November 27, 2019


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


In this issue:

Marc Chagall’s iconic Chicago mosaic still dazzling in all seasons
Is the $450m Salvator Mundi really on a Saudi yacht?
Frames on Main opens today
What Cookie Monster Can Teach Us About Art
Abuse of diplomatic privilege? How missing art has been linked to embassy officials
At 70, Chicago artist with Parkinson’s disease paints his first mural, a tribute to veterans
Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?
1,200 Stolen Paintings Were Discovered in a Los Angeles Storage Locker
A giant wall': art world feels the pinch of Trump’s 25% import duty on printed works
He spent 27 years in prison making murals he’d never see finished. Now, he’s the Philly DA’s artist-in-residence.
Van Gogh's Sunflowers will leave London for over a year as Australian show is added to unprecedented loan tour

 

 

 

 

 

Marc Chagall’s iconic Chicago mosaic still dazzling in all seasons
Installed in 1974, ‘The Four Seasons’ still inspires, even if it does take a little work to keep it looking the way it should.

Downtown, in the depths of the Chase Tower basement — beneath the bustle of corporate life, through a maze of hallways, locked inside a chain-link fence — sit dozens of boxes and bins of gleaming, colorful pieces of glass.

Every five years, art preservation experts sift through them. They are searching for the perfect pieces to fit any empty, broken or tarnished slots on Marc Chagall’s iconic “Les Quatre Saisons” (“The Four Seasons”) mosaic, which has anchored the plaza outside the 60-story high-rise at 10 S. Dearborn St. since 1974.

Comprised of 128 panels, with more than 250 colors and seemingly countless pieces of glass, the three-dimensional mosaic stretches across four rectangular faces, forcing the viewer to move to view the piece in its entirety.

Jason Molchanow, vice president and curator of the JPMorgan Chase Art Collection, says the complex nature of the mosaic tends to keep people lingering longer.

“When people come to experience it, whether they know anything about Chagall or not, they can recognize human figures and birds and fish,” Molchanow says. “There’s something fun and almost odd in a way.”

In a 1974 documentary, “The Monumental Art of Marc Chagall,” about the mosaic, the artist, speaking in French, says the work is meant to “belong to all the people.” The documentary shows Chagall making finishing touches on the mosaic right until its unveiling in September 1974.

“In my mind, the four seasons represent human life, both physical and spiritual, at all its different stages,” Chagall says in the documentary.

Chagall, who died in 1985, is best known for his paintings, and some of his trademark painting elements can be seen in the mosaic. The Russian-French artist also produced stained-glass windows for the United Nations and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Molchanow gives tours of the mosaic. He says he’s seen how it resonates with people and mentions a group of high school French students.

“At that age level, they were actually very interested in the different panels, why we have this and what does it mean,” Molchanow says.

Because it had deteriorated, the mosaic was mostly rebuilt in the 1990s. A canopy was installed to protect it from rain and snow and even the sun, according to Ken Bartman, who manages the building and grounds at Chase Tower. That’s when the boxes of replacement glass pieces, now in the basement, were brought in.

Dennis Burns, chief engineer at Chase Tower, says he remembers the preservationists working in the basement, preparing for the restoration by drawing each panel, much as a painter might first do a sketch. The restoration, which began in 1992, lasted more than two years, Burns says.

Now, the mosaic is inspected for graffiti and other damage four times a day, cleaned annually and extensively restored every five years, Bartman says. The last full restoration was completed in 2018, with few problems thanks to the canopy and daily inspections.

“We know it’s a valuable and one-of-a-kind art piece, and with that comes responsibility,” Bartman says.

He says the mosaic “periodically” gets vandalized, but it’s “not as common as you might think.” He credits the security system installed during the 1992 restoration.

Being downtown, Molchanow says “The Four Seasons” is as likely to draw office workers as it is tourists.

“It lets people take a timeout in the busy Loop,” he says.

Phil Martino, 33, an account manager at Chase Bank in the Chase Tower, says he often takes his breaks on the plaza by the mosaic. He’s usually not alone there.

“The open plaza allows everyone to get away from all the street traffic,” the Villa Park resident says.

Molchanow says the Chagall “shows the city of Chicago’s commitment to the arts — that we have more historic examples and also newer examples.”

Claire Jones, 37, who works in marketing in Toronto and was visiting Chicago, made it a point to see the Chagall. She says she’s been a fan since spending a year in the south of France, where Chagall created much of his art.

Her favorite parts of the mosaic? The colors and variety of scenes.

“Even now, when it’s dusk, it’s very vibrant,” Jones says. Chicago Sun-Times


Is the $450m Salvator Mundi really on a Saudi yacht?
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s luxury vessel has unexpectedly circumnavigated Europe and docked in the Netherlands

Ever since the Louvre in Paris opened its Leonardo exhibition sans Salvator Mundi two weeks ago, speculation has run high that the $450m painting might yet appear in the display before it closes in February. A missing catalogue entry suggests the panel nearly made it to Paris as do the indemnity arrangements secured by the museum which include differing insurance caps for the show depending on whether the Salvator Mundi is included.

We have been here before. In December 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi announced in a tweet that “[we] are looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci”. Then, nothing. No painting. No explanation. And no replies to the numerous press queries.

