July 10, 2019

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

In this issue:

Street artists turn anonymous building into an amazing bookcase illusion
Goodbye, L&I: Downtown’s lone art supply store selling out its stock
Have we all underrated the humble pencil?
Ignored by the Louvre, 'lost' Caravaggio bought in private sale is destined for 'important museum'
What can the arts expect from next UK prime minister?
The Mona Lisa is on the move this summer at the Musée du Louvre
How Big Mike, a Barbershop Painter, Broke Into the Art World
Millinery mix up: scholar says Van Gogh Museum has mistaken hatted portraits of Theo and Vincent





Street artists turn anonymous building into an amazing bookcase illusion

Upon first glance, this building might look like one of the coolest bookshelves you’ve ever seen, but it’s actually one of the coolest murals you’ve ever seen. Street artist Jan Is De Man’s latest creation in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, truly fools you into believing that the side of this building is a three-dimensional bookcase.

Jan Is De Man was asked by the owners of the buildings who are friends of his to create a mural and the artist took on the challenge and added a little community spirit to it — he asked the local residents to suggest book titles to be featured in the piece. Anything was acceptable, except for religious or political works.

The artist told My Modern Met, “We’ve noticed that this project brought people together without pushing it. They met each other through books. Regardless of the differences in cultures, regardless of the differences in political point of views. Regardless of being extreme right or extreme left. Books are magical. They tickle your brain. And everyone can read the same book, but feel something different.”

De Man and his collaborator, artist Deef Freed, wanted the books on the shelves to be as diverse as the neighborhood itself, and ended up representing a variety of literature across eight different languages. Matador Network


Goodbye, L&I: Downtown’s lone art supply store selling out its stock

SILVER CITY, NM: Downtown’s arts community is at a turning point, as Leyba and Ingalls Arts sells out its stock of art supplies in preparation for the supply store being shut down. The store and gallery has, in one way or another, been the hub for artists in Silver City since 1996.

For the past 15 years, L&I has been located at 315 N. Bullard St., and has been home to supplies, framing services, workshops, and the Mimbres Region Arts Council Youth Mural Project.

Diana Ingalls Leyba, who owns the store with her husband, Bob Leyba, has been selling art supplies for 35 years, beginning on the East Coast. This is the latest phase in the long metamorphosis of L&I, as it has moved between three locations in Silver City after originally being set up in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Ingalls Leyba began selling art supplies after she graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.

“I had a degree in art, and I wanted to make sure I could make a living,” Ingalls Leyba said, “so it seemed like a smart thing to do.”

As an artist herself, this business endeavor has informed her art in many ways.

“It’s been an education,” she said. “I’ve incorporated stuff into my work that I would not have if I hadn’t owned a store.”

Before moving to Silver City and setting up the shop, Ingalls Leyba frequently visited a friend of hers here, and decided that it would be home.

“I liked the location, the big, blue open skies, the clarity of light and the people,” she said.

Since making the move, Ingalls Leyba has been an integral part of the art community in many ways — hosting workshops, coordinating the youth mural project and sharing her keen knowledge of art and art supplies.

“To me, she’s been indispensable,” said Lois Duffy, a painter who has been in Silver City for over 20 years. Duffy is from the East Coast, but recalls when she first moved to Silver City from Florida.

“She had that little store on Texas Street, and I moved here and I needed art supplies — so I went in and introduced myself,” Duffy said.

Since then, Duffy has used L&I as her main source for supplies. Though she is strictly a painter, she appreciates the large array of supplies that Leyba and Ingalls offers.

“She carries such a variety of products for such a small store, and especially for such a small town,” she said.

The supplies that Ingalls Leyba offered were valuable, but her experience and knowledge of how to use those supplies has been instrumental in her ability to help customers leave the store with what they need — even if they didn’t know it’s what they needed.

“I can’t stress this enough,” Duffy said. “It’s her personal service and the knowledge she offers that is worth so much.”

