October 28, 2020

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

In this issue:

Instagram turns ten: how the world's favourite photo app disrupted the art market
David Lee Roth's brush with art
Massive ancient cat image discovered among Peru’s Nazca Lines
Seventy works damaged in oil attack on Berlin’s Museum Island
This South Shore mural stood out by focusing on objects, not people
Stolen Klimt painting—buried for 20 years—to go back on show at Italian museum




Instagram turns ten: how the world's favourite photo app disrupted the art market
Dubbed "the world's new big art dealer" the platform is often used to spark interest in sales and helps artists and galleries to grow international brands

Happy birthday, Instagram! Everybody’s favourite photo app turned ten this month. It has become a cross-industry gamechanger but how has the platform disrupted the art market, an industry wedded to traditional structures and hierarchies?

As of 1 January 2020, Instagram had almost a billion monthly users, second only to Facebook (2.6 billion) in the Western social network world. According to Hiscox’s 2019 online trade report, however, Instagram overtook Facebook as the art world’s channel of choice in 2017; the majority of the survey’s respondents said they preferred Instagram to discover art, follow artists, follow trends and—ultimately—find works to buy.

It’s easy to see why Instagram has been dubbed the “world’s new big art dealer”; one billion is a far larger audience than Christie’s, Sotheby’s or any mega-gallery could dream of. But Instagram is more about browsing—or mindless scrolling—than buying: its most effective use “has been as a marketing tool, helping to spark interest in sales and offline experiences”, says the 2020 UBS and Art Basel global art market report. That’s not to downplay Instagram’s art-market role: the ability to speak to interested individuals directly, in a slick, visually effective format has enabled artists and smaller galleries or advisers to grow their brands internationally with a click, rather than waiting for the approval of industry grandees.

But the platform’s power lies most in celebrity and influencer culture. Art is always tied to luxury and exclusivity, and Instagram adds further fuel to that fire: in 2015, the actor Pierce Brosnan posted a selfie with a chaise longue at Phillips; it went on to break the record for a design object sold at auction.

Instagram allows technologically savvy artists to achieve fame independently, to sell their work on their own terms and to engage directly with supporters and collectors. For some this has cut out the middle-man: the dealer. But for others, it is their online following that has led to approaches from galleries that then gain access to the artists’ followers. The Pakistan-born Canadian artist Maria Qamar (@hatecopy) gathered a large fanbase (of nearly 200,000), prompting New York’s Richard Taittinger Gallery to sign her.

So are people buying art on Instagram? The UBS and Art Basel report says that 61% of the high-net-worth collectors in their survey said they had bought art that appeared on the platform; Hiscox’s report puts the figure at 75%. Who knows what the next decade might bring but, for now, as the UBS and Art Basel report concludes, Instagram’s strength is its ability to engage collectors and shape preferences—but it remains limited in finalising actual sales.

However, the changes Instagram is bringing to the art market aren’t all about money. A surge of activism on the platform can be seen through anonymous accounts such as @cancelartgalleries and @herdsceneand, which post incidents of racism and sexism in the hope of highlighting and eradicating problematic behaviour within the industry. That is a disruption we can all support. The Art Newspaper


David Lee Roth's brush with art

In the quiet of a late summer night, the artist is at work. Sumi-e, the art of Japanese ink painting, is equal parts beauty and discipline.

"You're a night owl – you usually paint and draw at night?" asked correspondent Tracy Smith.

"Yes, nighttime," replied the artist. "There's no magic to that. It's simple lack of visual stimulation."

He makes intricate pen-and-brush images, all of them done freehand in ink, based on a centuries-old formula.

And while you may not be familiar with the sumi-e technique, there's a good chance you've already met the artist in another life.

For rock music fans, David Lee Roth needs no introduction. As the original lead singer of the Hall of Fame supergroup Van Halen, he was "Diamond Dave" on stage – a human cyclone of crazy energy.

But the heart of the band was co-founder Eddie Van Halen, who died of cancer earlier this month at age 65, and who was arguably one of the greatest guitarists who ever lived.

David Lee Roth performed with Van Halen for the last time in 2015, and shortly after Eddie's death posted this tweet: "What a long great trip it's been."

These days, at home in California during the pandemic, Roth's artistry is a bit more nuanced. But it didn't come easy; in fact, he spent two years in Tokyo trying to master this technique.

Roth said, "I spent the first six months painting bamboo because it was in spring/summer. And I said, 'When are we gonna paint something else?' And he looked out the window and said, 'When the weather changes.' And he wasn't kidding. So, for about four months we painted a little house with snow on top."

Smith said, "This is fascinating – you took two years of your life and went to Tokyo to study Japanese painting and drawing?"

