geometric shapes with Arabic calligraphy. He is a founding member of the Emirates Fine Art Society and the winner of several prizes including the first-ever Shaikh Khalifa Prize for Art and Literature. He is one of the pioneers of contemporary art in the Emirates, widely exhibited both within the UAE and abroad.

“This fine arts speciality store created keeping the artists in mind is one of a kind and a great opportunity for all the artists in this part of Dubai,” added Fatima Al Hammadi. “Any artist who is looking for good brands and quality products should come to this store as I have been a regular user of Al Hathboor Group’s fine art materials for over 20 years.”

Al Hammadi has more than 25 years of experience in fine arts and calligraphy. She is the leader of UAE Graffiti Artists, the first local graffiti group, and has participated in several art projects that entered Guinness World Records including the longest graffiti wall in Dubai in 2017. She has partaken in more than 25 national exhibitions, along with international ones in London, Berlin and Sri Lanka.

“The Artyst will allow us to continue to provide distinct and memorable experiences for our customers,” said Abdullah Al Hathboor at the launch of the one-stop shop for artists. “We are grateful to the insightful vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which embodies a pioneering model of leadership to achieve the ambitions and aspirations of artists in the UAE. Under his guidance and visionary initiatives, Dubai has achieved miraculous transformation as a city of positivity, arts, culture and an international hub for business and leisure. We look forward to welcoming artists to the showroom and showcasing the state-of-the-art facilities and unique experiences on offer.” Gulf News

 

This Picasso photo puzzle has stumped experts. Can you help solve it?
The identity of those posing with the master remains a mystery a century after the picture was taken

A puzzle for our readers: can you identify Picasso’s friend, the possible mistress and the Parisian studio in this photograph? The Picasso Administration, run by the artist’s heirs, would like the answers. Traditionally, this image has been labelled as “Ambroise Vollard, Eva Gouel and Picasso with Sentinelle, the dog of André Derain, in a studio, in 1914”.

Yves Brocard, the author of a forthcoming book covering the artist’s love affair with Gouel, believes that the only certain figure is Picasso. Best known for dressing casually, often shirtless, Picasso here wears a suit and tie, although the jacket appears ill-fitting.

In an article on the Picasso Administration website, Brocard published his suggestions. The man on the left is certainly not Vollard, Picasso’s first major dealer, who had quite a different physique and appearance. The face in the photograph appears to be that of the Mexican mural painter Diego Rivera, although this is not certain because Rivera was tall (1.85m) and Picasso short (1.63m).

Acknowledging Picasso’s narcissism, Brocard suggests that the artist “always made sure to appear taller than he actually was by having his pictures taken from a low angle, as in this case, and placing himself slightly forward”. If the identification is correct, then this is the only surviving photograph of Picasso and Rivera together.

The woman in the hat bears little resemblance to Gouel, Picasso’s companion during his Cubist period (she died in 1915, aged 30). In the photograph, the features appear similar to those of the artist Marie Laurencin, although she had fled to Spain at the outbreak of the First World War. Brocard suggests that the woman in the photograph is the Russian-born painter Angelina Beloff, then Rivera’s lover, long before his marriage to Frida Kahlo. Picasso always seems to have had at least one lover (and usually several), so could it have been another one of his muses?

And whose studio are they photographed in? Surely, with such a large painting on the easel and other pictures in the background, it should be possible to identify it. Brocard argues that it was the studio of Alexandre Zinoviev, a Russian artist in Paris and Beloff’s friend. Zunoviev also knew both Picasso and Rivera, and the paintings in the photograph are similar to the Russian’s, although none have been identified.

At the time, Zinoviev was employed by the Czarist government to spy on Russian revolutionaries in Paris. Brocard even suggests the photograph may have been taken by Zinoviev to send back to his paymasters in St Petersburg. Assuming that all his identifications are correct, the image must date from July 1915 to early 1916.

