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Picasso, Tate, 1960: the world's first 'art blockbuster' - Before 1960, Pablo Picasso and modernism were more often lampooned than loved in this country. But all that changed when the Tate's huge Picasso exhibition caused a sensation and changed the course of British art for ever.


By Tim Adams, The Observer, Sunday 29 January 2012.


In the summer of 1960 Britain was overwhelmed by what the newspapers were inevitably calling Picassomania. The Tate gallery's Picasso exhibition opened in June, the most extensive retrospective of the artist's work ever staged, and from that moment the cultural life of the nation would never be quite the same again. The 1960 show was dubbed "the exhibition of the century"; William Hickey in the Express called it "the most vigorous entertaining, interesting merry-go-round of art that London has ever seen". Tatler magazine coined a new term for the phenomenon: it was "an art block-buster".


It was also the moment when Picasso, and modernism, finally arrived in Britain. That arrival had been a long time coming. As a new Tate exhibition will show, Picasso had been a prime influence on more radical British artists since the first showing of his work here in 1910, but if he was known to the wider public before the second world war, it was often as the butt of cartoonists' jokes.


The attacks had been led by the arch anti-modernists of the cultural establishment. For a while Evelyn Waugh took to signing off letters "Death to Picasso!" GK Chesterton described one of Picasso's drawings as a "piece of paper on which Mr Picasso has had the misfortune to upset the ink and tried to dry it with his boots". Even up until 1949, Alfred Munnings, president of the Royal Academy, could famously address the RA's annual banquet with a story about Winston Churchill, who had asked "Alfred, if you met Picasso coming down the street would you join me in kicking his… something, something?" Munnings heartily agreed that he would.


The painter Howard Hodgkin, who was, in 1960, working toward his own first solo show, recalls the excitement of the Tate's overdue Picasso exhibition very well. "I was in a rather uniquely privileged position among British artists, because I had lived in New York for a long time where there were plenty of Picassos to look at," he told me on the phone last week. "But at the time there were very few on permanent display in this country. I had been telling all my painter friends about a particular work, but they had not had a chance to see it. We had Picasso-influenced artists such as Keith Vaughan and John Craxton, painters of that sort, but they were really very dilute versions of the man himself."


In the 1950s Picasso remained a divisive figure. The showing of his Guernica at the Whitechapel gallery before the war, and on a subsequent tour round Britain – in Manchester it was hung in a car showroom – had been a political as much as an artistic event. There had been plans for a Picasso show in London in 1952 but it was decided to be too contentious. In a letter to the American ambassador in London, preserved in the Tate archives, the then director, John Rothenstein, wrote that at a recent trustees meeting plans for the Picasso exhibition had been abandoned. "The Communist party is active in this part of London and it is possible that they might try to make capital out of the Picasso exhibition…"


To some extent Picasso was lost in translation. When the artist had last been in Britain, for the 1950 World Peace Congress in Sheffield, a welcoming party of artists met him in London. It was only when the artists arrived at Victoria station that they realised there was no French speaker among them and Picasso had no English. Victor Pasmore, a pioneer of British abstract art, was finally pushed into a taxi with the Spaniard in order to escort him to St Pancras and the Sheffield train. There was, apparently, silence between the two men in the cab as Pasmore shyly tried to conjure an appropriate French phrase. Finally he turned to Picasso with the words: "Moi, je suis peintre."


Picasso looked at him. "Oh," he said. "Moi aussi."


In large part English artists had to put up with black-and-white reproductions of the artist's paintings in books. Hodgkin recalls how RH Wilenski's Modern French Painters was particularly valuable in this respect. "I always remember a phrase from Wilenski," he told me. "It was something like this: 'No exhibition can really do justice to Picasso's range; you'd have to have a temple dedicated to him to achieve that.' In a way, that was what the Tate show of 1960 was attempting, I suppose."


If anyone was to create a temple to Picasso then Roland Penrose, co-founder of the ICA and the artist's friend and first biographer was that man. Penrose had curated two earlier shows of the artist's work in 1951 and 1955 at the ICA but they were necessarily small-scale affairs. The Tate show, in 1960, would be something different; half the gallery space at Millbank would be devoted to the exhibition and every period of the artist's career would be represented by major work; Picasso himself promised 100 pictures from his private collection to supplement those begged and borrowed from around the world.



Penrose was almost as much concerned with preparations for the publicity surrounding the opening as with the show itself: he was desperate for the public to finally "get it" about Picasso. The Tate archives contain a wonderful record of the minutes of meetings of the Picasso party organisers, a "ladies' committee" that included the socialite patrons Lady Norton and Lady Ogilvie, Nancy Balfour, an editor at the Economist, and Fleur Cowles, the American writer and biographer of Salvador Dalí.


Mrs Cowles was in charge of catering, and she proposed a Spanish buffet on the lawns of the Tate for the 2,000 guests paying five guineas each. It would, the minutes noted, be "economical, gay and different". Cowles advertised the fact herself in a story for the Telegraph, explaining breathlessly that guests would be served sangría "that cool, cool drink which lives so chic and social a life in Spain". The party, she advised her readers, was for her simply "a prelude to the regular holiday I take every summer with friends in Marbella, a tiny village at the southernmost tip of Spain".


Notes of one of the "ladies' committee" meetings details how the flamenco music of Satie and De Falla was deemed appropriate background for the party, "Mrs Morland ["ICA board member and doctor's widow"] would investigate the possibilities of borrowing records and securing steriophonic [sic] installation free of charge." Mrs Morland eventually came good, and Decca provided a hi-fi.


The party committee's machinations were almost as fraught as those of the museum hierarchy who horse-traded for loans of Picassos. Penrose deemed it essential that paintings be brought from Russia, despite cold war animosities. Rothenstein travelled to Moscow and Leningrad on a less than conclusive diplomatic mission in order to try to secure the loan of paintings.


Meanwhile preparations for the catering were getting heated. The Tate kitchens felt they should do the party, but Fleur Cowles was insisting on a Spanish chef. Details were leaked to the press: as the party approached it was discovered that 600lb of rice, 800lb of chicken, 450lb of prawns and 160lb of pimentoes had been ordered; "all this," it was reported, "so they can make a Spanish peasant dish they call 'paella'".


Perhaps for the first time, "colour supplement" writers were dispatched to the show's opening, rather than just art critics. Olga Franklin in the Mail did not know what to make of it all. Watching the pictures being hung, she struggled in particular with a painting of Lee Miller, the photographer (and wife of Roland Penrose), from Picasso's pink period. "What did it mean?" she wondered of Mrs Penrose, who was standing nearby. Mrs Penrose replied curtly that the painting was "wasted on her because she was clearly 'the nervous type'. 'You don't really dig all this, do you?'" she said. Eventually, though, the reporter got her answer about what it all meant from "a chap at Sotheby's". Someone had bought Picasso's painting La Belle Hollandaise the previous year for the most money ever paid for a work by a living artist. "That is what Picasso is about," Franklin concluded: money. (The painting had sold for £55,000.)


When the night itself came round it was hard to say what excited the press the most, the paintings or the party. The ladies' committee had pulled off the considerable coup of getting the Duke of Edinburgh to come and he was joined on the guest list by Mrs Jack Heinz ("of the Heinz 57 varieties"), Luis Dominguez, the famous Spanish bullfighter, the designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Yehudi Menuhin, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn. The Duke of Edinburgh summed up the show "with his usual cheery frankness". Standing before a canvas called Woman in Green, he asked: "It looks as if the man drinks. Does he?"


The aspiring Brangelina of the moment were actors Margaret Leighton and Laurence Harvey, friends of Fleur Cowles, who were overheard in conversation.


"We don't own any Picassos do we darling?" Leighton wondered.


"Of course we do," said her husband, who had recently been Oscar-nominated for his role in Room at the Top.


"Oh, I didn't know they were Picassos," she replied, innocently.


One person missing from the guest list was Picasso himself, who was holed up in his new chateau at the foot of Cézanne's Mont St Victoire and saw no point in attending: "My old paintings no longer interest me," he wrote to a friend, "I'm much more curious about those I haven't yet done." As the exhibition opened, he was photographed at a bullfight with Juliette Greco, Yul Brynner and Jean Cocteau. Penrose wrote to the painter to explain the mood: "My dear Pablo, the Picasso explosion… is overwhelming. Already over 10,000 people have visited the show. There are queues the entire day until eight o'clock in the evening when the gallery closes. You have conquered London – people are enchanted and dazzled by your presence on the walls."


The crowds were such that it was reported that several of the gallery warders suffered nervous collapse. Rothenstein sent an urgent memo to his opposite number at the Arts Council. "The large crowd has placed a very heavy strain on our two floor polishers," he lamented, "one of whom is shortly to go on holiday. I wonder if the Arts Council could take on at least the sweeping of the Picasso rooms, possibly using student labour?"


As news of the show spread, the young Queen expressed a wish to visit the exhibition. Penrose recalled the after-hours' visit of the royal party in another letter to Picasso in Provence, "To my delight, she went in with an enthusiasm that increased with each step – stopping in front of each picture – Portrait of Uhde, which she thought magnificent, Still Life with Chair Caning, which she really liked, the collages, the little construction with gruyère and sausage, in front of which she stopped and said: 'Oh how lovely that is! How I should like to make something like that myself!'"


As the show went on, one publicity coup followed another. The consignment of paintings from Russia finally arrived and an extra gallery was set aside for them. A woman was caught smuggling in paintings by her husband to hang in the show, when she dropped a canvas from under her coat. Mrs Vivian Burleigh explained that her husband painted murals in launderettes and hair-dressing salons "in Picasso's early style… I had to do this to prove my husband is also a genius," she said. "It is disgraceful that the British Arts Council take no interest in their own painters." Mrs Burleigh claimed to have left one painting in the exhibition, stuck up with chewing gum. When alerted to this possibility Joanna Drew of the Arts Council was having none of it. "I know a Picasso when I see one," she said, briskly, "and they are all Picassos here."


What seemed most revolutionary to some observers was the new mix of society that joined the queues. As well as the expected "women in elegant dresses" there were "teenagers in winkle picker shoes and girls in no shoes at all".


By the time the exhibition closed in September, more than half a million people had seen it, breaking all records; 300,000 postcards had been sold, and 92,000 catalogues bought. The "Spanish gypsy style" was featured in Vogue as the summer look; Marbella suddenly looked a possible holiday destination for the would-be chic. Howard Hodgkin went to the show "many, many times to look at different things". David Hockney, for whom comparable queues are currently forming, went eight times, and opened himself up to the possibility that an artist could work in many styles and media in a long career. British art would never be the same, but something else seemed to have shifted, too. The Scotsman noted in a prescient editorial that "It is going to be difficult after this to say that great [modern] art is not popular here."


Not everyone was swept up in the new, new thing though. The head attendant at the Tate, the ex-grenadier guardsman Arthur Wellstead, closed the exhibition with a sharp blast on his whistle at 7.55pm on 19 September. Six minutes later, one observer reported, "the crowds had all gone – including two young men in sandals who tried to dive through a solid line of attendants for a last look. Arthur Wellstead breathed a sigh of relief. 'I'm not sorry it's over,' he said. 'It made a change but it was all a bit hectic.'"


The Queen's speech: What the royals made of Picasso


During the 1960 Picasso exhibition at the Tate, the young Queen requested a private after-hours tour of the show from curator Roland Penrose. Penrose kept a note of some of the conversation as the royal party which included the Queen, Prince Philip, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon walked through the rooms. His subsequent notebook read as follows:


Cubist room:


Queen "I can see character in it."


Margaret "I like letting my eyes wander from surface to surface without worrying about what it means."


Construction room – real enjoyment:


Queen "Oh, how delightful. I wish I could make things like that myself."


Margaret "What fun it must be to make collage."


Philip, coming in: "Do realise, darling, there are 270 pictures to see and we have hardly begun."


Queen "Why does he use so many different styles?"


In front of La Muse:


Queen "These are the ones that make me feel a bit drunk, I'm afraid… Why does he want to put 2 eyes on same side of [a] face?"


In front of portrait of Dora Maar [Picasso's lover and muse]:


Margaret "Did he love her very much?"


Queen Mother liked The Kitchen and thought it v. good at end of gallery.


Bay at Cannes greatly appreciated by QM & Q.


Las Meninas' subtlety of colour, restraint and feeling of texture noticed & enjoyed by QM.


Pigeons much admired.


Portrait of Jacqueline noticed [by] Margaret.


Queen Mother "What a tremendous output! He is the greatest of our time."


After the visit, which lasted for two hours, a royal spokesman telephoned Penrose to say "that the Queen had declared she hadn't spent such a pleasant evening for a long time".


© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.



"Leonardo Painting’s Restoration Bitterly Divides Art Experts."


By Elaine Sciolino, The New York Times.


Published: January 3, 2012.


PARIS — Leonardo da Vinci’s “Virgin and Child With Saint Anne” does not enjoy the same star status as his Mona Lisa. But for the Louvre, it is an equally treasured masterpiece.


Now a battle is raging over the painting’s restoration, pitting the museum and some experts who defend the project against others who believe the cleaning of the 500-year-old canvas has been too aggressive and may already have caused irreversible damage.


Two of France’s leading art experts have resigned from the advisory committee supervising the painting’s restoration to protest the way it has been conducted, according to art specialists have spoken to them.


Neither of the two experts, Ségolène Bergeon Langle, the former director of conservation for the Louvre and France’s national museums, nor Jean-Pierre Cuzin, the former director of paintings at the Louvre, has publicly disclosed the precise reasons behind the resignations; the Louvre has not commented except to confirm their departures.


“At every step along the way I prepared detailed reports in writing to the Louvre to explain my views, my wishes, my concerns” regarding the restoration of the Leonardo, Ms. Bergeon Langle said in a telephone interview. “I took the position for a long time that I would leave if certain red lines were crossed.”


Mr. Cuzin, meanwhile, was widely said to be unhappy that more rather than less work was done on the painting.


The cleaning of the painting was completed in mid-December, leaving a brighter, crowd-pleasing image. The resignations, particularly that of Ms. Bergeon Langle, who is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in painting conservation, have rattled the Louvre and trained the spotlight on the work of its obscure committee of restoration advisers.


“Their departure is an extremely regrettable loss,” said Jacques Franck, consulting expert to the Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a member of the advisory committee. “Bergeon Langle has always been considered a goddess in the field. There is no better expert than she. She is irreplaceable.”


It is common for experts to disagree over how far to go in restoring important masterpieces. The restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the 1990s, for example, was criticized by many art experts who argued that much of his original work was lost in the removal of grime and candle smoke.


But the disagreements over the Leonardo restoration are unusual in that it comes from within the Louvre’s advisory body, a group of 20 experts without decision-making power but with global reputations.


“There is no unique truth, but it is fair to say that we haven’t shared the same views about what should and should not be suppressed, the degree of cleaning,” said Mr. Franck, who has written extensively about Leonardo’s painting techniques. “I would have felt quite happy and at ease with a dirtier picture — without bright hues.”

Museums like the Louvre are under pressure to attract audiences with blockbuster shows, often including showy masterpieces whose colors brighten up after thorough cleanings.


The Leonardo painting was acquired by Francis I of France in 1517 and is regarded as perhaps second only to the Mona Lisa among Leonardo’s later works. It is scheduled to go on display in an exhibition at the museum in March, so there is a rush to finish the restoration work.


A negative perception of the restoration of one of the most complex paintings by Leonardo could damage the museum’s reputation as a prudent, nonintrusive restorer.


Among other issues there were disagreements within the committee over whether a varnish on the painting was a glaze applied by Leonardo himself, something left by later restorers, or a combination of the two.


On Tuesday the advisory committee and Vincent Pomarède, the director of painting and the ultimate decision maker regarding the restoration, met for several hours with the technical team to view the painting and discuss what is left to be done.


The cleaning completed, it was decided to proceed with a minor repainting job to fill in gaps, the results of which will be presented to the committee in several weeks.


Mr. Pomarède, meanwhile, decided to keep trees painted in the landscape by someone other than Leonardo, said a member of the committee who declined to be named because of confidentiality rules.


The cleaning has a long history. The Louvre abandoned an earlier cleaning attempt in 1993 because of concerns that solvents could damage its “sfumato,” an extraordinarily delicate blending technique that was Leonardo’s trademark.


The current effort began in 2010 after a long period of study. The initial thinking was to take a minimalist approach and do little more than remove stains on the painting.


But under the supervision of Cinzia Pasquali, a conservator who works for the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France, the restoration became more ambitious. The Louvre hierarchy and the majority of the advisory committee also favored a thorough restoration.


Le Journal des Arts, a Paris art publication, has repeatedly criticized the project, arguing that it has been more aggressive than initially conceived and risks doing major damage to the painting. News of the resignations from the advisory committee — Ms. Bergeon Langle on Dec. 21, Mr. Cuzin in October — was first reported in this journal late last month.


The Louvre has staunchly defended its approach. “The recent cleaning was absolutely necessary for both conservation and aesthetical reasons,” Mr. Pomarède said in an e-mail. He added that no member of the committee “has ever said that the cleaning was not prudent and had gone too far technically. It was mostly an aesthetical choice that was discussed.”


He added that all “are satisfied with the result of the cleaning and the beginning of retouching, although some of them would like to see certain small ‘overpaints’ removed.”


He called the two resignations “of course a loss for the diversity of the discussions in the committee,” but declined comment on their reasons for resigning.


In a written rebuttal in October to criticism by the Le Journal des Arts, Mr. Pomarède accused it of “total ignorance” of painting restoration, adding, “Rarely has a restoration been as well prepared, discussed and executed.” The results of cleaning “reveal the excellent state of conservation of the pictorial material and the artistic genius of Leonardo da Vinci, comforting us in the choices made,” he said.


Mr. Pomarède also dismissed reports of disagreements calling it “perfectly normal that a restoration of such a famous work leads to interrogations and discussions.”


But some experts will never abandon the less-is-more standard. “There is an ethical component,” Ms. Bergeon Langle said. “Despite great progress in our competence we need to be driven by modesty. Better and more controllable materials are yet to be discovered. We need to leave some work for future generations.”


A version of this article appeared in print on January 4, 2012, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Leonardo Painting’s Restoration Bitterly Divides Art Experts.


© 2012 The New York Times Company


"A New York Stop for Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving and ‘Uncle Vanya’" by James C. McKinley Jr., The New York Times.

December 18, 2011.

New Yorkers will have a chance to see the Sydney Theater Company’s celebrated production of “Uncle Vanya” with Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving next summer. The production, which received rave reviews when it appeared last August at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, will be presented at City Center from July 19 through July 28 as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, a festival spokeswoman, Eileen McMahon, said. Ms. Blanchett plays Yelena, and Mr. Weaving plays Astrov in the farcical-yet-heartbreaking production, which was staged by the Hungarian director Tamas Ascher. Ms. Blanchett’s husband, Andrew Upton, provided the actors a new English translation of Chekov’s in 1897 play in Russian.


"Warhol Foundation Ends Authentication Board." by Carol Vogel, The New York Times.

October 19, 2011, 2:30 pm.

4:59 p.m. | Updated The Andy Warhol Foundation announced on Wednesday that it will dissolve its authentication board early next year. In a statement, the foundation said the move reflects its intent to shift focus toward maximizing “grant making and other charitable activities.” In recent years, the foundation has been involved in legal disputes over its authentication process for works whose owners said they were by Warhol.

One long-running lawsuit brought by Joe Simon-Whelan, a filmmaker who bought a work identified as a Warhol self-portrait in 1989 only to see it later declared inauthentic on two occasions by the board, contended that the foundation and the board had conducted a 20-year conspiracy to inflate the prices by denying the authenticity of a certain number as a way to create artificial scarcity. The board and foundation denied the accusations. After more than three years and rising legal bills, Mr. Simon-Whelan dropped the case. Others who had bad experiences with the board claimed it favored museums and powerful dealers over individual collectors, another charge foundation officials denied. Still, some dealers and collectors view the decision as irresponsible since it is the mission of the Warhol Foundation’s to promote and protect the reputation and authenticity of the Pop master’s art.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"The Young Gallerists" by Laura M. Holson, The New York Times.

Published: September 30, 2011.

TO describe the retrospective of Richard Hambleton’s art that was recently held at the Phillips de Pury & Company galleries as a zoo doesn’t even take into account the woman who strapped a bug-eyed monkey puppet to her chest. About 2,000 partygoers were crowding two floors at the auction house on Park Avenue, including wealthy Upper East Siders and a parade of models from New York Fashion Week, many sipping from flutes of Champagne.

Theodora Richards, the daughter of Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, shimmied around the room in a second skin of stretchy black lace, while the billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman grazed past Alexa Chung and Karolina Kurkova. Around 9:20 p.m., Mr. Hambleton, the famously reclusive graffiti artist who descended into obscurity after the 1980s art gold rush went bust, arrived with a bandage on his nose, seemingly dazed by the crowd.

The real draw that night, though, was Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld, 26, and his business partner, Andy Valmorbida, 31, the show’s young curators and art dealers, who are reviving interest in Mr. Hambleton’s paintings. Mr. Valmorbida, the Australian heir to a food and coffee fortune, bounced around the gallery, chatting with buyers. Mr. Restoin Roitfeld, the son of Carine Roitfeld, the former editor in chief of French Vogue, stayed mostly in place, his curious Kewpie-doll eyes scanning the crowd.

It was a different scene two evenings earlier on the Lower East Side, where art dealers were opening their galleries for the beginning of the fall art season. Young 20-somethings, not recognizably rich or famous, wandered past the small storefronts in fedoras and jeans. At the Rachel Uffner Gallery on Orchard Street, about 150 people packed into a space the size of a large one-bedroom apartment and drank from cans of Tsingtao beer. The artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty’s opening show included work made using photographs, Plexiglas and acetate. And she hugged well-wishers that night despite a faulty air-conditioner that left most sticky.

But Ms. Uffner, 33, has more in common with her uptown peers than appearances suggest. Though one gallery owner may show an artist whose work now sells for $25,000 or more and another may show unknown artists whose work still goes largely unnoticed by big-name collectors or established critics, both are part of a new generation of New York gallerists who are slowly transforming the city’s art scene.

“There are new galleries popping up all over,” Ms. Uffner said, taking a break from the evening’s festivities. “People are beginning to recognize we have legitimate places to show.”

When the stock market collapsed in fall 2008, many people feared the art market would be dragged down with it. But art auction houses, including Christie’s and Sotheby’s, are currently reporting healthy business. Individual prices are often strong: At Phillips de Pury in May, one of Warhol’s famous images of Elizabeth Taylor sold for $26.9 million: about $3 million more than a similar work at the height of the market at Christie’s in 2007. And while Larry Gagosian and other blue-chip dealers continue to dominate sales for the wealthiest collectors, gallery owners who have opened their doors in the past few years seem to be thriving despite the persistent recession.

The New Art Dealers Alliance, a national organization of art professionals or gallery owners in business less than 10 years, said that nearly one-third of its 300 members are based in New York City.

Choosing which up-and-coming gallerists to profile for this article involved considering art dealers who either opened New York galleries or began working together within the last three years. Then art critics, gallery owners and art collectors were interviewed to narrow the field of gallerists who represented promising artists or had an interesting take on contemporary art.

The final cut included Mr. Restoin Roitfeld, with that famous last name and the prized connections that come with it; two dealers positioning themselves as the angry young men of the art world; and a scrappy out-of-towner hoping to make it big in New York.

Despite their differences, all share the need to actually make a living at this. Owning an art gallery is an expensive proposition. That is why many new galleries are on the Lower East Side, where rent can range from $2,000 to $10,000 a month, compared with $25,000 or more for a gallery in Chelsea. (Ms. Uffner says she pays less than $4,000.) Many new gallerists, like Laurel Gitlen, find their art spaces after walking around the neighborhood. Some, like Mr. Valmorbida and Mr. Restoin Roitfeld, have forsaken the traditional gallery space, choosing instead to hold exhibitions when and where they choose. (Artists generally earn 50 percent of the sale price of their work at galleries, while the gallery owner might earn 30 percent to 50 percent of a sale, depending on discounts, or whether an art adviser of another dealer is involved.)

Michele Maccarone, whose West Village gallery is well respected among the junior set, is worried that, as larger galleries continue to become more brand-conscious or the economy continues to slide, emerging gallerists might lose their nerve. “I opened 10 years ago, and it was down and dirty,” she said. “But even I’m playing it safe myself. That punkness and rawness, it really doesn’t exist anymore.” But at least, for now, she said, “people are trying to keep it real.”

Ramiken Crucible

If Marcel Duchamp had a mischievous little brother today, he would probably be a lot like Mike Egan. Last year, this art-handler-turned-dealer helped organize the Art Handling Olympics, a competition among Mr. Egan’s brawny peers, roughly 50 in all, who bubble-wrapped paintings and hung 60-pound blocks of lead in front of 200 spectators at his gallery. And in September, the same night other galleries around the Lower East Side celebrated the opening of the art season, showing work that included photographs of people dressed in tutus and a sculpture comprising trophies, Mr. Egan hosted a screening of the disturbing cult film “Trash Humpers.” (No metaphor there.)

Fed up with New York’s commercial gallery ethos, Mr. Egan, 29, and Blaize Lehane, 32, who both worked at the now closed Goff + Rosenthal in the mid-2000s, partnered in January in Ramiken Crucible, a gallery originally founded in 2009 by Mr. Egan in an illegal Lower East Side basement. Liv Tyler and the artist Terence Koh showed up once to hear the funereal songs of Salem, a Michigan band with a devoted downtown following. Now aboveground and next door to a liquor store on Chinatown’s fringe, Mr. Egan and Mr. Lehane seem to delight in thumbing their noses at the so-called art intelligentsia.

“As an art dealer, you should spit on history, wipe it away and find something new,” Mr. Egan said.

The duo’s taste tends toward the comically subversive. Ramiken Crucible’s new show, “Stud,” featuring the artist Gavin Kenyon, is composed of a large-scale cast-iron axe with a bulbous handle that resembles a fleshy limb. And this summer, they exhibited “Vandal Lust” by Andra Ursuta, a 10-foot catapult made of wood and cardboard flanked by a replica of the artist’s lifeless body after being hurled into a wall.

Mr. Egan began representing Ms. Ursuta, whom he is now dating, after she sent him an unsolicited e-mail asking him to check out her Web site. “Every artist is scraping by, trying to get some attention for their work,” he said.

Mr. Egan studied at New York’s School of Visual Arts; Mr. Lehane has a computer science degree from Boston University. Together, they project a kind of us-against-the-world image. “There is almost an energy, anger even, between us,” Mr. Lehane said.

Kate Werble Gallery

When Kate Werble opened a space to show art in West SoHo two weeks before the financial collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, she was given a sage piece of advice: “People said you have to put at least one artist up on your Web site,” she said. So she listed John Lehr, a photographer whose work has shown at the Museum of Modern Art, and whom she had met years earlier while organizing a group show for a friend. Months later, she got a second piece of advice: “People said you can’t really represent just one artist.”