"You have a look that is a bit, 'That's unusual'? 'Unexpected'?"


"Is it unexpected good, or unexpected eccentric to you? I'm curious."

"I think a little bit of both," Smith said. "I think it takes remarkable patience and discipline that most people, let alone a rock star who could be doing a lot of other things, would take the time to do."

Roth said, "If you were a rock star and you had the money to do – let's just add that – to do whatever it is, and I beyond all, I've always wanted a giant boat. If you can get past that, what would you use your rock stardom for?"

"I don't know."

"I've always used my celebrity as a passport for travel, and let's go get into it."

And here's something else he got into: In 2004, Roth became a certified emergency medical technician in New York City. He was 48 years old, but he said answering life-and-death emergency calls in the Bronx was the thing in life that made him feel, well, like a rock star.

"I wasn't someone until I put on that 511 uniform and went on my first calls," Roth said. "I'm not gonna kid ya'. I knew I was in for the humbling experience: 'Oh, White boy rock star thinks what, this is an easy gig?'"

"But you wanted to do it anyway?"

"Oh, that's extra. You bet."

He also learned that in a crisis it helps to have a little sense of humor. "That is your only weapon; that is your only life preserver that you can give somebody who thinks they're gonna die," Roth said. "Nobody calls 911 just to wish you Happy Hanukah."

These days, it seems his time as a paramedic is behind him. But Roth is still very much a performer. Before COVID he'd been touring as a successful solo act.

But now, he said, he's going to take it a little slower.

"So, you're gonna space it out a little bit," asked Smith.

"I'm on my, what, 45th year, something like that?" Roth said. "It's great to see me, but not every year. Like family!"

And for now, there's only his solitary art. But just because his medium of the moment is pen and ink, it doesn't mean David Lee Roth will ever lose his voice.

He asked, "Who has the most impact on history? Government? Or the historian?"

"He who tells the story, right?" said Smith.

"Hello! That's Yiddish for 'Yo!'"

"So, is your visual art, storytelling?"

"My visual art is complaining," he said. "It's graphic therapy. I say through my graphic art everything that a lotta folks say to the TV set when you don't think anybody's actually listening." CBS News


Massive ancient cat image discovered among Peru’s Nazca Lines
The 2,000 year-old earth carving could be the oldest geoglyph ever found

Archeologists working in Peru’s Nazca Lines, a Unesco World Heritage Site, have discovered a 120-foot long geoglyph that appears to depict a massive, lounging cat. Scientists believe the image of the gigantic feline, carved into a hillside, is over 2,000 years old, dating its creation to some time between 200 BCE and 100 BCE—making it potentially the oldest geoglyph ever unearthed at Nazca.

"The figure was barely visible and was about to disappear as a result of its location on a fairly steep slope and the effects of natural erosion," Peru’s cultural ministry said in a statement. "Representations of this type of feline are frequently found in the iconography of ceramics and textiles in the Paracas society.”

The Nazca Lines were first discovered in 1927, and prior to the newly-discovered feline, archaeologists had unearthed carvings depicting an orca whale, a hummingbird, and a monkey. It is believed that the images were made by ancient Peruvians who scraped away at the dark earth of the mountain, revealing the light sand underneath it. Researchers believe that such figures served at one point as wayposts for travellers and as sites to practice rituals.

“It’s quite striking that we’re still finding new figures,” Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the Nazca lines, told the Spanish news agency Efe, “but we also know that there are more to be found.” The Art Newspaper


Seventy works damaged in oil attack on Berlin’s Museum Island
Paintings, sculptures and antiquities were sprayed with an oily liquid on 3 October at the Pergamon, Neues Museum and Alte Nationalgalerie, German media reports

One or more unknown attackers sprayed oil on at least 70 paintings, sculptures and antiquities in museums on Berlin’s Museum Island on 3 October, the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk reported.

The oily liquid left visible marks on Egyptian sarcophagi, stone sculptures and 19th-century paintings at the Pergamon, the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie, die Zeit reported. According to Deutschlandfunk, works on loan to the museums were among those damaged.

Neither police nor the museum authorities have informed the public about the attack since it took place more than two weeks ago. The Berlin police will issue a statement about the attack today including a call for potential witnesses, a spokeswoman contacted by The Art Newspaper said.

The motive for the attack is unclear. According to die Zeit and Deutschlandfunk, a far-right conspiracy theorist called Attila Hildmann declared on a public Telegram channel in August and September that the Pergamon is the “throne of Satan” and the centre of “a global Satanist scene and coronavirus criminals.” The Art Newspaper


This South Shore mural stood out by focusing on objects, not people
The 1991 work by Marcus Akinlana and Olivia Gude — titled ‘Where There is Discord, Harmony; The Power of Art’ — is on the Black United Fund of Illinois’ building.