The silence stoked the wild and ongoing press speculation about the painting’s location, ownership and attribution (yes, guilty). The painting has “vanished” declared numerous newspapers; it is “lost” and “will never be seen again” lamented others. Theories about its location ranged from the sensibile (it is in storage in Switzerland) to the seemingly outlandish: it is on a yacht owned by the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The prince, who is widely believed to have bought the Salvator Mundi at Christie’s New York on 15 November 2017 via an intermediary, “whisked away [the painting] in the middle of the night on [his] plane and relocated it to his yacht, the Serene,” according to a report by Kenny Schachter published on Artnet on 10 June.

Citing two sources “involved in the [sale]” of the work, Schachter speculated that the prince will keep the world’s most expensive painting on the superyacht he bought for €500m in 2015 from the Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler until it goes on display in the ancient Saudi precinct of Al-Ula which is currently being transformed into a vast cultural hub.

The suggestion was widely reported in the mainstream media and simultaneously dismissed by dubious art world experts. Nobody would keep a painting that valuable at sea, no matter how well provisioned the yacht or how well guarded.

And yet. Inquisitive minds will enquire. We started tracking the Serene the same day we read Schachter’s report. In June, the superyacht was moored near the Egyptian city of Port Said in the Mediterranean. And there it remained for weeks. Later, it headed south into the Red Sea, moving yet further away from Paris and the Louvre.

And then something unexpected happened. On 25 October, the day after the public opening of the Louvre’s Leonardo exhibition, the Serene abruptly departed the Red Sea and headed north towards the Suez Canal. It navigated through the passage and turned west, crossing the Mediterranean. After passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, it turned north, navigating past Portugal before making a brief stop in Spain. Then, it continued its journey north, passing past France before turning east into the English Channel. And finally, yesterday, the Serene was scheduled to dock at the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, a four-and-a-half-hour journey from Paris, at 8pm according to a route forecast from MarineTraffic.com (at the time of publication, an updated position report was not yet available).

Why would a superyacht, which usually moves from one warm-weather, billionaire’s playground to the next, suddenly circumnavigate Europe and head into the North Sea? Will the Salvator Mundi be unloaded today and transported to the Louvre? Could Schachter have been right all along? If the Salvator Mundi appears in Paris in the next week we may deduce so. If not, consider this just one more speculative story fuelling the myth surrounding the most talked about Old Master painting of our times.

Obviously, the Louvre declined to comment. The Art Newspaper

 

Frames on Main opens today

Brenda Salyers was starting to run out of room in her 14- by 16-foot work space at home.

She had been painting and framing in her bedroom since Bob Tabor sold the building in which he graciously let her use a room as her studio

“I had no place to paint, no place to work except my little 14-by-16 room which I had outgrown,” Salyers said.

Her commissions were getting bigger and bigger; the last one was six-foot.

In conversations with Sherry and Will Richardson, she learned the old gray building at 10 N. Main St. was for sale.

Salyers snatched it up in June and went straight to work alongside her team members, including Chris Mullins, Josh Ritchie, Jessica Rose and Ada Willoughby.

Together, they took up five layers of floor, repurposing everything they could find, including a clawfoot table with a handmade counter and coffee table stacked on top of it.

Now, the hard work has paid off as Salyers opens Frames on Main today at 10 a.m.

Salyers set up a painting studio in the back of the building, a space for the framers to work and then the rest of the shop is dedicated to selling art and other goodies.

“I realized I had all this, 3,500 square feet, and I’m a member of the Winchester Art Guild, and we had Arts On Main,” Salyers said. “And so, I presented, or met with the guild members and told them what I had. And I said, I think what I’m gonna do is complement Arts On Main, what they have. I won’t carry what they carry. They don’t carry what I carry, so we can give our Winchester people a variety of the arts. And that’s what we’re doing.”

Most of the home goods and art in Frames on Main are from Kentucky artists, Salyers said. She also has two framers with about 50 years of experience alongside two framers in training.

Frames on Main offers more than 1,700 framing options. Customers can choose from ready-made frames or consult with a framer to have one custom-made.

Salyers also has her art on sale, including her scenes of downtowns in various Kentucky counties. Salyers said she hopes to do all 120 counties, but so far only has 30.

Salyers said she tried her best to restore and preserve the history of the building. The shelves were from the old corner drugstore and city restaurant.

“Everything in this building has been repurposed that was in the building when I bought it,” Salyers said.

Salyers said her grandmother used to work for the restaurant, and she thinks the apartment overhead was once home for her grandparents as well.

“My grandfather was a cop for the Winchester Police Department,” Salyers said. “They lived upstairs and I feel like this is the apartment because I remember as a child, looking out the window when I wasn’t allowed to look out there… because it was bars and poker rooms and drinking and so forth but we would sneak and look out, and I remember the car wash being across there.

“I feel like this was the building my grandparents lived in. This was the building my grandmother served Winchester public on these very shelves. I even kept the booths upstairs. My heart just would not let the Winchester history leave here… There’s nothing that went out the door. We saved and repurposed everything.”

Salyers also dispersed inspirational quotes throughout the store to encourage people to enjoy art whether they do so actively or passively.

“Art has always been in my heart,” she said.