Along with Picasso himself, the only other certainty is the dog. It is Sentinelle, who features in other photographs with Picasso. She was owned by the artist André Derain—who entrusted her to Picasso when he was conscripted to fight in the First World War. A German Shepherd, Sentinelle was hardly the most patriotic choice of breed in France during this turbulent period. The Art Newspaper

 

US Museums and Art Institutions Respond to Capitol Attack
“We cannot be silent bystanders. We must speak up and take action wherever and whenever we witness hatred and threats of violence,” said Jack Kliger, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, the Smithsonian, and Ford Foundation President Darren Walker have joined the widespread condemnations of the Pro-Trump mob attack on the United States Capitol this week.

“The siege on Capitol Hill yesterday during the joint Congress’ ratification of the presidential election should be condemned, not coddled,” said a statement by the National Civil Rights Museum published on January 7. “What the world witnessed yesterday was not a protest, but a riotous mob and an insurrection. We need to call it what it is.”

The museum’s statement goes on to question and criticize the unpreparedness of law enforcement for the riots, calling it “curious at best.”

“We cannot deny the difference in the handling of those groups that were predominantly Black and marching to protect the lives of Black people, to the treatment yesterday’s rioters received,” the Memphis museum said. “The response yesterday poured salt on the gaping wounds of racism that persist in this country,” it continued. “We must not perpetuate this behavior and make excuses for it. Enough is enough! This needs to end!”

The Museum of Jewish Heritage noted in a statement yesterday that some Trump loyalists brandished anti-semitic and racist symbols on Wednesday, including Confederate flags, nooses, and attire promoting the Auschwitz death camp, which is the subject of the museum’s current exhibition, Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away.

“We have a responsibility to stand up and condemn the blatant bigotry displayed at the Capitol on Wednesday,” said Jack Kliger, the museum’s president and CEO. “We cannot be silent bystanders. We must speak up and take action wherever and whenever we witness hatred and threats of violence.”

“Our Museum draws on lessons from the Holocaust to educate about hate and injustice in our current times,” Kliger continued. “We remain committed to educating our visitors, whether in-person or online, on the reality and dangers of extremism.”

The museum followed with another statement, reporting that a Confederate flag was tied to its front door this morning, January 8. “This is an atrocious attack on our community and on our institution and must be met with the swift and forceful response by law enforcement,” Kliger said, adding that the museum is working with authorities to identify suspects.

In a personal blog post yesterday, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation argued that “Democracy is the greatest threat to white supremacy.”

“Like so many others, I watched, aghast, as a mob stormed our revered temple of representative democracy — and on a day when another 3,865 Americans fell victim to the raging coronavirus pandemic,” Walker wrote.

Describing the harrowing sights of Wednesday, he continued:

The world was shaken by a shocking, odious sight: Confederate battle flags inside the National Statuary Hall; gallows with nooses on the National Mall outside. With glee, two rioters reenacted the murder of George Floyd on the steps of the National City Christian Church—one kneeling on the neck of the other, fully aware of the cameras capturing their laughter. Four people lost their lives.

Walker echoed the thoughts of the National Civil Rights Museum and many others who believe that a Black Lives Matter rally would have been met with a larger, more proactive police force.

“Make no mistake: If these had been peaceful protestors for racial justice rather than violent combatants for white pride and grievance, law enforcement would have used extreme force, if not live bullets, to keep the building secure.”

Although he sees the mob attack on the Capitol as “the latest chapter in a long, dispiriting, exhausting history,” Walker chose to end on a hopeful note.

“I’m hopeful because, from our founding contradiction, we have emerged a freer, fairer nation,” he wrote. “All too slowly, all too unevenly, all too imperfectly — and at far too high a cost — we, the people, have struggled to root out the strand of white supremacy in our country’s DNA.”

Anthea Hartig, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, released a statement today comparing the events of January 6 to the election of 1876, which violently and unconstitutionally ended Reconstruction.

“This week reminds us of the long and deep history of white supremacy and the hatred and privilege it affords,” Hartig wrote.