Those were tough days. But Ms. Werble, 31, took her time picking artists and now represents a stable of nine, including Mr. Lehr, a move that seems to have paid off. In December, she was awarded a top prize for curatorial presentation at the New Art Dealers Alliance show in Miami.

“Werble’s display stood out for the caliber of its assortment of artwork playing on the tradition of Minimalist art,” the art Web site Artinfo said then.

Unlike some gallerists who demand that only represented artists be promoted in-house, Ms. Werble had a more relaxed approach. “I wanted to use the space in a way that artists came together,” she said. During the lean early years, she invited two artists each month to show their work, a savvy business move, as some of them, like the conceptual artist Luke Stettner, stayed on. He has a solo exhibition at Ms. Werble’s gallery this month.

Last February, Ms. Werble held a solo show for Anna Betbeze, who teaches at Yale and applies dye and watercolor to wool rugs that are ripped, burned or cut until they resemble psychedelic animal hides. In May, one of Ms. Betbeze’s pieces was included alongside works by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg in a show organized by the Palazzo Grassi, the Venice museum run by the foundation of the French billionaire François Pinault.

Ms. Werble lives with Christopher Chiappa, another artist she represents. But she is quick to point out that she shows no favoritism. “I love all my artists,” she said with a giggle. “I’d sleep with them all.”

Andy Valmorbida and Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld

In a starry field, Mr. Valmorbida and Mr. Restoin Roitfeld are perhaps the most luminous. Mr. Restoin Roitfeld, who grew up in Paris, has a fan blog (I Want to Be a Roitfeld) that chronicles the goings-on of his high-profile family, including his sister, Julia. And Mr. Valmorbida has reportedly dated Lindsay Lohan and the supermodel Rachel Hunter.

After dabbling and dropping out of the movie business (Mr. Restoin Roitfeld) and finance (Mr. Valmorbida), each began consulting on and dealing in art. They joined forces in 2009 after the art dealer Rick Librizzi introduced them to the all-but-forgotten Mr. Hambleton, a contemporary, if not exactly a peer, of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Artists from the 1980s, the two surmised, were due for a comeback.

Mr. Hambleton “had refused to work with any dealer,” Mr. Restoin Roitfeld said, “so no one had done anything for him.”

They spent three months scouring galleries for his paintings, buying them at low prices that they hoped would rise once they began promoting Mr. Hambleton’s work.

Instead of starting their own gallery, though, the two decided to market the artist’s work with a series of glamorous global art parties in Milan, Moscow, London and Cannes, paid for by corporate sponsors and attended by many of their famous friends. Their two-year effort with Mr. Hambleton culminated in a Fashion Week soiree, sponsored by Giorgio Armani, and where they showed 55 of Mr. Hambleton’s paintings.

“Andy, come on, you have to go!” Mr. Restoin Roitfeld exclaimed impatiently that night to Mr. Valmorbida, as he dragged his colleague by the arm across the crowded gallery. A buyer was interested in “Horse & Rider, 2006,” which Mr. Valmorbida owned. For 10 minutes, the affable Mr. Valmorbida regaled the man with stories of the artist, waving his hands in the air, his body rocking with restless energy. Mr. Restoin Roitfeld watched with keen interest.

That night, collectors bought all 12 paintings that were for sale, with an average price of $75,000. “When we started, people laughed, saying, you need to start a gallery,” Mr. Valmorbida said. “But we never saw ourselves as part of the traditional art world.”

Laurel Gitlen

In 2005, Ms. Gitlen founded a contemporary art space in Portland, Ore., called Small A Projects, which had a loyal following. So when she moved to Manhattan three years later with her husband, Samuel Richardson, the head brewer at Greenpoint Beer Works in Brooklyn, many of the artists she had worked with in Portland agreed to join her at a new Broome Street gallery.

One of this ready group was Jessica Jackson Hutchins, who uses ceramic, old furniture and papier-mâché to create large-scale pieces, including “Couch for a Long Time,” which was included in the 2010 biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

The two met when Ms. Hutchins called Ms. Gitlen and asked how to ship some sculpture. “Connections were easy to make in Portland,” Ms. Gitlen, 35, said. Later, she secured a studio visit after she ran into the artist at the grocery store. Ms. Hutchins’s work now sells for $7,000 to $50,000 and is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Another artist, the Richmond, Va.-based sculptor and performer Corin Hewitt, recently had a solo exhibition at the Whitney. Ms. Gitlen worked with him in 2007 when she exhibited his piece “Weavings,” for which he built an enclosed space that viewers could look inside and see the artist making sculpture and taking pictures. Ms. Gitlen introduced him to curators at the Seattle Art Museum, which in 2009 displayed the artist’s photographs from the performance.

A student of art history, Ms. Gitlen seeks strong relationships with museum curators. “I come from a curatorial background, so I am looking for artists who will have a place in the historical conversation,” she said.

But she prefers to remain mostly quiet, unlike in the 1980s when art dealers like Mary Boone were often more controversial than the artists they represented. “These days, I don’t know if you want to have a personality or you want the gallery to have it,” Ms. Gitlen said.

Rachel Uffner, 33, has hit most of the art world’s marks. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in art history and painting, she earned a coveted job at Christie’s. After that she worked for a private collector and, in 2003, joined the D’Amelio Terras gallery in Chelsea, where she tended the front-desk phones. By the mid-2000s, she had worked her way up to become gallery director. Ms. Uffner even wanted to be an artist at one point. “But I never had the rigor of spending the day in the studio by myself,” she said. “I liked being out with other people.”

So she started her own gallery, with pieces that cost mostly $3,000 to $10,000. “I do like being the conduit between two worlds,” she said.

In 2007, she saw the plaster and paper works of the little-known Hilary Harnischfeger in a contemporary art journal and tracked her down. Ms. Uffner courted her after leaving D’Amelio Terras and signed her the summer before she started her gallery, where Ms. Harnischfeger has already had two solo shows. Ms. Uffner’s first exhibition, in 2008, featured Roger White, the painter, writer and co-founder of the journal Paper Monument, and was scheduled within days of the Lehman Brothers collapse. “People were comfortable spending in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands,” she said. “I thought I would go back to school and become a dentist.”

She scheduled a second show for Mr. White last year, and his works sold out. Ms. Uffner also represents the conceptual artist Sara Greenberger Rafferty, whose work is now in the permanent collections of MoMA and the Whitney.

“Artists and their art dealers are a lot like kids and parents who have weird dynamics,” Ms. Greenberger Rafferty said at the September opening of her new show. “But we are the same generation. I never feel sheepish about saying what I think. At a more established gallery, you are lower on the totem pole.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 2, 2011, on page ST1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Young Gallerists.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"Richard Hamilton obituary" - Wide-ranging painter and printmaker who was considered the father of pop art.

By Norbert Lynton,

Tuesday 13 September 2011.

Richard Hamilton's Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? View larger picture
Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?, the collage made by Richard Hamilton for This Is Tomorrow in 1956. Photograph: Tate Images

In 1956 Richard Hamilton, who has died aged 89, attracted attention with his collaged poster image for the This Is Tomorrow exhibition at the Whitechapel gallery in London. It was quite shocking: a naked woman on a sofa and a bodybuilding he-man holding an oversized lollipop labelled "Pop" in a prominent position, lots of domestic gadgets including a TV, the cover of a comic presented as a framed painting, an all-too-urban scene through the landscape window, the ceiling covered with a space-age photo of Earth.

From then on he was referred to as the father of pop art, but celebrating lowbrow culture was never his aim. He did not share pop art's idolisation of advertisements and comic strips, nor the teenage dreams much of it referred to. His analysis of the methods of commercial and technical image-making was matched by his study of high art; when he quoted commercial images in his art they usually came from the top end of the market.

He was a member of the Independent Group of artists, architects and critics within the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), who met to discuss popular culture as a then unregarded but vivid element in a seamless world of communication from which the fine arts might derive some strength. In 1978, the National Gallery invited him to assemble the second The Artist's Eye exhibition from its collection; Anthony Caro had done the first. The result was a purposeful confronting of fine old paintings and modern imagery, including My Marilyn (1965), his version of a sheet of contact prints marked up by the star, and a working, mute TV set.
Artist Richard Hamilton Hamilton in 2010. His art was always looking outwards. Photograph: Richard Saker

Hamilton later criticised the tendency of art schools to steer not by museum traditions but by "the current fashionable art scene". I think it was the lack of sheer intelligence going with this preference that horrified him. His own work benefited from both. In the 1960s the pop end sometimes dominated, as in the gigantic lapel-button he made in 1964 and exhibited as Epiphany, with "Slip It to Me" in blue and a finely judged orange ground. In the 1980s, most obviously when he was developing his two Northern Irish diptychs, The Citizen (1981-83) and The Subject (1988-90), he was working like an old master, using the best methods available. In the 1960s he wrote, "I have always been an old-style artist," and that remained his view of himself. He was a craftsman-artist, attending to his wide range of processes, but choosing them to reinforce and contribute to the meaning of his work. There was no room for nostalgia or thinking, but his ambition was to be up there with the best.

Hamilton was born in Pimlico, London, the son of Peter, a driver for a car showroom, and his wife, Constance. He attended art evening classes from the age of 12. When he was 13, he was advised to apply to the Royal Academy Schools at 16. When he got there, he had already seen Picasso's Guernica, and he admired Cézanne, both anathema at the RA. The Schools closed in 1940. Too young for conscription, Hamilton was sent to learn tool-making and engineering drawing, and then worked as a draughtsman, mostly for EMI.

In 1945 the Picasso and Matisse show of wartime paintings at the V&A thrilled him. In 1946 Hamilton was allowed to go back to his studies in the RA Schools, only to be thrown out for not bowing to RA priorities. There followed service in the Royal Engineers, but also a camouflage course, and time to read and reread James Joyce's Ulysses. He started making subtle and elegant illustrations to Ulysses, and returned to them throughout his life. The British Museum showed them in Imaging James Joyce's Ulysses (2002).

In 1948 William Coldstream accepted him to study painting at the Slade, and friendships spreading from there brought him into the ICA. D'Arcy Thompson's book On Growth and Form, published 30 years earlier, excited him with its evidence of mathematical growth patterns in nature. Hamilton devised and designed the Growth and Form exhibition shown at the ICA in 1951 and opened by Le Corbusier.

From 1952 until 1966, he taught at the Central School in London, alongside Victor Pasmore and others, and from 1953 on with Lawrence Gowing and Pasmore in the fine art department at King's College, Newcastle (later part of Newcastle University). It was Hamilton who inspired and organised the salvation and removal to the Hatton gallery at Newcastle University of Kurt Schwitters's last great work in progress, the so-called Merzbarn at Elterwater in the Lake District. He was ahead of his time: earlier this year, Schwitters was the presiding spirit at the RA's exhibition of modern British sculpture – the barn was built in replica in the courtyard before the entrance of Burlington House.

There, Hamilton started working on an English version of Marcel Duchamp's The Green Box with the art historian George Knox. This led to a friendship with Duchamp, a visit to America and, in 1966, he organised the first major Duchamp retrospective in Europe, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, shown by the Arts Council at the Tate gallery. It included Hamilton's approved facsimile of Duchamp's elaborately crafted The Large Glass of 1915-23, now in the Tate's collection.

The Duchamp exhibition heightened our interest in "anti-art", stemming from the international Dada movement of 1916. Coinciding with the enthronement of minimalism in New York as the latest in serious avant-gardery, the exhibition associated radical innovation with iconoclasm and mocked the rhetoric of abstract-expressionist splashed and slashed paints with its elaborate, even scholarly development of ideas and individual works. Hamilton was so much a Duchamp disciple that he had to "seek the opposite of his solutions". That meant, for instance, making works that are paintings, addressing eyes conditioned by art as well as the mind. Hamilton's paintings include several that comment on perception, and some that are pretty beyond belief until one finds the wrong note in them, and yet others in which he exploits commercial hard-sell symbolism and style in combination with fine-art devices. His analytical intelligence and insistence on the idea as a determining agent in his choice of techniques, as well as image, made him more a forerunner of conceptual than of pop art.

Hamilton was primarily a painter. His self-portrait Palindrome (1974) is at once modest and demanding: he shows himself reflected in a mirror towards which he leans rather as Artemisia Gentileschi leans towards her self-portrait canvas. That is, we see his hand on and in it, dabbing paint on it, and beyond it his own image; only the mirror plane, visible thanks to those dabs, is in sharp focus. As we look and move, we realise this is a 3-D photograph, planned and executed with care. Its visual complexity is matched by its implications about art and seeing, vanity and modesty, life and death.

His retrospective show at the Tate in 1970 culminated in his series of 12 "cosmetic studies" entitled Fashion-Plate, paying homage to magazine covers and the artifice behind them, but inviting thoughts about all icons. Many jabbed at its apparent celebration of fashion and the glibness of those glossy unportraits. Hamilton must have hated the shallowness of that kind of response. He wrote about his own work better than anyone, not to award it marks but to explain his methods and some of the thinking behind them. His collection of these texts was published in 1982 as Collected Words. Critics tend not to like artists who comment on their work that efficiently and entertainingly, but then these are very rare.

His second Tate retrospective was in 1992. It included the two triptychs about Northern Ireland. In 1987 he had appeared on television using the Quantel TV Paintbox to develop The Subject. Six artists were filmed using the Paintbox; he used it inventively and with ease. It was this sort of rootedness, as well as public disagreements about art education, that caused the critic Peter Fuller to denounce him as "the whore of art". The climax of the retrospective was a walk-through installation, Treatment Room (1983-84), reflecting his experience of x-ray theatres. In it was a table like a mortuary slab, over which a TV monitor played a tape of Margaret Thatcher giving her final party election broadcast in 1983.

British critics responded to the second retrospective negatively or even dismissively, but its 1993 version, in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, won him the painting prize. Many had thought his presentation at the Biennale long overdue; it would have made a greater impact 10 or 20 years earlier. The difficulty centred on grasping his range: of aesthetic inquiries; of his industrial tools and processes; of his inherited techniques as painter, draughtsman and printmaker; and of visual expression, from the coolly erotic Hommage à Chrysler Corp (1957), a painted and collaged essay on styling, to the 1990 Polaroid self-portraits, taken through a glass screen touched with paint and with additional paint on the enlarged prints on canvas.

Sometimes he played with the cliches and the cliche-producing mechanics of the consumer society; at other times his attention went to the transforming power of photography and our conditioned reading of photographs, as in Whitley Bay (1965) and the series of studies derived from it; at yet others he used press and TV imagery to protest against various forms of oppression, including the media's free ways with facts when in pursuit of a "story". The Swingeing London 67 series commented on the supposed permissiveness of the 60s and the police's obligation to invade privacy. It was based on a newspaper photograph of Mick Jagger and the gallery owner Robert Fraser in a police van being brought to trial for smoking cannabis. Kent State (1970) was developed from a TV image of a student shot on campus by soldiers. War Games (1991-92) used TV news footage of the Gulf war to remind us that what the media delivered almost as a sport cost thousands of lives. Lobby (1984) derives from a postcard of a hotel entrance in Berlin, with its seemingly endless carpet and stairs and confounding mirrors. It reminded him of Sartre's Huis Clos; it also recalls Dante. The hotel is the Europa.

The young anti-Aristotelian, investigating rather than arbitrating, had been turned by life into one "only too prone to make value judgments", he said. His art was always looking outwards; he could admire, but could not be satisfied with, art referring only to itself. He was unusually full of ideas; he was passionately responsive to his time. But he also maintained that technology would never beat painting as a means of making art that matters.

Very British in many ways, not least his place in the tradition of Swift and Sterne, Hamilton was also seen as the most international of our artists, and in 2003 Museum Ludwig in Cologne held an Introspective work show organised in co-operation with Hamilton himself. He was made a Companion of Honour in 2000. In 2010 the Serpentine show Modern Moral Matters brought together his political works including Shock and Awe (2007-08).

In 1947, he married Terry O'Reilly, whom he had met at EMI. They had a daughter, Dominy, and a son, Roderic. Terry's accidental death in 1962 was a grievous blow to him. Subsequently Hamilton lived with the painter Rita Donagh; they worked independently but often side-by-side, and sometimes collaborated. They married in 1991. Hamilton is survived by Rita and Rod; Dominy predeceased him.

• Richard Hamilton, artist, born 24 February 1922; died 13 September 2011

• Norbert Lynton died in 2007

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies


"Art Taipei 2011" - 26 August '11 - 29 August '11

The most important platform for Chinese arts.

Art Taipei, whose former name is Taipei Art Fair International, is the most long-standing art fair in Asia. Since 1992, on the demanding from both galleries and collectors, Art Taipei has been organized by Art Gallery Association for 18 years. The attraction of Art Taipei is Chinese arts. Art Taipei is the most experienced and professional art fair trading Chinese arts. This depends on the great knowledge and relationship of Taiwan galleries. By 1995, Art Taipei innovated and became an international art event. Besides galleries form Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia, there were also some participants form Europe and North America. After 2000, with the open policy between Taiwan and China, galleries form China and Hong Kong have increased and Art Taipei now is truly the most important platform for Chinese arts.

Details fair

Venue: Taipei World Trade Center, Arena A & D, 11011 Taipei, Taiwan




"A Serious Moment for Contemporary Art." by Souren Melikian, The New York Times Company.

Published: July 1, 2011.

LONDON — Is the market for Contemporary art at a crossroads? For the first time in years, it seemed to be heading in a new direction this week as Christie’s opened the round of sales on Tuesday evening.

In a session where 53 of the 65 Contemporary works of art on offer found takers, adding up to almost £79 million, or $126 million, the six most expensive lots were decidedly figural.

Francis Bacon’s 1953 “Study for a Portrait” topped the list. At £17.96 million it exceeded by half the unprinted estimate in the region of £11 million, plus the sale charge, quoted only “on request.”

This brilliant performance comes as no surprise. Bacon has long been a blue chip in what I called a few years ago in this column “historic Contemporary,” meaning art that is actually not contemporary because the artists are no longer alive. Bacon died in 1992.

Interestingly, the study, which does not show the distortions of face and body, ranks among Bacon’s most strictly representational paintings — it may portray the art writer David Sylvester.

This appreciation of faithfully figural art probably helped to rescue the “Mao” executed by Andy Warhol in 1973.

The quasi-photographic likeness managed, albeit with some difficulty, to sell for £6.98 million, the second highest price paid that evening. Warhol, who died in 1987, has also been perceived as a blue chip for some time. But the portrait of Chairman Mao, barely transformed by the silkscreen stylization that is the hallmark of a typical Warhol, lacks the punch of the Pop artist’s images admired by his fans.

Worse, a warning flagged in the catalog by a symbol and read aloud by the auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen before opening the proceedings was enough to dampen the enthusiasm of potential buyers.

The Warhol was the object of a “guarantee” to the consignor, contractually assured of receiving an undisclosed payment usually set at 90 percent of the low estimate, whether it sold at auction or not. A third party “financed the guarantee” and would become the buyer of the picture if it failed to sell at auction. In exchange, the third party would receive a share of the profits if the Warhol sailed above the reserve. Most ominously, he/she was entitled to participate in the bidding to whip up prices. Experienced art market hands dislike being led by the nose and tend to stay away from works offered under such conditions. Given all that, the successful sale of the Warhol was a real feat.

No such qualifications surround the third highest price in Christie’s sale. Peter Doig’s “Red Boat (Imaginary Boys)” fetched £6.2 million, triple its high estimate. This world auction record for the artist is the more astonishing because the painting is hardly the best among Doig’s works seen at auction. Rather banal, it is pedestrian in execution. The reasons for the triumphant success of the landscape with exotic-looking men rowing in a boat against a backdrop of palm-trees may well lie in the echo that the subject sends back to Gauguin’s Tahitian period oeuvre.

Works with references to 19th-century artists combined with straightforward figural execution were sought after right from the beginning at Christie’s. Lucian Freud’s portrait “Boy With Pipe,” sketched in pencil in 1943, bears a kinship to scores of 19th-century drawings from the French school. It doubled the high estimate at £253,250. The drawing of an equally realistic “Rabbit on a Chair” done in 1944 brought a staggering £1.05 million. At Sotheby’s on Oct. 18, 1990, the rabbit had cost a more modest £93,500.

Most astonishingly, Mr. Freud’s portrait of a “Woman Smiling” painted in 1958 or 1959 in a style that harks back to French realist painting in the later 19th century was received with considerable enthusiasm. It soared to £4.74 million.

Artistic conservatism, however, was not the sole recipe for success. Figural paintings in more advanced styles also performed well. “The Schoolboys” painted by Marlene Dumas in 1986-87 in the modernist manner of the early 20th century realized £1.1 million, well above expectations.

Then came the sensation of the day in artistic if not financial terms. “Faena de Muleta” painted in 1990 by Miguel Barceló is one of the most remarkable Contemporary works of art seen at auction. The view of the arena at Nîmes in southern France, where bullfighting takes place, manages the contradictory feat of being both truly figural and close to abstraction. The mixed media crushed and carved on the canvas give the scene a sculptural quality and a vibrant rhythm. The attendance responded to the masterpiece by making it a world auction record for the artist at £4.74 million.

It was followed by another Mr. Barceló painting, “España Economica,” which depicts the detail of a map of Spain while bringing it to the brink of abstraction. Executed with the same flawless mastery, it matched the low estimate at £457,250. Very subtle in its off-white nuances with a touch of grayish blue, its figural subject was too elusive to stimulate bidders that evening.

No such ambiguity handicapped four bronze figures that made up a group called “Esquina Positiva” by Juan Muñoz, the Spanish artist who died in 2001 at 48. That, too, set an auction record for the artist when it went for £3.4 million.

This is not to suggest that abstract works were unsuccessful. One of Lucio Fontana’s “Concetto Spaziale” compositions, painted a golden color and punched through with eight holes, brought £2.33 million. A solid white canvas slashed with three gashes as if it had been entrusted to a psychotic patient given to uncontrolled fits of rage, knife in hand, later brought £2.05 million. Neither figural nor noticeable for their mastery in wielding the brush, the Fontanas proved that for the moment, the market turnabout is only partial. Pavlovian reflexes continue to be triggered by names repeatedly celebrated in museum displays and in the media.

The sale Wednesday at Sotheby’s conveyed a message that was further blurred. It outshone the Christie’s session with its financial score, £108.8 million realized by 79 Contemporary works, leaving nine unwanted.

Here too, figural art was represented among the top 10 lots, but it was less clearly representational. Bacon’s “Crouching Nude” of 1961, which brought the highest price as it sold for £8.32 million, is in the artist’s expressionist style that twists humans out of shape.

“Dschungel,” or Jungle, the second most expensive work at £5.75 million, is a 1967 landscape by Sigmar Polke done in the “dispersion” technique that creates a screen effect similar to that of a color plate on newsprint. Bidders loved it well enough to make it an auction record for the painter.

But the third runner in the race to top prices, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” picture painted in 1981 that climbed to a stupendous £5.41 million, is an outsized cartoon, and the fourth most expensive work, Polke’s “Stadtbild II,” (City Painting II), sold for £4.63 million, is even less forthright in its figural intention — high-rises at night are only suggested by whitish blobs and noodle-like contours.

Gerhard Richter came in the fifth position among the top 10 lots with a non-figural , geometrical composition of colored squares. “1024 Farben” (1024 Colors) painted in 1974 multiplied experts’ expectations two and a half times as it shot up to £4.29 million.

It is too soon to say that a page has finally been turned. The time when “works” of the talentless followers of Marcel Duchamp’s art of the absurd sell in the millions of dollars is not over yet. Would-be witty pieces were still seen this week, though in fewer numbers. At Christie’s, butterflies pinned on a large ace-of-hearts, painted a solid pink, made £601,250, more than the high estimate. It was “Untitled.”

At Sotheby’s another “Untitled,” with the added specification “(P137),” was signed Christopher Wool. The white panel displays black lettering in three lines that read “Cats in a Bag.” Estimated at £1.5 million to £2.5 million plus the sale charge, the Wool was allowed by the auctioneer Tobias Meyer to sell for £914,850. His considerable expertise in Contemporary art is widely acknowledged. Perhaps Mr. Meyer suspects that such cats may not stay in the bag for ever.

A version of this article appeared in print on July 2, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune with the headline: A Serious Moment for Contemporary Art.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"New York Public Library Buys Timothy Leary’s Papers." by Patricia Cohen, The New York Times.

Published: June 15, 2011.

When the Harvard psychologist and psychedelic explorer Timothy Leary first met the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1960, he welcomed Ginsberg’s participation in the drug experiments he was conducting at the university.

“The first time I took psilocybin — 10 pills — was in the fireside social setting in Cambridge,” Ginsberg wrote in a blow-by-blow description of his experience taking synthesized hallucinogenic mushrooms at Leary’s stately home. At one point Ginsberg, naked and nauseated, began to feel scared, but then “Professor Leary came into my room, looked in my eyes and said I was a great man.”

Ginsberg’s “session record,” composed for Leary’s research, was in one of the 335 boxes of papers, videotapes, photographs and more that the New York Public Library is planning to announce that it has purchased from the Leary estate. The material documents the evolution of the tweedy middle-aged academic into a drug guru, international outlaw, gubernatorial candidate, computer software designer and progenitor of the Me Decade’s self-absorbed interest in self-help.

The archive will not be available to the public or scholars for 18 to 24 months, as the library organizes the papers. A preview of the collection, however, reveals a rich record not only of Leary’s tumultuous life but also of the lives of many significant cultural figures in the ’60, ’70s and ’80s.

Robert Greenfield, who combed through the archive when it was kept in California, for his 2007 biography of Leary, said: “It is a unique firsthand archive of the 1960s. Leary was at the epicenter of what was going on back then, and some of the stuff in there is extraordinary.”

Leary, who died in 1996, coined the phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out” and was labeled by Richard M. Nixon as “the most dangerous man in America.” He was present in Zelig-like fashion at some of the era’s epochal events. Thousands of letters and papers from Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey, Charles Mingus, Maynard Ferguson, Arthur Koestler, G. Gordon Liddy and even Cary Grant — an enthusiastic LSD user — are in the boxes.

“How about contributing to my next prose masterpiece by sending me (as you sent Burroughs) a bottle of SM pills,” Kerouac wrote Leary, referring to psilocybin. “Allen said I could knock off a daily chapter with 2 SMs and be done with a whole novel in a month.”

Denis Berry, a trustee of the Leary estate, said that the library paid $900,00 for the collection, some of which is being donated back to finance the processing of the material. The rest will pay the estate’s caretakers and then be divided among Leary’s surviving children and grandchildren. Ms. Berry said the estate had been looking for a buyer for the archive for years.

William Stingone, curator of manuscripts at the library, predicted that the collection would help researchers get beyond the “myth making” around ’60s figures. “Hopefully we’ll be able to get to some of the truth of it here,” he said.