Salyers started experimenting with art as a child and then retired from UK Printing Services in 1999. That’s when she also took her first art class. It was her first time putting oil to canvas. In the years following, Salyers said she grabbed every art class she could, and eventually started selling her art.

Since then, Salyers hasn’t stopped painting, and with the new business, there’s no plans to stop anytime soon.

Salyers said she’s excited to open today.

“I am just proud,” she said. “I can’t wait to get up in the morning, put my open sign on the door and hang my yellow flag.”

Frames on Main’s regular hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Salyers said the business is also open by appointment.

In the future, Frames on Main will also offer consulting services to do home consults.

“Some of my family just doesn’t have the ability to look at a room, and see what’s in it and know what they need,” Salyers said. “And we do that. We also have to know the person and your personality too. You don’t want to hang a cow in a cat person’s house, or a dog in a cat person’s house. So that’s what we’re working towards.”

As for now, Salyers said she invites people to come see what Frames on Main is all about and to support local businesses.

“If we work together, Winchester can come back, and it’s growing, and just driving down the street just lifts me,” she said. “I can see the improvements in the old buildings coming back and the architecture being preserved. I love that.” The Winchester Sun

 

What Cookie Monster Can Teach Us About Art
From art critic, to poet, to journalist, the Sesame Street character is always hungry for cookies — and in pursuit of beauty.

It was 1983 when Cookie Monster took a life-altering trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first of several special visits Cookie Monster has since made to the institution. This particular field trip was illuminating; he announced before even entering, “Oh, boy! Cookie Monster in Metropolitan Museum of Art! Me going to find great painting of something important — like coo-oo-oo-ookies.”

Once inside, Cookie Monster would become enamored with a painting of Amedeo Modigliani’s mistress, Jeanne Hébuterne, not for its plaintive beauty for its potentially esculent quality: “See pretty picture with lady inside/It look delicious, me fit to be tied!/Me love to eat it with sugar and cream/But no no no!/Me know the rules!/Picture exciting, but not for biting!” As he sang, a trio of blue angels encircled him like a wreath: “Don’t eat the pictures, no, no, no/When you go to museum!”

Don’t Eat the Pictures is a one-hour Sesame Street special in which Big Bird gets locked in the Met while searching for Snuffy. The two then liberate the spirit of a young prince, whose soul had been trapped in an endless purgatory. The film takes ancient mythology and the kindness of new friendship as its dually intertwined themes, but it’s titled in the spirit of Cookie Monster, the true protagonist, who nearly eats works by Paul Cézanne, Philippe Rousseau, and James Peale. Cookie Monster loves to eat, especially cookies, and it takes great pains to quell his imagination — his pareidolia is specific, interpreting any stimulus as dessert. “Me don’t know art,” he explains, “but me know what me like: food.”

As a child, I deeply loved Cookie Monster, his sloppy gluttony and goofy humor. I couldn’t imagine that I’d admire, later, how he simultaneously lampoons and reveres the institution of art, rendering it delightfully — delectably — accessible. His reimaginings of famous poetry on Twitter, his public appearances in museums, his numerous stints in writers’ rooms: Cookie Monster, this newly christened media-savvy figure, eats everything, but he seems to eat a lot of art — he seems, in fact, to really love art, and literature, too. He grants young viewers access to it, then eats it; biting a Cézanne certainly skewers its austerity, but only in the name of education.

In 2012, boosting its already robust programming, Sesame Street incorporated a STEAM curriculum, integrating the theatrics of music and visual art into programs designed to teach math and science. But Sesame Street has always utilized the arts as its own kind of exploratory education: the animated spots produced collaboratively with the Keith Haring Foundation; the Renoir painting exercise; the very French Salvatore Dada; the myriad instances in which the gang paints, writes, and cooks. In “Cookie Monster’s Foodie Truck,” Cookie Monster is a curious but ravenous chef, continually clearing the pantry.

Cookie Monster was born Sid Monster on November 2 (year unknown). As a baby, he was “mild-mannered,” never having tasted a cookie; things changed after his mother baked a batch. Now anything is a potential cookie, and cookies make anything more beautiful. With Misty Copeland, he learns that dancing, too, is a form of art, before the two share a snack. As the host of Sesame Street’s “Masterpiece Theater,” which debuted in 1978, Cookie Monster was Alistair Cookie — a play on journalist Alistair Cooke (who, like Cookie Monster, was a Scorpio). Besides poetry, Cookie Monster often posts cookie-themed versions of lyrics (“Me just took a DNA test, turns out me 100% cookies … ”); he’s been part of the writers’ room at The Washington Post and Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where he struggled to write jokes without employing a cookie reference. Perhaps his best foray into the world of literary arts was a brief journalism gig: he attempted to negotiate a contract that included pay, benefits, and time off, before settling for a cookie. So long as the medium or the message is a cookie, Cookie Monster is lyricist, writer, dancer. Through his tutelage, each discipline becomes, to the rest of us, digestible.