Her statement quoted Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch saying: “As a historian, I have always believed in the power of peaceful protest. [The day’s] demonstrations give us a glimpse of the fragility of our democracy and why the work we do and the stories we tell are so important.”

On Instagram, the Brooklyn Museum posted an image of Ed Ruscha’s painting “OUR FLAG” (2017), featuring a torn American flag, with a caption that partially reads: “The feelings of fragility and uncertainty evoked in Ruscha’s work were sadly reinforced by yesterday’s efforts to overthrow and undermine the basic principles of our democracy—a peaceful transfer of power.”

The National Gallery of Art declined to comment. Hyperallergic has reached out for comment to other major US museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and others but has not yet received responses. Hyperallergic

 

US Capitol’s works of art survive amid right-wing rampage in Washington
The authorities say that cleaning and conservation will be needed, however, after art was damaged by tear gas, pepper spray and fire extinguishers

The US Capitol’s works of art were subjected to tear gas and pepper spray during the intrusion of right-wing marauders incited by President Donald Trump on Wednesday and will require cleaning and conservation, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol reported today. Yet the works in the 1826 Neo-Classical building appear to have survived without significant damage, she says.

“Our initial assessment is that most of the damage on the interior and envelope of the building is limited to broken glass, broken doors and graffiti,” says Erin Courtney, a spokeswoman for the Architect for the Capitol, the steward of the landmark buildings and grounds of Capitol Hill. “On the West Front, the teams identified graffiti on the building near the Inaugural stands and two broken [Frederick Law] Olmsted light fixtures.”

The New York Times singled out a 19th-century marble bust of the former president Zachary Taylor that was sprinkled with a red liquid that resembled blood.

“Statues, murals, historic benches and original shutters all suffered varying degrees of damage–primarily from pepper spray accretions and residue from tear gas and fire extinguishers–that will require cleaning and conservation,” Courtney says. She emphasises that the Architect for the Capitol has a team that can address any needed repairs.

For curators, particular concern centred on large-scale historic paintings by John Trumbull from the early 1800s in the Capitol Rotunda and dozens of sculptures in the building’s National Statuary Hall, which was flooded by insurrectionists during Wednesday’s melee. But they appear to have survived unscathed amid the chaos.

The reports on damage to art came amid an avalanche of additional videos documenting the devastating riots on Capitol grounds, as federal authorities pursue arrests. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have blocked postings by Trump in response to his incitement of violence. The Art Newspaper

 

Plan to Sell Diego Rivera Mural at San Francisco Art Institute Draws Backlash
What the board calls the San Francisco Art Institute’s “most liquid asset” is “not a commodity,” the adjunct faculty union says.

Diego Rivera once described his paintings as “true and complete pictures of the life of the toiling masses.” In the 1920s, the Mexican artist turned from the easel to the centuries-old fresco technique in part because murals chemically fused to buildings weren’t so easily hoarded or resold. “The whole point for him,” Latin American art scholar James Oles said in an interview with Hyperallergic, “was they’re not commodities.”

In a December 30 statement, union adjunct faculty at the beleaguered, 150-year-old San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), lately verging on insolvency, felt compelled to make the same point.

The union decried board members’ consideration of selling “The Making of a Fresco, Showing the Building of a City,” a 1931 Rivera mural depicting what the artist called a “dynamic concerto of construction — technicians, planners and artists working together to create a modern building.”

Rivera, in other words, didn’t anticipate this situation: The public art appraised at $50 million has become SFAI’s “most liquid asset,” school spokesperson Nina Sazevich said in a statement, and “the board is committed to investigating all ways of putting the school’s assets to work.”

The union adjuncts, though, assert that the artwork’s social or use value — to use a Marxist formulation befitting Rivera — shouldn’t be subordinate to even that much exchange value.

