August 7, 2019

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


In this issue:

This guy draws in his sleep — but has ‘no artistic talent’ when awake
Artists fearful about the future under new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Ethiopia’s Art Scene Has Long Suffered From a Disinterested Government. But Shifting Politics Might Soon Make Culture a Priority
How Electricity Transformed Paris and Its Artists, from Manet to Degas
Discovery in New York thrift store turns out to be valuable Schiele drawing
Atlanta museum launches an app to help visitors fall in love with art
The Charming Landscapes of Bob Ross Get a Solo Exhibition
Undercover Art: How Tony Mendez Became Both a Spy and Artist
Congress investigates Education Department in wake of abrupt Art Institute closures
Carlos Cruz-Diez, kinetic art trailblazer who was obsessed with colour, dies aged 95
Newburgh Art Supply Celebrates 11 Years of Business
Art Influences One’s Sense of Belonging, Says Research by Yale Med Students
Family claims quarter share of disputed Isleworth Mona Lisa

 

 

 

 

 

This guy draws in his sleep — but has ‘no artistic talent’ when awake

Lee Hadwin has no artistic ability. Unless he’s asleep.

Once he conks out, the self-dubbed “Sleep Artist” creates celebrity portraits, classical nudes and stunning abstracts that he sells for thousands of dollars.

“I just can’t draw when I’m awake,” said Hadwin, 44, who got terrible grades in high-school art class in his native Wales.

Yet when asleep, he is able to control the images he puts down. He just doesn’t remember doing it.

It began when Hadwin was just 4 years old. He started scribbling on the walls and floor of his bedroom after he fell asleep.

“I would go downstairs at night and draw under the staircase,” he recalled.

His parents took him to doctors after a few years of his unusual behavior, but they were told he was just sleepwalking — with an artistic flair.

“My mind is in a sleeping state and my body is in a waking state,” Hadwin said.

When he was 15, his overnight etchings resulted in three portraits of Marilyn Monroe.

“Only after I drew them, that’s when I thought, ‘Something strange is going on,’ ” he said.

But it wasn’t until the early 2000s, when he was asked to show his work at a library, that he gained attention as an artist. A local newspaper did a story on the show, and it was picked up by the British national media.

“My life changed overnight,” he said. “It went from a local library doing five pictures in frames to this global recognition in the art world.”

Hadwin has been examined by sleep experts from Scotland to Japan who documented his actions but gave little explanation for how he gains an artistic ability that disappears with the sun.

Sometimes, he’ll get out of bed two or three times in a single night. Other times, a few weeks might pass without him picking up a pencil.

The London resident says he fully embraced his somnambulant skills about 10 years ago and started stashing art supplies under his bed to be ready for his inspirations.

“I’ve done it since I was 4 years old, so for me I don’t know any different,” he said.

But he admits it’s difficult to explain his nocturnal exploits to others, including his husband, Clinton. “It took him about eight months to believe it,” Hadwin said.

Several pieces, including two Marilyns, have sold for thousands of dollars. The most he got was about $125,000. He donates a portion of each sale to charities like Amnesty International.

Hadwin didn’t always consider himself an artist, and many art critics say he still shouldn’t. But he shrugs off negative reviews.

“I take it with a pinch of salt,” he said. “My art is what it’s worth.” New York Post

 

Artists fearful about the future under new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
No deal prospect and track record as London Mayor scrutinised

Leading artists have raised concerns about Boris Johnson’s record on the arts and the future standing of the UK following his victory in the Tory leadership contest today. Johnson is the new Prime Minister after members of the Conservative party voted him in by an overwhelming majority. The former mayor of London won the contest by 92,153 votes. His rival Jeremy Hunt received 46,656 votes.

During Johnson’s tenure as mayor (2008-16), the Scandinavian artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset created a work for the Fourth Plinth on Trafalgar Square in 2012. Powerless Structures, Fig 101 depicted a young boy riding a rocking horse. Michael Elmgreen says that Johnson was “utterly unprepared for any of the press events, when we were announced as winners of the Fourth Plinth project for 2012”.

Johnson's stance on the arts may be hard to predict. “When Boris Johnson campaigned to become mayor of London first time, one of his pledges involved cutting budgets for art projects like the Fourth Plinth; that was until he realised that culture for London was actually a good [thing]. Typically, he had strong opinions about subject matters he didn't have any clue about, and then later he had to change his mind when he was finally confronted with the facts. However, that didn't really make him interested in the arts,” Elmgreen adds.

“It is ridiculous to hear him being so nationalistic now; it didn't seem to bother him that big chunks of London were sold off to foreign investors during his terms as mayor,” he says. Boris Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Johnson’s “do or die” Brexit plan to leave the European Union on 31 October with or without a deal has also sparked concerns. Asked if he is optimistic about the future, the Bristol-based photographer Martin Parr, known for his documentary images of the British public at work and play, says: “In a word no, as we potentially hurtle towards a no deal. Although I think parliament will stop this and then we'll have to have a general election,” he says.

Asked who will gain from a Johnson premiership, Parr adds: “The people who will benefit are the hard Brexiteers, people earning over £50,000 and rather surprisingly school budgets [Johnson has pledged to increase spending on education by £4.6bn per year by 2022].” The Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller tells us meanwhile that the only person to benefit from Johnson’s time in No.10 will be “[the man] himself”.

How the arts and culture sector will fare remains to be seen. The artist Helen Masacz, part of the Lot5 Collective, says: "This depends on the outcome of Brexit: the worse case scenario, the conservatives under Boris will cut the arts even further! If Boris stays in the EU or miraculously gets a good deal then I'm optimistic the arts may have minimum funding. The Conservatives have sliced the art budget and I don't see much changing."

Nonetheless, Ed Vaizey, the UK minister for culture from 2010 to 2016, argues that a Johnson premiership could be grounds for hope for the arts. “He appointed Munira Mirza as his deputy mayor for culture, and she remains an important figure in the arts as King’s College London’s executive director for Culture,” Vaizey says. According to The Observer newspaper, Mirza is lined up to head No 10’s policy unit. Previously a development director for the Conservative think tank Policy Exchange, she sits on the board of the Illuminated River Foundation.