Giant eyes drip giant teardrops. A lightning bolt rips through the center. And intricate designs and symbols — depicting healing, spirituality and art itself — are scattered throughout.

Symbols, not people, mark “Where There is Discord, Harmony; The Power of Art,” a 30-by-60-foot mural on the side of what’s now the home of the Black United Fund of Illinois at 1801 E. 71st St. in South Shore.

Marcus Akinlana and Olivia Gude, the artists who created it in 1991, see the piece as a statement on the dualities of life — joy and sorrow, despair and hope — and the healing power that art can have.

“Where there is discord, there’s going to be harmony,” says Akinlana, 54. “Where there is oppression, we bring liberation. Where there is hatred, we bring in love, light.”

At the center are three eyes. Two are meant to represent the visual aspect of art and the “spiritual insight” required for art to uplift a community, says Gude, 70.

The biggest one, in the center, is the “all-seeing eye of the Creator,” Akinlana says, meant to show no one can hide from the truth.

A spiral surrounds the eyes, symbolizing the cycle of death and rebirth. There are paintbrushes at each end of the spiral, intended to hint at the unlimited potential of art.

A golden picture frame is meant to represent the social conditions under which art is made and seen.

“You think about what some people associate with art, like a fancy painting in a museum,” Gude says. “But the mural itself shows that that’s not the only thing which is art. Murals on walls are unframed and accessible to everybody.”

A doll in a gold dress symbolizes the African goddess of love. Akinlana says he wanted to introduce more Afrocentric culture.

Other murals often focus on people. This one highlights objects. Akinlana says he and Gude wanted their work to stand out.

Together, they’ve worked on three major mural projects. They also worked with each other in the 1980s and 1990s through the Chicago Public Art Group, which wrote of the South Shore mural: “The work broke new aesthetic ground in that the [artists] chose to eliminate the traditional use of human figures and an obvious narrative structure.”

Gude, who lives in Bridgeport, has been creating murals around Chicago since the 1980s.

“Is your role to be an individual artistic genius, or is your role to open yourself out so you can collaborate with others, hearing what they’re thinking, hearing their messages and then making work together?” she says.

Akinlana says people in the surrounding community helped them decide the themes of the piece.

“We didn’t just come into the community and start doing artwork with no consultation with the actual people who lived there, even though I lived there myself,” says Akinlana, who has moved back to New Orleans, his hometown, after 10 years in Chicago.

At the time the mural was painted, the building was an arts incubator. Now, Carolyn Day, executive director of the Black United Fund of Illinois, a not-for-profit organization that supports African American communities, hopes to get the artists to restore the work, which has faded over time.

The Black United Fund also uses a building across the street, at 1750 E. 71st St., which has its own mural, by artist Flournoyd Brown. Chicago Sun Times


Stolen Klimt painting—buried for 20 years—to go back on show at Italian museum
Discovered by the gardener at the Ricci Oddi gallery last year, Portrait of a Lady will be the star of a series of exhibitions on the much-loved artist

A Gustav Klimt masterpiece stolen 23 years ago from an Italian gallery will go back on display next month. Portrait of a Lady (1916-17) was taken on 22 February 1997 from the Ricci Oddi gallery in the northern city of Piacenza. A gardener found the painting last December, after removing a metal plate on an exterior wall; the work was concealed in a bag buried within a cavity.

The painting will go on show in the gallery’s main exhibition space on 28 November, and will be protected by a safety case. In early January, officials at the gallery announced that the work had been authenticated and is a genuine painting by Klimt valued at €60m.

The heist was one of the most notorious art thefts of recent years. Reports speculated that the thieves deposited the work in the wall more than four years ago, after using a fishing line to hook and remove the Klimt from display. The Klimt saga took a further twist after individuals connected to the gallery were placed under investigation (it is unclear if this investigation is ongoing but the Italian art journal Finestre sull’Arte reports that the case remains unsolved).

The Ricci Oddi gallery is organising four shows dedicated to Klimt over a two-year period. Portrait of a Lady is the centrepiece of the first exhibition due to run from November to 28 March 2021. The second show (March-October 2021) focuses on the links between the Austrian artist and other 19th- and 20th-century artists in the collection acquired by the 19th-century founder and patron Giuseppe Ricci Oddi. The third show examines the links between Klimt and Italy; in 2022, the final part of the series is a monographic exhibition organised in collaboration with the Klimt Foundation in Vienna. The Art Newspaper

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