“The Diego Rivera mural is not a commodity,” reads the statement from SEIU Local 1021-affiliated adjuncts. “Rather it is an artwork, given by a Mexican artist to a predominately white-serving school, that serves among many things as a focal point for complex and ongoing negotiations between artists and art institutions around issues of race, class, access, and labor.”

In 1930, Rivera traveled to San Francisco with Frida Kahlo, then his wife, for the commissions that would provide a critical career foothold in the United States: “Allegory of California” at the Pacific Stock Exchange Building and “The Making of a Fresco, Showing the Building of a City.”

Oles, curator of Diego Rivera’s America, a 2022 exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, described “The Making of a Fresco” as uniquely site-specific. Rivera and the patrons, engineers, and laborers who created the work, appear on and around scaffolds dividing scenes of local manufacturing and infrastructure, with a worker towering in the center like a skyscraper.

“You can imagine art students watching Rivera painting himself painting the mural,” Oles said.

Anthony Lee, another Rivera scholar, in the Oxford Art Journal described one of many competing views of the feted mural in a modernizing, Depression-era San Francisco with a resurgent Communist Party: “[Rivera] was providing the city with its first such image which could be said to be for and about the working classes who were directly engaged in reconstruction.”

Rivera’s time in San Francisco creating “The Making of a Fresco” and “Allegory of California” directly influenced the New Deal murals at Coit Tower, and remains a touchstone, in particular, for the abiding community mural movement associated with the city’s Latinx Mission district.

“The Making of a Fresco,” like the Coit Tower works and, notoriously, Rivera’s inclusion of Lenin in a mural commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller, provoked anti-Communist censorship. During Joseph McCarthy’s postwar congressional reign, SFAI completely blocked the mural from view.

The Rivera mural, though in one piece, is technically detachable from the wall, and George Lucas is reportedly interested in buying it for his Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. But Oles believes the prospect of the mural going anywhere is overblown — a ploy to attract donors.

“The board is exaggerating to an uninformed audience how practical, easy, or possible it is to move,” Oles continued, adding they haven’t “thought through the practicality, legality, or ethics.”

And if local preservationists prevail, the SFAI board won’t have the chance to sell the mural.

Last week, San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation intended to prevent the mural’s removal by designating it a landmark. “It should be our prerogative to ensure that the mural remain at the 800 Chestnut facility and remain open to the public,” Peskin said. The campus is already a landmark, Peskin noted, but it’s unclear if that protects the interior mural.

Although SFAI officials have publicly discussed monetizing the mural since April, they’ve made “no determinations regarding the possible sale of artworks,” spokesperson Yun Lee said in a statement. “Conversations have been taking place with several institutions about the possibility to endow or acquire the mural to ensure the future of the school and uphold our mission.”

As Hyperallergic previously reported, SFAI laid off most staff and teachers and canceled fall enrollment at the outset of the pandemic last March. In July, the school entered technical default on a loan of some $19 million, jeopardizing the campus and mural that it had pledged as collateral.

Pam Rorke Levy, the board chair, in an August interview with Hyperallergic disclosed that Boston Private Bank, the school’s main creditor, had even begun soliciting buyers for the mural. “In the course of talking to some of the world’s greatest Latin American art collectors, we found out someone from the bank was calling them,” Levy explained. “Well, it’s not theirs to sell.”

The possibility of a bank auctioning the mural, at least, appears to have been averted. In October, as Mission Local first reported, the University of California Regents acquired SFAI’s debt ahead of a foreclosure sale of the landmark campus, becoming the school’s landlord.

But SFAI teachers, backed by preservationists, argue the mural isn’t the board’s to sell, either.

“SFAI finds itself in this predicament directly because of its board members’ failures and negligence,” reads the adjunct union statement. “Rather than assume fiscal responsibility for these failures, the board attempts to conceal them from the public by translating the school’s most important cultural artifact into a monetary instrument.” Hyperallergic

 

Running an independent art store in Sarasota during a pandemic

In 2021, family-owned stores like Art & Frame of Sarasota on South Tamiami Trail are fewer and far between.