In the decades that Ingalls Leyba has been selling art supplies, she’s seen many things shift with time.

“[My stock] has shifted,” she said. “It needs to, because the focus of artists shift — things change.”

Not only have the things being sold by L&I shifted, but the ways in which artists find and purchase their supplies has, too.

“The internet, it does change things,” Ingalls Leyba said. “There’s so many places to buy things online, that it makes it hard to have a little brick and mortar business.”

Though there may be a larger offering of art supplies online, there are certain things about the shopping experience that are lost.

“Silver City is gonna miss that store,” said local painter Paul Hotvedt, who has also used L&I as his main source of supplies since moving here. “If I need something and I need it now, I know I can always go down there and get it.”

Hotvedt went to school with Ingalls Leyba in Philadelphia, and said he believes that this “is the passing of an era.”

“I’m gonna miss the camaraderie,” Hotvedt said. “Just going down there and talking art.”

That immediacy is lost when purchasing online, as well as the knowledge and advice that Ingalls Leyba offers.

“Coming in here and touching, looking and feeling actual color and supplies is different than talking online,” Ingalls Leyba said. “You’re getting someone’s experience, service and expertise.”

“Anything that you buy in person, you can look at it, feel it and compare it to another brand … you can see what it looks like and see what it feels like in your hand,” Duffy said. “That’s something you can’t do online.”

Ingalls Leyba is closing down the store in an attempt to focus more on other aspects of her art and life.

“I’m trying to simplify,” she said. “I want to streamline my life so that I can actually do artwork.”

Even without selling supplies, Ingalls Leyba has plenty to do — she’s currently working on six paintings, three sculptures, and a children’s book.

Though the art supply store is closing, L&I will still offer all of its other services.

“I have a feeling there will be an overlap,” said Ingalls Leyba, explaining that there is not a set closing date for the supply store. “Every time we’ve moved, we’ve never closed.”

Right now, the supplies are being offered at a discount, from 25 to 75 percent off. While selling out the art supplies, Ingalls Leyba will be transforming the space into a few main spheres: a gallery, a studio, and a space for the youth mural project and workshops.

Ingalls Leyba hopes the void left by her closing will not last long.

“It would be nice if someone decides to step up and open a shop,” she said. “I would be helpful and supportive, in terms of information and inventory.

“When we moved here to town there was one art supplies store that was closing while we were opening up,” said Ingalls Leyba. “I think life is full of some kind of serendipity like that.” Silver City Daily Press


Have we all underrated the humble pencil?

When the great 19th Century American writer Henry David Thoreau made a comprehensive list of supplies for an excursion, he specified obvious items like a tent and matches, and added string, old newspapers, a tape measure and a magnifying glass.

He also included paper and stamps, to make notes and write letters.

Strange, then, that he omitted to mention the very pencil with which he was making the list. Stranger still, when you realise that Thoreau's family made its money by manufacturing high-quality pencils.

The pencil seems fated to be overlooked. It's the theme of an old English riddle: "I am taken from a mine, and shut up in a wooden case, from which I am never released, and yet I am used by almost everybody."

We say the pen is mightier than the sword, but not the pencil - it's too easily erased.

We don't even give it the courtesy of a sensible name. "Pencil" is derived from the Latin word "penis" meaning "tail", because Roman writing brushes were made from tufts of fur from an animal's tail.

"Lead pencils" achieve the same effect without needing ink.

Or, indeed, lead - they actually contain graphite. The idea of graphite on a stick of wood is about 450 years old.

The pencil has a number of champions.

Pencil historian Henry Petroski points out that its very eraseability makes it indispensable to designers and engineers. "Ink is the cosmetic that ideas will wear when they go out in public," he writes. "Graphite is their dirty truth."

"Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes," is the novelist Margaret Atwood's first rule of writing. "Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore, take two pencils."

And then there's the American economist Leonard Read, who was a crusader for the principles of small-government free-market economics.

In 1958, Read published an essay entitled "I, Pencil" - written in the voice of the pencil itself.