The complete documentation of Leary’s early experiments with psychotropic drugs, for example, can allow scholars to assess the importance of that work in light of current clinical research on LSD, Mr. Stingone said. Ms. Berry called the Harvard data “the missing link.”

The meeting between Ginsberg and Leary marked an anchor point in the history of the 1960s drug-soaked counterculture. Leary, the credentialed purveyor of hallucinatory drugs, was suddenly invited into the center of the artistic, social and sexual avant-garde. It was Ginsberg who helped convince Leary that he should bring the psychedelic revolution to the masses, rather than keep it among an elite group. Filling out one of Leary’s research questionnaires in May 1962 the poet Charles Olson wrote that psilocybin “creates the love feast,” and “should be available to anyone.”

Thomas Lannon, the library’s assistant curator for manuscripts and archives, explained that at the time these substances were not regulated by the government, and that Leary and his group did not consider them drugs but aids to reaching self-awareness.

Leary kept meticulous records at many points during his life. There are comprehensive research files, legal briefs, and budgets and memos about the many institutes and organizations he founded, but there are also notes and documents from when he was on the run after escaping from a California prison with help from the Weather Underground. A folder labeled as notes from his “C.I.A. kidnapping” in 1973 is full of cryptic jottings recounting the details of his arrest in Afghanistan, at an airport in Kabul, after he fled the United States.

Among the papers are daily schedules and budgets from the estate in Millbrook, in Dutchess County, where Leary, his colleague Richard Alpert (who later changed his name to Ram Dass) and their followers stayed after Leary was fired by Harvard in 1963. They worked on keeping “people’s consciousness in ecstatic regions.”

Everyone kept a log of his “mood” and “collaboration.” One weekly tally showed Mr. Alpert consistently in the upper regions of the scale, and Leary’s moods swinging from “anguished” to “ecstatic,” and his collaborations from “hung-up” to “Buddha.”

In 1969 Leary joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono in Montreal for their weeklong Bed-In for Peace, where Lennon wrote a version of “Come Together” for Leary’s campaign for California governor against Ronald Reagan. Leary wrote poems and songs on a stack of yellow legal notepaper that included:

We all started singing
Give Peace a Chance
John said can we help your campaign
And then he hummed a sweet refrain
Come together, come together right now.

On another sheet he wrote that the summer of ’69 “was the sexiest season in the long annals of the human race.”

In his later years Leary became a proponent of cybernetics and designed software. “He was always about 10 years ahead of his time,” Ms. Berry said. Among the videotapes is one from the early ’90s of him talking about how everyone is going to have a computer at home, she said.

Leary introduced many of his contemporaries to the psychedelic experience, but not everyone was as enamored as he was. After trying Leary’s magical pink pills Arthur Koestler told his host the next day that they were not for him: “I solved the secret of the universe last night, but this morning I forgot what it was.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 16, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: New York Public Library Buys Timothy Leary’s Papers.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"The Pietà Behind the Couch" by Kevin Flynn & Randy Kennedy, The New York Times.

Published: May 26, 2011.

IN 1885, when the Metropolitan Museum of Art was young and New York was home to much new wealth but only a few old masters, the museum showcased a painting on loan from Europe that created a minor stir.

It was a small wood-panel Pietà depicting an earthy-looking Virgin Mary holding her dead son, assisted by two muscular angels, a tableau widely acknowledged to have been created by Michelangelo, though the Met’s catalog went only as far as saying that the painting had been attributed to him by its owner.

That owner was a German baroness who had sent the painting to America in the hopes of selling it. But it never found a buyer and eventually passed into the hands of acquaintances, members of an upper-middle-class Rochester family who hung it for many years above a fireplace, referring to it with great affection — but little direct evidence — as “the Mike.” After it tumbled from its perch while being dusted one day in the 1970s, the painting was moved from the mantel to a safe spot behind the couch, where it effectively disappeared from awareness, both scholarly and otherwise.

The kind of work the family believed it to be — an easel painting by Michelangelo — is among the most elusive treasures in Renaissance art. Michelangelo probably made only a handful, is not known to have signed any, and broad consensus has formed around the attribution of only one, at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Tonawanda, N.Y., a faded mill town north of Buffalo, might be the last place on earth scholars would begin the hunt for another. But over the last decade, thanks almost entirely to the stubborn crusading of a retired fighter pilot there named Martin Kober, who inherited the Pietà, the painting has re-emerged as the main character in a compelling art-historical mystery.

It is the subject of “The Lost Michelangelos,” a book just published in English by a respected Italian conservator, Antonio Forcellino, who has specialized in Michelangelo works and is convinced the painting is authentic. It has undergone its first thorough cleaning and an infrared examination of its underdrawing, which one Renaissance scholar, Kristina Herrmann Fiore, a curator at the Borghese Gallery in Rome, said is conceivably by the hand of Michelangelo. And in the next few weeks it will be taken to Rome, where the Rome Foundation, a philanthropy that supports scientific, medical and art initiatives, has agreed to pay to conserve the painting and to include it, along with the questions surrounding it, in an exhibition called “Rome in the Renaissance, from Michelangelo to Vasari,” opening Oct. 25 at the foundation’s museum.

For Mr. Kober and Mr. Forcellino the painting’s transformation from family keepsake to object of historical scrutiny is as much a story about the intransigence of the art establishment and the gaps in its tradition-bound methods for considering authentication claims as it is about the ultimate fate of the painting itself. Curators at the Met and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, without seeing the painting firsthand, have turned Mr. Kober away.

Other experts have been point blank in their assessment. “It is a copy of a Michelangelo composition,” said Alexander Nagel, a professor at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts who has written about the artist’s late Pietàs.

Mr. Forcellino, who acknowledges that he runs a risk of professional embarrassment by championing the painting, said he decided to write a book about it in part “to start a debate on the mechanisms of subject specialization, which often undermine rather than foster an expansion of knowledge.”

Mr. Kober — who has amassed an extensive body of documents related to the painting, hired forensic specialists, built an impressive Renaissance art library, hectored and cajoled dozens of curators and experts and tracked the painting almost town by town through Italy and Croatia — is more straightforward, and humble, about the years he spent fighting to get anyone to pay attention to his painting.

“I didn’t expect anyone to take what I was saying on faith,” he said recently, in his modest brick-and-siding-covered home in Tonawanda, overlooking part of what was once the Erie Canal. “I know I’m a nobody in this world. I just wanted someone to look at what I’d found and maybe get a couple of Ph.D. students to take it on as a project, people who would know what they were doing. But I couldn’t even get that far.”

For all his talk of the art establishment’s aversion to outsiders, Mr. Forcellino nearly dismissed Mr. Kober’s claims too. Then he took a look at an e-mailed attachment of an infrared image showing the painting’s underdrawing and agreed to travel from Italy to see the work himself.

From a family of stonemasons, Mr. Forcellino is mostly known for his sculptural conservation work. He had a lead role in the restoration of Michelangelo’s “Moses” in Rome and the Piccolomini altar in the cathedral of Siena, which includes four Michelangelo figures. In 2005 he published a biography of Michelangelo and as a result has fielded more than his share of claims of unbelievable discoveries.

“It is astonishing how many people convince themselves they own a Michelangelo or a Raphael, inherited from some old aunt or picked up from a dealer in the ill-founded belief that some dealers, even antiques dealers, have less of an eye than they do,” he writes in his book about Mr. Kober’s painting.

But he also knew of the several letters that make it plain, he says, that Michelangelo had created a painting like Mr. Kober’s. One was a letter to Michelangelo from his close friend the poet and noblewoman Vittoria Colonna, acknowledging his gift to her of a Pietà, a token of their mutual membership in a group of Roman Catholic reformers who became known as the spirituali. In the letter, Colonna wrote that she found the figure of Jesus to be “perfectly painted.”

For years scholars, beginning with Vasari, the father of Renaissance biography, have interpreted the wording in the letter as referring to a drawing, not a painting, some asserting that the word “depinto” — or painted — carried a broader meaning during the Renaissance. Despite Vasari’s many well-documented factual errors and fictional flourishes his accounts have long carried an almost biblical weight, and the main body of Michelangelo research about the existence of easel paintings has followed Vasari’s lead.

But a letter from 1546 solidified Mr. Forcellino’s belief that Colonna was referring to a painting, not a drawing. The letter from the cardinal of Mantua, Ercole Gonzaga, to another cardinal discusses whether Gonzaga should accept the gift of a Pietà, which Mr. Forcellino identifies as the same one owned by Colonna. In the letter Gonzaga, who appears never to have received the Pietà, refers to it as a “quadro,” or painting.

The letters and other documents leave what Mr. Forcellino says is a substantial trail for the painting from Colonna to an English cardinal, Reginald Pole, a cousin of Henry VIII and another member of the spirituali, who appears to have taken it with him as a devotional object when he attended the Council of Trent, the 16th-century Catholic ecumenical conclave that began the Counter-Reformation.

The trail grows murkier afterward, but Mr. Forcellino cites circumstantial evidence in arguing that, after Pole’s death, the painting ended up with the Archbishop of Ragusa — now Dubrovnik, Croatia.

One of the eureka moments Mr. Forcellino cites in his book involves a dark-red wax seal on the back of the painting’s spruce panel, whose origins had never been identified by Mr. Kober’s family. The seal had lost much of its shape, but a low-tech detective’s trick by Mr. Forcellino — making a rubbing with a piece of paper and pencil — revealed a crest with three stars, which he was later able to identify as that of the family of Fabio Tempestivo, who served as archbishop of Ragusa until 1616. At his death Tempestivo’s estate was sold off to pay his debts, and many of the possessions went to a wealthy Italian family, which held it for many generations.

The line between that family and Mr. Kober’s is clear in a number of documents from the mid-19th century through the 20th century that mark previous efforts to have the painting validated as a Michelangelo. One in 1865 involved Hermann Grimm, a revered scholar of the Renaissance, who wrote that he had seen the Ragusa Pietà and thought it could well be by the master’s hand.

William E. Wallace, one of the foremost American experts on Michelangelo, who examined the painting in 2005, said there is at least enough evidence to merit a more extensive examination. “I have no doubt whatsoever that we’re dealing with a 16th-century object, and something with a very close connection to Michelangelo and his circle,” said Mr. Wallace, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

But Mr. Wallace also knows the pace of Michelangelo attribution claims is relentless (on average two a year for the last century, he once calculated), almost all quickly dispatched. And even if more compelling evidence emerges, he said, the Kober painting’s attribution could remain in limbo for decades, if not much longer. “The weight of consensus moves very slowly,” he said, “and building it takes a very long time.”

The Establishment

Despite advances in forensic science and computer-assisted examinations of disputed works of art, the t radition of connoisseurship — the individual “eye,” a scholar’s ability to identify the real thing based on years of looking — continues to hold great sway. Museum credibility and auction prices often rest on the word of a relatively small number of experts who can say that a painting with a spotty paper trail is authentic, based only on their close examination.

The tradition, an art in itself, has by and large served the art world well. But history is littered with instances in which the certainty of the establishment — based on extensive knowledge, gut instinct, wishful thinking or, in the worst cases, greed — has turned out to be embarrassingly unstable. Misattributions languish for decades, often longer. A generation of art historians flips the attributions made by its predecessors, making or unmaking fortunes and reputations.

At one time more than 600 paintings were attributed to Rembrandt, a number that has been cut in half by Dutch scholars since the late 1960s. Two years ago a Goya that had hung for more than half a century at the Prado was determined not to be by Goya, a conclusion many casual observers had reached long before. In many cases mountains of art scholarship are found to rest on erroneous assumptions or evidence, but the mountain proves almost impossible to move.

Such glaring mistakes have fueled another longstanding tradition: distrust of the art establishment, much of it class based, by those outside the establishment’s tight circle. And it has long elevated examples of discoveries made outside that circle into near-heroic tales, like that of the painting that hung for 60 years, all but ignored, in a Jesuit’s residence in Dublin that was found to be a Caravaggio.

In that case, told in Jonathan Harr’s 2005 best seller “The Lost Painting,” a restorer with scholarly ambitions, like Mr. Forcellino, not a curator or art historian, saw the painting, argued that its attribution to a follower of Caravaggio was wrong, and the notion was confirmed through historical research by two graduate students. The painting had been bought by a pediatrician in the 1920s for less than $1,000. It is now on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland and said to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Mr. Forcellino, a talkative, persuasive presence, has traveled a rougher road trying to convince scholars about the Kober painting. In April 2010 he met with Keith Christiansen, the Met’s chairman of European paintings, but the meeting lasted just a few minutes, as he recalls.

The previous June Mr. Christiansen had announced that another painting the museum had taken in to restore appeared to be the first easel painting ever made by Michelangelo. He predicted that the attribution might elicit disagreement, and it did (and continues to), in part because the Met made no move to acquire the painting, which was bought by the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth.

Now, fresh from that experience, Mr. Christiansen was being offered a role in the restoration of another proposed Michelangelo, one that had been stored behind a couch upstate.

The museum turned down the painting as a conservation project. Mr. Christiansen, who said he does not recall his meeting with Mr. Forcellino, declined to comment.

The Met is not alone in harboring serious doubts about the Kober painting. Michael Cole, an expert on the Italian Renaissance who teaches at Columbia University, said he believes Vasari’s account that the Pietà in Vittoria Colonna’s letter is a drawing, not a painting. And while he has seen only a photograph of Mr. Kober’s painting, he said that some of the anatomy was too awkward to be by Michelangelo. More likely, he said, it is one of the many copies, both painted and drawn, of Michelangelo’s Pietà composition that were made in the 16th century.

“To me the painting in the photo does not look good enough to be a Michelangelo,” he said.

Ms. Herrmann Fiore, of the Borghese Gallery, who said she is willing to entertain the view that Michelangelo did the underdrawing, is also of the view that some proportions in the finished painting seem off and are likely the work of someone else.

Mr. Forcellino acknowledged that honest disagreements can occur as people try to untangle the histories of paintings hundreds of years old with precious little documentation to go on. But he said he believes institutional bias has worked against close consideration of the Pietà, in part because it has surfaced in an unlikely place and has so unlikely a champion as Mr. Kober.

“This is not an art history book,” Mr. Forcellino said of his account of the painting. “It is a book about prejudice in this world.”

The Owner

“It’s been a few months since I’ve seen it,” Mr. Kober, 54, said, smiling nervously one rainy morning inside his house, which sits behind a shopping center.

His painting used to hang in the dining room of the home, where he has lived since he retired and began following his father’s advice finally to figure out once and for all whether “the Mike” really is what the family has long imagined.

For the last several months, though, Mr. Kober has kept the painting in a bank vault. Earlier that morning he had taken it out and driven it home. After putting on a pair of white gloves, he opened the black valise made to carry the panel and carefully loosened the protective paper around it. He set an easel that Mr. Forcellino had made for him on his dining room table, with a kitchen towel to cushion it, and then propped the painting on the easel, opening the blinds and throwing back the curtain so that the morning light could play on its surface.

“I was worried I might open up the case and see mold growing on it or something,” Mr. Kober said. “But it looks just fine.”

“I’ve been looking at it for too long now, decades,” he continued. “I know every inch of it, so it’s hard to be objective. But I can’t sit here with it in front of me and figure out how anybody could think it’s an inferior copy.

“Look at it.”

A version of this article appeared in print on May 29, 2011, on page AR1 of the New York edition with the headline: The Pietà Behind The Couch.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"In the Future, Every Millionaire Will Buy and Sell Fifteen Warhols." - With Andy dominating another auction season, Jerry Saltz explains why the artist makes rich guys go gaga.

By Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine. Published May 22, 2011.

This spring, auction houses across the world alchemically turned Andy Warhol’s art into currency. One of his 1963 paintings of Liz Taylor sold for $27 million. A self-­portrait from the same period—the first he ever made—went for $38.44 million. At the same auction, during which eight Warhols moved in all, a less desirable later self-portrait, from 1986, was gaveled off for $27.52 million. It was public theater, investment banking, and brothel rolled into one. Andy was in the news. Again. But his renown notwithstanding, one does wonder: Why such market-mania for Warhol? Why not Rothko, Newman, Nauman, or Judd? Why not Rosenquist, Kusama, Hesse, or any other first-rate big name?

Part of the reason is simple ­supply: Unlike many other modern masters, Andy was crazily prolific. One family of megacollectors, the Mugrabis, own about 800 pieces. The Warhol Foundation, which retains more of his individual works than anyone else, periodically raises funds by selling some of his pieces. (These entities function almost as a cartel, an Andy opec, exerting a certain amount of price control.)

This all means there are enough works available for a herd mentality to take hold, as it certainly has. With Warhol, the in-crowd is all-in. Paying inflated sums for his instantly recognizable work is proof that you’ve got good taste. Or rather, the right taste at no risk to social standing—or bottom line. You buy these because other people you know buy them and you think they’ll make you look like you know about art and investing. After all, when those other people buy them, the prices keep going up. It’s wealth 101: Money prefers going where other money already is. As Sarah Thornton pointed out on an Economist blog last week, auction houses now take what are called “irrevocable bids” on these artworks before the sales begin, effectively preselling them.

Economics aside, though: What does Andy mean to these people? Warhol once said, “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings.” Okay, let’s. Warhol’s work is easy to like, especially now that it seems—at first glance, anyway—less strange than it did when it was created. Much of it is large, shiny, and brightly colored; Warhol’s smudged, skidding silk-screens make his images pop. There are those clashing electric colors that no one ever put together before—it’s as though he discovered a new note on the saxophone. There is also Warhol the man, who still strikes many as a strange swish outlaw. That gives his work an edginess and borderline-risqué feeling; Rothko, by comparison, is more about gravitas and suicide. Collecting Warhol seems naughty but not really obnoxious. Hedge-funders and industry titans see themselves in him: the leader of a factory; the workaholic who empowers others to make things possible; the one who collects and hoards, who turns junk into art.

Warhol, a collector himself, would revel in the speculation, spin, and trophy-hunting that now accompanies the buying and selling of his work. He loved making money, and he loved making the moneybags dance for him. He loved shopping, celebrating celebrity, and being original by being unoriginal. He also condoned acting out; that’s what is going on here too, of course. Someday, when fashions change and the Warhol bubble deflates, some of these same people will wonder why they let themselves get caught up in such a ridiculous business. In the meantime, those with the means would do well to recall Warhol’s own words before raising that auction paddle aloft. “Good business,” he said, “is the best art.”

© 2011 New York Media LLC


"'Visionary' art patron dies from cancer." by Wendy Frew, The Sydney Morning Herald.

May 17, 2011.

ONE of Australia's most influential and loved patrons of the arts, Ann Lewis, has died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Described by those who knew her as a passionate philanthropist, Mrs Lewis was one of Australia's best regarded collectors and arts supporters, who in her last years gave away much of her large and valuable art collection.

She did not seek publicity for her work, but was well-known in media and business circles. She was godmother to the businessman James Packer, and close friend of the broadcaster Alan Jones and the businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court.

Her Rose Bay home, with uninterrupted views of the Harbour Bridge, was the setting for dinner parties for Sydney's elite. Its rooms were covered with artworks, including a large John Olsen painting that hung in her dining room for 45 years before she donated it to the Newcastle Regional Gallery.

Mrs Lewis was one of the first to recognise the importance of Aboriginal art, was a strong supporter of modern art, and a great advocate of Australian art overseas, said the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor.

''She was a visionary,'' said Ms Macgregor, who was befriended by Mrs Lewis when she arrived from Britain. ''I can't quite imagine the world without her.''

In 2009, Mrs Lewis, who was married to John Lewis, chairman of the construction business Concrete Constructions, donated 54 artworks worth millions of dollars to the MCA, including paintings, photography and sculpture. She was a large donor to the National Gallery of Australia, helping to develop its collection over many years, and was a generous donor to regional galleries including the Newcastle Region Art Gallery and the Moree Plains Gallery.

Her influence in Australian art circles is evident from the number of boards she served on over the years, including the Visual Arts Board at the Australia Council and the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2009.

After being diagnosed with cancer in 2008, Mrs Lewis told the Herald, ''I never expected to see out 74''. But in the following years her passion for art led her to Tokyo, New York and the outback to visit the artist Bardayal ''Lofty'' Nadjamerrek.

© 2011 Fairfax Media

"Met Museum Elects Trustee as Chairman." by Kate Taylor, The New York Times.

Published: May 10, 2011.

Daniel Brodsky, a real estate developer, was elected chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday in a vote by the museum’s board. Mr. Brodsky will assume the post on Sept. 13, succeeding James R. Houghton, who has been chairman for the past 13 years and will now become a trustee emeritus.

A Met trustee since 2001, Mr. Brodsky, 66, has served on important committees, including those for Finance and Buildings. He is also a trustee of New York City Ballet and New York University.

The Met chairmanship is one of the most prestigious positions in New York’s cultural firmament, requiring someone who is politically deft, an adept fund-raiser and well liked and respected by the rest of the board. That description seemed to fit Mr. Brodsky.

The Met’s director, Thomas P. Campbell, described him as a “good listener, someone who really takes the time to consider everybody’s opinions, but at the same time has a clear sense of purpose and direction.”

Mr. Houghton said that Mr. Brodsky got “along well with everybody.”

After Mr. Houghton announced his plan to retire in early March, the board — at 40 voting members, one of the largest of any American cultural institution — formed a succession committee led by three longtime trustees, Henry B. Schacht, S. Parker Gilbert and Annette de la Renta. The committee spoke to a number of people — the Met would say only that that group included Mr. Campbell — and made its recommendation to the full board at its meeting on Tuesday.

In an interview Mr. Brodsky said that his work on various board committees had given him a good view of how the museum was run and that he had enjoyed that learning process.

“The more you get involved with it, the better you know it, and the more you want to know about it,” he said of the museum.

Mr. Brodsky, who is unassuming in conversation, said he did not have a deep knowledge of art history or a favorite piece in the museum’s collection, although he prefers modern art. His wife, Estrellita Brodsky, is an independent curator specializing in Latin American art who has endowed the post of Latin American curator at the Museum of Modern Art.

Mr. Brodsky is the managing director of the Brodsky Organization, a company he started with his father, Nathan Brodsky, in 1971. It currently owns and manages 6,200 apartments in 68 Manhattan buildings and has also developed a number of condominium and co-op buildings.

As a trustee of City Ballet, Mr. Brodsky played a significant role in rallying support among Lincoln Center’s constituent organizations for the renovation of its campus, one of the biggest construction projects undertaken by a cultural institution in recent years. During the planning process, which was sometimes contentious, he said he learned that he enjoyed “listening to people and hearing them out and being able to help people come to a consensus.”

Mr. Brodsky is on the city’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission, a group that works closely with the cultural affairs commissioner, Kate D. Levin, and appears to have a friendly, if not close, relationship with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — an asset in his new role, given that the city owns the Met’s building and provides roughly 10 percent of its operating budget. Mr. Brodsky served on the city’s 2012 Olympic bid committee, which also endorsed the mayor’s proposal for a Jets stadium on the West Side, a plan that ultimately failed.

Speaking about why he became involved in the city’s cultural institutions, Mr. Brodsky expressed a view strikingly similar to one often voiced by Mr. Bloomberg, describing them as an important component of the quality of life here, as well as a driver of tourism.

Speaking of Mr. Brodsky’s influence on the New York cultural scene, Ms. Levin said, “He has a larger footprint than people recognize, in part because he’s such a modest, thoughtful guy.”

His appointment means that real estate developers will soon be chairmen of three of New York’s major museums. Jerry I. Speyer, the chairman of MoMA, is also the chairman of Tishman Speyer; William L. Mack, at the Guggenheim Museum, is a founder and managing partner of Apollo Real Estate Advisors.

Asked if he saw any meaning in the trend, Mr. Brodsky said that real estate people were “very concerned about the viability of the city,” which cultural activity contributes to, “so there’s a logical reason for real estate people to be involved.”

A version of this article appeared in print on May 11, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Met Museum Elects Trustee As Chairman.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"Australian art critic Sebastian Smee wins Pulitzer Prize."

AAP April 19, 2011, The Herald Sun.

AN Australian art critic has taken out a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the Boston Globe.

Sebastian Smee, the Globe's visual arts critic, took out the Criticism prize for his "vivid and exuberant writing ... often bringing great works to life with love and appreciation," the judging committee said on Monday.

In 2010, Smee critiqued a range of works including individual paintings by Dutch painter Willem de Kooning and Boston artist Polly Thayer; an exhibit of the works of Spanish painter Luis Melendez; and a show exploring the influence of French impressionist painter Edgar Degas on Pablo Picasso.

"In writing about art, Smee creates verbal art. Readers really see what he sees, feel what he feels," Globe editor Martin Baron said in his nominating letter.

The 38-year-old Australian native started working for the Globe in 2008 after four years as the national art critic for The Australian newspaper.

He was a finalist for a Pulitzer two years ago.

"My reaction is one of just total surprise and, obviously, pleasure," Smee said in an interview with the Globe on Monday.

"I just feel so lucky to be at the Globe. I feel so fortunate the Globe saw fit to employ this guy that no one had heard of from Australia."

Baron described Smee as "incredibly deserving of this honour".

"His criticism is so inviting, so approachable, and so funny, often," Baron told the Globe.

"It's a delight to read. The thing about him is that he has this broad expertise, this deep expertise, but he never really smothers readers in all that he knows.

"To read him is to dine off a tasting menu, with his knowledge and his insights delivered in digestible portions, and by the end you've had quite a feast."

Smee, who lives in Somerville, Boston, is the author of Side by Side: Picasso v Matisse, a book on the relationship between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Before he began writing art criticism for The Australian in 2004, Smee worked in London as an art critic for the Daily Telegraph and a contributor to several other British newspapers.

The Pulitzer Board gave awards in 13 out of 14 categories for journalism and in seven categories for the arts on Monday.

But for the first time in the Pulitzers' 94-year history, no award was given in the category of breaking news - the bread-and-butter of daily journalism.

The board named three finalists for the breaking-news award: The Chicago Tribune for coverage of the deaths of two Chicago firefighters; The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for reporting on the Haiti earthquake; and The Tennessean in Nashville, Tennessee, for coverage of a devastating flood.

"No entry received the necessary majority," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the prizes.

He wouldn't elaborate except to say that the breaking-news award is given for covering local stories - stories in your own backyard, not somewhere else in the world - and it recognises "speed and accuracy of initial coverage".

The Los Angeles Times won the public service prize for revealing that politicians in a small, working-class California city were paying themselves exorbitant salaries.

The Times won a second Pulitzer for feature news photography, and The New York Times was awarded two Pulitzers for international reporting and for commentary.

In other journalism awards, the nonprofit ProPublica won its first outright Pulitzer for national reporting.

Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein were cited for exposing questionable Wall Street practices that contributed to the economic meltdown. The judges cited their use of digital media to help explain the complex subject.

Last year, ProPublica won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine.

Chicago native Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit From the Goon Squad won the prize for fiction, honoured for its "big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed".