In addition to supporting the Fourth Plinth sculpture competitions for Trafalgar Square, during his eight-year tenure as mayor, Johnson also supported the Museum of London and backed the creation of V&A East on the former Olympic site in Stratford. The Art Newspaper

 

Ethiopia’s Art Scene Has Long Suffered From a Disinterested Government. But Shifting Politics Might Soon Make Culture a Priority
Ethiopia's art community is cautiously optimistic about its new government.

On the third day of Ethiopia’s internet blackout on June 24, a group of artists gather together at Addis Fine Art in Addis Ababa. All phone data and wifi has been suspended following a foiled coup by rogue state militia the day before. The violence has left three top officials dead, including Major General Gezai Abera, who was killed by his bodyguard at home. “This has been a big shock to take a step back like this, as we are on the verge of positive change,” the gallery’s co-founder, Mesai Haileleul, tells artnet News.

Addis Ababa’s streets are empty and citizens have been advised not to journey outside of the city center. Still, three of Ethiopia’s most promising young artists—Dawit Abebe, Tizta Berhanu, and photographer Eyerusalem Jiregna—come to the gallery to speak with this reporter about their work. While the last few years have signaled much promise for Ethiopia’s growing art scene, after the attacks, the future seems uncertain again.

The recent violence illustrates how ethnic tensions are threatening the reform agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Elected just over a year ago, his plan to transform the country offered hope for democratic change to an eager Ethiopian populace—but his rapid changes have fostered uncertainty and tension at home.

Amid Abiy’s wide-ranging reforms is a renewed interest in art and culture and a general desire to bolster Ethiopia’s image at home and abroad. But it will be an uphill battle: artists still face structural issues with respect to access of materials, a punitive taxation system, lack of government support. In the interim, dedicated individuals have stepped up to push the scene forward.

Times of Change

After launching the most ambitious reforms in Ethiopia’s history, Ahmed’s government is under threat. At the same time, economic change is on the horizon for Africa’s second largest nation and second fastest growing economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country leads Africa in second place after Libya with an 8.5 percent growth projection this fiscal year.

Ethiopia is an example of Africa’s unwavering march into the future. In October 2018, the country’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, was elected by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly. The country has a growing entrepreneurial middle class and is host to a number of development projects, including an 80,000-seat mega-stadium built by Chinese developers and a historic new rail line to its Djibouti neighbor. Yet Ethiopia continues to struggle with ethnic divisions, a feature of national politics since 1995, when the current constitution came into force and carved the country into nine ethnically based semi-autonomous regions.

While the attacks are a reminder of the fragility of democratic revolution, Ethiopia’s desire for change couldn’t be better expressed than through its art initiatives. There’s the biannual Addis Foto Fest, founded in 2010 by photographer Aida Muluneh, the first and only international photography festival in East Africa; the new Zoma Museum, which opened in April this year; Addis Fine Art, which established its main space in Addis Ababa in January 2016 followed by a project space in London in October 2016; as well as a host of smaller galleries and artist-run collectives.

The new government has also made life easier for artists. “During the last government we needed to have a permit to take photographs in the street,” says Jiregna, the photographer. “The government didn’t want us to capture images that might show a sensitive side to the country. It used to be that you could be arrested for taking a picture! It’s improved since Abiy’s new government. We can now take our pictures freely.”

And the prime minster has taken an interest in the country’s growing art scene. In early June 2019, he visited Addis Ababa’s Alle School of Fine Arts & Design at Addis Ababa University, becoming the first head of state to do so in 46 years. “It’s really encouraging to see the prime minister taking an active interest in visual arts,” says Rakeb Sile, the other co-founder of Addis Fine Art, the country’s first international platform for Ethiopian art. “For the first time in a long time, we have someone who understands the importance of art.” Also notable, he says, is the fact that the prime minster has works by contemporary Ethiopian photographers Girma Berta and Eyerusalem Jiregna in his offices.

Any visitor to the premises of the school will be blown away by the monumental sculptures situated in its grassy outdoor area, akin to the forms of British sculptor Henry Moore. Ethiopia’s only art school founded by the late artist Alle Felegeselam, like its country, has witnessed many ups and downs. “Most artists leave Ethiopia after graduation and try and make it abroad,” Haileleul says. “When they aren’t making money from art, they have to make money from menial jobs and the art creation stops.”

Taking Initiative

Why does it need to be so hard? Both Haileleul and Sile believe that with greater government involvement, the art scene at home will flourish—and, as the thinking goes for so many aspiring art hubs, this activity will benefit the economy by driving tourism and ultimately giving Ethiopia a better image. “In many ways we are still known as the ‘poor’ country that underwent the terrible famine in the ’80s,” Sile says. “Art empowers us to change that narrative as there is so much more to say about this ancient, complex, and creative nation.”

But so far, the infrastructure remains relatively slim and inhospitable to artists. As a result of an unforgiving tax system, Ethiopia still has few commercial galleries. Until a few years ago, the major one was Asni Gallery, run by Konjit Seyoum. Established in 1996, it was known for promoting the younger generation of Ethiopian artists. In 2018, however, the gallery closed, unable to keep up with the challenges of running an art space in a still very much emerging market.

In the absence of a vibrant gallery scene, artists have had to create community for themselves. For example, Dawit Abebe—whose paintings often depict imposing figures with their backs to the viewer and who is represented by London- and Berlin-based Kristin Hellejellerand Gallery—established the Habesha Art Studio, an artist collective, in 2001. He remains a full-time artist-in-residence there.

“It was really difficult to be an artist after graduating, so 10 of us gathered together to start an artist’s studio whereby we shared resources and invited friends and collectors to exhibitions,” he says. “Many younger artists have followed our lead.”