While the pencil in the English riddle seemed resigned to its obscurity, Read's pencil is loud and a touch melodramatic: "If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing."

Read's pencil is well aware that it doesn't immediately appear impressive: "Pick me up and look me over. What do you see? Not much meets the eye — there's some wood, lacquer, the printed labeling, graphite lead, a bit of metal, and an eraser."

And yet, the pencil goes on to explain, collecting its cedar wood required saws, axes, motors, rope, and a railway car. Its graphite is from Ceylon - modern-day Sri Lanka - mixed with Mississippi clay, sulphuric acid, animal fats and numerous other ingredients.

And don't get the pencil started on its six coats of lacquer, its brass ferrule, or its eraser - made not from rubber, it wants you to know, but from sulphur chloride reacted with rape-seed oil, made abrasive with Italian pumice and tinted pink with cadmium sulphide.

Read's pencil writes a stirring conclusion: "Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed."

The "Invisible Hand" refers to the idea that unseen market forces balance the demand and supply of goods in a free market.

That's why critic Anne Elizabeth Moore calls the essay a a "seductive metaphor for spontaneous order", and it garnered wider fame when the Nobel prize-winning economist Milton Friedman adapted it for his 1980 TV series Free to Choose.

Friedman drew the same lesson from the humble pencil's formidably complex origins - it was an astonishing testimony to the power of market forces to co-ordinate large numbers of people with nobody in overall charge: "There was no commissar sending out orders from central office; it was the magic of the price system."

Go back in time 500 years or so, and you'd have seen the magic of the price system swing into action for yourself.

Graphite was first discovered in the English Lake District.

Legend has it that a ferocious storm uprooted trees in the idyllic valley of Borrowdale. Underneath their roots was a strange, shiny black substance that was initially dubbed "black lead".

It was quickly used as "a marking stone", as celebrated in this 300-year-old market seller's cry: "Buy marking stones, marking stones buy; Much profit in their use doth lie; I've marking stones of colour red; Passing good, or else black Lead."

Because graphite was soft yet heat-resistant, it was also used for casting cannonballs.

It soon became a precious resource - not quite as pricey as its fellow carbon-based cousin the diamond, but valuable enough for miners to be supervised by armed guards as they changed out of their clothes at the end of the shift, lest they try to smuggle a nugget away.

By the late 1700s, French pencil manufacturers were happily paying to import high-quality Borrowdale graphite. But then war broke out, and England's government sensibly decided not to make it easy for the French to cast cannonballs.

What were the pencil-makers to do? In stepped Nicolas-Jacques Conté, French army officer, balloonist, adventurer - and pencil engineer.

Conté painstakingly developed a way to make pencil leads from a mix of clay with low-grade powdered continental graphite. For these efforts, the French government awarded him a patent. And this is where we might start to question whether Read's pencil is right to be so fiercely proud of its free-market ancestry.

Would Monsieur Conté have put such effort into his experiments without the prospect of a state-backed patent?

Economist John Quiggin raises a different objection. While Read's pencil underlines its history of forests and railway carts, both forests and railways are often owned and managed by governments.

And while Friedman was right that there is no Pencil Tsar, even in a free-market economy there are hierarchies.

Leonard Read's loquacious instrument was made by the Eberhard Faber company, now part of Newell Rubbermaid - and, as in any conglomerate, its employees respond to instructions from the boss, not to prices in the market.

In practice, then, the pencil is the product of a messy economic system in which the government plays a role and corporate hierarchies insulate many workers from Friedman's "magic of the price system".

Read might be right that a pure free market would be better, but his pencil doesn't prove the case.