The Pulitzer prizes recognise excellence in 21 categories of journalism, literature, music, and drama with a $US10,000 ($A9,550) cash prize in 20 categories, while the public service category winner gets a gold medal.

The prizes are handed out by the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University in New York City.

© Herald and Weekly Times


"Confessions of an art judge: I tossed a coin to decide." by Andrew Taylor, The Sydney Morning Herald.

April 24, 2011.

"I couldn't make up my mind so I did it by lottery" - Richard Bell, Sulman art prize judge.

THE winner feels deflated. A finalist says she is in shock.

The sole judge of the prestigious Sulman art prize has revealed to The Sun-Herald that he chose the winner of the $20,000 award by tossing a coin.

''Like every prize, it's a lottery,'' said the judge, Richard Bell, an artist known for his provocative work.
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''I couldn't make up my mind so I did it by lottery.''

But the winning artist, Peter Smeeth, whose painting The Artist's Fate took him 150 hours to complete, is not amused.

''It takes away from my credibility, if that's his method,'' Smeeth said. ''It is a bit deflating, from my point of view, if that's the whole basis for how I won the prize. I certainly would like to think I won it on merit, not on the toss of a coin.''

The Art Gallery of NSW administers the award, and its website says the Sulman Prize is awarded for the best ''subject painting, genre painting or mural project by an Australian artist, in oil, acrylic, watercolour or mixed media''.

However, Bell used his own criteria to select 29 finalists from 633 entries. More than 20 of the artworks he selected contained animals. Asked why, he said: ''I like animals. I was tempted to put in all animals. I was going to make that the criteria but I had to choose some of my friends.''

Was this method unusual?

''Don't you like animals?''

When it was time to choose a winner, Bell confirmed he had written the names of four artists whose work he liked on separate pieces of paper. He wrote the names of another four whose work he disliked on more pieces of paper. Then he scattered the lot on the table and tossed a coin.

The winner, Bell said, was the artist whose name was written on the piece of paper that the coin landed on. ''It took me a long time to get there,'' he added, but ''that is pretty much it. It won. That's all that matters.''

The Art Gallery of NSW had flown him from Queensland and ''shacked me up in a hotel so there'd be a winner. I got 'em a winner. I would have liked it to be one of my friends. I would have much preferred that. But I gave these other dudes a crack at it.''

So did he like the winning artwork? Bell said he liked what Smeeth had written on the back of his canvas ''and the guts were drawn pretty good''.

On the back of The Artist's Fate, the artist had written: ''Rejection feels like it has cost an arm and a leg, getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick, being emasculated, having your heart ripped out and being left completely gutted!''

Bell conceded that some artists who entered the Sulman Prize, which is held concurrently with the Archibald Prize, might not appreciate his cavalier approach to judging.

''We're all different,'' he said. ''There will be people who will be really upset and there'll be people who will really like it.''

One finalist, Gabrielle Pool, wondered if her painting, Dirty Little Pervert, had been chosen because its original title, which she had lightly crossed out on the back of the work, contained a four-letter word. Pool said Bell's unorthodox method of judging was a shock.

''What would have happened if he hated the name Gabrielle?'' she asked. ''What if it was the name of an ex-girlfriend who took his house? The mind f---ing boggles.''

Another artist, Bob Marchant, whose two Sulman prize wins in 1988 and 1989 were judged by Margaret Olley and John Olsen, said: ''Both I have the greatest amount of respect for.''

Marchant added: ''I think it is important they choose the best people to judge the Sulman because it's just one person's opinion.''

Bell was chosen as the sole judge of the Sulman prize by the 11 trustees of the gallery on the advice of the director, Edmund Capon.

But Mr Capon said he was not surprised by Bell's judging method.

''He's a stirrer by nature and I've got no problem with that at all,'' he told The Sun-Herald.

Mr Capon said the Sulman prize was a lottery, but it was easier to predict the tastes of one person rather than the 11 trustees who judge the Archibald and Wynne prizes.

''It's very much a matter of individual taste and instinct and the kind of aesthetic, wit and humour of the individual artist. And I like that,'' Mr Capon said.

Bell is a Queensland artist who came to prominence in 2003 when he won the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for Scientia E Metaphysica (Bell's Theorem), which included the phrase ''Aboriginal Art - It's A White Thing''. He accepted the prize wearing a T-shirt with the slogan ''White girls can't hump''.

His provocative work has also featured in the Sydney Biennale and last year's art + soul exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW.

Another finalist for the Sulman, Kate Beynon, who painted Lotus Qi Gong Goddess, said it was the gallery's choice to pick the artist, ''and they would know Richard is a character and he would have unusual ways of judging''.

Bell said he could not believe the gallery had chosen him as a judge.

His initial response, he said, had been: ''Make sure you shack me up in a good hotel and fly me Qantas.''

Because of its inflight meals? No.

''There's an animal on the back of the plane.''

© 2011 Fairfax Media


"Globe art critic Smee wins Pulitzer." by Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe / April 19, 2011

Sebastian Smee, art critic of The Boston Globe, yesterday was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

In announcing the award, the Pulitzer board pointed to Smee’s “vivid and exuberant writing about art’’ and his knack for “bringing great works to life with love and appreciation.’’

Other winners of Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered by Columbia University, included composer Zhou Long , who won the Pulitzer in music for “Madame White Snake,’’ premiered by Opera Boston in February 2010 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

Former Globe reporter Ellen Barry, who is now on the staff of The New York Times, won a Pulitzer (shared with Clifford J. Levy) in the international report ing category for coverage of abuse of power in Russia. New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt also won a Pulitzer in the commentary category.

The Los Angeles Times was the only other newspaper to win two Pulitzers (in the public service and feature photography categories).

Smee, a 38-year-old native of Australia who lives in Somerville, came to the Globe in 2008 after four years as the national art critic for The Australian, a Sydney-based newspaper. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer two years ago.

“Now he’s won the big one,’’ Globe editor Martin Baron remarked before a packed newsroom, which moments earlier had burst into sustained applause at the news. Baron said to Smee: “Thanks for crossing an ocean and a continent to be here with us in Boston.’’

The award represents the third time in the past decade that a Globe critic has been singled out for the prestigious honor. Arts writer and photography critic Mark Feeney won the prize three years ago and then-book critic Gail Caldwell won it in 2001.

“My reaction is one of just total surprise and, obviously, pleasure,’’ Smee said in an interview. “I just feel so lucky to be at the Globe. I feel so fortunate the Globe saw fit to employ this guy that no one had heard of from Australia.’’

In remarks to the newsroom, Smee lauded the newspaper’s editors for holding to “a belief that the arts matter, and that good writing about the arts is going to be an important part of newspapers as they evolve.’’

In an interview, Baron called Smee “incredibly deserving of this honor.’’

“His criticism is so inviting, so approachable, and so funny, often,’’ Baron said. “It’s a delight to read. The thing about him is that he has this broad expertise, this deep expertise, but he never really smothers readers in all that he knows. To read him is to dine off a tasting menu, with his knowledge and his insights delivered in digestible portions, and by the end you’ve had quite a feast.’’

Smee is the author of “Side by Side: Picasso v. Matisse,’’ a book on the relationship between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Before he began writing art criticism for The Australian in 2004, Smee lived for a few years in Britain, where he wrote for The Art Newspaper, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Spectator, The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph. He also wrote a regular art column for Prospect magazine.

Smee was joined at the Globe by his wife, Joanne Sadler, a professional violinist and music teacher; their 6-year-old son, Tom; their daughter, Leila, who turned 4 yesterday; and Sadler’s mother, Hilary. (At Smee’s suggestion, the Globe newsroom serenaded Leila with “Happy Birthday.’’)

Smee’s writing is characterized by a disarming blend of erudition, insight, and wit. In addition to reviewing new exhibitions and writing longer features for the Globe, Smee launched a popular series titled “Frame by Frame,’’ in which he turns his focus each time to a single piece in the permanent collections of the area’s museums, seeking to spark appreciation of great art that is, in his words, “hiding in plain sight.’’

One of the prize-winning pieces was a June 8, 2010, column on Cornelia Parker’s “Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson)’’ at the Institute of Contemporary Art, a work in which shards from a burned building are gathered together in midair. “From chaos, she creates order,’’ Smee wrote. “From collapse, she creates effortless ascension. And from confusion (who did it, and how?), she creates transparency (I did it, and you can easily see how).’’

Ten days later, in a review of “Picasso Looks at Degas,’’ an exhibition at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Smee observed:

“Good exhibitions reveal to us things we didn’t already know. This show’s thesis — that Picasso was looking closely at Degas at regular intervals throughout his long career — has never seriously been proposed before. The difficulty, of course, is that Picasso absorbed influences in the same way that Bill Clinton absorbed doughnuts: There was no stopping him. He inhaled them. Who’s counting?’’

Globe publisher Christopher M. Mayer said Smee’s Pulitzer illustrates that the Globe “continues to be a beacon of great journalism.’’

Doug Most, deputy managing editor for features, told Smee that the prize is “a testament to how much you love what you do — and it shows in your writing every day.’’

Arts editor Rebecca Ostriker read excerpts of enthusiastic letters about Smee from readers, including some who said he is the primary reason they subscribe to the Globe.

“Making sense of the art world is what you do so beautifully,’’ she told Smee. “Now the whole world knows what we, and our readers, have known all along.’’

Smee’s award is the 21st Pulitzer the Globe has won, and the sixth in the past decade. In addition to the three awards for criticism, the newspaper won in 2007 for national reporting, in 2005 for explanatory reporting, and in 2003 for public service.

© 2011 Globe Newspaper Company


"The Trouble With Warhol" - A high-profile lawsuit and a scandal over "posthumous" Brillo boxes have brought scrutiny to the methods used by the Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board—and its responsibility to the owners of Warhol works.

By Eileen Kinsella, ARTnews, 04/11.

Andy Warhol once again dominated the contemporary-art auctions last November, racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. At Phillips de Pury & Co., a 1962 silk screen of Elizabeth Taylor, Men in Her Life, fetched more than $63 million, the second-highest auction price ever for the artist. The next evening, at Sotheby's, the black-and-white Coca-Cola [4] (Large Coca-Cola) sold for $35.4 million.

As Warhols were bringing high prices on the auction block, the New York-based Andy Warhol Art Authentication Board and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts were wrapping up their defense in a lawsuit brought by the owner of a painting purchased for less than $200,000 in 1989. The suit had dragged on for almost three years and cost the board and the foundation $7 million in legal fees.

The board had another problem to deal with. A few months before the auctions, it admitted in a report that it had been misled about some of the artist's most iconic works. Dozens of Brillo boxes the board had authenticated over the years had to be "reclassified" as posthumous works, the report said, because they were fabricated not in 1968, but in 1990, three years after the artist's death (see "The Brillo-Box Scandal," November 2009).

The report shocked and dismayed collectors and dealers. "This seems to be one of the contemporary-art world's new hot potatoes," commented a source familiar with the posthumous Brillo boxes. "No one is willing to be accountable due to issues of liability."

In the 15 years since the authentication board was created, it has frequently come under fire for what some observers have considered secretive, arbitrary, or biased decision making. The lawsuit and the Brillo-box scandal, critics say, revealed detailed information about some of the board's practices that raises serious questions about its procedures and its responsibility to owners of Warhol works.

The board takes the position that disclosing its methods and explaining its decision making would essentially provide a road map for forgers. Warhol's often unorthodox working habits futher complicate matters. He enlisted numerous assistants and off-site production facilities to support his prolific output. Many of his works were executed in large editions that were never signed or numbered. As a result, it can be extremely difficult to figure out what constitutes a "true" Warhol.

Last July, after a lengthy investigation, owners of the so-called "Stockholm boxes" received the authentication board's report outlining its findings. According to the report, Pontus Hultén, the highly respected director of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, who died in 2006, lied to the board when he told them that an edition of about 105 boxes had been executed in 1968—allegedly with Warhol's authorization—for a major show at the museum. Based on the false information Hultén provided, the board authenticated 94 of the boxes, and they were included in the 2004 catalogue raisonné.

The board subsequently found that all but about a dozen of those boxes were created in 1990—under Hultén's direction, in Malmö, Sweden. Hultén "misrepresented the works and falsified their history" to the estate, the board, and the Warhol catalogue raisonné, the report states. The board recommended that the information in the report be included in the catalogue raisonné.

The boxes were widely dispersed into the art market. Between 1999 and 2007, according to auction databases, Sotheby's and Christie's offered Brillo boxes purportedly made in 1968, either singly or in groups, on 25 occasions in their New York and London salesrooms. Christie's sold one for $208,695 in London in 2006 and another at its South Kensington branch in 2007 for $130,486.

Now, according to spokesperson Toby Usnik, Christie's "is not taking these for sale anymore." Lauren Gioia of Sotheby's said that if the auction house were to offer a posthumous Brillo box, "it would be catalogued as 'After Andy Warhol,' according to the most recent research available from the Andy Warhol Authentication Board." Sotheby's declined to comment on whether it owns any of these Brillo boxes or has any in its inventory.

Patricia Hambrecht of Phillips de Pury & Co. told ARTnews: "The likelihood is that we would not take them for sale, but if we did we would catalogue them in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the authentication board. Obviously the value would be much, much reduced, a fraction of the '64 boxes," a reference to the original series created by Warhol for a show at the Stable Gallery in New York.

"The Authentication Board is separate from and independent of the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné, a scholarly project that is documenting all of Warhol's paintings, sculptures, and drawings," according to the board's assistant secretary, Claudia Defendi. There are, however, two overlapping members: Sally King-Nero, curator of drawings and photography at the Warhol Foundation and executive editor of the catalogue raisonné, and Neil Printz, editor of the catalogue raisonné.

The present members of the authentication board, in addition to King-Nero (since 1997) and Printz (since 1995), are Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (since 2007); Judith Goldman, writer, ARTnews contributing editor, and former curator of prints at the Whitney Museum of American Art (since 2005); and Christoph Heinrich, director of the Denver Art Museum (since 2007).

The authentication board states in its report that "no written documentation has been found that would establish that Warhol authorized the Moderna Museet to produce a set of Brillo Soap Pads boxes in 1968. Given the friendship between Warhol and Hultén, it is possible that a verbal agreement existed between the two. The Authentication Board, however, can neither verify nor invalidate Hultén's claim."

The board concluded that Hultén produced two different groups of Brillo boxes. The first group was made during the spring or summer of 1968, after the Moderna Museet exhibition. It consisted of a total of approximately 10 to 15 boxes. These have now been designated by the board as "Stockholm-type" boxes and classified as "exhibition-related copies." The 105 boxes produced in Malmö in 1990 constitute the second group. These have been designated by the board as "exhibition copies."

Since the board has uncovered no evidence of an agreement between Hultén and Warhol, many observers are questioning why the board has stopped short of labeling the 1990 boxes fakes and, furthermore, why the 1990 boxes are being kept in the catalogue raisonné, albeit with the new classification.

In an e-mail to ARTnews, Printz repeated that the possibility of a verbal authorization by Warhol "cannot be conclusively ruled out." He added, "As the Time Capsules at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh are inventoried . . . we have been systematically reviewing them for any information that might pertain to these works." The time capsules are 610 cardboard cartons in which Warhol stored correspondence, old magazines and newspapers, gifts, business records, and all kinds of ephemera.

The Moderna Museet didn't wait for the board to issue its report before taking action. After conducting its own research into Hultén's activities, the museum struck from its collection the six 1990 Brillo boxes Hultén had donated in 1995, according to Lars Nittve, director at the time.

San Francisco collectors Vicki and Kent Logan gave one of these boxes to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as a fractional and promised gift. Asked whether the San Francisco museum would follow the Moderna Museet's example and strike the Logans' Brillo box from its collection, museum spokeswoman Robyn Wise originally referred ARTnews to the authentication board.

The board "does not provide guidance or advice to individual collectors, museums, galleries, and auction houses," Defendi wrote in an e-mail.

In response to a second query from ARTnews about the status of the work, Wise wrote, "We have received the report and are still considering it. It will take some time to fully determine our response."

The authentication board uses a letter system to convey its opinion of a work it examines: "A" designates a work considered authentic, "B" means it has been deemed inauthentic, "C" means that the board is unable to render an opinion. ARTnews asked the board which rating the 1990 Malmö boxes would receive and what the rationale would be.

Defendi wrote: "The Board's opinions are based on information and research conducted at the time a work is under review. . . . [T]he Board informs each individual who submits a work that this opinion may change based on new information which may come to light in the future."

With respect to liability issues for previous Stockholm-Brillo-box auction sales, Christie's spokesman Usnik told ARTnews that the house was "reviewing everything in light of our limited warranty." Usnik would not comment on whether any claims have been brought against Christie's as a result of its sales of Stockholm Brillo boxes.

"We'll continue to seek guidance from the Warhol Foundation," Usnik added.

Warhol Foundation president Joel Wachs said: "The Foundation does not provide guidance of this type."

The question of whether or not Warhol authorized a particular set of works also lies at the heart of the recently settled lawsuit by the London-based documentary filmmaker Joe Simon-Whelan, who sued the authentication board, the foundation, the Warhol estate, and the main sales agent for the foundation, Vincent Fremont, in late 2007. His suit was based on antitrust claims, alleging a "20-year scheme of fraud, collusion, and manipulation" to control the market of Warhol's works. Simon-Whelan charged that the authentication board is "utilized to remove competing Warhol artwork from the marketplace by falsely declaring it to be inauthentic, thereby raising the value of the Foundation's own holdings."

Simon-Whelan's painting had been authenticated by Warhol estate officials shortly after Warhol's death in 1987. But the authentication board (formed in 1995) rejected it twice, in 2001 and again in 2003, asserting that it had not been executed by Warhol.

Like all other owners who submit works to the Warhol authentication board, Simon-Whelan was required to sign a submission agreement that indemnifies the board from any legal action based on its decisions. Because he couldn't sue the board based on the rejection of his painting, he sued on antitrust claims, which can be extremely complicated and difficult to prove. The foundation responded by hiring antitrust specialists Boies, Schiller & Flexner, instead of relying on its usual counsel, Carter Ledyard.

In 1989 Simon-Whelan paid $195,000 for the painting, a 1965 Warhol self-portrait depicting the artist against a red background, head tilted slightly back and gazing at the viewer with a blank expression. According to Simon-Whelan's complaint, and supported by a letter from Paul Morrissey, former Warhol manager and filmmaker, it was one of several created in 1965 at Warhol's direction through Morrissey, from an acetate created and chosen by Warhol.

The work had been authenticated before Simon-Whelan bought it by the late Fred Hughes, the sole executor of the Warhol estate for 14 years, and by Fremont, at the time alternative executor.

Both Simon-Whelan and Morrissey claim that the series of 1965 red self-portraits, which is known as the "Norgus" series, after the New Jersey-based company responsible for the printing, was executed as part of a trade the artist arranged with publisher Richard Ekstract, who wanted a picture of Warhol to use in his magazine. "Ekstract, under the express authorization and instruction of Warhol and his employees, arranged for this series of self-portrait paintings to be created from the acetate that Warhol provided. This method of production was typical of Warhol," the complaint says.

Simon-Whelan did extensive research and produced evidence to support his contention that the work is authentic. In addition to Morrissey, he had letters from other associates who had worked closely with Warhol, such as Rainer Crone, author of the first Warhol catalogue raisonné; Sam Green, former curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston; and Warhol's friend John Richardson, the eminent art historian and Picasso biographer.

In a letter to Simon-Whelan dated May 2004, the authentication board outlined its rationale for denying the work, noting that each work in Warhol's original 1964 series of self-portraits "is different from all the others. . . . To date, ten paintings have been examined by [the board] that are identical to each other and to the work you submitted. The existence of ten identical works is without precedent in the corpus of Warhol's paintings."

In his deposition, Fremont testified that Hughes authenticated the first two red self-portraits that were brought to the Factory, Warhol's studio, after the artist's death, but that both he and Hughes began to have doubts when a third work from the series appeared. According to Fremont, "that is when we got concerned. . . . Now there's three identical paintings."

Although Warhol didn't sign Simon-Whelan's painting, he did sign an identical self-portrait from the "Norgus" series, which is owned by London dealer Anthony d'Offay. It, too, was twice denied by the board, although it bears Warhol's signature and a dedication to the Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger: "To Bruno B Andy Warhol 1969." D'Offay reportedly repurchased the painting from collector Charles Schwab after the board rejected it in 2003, ruling that it "is not the work of Andy Warhol" while simultaneously declaring that the work "was signed, dedicated, and dated by him." Printz said in a deposition: "We have a painting that, in my opinion, is not by Andy Warhol."

An expert report, a copy of which was given to ARTnews, was written by Reva Wolf, a professor of art history at the State University of New York at New Paltz. "It was reasonable for the Board to arrive at the opinion that the existence of the signature in question does not mean that the picture is indeed by Warhol," Wolf wrote. "Warhol could have made the signature for any number of reasons. For instance, he could have signed and dedicated the picture because it is a picture of Warhol."

Crone said in a deposition that Warhol himself chose the signed "Bruno B" painting, which was repeated several times, as the cover image of his catalogue raisonné. In her report, Wolf writes that "while it is possible that Warhol did select the image for the cover of Crone's 1970s book, no firm evidence that he did is known . . . given his unique sense of humor, Warhol could even have been making a private joke, to himself, by selecting an image he did not make for the cover of his own book."

Wolf prefaced that thought: "Here admittedly," she wrote, "we enter the realm of speculation."

In a letter to the board from 2003, Richardson wrote, "If Joe Simon's painting is not authentic, so, it would seem, is most of Warhol's oeuvre."

Although the case did not hinge on whether the painting is authentic, both sides explored authentication issues extensively in depositions, evidence production, and expert reports. At the same time, Boies, Schiller attorneys litigated aggressively, attacking Simon-Whelan's character and credibility and challenging virtually every aspect of his suit.

These were among the allegations they leveled at Simon-Whelan: He was not the true owner of the painting, which was stolen property. He had obstructed justice by asking Horst Weber von Beeren, a former Warhol employee, to destroy documents relating to the issues in dispute. They also alleged that invoices Simon-Whelan produced relating to his 1989 purchase of the work were forged and claimed that he was seeking to profit from his case by writing a book about his experience.

Simon-Whelan denied that he had asked von Beeren, a friend of Warhol's who worked with his printer, Rupert Smith, to destroy documents. According to Boies, Schiller attorney Nicholas Gravante Jr., von Beeren contacted the authentication board "unsolicited" in 2010 and said that Simon-Whelan had "explicitly asked him to delete from his computer and destroy documents relating to the issues in dispute." In his affidavit, von Beeren stated that he did not comply with the request and instead contacted Fremont and foundation president Wachs.

In an e-mail to ARTnews, Simon-Whelan called this charge "bizarre." His attorneys believed that von Beeren "had somehow been coerced into signing this false affidavit" and asked to depose him. But, Simon-Whelan says, "the Warhol lawyers replied that they couldn't produce him. He had vanished."

Simon-Whelan's attorneys told the court that they couldn't locate von Beeren. At one point, Gravante told the court that von Beeren might be traveling in China.

Gravante told ARTnews that a message left on von Beeren's home phone was promptly returned by the attorney von Beeren had retained in anticipation of testifying at trial. Von Beeren employed his own attorney, Gravante said, "because he wanted to remain neutral." ARTnews was unable to locate von Beeren.

The charge that Simon-Whelan wasn't the true owner of the painting when it was submitted to the authentication board in 2001 was based on a personal dispute between Simon-Whelan and another man, Nick Milner, that ended in a contentious breakup in 1990, after which Milner entered Simon-Whelan's London flat and took the self-portrait, according to transcripts. Simon-Whelan didn't report the theft, but—unbeknownst to him, Simon-Whelan claimed—a friend entered Milner's flat and retrieved the painting. Milner reported it as stolen to the police and the Art Loss Register, which Simon-Whelan says he didn't know at the time. Milner wasn't called to testify for either side in the dispute, although Gravante said his team went to great lengths to try to locate him in South America.

Simon-Whelan also furnished a copy of a letter, dated December 4, 2001, from former gallery partner Jonathan O'Hara, stating that Simon-Whelan purchased the work through London-based Runkel Hue-Williams Gallery in 1989. Says Simon-Whelan: "At no point did the board, foundation, or its army of lawyers ever contact the dealers who sold me the picture, despite [the dealers] writing directly to the board on my behalf."

Gravante told ARTnews, "A letter is not worth the paper it's written on." Nothing but a sworn affidavit would be sufficient to prove that Simon-Whelan acquired the painting and was its rightful owner, Gravante said. He reiterated that at the time Simon-Whelan submitted the painting to the authentication board, it was stolen property.

By November 2010, the last member of Simon-Whelan's legal team, which had worked without pay in exchange for a share of a prospective award, was set to withdraw from the case. Simon-Whelan said his attorneys found themselves unable to keep up with the furious pace of motions and potential counterclaims filed by the defendants. He conceded that he lacked financial resources to continue the case and was forced to settle.

The case was officially settled that month. Foundation president Wachs called the settlement a "complete vindication of both the Foundation and the Authentication Board." He pointed to the express provisions of the court's orders, whereby plaintiffs "admit that there is absolutely no evidence, nor have they ever been aware of any evidence, of any illegal conduct by either the foundation or the Authentication Board in connection with the sale and authentication of Warhol artwork."

"The tragedy," Wachs continued, "is that we had to spend nearly $7 million defending what was nothing more than a blatant attempt to shake down the foundation." As a condition of the settlement, Simon-Whelan agreed not to pursue further claims against either the Warhol board and foundation members or his own attorneys. The settlement also includes a clause whereby he cannot profit in any way from his legal action—including suing his attorneys for malpractice—and that if he does somehow profit, the Warhol board and foundation would resume their attempts to bring counterclaims against him for the millions of dollars incurred in legal fees.

In an e-mailed statement to ARTnews, Simon-Whelan wrote: "It is with great regret that I have had to end my lawsuit against the Andy Warhol Foundation. I simply do not have the funds or resources available to fight an organization which has acknowledged it is currently spending up to $450,000 per month to defend the case. I had no other choice but to sign a document bringing the case to a close. I wish to stress, however, that I have not agreed to deny the authenticity of the Red Self-Portrait, as originally demanded by the foundation."

Eileen Kinsella is editor of the ARTnewsletter.

© 2011 ARTnews LLC.


"The Gagosian Effect" - How the powerful art dealer uses his global network of galleries and blue-chip clients to fetch ever higher prices for his artists. Can it last?

By Kelly Crow, The Wall Street Journal.

APRIL 1, 2011.

Over Oscar weekend in late February, art dealer Larry Gagosian held a private lunch at the $15.5 million home he recently bought in the Holmby Hills section of Los Angeles. His glass-enclosed house had been decorated for the occasion by the artist Richard Prince, so its walls were lined with his portraits of beach beauties and pulp-novel nurses.

As guests including financier Ron Perelman and actress Renée Zellweger navigated the home's skylit hallways, Mr. Gagosian and his staff mingled with guests, discreetly passing a rolled-up sheet of paper between them like a baton. The sheet listed prices for nearly every artwork in sight.