Some have also become their own salespeople. Artist Leikun Nahusenay lives, works, and makes sales out of his space in the basement of the Guramayne Art Center, where a vibrant mess of colorful installations, paintings, and found objects are strewn around various rooms. “I’ve been living here for 18 years and it is where I live, sleep, eat, create, teach and also sell my art,” he says.

Endless Taxation

In addition to the lack of opportunity for commercial representation and punishing import taxes on art materials, artists in Ethiopia face other structural obstacles that affect their earnings.

There is, for example, nowhere to print archival photographs in the country. “The only way to do it is through foreign investment, which is not yet allowed in the art sector. We would need this to import the material and set up an archival printing shop,” says Rakeb Sile. “However, anything art-related—paper, ink and even paint, is treated as a luxury item on import and it can be taxed at high arbitrary amounts—we have seen up to 500 percent.”

Crucially, Ethiopian tax law makes no distinction between artists, manufacturers, and retailers. As a result, galleries who work with artists who don’t have a company registered in their name that is recognized by the tax office—a costly and lengthy process—must withhold 30 percent of the artist’s share for the government. If artists are registered as a company, the gallery must withhold only two percent. Still, Haileleul says, “99 percent [of artists] don’t” register this way.

As a result of this onerous system, the majority of art sales within Ethiopia happen informally. “If there were reforms to the taxation issue then more galleries might open up and artists would engage in more formal ways,” Sile says. “It would strengthen the whole ecosystem.”

Reforms have yet to be announced. However, hope is in the air. Some members of the creative community have begun to take steps to form an advocacy organization, according to Hailleul, while the government has established a job creation commission tasked to address the challenges of the creative sector.

Fostering Community

Another new initiative spearheaded by dedicated private individuals is Zoma, an eco-homage to Ethiopia’s indigenous architecture and a home for contemporary art from Ethiopia and abroad. The space, which hosts a residency and exhibition program, has been in the pipeline for 25 years.

“There’s been no government support for the project; we have invested entirely our own money,” says Meskerem Assegued, who founded Zoma alongside multidisciplinary artist Elias Sime. Perhaps this will change. The prime minister also recently paid Zoma a visit.

“The culture protects us but we are not protecting our culture enough, and this makes me worry,” says Melaku Belay, a musician, performer and founder of Addis Ababa’s famous Fendika Cultural Center. “The government is starting to look at art now.” And while structural change awaits, Belay says, “at least they have made us free, and not made us use our art for propaganda.”

Looking ahead, the Ethiopian art community is determined to usher in a new era of growth. “You need art as much as you need food and water,” Assegued says. “Without the visual you are dead. Imagine the world without art. How long could you survive?” artnetnews

 

How Electricity Transformed Paris and Its Artists, from Manet to Degas

“An artist has no home in Europe except in Paris,” asserts Friedrich Nietzsche in his 1888 autobiography Ecce Homo. For artists in the late 19th century, a stint in Paris was an important right of passage for the development of their philosophies and practices. As it approached the end of the century, Paris entered a period of rapid modernization and urbanization, a time characterized by a sense of prosperity and optimism among its population.

One of the major innovations during this era was the invention of the electric light bulb. For artists, the proliferation of both gas and electric lights throughout the city transformed their surroundings. With this change in scenery came a change in representations of the city—artists responded with stylistically avant-garde works that capture both the joie de vivre and the anxiety of modernization during the Belle Époque.

This was an era of indulgence and innovation for an emerging middle class that had the resources and time to engage in fashionable leisure activities. Fin-de-siècle Paris was epitomized by the new, shimmering Eiffel Tower and the abundance of raucous, late-night cabarets like the Moulin Rouge. With innovation, though, comes the unknown, and artists at times painted their newly lit city with skepticism.

In the mid–17th century, Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, increased lighting throughout Paris in an attempt to reduce the crime rate. City- and community-wide efforts that placed lanterns on major streets and required citizens to light candles in their windows literally illuminated wrongdoing, making criminals visible to the police at night. This structured implementation made Paris one of the first European capitals to adopt street lighting, which contributed to its famous nickname—the City of Light.

Fast-forward to the end of the 19th century, after Georges-Eugene Haussmann’s ambitious renovation project to update the infrastructure of the formerly medieval city and the invention of the gas lamp—by 1870, Paris boasted 20,766 streetlamps. The lamps themselves, placed between trees on groomed boulevards and perched next to park benches, quickly became Parisian icons; they likewise star in countless paintings and photographs of the city.

Charles Marville, appointed as the city’s official photographer in 1862, took a particular interest in the streetlamps, capturing what can only be described as portraits of lamp posts throughout Paris. In her 2019 book Illuminated Paris: Essays on Art and Lighting in the Belle Époque, Hollis Clayson notes the anthropomorphic qualities of Marville’s photographs: “The lamps are enough like us to engage our curiosity and sympathy, yet sufficiently distinct to fascinate as singular individuals that could activate our capacity for empathy.”

The lamps have a commanding presence in this series, which Marville began in about 1861, and it seems to mark the new era of modern lighting. In the pictures, the lamp posts stand erect in front of buildings, street corners, and fences. Each one adopts a unique personality in its surroundings, with the different backgrounds informing the look and feel of the lamps as much as the flourishes at their bases or slight differentiations in their globes.

Towards the end of Marville’s photographic exploration of Paris’s lamp posts, Gustave Caillebotte painted Paris Street: Rainy Day (1877). One of the key elements in the work, which depicts a bustling Parisian intersection during a mid-day shower, is a street lamp. Centrally focused, the tall, green structure anchors the composition. In a review of the work for Le Bien Public, one critic asked: “Why does this streetlamp flaunt its unpleasant perpendicular right in the middle of the picture?” In the middle of the day, when the scene of the painting takes place, the lamp doesn’t serve a practical purpose. By this point, gas lamps had been woven into the fabric of the city; for Caillebotte, it was merely another architectural element of the modern Parisian streets. Yet there is a certain dissonance between the natural light of day and the useless invention that splits the canvas in two.