Cookie Monster still frequents art museums. Earlier this year, there was his trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he posed with Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and got busted for snacking in the galleries. In 2015, he spent a day spent at the Guggenheim, the Met, and the Museum of Modern Art, pondering deeply and mingling with staff and guests. In Mashable’s coverage of the day, crowds gathered near MoMA’s entrance “in hopes of capturing the ultimate selfie.” Elizabeth Margulies, Director of Family Programs and Initiatives at the MoMA, said the crowds were giddy with an excitement she hadn’t seen “since Lady Gaga visited the museum.” The trip coincided with a new special, “The Cookie Thief” — not to be confused with “The Mysterious Cookie Thief” — in which Cookie Monster is accused of stealing masterpieces at the Museum of Modern Cookies. “Me never steal painting,” he insists. “Me might take a nibble.”

The true culprit? An anthropomorphic cookie, who deeply loves cookie art. “I just love cookie art so much,” he sighs, after his capture. Cookie Monster empathizes: “Me got it! Little cookie can make his own cookie art.” In the ensuing song, “Make Your Own Art,” Elmo and company sing: “Whatever is in your head/whatever is in your heart/you can make your own art.”

I’ve suspected there is something life-affirming in Cookie Monster’s unabashed love and joy for cultural stimuli — so pure and brash that if he could eat it all, he would. Cookie Monster was once a bad example, designed to teach children about self-control — one mustn’t always eat cookies — but so much of Sesame Street’s ethos is about love and kindness for others, for the nuances of the human race, for oneself. He has no shame, and thank goodness. In his googly-eyed gaze is profound simplicity, happiness in himself and in his desires. Like Hemingway before him, Cookie Monster “reduce[s] the veil between [cookies] and life.” Art is for everyone, not for an elite few; so is being yourself, no matter how absurd. Hyperallergic

 

Abuse of diplomatic privilege? How missing art has been linked to embassy officials
Recent cases involving stolen art have raised questions over the behaviour of diplomats

As debate over diplomatic immunity continues around the departure from the UK of US diplomat’s wife Anne Sacoolas following a crash that left a motorcyclist dead, a series of cases involving officials and stolen art have raised broader questions over the behaviour of diplomats.

This September, Egypt’s attorney general issued a red notice (a request for assistance from international bodies) to ensure that Ladislav Otakar Skakal, a former honorary consul (consuls do not have immunity) at the Italian embassy in Cairo, stands trial. He is alleged to have smuggled out of the country more than 21,000 artefacts—a number were subsequently discovered in security deposit boxes. Attempts by The Art Newspaper to contact the attorney general and Skakal were unsuccessful.

In the same month, reports emerged of art missing from the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. Associated Press News named paintings by Armando Reverón, Héctor Poleo and Manuel Cabré, among wider concerns for the safety of the country’s heritage. There is a battle for power and assets blazing between the country’s president Nicolás Maduro and opposition politician Juan Guaidó, who is disputing the former’s position.

“The problem is that for the past two decades in Venezuela, there has been no accountability,” says the New York-based dealer and adviser, Alex Stein, who used to head Sotheby’s Latin American department. “Not many art professionals are fully aware of all the art in the hands of governmental institutions, and communists ruling the country nationalised a few thousand private companies and banks. It’s hard to trace the assets because there is no public record of what was there in the first place.”

Officials are well placed to move art and antiques across borders as the packages they send out of the country do not have to undergo customs inspections. “Diplomatic pouches are not normally checked at a border when leaving a country of origin,” explains Till Vere-Hodge, an art and cultural property lawyer at Constantine Cannon.

It was in one such pouch that a Joachim Wtewael painting was smuggled out of Moscow by the wife of the Togo ambassador and ended up at Sotheby’s in London in 1992. The now textbook art law case ended up in the UK’s High Court, where the judge ruled that the original crime, the theft of the painting, was not time-barred (the work had been looted from its original home in the German city of Gotha in 1945). In this case “the smuggling itself in the diplomatic pouch brought the painting back from beyond the Iron Curtain and from beyond the grasp of its original owners”, said the judge, who ruled the work had to be returned to Germany.

Risk to art in embassies is not new. In addition to the known attempts to smuggle are examples of works being destroyed. Paintings worth a total of £130,000, by artists including Edmund Havell and Philip Reinagle, are thought to have been lost when the British Embassy in Libya was ransacked and set on fire in 2011. Such losses are, unsurprisingly, higher in regions of instability. As Christopher Marinello, the chief executive of Art Recovery International, points out: “You need a stable government before you start compiling inventories.”

For the works involved in such cases, though, there is no immunity. “Whether or not an individual uses their position to get an object out of a country,” Vere-Hodge says, “[the object] will still have problems further down the line—legally and in the art market. Once an object has been illegally moved across borders, that blemish on the object won’t disappear just because you are a diplomat.” The Art Newspaper

 

At 70, Chicago artist with Parkinson’s disease paints his first mural, a tribute to veterans
‘You feel as if you don’t have Parkinson’s,’ George Zaremba says of doing art. ‘It may sound crazy, but this can be the best part of your life . . . You feel the need to do things you’ve put off in the past.’

For years, George Zaremba had painted for his own enjoyment. It became something more to him after being diagnosed five years ago with Parkinson’s disease. His art was no longer just a hobby. It was a way to cope with a degenerative condition that breaks down body and mind.

Painting “definitely is a catharsis,” says Zaremba, 70. “You feel as if you don’t have Parkinson’s while you’re actually involved.”