With an unrelenting focus on selling, Mr. Gagosian, 65, has become the most powerful art dealer in the world. He represents the estates and careers of 77 of the world's top artists, including Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Cy Twombly, Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Ed Ruscha. Dealers who track how he prices his gallery shows estimate he sells upwards of $1 billion worth of art a year. Sotheby's, by comparison, auctioned off $870 million worth of contemporary art last year.

As the contemporary art market rebounds from the recession, Mr. Gagosian's art empire is exploding. In the last few years, he has opened new galleries in London, Paris, Rome, Geneva, Athens and Hong Kong, expanding his global art network to 11 galleries world-wide—the largest blue-chip franchise ever attempted in the industry.

Mr. Gagosian's position affords him a lifestyle on par with his billionaire clients, who include hedge-fund manager Steven Cohen, money manager Leon Black, Christie's owner Francois Pinault and billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad. He flies in a roughly $40 million Bombardier Global Express private jet and has a personal chef on call at his Madison Avenue headquarters. He has homes in New York, the Hamptons and St. Bart's in addition to his home in Los Angeles, speckled with his own collection of vintage photographs, Giacometti busts and canvases by Picasso and Andy Warhol.

Rapid global expansion has its risks. Mr. Gagosian now needs to supply about 60 distinct shows a year with fresh art. Collectors in Rome and Paris so far have shown little inclination to buy million-dollar contemporary art. And it was only two years ago that prices for some of Mr. Gagosian's trendiest artists, like Mr. Hirst, plummeted at auction. Contemporary art, the most volatile segment of the art market, remains subject to sudden, improbable leaps and jarring crashes.

There's also the question of a succession plan. The Los Angeles son of Armenian-American parents, Mr. Gagosian got his start peddling framed posters at a markup for $15 apiece. Since 1979 he has built his gallery empire largely on his own hard-charging deal-making abilities—he still conducts many of his biggest sales himself—and it's not clear who will eventually replace him as the head of his business. The dealer says he "lives in complete denial" about a successor. It's a critical issue, since Mr. Gagosian plays such a central role in elevating and maintaining the amount paid for his artists' work.

When asked what would happen to the market prices for Mr. Gagosian's artists without the dealer there to support them, Jose Mugrabi, a major Warhol dealer who sometimes consigns pieces to Mr. Gagosian's shows, said simply, "I shudder to even think of it."

To fuel his expanded enterprise, Mr. Gagosian is rapidly recruiting new artists. Over the past year, he has added sculptor John Chamberlain, photographer Andreas Gursky, installation artist James Turrell, and the estates of painters Robert Rauschenberg and Kazimir Malevich to his roster. He has also mounted a show with conceptual artist Rudolf Stingel, who still shows with the Paula Cooper Gallery, and last week, he began planning a show with Urs Fischer, an installation artist who still shows with Gavin Brown.

Unlike other dealers, who often spend decades helping to nurture and promote artists on their way up, Mr. Gagosian typically waits until an artist's market is poised to skyrocket—after a big museum show or an auction spike—and then he pounces. The dealer recruited nearly all of his current artists from rival galleries.

This approach has helped him build an enviable stable, but it has also earned him enemies. Dealer David Zwirner said Mr. Gagosian is known for "aggressively poaching" talent from his peers. Mr. Gagosian has never joined his industry's top club, the Art Dealers Association of America. President Lucy Mitchell-Innes said potential members need to be nominated but demurred on whether he had been.

"When a great artist gets my attention, I pursue it," Mr. Gagosian said, sitting behind his paper-strewn desk in New York. "If I don't, someone else will, you know what I'm saying?"

Three months ago, Mr. Gagosian paid a visit to Mr. Chamberlain, the sculptor, in Shelter Island, N.Y. Mr. Chamberlain, 83, had built an acclaimed career twisting metal car parts into colorful abstract bundles. For the past three decades, he had sold much of this work through Pace, a major New York gallery. At auction, his pieces have sold for between $1 million and $4.6 million. But recently, Pace had declined to buy some pieces that Mr. Chamberlain had made with a Belgian fabricator under his supervision, rather than doing the hands-on sculpting himself. So when Mr. Gagosian asked to visit, Mr. Chamberlain agreed, pointing the dealer toward his art-filled studio while he waited in the living room.

Mr. Gagosian, blue-eyed with short, silver hair, returned grinning minutes later and told the artist: "I want it all," Mr. Chamberlain recalled.

Dealers who have seen the works in Mr. Chamberlain's studio say their value could approach $20 million. The artist formally broke with Pace a few weeks later; his first show with Gagosian Gallery opens in May. Pace declined to comment on his decision.

"Sometimes artists need to shift gears, and Larry is always ready to go," Mr. Chamberlain said. "What should I do, sit in a corner?"

Mr. Gagosian does not characterize his methods as poaching. "Usually when an artist joins the gallery, it's because they want to make a move," he said.

There's a reason that many artists are willing to leave dealers who have nurtured them for years to join Mr. Gagosian's camp: Once they do, their prices often rise precipitously. Twelve years ago, Cecily Brown's swirling abstractions were selling for as little as $8,000 when Mr. Gagosian ushered her into the fold and encouraged curators from the Tate and the Museum of Modern Art to buy her work. Today, Ms. Brown's new paintings sell for around $800,000, the gallery says.

Miami collector Dennis Scholl says he can no longer afford to buy artists once they join the gallery because their prices ratchet up so quickly, sometimes doubling in less than a year. "Once he seduces someone, they get really expensive," Mr. Scholl said.

In the contemporary art market, there is no standard formula for determining what an artist is worth. It's famously difficult to determine which artist will have lasting cultural significance over decades or centuries, and which will be a flash in the pan. This gives top dealers like Mr. Gagosian enormous power to influence and even set the markets for the artists they represent. Anyone who wants his art must pay his prices.

"Sometimes we don't know if the stuff we're buying is historically significant, but because the prices are so high, we need to believe they're important," said Dallas collector Howard Rachofsky, a Gagosian client.

Private dealer Richard Polsky says that in many cases, when collectors buy from Mr. Gagosian, what they're really buying is Mr. Gagosian's cachet: "You cannot underestimate the egos of the people who buy from Gagosian. Most would rather overpay to be part of his world, and he counts on that mystique to draw clients to him."

Mr. Gagosian's courtship of Mr. Prince, the painter and photographer, is a case study in the dealer's combination of market timing and perseverance. In 2004, Mr. Prince's dealers at the time were getting as much as $70,000 for his "Nurse" paintings, in which the artist layered paint over images of nurses culled from 1950s paperback novels. Mr. Gagosian began inviting the artist to social events. The next year, as the contemporary art market began to soar, Mr. Prince's prices started skyrocketing at auction. That year, Mr. Gagosian invited Mr. Prince to show at his Beverly Hills gallery, and began including his works in group shows at his galleries.

By the summer of 2007, Mr. Gagosian began going to more creative lengths in pursuit of the artist. Mr. Prince was spending most of his time in the Hamptons, and locals say he was easily spotted at parties because he often wore plaid shirts. Mr. Gagosian, who usually dressed conservatively, started turning up in bright plaid at the same events, several partygoers say, stirring up art world speculation that a deal was in the works. (Mr. Gagosian said, "I don't wear plaid shirts.")

Privately, Mr. Gagosian made the artist an appealing business offer. He usually splits sales 50/50 with his artists, but he agreed to give Mr. Prince a 60% cut of sales of his work. By the time a major survey of Mr. Prince's work opened at the Guggenheim Museum that September, the artist had given notice to his other dealers. The following year, his 2002 work, "Overseas Nurse," sold for a record $8.4 million at Sotheby's.

"I feel like he's taking good care of me," Mr. Prince said in late February. Still, his work hasn't been immune to the recent ups and downs of the contemporary market. Since the recession, prices for his "Nurses" have fluctuated between $1.5 million and $6.5 million at auction. Last week he and the gallery lost a copyright lawsuit involving works from his 2008 series, "Canal Zone." Mr. Gagosian said that he and the artist have filed a joint appeal.

Mr. Gagosian is aggressive about boosting and protecting his artists' prices in the auction market when he can. Though he doesn't get a commission from auction sales, a work's standing in the auction market is the most public, concrete marker of its value, so it's in Mr. Gagosian's interest to keep prices up. If bidding is lackluster for one of his artists, he'll often buy the work himself and hold onto it until the market improves.

An instantly recognizable figure at auctions, always taking a seat up front and on the aisle, Mr. Gagosian usually bids on a few big-ticket paintings at any major sale, either for his gallery or for clients. During the last big round of sales in London, he bought the week's priciest piece, Christie's $17.4 million Andy Warhol self-portrait. He declined to say whether he plans to keep it or resell it.

Over the years, he's honed another technique to foster big-ticket sales: encouraging his artists to make supersized works, which can translate to supersized sales prices. When artists join his gallery, Mr. Gagosian often puts up the money or enlists collectors to prepay for his artists' most ambitious projects.

Last fall, Anselm Kiefer needed 50 workers and more than $1 million, provided by Mr. Gagosian, just to install his New York gallery show, which comprised a series of 27 towering glass vitrines filled with war-torn ephemera and airplane parts, totalling over 60 tons. The gallery says that nearly all found buyers.

To finance Jeff Koons's giant "Celebration" sculptures, a consortium of dealers, including Mr. Gagosian, spent years helping the artist line up buyers willing to prepay for them. The buyers paid $2 million to $8 million apiece to own one of the artist' car-sized sculptures of balloon dogs and candy-colored hearts.

For the new owners, selling at auction provided a big payoff. In November 2007, Sotheby's sold a pink heart-shaped sculpture from the series for $23.6 million, then a record price for a living artist; the next summer, as banks teetered, Christie's sold Howard Rachofsky's pink balloon-flower from the same series for $25.7 million. None of the artist's paintings or smaller sculptures has sold for even half that much at auction.

Not every artist thrives under Gagosian-scale conditions, though. In the past couple years, several artists have left the stable for smaller outfits, including Tom Friedman, Mark di Suvero and Ghada Amer. The estate of Willem de Kooning, once a pillar of the gallery program, also went to rival Pace recently.

Artists that Mr. Gagosian still wants, according to sources at his gallery, include Zeng Fanzhi, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Ai WeiWei. Mr. Gagosian said he recently met with Jasper Johns, who at age 80 shows with dealer Matthew Marks, but added, "Jasper seems happy with his gallery." Mr. Johns confirmed through Mr. Marks that they "had a cup of coffee."

Mr. Gagosian employs a far-flung staff of close to 150, many hired from auction houses, museums and banks, to manage his empire. Sales directors at each gallery are assigned a few artists apiece, like account managers. In London, for example, Millicent Wilner, who has the account for Mr. Hirst, says she calls or emails the artist daily. Directors earn a 10% slice of the gallery's commission whenever they close a sale, and a New York gallery director for Gagosian, Sam Orlofsky, said his colleagues often jockey for the right to sell the most coveted pieces in any show. "Sometimes it feels a little 'Glengarry Glen Ross,'" Mr. Orlofsky said, referring to the David Mamet play about real-estate salesmen fighting over leads.

In New York, Los Angeles and London, which have booming contemporary-art collecting scenes, Mr. Gagosian's galleries have thrived. But he faces bigger challenges at his outposts in France and Rome, where some collectors have more conservative tastes or gravitate to lower-priced contemporary art.

Rome has only a handful of contemporary collectors who are willing to pay Mr. Gagosian's "entry-level prices," said Pepi Marchetti-Franchi, who manages the dealer's three-year-old branch near the Spanish Steps. A majority of the works shown in Rome wind up selling to collectors elsewhere in Italy or abroad, she said. A similar dynamic is also at work, to a lesser degree, in the gallery's smaller showrooms in Athens and Geneva. Mr. Gagosian said it doesn't matter to him at the outset whether these pieces sell to locals or his regular clientele, so long as they sell.

Takashi Murakami hasn't exhibited much work in Italy, so the gallery made much of his show in Rome last November. On opening night, Mr. Murakami and roughly 100 gallery guests got a private tour of the Sistine Chapel, followed by dinner in another room of the Vatican studded with marble statues. Mr. Murakami's pair of 58-foot paintings in the gallery still wound up selling to collectors in the U.S. and Asia.

To succeed in the long run, these outposts will need to cultivate more local buyers to justify Mr. Gagosian's lavish outlay, says art-market analyst Sergey Skaterschikov. "It may take five years before his new galleries even start to pay off."

Plans are on hold, for now, to expand anywhere else, Mr. Gagosian said. He conceded he did some "exploring" in the Middle East last fall when he exhibited roughly $1 billion worth of art from his personal collection in a new pavilion on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, where the government is building offshoots of the Louvre and the Guggenheim museums.

His greatest chance for faraway profits may lie with Hong Kong, where his gallery opened a space in the Central district two months ago. He's renting the top floor of a colonial building with an 8-foot-tall elevator, so workers installing Mr. Hirst's inaugural show there had to hoist the artist's 10-foot sculpture of Saint Bartholomew up through the stairwell.

Questions of local taste pervaded the launch: Mr. Hirst's gold-plated sculpture depicts a gruesome classic—the martyr holding his own flayed skin—yet the artist added a gold fig leaf to the nude before its Hong Kong debut. "There was some feeling it might offend," Ms. Wilner said. The saint's three editions sold within the first week, however, all to Asian buyers.

Mr. Gagosian said the Hong Kong launch means he's always got a gallery open somewhere in the world, no matter the time zone. "The sun never sets on my gallery," he said.

© 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


"Calling All Artists, Whoever You Are." - The City Wants to Better Serve the Creative Community. First It Has To Find It.

By Lizzie Simon, Wall Street Journal, MARCH 28, 2011.

It would be easier to count up all the squirrels in New York City than the artists who live here. But that's not stopping a new cultural think tank, the Institute for Culture in the Service of Community Sustainability, from trying.

In 2008, the New York City Occupational Employment Statistics, provided to The Wall Street Journal by the state's Department of Labor, officially tallied 1,200 fine artists, 1,470 dancers and 5,820 actors. But these numbers, and others used by city policy makers, constitute a gross underestimation, according to the ICSCS.

Does it matter if there are actually far more working artists than the city knows about? According to ICSCS Executive Director Paul Nagle, it does. Accurate data, he said, tells a different story about the economic impact of the arts and will help influence policy decisions more favorably in matters concerning health insurance, city planning, and small-business incentives. But, Mr. Nagle said, this isn't simply about getting more for artists. "Urban competitiveness depends in part on the creative sector, so it's about how we can make the city stronger." He noted that groups in other states, like Minnesota and Massachusetts, have initiated artist census projects.

One root of the miscalculation, he noted, is the practice of counting only those artists whose primary income is derived from making art, thereby excluding a great—but as yet unaccounted for—number of working choreographers, playwrights, sculptors and so forth, whose earnings largely come from outside the arts. James P. Brown, the principal economist for the New York State Department of Labor, defended the practice. "Most people active in an artistic field are making enough money doing so, or else they wouldn't be able to do it," he said.

Not so, said choreographer Mark Morris, who has made New York the headquarters for his international dance company for 30 years. "There are about 35 of those," he quipped, before arguing that the work and impact of artists not living primarily off their art wages should be counted. "They are doing a job. But of course they have other jobs. They teach yoga and waitress and kill themselves to take classes and make shows."

Some believe the government simply lacks a certain artistic ingenuity in conducting the count.

"It would be wonderful if the Department of Labor had a mandate to be creative here," said Sara Horowitz, the executive director of the Freelancers Union. She cited a second source for the low artist count, a conceptual "misunderstanding of the gig economy," and explained that when the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes employment inquiries, it asks individuals if they're working or not working, which presupposes a traditional 50-week, 9-to-5, seven-day work schedule. "And if you think artists work like that, you're crazy," Ms. Horowitz said.

The fashion and music entrepreneur Russell Simmons agreed. "If they don't understand the numbers, they don't respect it, and they don't nurture it," he said. "And when you undermine art, you undermine the future of the world and every human being."

Mr. Simmons articulated an almost boundless definition of "artist." "To me, everybody is an artist," he said. "How many kids rap all day long? How many spoken word poets are there?"

But that's precisely the problem, as Mr. Brown sees it. "Potentially, everyone's an artist," he said. "If you're trying to write a novel, congratulations, you're an artist. Where do you draw a line?"

Ms. Horowitz agreed here, noting that while anyone has the freedom to self-identify as an artist, "it's not enough for government policy." She called for the creation of a "nimble" definition based on hours of work and income, so that each artist's "tie to the field" can be evaluated.

Even if everyone could agree on what makes an artist, the process of locating them has yet to be determined. Will officers be trained to ferret them out of master dance classes, coffee shops, factory lofts and black-box theaters? The ICSCS's first step, funded in October with a two-year Rockefeller grant, involves initiating a "conversation with the community" both locally and globally about the "who" and "how" of counting artists—after which the actual counting will commence.

According to Mr. Brown, it's a bit of a fool's errand. "You can always make the case that we're not capturing everybody, but I don't think it's systemic or that different from other fields with a lot of self-employment," he said. "The intent is to measure what's actually happening, but it's never going to be perfect."

On that last bit perhaps all parties would agree.

Copyright ©2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


"Patrick Cariou wins copyright case against Richard Prince and Gagosian." - by Judge orders that all infringing copies of Cariou’s Rastafarian photos be impounded and destroyed.

By Charlotte Burns, The Art Newspaper | Web only | Published online 21 Mar 11.

New York. A US District judge has ruled in favour of photographer Patrick Cariou in his copyright lawsuit against artist Richard Prince.

Cariou originally filed suit for copyright infringement against Prince, Larry Gagosian, Gagosian Gallery, and Rizzoli books in December 2008 after a number of his photographs were reappropriated without consent in Prince’s “Canal Zone” series. The photographs first appeared in Cariou’s 2000 publication, Yes, Rasta, a photographic book produced after spending six years documenting Jamaican Rastafarians.

Prince “admits to using at least 41 photos from Yes, Rasta”, according to the judge’s decision, but had claimed “fair-use” for transforming the original works, as opposed to creating derivative images.

US District Judge Deborah Batts has granted Cariou’s motion for summary judgement on the issue of copyright infringement and ordered the defendants to “deliver up for impounding, destruction, or other disposition, as Plaintiff determines, all infringing copies of the photographs, including the paintings and unsold copies of the Canal Zone exhibition book, in their possession, custody, or control and all transparencies, plates, masters, tapes, films, negatives, discs and other articles for making infringing copies.”

The defendants must also notify in writing any current or future owners of the paintings to inform them that the works infringe Cariou’s copyright, and “were not lawfully made under the Copyright Act of 1976, and that the paintings cannot be lawfully displayed”.

At its heart, the case focuses on Prince and Gagosian’s “fair use” defense. This legal doctrine is intended to mediate between the First Amendment and the Copyright Clause, which are “intuitively in conflict”, according to the judge’s decision. Four factors determine fair use.

Firstly, “the purpose and character of the use,” ie the extent to which the new work is transformative. However, rather than adding value solely through transforming elements of the original, the new work must comment on the original in some way, and create something “plainly different from the original purposes for which it was created”, according to the judge’s decision, which refers to the landmark copyright case of Rogers versus Koons: “If the infringement of copyrightable expression could be justified as fair use solely on the basis of the infringer’s claim to a higher or different artistic use...there would be no practicable boundary to the fair use defense.” In the earlier case, Koons failed to prove that his “parody” of an image of a couple surrounded by puppies, by commercial photographer Art Rogers, constituted fair use.

After noting Prince’s testimony that “he didn’t really have a message” and did not attempt to comment on any aspects of the original, the judge ruled that “there is vanishingly little, if any, transformative element.”

The less transformative a work, the more important its commerciality becomes. The papers quote Gagosian’s sales figures to determine that the “defendants use and exploitation of the photos...was substantially commercial...[which] weighs against fair use”. Gagosian had sold eight of the Canal Zone paintings for a total $10.48m, 60% of which went to Prince, with the remainder to the gallery. Seven other paintings were exchanged for art “with an estimated value between $6m and $8m,” according to court papers. Gagosian gallery also sold $6,784 worth of exhibition catalogues.

“Bad faith” is also taken into consideration. Despite instructing an assistant to contact Cariou’s publisher to buy extra copies of Yes, Rasta, Prince never asked “about licensing or otherwise sought permission to use” the images. “Prince’s bad faith is evident,” ruled Judge Deborah Batts.

The second element is the “nature of the copyrighted work”. The defendants had questioned Cariou’s copyright of the images, asserting that his “photos are mere compilations of facts...arranged with minimum creativity.” The judge ruled against this: “Unfortunately for defendants, it has been a matter of settled law for well over 100 years that creative photographs are worthy of copyright protection,” found the judge.

The third issue taken into consideration in the fair use defense is the “amount and substantiality of the portion of the copyrighted work used”. The judge found that, by appropriating the central figures in Cariou’s publication, Prince had gone “to the very heart of his work. Accordingly, the amount of Prince’s taking was substantially greater than necessary, given the slight transformative value of his secondary use...[which] weighs heavily against...fair use.”

The final deciding factor is the extent to which Cariou’s real and potential markets had been harmed by Prince’s appropriation. The defendants’ claims that “Cariou has not marketed his photos more aggressively (or, indeed, as aggressively as Prince has marketed his paintings) are unavailing,” found Judge Batts, who said that Cariou’s potential market had been “usurped”. Cariou’s real market was also effected after Manhattan gallerist Christiane Celle cancelled a scheduled exhibition of prints from Yes, Rasta because she did “not want to be seen to be capitalizing on Prince’s success and notoriety...and did not want to exhibit works which had been ‘done already’ at another gallery”, according to the papers.

The “Gagosian defendants” were also found “directly liable for copyright infringement” by distributing images of and selling paintings from Canal Zone. In addition, all Gagosian defendants were found as “vicarious and contributory infringers” after the judge ruled the they had “at the very least the right and ability (and perhaps even responsibility) to ensure Prince obtained licenses”. She added: “The financial benefit of the infringing use to the Gagosian defendants is self-evident.”

Cariou had also claimed for conspiracy under the Copyright Act, which was dismissed.

In an emailed statement, a Gagosian spokeswoman said: “Gagosian Gallery declines to comment on the Court’s decision at this juncture. Gagosian remains committed to the promotion of the arts through its continued support of artistic freedom in the studio for appropriation artists, such as Richard Prince, the creator of the Canal Zone series.” It is not known whether the gallery or Prince will appeal the decision.

All parties are due to appear in court on 6 May for a status conference to settle damages and fees.

© 2011 The Art Newspaper


"Health action in crises" - FAQs: Japan nuclear concerns.

18 March 2011.

Current risk of radiation-related health problems in Japan

What is the current risk of radiation-related health problems in Japan to those near the reactor at the time, and those in other parts of Japan?

• The actions proposed by the Government of Japan are in line with the existing recommendations based on public health expertise. The government is asking people living within 20 km of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to evacuate and those between 20 km and 30 km away from the plant are asked to stay indoors in unventilated rooms. People living
farther away are at lower risk than those who live nearby.

• This assessment can change if there are further incidents at these plants and WHO is following the situation closely. However, radiation-related health consequences will depend on exposure. Exposure in turn is dependent on the amount of radiation released from the reactor, weather conditions such as wind and rain at the time of the exposure, the distance someone is from the plant, and the amount of time someone is in irradiated areas.

© WHO 2011


"How Shifting Plates Caused the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan."


The New York Times

Published: March 11, 2011

Shifting plates and rising water

The sudden movement of the Pacific tectonic plate under the North American plate caused a massive earthquake and a tsunami.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"Japan Pushes to Rescue Survivors as Quake Toll Rises." by Martin Fackler and Mark McDonald, New York Times.

Published: March 12, 2011.

NAKAMINATO, Japan — Japan mobilized a nationwide rescue effort on Saturday to pluck survivors from collapsed buildings and rush food and water to thousands in an earthquake and tsunami zone under siege, without water, electricity, heat or telephone service.

Entire villages in parts of Japan’s northern Pacific coast have vanished under a wall of water, many communities are cut off, and a nuclear emergency was unfolding at two stricken reactors at one plant as the country tried to absorb the scale of the destruction after Friday’s powerful earthquake and devastating tsunami.

Japanese news media estimates of the death toll ranged from 1,300 to 1,700, but the total could rise. Many communities were scrambling to find the missing; in the port town of Minamisanriku, nearly 10,000 people were unaccounted for, according to the public broadcaster NHK. Much of the northeast was impassable, and by late Saturday rescuers had not arrived in the worst-hit areas.

More than 300,000 people have been evacuated, including tens of thousands fleeing the zone around the nuclear plants in Fukushima Prefecture even before news that problems at one plant appeared to be escalating quickly.

Most of the deaths were from drowning, but Japan’s Self-Defense Forces and firefighters were working to prevent a higher toll, rushing up the coast in helicopters and struggling to put out fires burning in industrial complexes or sweeping through Japan’s many vulnerable wooden homes. Japan had clearly learned the lessons of the devastating Kobe earthquake of 1995, when the government refused to accept offers of international help early enough, leading to criticism that some of the 6,000 deaths could have been avoided.

The United States, which has several military bases in Japan, is sending in helicopters, destroyers and an aircraft carrier, the Ronald Reagan, which has the ability to act as a hospital as well as to convert seawater into drinking water, said a spokesman for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Japan. Severe aftershocks continued to rock a traumatized country. The United States Geological Survey recorded 90 quakes off the eastern coast on Saturday alone, five of them with magnitudes larger than 6.0. Kyodo News reported more than 125 aftershocks since Friday afternoon’s earthquake.

The continual swaying and rolling of the ground deepened the disorientation of a nation accustomed to disaster, but which has not experienced anything on this scale for generations.

Compounding those fears was uncertainty about the scale of the crisis at one of the nuclear plants in Fukushima, in the earthquake zone, and a growing sense on Sunday that the situation was worsening. The Japanese authorities were handing out iodine to residents in the area. Some experts believe iodine can help head off long-term effects of radiation exposure, including thyroid cancer.

The breadth of the disaster poses new challenges for a fragile government struggling with political scandals, continued economic woes and public frustration over its inability to weaken entrenched bureaucrats.

Aerial photographs of ravaged coastal areas showed a string of cities and villages leveled by the power of the tsunami. Plumes of black smoke rose from burning industrial plants. Stranded ships bobbed in the water. Town after town reported that parts of their population were unaccounted for. Survivors gathered on rooftops, frantically shouting or signaling for help.

With phone service cut throughout the area, some radio and television stations broadcast pleas from people trying desperately to find their family members or at least to assure them that they were alive. “This is Kimura Ayako in Sapporo, looking for the Tanakas in Soma,” one caller said. “We are O.K. Please tell us your location.”