Clayson further explores this dissonance in an analysis of John Singer Sargent’s 1879 painting In the Luxembourg Gardens. She identifies five depictions of light in the painting: the twilight sky; the Moon; glowing orange gas lamps; the bright, frenetic reflections of the experimental electric lights, called Jablochkoff candles, in the water of the boat basin; and the faint sparks of cigarettes that glitter throughout the serene park scene.

When electricity began to be installed throughout Paris in the late 1870s, the harsh, white light was a shocking departure from the muted glow that gas lamps offered. “The electric light is as cruel as the sun,” remarked a Chicago journalist visiting Paris in 1878. In Sargent’s picture, the reflections in the pool from the electric lights are almost indiscernible from the natural glow of the Moon. Nature and modernity meet in this boat basin in a poetic representation of the dawn of a new, electric era.

In 1881, the Exposition Internationale de l’Électricité (“International Exhibition of Electricity”) was held in the Palais de l’Industrie, and Paris was briefly known as the Electric Capital of the World. While the city’s slowness to actually replace the tens of thousands of gas lamps lighting the city kept this name from sticking (the last gas lamps remained until 1962), the excitement surrounding the fair was palpable.

The ubiquity of gas lighting throughout the city and the buzz around the future of electricity contributed to a new kind of social life for Parisians. “Nocturnalization,” a term coined in 2011 by American historian Craig Koslofsky, refers to “the expansion of social and economic activity into the night and the subsequent spread of illumination.” Cabarets proliferated during the 1880s and offered patrons more than just drinks and peanuts. Nightly performances debuting women in ruffled bloomers performing new dance moves made clubs like the Moulin Rouge and the Folie Bergère popular venues for night-time entertainment. Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pablo Picasso are just a few artists who would look to the dazzling cabarets for inspiration.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s At the Moulin Rouge (1892–95) features the Who’s Who of the Moulin Rouge, which opened in 1889. Jane Avril—the celebrated cancan dancer and star of many of Toulouse-Lautrec’s works—sits facing away from the viewer, her red hair shining; a popular performer named La Goulue (“The Glutton”), known for chugging patrons’ drinks, checks her hair in a mirror; the artist himself, standing a foot shorter than his cousin next to him, sulks in the background. The canvas is dominated, though, by the cropped face of another dancer, May Milton.

“I paint things as they are. I don’t comment,” Toulouse-Lautrec once said. In the harsh glow of the artificial lights, Milton’s face is a deep, jarring shade of green. Electric lighting changed the color, depth, the texture of the scene, just as it changed the color, depth, and texture of Paris. Artsy

 

Discovery in New York thrift store turns out to be valuable Schiele drawing
Work found at a Habitat for Humanity shop is estimated to be worth as much as $200,000

As the world’s leading expert on Egon Schiele and the author of his catalogue raisonné, Jane Kallir is accustomed to being contacted out of the blue by strangers claiming to have found a possible drawing by the Expressionist artist.

“Ninety percent of the time they’re wrong,” says Kallir, the director of Galerie St Etienne in New York, who has been authenticating Schiele drawings and watercolours for over 30 years. “Most of them are fakes—egregious copies.”

So Kallir was floored when a genuine Schiele emerged from a seemingly unlikely source: a Habitat for Humanity thrift store in Queens, New York. Now on view at her gallery with an estimated value of $100,000 to $200,000, it was sketched by Schiele in 1918, not long before he died in Vienna at age 28 in the Spanish flu pandemic.

Given the abundance of fakes she encounters, Kallir had initially been skeptical when a man contacted her by email in June 2018, attaching blurry photographs and informing her that he had found and purchased a possible Schiele. She asked him to send a better photograph of the drawing, which depicts a nude young girl lying face up and was executed in pencil on paper.

Almost a year passed before he again contacted the gallery in May this year and sent a sharper photo. When she saw it, Kallir was intrigued. “I thought there was a good chance” it was genuine, she says. She invited the owner to show her the drawing at the gallery.

To her satisfaction, it was genuine. “It was a girl who modelled for Schiele frequently, both alone and sometimes with her mother, in 1918,” Kallir said. Researching further, she could place the work within a sequence of 22 other Schiele drawings that exist of the girl, even pinpointing two that were probably executed in the same modelling session. Many of those drawings were studies for Schiele’s final lithograph, Girl.

“If you look at the way this girl is lying on her back, and you look at the foreshortening both on the rib cage and on her face, and the way you see that little nose pointing up—think about how difficult that is to do,” she says. “There are very few people in the history of art who can draw like that.” More objective elements like the type of cream wove paper and the black pencil used also supported the authentication, she adds.

Other drawings of the girl are currently in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Leopold Museum in Vienna.

When he brought the drawing to Galerie St Etienne, the owner related that he had found it while browsing in Queens at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells donated overstock and second-hand items like furniture, appliances, home decor and building materials.

Kallir described the man as a part-time art handler who often visits second-hand shops. “He’s got some art background—an eye,” she says. He prefers to remain anonymous, Galerie St Etienne says, and so was unavailable for an interview.

“I don’t know offhand what he paid for the drawing,” Kallir says of the sharp-eyed picker, “but it was not very much.” She estimates that the drawing, which is now for sale through the gallery, is worth roughly $100,000 to $200,000. It is currently on view there in an exhibition titled The Art Dealer as Scholar, which features works by Schiele, Käthe Kollwitz and Alfred Kubin and runs through 11 October. The show also includes an impression of Schiele’s 1918 lithograph Girl and a drawing by the artist of the girl’s mother.

If and when the drawing is sold, the gallery says that its owner plans to donate some of the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organisation that builds and repairs homes for people in need.

Contacted about the drawing by The Art Newspaper, Karen Haycox, the chief executive of Habitat for Humanity New York City, expressed surprise at the discovery. “We are ecstatic!” she said in an email. “And, maybe a little bit in shock but ultimately really happy for all involved.”