This past summer, he took on his biggest artistic challenge. Down the street from his West Side art studio, on a Frank Lloyd Wright building at North Sacramento Boulevard and West Carroll Avenue that’s used by bands as a rehearsal space, Zaremba painted a black-and-white mural that features the faces of two Vietnam War soldiers bookending a scene of three soldiers’ silhouettes and a rifle propping up a helmet beneath the mural’s title: “WE REMEMBER.”

“WAR IS HELL” is emblazoned across the helmet of one of the soldiers.

Zaremba is a real estate broker who lives in Humboldt Park. He didn’t serve in the military but says he “grew up in the Vietnam War generation” and wants veterans to be treated with respect. He says seeing soldiers “coming back as heroes, welcomed by their families” makes him wish those who fought in Vietnam were treated the same.

He paints as often as he can, going three times a week to Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts, which offers studio space and workshops on the Near North Side.

He’d prefer that people focus on his art, not his illness.

“If something is beautiful, and somebody says it’s beautiful, they won’t say it was done by a person with Parkinson’s,” he says. “They’ll just say it’s a piece of art that was done beautifully.”

People with Parkinson’s often experience tremors, rigidity, slow movements and balance issues as well as mood and sleep problems, according to Dr. Danny Bega, a Northwestern University neurologist who specializes in movement disorders. Painting can help alleviate some of its effects, as can dance and music, Bega says.

Zaremba says the key benefit for him is mental, “but I can make myself feel better by feeling good about what I’m doing.”

He speaks of his art “punching through the cobweb that’s holding you back and making you feel apathetic.”

Parkinson’s “makes you not want to be active,” Zaremba says.

So that’s what he fights. Three times a week, he boxes on the North Side at Rock Steady Boxing, which has classes for people with Parkinson’s.

“It may sound crazy, but this can be the best part of your life,” Zaremba says of living with Parkinson’s. “It marvelously focuses your mind. You feel the need to do things you’ve put off in the past.”

Zaremba’s friend Rick Smith, who assisted him with the mural project, says, “It helps him a lot. It definitely unbounds his creativity.”

Smith, who works in technology in Arlington Heights, says that, before heading outdoors, they painted a mockup in Zaremba’s garage. They tried phrase after phrase for the mural before landing on “WE REMEMBER.”

“The words choked me up,” Smith says. “It was a powerful image. And the words added to it.”

Zaremba says now that “WE REMEMBER” is done, he hopes to complete more murals. Chicago Sun-Times

 

Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?
Museums are reassessing the legacy of an artist who had sex with teenage girls and called the Polynesian people he painted “savages.”

“Is it time to stop looking at Gauguin altogether?”

That’s the startling question visitors hear on the audio guide as they walk through the “Gauguin Portraits” exhibition at the National Gallery in London. The show, which runs through Jan. 26, focuses on Paul Gauguin’s depictions of himself, his friends and fellow artists, and of the children he fathered and the young girls he lived with in Tahiti.

The standout portrait in the exhibition is “Tehamana Has Many Parents” (1893). It pictures Gauguin’s teenage lover, holding a fan.

The artist “repeatedly entered into sexual relations with young girls, ‘marrying’ two of them and fathering children,” reads the wall text. “Gauguin undoubtedly exploited his position as a privileged Westerner to make the most of the sexual freedoms available to him.”

Born in Paris, the son of a radical journalist, Gauguin spent his early years in Peru before returning to France. He took up painting in his 20s, while working as a stockbroker, a profession he would soon give up — along with his wife and children — to make art full time. He set sail for Tahiti in 1891, searching for the exotic surroundings he had known as a boy in Peru. Gauguin spent most of the 12 remaining years of his life in Tahiti and on the French Polynesian island of Hiva Oa, cohabiting with adolescent girls, fathering more children, and producing his best-known paintings.

In the international museum world, Gauguin is a box-office hit. There have been a half-dozen exhibitions of his work in the last few years alone, including important shows in Paris, Chicago and San Francisco. Yet in an age of heightened public sensitivity to issues of gender, race and colonialism, museums are having to reassess his legacy.

A couple of decades ago, an exhibition on the same theme “would have been a great deal more about formal innovation,” said Christopher Riopelle, a co-curator of the National Gallery show. Now, everything must be viewed “in a much more nuanced context,” he added.

“I don’t think, any longer, that it’s enough to say, ‘Oh well, that’s the way they did it back then,’ ” he said.

Mr. Riopelle described Gauguin as “a very complicated person, a very driven person, a very callous person,” and said he was “disappointed” that his overwhelming urge to make art “led him to hurt or use so many people badly.”

The show was co-produced with the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and opened in Ottawa in late May. A few days before the opening, the museum’s newly appointed director, Sasha Suda, and the exhibition’s curators decided to edit some of the wall texts after touring the show. Nine labels were changed to avoid culturally insensitive language, according to the museum’s press office.

In Ottawa, the title “Head of a Savage, Mask” was shown with an extended label explaining that the words ‘savage’ and ‘barbarian,’ “considered offensive today, reflect attitudes common to Gauguin’s time and place.” Elsewhere, his “relationship with a young Tahitian woman” was changed to “his relationship with a 13- or 14-year-old Tahitian girl.”

Ms. Suda said that out of 2,313 feedback cards submitted by visitors at the Canadian exhibition, about 50 were complaints about Gauguin and about the museum programming.