The store, on U.S. 41 just north of Bahia Vista Street in Saba Plaza, has been described as a "candy store for artists," according to its website. Inside are shelves of paints and markers, organized beautifully in rainbow order. Downstairs against a wall, there's a picture framing service desk, with frame samples organized in corners by shape, size and color.

When customers come into the nearly 30-year-old shop for paint brushes, for example, the first thing they do is run their fingers through the bristles to see how they feel. It's that experiential component of retail that's often forgotten in a world ruled by COVID-19.

But now, with COVID still running rampant, robust competition from online sellers and a retail environment that was tricky even pre-pandemic, the last-of-its-kind Sarasota art store is facing some previously unseen challenges.

Art & Frame is the only independently-owned art supply shop in Sarasota and likely the west coast of Florida. Robert and Donna Antovel opened the shop in 1991, and several employees have been with them for decades.

To help raise funds to pay down debts accrued during the pandemic, the store launched a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $125,000. Despite the name of the fundraiser, "Keep Art & Frame of Sarasota Alive," the store is not in danger of closing if it doesn't reach its goal, Robert and Donna both said.

So far, the store has raised just over $2,000.

"Owning a business, we do take in money every day, but we’re not doing great. We're struggling like every business during COVID," Donna Antovel said.

Robert Antovel said that he had a feeling early last year that the coronavirus, which at the time was just starting to pop up in the U.S., meant his store would have to shut down. He stopped paying his rent and vendors so he could stockpile cash in case the worst did happen. When it did, he was able to pay his staff.

"When we closed at the beginning of April, I had quite a bit of cash, so instead of laying everybody off, I just paid them their salaries, he said.

After the shutdown, the Antovels were sitting at home in early May on a Saturday night when Robert told Donna he wasn't going to be able to make payroll the following Monday. But then, as if the gods themselves heard him say that out loud, Paycheck Protection Program funds came through the very next day.

"My staff has been with me, some of them for 20 years, and the last thing I wanted to do was kick them to the street and say, 'go file for unemployment,'" Robert said.

The government funds covered a month of payroll expenses. But even though the store has been allowed to operate at a normal capacity for several months now, things certainly have not been the same.

Business was down throughout 2020 – there wasn't even the typical seasonal bump that comes once tourism and snowbird season usually kicks up in the fall.

"We're in the middle of season. I should be rolling in it, and it's just not happening," Robert said a few days before Christmas. "The past two or three days have been good days, but before that, no."

The store also missed out entirely on back-to-school season.

"At Ringling College (of Art & Design), for all incoming freshmen, we usually have a welcome kit to give them, to teach them about Art & Frame, because we're a discount store. You can buy stuff at the school bookstore at full price or you can come to Art & Frame and save some money. We had zero of that because we couldn't go on to campus to talk to the students," Robert said.

On top of that, bills have piled up, and that's where the funding campaign comes in.

"All those bills that I acquired during January, February, March, I mean, you gotta pay them," Robert said. "My landlord has been really good and helped me out. And my vendors have given me extended time to pay them – most of them. But I've got 30 years experience with most of these vendors, they're like, 'whatever you need, we know you're good for it, catch us up when you can.'"

Art & Frame's struggles are all too familiar to small business owners during COVID-19. While many local businesses received PPP funds to help at the beginning of the pandemic, the economic repercussions from the one-month shut down of "nonessential" businesses, plus the continuation of the pandemic, can't really be overstated.

COVID-19 has pushed a lot of small businesses to try things they hadn't before, like curbside pickup, online sales, pickup in-store or even e-commerce. But Art & Frame first tried e-commerce way before businesses of its size even had to, more than 20 years ago.

In the late 1990s, Donna had the idea to launch a website instead of opening a new store. The website will be their second store, she said at the time. And it was successful.

"The happiest day for me was about this time, right before Christmas, and the UPS guy said 'I'm going to have to go get a bigger truck,'" Robert said. "We had about 60 or 70 boxes in the hallway of stuff to ship out, but I had two to three times the inventory I carry now, and I had three people in my internet department; they were just taking orders and packing like crazy. Those days are totally gone."