“I can’t help but think that were it not for the Habitat NYC ReStore, this piece of art history might have ended up in a landfill, lost forever.” The Art Newspaper

 

Atlanta museum launches an app to help visitors fall in love with art
The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, has launched an app to help visitors fall in love with art, and it’s loosely based on the premise of the Tinder dating app.

The idea was inspired by the museum trying to work out ways to use mobile technologies to engage the public with its newly-installed galleries. “We had three goals in mind,” they said. “First, we wanted to show our on-site visitors the diversity of our collection. Second, we wanted to direct them to artworks they liked so they could experience them in person. And third, we wanted to collect data on our visitors’ tastes. As the team brainstormed over several months, we started homing in on answering the question we get from visitors every day, ‘What should I see here?’ This conversation must happen in every art museum between guest relations staff and visitors.”

Inspired by Tinder, the idea was born for the Heartmatch app. The museum was drawn to the simplicity and familiarity of swiping right if you like something or left if you don’t. Once a visitor has decided which artworks they like, they can easily save them to a customised map, so they can go experience the artwork in person. From the museum’s perspective, the most popular works could be used in marketing materials, and the least popular ones could be used in educational programming, to help it turn “swipe lefts” into “swipe rights.”

The museum houses a permanent collection of more than 15,000 works, and it decided to include 100 works of art in the app, which it says takes less than five minutes to swipe through but still gives visitors a good introduction to the collection. Every seven images or so, a prompt pops up inviting them to see their map of the museum with all of the works they liked marked on it. From this prompt, they can choose either to look at the map or to keep swiping and add more artworks to it. Users can access the app from anywhere, whether in the museum or at home, and they can email their maps to themselves or their friends if they want to save them for later use. lonely planet

 

The Charming Landscapes of Bob Ross Get a Solo Exhibition
Happy Accidents at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, Virginia will be the first East Coast exhibition dedicated to the work of the iconic artist and TV host.

“We don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents,” is perhaps Bob Ross’s most famous mantra, one he repeated in various formulations throughout the 11-year run of The Joy of Painting, his instructional TV program on PBS. More than two decades after his death, the popularity of the iconic painter, famous for his round, permed hair and quirky, endearing remarks, still hasn’t waned. In fact, it is gaining renewed interest.

Happy Accidents will be the title of a new exhibition of the iconic painter’s works, due to open on September 10 at the Franklin Park Arts Center in Purcellville, Virginia. The exhibition will feature 24 original Ross paintings created on The Joy of Painting, the largest collection of Ross paintings to ever be displayed at a gallery. It will also be the first Bob Ross exhibition on the East Coast.

The Joy of Painting, which stopped airing in 1994, gained a second life after it went viral on Twitch in 2014 and on YouTube in 2015. But now, after years of memeification of his unique persona on the internet, Ross’s work is finally gaining some recognition by the art world establishment.

This past March, following a torrent of requests from Bob Ross fans, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art announced that it’s including a collection of the artist’s paintings, along with other items from The Joy of Painting (including the converted stepladder he used as an easel), in its permanent collection. Alas, the Smithsonian later said it had no plans to exhibit the new acquisitions. In April, Ross made his first museum debut when DePaul Art Museum in Chicago included four of his paintings in the exhibition New Age, New Age: Strategies for Survival.

Earlier this month, a New York Times report on the whereabouts of over 1,000 paintings that Ross created as host of The Joy of Painting revealed that he had created three versions of each of his paintings. The first painting was made before the show, to be used as a reference. The second was made during the one-take taping of the show. The third was made after the show, to be included in instructional books. Ross, who passed away in 1995, once estimated that he produced nearly 30,000 paintings during his lifetime. A small collection of his works is on permanent display at the Bob Ross Art Workshop & Gallery in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Along with the unprecedented display of Ross’s paintings, Happy Accidents will also feature three workshops with Bob Ross-certified instructor Sandra Hill. According to Washingtonian, there are over 3,000 such instructors in the United States and Canada. The Bob Ross Inc. website includes a list of thousands of other certified instructors around the world. The workshops will train participants in Ross’s wet-on-wet oil painting technique.

“Bob’s paintings haven’t been on display that often,” Sarah Strohl, executive assistant at Bob Ross Inc., told the Washingtonian in an interview. “This will be definitely the largest opportunity to come see them.” In other happy news to fans, the company announced that starting next year, people will be allowed to visit the studio in Muncie, Indiana, where The Joy of Painting was taped. Hyperallergic

 

Undercover Art: How Tony Mendez Became Both a Spy and Artist
For decades, two paintings by famed spy Tony Mendez hid in a Denver warehouse. Now, their cover is being blown.

Before the hostages, before Iran, and before Ben Affleck, Tony Mendez was just a young artist trying to make it in Denver. Then, in 1965, the 25-year-old answered a newspaper ad placed by the U.S. Navy, which was looking for artists to work overseas. The job catapulted Mendez into a career with the CIA that included orchestrating the rescue of six Americans from Iran, as portrayed in the 2012 film Argo. Still, he continued to paint nearly until his death this past January. “He liked to say, ‘I was always an artist,’ ” recalls his widow and fellow CIA officer, Jonna Mendez, “ ‘but for 25 years, I was a pretty good spy.’ ”

Born in 1940, Mendez moved to Colorado when he was 12. After graduating from Englewood High School, he studied art at the University of Colorado Boulder for a year then worked odds jobs to support his young family. He also took commissions—among them, two large oil paintings (19th-century Denver streetscapes re-created from photos) for Washington Park’s Park Lane Hotel in 1964.

In the CIA, Mendez’s ability to reproduce anything he saw made him a master forger. He proved to be a skilled chameleon, too, and for a time served as the agency’s chief of disguises, using a talent he’d honed at Englewood High: When neither he nor his buddy scored prom dates, he dressed up as a girl and went as his friend’s sweetheart. Eventually, he became an expert in the art of “exfiltration,” or getting assets out of dangerous situations. During the 1980 Iran hostage crisis, Mendez snuck six Americans out of Tehran by having them pose as a Canadian film crew. The incident inspired the Affleck-directed, Academy Award Best Picture–winning Argo.