It does, though, remind us how profoundly complex are the processes that produce the everyday objects whose value we often overlook. The economy that assembles them for us cheaply and reliably is an astonishing thing. BBC


Ignored by the Louvre, 'lost' Caravaggio bought in private sale is destined for 'important museum'
Estimated to sell between €100m-€150m at auction on Friday, an anonymous buyer has snapped up the disputed painting that was discovered in a French attic

Five years after its discovery in the attic of a family home near Toulouse, a painting of Judith beheading Holofernes—later attributed to Caravaggio by the Old Master specialist Eric Turquin—has sold privately ahead of a public auction planned for this Friday in the south of France. The Paris-based Turquin of Cabinet Turquin and the Toulouse-based auctioneer Marc Labarbe announced today that the dramatic, large-format painting has been sold in a private sale to a foreign collector and will leave France.

The work was estimated to sell between €100m-€150m, but bidding was to start at €30m. The price and the identity of the buyer, who might make their own announcement soon according to Eric Turquin, were not disclosed, and a confidentiality agreement was signed. But, Turquin says, the collector pledged to loan the painting to an “important museum”, meaning that such an institution would be ready to accept the expert’s attribution to Caravaggio.

Turquin says he is “thrilled” by the outcome of this saga, which began when the painting was allegedly found in the Toulouse attic where it had been long forgotten. The attribution divided art historians; some believe that it could be by Louis Finson, a Flemish copyist of Caravaggio who lived in the south of France after spending time in Italy. Turquin claimed that the few known works by Finson do not match the quality of the painting and that the recent restoration and analysis of the work, which was in “an exceptional state of conservation” according to the press release on the sale, brought new elements to his thesis.

An export ban on the painting, which was declared a “national treasure” in April 2016, was deferred for 30 months, but the Musée du Louvre in Paris declined to buy the work. The ban was lifted last December. The work has since been shown at the the Colnaghi gallery in London, Galerie Kamel Mennour in Paris and Adam Williams Fine Art in New York. The Art Newspaper


What can the arts expect from next UK prime minister?
While Boris Johnson describes himself as a keen painter and Jeremy Hunt spent time as culture minister, the sector is likely to remain far down the agenda

A week is a long time in politics, as Harold Wilson once said, and so has proved for Boris Johnson. On 18 June the Times reported that he and his new partner Carrie Symonds would “relax each evening by painting together”. Just two days later the peace was shattered by screams and the sound of breaking glass. Painting was definitely off the agenda. Until that moment, Johnson was far ahead in the battle for the premiership, but now his rival Jeremy Hunt is in with a chance.

So which candidate would be more sympathetic towards the arts? Johnson, who has always been fascinated by history and the classical world, was appointed shadow arts minister in May 2004. But as so often, his personal life would take its toll on his political career. Six months later the Tory opposition leader sacked him for lying about his love affair with the journalist Petronella Wyatt.

Johnson’s most important impact in the cultural field came when he was elected Mayor of London in 2008. He then chose Munira Mirza as his deputy mayor responsible for education and culture, who was one of the masterminds behind the organisation of the Cultural Olympiad for the 2012 London Games. Johnson also supported the Museum of London and the Fourth Plinth sculpture competitions for Trafalgar Square. His greatest cultural legacy from his eight years as mayor may well be the backing he gave to the creation of V&A East on the former Olympic site in Stratford, together with the lingering lessons of the London Garden Bridge debacle. (The scheme was designed by Thomas Heatherwick, and abandoned before construction, at a cost of £53.5m.)

Hunt served as the shadow secretary of state for culture from 2007, before being appointed as the culture, media and sport secretary under David Cameron from 2010 to 2012. The post covered the London Olympics, so Hunt then worked closely with his current political rival. Hunt also put much effort into dealing with pressing media issues, with culture largely being left to his committed arts minister, Ed Vaizey. This was a period of deep cuts in government funding and Hunt’s response was to encourage private philanthropy for the arts.

In 2012, Hunt was promoted to health secretary, a post he held until July 2018, when he became foreign secretary. This followed Johnson’s resignation from the post over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit policy.

Neither man is likely to have much direct influence on cultural policy, since it is so low down the political agenda, but two key issues will have an impact on the arts.