The growth stopped when more competition came in from bigger players in the e-commerce space. Art & Frame's website came before Amazon sold everything under the sun, and before brands like Dick Blick Art Materials grew much more quickly by investing more than smaller businesses could in online ads and by getting thousands of backlinks.

Before the Great Recession, Art & Frame of Sarasota did about 25% of its business through online sales. Now, it’s about 5%, Robert said.

"People tell me all the time, 'you should be on the internet.' Well, we've been on the internet. But those days were before Dick Blick went on the internet," Robert said. "I was spending $5,000 a month on advertising, on Google AdWords, and Dick Blick was spending $250,000. They crushed us. They absolutely crushed us, they crushed everybody."

Art & Frame still has several customers who loyally shop from the store online, but right now the store's big focus digitally is social media – including Facebook and Instagram - and email, where it has a slowly growing email list of about 5,000 local artists.

Other than that, the owners are focused on getting more people into the store – its "bread and butter," as Robert said – and on custom framing, which is a hard thing to do online.

"if you have a snapshot and you want a frame to fit your little 4-by-6 print, then yeah, you can find that online and probably be successful. But if you have something important, like your grandfather's war medals or a football jersey that you got signed, or family photos, or wedding photos or baby photos – anything important – you want it done by a picture framer that will handle it properly," Robert said.

Donna said she's looking forward to the COVID vaccine being widely available, not only because more foot traffic will come into the store, but also because she wants to start doing things like community art shows and classes again.

"We are still open, selling supplies and paint. Sometimes people come in and see that our shelves are not as thickly lined as they once were, but if you need something, we can get it," she said. "If they don't see what they want, we just order it for them." Herald-Tribune

 

This warty pig is the world's oldest animal painting
Discovered in a cave in Indonesia, the work is thought to be at least 45,500 years old

Deep within a cave in central Indonesia, archaeologists have discovered a wild pig painting created, they say, at least 45,500 years ago. It is now claimed to be the oldest known animal painting in the world.

The life-size work, painted in red ochre pigment and measuring 136cm by 54cm, was identified as depicting a Sulawesi warty pig. It was uncovered in the Leang Tedongnge cave in a remote valley on the island of Sulawesi by Adam Brumm and his team from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, who published their findings in Science Advances journal on Wednesday.

"To our knowledge, the animal painting from Leang Tedongnge is the earliest known representational work of art in the world," state Brumm et al in the article.

“I was struck dumb,” Brumm told New Scientist. “It’s one of the most spectacular and well-preserved figurative animal paintings known from the whole region and it just immediately blew me away.”

According to one of the paper's co-authors, Maxime Aubert, the team were able to determine the painting's age from analysing a calcite deposit that had formed over the top of the work via a method known as uranium-series dating. However, as this process only dates the mineral layer, the painting could be much older than 45,500 years.

The painting is accompanied by two other porcine pictures, presumed to date around the same time. For comparison, Europe's earliest known figurative cave paintings in Chauvet, France are thought to be around 33,000 years old.

However, the Indonesian warty pig is not the oldest painting in the world. This title is still held by a red Neanderthal hand stencil in Maltravieso cave, Cáceres, Spain. Meanwhile, in 2018 scientists claimed they found "humanity's oldest drawing" on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

A number of ancient cave art discoveries have been made recently in the region surrounding Leang Tedongnge. Last year, Brumm and his team found a painting in a nearby cave, Leang Bulu'Sipong 4, depicting a buffalo being hunted by part-human, part-animal creatures holding spears, which they dated to at least 43,900 years old.

These findings provide the earliest evidence of human settlement in the region, strengthening theories that early homo sapiens crossed these islands to migrate from Africa to Australia around 65,000 years ago. The Art Newspaper

 

Culture injection: Coronavirus vaccination centres in Germany are giving patients a dose of art
As exhibitions are cancelled due to the pandemic, local artists are finding creative ways to show their art—and distract patients

Some German vaccination centres are offering patients an injection of art along with the coronavirus jab.