While Mendez became an international man of mystery, his Park Lane paintings languished in a warehouse after the hotel was demolished. A local man later salvaged them, and his daughter, Lesa Leiter of Thornton, discovered the true identity of the “A. Mendez” who had signed the pieces.

Following Mendez’s death at age 78, Leiter sold the paintings to Simon Lofts, the co-owner of Workability, a Denver co-working outfit. Lofts plans to hold a public unveiling on August 26; they’ll permanently hang in Workability’s Sherman Street office. “My father would be thrilled that his work is in the public eye,” says Toby Mendez, one of Tony’s four children and an esteemed sculptor himself, “and being seen once again.” 5280

 

Congress investigates Education Department in wake of abrupt Art Institute closures

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh shuttered abruptly in March, locking out students and breaking rules set by accreditation agencies on how to properly close schools. The building was quickly looted of art and textbooks and now sits quietly in the Strip District.

But the saga over the messy collapse of Dream Center Education Holdings — the California nonprofit that took control of the Art Institute college chain from Pittsburgh-based Education Management Corp. in 2017— is just heating up in Washington.

House Democrats last week accused Trump administration officials of working behind the scenes to help Dream Center evade responsibility for missteps following the EDMC acquisition.

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, released a trove of emails and documents that he said show Dream Center executives knowingly deceived students about the loss of accreditation at four Art Institute campuses last year — and that the U.S. Department of Education knew about it and passed a rule to help Dream Center restore that accreditation.

The documents “raise questions about whether the department took steps to allow Dream Center to mislead students and how the department should have better protected students,” Mr. Scott wrote in his letter addressed to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The Education Department strongly denied the allegations and responded by hand-delivering files presenting its version of events to the committee’s offices on Capitol Hill.

According to the department’s timeline, discussions to allow colleges to retroactively accredit programs date back to 2008. Those discussions were separate, it showed, from Dream Center’s desire to reinstate accreditation at four Art Institute campuses in Illinois, Michigan and Colorado for a five-month period in early 2018 that it led students to believe their programs were accredited.

“A serious look at all of the facts shows Dream Center did not receive any unique benefits from policy decisions made by the department,” said Liz Hill, the agency’s press secretary. “The department was dealing with the issue of retroactive accreditation long before Dream Center came into the picture.”

Documents released by the committee, totaling 74 pages, provide a deeper look at the chaos that unfolded shortly after Dream Center bought dozens of EDMC schools. While Dream Center officials have blamed EDMC for misrepresenting the financial losses, the emails show Dream Center’s mismanagement and confusion about the accreditation process contributed to the failure of the schools.

At one point, an unnamed Dream Center admissions official resigned after being instructed to mislead students about the status of accreditation at the four Art Institute campuses.

“The events of the past six months have made it impossible to for me to continue my employment,” the official wrote in an email on June 6, 2018. “Our team was told to ‘punt’ on any questions we received about that status and to change the conversation to a more favorable topic ... My heart breaks for the students who have trusted us so completely.”

Dream Center, a philanthropic organization affiliated with a Pentecostal church that funds programs across the country for underprivileged people, had no experience in higher education when it signed the deal with EDMC.

The $60 million acquisition transferred dozens of for-profit colleges with about 60,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff, in an effort to use a nonprofit status to breathe new life into beleaguered schools. In 2015, EDMC reached a $100 million settlement with federal and state officials who alleged admissions staff illegally recruited students. EDMC admitted no wrongdoing.

But the complicated nature of the deal and Dream Center’s ties to for-profit schools roiled usually subdued officials at the country’s six regional accreditation agencies. Accreditation — higher education's way of enforcing quality control measures — reviews finances, academics, policies and other measures to ensure schools are meeting minimum standards.

In June 2018, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Art Institute campuses in Michigan, Illinois and Colorado had lost accreditation five months earlier, yet Dream Center had continued to market the schools as accredited. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., citing the Post-Gazette’s report, called for a Congressional inquiry.

Emails released last week show a lengthy discussion among Dream Center executives and lawyers about whether to appeal or sue the Higher Learning Commission, the Chicago-based accreditation agency that revoked approvals on Jan. 20, 2018.

Dream Center ultimately decided to close the schools and chose not to notify students about the accreditation status until June 20, 2018 — all while students at those schools were kept in the dark and completed two terms of courses that were unaccredited.

“Why appeal if we are going to close these schools?” wrote Randall Barton, chair of Dream Center Education Holdings, in an email to lawyers on May 31, 2018.

Mr. Barton added that Dream Center would have never bought those schools had he known they needed to be accredited at the closing of the deal.

He also discussed pressuring the Higher Learning Commission, or HLC. “It seems to me we need to go to Chicago and sit down and state to HLC that you deceived us,” Mr. Barton wrote. “If HLC cooperates and gives maximum flexibility we will agree not to sue them for what will be a multi-million dollar suit.”

Even as Dream Center shuttered 18 Art Institutes in July 2018, accreditation setbacks hampered Dream Center’s takeover of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and other campuses. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s accreditation agency, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, refused to approve the sale and gradually placed the school on stricter watch.

In January, Dream Center asked a judge to place the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and other former EDMC schools in federal receivership, which is akin to bankruptcy. In court filings, Dream Center estimated the former EDMC schools would lose a total of $64 million in 2019.

After trying to sell the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, the federal receiver told students the 98-year-old school was closed at 5:30 p.m. on March 8.

Leaks started investigation

The inquiry from the House Labor and Education Committee began in February, committee staffers said, around the time it obtained emails leaked from a source. The staffers said the emails contradicted the department’s previous statements to Congress and questioned deep ties between some department officials and the for-profit education industry.

In July 2018, the department reversed a policy that had long prohibited schools from retroactively accrediting programs. Just weeks before, a Dream Center executive was caught on audio promising faculty that accreditation would be restored because the Education Department “went so far as to change a regulation at DOE to make it easy for HLC to help us.”