First, public expenditure—and whether the culture department is likely to suffer from further cuts. So far, the indications are that Johnson’s tax-cutting agenda is more likely to result in a funding cut: health, education and the armed forces are less likely to suffer. And the most important issue is Brexit, of course, with Johnson determined to leave the European Union by 31 October come what may, “do or die”—a policy abhorred by the vast majority of those in the UK arts scene.

The UK’s 160,000 members of the Conservative Party will now have an opportunity to choose between Johnson and Hunt, with the result expected to be announced on 23 July. Theresa May would then stand down and the new prime minister will choose their cabinet. Parliament will resume sitting in early September and the looming Brexit deadline is 31 October. The Art Newspaper


The Mona Lisa is on the move this summer at the Musée du Louvre
The Leonardo painting, which is seen by thousands of visitors each day, is temporarily leaving its home during renovations to the gallery

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (around 1503-19) is on the move and will spend the summer alongside paintings by Rubens in the Musée du Louvre. On 17 July, the panel will leave the Salle des Etats, which houses the museum’s Venetian paintings, as the gallery will undergo major renovations lasting three months. The main change for Leonardo’s work will be a new protective glass and a change of lighting, which may reduce reflections of other works on the glass visible since its instalment in 2005 (it was chosen because it is one of the largest in the royal palace). Not only could you see the lively figures of Paolo Veronese’s Wedding Feast at Cana (1563) on top of the Mona Lisa’s famous smile, but the glass has become more opaque with time.

The main objective of the renovation works in the gallery is to enhance the presentation of large works by Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto by repainting the walls in a more luminous colour and improving the lighting, says the head of the painting department Sébastien Allard. These works have already been removed to another gallery, Passage Mollien, but The Wedding Feast at Cana, the museum’s largest painting, cannot be moved and will be put in a protective case during the works. The renovation is part of the rehanging of all the painting galleries that the museum director Jean-Luc Martinez started five years ago.

The Mona Lisa will stay in its air conditioned and bullet proof case while in the Medici Gallery this summer. A week or two before the opening of the major Leonardo retrospective (24 October- 24 February 2020) planned for the 500th anniversary of his death, the painting is due to return to the huge concrete wall where it has hung for the past 14 years. The Mona Lisa cannot be part of the show, as only 5,000 visitors a day can enter the exhibition hall, while the museum has at least 20,000 visitors a day, many of which go to see the Mona Lisa. The Art Newspaper


How Big Mike, a Barbershop Painter, Broke Into the Art World
From lunch-break sessions at the easel to Instagram fame to a solo show at a Chelsea gallery. In the words of one art dealer: ‘How dare he use such colors?’

Michael Saviello sat on a little stool in a Chelsea art gallery wiping sweat from his forehead as his new gallerists breathlessly praised his latest paintings. Mr. Saviello, known to everyone as Big Mike, was taking the day off from Astor Place Hairstylists, the East Village barber shop he has managed since 1987. He was preparing for his first solo show, which would mark his debut to the New York art world.

And from the sound of it, the New York art world wanted a piece of Big Mike.

“You can instantly tell this is a Saviello,” said Guillo Pérez, gesturing to Mr. Saviello’s painting of Tupac Shakur wearing a bandanna. “You can see this was painted by someone chiseled from the effects of life. Every brush stroke has a human fingerprint.” He added: “Mike is not some young buck. He’s not some nobody. Big Mike is a mover and shaker. We start him at $5,000.”

He was joined by another gallerist, Blake Emory, who stood before a painting Mr. Saviello made of his wife, Harriett, an elementary schoolteacher, surrounded by flowers. “Mike’s work incites controversy,” he said. “How dare he use such colors?”

Paul Calendrillo, who runs a gallery nearby, had stopped in to study Mr. Saviello’s work. “The turmoil in these brush strokes reminds me of Joan Mitchell,” he said. He also gave Mr. Saviello some advice. “Critics? They’ll come once. Then never again.”