In the Bavarian town of Straubing, 84 works by 42 local artists are on show in a vaccination facility established in a trade exhibition centre. Patients awaiting their turn to be inoculated against the coronavirus can pass the time studying installations and sculptures in the reception room.

Straubing’s Association of Fine Artists traditionally holds two exhibitions a year; one in winter and one in summer. This year’s winter exhibition, which was to open on 26 December in a building that houses the local library and archive, had to be cancelled after the introduction of more restrictive lockdown measures on 16 December, says Erich Gruber, the president of the association.

“We had already installed the artworks,” Gruber says. “So we asked the artists to come and pick them up.” Then one of the artists suggested showing the exhibition at the vaccination centre 500 metres away instead, he says. The mayor was open to the proposal and so was the head of the vaccination centre, he says.

“We set it all up in one and a half days with help from the fire brigade,” Gruber says. “It was flexible, spontaneous and creative.”

The exhibition is a commercial show so labels next to the works include prices. Gruber says that he had a query from one patient asking why a painting on a wood panel was priced at €14,000 when the materials were not even worth €100.

“It’s interesting that people who have had no connection to art are suddenly asking questions,” he says. “And it’s good for artists to leave the art bubble and go into a public space to confront people with things that are funny or different from what they are used to. There will be tens of thousands of visitors to this centre.”

Paintings are hung on makeshift grey curtains used to divide space in the temporary vaccination centre and on the walls of the containers where injections take place. Security guards protecting the vaccine ensure that the art is also safe, Gruber says. The art in the waiting area has proven a welcome distraction for some patients, he says, even if not all are interested in art.

Gruber says the exhibition is also a useful opportunity to sell art when galleries are closed and many artists are battling with a loss of income. While no works have so far sold since the vaccination centre opened on 27 December, there is still plenty of time—the exhibition is due to run until June.

A vaccination centre in Bottrop is also doubling as exhibition space for a show that was planned for the local cultural centre and several other cities are considering following suit, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Gruber says he has received a query from the city of Trier, which is also interested in showing art in vaccination centres. The Art Newspaper

 

The First Blue Pigment Discovered in 200 Years Is Finally Commercially Available. Here’s Why It Already Has a Loyal Following
Made from rare earth elements, YInMn Blue is shockingly expensive. But that's not stopping everyone.

YInMn Blue, the brilliant pigment discovered in 2009 at an Oregon State University lab, is finally about to make its way to artists’ studios.

The pigment—which is the first new blue discovered in 200 years—was finally approved by the EPA for use in artists’ materials last May after chemist Mas Subramanian and his team serendipitously came upon it while conducting experiments with rare earth elements.

Subramanian has since continued to experiment with pigments in a trial-and-error process he hopes will someday yield a new red pigment.

But nothing he’s come across yet has been quite so stunning as YInMn Blue.

Some paint-makers caught wind of the find early on. Kremer Pigmente in Aichstetten, Germany, and Golden Artist Colors in New Berlin, New York, which both now offer their own YInMn Blue art supplies, waited years to get their hands on even a tiny amount of the pigment.

“We had to tell many artists we could not sell them the material and would let them know as soon as we could,” Jodi L. O’Dell, Golden’s head of community relations, told Artnet News.

Things began scaling up after Ohio’s Shepherd Color Company acquired the license to sell the pigment commercially in 2016. Whereas the Oregon State lab could only produce a few grams of YInMn Blue at a time, the company’s facilities were able to produce hundreds of kilograms.

Public interest exploded soon after, and the pigment even inspired a new shade of Crayola crayon, Bluetiful, in 2017.

“The Pureness of YInMn Blue Is Really Perfect”
YInMn Blue’s appeal stems in part from its high opacity, which means you don’t need to apply much of it to get a good coating. (Ultramarine, by comparison is quite transparent.) It also has unusual hyper-spectral properties, reflecting most infrared radiation, which keeps the pigment cool.