Ms. Hill, the department’s spokeswoman, said those comments had been “cherry-picked” and sought to distance the department from Dream Center.

“The fact that Dream Center executives characterized a policy decision on a pending appeal was somehow about them is disingenuous but not surprising,” Ms. Hill said. “They were trying to make it appear they had control of the mess they had made.”

Mr. Scott’s letter, dated July 16 and made public last week, requested interviews with four Education Department officials, as well as copies of emails and text messages among top officials related to Dream Center.

In a letter responding to Mr. Scott last week, Reed D. Rubinstein, the Education Department’s acting general counsel, defended the agency’s handling of Dream Center’s problems, suggesting previous approaches to ailing schools were ineffective.

“The department worked tirelessly with the accreditation agencies to ensure that students could complete their educational programs, preventing a repeat of the catastrophic Obama administration Corinthian College collapse,” Mr. Rubinstein wrote, referring to the for-profit school that shuttered in 2015, leaving 80,000 students eligible for loan forgiveness.

Mr. Rubinstein said the department will provide the emails and text messages requested by the committee. He suggested department officials would provide officials to sit for interviews “as may be necessary and appropriate.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

Carlos Cruz-Diez, kinetic art trailblazer who was obsessed with colour, dies aged 95
Venezuelan artist was an important figure in the history of abstraction

The Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, known for his innovations in kinetic and Op art, has died in Paris, aged 95. According to a statement posted on his foundation’s website, Cruz-Diez died of natural causes on 27 July. “He managed to demonstrate that colour, in interaction with the observer, becomes an autonomous reality that exists without the help of form or need for support,” the foundation says.

Cruz-Diez enrolled at the School of Fine Art, Caracas, aged 17. “He wanted to change his path and chose the relatively unexplored path of colour as his focus,” the foundation says. He headed to Europe in 1955, settling permanently in Paris in 1960.

His works subsequently appeared in three major shows of the 1960s: Bewogen Beweging, the first major exhibition on kinetic art at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Mouvement 2 at Galerie Denise René in Paris in 1964, and the epochal show The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965).

Cruz-Diez’s major public works meanwhile include Plafond Physichromie (1980), emblazoned on a platform at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines railway station outside Paris, and his Couleur Additive (1974) floor print in the main lobby of Caracas International Airport.

Crucially, over 70 years Cruz-Diez carried out numerous investigations on the “autonomy of colour”. These include the Couleur à l’Espace works, developed in 1995, based on colour forming and disintegrating in space, and the Physichromie series, launched in Caracas in 1959 (the title combines “physical” and “chromaticism”).

Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, the senior adviser to the New York- and Caracas-based Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, tells The Art Newspaper: “Cruz-Diez was certainly important in the history of abstraction, primarily for his deep research into colour. I would argue that he and Josef Albers were the two 20th-century artists who systematised colour and its relationships. Within that tradition of favouring perception over material, he was a very significant practitioner.”

Tate owns two works including Physichromie No. 113 (1963, reconstructed 1976), a square bas relief consisting of a sequence of thin vertical coloured bands. “The work is designed to be viewed from multiple angles. Depending on the viewer’s position in relation to the work, the colour across its surface alters radically, transforming from one chromatic range to another as the viewer moves in front of it,” writes Judith Wilkinson on the Tate website.

Arnauld Pierre, a professor in contemporary art history at the Sorbonne in Paris and co-author of a 2009 monograph on Cruz-Diez, says: “He managed, with the Chromosaturations works [begun in Paris in 1965], to have colours living in real space, where the viewer experiences it [colour] as a pure physical phenomenon, devoid of all symbolism, paving the way to the environmental art of today… The lesson he taught us is that no such thing as a determinate colour exists—colour is always a totally relative phenomenon.” The Art Newspaper

 

Newburgh Art Supply Celebrates 11 Years of Business

Newburgh's art scene has been revitalized over the past several years and one of the highlights is celebrating 11 years in business — Newburgh Art Supply.

They not only sell supplies for artists, but the store's owner has also been hosting a studio tour featuring the area's talent. That tour has been going on for nine years and continues to get bigger.

"The first year we did the studio tour, we had only 11 artists participating. And it's grown into about 101 artists [who] participated last year, and over a thousand something, plus people came to Newburgh to check out the art — which, to me, the arts has been one of the things that has really taken Newburgh and pushed it to another level of attention," said co-owner Gerardo Castro.

This year's open studio tour takes place on September 28 and 29, from 12 to 6 p.m. Spectrum News

 

Art Influences One’s Sense of Belonging, Says Research by Yale Med Students
A new report suggests that art can play an important role in welcoming women and minority groups into spaces of higher education that have historically excluded them.

A new report published by the Society of General Internal Medicine finds that some students in medical school would like to see universities diversify their collections of institutional portraiture. The survey suggests that art plays an important role in creating a welcoming space in higher education; alternatively, homogenous paintings and statuary can make women and minority groups feel excluded from institutional spaces.

The study, which was conducted by students and a professor at Yale School of Medicine, comes at a time when professional and graduate programs are trying to remove barriers for students who have historically been alienated from higher learning because of bigotry and prejudice. Some have called law the least diverse profession in the United States. Others have pointed to medical schools, which have struggled to recruit Black doctors. In 2016, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimated that the presence of Black-identifying students was 7.7 percent, falling short of the 13.4 percent seen in the country’s general population.

The Yale report included confidential interviews with 15 subjects from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Participants were asked to discuss their feelings about the school’s art collection, which consists of three portraits of white women and 52 portraits of white men. The study’s authors — Elizabeth Fitzsousa, Nientara Anderson, and Anna Reisman (an associate professor) — found that many of their subjects saw these paintings as a demonstration of their school’s values, which they identified as whiteness, elitism, maleness, and power. The study says that participants thought that portraits exacerbated feelings of being judged and unwelcome at the school, or that “this institution was never meant for me.”

“It was 100 years since the first women graduated from here or went here. It’s been 100 years and all the pictures on the wall are still men,” one student replied.