Mr. Saviello listened quietly. Afterward, he needed to clear his head.

“I feel like I’m intruding on the art world,” he said.

He strolled through some galleries in the building. He came upon Mary Tooley Parker, who was setting up an exhibit of her hooked rugs, which pay tribute to folk artists like the quilters of Gee’s Bend. It was her first solo show, she said, and she’d won a prestigious grant making it possible.

“Where have you shown before?” she asked.

“People know me on Instagram,” he said. “This is my first show, too.”

“Oh,” she said.

Big Mike’s arrival on the New York art scene was triggered by a perfectly modern sequence of events, including a flush of Instagram fame, and he still doesn’t know what to make of it. When Mr. Saviello started painting at the barber shop during his lunch breaks two years ago, he never thought anyone would want to buy his work, or that he’d end up with a show in a Chelsea gallery. His solo show opened earlier this month at the ESP Gallery in the Landmark Arts Building and it runs until early July.

The day after he met with his gallerists, Mr. Saviello, 58, was back at Astor Place Hairstylists, barking into a telephone that constantly rings and yelling to his fleet of barbers. He seemed fatigued, but he was excited.

“I had to look up Joan Mitchell — I thought they said Joni Mitchell,” he said. “To be perfectly honest, I’m still processing everything that’s been happening to me. My wife keeps saying I’m a disrupter in the art world right now. They don’t know what to do with me.”

As a longtime manager of Astor Place Hairstylists, Mr. Saviello presides over the legendary subterranean barbershop, a cash-only haircut factory that retains more than 40 barbers with names like “Zack Attack” and “Don Fifi.”

Mr. Saviello’s ritual commences at lunch. He walks to the storage room that has become his studio, and he shuts the door. He pours himself a glass of red wine, slips on a ragged shirt, puts on some Tony Bennett and sits in front of his easel. The room is lined with his paintings, which include portraits of Biggie Smalls, Marilyn Monroe, Rihanna and his wife. Last year, he painted Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has had his hair cut at Astor since he was a student at New York University.

And on a recent afternoon, Mr. de Blasio sat for a trim with his security detail standing nearby. As a razor buzzed his sides, he discussed Mr. Saviello as an artist.

“I’m a big fan of Canaletto,” the mayor said, “and what Canaletto did was sit in the plazas of Venice studying people and taking in their humanity, and then he realized them with dignity in his paintings. I think that’s true of Mike. Every day, Mike watches this great swath of humanity enter through this barber shop, and it has influenced him as an artist.” Mr. Saviello’s painting of the mayor currently hangs in Gracie Mansion.

As a boy growing up in Bayonne, N.J., Mr. Saviello dreamed of becoming an artist. Every summer, he visited relatives in Italy, and he became mesmerized by the works of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. When he was 11, he said, he won a national drawing contest for his picture of Tippy the Turtle.

But in high school, Mr. Saviello played varsity football, and after graduating from Rutgers University, he started running a pizzeria. “I always wanted to paint my whole life,” Mr. Saviello said. “But I came from a working-class Italian family. My dad was like, ‘You want to be a painter? Who are you kidding? You’re going to become a construction worker.”

Mr. Saviello got a job at Astor in 1987, and over the years, he’d encounter artists like Keith Haring and Andy Warhol when they stopped in for haircuts. “I’ve met so many artists here and they’re always struggling,” he said. “It made me realize I’m a practical person. I wanted to be an artist, but not the broke kind.”

“There’s an art professor from Cooper Union who comes here,” he said. “I showed him my paintings. I said, ‘What is art?’ He couldn’t tell me. No one can tell me. I’m trying to figure it out, but no one will tell me. One guy said, ‘Art is whatever they will pay for it,’ and that’s the best explanation I’ve gotten yet.”