That makes it especially well-suited for energy-saving applications on building exteriors—which was part of what attracted Shepherd Color, which sells pigments for industrial use.

“The art world likes it because of the color. The industrial world likes it because of what it can do in terms of environmental regulations for building products,” Shepherd Color marking manger Mark Ryan told Artnet News.

The pigment also has a great deal to offer anyone looking for visual pleasure.

“It is very vivid compared to Cobalt blue or Prussian blue, and it comes with some additional advantages in terms of the durability and stability of the pigment,” Subramanian told Artnet News.

Described as something of a cross between Ultramarine blue and Cobalt blue, YInMn Blue fills “a gap in the range of colors,” Georg Kremer, Kremer’s founder and president, said. “Our customers loved it from the very first moment they had seen it.”

The pigment is also a welcome addition for anyone who has ever been disappointed by a dull, muddy purple made from combining blue and red paints.

“Traditionally, to mix a clean green you need to take something like a cerulean or phthalo blue—i.e. one biased towards yellow. However, to achieve a clean purple, one needs to mix a very red blue, like artificial ultramarine,” Steven Patterson, CEO of Australian art supply manufacturer Derivan, told Artnet News.

The dreaded murky purple, for instance, is “due to excess of the third primary yellow—which is just basic color theory.”

“The pureness of YInMn Blue is really perfect,” Kremer said.

But some hurdles had to be cleared before the pigment could be brought to the public.

“Once a new pigment is discovered, it has to be scaled up to useful quantities and receive regulatory approvals for commercial use,” Shepherd Color research and development manager Geoffrey Peake explained. “Those steps take another level of chemistry and engineering to be successful.”

And although YInMn Blue has been approved for US use in industrial coatings and plastics since September 2017, the nation’s art supply companies had to be a bit more patient.

“For industrial use it’s easier—when it come to consumer use, it requires much more vigorous testing,” Subramanian explained. “It’s hard to convince the EPA.”

Although YInMn Blue has finally met testing requirements of the US’s Toxic Substances Control Act, it is only approved for sale as a finished paint, not as a dry pigment powder.

The Blue Paint Black Market
Not every artist was willing to wait. Subramanian told Artnet News he keeps track of YInMn blue sales on Etsy, where there appears to be something of a black market for the pigment.

Connecticut artist Michael Rothman got his hands on some Kremer YInMn blue pigment in 2019 and produced his own paint, “hand milling the dry material in acrylic emulsion resin,” he said.

The artist, who specializes in scientific illustrations, used his illicit YInMn Blue to imagine a 47 million-year-old bird believed to be the oldest to have had blue plumage.

Despite its many advantages, YInMn Blue remains extremely expensive and relatively rare.

Gail Fishback of Maine’s Italian Art Store, the only US retailer selling Derivan’s YInMn Blue paint, said even her niche audience is not buying the paint in large numbers since it is about six times as expensive as her store’s most expensive tube of acrylic paint.

“From what I can tell, most of the customers are buying it out of curiosity and for bragging rights,” she said.

The store sells the paint for $179.40 for just 40 ML. By comparison, the other structure acrylics it offers starting in sizes no smaller than 75 ML are available from just $8.70.

And that sticker shock is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

That’s why several companies, such as Turner Colour Works Ltd., Holbein, and Kusakabe, all in Japan, have opted not to introduce YInMn Blue to their product line after testing the pigment. Gamblin Artists Colors said in a statement that “the cost of this pigment, relative to its benefit to painters, is too high.”

But the companies that have made the leap to production are sticking with it.

“Demand for the product has been steadily increasing,” O’Dell said.

Subramanian isn’t surprised. “For me, the chemistry is more fascinating than the art. But if I was an artist, I would want to try something new,” he said. “There’s a satisfaction in using a totally a new color.” artnet news

 



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