“I think if these portraits could speak, they would not be so excited about me,” said another. “They might spit at me.”

Universities and their students have struggled over what role public monuments and dedications to historical figures with politically unsavory pasts should serve on contemporary college campuses. Last December, University of North Carolina’s chancellor and board of trustees announced their proposal to build a $5.3 million permanent enclosure for a Confederate monument that was toppled by student protesters in an August demonstration. The decision drew such public condemnation that the plan was ultimately scrapped. A different kind of controversy occurred on the Harvard Law School campus in 2015, when vandals defaced six portraits of Black professors at the prestigious university with black tape covering their faces. Harvard officials condemned the actions and university police investigated the matter, but ultimately failed to identify the culprits.

But the issue of representation has become especially important in the medical field, where racial biases and cultural misinterpretations can impact healthcare. In 2018, Harvard Medical School decided to disperse its wall of white male luminaries instead of presenting them on a single wall as a monolithic image of the medical field. Previously, their 31 gold-framed portraits of industry leaders included zero women, thirty white men, and one Chinese man. The paintings were dispersed to department conference rooms and lobbies throughout the university hospital, according to a Boston Globe report.

Yale has undergone similar efforts. In March, the university’s medical school opened an exhibition featuring portraits of women faculty, many of which were created in connection with the school’s centennial celebration of admitting women in 2016. Administration officials did not return Hyperallergic’s request for comment for this article.

Speaking to Hyperallergic by email, Fitzsousa and her colleagues said that they hope their research will prompt a discussion of historical injustices which have prevented women and people of color from joining the medical profession. Yale has an obligation, they wrote, “to create a space that is welcoming to all, especially those who might not be able to imagine themselves as part of this institution.”

“As art often does, the portraits offer a particularly elegant way to explore how the history of racism and colonization in the United States has helped to shape American medicine in ways that are exclusionary to minority groups,” the researchers added.

Other students at Yale School of Medicine told Hyperallergic that they rarely noticed the portraits during their time at the university. Some had trouble even distinguishing where the portraits were located. But one student added that the administration in recent years has become more diverse than ever, and students have been eager to talk about race issues in medical school, especially when it comes to student and patient populations.

“To students who do feel fully welcomed by Yale School of Medicine,” the study’s authors said, “we would ask them to think about how and why their experiences at this institution might be different from others, and why it matters that some students feel so strongly about this.” Hyperallergic

 

Family claims quarter share of disputed Isleworth Mona Lisa
The painting, long the subject of an attribution dispute, is now at the centre of a legal conflict over ownership

The attribution of a painting known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa has been a matter of dispute for more than a century. Its owners say it was an earlier portrait by Leonardo da Vinci of the same woman, Lisa Gherardini, whose likeness hangs in the Louvre. Other experts believe it is a later copy of the world’s most famous painting.

This week it has emerged that the painting’s ownership is also bitterly contested. Giovanni Battista Protti, a lawyer based in Padua, represents a family who he says owns 25% of the portrait. A civil court in Florence, where the painting has been on show for the past six weeks, has now set a hearing for the ownership dispute for 9 September.

The Isleworth Mona Lisa was on display at the Palazzo Bastogi in Florence from 10 June until yesterday. According to Kym Staiff, a researcher based in Switzerland who has been investigating the provenance of the painting since 2004, it was the first time it had been exhibited in Europe for many years, and thus the first opportunity for Protti’s clients to try to seize it. Protti requested the Florence court and Italian Culture Minister Alberto Bonisoli to sequester the painting, which he says was imported and exhibited without his clients’ consent. So far, neither authority has done so.

“It is hoped that the minister will prevent the painting from leaving Italy before the hearing in September,” Protti says. “If it is returned to the Swiss vault, the Italian courts will be rendered powerless.”

The Isleworth Mona Lisa has mainly dwelt in a Swiss vault since 1975. It was then the property of Henry Pulitzer, a British art historian, who published a book about it in 1966 called Where is the Mona Lisa? Pulitzer sold a quarter share of the painting to a business accomplice, a Portuguese porcelain manufacturer called Leland Gilbert, according to Staiff, who has collected hundreds of documents relating to the painting and deposited them at the regional library in Lausanne.

When Pulitzer died, his partner Elizabeth Meyer inherited the painting. Meyer died in 2008, and the painting passed to an international consortium, which created the Mona Lisa Foundation with the intent of proving Leonardo’s authorship of the painting. Gilbert is also no longer living, and Protti’s clients are his heirs.

“When Elizabeth Meyer was still alive, the relationship with our clients was perfect, and we have evidence of this,” Protti says. “After her death, they lost control of the painting and the trouble started.”

In a written response to emailed questions, Markus Frey, a representative of the foundation, declined to comment on the ownership of the painting. He said, though, that the claim by Protti’s clients is “ill-founded and has no merit.”

The Mona Lisa Foundation published its research findings in 2012 and two years later, launched an exhibition tour that premiered in Singapore, according to the foundation’s website. The book, Mona Lisa—Leonardo’s Earlier Version, spawned a wave of press reports speculating on whether it is a genuine Leonardo or not.

The Leonardo expert Martin Kemp is adamant that it is not. In an e-mail to The Art Newspaper, he described it as a “no-hoper.” He has previously said that the book published by the foundation contained “piles of unstable hypotheses” and that “the images of the Isleworth canvas have the dull monotony that would be expected of a copy.”

The painting, Kemp wrote in his book Living With Leonardo, is “the most persistent pretender amongst the many copies or variants.” Hugh Blaker, a painter and collector who bought the painting in 1913, also believed it was a genuine Leonardo and his stepfather, John Eyre, published a book as long ago as 1915 claiming the painting as a predecessor of the Louvre Mona Lisa.

Regardless of the attribution discussion, the ownership dispute looks set to be a complex affair. Protti says that he and Chris Marinello of London-based Art Recovery worked to trace the people and entities operating as the owners of the Isleworth Mona Lisa, in research that entailed an examination of the Panama Papers and the discovery of a network of offshore companies. The Art Newspaper