Today, Mr. Saviello lives with his wife in the Poconos, where he raised his two children, and he wakes up every day at 5 a.m. to drive into the city. He enjoys his work at the barbershop, and his gift, the barbers say, is his knack at pairing customers with the stylist suited for them. “I judge someone the moment they walk through the door,” Mr. Saviello said. “I know who I am going to send them to before they even talk. I see their soul in their eyes. I can even see bad people.”

But he always regretted not pursuing art. One night two years ago, as he was closing up the shop he noticed a canvas sitting on a heap of trash, and he salvaged it. A month later, he surprised his wife with a painting of her. Shortly after, she was given a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Painting suddenly didn’t feel as urgent, but as she endured chemotherapy, Mr. Saviello felt drawn to his easel, and he started laboring on a new painting. Finally, he emerged with a surrealistic work that featured him protecting his wife from the grim reaper.

“Mike is not a reflective person,” said Harriett Saviello, 58, whose cancer is in remission. “He hates talking about his feelings. But he started using his art to process what was happening to me.

“Our dog, Luigi, just died,” she added. “He doesn’t like talking about that either, but I think he’ll start painting Luigi soon.”

By that winter, Mr. Saviello had found his stride as a painter. And then his art career got an unexpected boost.

A young customer wearing a Yankees cap named Nicolas Heller sat down for a haircut one afternoon, and he noticed Mr. Saviello’s painting studio. He took a picture and posted it to Instagram. When he got another haircut a few weeks later, he posted another picture. Before long, young followers of @NewYorkNico were making pilgrimages to visit Big Mike, and after Mr. Heller made a short film about him, people started stopping him in the streets.

Mr. Saviello had become one of the recurring characters on Mr. Heller’s popular Instagram account, which celebrates the city’s eccentrics. Mr. Saviello got an Instagram account of his own soon enough and he now posts regularly about his painting life.

“I call myself the unofficial talent scout of New York,” said Mr. Heller, 30, whose account has 180,000 followers. “Without Instagram, none of this would be possible, and it’s always interesting for me to see what happens to these people after I’ve shined a spotlight on them, and how they use the platform for good.”

As Mr. Saviello’s viral fame grew, one of his customers approached him. “He saw everything that was happening to me,” recalled Mr. Saviello, “and he said, ‘Mike, you’re becoming hot. It’s time for you to have a show in my gallery.’” And so he did.

At the opening for Mr. Saviello’s show, the gallery throbbed with his fans. Italian heroes were served on a buffet table, and guests stood in front of Mr. Saviello’s paintings while studying a price sheet and sipping red wine. The most expensive work was a chess board sculpted by Mr. Saviello. It was listed at $10,000.

LeRoy Mace, a musician, considered Mr. Saviello’s surreal portrait of Rihanna. “Mike’s art went viral because it speaks to the soul,” he said. “There’s no denying it.”

Frank Sciotto, who was a fraternity brother of Mr. Saviello’s at Rutgers, drove in from New Brunswick to support him. “I can hardly draw a stick figure,” he said, “but it looks like Mike stuck with his art and is starting to do really well.”

By midnight, the gallery had cleared out, and it was littered with empty wine bottles. Mr. Saviello had posed for countless selfies, and he had followed dozens of people back on Instagram, but no paintings were sold. Guillo Pérez, one of the gallerists, cleaned up. “I didn’t close anything tonight,” Mr. Pérez said, “but I planted the seed.”

As Mr. Saviello prepared for the long drive back home to the Poconos with his family, he seemed pleased with his debut. “Do I wish I could be considered a great artist one day?” he said. “Do I wish someone might look at my stuff one day and say, ‘That’s a Saviello’? Of course I do. And it’s going to happen if I let it happen.” The New York Times


Millinery mix up: scholar says Van Gogh Museum has mistaken hatted portraits of Theo and Vincent
Major exhibition at the Noordbrabants Museum in the Netherlands will show latest research in the confusing identity saga as Amsterdam museum renames work

A pair of portraits at Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum depicting Vincent and his brother Theo are the subject of a continuing identity debate. Painted in 1887, when Vincent was living in Montmartre with his brother Theo, both small pictures were long assumed to be self-portraits, with Vincent wearing two different hats. Then, eight years ago, the museum determined that the man with the felt hat was Vincent and the one with a straw hat was Theo.