The show should “have addressed these issues in a more open and transparent way that connected with contemporary audiences,” Ms. Suda said in an interview. Addressing “blind spots” in the work of historical artists “could make those artists more relevant,” she added.

To other museum professionals, re-examining the lives of past artists from a 21st-century perspective is risky, because it could lead to the boycott of great art.

“The person, I can totally abhor and loathe, but the work is the work,” said Vicente Todolí, who was Tate Modern’s director when it staged a major Gauguin exhibition in 2010, and is now the artistic director of the Pirelli HangarBicocca art foundation in Milan.

“Once an artist creates something, it doesn’t belong to the artist anymore: It belongs to the world,” he said. Otherwise, he cautioned, we would stop reading the anti-Semitic author Louis-Ferdinand Céline, or shun Cervantes and Shakespeare if we found something unsavory about them.

Yet Ashley Remer, a New Zealand-based American curator who in 2009 founded girlmuseum.org, an online museum focused on the representation of young girls in history and culture, insisted that in Gauguin’s case the man’s actions were so egregious that they overshadowed the work.

“He was an arrogant, overrated, patronizing pedophile, to be very blunt,” she said. If his paintings were photographs, they would be “way more scandalous,” and “we wouldn’t have been accepting of the images,” she added.

Ms. Remer questioned the constant exhibitions of Gauguin and the Austrian artist Egon Schiele, who also depicted nude underage models, and the ways those shows were put together. “I’m not saying take down the works: I’m saying lay it all bare about the whole person,” she said.

Gauguin remains a tourist draw in Polynesia and the South Pacific. There is even a luxury cruise line that tours the region that is named after him. But to many locals, the painter’s clichéd representations of lush, exotic islands full of dusky maidens with no voice or identity are tiresome.

“Gauguin, you piss me off,” begins “Two Nudes On a Tahitian Beach, 1894,” a poem by the New Zealand poet and academic Selina Tusitala Marsh.

You strip me bare
assed, turn me on my side
shove a fan in my hand
smearing fingers on thigh
pout my lips below an
almond eye and silhouette me
in smouldering ochre.

The anonymity of his Tahitian portraits is another cause of frustration. In the 2009 photographic series “Dee and Dallas Do Gauguin,” the New Zealand-born Samoan artist Tyla Vaeau has cut out the faces in Gauguin reproductions and inserted photos of her own sister and friend.

Gauguin’s art is a problem “if it continues to be used to frame the Pacific in this timeless, semi-damaged past, when actually there’s so much going on,” said Caroline Vercoe, a senior lecturer in art history at the University of Auckland who is part Samoan and is participating in the National Gallery in London’s talk and film program. “It’s such a lively and dynamic culture within the indigenous context as well.”

Even to his admirers, Gauguin invites questioning. The African-American painter Kehinde Wiley — who described Gauguin as one of his idols in a 2017 interview, but also as “creepy” — recently painted a series in Tahiti inspired by Gauguin that depicts the mahu, a nonbinary community considered a “third gender” in Polynesia.

“I love his paintings, but I find him a little bit strange,” Mr. Wiley says in a National Gallery film. “The ways we see black and brown bodies from the Pacific are shot through his sense of desire. But how do you change the narrative? How do you change the way of looking?”

To ensure that Gauguin’s artistic legacy is not besmirched by his “marriages” to underage girls, these relationships should be covered in exhibitions, said Line Clausen Pedersen, a Danish curator who has put on several Gauguin shows. With each exhibition, “another layer is peeled off the protection of history that he has somehow enjoyed,” she said. “Maybe the time is ripe to take off more layers than before.”

“What’s left to say about Gauguin,” she added, “is for us to bring out all the dirty stuff.” The New York Times

 

1,200 Stolen Paintings Were Discovered in a Los Angeles Storage Locker
Of a total 2,300 missing paintings by Scottish painter Benjamin Creme, 1,200 have been recovered. They are valued at around at around $777,000.

A mother lode of stolen paintings was discovered this month in a Los Angeles storage locker. The works — some 1,200 of them — are by Scottish painter and mystic Benjamin Creme, and valued at around £600,000 (~$777,000). In 2012, 2,300 of Cremes’s works were reported stolen from a storage locker owned by lithographer Michael Flaum, a friend of the artist who worked with Creme to make the prints in the 1960s and ’70s.

According to reporting by the BBC, the paintings were discovered in the storage locker of a person who had passed away a few years ago; a relative of the deceased contacted the authorities after coming across the paintings among this undisclosed person’s stored possessions. The relationship of this person to Creme or the theft of his paintings is unclear.

“It was completely empty,” said Flaum, quoted in The New York Times recalling the day in August 2012 that he discovered 2,300 signed and numbered prints by Creme missing from his Los Angeles storage locker. “It’s very traumatic.” Now a piece of the seven-year mystery has been solved, with the discovery of some of these works in another storage unit. The relative apparently saw the paintings in the FBI’s National Stolen Art File after discovering them among the effects left in the storage locker. She turned them in to local authorities in San Fernando, CA, and they eventually made their way back to the astounded Flaum, who says the majority of them appear to be in good shape.