Hatsue Takahashi of Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture sent out a message on NHK Education TV to Rina Takahashi in the same town: “Hang on,” she said. “I’ll go there to meet you.” And Sachiko Atara of Iwaki city called out across the airwaves in hopes of reaching Hideharu Komatsu in Sendai: “We are all O.K., waiting for your contact.”

In Oarai, a port about 150 miles south of hard-hit Sendai, fishing boats, truck and cars lay 100 yards back from the water’s edge, deposited in a jagged line like seashells left behind by the farthest reach of powerful waves. Some fishing boats had capsized; those swept into town by the tsunami teetered on their sides, or were tossed upside down.

JR, the railway company, reported that three passenger trains had not been accounted for as of Saturday night, amid fears that they were swept away by the tsunami. There were reports of as many as 3,400 buildings destroyed and 200 fires raging. Analysts estimated that total insured losses from the quake could hit $15 billion, Reuters reported.

Even as estimates of the death toll from Friday’s quake rose, Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, said 50,000 troops would be mobilized for the increasingly desperate rescue recovery effort, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, several ships from the United States Navy joined the rescue effort. The McCampbell and the Curtis Wilbur, both destroyers, prepared to move into position off Miyagi Prefecture.

In addition, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group was expected to arrive Sunday. Besides serving as a hospital, it can also be used as a platform for refueling helicopters from the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Japan was also accepting offers of help from other countries.

Convoys of Japanese military helicopters could be seen flying over the earthquake zone on Saturday, and trucks filled with soldiers were moving into the area.

While aftershocks from the earthquake continued, the tsunami wreaked the most damage. Tsunami experts estimated that despite Japan’s extensive warning systems and drills, there would only have been between 15 and 30 minutes after the earthquake struck before the tsunami washed in, leaving those in coastal areas precious little time to flee.

One-third of Kesennuma, a city of 74,000, was reported to be submerged, the BBC said, and photographs showed fires continued to rage there. Iwate, a coastal city of 23,000 people, was reported to be almost completely destroyed, the BBC said.

Local television here reported that the authorities had found 300 to 400 bodies in the town of Rikuzentakata, in Iwate Prefecture. In Minamisoma, in Fukushima Prefecture, 97 residents of a retirement home were found dead. And an additional 100 bodies were found Saturday in Miyagi Prefecture, near the quake’s epicenter, bringing the total in those places to more than 500.

Although aftershocks were continuing to rattle Tokyo, signs of normality were appearing. Flight schedules were resuming at Tokyo’s principal airports, Narita and Haneda, and most of Tokyo’s trains and subways were operating.

Farther north, aerial photos showed floodwaters receding from the runways at the airport in Sendai, perhaps the hardest hit of the coastal cities.

Military units were in Sendai on Saturday, working at evacuation shelters or helping search-and-rescue teams. Sendai’s Web site, posted in Tokyo because much of the north was still without electricity, recorded a grim list of the toll: 1.4 million homes in the city without electricity, and 500,000 homes without water. At a school turned refugee center, Nakano Elementary School, 350 people were lifted out by a Self-Defense Forces helicopter, and 400 people in Arahama Elementary School were in the process of being plucked out by helicopters.

“The rescue is going on through the night, of course,” Michael Tonge, a teacher from Britain, said early Sunday morning from his home in Sendai.

Mr. Tonge said many people in Sendai were still without power, although his home had not lost electricity. “The government is telling people not to use it too much as they need the power to help bring the nuclear reactor under control,” he said.

No buildings had collapsed in his neighborhood, Mr. Tonge said, and people were not panicking — typical of a nation accustomed to order and schooled to stay calm and constructive.

“The few shops open have people queuing nicely,” he said, “with no pushing or fighting or anything.” He said he hoped the earthquake would not come to be known as the “Sendai quake.”

“I haven’t heard it being called the Sendai quake here, but if that’s what people are calling it, then that is unfortunate,” said Mr. Tonge, who lives there with his wife, Yuka, and their 3-year-old daughter, Aoi. “This is a beautiful city with nice people. A great place to live.”

Martin Fackler reported from Nakaminato, and Mark McDonald from Tokyo. Reporting was contributed by Yasuko Kamiizumi and Michael Wines from Tokyo, Nelson Schwartz from New York, Thom Shanker from Washington, and Makiko Inoue from Nakaminato.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 13, 2011, on page A1 of the New York edition.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"Goodbye, DVD. Hello, Future." by Dave Kehr, The New York Times.

Published: March 4, 2011.

THAT distant rumble you hear is the sound of yet another approaching cultural shift, accompanied by all the shouts of joy and gnashing of teeth that come with such upheaval.

The DVD isn’t dead yet, but it’s definitely looking a little peaked, at least in the eyes of the home-video industry. Sales continue to decline (volume is down about 40 percent from this time last year for the Top 20 titles, according to Home Media Magazine), the formerly ubiquitous neighborhood rental shops have all but vanished (Blockbuster, once the dominant franchise, has plunged into bankruptcy), and the major studios have drastically cut back on full-scale releases of library titles.

The days of the digital versatile disc may well be coming to an end, at least in its established form as a factory pressed, attractively packaged object of mass consumption. But there are several new formats competing to replace it, each with benefits and drawbacks.

As in comedy, watching movies nowadays is all about the delivery.

Blu-ray discs, introduced in 2006, offer 5 to 10 times as much space for data storage as a standard-definition DVD. They have superior sound and image quality as well as a range of bells and whistles — from social networking interfaces to elaborate games — designed to make the experience of watching a movie more “active” for twitchy 21st-century audiences.

Blu-rays are essentially pumped-up DVDs. The so-called MOD discs (for “manufactured on demand”) are the familiar DVD’s slimmed down, small-scale cousins: burned on computers, rather than pressed on machines, produced in limited quantities with generic covers, and generally devoid of elaborate menus, supplementary material and much in the way of restoration work. As pioneered by the Warner Archive Collection, and now adapted by other programs like Sony’s Screen Classics by Request and MGM’s Limited Edition Collection, MODs allow niche marketing of movies that don’t have the wide commercial appeal of recent theatrical releases.

For those who find physical objects too much of a burden, there is the new world of direct electronic delivery. Cable systems were there first, with on-demand channels that offer access to recent films for charges ranging from $3 to $10, though the heat has now passed to the Internet-based on-demand streaming services like Netflix and Hulu Plus (Hulu’s new premium pay service), which offer all-you-can-eat buffets for monthly fees in the $8 to $10 range. Other Internet services — like Wal-Mart’s VUDU, Amazon Instant Video and Apple’s iTunes Store — offer individual titles for à la carte download at prices from 99 cents to $20.

For the casual consumer of moving images these developments in delivery systems promise to make life a bit easier, and maybe a bit cheaper: no more red envelopes to mail back, no more late fees and perhaps a wider selection of titles than your store had to offer.

But if your interests range beyond recent Hollywood releases — into, say, older, foreign or nonfiction films — the prospect of another change in format brings a mixed sense of hope and fear. Hope, to the degree that the new distribution strategies may make it economically feasible for a broader range of movies to enter the marketplace; fear, grounded in past experience that suggests format changes invariably leave legions of once widely available titles in limbo.

In the beginning there was 35-millimeter film, the international standard for theatrical exhibition. In the 1950s most big cities had art and revival cinemas (and over on the wrong side of the tracks, the more humble and aromatic institutions known as grind houses) that simply drew on the stock of old prints that the studios maintained. After that came 16-millimeter, the narrower, easier-to-handle gauge that brought old movies to television (for the all-night late shows that were the first cinémathèques many of us knew) and later fueled the college film societies of the ’60s and ’70s.

In the ’80s VHS tapes commodified the movie so that it became a clunky staple of the living room and den. VHS also created an entirely new market for distributors and soon drove second-run theaters, revival houses and the nontheatrical 16-millimeter scene into oblivion. Vast numbers of films, once commonly available, were lost in that transition, but VHS offered the compensating advantages of convenience and affordability.

Later in the decade laserdiscs emerged as the preferred medium of collectors, offering a sharper image and digital sound, as well as multiple audio tracks that could contain alternate language versions or filmmakers’ commentaries. But the double-sided 12-inch discs were bulky and expensive, and relatively few titles were remastered from VHS to take advantage of the laserdisc’s technical superiority.

When DVDs first became commercially available in 1997, they combined the best of both worlds, offering the cheapness and convenience of VHS and technical specs far beyond even what laserdisc had to offer. But the higher-resolution images and improved sound quality of DVDs meant that many older films would have to be remastered to be brought to market in the new format, an expensive proposition that resulted, once again, in the disappearance of many titles.

Blu-ray ups the ante again. With its dramatically higher resolution the format can reveal flaws in the source material that VHS and DVD obscured. Ideally, preparing a film for Blu-ray requires access to the 35-millimeter camera negative or an early generation print. Even then, extensive and expensive digital and photochemical restoration may be necessary to bring older titles up to snuff.

That’s more of an investment than most distributors are willing to make in library titles, which is why so few classics have made it to Blu-ray. (If you’re wondering why “Citizen Kane” still isn’t available in hi-def, it’s partly because the camera negative was destroyed in a vault fire in the 1950s.)

By contrast, streaming video seems like a return to the low-tech past. As Eric A. Taub reported on The New York Times’s Gadgetwise blog, the quality of Netflix’s streaming video seems roughly on a par with VHS: tolerable on a small computer screen but painfully inadequate on an HDTV. But for many consumers that seems to be enough. The company’s subscription base shot up after its chief executive, Reed Hastings, announced in November that Netflix was phasing out “physical product” and would be “primarily a streaming video company delivering a wide selection of TV shows and films over the Internet.”

But downshifting to the tech-specs of VHS has an upside too. Where it can cost up to $40,000 to prepare a new film for a Blu-ray release, a distributor can take an existing master and deliver it to a streaming site for no more than $600. Because of these favorable economics, some hard-to-find titles have started turning up on at Netflix, Hulu and other sites.

Netflix, for example, now offers an intriguing selection of films from Republic, United Artists and Paramount that have been hiding in the shadows for decades. But don’t expect miracles. It’s great to be able to see Nicholas Ray’s rare 1955 “Run for Cover,” but not so great to see its original widescreen VistaVision format whittled down to fit the television standards of 20 years ago.

The advent of streaming has spawned some premature optimism. “This instant, sitting right here,” Roger Ebert wrote in a Jan. 22 article in The Wall Street Journal, “I can choose to watch virtually any film you can think of via Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, MUBI, the Asia/Pacific Film Archive, Google or Vimeo.”

We can only hope that this vision will become a reality one day, but right now it seems distant.

If you are interested, say, in exploring the work of John Ford, you can currently find only about a dozen of his more than 50 surviving features on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video combined, all of them titles widely available since the VHS days. (One truly rare Ford film, the delightful 1917 comic western “Bucking Broadway,” can be seen free at the excellent site Europa Film Treasures, a cooperative project among several of Europe’s leading film archives.) A search for Ernst Lubitsch turns up six films from his 36-year career in Germany and America; of Jean-Luc Godard’s more than 90 features and shorts, 9 are available.

The good news in this context is that things can only get better, both in terms of technical quality and available content. Since I began writing the DVDs column for The Times in 2004, I’ve concentrated, not surprisingly, on new DVDs. Now the scope will expand to include these newer methods of delivery.

In the short term I expect to be covering many more of the MOD discs that have been arriving in encouraging quantities from Warner Brothers (the studio that has done the most to keep its library in wide circulation), Sony, MGM-Fox and other new players, and, in the long term, doing my best to nose out the interesting and unusual in the dizzyingly vast, largely uncharted territory of the new Internet repositories.

It’s an eye-wearying job, but I’m thrilled that I get to do it.

A version of this article appeared in print on March 6, 2011, on page AR14 of the New York edition.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"The Upper East Side Goes Grungy in David Hammons’s Gallery Show." by Holland Cotter, The New York Times.

Published: March 1, 2011.

The New York artist David Hammons, who has a raved-about show at L&M Arts on the Upper East Side, once said in an interview with the art historian Kellie Jones: “I can’t stand art actually. I’ve never, ever liked art, ever.”

What he meant, I take it, was that he hated the exclusions and pretensions that surround art, the kind that led an art school teacher to tell him he’d be better off in a trade school.

But, hate art or not, he’s had a long career, going back to the 1960s. And he’s been an immensely influential figure, particularly among young black artists, partly because he’s been so independent-minded.

He’s always worked on his own schedule. A little something by him — a pile of barbecue chicken bones and hair swept from Harlem barber shop floors — would suddenly appear somewhere. Then for a long time nothing would.

Labels rolled off him. What do you call a basketball hoop set 30 feet up on a telephone pole? Conceptual art? Sculpture? An installation? A joke? Yes, and no — to all.

Among other things, staying independent has meant staying clear of commercial galleries. So when, in 2007, Mr. Hammons had his first show at L&M Arts, an outlet for Modernist painting (Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline) founded by the collector Robert Mnuchin, a former longtime partner at Goldman Sachs, there was talk. Had the outsider come in to join the club after all?

The show, it turned out, was Mr. Hammons’s idea. He proposed it and paid for it. He wanted to use L&M as a kind of stage. And he did deliver some drama. When you entered the town-house-style gallery, you saw five fabulously expensive full-length fur coats — mink, sable, chinchilla — hanging on clothes dummies. When you inspected the coats more closely, you found that the backs had been scorched, as with a blowtorch, then swiped with strokes of thick paint and varnished.

Various readings of the show were possible. But it would have been hard not to see it as, above all, a blistering response to the gallery itself, with its billionaire clientele and retread, marked-up trophy objects.

Mr. Hammons’s current L&M exhibition is a bit more of a puzzler. It, too, is a painting show, which was basically what the first one was, but different. Most of the dozen works are brushy, oil-on-canvas abstractions, reminiscent in style of de Kooning or Gerhard Richter, which have been overlaid with obscuring materials: black plastic garbage bags, torn industrial tarps and worn-out blankets and towels. We think Modernism, but we also think street people, construction sites, trash.

Mostly, the plastic is hung or draped in layers over the canvases, leaving the painting visible only around the edges or through tears in the sheeting. A blanket glued directly to the surface of a painting has a kneaded, twisted texture, like the aftermath of a struggle. A piece of gun-metal gray plastic stretched tight over another surface looks agonized, as if it were being ripped apart.

The earliest work here, from 2007, has no painting; it’s just double curtains of opaque plastic. And one painting has no covering layers, but has a tall wooden armoire placed right in front of it, pinning it to the wall.

You make of all this what you will. Some of what’s here is quite beautiful, in painterly ways. And to judge by the hosannas the show has inspired (“marvelous, possibly great, art,” The New Yorker said), beauty of a certain kind — familiar, object-based, museum-ready — is what certain viewers need from Mr. Hammons now, so that they can finally assign him a spot in the post-everything — post-race, post-class, post-politics — canon of greatness.

Within that canon, he can continue to act the rebel, but he’ll also be a team player, one in respectful dialogue with art history, with de Kooning, say, or with Rauschenberg, or Duchamp. He’ll be an artist, in short, who loves art.

A comparison with Rauschenberg, at least, is not inapt. Like him, Mr. Hammons makes art out of everyday life, though he has often gone for grungy, don’t-touch stuff (hair, bones, liquor bottles). If Abstract Expressionism is about the preciousness of the painter’s touch, Mr. Hammons’s arrangements of raddled plastics and frayed blankets are about the touch of ordinary bodies laboring, sweating, sleeping, trying to stay warm.

This isn’t to say that his new work adds up to a sociological statement. Mr. Hammons is allergic to these. But it does seem motivated by his understanding that the art world, which he is part of even if he’d rather not be, is a microcosm of the real world, and that he feels bound to keep a critical eye on it.

That eye has clearly taken note of art’s popularity as a luxury investment of the unregulated rich, and of the art industry’s single-minded promotion of painting as the power-medium of choice. The first observation may have brought Mr. Hammons to L&M Arts, where art and Wall Street converge. The second, in some complicated way, may have prompted him to do two shows of painting, a medium in which he had before shown scant interest.

The arrangement has been a sweet deal for all parties. Having Mr. Hammons on board is a feather in the gallery’s cap. The artist found a provocative platform from which to develop fresh ideas and got, I would guess, some cash.

The important thing is that he has used his opportunity well. In the current show, on through Friday, he brings to Wall-Street-on-the-Upper-East-Side the spirits of many other streets and neighborhoods in the form of big, funky, solemn, charismatic, painting-like things, which, with terrific flair, turn an elite gallery into a receptacle for exalted trash. Arguably, that’s what all galleries are.

Mr. Hammons no doubt guessed that the show would have the art world doing a little dance, though he may be surprised to find himself in danger of being ushered onto Olympus. It is when faced with such absurdity that hating art, or seriously mistrusting it, comes in handy. It provides distance, enforces perspective. I, for instance, will probably be thinking of Mr. Hammons’s exhibition for some time to come, not because I love the show, but because I love the idea that he doesn’t want me to.

The David Hammons exhibition continues through Friday at L&M Arts, 45 East 78th Street, Manhattan.

A version of this review appeared in print on March 2, 2011, on page C1 of the New York edition.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"How to Behave in an Art Museum." by Timothy Aubry, PaperMonument (from Issue Three) / 02/24/11

On one of MoMA’s free Friday evenings in January, I went to see the room with the giant video projections where everyone lies around, which I’d heard about probably thirdhand, since I don’t find time to read reviews and never know what’s going on, unless someone visits me from out of town, and then I assume that they want me to pretend like I do.

On the carpet lots of people were stretched out, some with their heads propped on each other’s torsos, and several were napping with their mouths agape, like you see in a college library around finals time. One couple was making out, and I’m not sure if they were more or less self-conscious than everyone else in the room, since the music that accompanied the installation did have a lulling quality, so you never know. People were more naked than when they had come in, having spread various articles of clothing around them and, staring down at all the bodies, I thought I might be watching the beginnings of a lazy, pointless orgy. There was a lot of American Apparel—and the array of bright primary colors also reminded me of a kindergarten class during nap time. But then, looking above waist-level, I could see plenty of people engaged with their electronic gadgets, having adult conversations, catching up, and so forth.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. Everyone there clearly thought, whether abashedly or unapologetically, that there was something special about the room. Conspiratorial glances declared to newcomers: Look what we’ve found, come take your clothes off, lie down, isn’t this great? What was so great, I guess, was the chance to be completely yourself, your pajama-clad, eating-cereal-in-the-afternoon self, while in a museum. And that was exactly what spoiled the whole thing for me: people seemed a little too casual, which made me suspicious. Everyone looked really good. The level of attractiveness, I noticed, was considerably above average. Even the nappers were napping in a poised and pristine way. No mouths were really agape, after all—I made that part up.

So obviously people were seeking the opportunity to be themselves in a museum, or the kinds of selves they don’t normally get to be when they’re in museums—but look good at the same time. Though I found myself annoyed, I can understand the desire. I never know how I ought to behave at MoMA or the Met. I manage myself fine, of course, but dangers loom. Situations arise.

Your friend comes to visit. You go to whatever exhibit you found on the New York Times website that morning while he was sleeping. At the museum, he talks about the pictures in a voice loud enough to make you uncomfortable. He asks, “What do you think makes this painting so powerful?” Or, “What do you think this artist is trying to say?” The questions are not stupid. It’s just that you can’t think of how to answer them without sounding stupid yourself. Should you say, “I think the vibrant use of orange really enhances the composition”? Or, “She’s critiquing commodity culture, while also reveling in it”? No! Intellectual conversations, as a woman I briefly dated once admonished me, are like public displays of affection—fun to be in, but mortifying to observe, and in a museum you know you’re being observed. But refusing to answer your friend’s questions is no solution either. You’re paralyzed. And you’re not even sure what you’re afraid of. You’re not sure whether your replies will make you look like a philistine or a snob. Which would be worse? Which are you more qualified to be?

You want to seem down-to-earth of course, but if only your desires were that simple. Modesty, after all, is just a means of demonstrating that you’re well positioned within the various cultural hierarchies that preside, just out of sight, like tactful event planners, over all variety of rituals in New York City—hierarchies you can best show you’ve conquered by pretending they don’t exist, by being completely yourself, but gracefully so, sans agape mouth. Museums, with their egalitarian educational goals and their obscurely significant high-culture objects, stage a confrontation between America’s democratic pretenses and the invidious struggle for prestige that these pretenses conceal and enable. At a place like MoMA it becomes painfully apparent that class and status ambiguities in America make for a comfortable blanket, but there’s plenty of room for tossing and turning, for kicking and pinching underneath it.

So what do you say to your friend? You’d think that your education would help you. Shouldn’t the time you spent in college or grad school have taught you how to behave in places like this, how to feel? The problem is generational, I suspect. Very few people leave college these days with the kind of well-developed reverence for high culture that would make it easy to know how to behave in a museum. Most students go to college to learn technological, financial, or managerial skills, and can acquire culture capital outside the traditional ensemble of highbrow pursuits. And those few who do end up majoring in English or art history will likely learn that reverence toward high culture is no longer so fashionable.

We probably all know an older colleague or friend of our parents who doesn’t suffer from this problem. He talks piously about Beethoven, Rembrandt, Freud. When a ballet performance ends he emits vaguely sexual noises to underscore what a profound experience he’s had and what a dullard you must be if you couldn’t summon the same enthusiasm or happened to be thinking about whether you could put off doing your laundry for another day right as the performance was reaching its crescendo. This is how a previous generation showed itself to be cultured. You look at these people with amusement, especially when they evince unctuous zeal in the face of contemporary art that doesn’t deserve or seek to inspire this kind of attitude. They look at you with perplexity when you report conversations using the phrases, “I was like,” and “he was like,” or declare approvingly that a video installation reminded you of The Matrix.

It’s not that this older art enthusiast is in a culturally secure position—though he may have seemed to be when you were an adolescent, and his erudite conversation at your family dinner table aroused in you those early stirrings of intellectual insecurity and ambition from which you still haven’t recovered today. His painstaking efforts to demonstrate his knowledge are the essence of middlebrow. But so are all the anxieties I’m describing here. If I’m being honest, the feelings I experience when I enter a museum are as middlebrow as the Van Gogh “Starry Night” drink coasters that someone bought for my mom, probably at the MoMA gift shop. I’m looking to improve myself. I feel inadequate. I’m hoping to impress people.

There’s a difference, however, between the previous generation of strivers and ours. For both, trying too hard to show off your expertise is a dead giveaway that you haven’t got as much status as you’d like. But in previous decades there was still a belief that those who took advantage of inexpensive museum fares, public libraries, and so forth were elevating themselves. For my generation, say those born around or after 1968, the sign that you’re at the top of the hierarchy is a readiness to acknowledge that the high ground you’ve come to occupy isn’t actually higher than any other ground.

This is very American. Our purported populism has always made us wary of those claiming, by virtue of their position or education, to know better than everyone else. One thing that’s changed, though, is that this populism, often disguised as the heady skepticism of continental theory, has managed to sneak into the very bastion of elitism, into the places where the aspiring intellectual first learns how to be a pompous snob: academic humanities departments. The institutionalization of deconstruction, identity politics, and Marxist criticism, in other words, has replaced the pious attitudes of previous eras with a different set of now-habitual postures: distrust of the canon and the institutions that preserve it. Whatever their merits, these frameworks have created enough ambivalence to make art appreciation a vexing enterprise for a generation of well-educated museumgoers. Because if you don’t believe in high culture, then what are you doing at a museum?

The closer we get to the top, it seems, the more likely we are to believe, or pretend to believe, that the ladder we’ve been climbing leads nowhere—is meaningful only to those who stare at its innumerable rungs from below. Self-improvement, we discover, is a sham. We were better off when we were just kids, when we knew what we liked effortlessly, when our passions were not learned. And so we end up in MoMA’s romper room, doing somersaults on the carpet, hoping to return to a state of innocence.

While I was at MoMA, I heard someone remark, “We should play hide-and seek,” which is actually how the three kids I mentor occupied themselves when I brought them to the Met a year ago. They were fourteen years old, poor, at risk, and utterly unconcerned with the status and/or gradual disappearance of high culture in contemporary America. The program encourages mentors to take their kids to public environments that require the kinds of manners they need to succeed in places very unlike the neighborhoods where they spend 95 percent of their time. Basically, a covert class-mobility agenda. I knew my kids might cause problems, but when it comes to doing that hard-ass inspirational routine that people like Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Edward James Olmos do in movies, I’m hopeless, so I told them to meet me in the lobby in two hours and not get into trouble. I wandered off to have my usual neurotic museum experience. Occasionally I’d see the kids dart by at a speed not really appropriate for a place that housed fragile, invaluable objects, and I’d think to myself: well, nobody knows that I brought them here.

When we finally met up, they told me they’d spent the two hours playing hide-and-seek. They’d almost gotten kicked out twice. I asked them if they’d looked at any art, and they muttered something noncommittal about sculptures that were mad old. If this trip was designed to encourage well-mannered behavior, it was obviously a failure. Ironically, though, the kids exemplified exactly the attitude that some intellectuals in our generation wouldn’t mind achieving: they were cavalier and bold; they were not intimidated by anything they saw; they didn’t wistfully propose playing hide-and-seek—they actually did it.

The desire to edify these kids by bringing them to the Met is obviously predicated upon dangerous assumptions about the superiority of one subculture over another, and yet I couldn’t help but wish that they had acquired a few of the hang-ups that made me, when I was around their age, stand solemnly in front of paintings, hoping to have a profound aesthetic response. At least then they would have looked at some art. But then why assume that they hadn’t? It’s possible that for a moment, while hiding from whoever was “it,” they had stared at a sculpture and noticed a surprising pattern, a mood that echoed their own, and appreciated it, not because they’d wanted to seem smart, just because they’d happened to be standing in front of it. I don’t know. If they had, they certainly wouldn’t have told me about it.

Likewise, it would be nice to think that the function of Pipilotti Rist’s Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters), the MoMA installation with the carpet and video screens, is to decouple reverence from pretension. But it may do exactly the inverse: it may reinforce the role that youthful irreverence continues to play, at least for some of us, as a defensive default pretense. In any case, everyone there struck me as too unbearably placid, comfortable, and friendly. I wanted to say, “This is not right! Don’t you realize that museums are supposed to make you feel miserable and insecure?” Instead I put on the blank face that I usually wear in museums and, wanting to get as much out of MoMA’s free evening as possible, went to go look at the other exhibits. Maybe learn something.

© 2011 Paper Monument


"Buyers Wonder, Will Art Appreciate Over Time?" by Souren Melikian, The New York Times.

Published: February 24, 2011.

NEW YORK — The feverish debate goes on about contemporary art, causing considerable angst among its many new fans. How safe a haven is it for those in search of tangible assets for their liquidities?

Some conscientiously do their homework. Scrutinizing price lists and comparing them with the catalog reproductions of major auctions, they try to sound out the hearts and minds of recent buyers. The task was as delicate in the New York autumn sales as in London earlier this month.

Take the contemporary evening session at Sotheby’s New York on Nov. 9. That day the masterpiece, or so you were led to infer from its reproduction on the catalog cover, was a simplified image of a Coca-Cola bottle painted in black on white. The title, “Coca-Cola [4] (Large Coca-Cola),” gave a discreet hint that this really was art, not just any old Coca-Cola bottle.