The Art Newspaper can report that this theory will be challenged in an exhibition which opens in the autumn at the Noordbrabants Museum in s’Hertogenbosch (Den Bosch) in the Netherlands, Van Gogh’s Inner Circle: Friends, Family, Models (21 September-12 January 2020). Its guest curator, Sjraar van Heugten, knows the pair of portraits well, as an ex-head of collections at the Van Gogh Museum. Now an independent scholar, Van Heugten believes that his colleague has it the wrong way round. He argues that the man in the straw hat is Vincent and the one in the felt hat is Theo.

When the sitters' identities were first challenged in 2011, it came as a considerable surprise. Vincent, a notoriously casual dresser, might have been expected to sport a straw hat, which would be comfortable for painting outside. Theo, a respectable art dealer, would surely have worn a more formal felt hat. Indeed, when Vincent was in Paris he apparently did not even own a felt hat, according to Theo’s brother-in-law.

The Amsterdam museum’s explanation eight years ago was that the two men had swapped hats, probably as “a joke”. Louis van Tilborgh, its senior researcher and a distinguished specialist on the artist’s Paris period, suggested that Vincent was playing on the fact that he often depicted himself in self-portraits with a straw hat. Exchanging hats with Theo was therefore a family jest. “It very much looks as if the brothers are wearing each other’s hats,” he concluded.

Van Tilborgh’s main evidence for determining that the man in the straw hat is Theo is the physical characteristics of the face. He pointed to the colour and shape of the beard, which is ochre (rather than the orange-red of Vincent), and it was respectably trimmed, rather than in Vincent’s more unkept style. The ear is also rounded, as in photographs of Theo, while Vincent’s other self-portraits suggest he had more fleshy ears.

But Van Heugten tells The Art Newspaper: “It is unlikely that Vincent would have depicted Theo in rather nonchalant summer attire and himself dressed as a respectable gentleman.” He says that Theo had light grey-blue eyes, while Vincent’s self-portraits suggest that he had greenish eyes (Vincent’s were often portrayed as green, sometimes bluish, sometimes dark, but never greyish-blue as in the man with the felt hat). Another accepted self-portrait with a straw hat clearly shows Vincent with a green pupil (with blue in the rest of his other eye).

The Van Gogh Museum now concedes that Van Heugten may possibly be correct about the man with the straw hat, and it has given the picture a new title: Self-portrait or Portrait of Theo van Gogh. A statement published yesterday says: “In light of the fact that we are dealing with painted portraits and not photographs, it remains difficult to effectively weigh up arguments regarding physical similarities; after all, there are any number of reasons why the artist may have deviated from reality.” With this uncertainty, the museum has taken the unusual step of giving the painting a double title.

But disagreement still remains about the other portrait—the one with the felt hat. The Van Gogh Museum believes that it is a self-portrait, since it is so similar to another fully-accepted self-portrait in the Rijksmuseum.

The Noordbrabants Museum disagrees about the Van Gogh Museum’s portrait with the felt hat. In their exhibition, it will be displayed as Portrait of Theo van Gogh. With the two pictures with their different headgear hanging beside each other, visitors and scholars will have the opportunity to decide for themselves. No other Van Gogh portraits of Theo are known, so it is important to sort out which of the pair represents the artist’s younger brother. The difficulty is that the two brothers did look so alike.

The debate over the pair of paintings has echoes of a similar issue over a photograph. Until last November a photograph of a boy was always thought to be of Vincent, aged 13. Fresh research shows that it is in fact Theo, at 15.

Since Theo played such an important role in Vincent’s life, it is fascinating to know how he was portrayed by the artist. After the Noordbrabants exhibition the pair of paintings will return to the Van Gogh Museum where, as usual, they will be hung next to each other. The Art Newspaper