Among the recovered works were prints titled “Flame-Coloured Deva,” “Polarity,” and “Soul Infusion.” These are signature themes for Creme, who incorporated themes of mysticism in his abstract paintings, and by the 1960s had amassed a sort of cult following to his prophesies of the second coming of Jesus Christ, whom he believed to be a deity called Maitreya the World Teacher.

“His esoteric painting period, begun in 1964, stands as a unique and powerful interpretation of the theosophical ideas which had been introduced to the art world by artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, and Klee,” reads a biographical description on the home page of the Benjamin Creme Museum, which has continued to keep the painter’s artistic and metaphysical legacy alive, even after his death in 2016 at the age of 93. Hyperallergic

 

'A giant wall': art world feels the pinch of Trump’s 25% import duty on printed works
Collectors and artists are scrambling to find solutions to the US government’s penalty tariffs

US President Donald Trump’s 25% import duty on printed matter is beginning to have an impact on the art trade. Dealers at the Paris Photo fair earlier this month (7-10 November) feared that the additional surcharge would be off-putting for US collectors and scrambled to find viable solutions to avoid the penalty tariffs.

The import tariff puts an extra 25% tax on UK or German lithographs on paper or paperboard, and pictures, designs and photographs that were printed within the past 20 years. It came into effect on 18 October after the World Trade Organization (WTO) granted the US permission to tax $7.5bn of European exports annually.

Part of a 15-year-long dispute over subsidies given to the European airplane manufacturer Airbus, it is intended to enable the US to recoup some of the losses sustained by the American airplane manufacturer Boeing. The tariff applies to numerous imports – from biscuits and waffles to books and lithographs.

“Trump’s response to the trade conflict is like a kindergarten game, and we need clarification [from the shippers on how the tariff is implemented],” said Thomas Zander from Cologne. “An American collector interested in Candida Höfer might want to wait one or two years [until it is lifted]. But we have a partner gallery in Belgium that could produce her new pieces [priced at €60,000] in Brussels and send them to New York.” But Höfer’s older works produced in Germany in the past 20 years would be subjected to the import duty.

Timothy Persons, the founder of Persons Projects-The Helsinki School in Berlin, is also planning to have works printed elsewhere. “Until now, we’ve been printing works by our Finnish and Danish artists who are based in Berlin in Germany, but now we’ll print them in Estonia if they’re going to American collectors.”

Another option is for photographers to print works in the US instead. “Two American collectors have agreed to pay for my flight to the US and accommodation so I can print my works there,” said Sebastian Riemer, whose works based on appropriating discarded slides of artworks were exhibited by Galerie Dix9 from Paris. “I’m trying to find a laboratory in New York or Los Angeles, but printing and mounting prices are higher in the US,” Riemer adds.

Although the 25% tariff could be circumnavigated in these ways, the matter is more complicated for older photographs made in the past 20 years. “As we deal in editions that are also exhibited at US galleries, we’d have to incorporate the 25% into the price [and pay it ourselves] if we want to compete with a US gallery that already has the work,” said Robert Morat from Berlin, citing the example of the German photographer Jessica Backhaus who is also represented by Robert Klein in Boston. “And with new works, the American gallery could ask [her] to send a digital file and have it printed there.”

Christoph Wiesner, the artistic director of Paris Photo, said the tariff is “very worrying for works produced some years ago that cannot be reproduced now”. He said that several German exhibitors had contacted the fair last month to raise their concerns.

The market for artists making unique work with precise studio techniques may also suffer. “Christiane Feser’s work will be affected; some of our American collectors who already own a piece by her are now not thinking of buying another one because [with the extra 25%] it’s an incredible difference in price,” said Anita Beckers from Frankfurt am Main.

The tariff issue is also playing a role in German galleries’ decisions about whether to participate in US fairs and the works they would bring. “The only way we could do Paris Photo New York [in April 2020] is if we show American artists,” said Hannes Kuckei from Berlin. “We’re participating in Art Miami next month and we’ve decided not to ship any prints from Germany to the US. We will be showing paintings by two American artists instead.”

American galleries that work with artists based in Germany and the UK are also concerned. “It will put a halt on works by artists like Nan Goldin being imported,” said Frish Brandt, the president of Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. “We’ll just have to work with what we’ve got [already in storage]. Who gets hurt the most? It’s the artist. This tariff is a giant wall.”

Indeed, one American gallery contacted the photographic laboratory Recom Art in Berlin in early October to enquire if it could print some works and have them sent before the tariff was imposed. However, due to the time required to realise the printing, the request could not be fulfilled. "We will see what will happen now [with the implementation of the tariff] and how this affects production," says Christiane Hardt from Recom Art, one of several German laboratories, also including Grieger and HSL in Düsseldorf, for whom the tariff is not good news.

Undoubtedly, the ramifications have been felt far beyond Paris Photo. “This is shocking for the German art market, and it is absolutely pointless that Trump’s punitive tariff applies to works of art by contemporary artists—this will unnecessarily block cultural exchange and promotion,” said Birgit Maria Sturm from BVDG, the association of German galleries and art handlers. She is contacting the German embassy in Washington to request their assistance in having the tariff revoked.

Equally, the Art Dealers Association of America said: “As with the China tariffs, the new tariffs on art from the UK and Germany will have a detrimental impact on American art dealers and living artists. Additionally problematic is the short time between the WTO’s decision and the tariffs’ enforcement, leaving small businesses little time to prepare and adapt.”