If some briefly wondered whether the picture might be a poster, to which it bore an uncanny resemblance, Andy Warhol’s signature and a date, 1962, indicated otherwise. And if they were still unsure that this was a work of art, potential buyers needed only to glance at the long list of museum exhibitions in which the Coca-Cola bottle image had appeared.

The bottle picture was obviously serious stuff and sold accordingly. It brought $35.36 million, roughly 80 percent more than what Sotheby’s experts hoped for in the best of cases.

Moments later, another image signed by Roy Lichtenstein in the same year came up. To outsiders who are not into contemporary art, “Ice Cream Soda” is just another picture in the poster-style category. A tumbler with frothy ice cream spilling over is painted in blue and white in the same simplified manner.

Here too, a long list of museum exhibitions vouched for its artistic character. Yet, intriguingly enough, the Lichtenstein did not cause the same excitement. It sold for $14.08 million after only two bidders chimed in. The contrast neatly summed up the difficulty of anticipating the performance of contemporary art.

The day after, in Christie’s larger and highly successful evening sale, which netted $272 million, against $222 million at Sotheby’s, the roles of the two Pop artists were reversed. Warhol’s “Big Campbell’s Soup Can Opener (Vegetable)” painted in casein and graphite on linen, also in 1962, fetched $24 million, presumably disappointing the consignor and Christie’s, whose experts expected bidding to go perhaps as high as $50 million. But Lichtenstein triumphed with “Ohhh ... Alright,” a large close-up picture of a woman’s face painted in 1964. It rose to a world record $46.64 million.

Worryingly for investors, the difficulty of analyzing the criteria of success extends to the whole span of contemporary art. One reason is that it is often impossible to define the style of the artist. Consider Jeff Koons.

In November, Sotheby’s had chosen to represent the 56-year-old artist’s oeuvre with two vacuum cleaners neatly encased in transparent Plexiglas, one stacked above the other. A title, “New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon, New Shelton Wet/Dry 5 Gallon, Double Decker,” warned you that this was a work of art, not just household implements. He supplied a certificate of authenticity duly signed, because it was essential to differentiate the “New Shelton Wets” selected by him from ordinary New Shelton Wets available in shops. Apparently the artist mulled over this delicate piece of work for years, judging from the catalog, which says that it was “executed in 1981-1987.” Although reassured about the artistic validity of the encased vacuum-cleaners, bidders were moderately enthusiastic. They matched only the lower end of the estimate with a trifling $3.44 million.

On Nov. 10 at Christie’s, they again refused to pay much more than the low estimate for two Koonses. “Balloon Flower (Blue),” a monumental cluster of high chromium stainless steel balloons painted a translucent blue, made $16.88 million. Did the fact that the enormous balloons are an interpretation rather than standard household implements account for the lack of enthusiasm? This delicate matter must be left to the judgment of qualified Koonsologists.

Later in Christie’s sale another Koons, “Hulk Elvis III,” painted in 2007, brought $2.43 million, slightly more than the low estimate. This picture does not relate in any way to the vacuum cleaners, nor to the balloons. And if the last two have anything in common, it is only a negative characteristic: neither was made by the artist using his hands.

The lack of stylistic unity in Jeff Koons’s work makes it difficult to explain in clear language the considerations that led the experts to submit their estimates or indeed the bidders to sign their checks.

That difficulty extends to much of contemporary art. The day has yet to arrive when someone comes up with a clear definition of just what contemporary art is. Even chronology fails to provide a guideline. Works by long dead artists are sold under the “contemporary art” banner. At Sotheby’s in November, 36 of 55 lots were credited to defunct artists, and at Christie’s 52 out of 76. Arshile Gorky died in 1948, Mark Rothko in 1970, Andy Warhol in 1987, Roy Lichtenstein and Willem de Kooning in 1997, to mention but a few among the most famous and expensive.

The nature of the artistic act does not help, either. It can range from painting or sculpturing to commissioning manufactured items like the sets of boxlike aluminum and plexiglass units to which Donald Judd gave no title. At Sotheby’s one of these sold for $942,500, about 5,000 times the cost of manufacturing. Other artists resort to the simpler trick of buying goods from hardware stores, like Dan Flavin with his fluorescent tubes.

Even within groups that lend themselves to some broad categorization — abstract compositions, figural paintings — the absence of shared aesthetics is glaring. Rothko’s “Untitled” superposed blocks of color, sold at Sotheby’s Nov. 9 session for $22.48 million, just under the low estimate, shares no common ground with Gorky’s “Housatonic,” a large drawing of seething, swinging shapes in ink and colored crayons that went minutes later for $3.66 million, almost triple the high estimate.

In figural art, differences are extreme. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Riddle Me This, Batman,” which was painted in 1987 in his naughty schoolboy’s cartoon manner and brought $6.24 million at Sotheby’s, does not belong in the same world as the record $42.64 million Lichtenstein seen at Christie’s. Nor does the latter relate in any fashion to Francis Bacon’s “Figure in Movement,” which cost $14.1 million at Sotheby’s.

But while the works dubbed contemporary are as disparate in visual terms as they vary in their material execution, they can be said to reflect the same cultural reality: one way or another, they proceed from a violent reaction against the century-old tradition of Western art as it developed until World War I. Whether spoofy figuration from Pop Art to Basquiat, minimalist abstraction from Rothko to Agnes Martin, or the art of the inept à la Jeff Koons and the manufactured units à la Donald Judd, all represent a form of rejectionism that goes back to the pronouncements of Marcel Duchamp, who promoted the art of the absurd in the early 20th century. The French intellectual, contemptuous of the establishment, wanted to bury the ancient culture of Europe. He is the godfather of the artistic nihilism that much of the contemporary art promoted on the auction scene represents.

If there is one thing that cannot be guaranteed to be financially rock solid, this is an art based on negation. The most exposed aspects of contemporary rejectionism are the most rudimentary. The shelf life of Jeff Koons’s jocular objects, Donald Judd’s manufactured elements or Jean-Michel Basquiat’s cartoons is unlikely to be the longest. The day one of the pundits discovers that the king has no clothes on, all the glib talk of marketing teams telling investors how savvy they are will not prevent tens of millions of dollars from melting like butter in the sun.

For the moment, contemporary art is on a roll. The London evening sales at Sotheby’s and Christie’s on Feb. 15 and 16 were thin but hugely successful. At the Sotheby’s sale, which took in £44.36 million, or $71.05 million, works by artists from a younger generation, which opened the proceedings, were enthusiastically chased regardless of style, meaning or medium. Ai Weiwei’s heap of porcelain pebbles dubbed “Sunflower Seeds” brought £359,350, two and a half times the high estimate, and Takashi Murakami’s “Skulls Rock,” a painting in a manner inspired by children’s comics, also exceeded all hopes at £493,250.

Long-established artists commanded gigantic prices. A remarkable “Abstract Picture” by Gerhard Richter, which doubled the high estimate at £7.2 million, ended up in the hands of a Chinese couple. They outbid an agent acting for the New York dealer Larry Gagosian. For the first time on the international scene, China beat America in what had been almost an exclusive Western preserve until a decade ago.

At Christie’s a day later, the slightly larger £61.38 million sale repeated Sotheby’s performance on an even more enthusiastic note. A world record price was paid for a 1962 portrait by Martial Raysse in a simplified poster-like style. At £4.07 million, it also became the most expensive work by a living French artist.

The competition triggered by a 1967 self-portrait by Andy Warhol sent it flying to £10.79 million, almost double the high estimate.

Pictures painted decades ago by artists who are no longer alive still fetch the highest prices by far. Consecrated by the passage of time, their work inspires greater financial confidence. Even multimillionaires seek some form of reassurance when it comes to contemporary art.

A version of this article appeared in print on February 25, 2011, in The International Herald Tribune.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"Another Stop on a Long, Improbable Journey" by Edward Rothstein, The New York Times.

Published: February 20, 2011.

PHILADELPHIA — There are times, at the Penn Museum here, when you are almost hesitant to breathe. And it has nothing to do with the recent flurry of events in which Chinese officials suddenly forbid the display of the remarkable objects in the exhibition “Secrets of the Silk Road,” ultimately relenting and allowing them to be shown for just a short time. These doings (about which more later) are scarcely blinks in the history of these objects.

Most of these astonishing artifacts should have ceased to exist long ago. Exposed to breath and light, you can imagine them disintegrating into powdery mist: silk pillows and robes, thin brocades of cloth with floral patterns and rich colors, woven baskets, felt hats, a braided fried dough twist, feathers from caps and arrows. Ephemera, surely: these are not lasting things of stone, bone and gold, and the newest are at least 1,000 years old.

And speaking of ephemera, what of the bundled infant, whose light-brown hair can be seen peeking out of a blue cashmere cap? It is wrapped in a wool cloth tied with thick cords of red and blue. Two rectangular blue stones rest over its eyes, and at its side is a prehistoric nursing bottle made from a goat’s bladder. The baby’s age? Less than 10 months, or, reckoning from its death, 28 centuries.

In another part of this 6,000-square-foot exhibition lies the body of a woman wrapped in a wool cloak, her lavish brown hair draped to the side of her face, long lashes still framing her sunken eyes. Her skin, tinged with a white coating is eerily sensuous. That must have been a cold winter: she is still wearing fur-lined leather boots. She is in her early 40s, we are told, though that was at least 3,500 years ago. The Beauty of Xiaohe she’s called, and we forgive the poetic liberty, because in her death, against all the cautionary chastisements of later centuries, even that ephemeral aesthetic property remains intact.

These artifacts and bodies have all been uncovered from under the inhospitable sands of the Tarim Basin in the far western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, where the seasonal temperatures range from 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit to 104 degrees above. Bodies seem to have been preserved not by design — the way the ancient Egyptians prepared for the afterlife — but accidentally. When buried during the winters, in tightly sealed coffins, many corpses were preserved from the indignities of decay by mineral salts and dry weather. The harshness of that environment is in sharp contrast to the almost genteel delicacy of the objects discovered there in recent decades in ancient cemeteries.

But the extremes may be in keeping with the political environment that led to recent controversies. The two mummies (on view until March 15) and the artifacts on loan from China (on view until March 28), are part of an exhibition organized by the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif., that opened there a year ago; it also traveled to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Victor Mair, a leading scholar of these artifacts and a professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, is editor of the informative exhibition catalog and has served as a consultant, shaping the show for the Penn Museum (formally known as the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology).

This, the show’s final stop, was to last from Feb. 5 through June 5. Special timed tickets were sold, events and lectures planned. The exhibition was expected to elevate the income and stature of this already distinguished museum.

Just days before the opening, though, the Chinese government announced that no objects could be shown at all, even though they had already been displayed in Santa Ana and Houston. No explanations were offered, and no museum official would comment. Photographs were substituted for the missing items and admission prices eliminated. One museum spokesman attributed the problem to a “miscommunication” and would not elaborate. Then, last week, negotiations led to the abbreviated schedule.

Look around and you can begin to see why these artifacts might have more than a purely anthropological or aesthetic importance. It would be foolhardy to think that they reflect a single culture. The Tarim Basin is a sixth the size of China and nearly the size of Western Europe; artifacts here range over thousands of years from multiple sites.

Moreover the exhibition’s title is too narrow. The Silk Road, a network of trading routes that crossed the Basin region, was in its prime during the first millennium. These artifacts reach back to the Bronze Age. Sometime between 1800 B.C. and 1500 B.C., the Beauty of Xiahoe was buried. Would she have had any familiarity with the uncannily well-preserved pastries shown here that have a freshness date of sometime in the ninth century? A lot happens in 2,500 years.

In addition the exhibition text points out that even before the height of the Silk Road the basin was a multicultural area. Records of 28 different languages have been found there, including Tocharian, unique to the region. Buddhism was practiced (as several artifacts show); so were Zoroastrianism, Nestorian Christianity and Judaism. Conquests by Islam and by Genghis Khan’s armies led to still other transformations.

One of the most remarkable sets of artifacts are the trappings of a man found at Yingpan, dating from the third to the fifth century. His mummy was too fragile to travel, but his clothes are arrayed in a coffinlike space and reflected in a tilted mirror. He was 6 feet 6 inches tall and buried with a Roman glass bowl that might have come from Syria. The pillow he rests on, we are told, shows the influence of Han Chinese culture, but his elaborately decorated clothes include images from Greek and Roman mythology. The hypothesis is that he was a Sogdian trader from the eastern region of Iran. His features do not have any affinity to those of Eastern Asia.

This is the crux of the matter, for most bodies found in this region have what are called Caucasoid features. And though many objects here are clearly associated with later Chinese traditions — like the delicate figurines of women making pottery (from the seventh to ninth centuries) — others come from cultural worlds that can still not be clearly identified.

A felt hat from the fifth to third centuries B.C. could easily be imagined atop the head of a Tarim leprechaun. (The exhibition notes that some textile patterns seem related to Celtic styles.)

The Beauty of Xiaohe mummy not only has features that seem alien to the region, but she was also buried in a style that has little connection with local traditions of later millenniums. The wooden coffins in her cemetery are shaped like overturned boats and sealed with clay and mud; women seem to have been buried with icons representing the phallus, men with icons of the vulva. (That cemetery is near a dried up riverbed, which may help account for the boatlike coffins and the ready use of wood in burial artifacts.)

As Mr. Mair points out, the basin, because of its geographic isolation and brutal climate, was one of the last areas on the planet settled by humans. It also proved, he says in the catalog, to be an “unparalleled storehouse of genetic, anthropological and cultural material of peoples who entered it from all directions at different times during the last four millenniums.” Recent genetic research on DNA samples also suggests that there was far more migration of populations than was once thought in the era before the Silk Road.

The problem is that right now this is the worst possible news, given the political climate. There are hints in the catalog of problems Western scholars have confronted: incomplete skeletal remains, unreleased photographs, difficulty in conducting genetic analysis. The unexpected appearance of non-Chinese-seeming cultures and bodies in this region is being treated a bit like the way some American Indian tribes treated the 1996 discovery of Kennewick Man in Washington State, his prehistoric remains showing Caucasoid or Asian features; the tribes asserted ownership over the remains and wanted to prevent scientific analysis.

In this case the issues have ramifications in territorial claims on this oil-rich region. One museum in Xinjiang insists that the territory “has been an inalienable part of the territory of China.” But in 1993 the Chinese government was concerned enough to prevent Mr. Mair from leaving China with 52 tissue samples after having authorized him to go to Xinjiang and collect them. And the region’s Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, have hailed the discovery of these non-East Asian mummies as proof of their own historical claims. There is a separatist movement of Uighurs; there are also Chinese attempts to rein in Islam in the region.

But the DNA and cultural analysis support neither opposing claim. (Nor would it matter if they did.) In a helpful essay in the current issue of the Penn Museum’s magazine Mr. Mair points out that xinjiang means “new borders.” That’s what were established in the region when it was conquered by the Chinese in the 19th century and what were created again, when, after an era of independence, Chinese control was reasserted in the 20th century, turning it into an “autonomous region.”

In the catalog Lothar von Falkenhausen, an art historian at the University of California at Los Angeles, suggests, “The present exhibition, for reasons connected with the historical situation of Xinjiang today, particularly emphasizes the Chinese cultural impact on the ‘Western Regions.’ ” Maybe Mr. Mair’s particular emphasis on cosmopolitan themes made the Chinese particularly nervous, but other visitors, can only react with something like awe at how much there is still to learn from what is buried in the sands, and what an enduring impact ephemera can have.

The artifacts are on view through March 28 at the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street, Philadelphia; (215) 898-4000,

A version of this review appeared in print on February 21, 2011, on page C7 of the National edition.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


"Here we go again with the Iowa Jackson Pollock sale."

By Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, February 11, 2011.

Iowa Republicans have apparently spent too much time watching "Antiques Roadshow." A few years ago, they discovered there was an heirloom in the attic that they didn't know was worth a pile of money, and since then all they can think of is, "Let's sell it!"

For the second time, Republicans in the Iowa House have introduced a bill to force the University of Iowa to sell its irreplaceable Jackson Pollock masterpiece, "Mural" (1943), this time to use the revenue for scholarship assistance. In 2008, there was a clamor to sell the painting -- part of the university’s 12,000-piece collection -- in order to offset costs of $743 million in severe flood damage that had destroyed part of the school.

House Study Bill 84 was introduced Wednesday by state Rep. Scott Raecker (R-Urbandale), who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

The painting, a pivotal work in Pollock's storied career and a 1951 gift to the university from collector Peggy Guggenheim, is estimated to be worth $140 million. Since the floods, the Pollock and other works from the university's collection have been on loan to the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, while the school repairs its own severely flood-damaged museum building.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the sell-the-Pollock bill's backers that had the Legislature forced the painting's sale to fix one problem in 2008, they wouldn't still have it around to fix another problem in 2011. That's a basic reason that museums have strict rules against regarding art in their collections as fungible assets that can be sold off to pay unrelated bills.
Once the Pollock was gone, someone would tell the Legislature that the university's great Max Beckmann painting was also worth a lot of cash. And how about that Ad Reinhardt? And -- well, you get the idea. Eventually, the university museum's collection would only include the stuff without a robust market.

To remind the pols in Des Moines what's at stake, the nation's two most prominent museum-professional associations got together Friday to holler through a joint megaphone: Stop!

Short but sweet, the statement the says:

The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the American Association of Museums (AAM) are alarmed to learn of the recent proposal to sell the Jackson Pollock painting Mural to underwrite costs at The University of Iowa. Such a sale would violate a fundamental ethical principle of the museum field, one which all accredited museums are bound to respect: that an accessioned work of art may not be treated as a disposable financial asset.

University of Iowa President Sally Mason has forcefully spoken out against such an action in the past. We applaud this courageous stand and deplore the treatment of works of art held in trust for the public as a ready source of cash. We offer our support and call on the arts community to help prevent this permanent and irredeemable loss for the University and the people of the state of Iowa.

Whether an ethical appeal will resonate with state politicians is anybody's guess.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reported that, last fall, state Sen. David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan) said he would be in favor of selling the Pollock painting, which he described as "a fraud." (Honest.) This week, the paper reported that "State Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said he has spoken to Democratic Senate leaders, who control the chamber, and they said the Senate would oppose the bill if it passes the Republican-led House."

© 2001 Los Angeles Times


"Copy Cats" - Where does modern art end and plagiarism begin?

By Jed Perl, New Republic, February 2, 2011.

I thought I had made my peace with the death of originality. Personally, I do not believe that originality has died, but I recognize that the obituaries cannot exactly be ignored. I keep abreast of whatever is being said about the death-of-originality movement’s dead white males, Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. And I try to see as much as I can of the work of practitioners who, paradoxically, are alive and kicking, beginning with Jeff Koons and Richard Prince. Mostly, I don’t comment on this stuff, figuring that as a critic who still believes in originality I am under no obligation to chronicle its demise. But a comment is in order now, because the very people who brought us the death of originality are increasingly preoccupied with the defense of their own originality. Nobody has said it better than the art historian Rainer Crone, who worked closely with Warhol from 1968 onward, and recently wrote that Warhol’s unique contribution to contemporary art was “the rejection of authorship as an essential feature of authenticity and originality.” I guess that means that the death of originality is a new form of originality.                      

Such circular reasoning explains why Jeff Koons, the creator of sculptures based on the image of a balloon dog, recently sent a cease-and-desist letter to a company selling bookends that represent a balloon dog and to the manufacturer of said dogs. It is doubtful Koons could win this one in court. We have all watched at a street fair as somebody twists long balloons into dogs or other animals. So what can Koons say is really his? The man has made his reputation as an appropriator—as an artist who borrows images and styles and ideas more or less wholesale from other more or less creative spirits. He himself has been sued for copyright violation four times, which may help to explain his eagerness to establish some legal precedent for appropriation as a form of creation. It is easy to make fun of Koons. But to the collectors, dealers, curators, critics, and historians who have invested time and in many cases considerable sums of money in his work and that of Warhol and other appropriators, the originality of the death of originality cannot be taken lightly. I think there is some concern that the artists will not finally escape what Sir Joshua Reynolds, in speaking about artists’ appropriations from other artists to the students at the Royal Academy in 1774, referred to as “the servility of plagiarism.”

Warhol’s silkscreen technique, which allowed for the repetition of the same image over and over again, could be said to be a send-up of plagiarism. Rainer Crone made his statement about the rejection of authorship as a form of authenticity in a letter to The New York Review of Books, commenting on the refusal of the Andy Warhol Foundation to authenticate a silkscreen self-portrait that Warhol instructed somebody else to make. Warhol had signed the painting and authorized its inclusion in his first catalogue raisonné, where it was even reproduced on the cover. I am not sure that anybody has actually said that this silkscreen is in fact a plagiary, but the Foundation will not say that it is real, either. Crone thinks the disputed Warhol should be authenticated, along with nine others done at the same time. In addition to everything else, he sees this silkscreen self-portrait as a stellar example of the originality of Warhol’s decision to allow other people to produce original Warhols. And to do it, moreover, when Warhol wasn’t even present; the artist spoke to the fabricator on the phone, to specify the red that he wanted. As for the Warhol Foundation, I assume they also regard the rejection of authorship as a form of originality, but want to make a distinction between some anti-original originals and other anti-original originals. Will the real rip-off artist please stand up?

I do understand the arguments. A snow shovel or a urinal exhibited by Duchamp in a gallery, a silkscreen reproduction made by Warhol of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa or Last Supper, and a balloon dog that Koons has cast in shiny metal and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will strike us as different from the snow shovel in one’s garage, the urinal in the men’s room, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, The Last Supper in Milan, and a balloon dog at a street fair. But different in what way? And different to what purpose? These are the issues that really need to be addressed. And here is where matters become increasingly murky, because many people are all too eager to see Duchamp’s readymade and Koons’s appropriation as just the latest twist in a tradition of copying, quoting, borrowing, replicating, and forging that goes back to the Ancient Greeks, if not earlier. In 1978, when the Whitney Museum mounted a show called “Art About Art,” the art historian Leo Steinberg—author of penetrating studies of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Picasso—provided an introduction in which he did not exactly foreclose the possibility that the history of art might be viewed as a proto-Duchampian goof, a goof underscored by his insistence on giving the subsections in his essay funny headings like “The Stainless Steal” and “The Cover-Up.” Warhol crops up in the first chapter of an erudite new art historical study, Forgery Replica Fiction: Temporalities of German Renaissance Art, by Christopher S. Wood (University of Chicago Press). Wood appears to concur with Crone’s view of the originality of anti-originality, observing that “to represent the copy is to reassert the distinction between copy and original.” Wood believes the obsession with originality that dominated the Renaissance eradicated an entirely different kind of thinking, a time when “copying was the normal way to make new things.” By focusing on what he maintains is an earlier mode of thinking, I cannot help but feel that Wood is presenting a backstory tailored to support, albeit in some opposites attract way, Duchamp, Warhol, and Koons. When Steinberg and Wood argue that borrowing, appropriating, copying, and even stealing are at the very crux of the Western tradition, they must be aware that whatever the scholarly import of their work, they are simultaneously readying their readers for the readymade.

Jeff Koons, when accused of copyright infringement, tends to settle out of court. One has the impression that he prefers writing a check to actually discovering what a judge or a jury might have to say. But in his heart of hearts Koons probably feels that if Poussin became Poussin by stealing from Titian and Raphael, why on earth is he being bothered by questions of copyright and fair use? With the balloon dog case, he has decided to go on the offensive. Crone’s argument that “the rejection of authorship” can be “an essential feature of authenticity and originality,” although absurd to some, is not so easily refuted. One can, if so inclined, certainly find support for this view in the history of Western art. Don’t the gorgeously impersonal, porcelain-like surfaces of Ingres’s greatest portraits suggest a rejection of authorship? And can’t we see an act of appropriation in Titian’s wholesale incorporation, in his late Pietà, of Michelangelo’s Pietà? Those who are appalled by the very thought of comparing Titian and Warhol will argue that Titian’s embrace of Michelangelo involved a deeply felt salute from one master to another. But some will say that is precisely what Warhol was doing when, toward the end of his life, he appropriated Leonardo’s Last Supper.

I believe people who see appropriation as an expression of susceptibility are kidding themselves. And susceptibility, the sense of emotional connectedness, is what influence is all about as it unfolds in Western art, in the work of Michelangelo, Poussin, Delacroix, Cézanne, Picasso, and countless others. The chill of appropriation, with its emphasis on impersonality and anonymity, suggests not the great tradition but the academic tradition, a calculation about the past rather than an engagement with the past. Andy Warhol, for all that his admirers may want to portray him as a trickster, was more like the worst kind of academic artist, for whom copying is not the starting point but the defining point. No wonder some words from Sir Joshua Reynolds, that wisest of academicians, can almost sound like a critique addressed to Warhol. “He should enter into a competition with his original, and endeavour to improve what he is appropriating to his own work. Such imitation is so far from having any thing in it of the servility of plagiarism, that it is a perpetual exercise of the mind, a continual invention.” Some would say that is precisely what Warhol did when he transformed Campbell’s Soup cans and old master paintings into silkscreened originals. As far as I’m concerned, Duchamp, Warhol, and Koons never escape “the servility of plagiarism.” Is it any wonder that Koons is panicked about being plagiarized? It takes one to know one.

Jed Perl is art critic for The New Republic.

© 2011 New Republic


"Wikipedia is the non-fiction writer's best friend." - One of the finest products of public spirit, I for one could not work without it.

By Peter Gill, The Guardian (UK), Monday 17 January 2011.

I'm in the kitchen, peeling parsnips and thinking about where a blogpost about how the internet is helping writers in their research might wittily commence. A small cubby-hole above my head is stashed with articles and cuttings deemed keepers, and one (I'm thinking) is an assemblage of bon mots from authors on how to write fiction, carefully saved one Saturday from the Guardian. Therein lay a fun one from Zadie Smith about the internet. To my left is the internet. Despite the extreme proximity of the paper copy, my fastest option, I'm quite sure, is to eschew riffling through a stack of already-fading cuttings in favour of some Googling at the kitchen table. Putting parsnips on hold, my fingers touch characters and our Zadie Smith quote is there: "Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet." Perfect.

For non-fiction writing, the opposite is close to becoming true. I have just finished concocting my first book: a lightly-tossed gallimaufry about life, the universe and everything ("write about what you know") centrally themed on Douglas Adams's famous and much-loved 42. Writing a book about a number? One number? "Can't be done Peter," was the ever-helpful consensus down The Coach and Horses. So being "differently interesting" on each page was my challenge for six months – but without the internet, Wikipedia and Google I wouldn't have even tried to begin (so much so that I have committed myself to donating to Wikipedia a small tithe from my royalties for each book bought in the UK. Perhaps rashly, I considered the Google guys to be doing OK for money.)