Furthermore, Grisebach auction house in Berlin is fearful about how the tariffs will affect future sales: “We fear that American buyers will price this additional tax on their bids for the artworks in question and therefore may not be able to place bids as high as non-American buyers.” The Art Newspaper

He spent 27 years in prison making murals he’d never see finished. Now, he’s the Philly DA’s artist-in-residence.

For nearly two decades, James Hough painted sections of murals that would splash color, bold imagery and messages of resilience, healing and hope across more than 50 blank or blighted walls across Philadelphia.

But Hough — who was serving a life sentence at the State Correctional Institution-Graterford — never saw the finished artwork. Each square of parachute cloth he painted was sent out into the world. He saw the finished product only in photographs sent to him by Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Restorative Justice program.

Then, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life sentences automatically imposed on minors were cruel and unusual, putting Hough in line for a new sentence making him eligible for parole.

Now, Hough is seeing his work on display for the first time — and expanding his role in making public art as an unlikely emissary for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where he is taking a position that’s been described as the first-ever artist-in-residence at a DA’s office, embedded alongside prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates.

Philadelphia has seen artist residencies in a high-poverty neighborhood, an environmental education center and even a dump. But a DA’s office where prosecutors are busy handling sensitive and serious matters?

It makes perfect sense to DA Larry Krasner, who sees the arts as central to the criminal justice reform movement, starting with the writing of Michelle Alexander and continuing with the films of Ava DuVernay, right up to Kendrick Lamar’s songs of racial injustice.

“We’re seeing this bona fide cultural moment, and the arts are an integral part of it," he said. "And the connection between the reforms we’re trying to make in Philadelphia and the people in Philly who are part of that movement are best made in some ways through the arts.”

He also sees art as a means of communicating with the public, making the office more accessible.

“It’s not advertising. It’s not propaganda. It’s not going to be closely controlled," he said. "It’s going to do the powerful things that art can do.”

Plus, he emphasized, no taxpayer funding will be used.

Instead, the project will be supported by Mural Arts Philadelphia and by Fair and Just Prosecution, the national network of reform prosecutors. The two jointly sought a grant from the Art for Justice fund.

Installing an artist-in-residence in a city agency is a first for Philadelphia, but was inspired by initiatives in other cities like a Minneapolis effort that brought artists into departments including streets and licenses and inspections, Mural Arts’ executive director Jane Golden said.

Miriam Krinsky, who heads Fair and Just Prosecution, sees the project as a pilot for other offices around the country willing to welcome in artists and work with them to humanize the impact of the system and underscore the need for reform.

She acknowledged that by bringing in someone like Hough, who came into the criminal justice system at 17 for fatally shooting a man on a Pittsburgh street in 1992 and spent 27 years in prison, the work is also squarely aimed at those who work within the office.

Hough, who lives in Pittsburgh, envisions conducting interviews and workshops with DA office staffers and people in the community, and using those testimonials to inspire a series of videos and paintings. But until he begins the 10-month assignment, it’s hard to say what the finished project might look like.

On Thursday, before a news conference at the District Attorney’s Office to announce his new role, Hough stopped off near 12th and Callowhill Streets, to gaze up at a striking mural he’d created called the Stamp of Incarceration, working side by side with the artist Shepard Fairey and other prisoners.

“I was involved with this mural for the whole process: developing the concept, mixing the colors," he said. "Now, the final step is witnessing it.”

To Hough, seeing this work in the world for the first time felt surreal — and profound.

“I can’t wait for some of the other guys that are incarcerated to get that experience,” he said. “It really places you as an individual who worked on a collective project in the bigger scheme of things, in the sense that you contributed to the tapestry of the city in a meaningful way. And it opens the door to the possibility that there’s more that you can do.” The Philadelphia Inquirer

 

Van Gogh's Sunflowers will leave London for over a year as Australian show is added to unprecedented loan tour
Masterpiece from London's National Gallery is headed for Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia

Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (1888) is to go to Australia next year. Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia will present the painting as the highlight in its exhibition Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, London (13 November 2020-14 March 2021).

Other artists to be featured in the show include Titian, Goya, Turner, Cézanne and Gauguin. Among the key works are Rembrandt’s Self-portrait at the Age of 63 (1669) and Vermeer’s A Young Woman seated at a Virginal (1670-72).

Canberra will be the third and final stop on a tour of National Gallery pictures, where it is being organised by the charity Art Exhibitions Australia. Earlier this year it was announced that the tour would start at two Japanese venues: Tokyo’s National Museum of Western Art (3 March-14 June 2020) and Osaka’s National Museum of Art (7 July-18 October 2020). The two Japanese museums are expected to attract around one million visitors.

The addition of Canberra means that the Sunflowers, one of the National Gallery’s most popular paintings, will be off display in London for just over a year. The Van Gogh has only been lent abroad three times since its acquisition in 1923—to Paris in 1955 and Amsterdam in 2002 and 2013.

The Japanese and Australian exhibitions will comprise the largest group of National Gallery paintings ever to be sent abroad. A gallery spokesman says that fees from the touring show will be partly used for “sharing our pictures with audiences in the UK”. The Art Newspaper