I am a Wikifan. If ever forced by some callous radio presenter to choose between Google or Wikipedia my unhesitating choice of desert island website would be Wikipedia. When I was seven or eight, the first book I truly loved was an encyclopedia. Newnes Pictorial Knowledge came as a set of heavy red volumes bearing the numbers one to 10 in gold on the spines and defined for me the smell of both books and knowledge. I read them all, then re-read them. Later on, seven of them were just the right height to substitute for a broken bed leg, and I became adept at lifting up the bed with my shoulder while swapping volumes. But sometimes things I wanted to know just weren't there. Even a 10-volume encyclopedia, I learned, was finite, so you had to look elsewhere or go without. Wikipedia now has on the way to 4m articles in English. This we can liken to a 1,600-volume printed encyclopedia, which turns to any page immediately, and effortlessly opens for you related pages and external sources on the thinnest belief that they may hold the nugget that will fulfil your informational needs as a writer. And you can still deal with the parsnips.

I should introduce a note of caution about notes of caution - specifically, about a phenomenon I've seen in opinion pieces about Wikipedia: the questioning of the website's reliability. Perhaps because it's free, and we don't believe anything good can be, we generally accept the idea that Wikipedia is riven with flaky and hoax information, somehow a risky place to be relying on for your research. Guess what? Without irony, these articles invariably lack supporting data on this point. In the last few months I've read thousands of pages, followed many citation links, and externally cross-checked many facts. I believe errors in Wikipedia are really rather rare.

The 10th anniversary of Douglas Adams's death is 11 May 2011. He died just a few months after the birth of Wikipedia. Initially a self-confessed technophobe, he became an ardent convert to computers and the internet and was closely involved in a collaborative online encyclopedia in the two years before his death. It was called H2G2, perhaps not wholly scrutably after The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams was made, of course, User 42. Unlike its American cousin, the H2G2 project fell short of achieving critical mass (it still exists under the aegis of the BBC). But the idea was, still is, a truly great one. Wikimedians – the volunteers around the world responsible for writing, marshalling and editing the content of Wikipedia – are doing us (the millions who use Wikipedia every day) the most amazing favour. Ever more comprehensive and authoritative, their efforts are building the world's greatest systematised repository of human knowledge. While mostly unsung and unseen, the Wikimedians do actually surface on a regular basis. In London, I discovered, their next meeting is scheduled for the week following my book's publication which will, naturally, be on … 4/2. The title of the next meeting? London Wikimedia Meetup Number 42. I smiled. I like to think Douglas Adams might have too.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited


"Frank Gehry's new building looks like five scrunched-up brown bags." by Germaine Greer, The Guardian (UK), Sunday 9 January 2011.

On 17 December, when Frank Gehry unveiled the model of the building he has designed for the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), the vice-chancellor, Ross Milbourne, told the press: "We've got the Opera House, and it's hard to say we are going to beat that, but from what I've seen we'll have an equally outstanding icon at this end of Sydney." Gehry broke in: "We don't want to beat that." Too late. The entire Australian media announced his building as a rival for the opera house.

The Sydney Opera House may be one of the best known structures in the world, but it is also a worse building than anything Gehry would want to put his name to. The original design by Danish architect Jørn Utzon was rejected by the Australian judges in 1956, only to be reinstated. By the time the opera house opened in 1973, it was more than 10 times over budget. Utzon struggled to protect his vision of a building made of sails until 1966, when he was obliged to close his Sydney office and return to Denmark, because the New South Wales state government would not meet his fees. Government architects took over the project.

In the 60s, there was no way of making Utzon's paper nautilus volutes. The roof shells were eventually realised in clunky ceramic tiles. The interior makes a nonsense of the black-opal seascape outside, and the auditoria don't work. The tinkering goes on. In 1999, Utzon re-designed the reception hall. He died in 2008, without ever having returned to Australia to see the finished building. Gehry has got to believe that UTS will be better clients in the 2010s than the various NSW governments were in the 1950s and 60s.

Utzon had spectacular Bennelong Point as his site; his white building would be visible against the ultramarine waters of the harbour from all points of the compass, not least from the giant span of Sydney harbour bridge. Gehry will have to make do with a car park on the corner of Ultimo Road and Omnibus Lane. This inner suburban area is one of narrow streets and mean houses interspersed with utilitarian structures of overbearing dreariness. When the project was first announced, Gehry was asked if he liked the site. He answered: "I like the problem." The most exciting aspect of his new building is its contribution to the raised pedestrian network suspended over the congested roadways around it, which predates Gehry's concept by 10 years. Gehry's bigger buildings are usually visible from high-speed traffic arteries; people wanting to understand the volumes of this one might have to travel past it on Sydney's despised monorail.

It makes small odds that the Australian press has already dubbed Gehry's building the "brown bag". When young Australian architects describe themselves as embarrassed by its "dowdy proportions", attention should be paid. UTS is already responsible for the most brutal buildings in Ultimo; it might now be making a mistake of a different kind. Imagine five brown paper bags with 15 windows cut in each side, scrunched up and then unscrunched and stacked together, and you've pretty much got it. The concept is so Frank Gehry that it could almost be self-parody, and that's before you realise that the pierced, flared and rolled east facade is clad in brick, in pretended hommage to "the dignity of Sydney's urban brick heritage". The earliest housing in Ultimo was built of sandstone, a material in which the achievement of flares and frills is relatively easy. When Gehry claims that in draping rectangular solids he is simply following the example of Michelangelo, he must know he is talking nonsense. He calls the building a tree house apparently because it has a core of public spaces from which more secluded spaces branch off. It looks more like an abandoned termites' nest.

Milbourne was inspired to approach Gehry by the Ray and Maria Stata Centre he designed for MIT, completed in 2004. In 2007 MIT brought a lawsuit against the Gehry partnership, claiming serious defects in design and execution. The matter has now been settled out of court. Gehry says that initial problems are only to be expected with complex and innovative construction. The western elevation of Gehry's UTS building is to be walled off by huge rectangular sheets of glass, which are expected to mirror fractured sections of the surrounding cityscape. With so much glass trapping the blinding Australian afternoon sun, and so much dazzle, the UTS building is likely to have costly problems of its own.

Gehry is building in Sydney because Australia is one of the very few countries in the world that is not experiencing a recession. UTS has an enviable billion dollars to spend on its 10-year programme of renewal; the new building will cost something in the region of A$150m (£96.5m). The Gehry partnership has the logistical expertise to get the building up on schedule and within budget. History will not be repeated.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited


"Marshall McLuhan: Media Savant." by David Carr, The New York Times.

Published: January 6, 2011.

Oh boy, yet another book about yet another modern thinker who suggests that “electronic inter­dependence” is the defining aspect of our time. All very ho-hum, except Marshall McLuhan, the subject of this book, figured it out 50 years before anybody ever updated his Facebook page or posted his whereabouts on Twitter.

“Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!” is an odd title for a weird book. Not weird bad, just weird in a way that makes you stop and think about what precisely the author, Douglas Coupland, is up to. Like the man it chronicles, Coupland’s book is full of unconventional angles, ricochets and resonances. Rather than offering a ­doorstop-size addition to the Great Man canon, it comes in at just over 200 pages that nonetheless sprawl and unfold to their own idiosyncratic rhythm.

This is the kind of book that will deliver major annoyance to academics who have made a career out of deconstructing McLuhan’s effort to define the modern media ecosystem. But to a reader interested in a little serious fun, a dip into someone we pretend to understand but don’t really know, “You Know Nothing of My Work!” is a welcome taunt. The book rewards by refusing to slip into the numbing vortex of academic discourse, taking a fizzy, pop-culture approach to explaining a deep thinker, one who ended up popularized almost in spite of himself.

The book will come in handy for those of us who parrot the phrase “The medium is the message” — the line that bore Mc­Luhan into public consciousness — without really understanding that the man who said it found the triumph of context over content to be profoundly depressing. Yes, we all know that McLuhan was a rock star, standing alongside Warhol and Leary in the ’60s pantheon (Time magazine ran a cover of him with the tag line “Canada’s Intellectual Comet”), but what in blazes was he talking about?

Coupland explains that it was Mc­Luhan’s ability to anticipate the homogenizing and dehumanizing effect of mass media when the phenomenon was in its infancy that made him remarkable. Both a prisoner and a product of academic life, McLuhan broke out because he recognized the toxic effects of media long before media became the air we all breathe. And he did it before there was any genuine understanding of how human beings process mediated information. As Coupland writes: “One must remember that Marshall arrived at these conclusions not by hanging around, say, NASA or I.B.M., but rather by studying arcane 16th-century Reformation pamphleteers, the writings of James Joyce, and Renaissance perspective drawings. He was a master of pattern recognition, the man who bangs a drum so large that it’s only beaten once every hundred years.”

Put less charitably, McLuhan was the clock that was spectacularly right once a century. What made him singular was not his precision — anybody who takes “Finnegans Wake” as an ur-text will probably have a low signal-to-noise ratio. In between the puns, the aphorisms, the digressive language that seemed to chase itself and riddle the reader, McLuhan came up with a theory of media generation and consumption so plastic and fungible that it describes the current age without breaking a sweat.

Coupland, who has written at length on and for the Internet, does not belabor just how McLuhan predicted a world that he did not live to see — he died in 1980 — but simply frames the language and lets the reader marvel retrospectively. After doing relatively straightforward content analysis of advertising in “The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man” in 1951, McLuhan began thinking about the systems that produced all that commercial rhetoric. And then beginning with “The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man” in 1962 and following up with “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” in 1964, McLuhan saw the dimensions of an emerging global village in which the means of communication began to define and overwhelm the conversation. When he wrote, “We shape our tools and afterwards our tools shape us,” he was describing a television and telecommunications revolution, but he was also setting out the implications of the consumer Web four decades before it blossomed. In the lexicon of McLuhan, the Web would be the ultimate “cool” medium defined by participation and a multiplicity of inputs. And he was far from romantic, even back then, about what that might mean for civil, thoughtful ­discourse.

“When people get close together, they get more and more savage, impatient with each other,” McLuhan said. “The global village is a place of very arduous interfaces and very abrasive situations.” Placing that in a more contemporary milieu, what happens now that everyone is a broadcaster? Ubiquitous, cheap technology (digital cameras) and a friction-free route to an audience (YouTube) means that people might broadcast images of their closeted gay roommate having sex, and that the unwitting star of their little network might subsequently, tragically, jump off a bridge.

In Coupland’s hands, McLuhan’s upbringing is a chatty, gossipy exercise, in which his encounters as a young academic with the thinking and writing of G. K. Chesterton, the English writer and so-called prince of paradox, are no more or less important than the fact that he spent endless hours arguing with (and trying to impress) a perpetually unsatisfied mother who taught elocution in the provinces of Canada. Born Herbert Marshall McLuhan in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1911, he attended the University of Manitoba, receiving a bachelor’s degree before heading off to Cambridge, where he studied under I. A. Richards and F. R. Leavis, and fell under the sway of the New Criticism. He then taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, before beginning a long series of teaching assignments at various Catholic universities, including St. Louis University and Assumption College, and ending up at St. Michael’s, a Catholic college of the University of Toronto. His growing renown eventually led to the establishment of the Center for Culture and Technology there, which would serve as his intellectual base camp.

Coupland argues persuasively that McLuhan thought differently because he was wired differently, with two arteries pumping blood to his brain. (A stroke that left him unable to speak is attributed in some aspects to this biological anomaly.) In what seems to be a bit of a trend, almost a narrative infection in biographies of high-impact eccentrics, McLuhan is also placed on the spectrum of autism, although given his sensitivity to loud noises, love of ritual, distaste for physical contact and general obliviousness, it is not much of a stretch.

McLuhan was a mash-up of remarkable incongruities: He loathed television, yet stared at it long enough to discern its ability to generate mass culture. He was more interested in Dagwood Bumstead and his deleterious effects on the modern American male than he was in the Second World War, even though he moved to England to study at Cambridge the day war was declared. He loved teaching but was oblique in the extreme and had little use for the thoughts of others unless they were written down at length and subjected to rigorous analysis. He was a paranoid scold who not only believed in hell with the fervor of a Catholic convert, but felt the world was quickly headed toward that fiery portal.

Coupland has no pretension to having written the definitive biography of Mc­Luhan. “You Know Nothing of My Work!” is a sketch of someone who coined a meme — “the global village” — rendered by another who did some coining of his own: Coupland wrote “Generation X.” The biography’s subtitle is a nod to just how misunderstood McLuhan was (he was frequently dismissed as an evangelist for rather than a chronicler of modern media) and a signal that the book is not about to take itself too seriously; it derives from a snatch of dialogue from a McLuhan cameo in “Annie Hall.”

Coupland, a Canadian who has his own struggles with noise and is something of a polymath (an accomplished designer and artist who is also a novelist, journalist and documentarian), sees himself as a kindred spirit and shares his subject’s taste for finding meaning in marginalia. The main text of the book is interrupted with found scraps from the Web, a test for autism and lists that may or may not illuminate the adjacent pages. I found some of this puzzling, but began to think that puzzling out what was in front of me was part of the conversation Coupland was trying to have with the reader, all through the prism of a biography of a man who loved puns and riddles.

In addition to his role as seer, Mc­Luhan was an undisputed crank, and as both fame and infirmity began to overtake him, he lapsed into parody that suggested he had grown intoxicated with his self-referential prose. For someone thought of as the first modern media savant, he was capable of incredibly archaic, hermetic thinking. In Coupland’s rendering, it was clear that McLuhan thought of women as accessories to men. He never took a side during World War II, and in his later years failed to understand there were revolutions taking place beyond media. In 1967, something of a golden age for black literature and a time of rising black consciousness, he wrote as if he were describing an alien life form: “The Negro is turned on by electricity. The old literacy never turned him on because it rejected and degraded the Negro, but electricity turns him on and accepts him totally as an integral human being.” Where to begin with that one?

Like many of McLuhan’s fanboys, Coupland acknowledges, but then looks past the quirks and wrinkles on the way to placing him in the pantheon, writing: “Had Marshall not been born, there would have been a hole in the world. There would have been a hole in the sky; a hole in heaven.”

Much of what McLuhan wrote and some of what Coupland relates are beyond my ken, but I don’t know about that “hole in heaven” stuff. It’s hyperbole, a passage written in purple, but there is something so good-natured in the telling, so unpretentious in its unalloyed admiration for an incredibly complicated thinker, that the reader will be inclined to let Coupland get away with it. McLuhan may not have approved — his taste in literature tended toward far more punishing tutorials — but no doubt he would have understood. “Art is anything you can get away with,” he wrote.

David Carr, the author of the memoir “The Night of the Gun,” is a culture reporter at The Times and writes the paper’s Media Equation column.

A version of this review appeared in print on January 9, 2011, on page BR1 of the Sunday Book Review.

© 2011 The New York Times Company


From our older issues archives

"Australian art critic Sebastian Smee wins Pulitzer Prize."

AAP April 19, 2011, The Herald Sun.

AN Australian art critic has taken out a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the Boston Globe.

Sebastian Smee, the Globe's visual arts critic, took out the Criticism prize for his "vivid and exuberant writing ... often bringing great works to life with love and appreciation," the judging committee said on Monday.

In 2010, Smee critiqued a range of works including individual paintings by Dutch painter Willem de Kooning and Boston artist Polly Thayer; an exhibit of the works of Spanish painter Luis Melendez; and a show exploring the influence of French impressionist painter Edgar Degas on Pablo Picasso.

"In writing about art, Smee creates verbal art. Readers really see what he sees, feel what he feels," Globe editor Martin Baron said in his nominating letter.

The 38-year-old Australian native started working for the Globe in 2008 after four years as the national art critic for The Australian newspaper.

He was a finalist for a Pulitzer two years ago.

"My reaction is one of just total surprise and, obviously, pleasure," Smee said in an interview with the Globe on Monday.

"I just feel so lucky to be at the Globe. I feel so fortunate the Globe saw fit to employ this guy that no one had heard of from Australia."

Baron described Smee as "incredibly deserving of this honour".

"His criticism is so inviting, so approachable, and so funny, often," Baron told the Globe.

"It's a delight to read. The thing about him is that he has this broad expertise, this deep expertise, but he never really smothers readers in all that he knows.

"To read him is to dine off a tasting menu, with his knowledge and his insights delivered in digestible portions, and by the end you've had quite a feast."

Smee, who lives in Somerville, Boston, is the author of Side by Side: Picasso v Matisse, a book on the relationship between Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

Before he began writing art criticism for The Australian in 2004, Smee worked in London as an art critic for the Daily Telegraph and a contributor to several other British newspapers.

The Pulitzer Board gave awards in 13 out of 14 categories for journalism and in seven categories for the arts on Monday.

But for the first time in the Pulitzers' 94-year history, no award was given in the category of breaking news - the bread-and-butter of daily journalism.

The board named three finalists for the breaking-news award: The Chicago Tribune for coverage of the deaths of two Chicago firefighters; The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald for reporting on the Haiti earthquake; and The Tennessean in Nashville, Tennessee, for coverage of a devastating flood.

"No entry received the necessary majority," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the prizes.

He wouldn't elaborate except to say that the breaking-news award is given for covering local stories - stories in your own backyard, not somewhere else in the world - and it recognises "speed and accuracy of initial coverage".

The Los Angeles Times won the public service prize for revealing that politicians in a small, working-class California city were paying themselves exorbitant salaries.

The Times won a second Pulitzer for feature news photography, and The New York Times was awarded two Pulitzers for international reporting and for commentary.

In other journalism awards, the nonprofit ProPublica won its first outright Pulitzer for national reporting.

Reporters Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein were cited for exposing questionable Wall Street practices that contributed to the economic meltdown. The judges cited their use of digital media to help explain the complex subject.

Last year, ProPublica won the Pulitzer for investigative reporting in collaboration with The New York Times Magazine.

Chicago native Jennifer Egan's novel A Visit From the Goon Squad won the prize for fiction, honoured for its "big-hearted curiosity about cultural change at warp speed".

The Pulitzer prizes recognise excellence in 21 categories of journalism, literature, music, and drama with a $US10,000 ($A9,550) cash prize in 20 categories, while the public service category winner gets a gold medal.

The prizes are handed out by the Pulitzer Prize Board at Columbia University in New York City.

© Herald and Weekly Times


"Globe art critic Smee wins Pulitzer." by Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe / April 19, 2011

Sebastian Smee, art critic of The Boston Globe, yesterday was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

In announcing the award, the Pulitzer board pointed to Smee’s “vivid and exuberant writing about art’’ and his knack for “bringing great works to life with love and appreciation.’’

Other winners of Pulitzer Prizes, which are administered by Columbia University, included composer Zhou Long, who won the Pulitzer in music for “Madame White Snake,’’ premiered by Opera Boston in February 2010 at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

Former Globe reporter Ellen Barry, who is now on the staff of The New York Times, won a Pulitzer (shared with Clifford J. Levy) in the international report ing category for coverage of abuse of power in Russia. New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt also won a Pulitzer in the commentary category.

The Los Angeles Times was the only other newspaper to win two Pulitzers (in the public service and feature photography categories).

Smee, a 38-year-old native of Australia who lives in Somerville, came to the Globe in 2008 after four years as the national art critic for The Australian, a Sydney-based newspaper. He was a finalist for a Pulitzer two years ago.

“Now he’s won the big one,’’ Globe editor Martin Baron remarked before a packed newsroom, which moments earlier had burst into sustained applause at the news. Baron said to Smee: “Thanks for crossing an ocean and a continent to be here with us in Boston.’’

The award represents the third time in the past decade that a Globe critic has been singled out for the prestigious honor. Arts writer and photography critic Mark Feeney won the prize three years ago and then-book critic Gail Caldwell won it in 2001.

“My reaction is one of just total surprise and, obviously, pleasure,’’ Smee said in an interview. “I just feel so lucky to be at the Globe. I feel so fortunate the Globe saw fit to employ this guy that no one had heard of from Australia.’’

In remarks to the newsroom, Smee lauded the newspaper’s editors for holding to “a belief that the arts matter, and that good writing about the arts is going to be an important part of newspapers as they evolve.’’

In an interview, Baron called Smee “incredibly deserving of this honor.’’

“His criticism is so inviting, so approachable, and so funny, often,’’ Baron said. “It’s a delight to read. The thing about him is that he has this broad expertise, this deep expertise, but he never really smothers readers in all that he knows. To read him is to dine off a tasting menu, with his knowledge and his insights delivered in digestible portions, and by the end you’ve had quite a feast.’’

Smee is the author of “Side by Side: Picasso v. Matisse,’’ a book on the relationship between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Before he began writing art criticism for The Australian in 2004, Smee lived for a few years in Britain, where he wrote for The Art Newspaper, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Spectator, The Financial Times, and The Daily Telegraph. He also wrote a regular art column for Prospect magazine.

Smee was joined at the Globe by his wife, Joanne Sadler, a professional violinist and music teacher; their 6-year-old son, Tom; their daughter, Leila, who turned 4 yesterday; and Sadler’s mother, Hilary. (At Smee’s suggestion, the Globe newsroom serenaded Leila with “Happy Birthday.’’)

Smee’s writing is characterized by a disarming blend of erudition, insight, and wit. In addition to reviewing new exhibitions and writing longer features for the Globe, Smee launched a popular series titled “Frame by Frame,’’ in which he turns his focus each time to a single piece in the permanent collections of the area’s museums, seeking to spark appreciation of great art that is, in his words, “hiding in plain sight.’’

One of the prize-winning pieces was a June 8, 2010, column on Cornelia Parker’s “Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson)’’ at the Institute of Contemporary Art, a work in which shards from a burned building are gathered together in midair. “From chaos, she creates order,’’ Smee wrote. “From collapse, she creates effortless ascension. And from confusion (who did it, and how?), she creates transparency (I did it, and you can easily see how).’’

Ten days later, in a review of “Picasso Looks at Degas,’’ an exhibition at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Smee observed:

“Good exhibitions reveal to us things we didn’t already know. This show’s thesis — that Picasso was looking closely at Degas at regular intervals throughout his long career — has never seriously been proposed before. The difficulty, of course, is that Picasso absorbed influences in the same way that Bill Clinton absorbed doughnuts: There was no stopping him. He inhaled them. Who’s counting?’’

Globe publisher Christopher M. Mayer said Smee’s Pulitzer illustrates that the Globe “continues to be a beacon of great journalism.’’

Doug Most, deputy managing editor for features, told Smee that the prize is “a testament to how much you love what you do — and it shows in your writing every day.’’

Arts editor Rebecca Ostriker read excerpts of enthusiastic letters about Smee from readers, including some who said he is the primary reason they subscribe to the Globe.

“Making sense of the art world is what you do so beautifully,’’ she told Smee. “Now the whole world knows what we, and our readers, have known all along.’’

Smee’s award is the 21st Pulitzer the Globe has won, and the sixth in the past decade. In addition to the three awards for criticism, the newspaper won in 2007 for national reporting, in 2005 for explanatory reporting, and in 2003 for public service.

© 2011 Globe Newspaper Company


"Sydney's master of familiarities"

Date: 06/02/2010
Words: 1506
Source: SMH
Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Section: Spectrum
Page: 14

An artist who spurned fame and fortune to produce his nostalgic, iconic work remains at the mercy of his obsessions.

Martin Sharp: Sydney Artist

Museum of Sydney, until March 14

THERE is a double edge to the exhibition title Martin Sharp: Sydney Artist, because Sharp is one of the few Australian artists who enjoys a worldwide reputation. This is no mean feat for a man who says he has barely left his house for the past 40 years. It remains a mystery whether he is happy to be a "Sydney artist" or is somewhat rueful about the title.

The exhibition at the Museum of Sydney is the latest in a line of survey shows that have appeared every decade or so, if only to remind us of Sharp's existence. His most recent exposure was a 2006 show at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery called The Everlasting World of Martin Sharp. Before that he was an integral part of the Yellow House exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW in 1990. His outing before that was at Roslyn Oxley9 in 1987 with a show he called A Progressive Retrospective.

In fact, every exhibition in which Sharp has been involved for the past 20 or 30 years has been a progressive retrospective. Those who have seen the previous shows, not to mention the permanent hang in Sharp's house, will recognise many of the pictures. Perhaps this is appropriate for an artist who deals in nostalgic, iconic images. Don't be distressed if you feel you've seen it all before - Sharp is a master of familiarities, not novelties.

With the current show, Ace Bourke is credited as the exhibition co-ordinator, but can anybody co-ordinate Sharp? The show gives the impression it is largely self-curated - a rambling visual autobiography on shocking blue walls that takes us from the artist's school days at Cranbrook, through the swinging '60s in Sydney and London and finally back to the seclusion of the family home in Bellevue Hill, where all Sharp's fondest obsessions have been incubated.

Sharp first came to attention in the '60s through his brilliant satirical drawings for Oz magazine in Sydney and London. His distinctive blend of graphic art and collage, often described as "psychedelia", seemed to define a period of excess and creative freedom, through his album covers for Cream, his posters for Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, and his Gathering of the Heads poster, which advertised a Hyde Park rally for the legalisation of marijuana. What a trivial issue this seems today, with climate change and terrorism dominating the headlines, but in 1967 it was perceived as a vital part of the civil liberties agenda.

To say Sharp lives in the past is not strictly true. It would be more accurate to say that for him the past remains permanently alive. As his early works become further removed in time, he enjoys them more and more. It is almost as if they were painted by someone else. Some of those paintings seem to go on forever, such as the three-metre-long Film Script, dated 1976-2004, or Abalone, his sublime homage to Hokusai, dated 1990-2006. With major works, this protracted approach is the norm, not the exception. At any time, Sharp might choose to revisit a supposedly finished painting and add another layer.

This is one of the reasons why people will tell you how strange or eccentric Martin is - he is unconcerned about being "productive", about holding exhibitions, making sales or furthering his artistic reputation. Fame he has sufficient to his needs and fortune he has cheerfully squandered. Sharp has all the makings of gargantuan commercial success and not the slightest interest in pursuing it. He is an intensely private person devoted to public causes. After all these years, there is no decent book on Sharp's work, and not even a catalogue for the Museum of Sydney show - largely due to the artist's own resistance. When he was in hospital recovering from a bypass a few years ago, he began to reflect on what a big mess he had made. Having recovered and got back to work, he seems as comfortable as ever with that congenial mess.

Sharp is a man at the mercy of his obsessions. One of those obsessions, Tiny Tim, virtually bankrupted him, as he poured a decade's worth of time and money into the film Street of Dreams, which was finally released in 1988.

Twenty years later, Street of Dreams has yet to make it to DVD, while Sharp's monumental collection of Tiny Tim recordings has resulted in three albums and a sampler. These recordings are not readily available in the shops but can be purchased at the Museum of Sydney during this exhibition. The big question is: does anyone want to listen to Tiny Tim nowadays? I've found these discs have a polarising effect on people, who either love them or loathe them. Yet this does not faze Sharp, whose faith in Tiny's genius is unquenchable.

Equally relentless is his anger at the fire that ravaged the old Luna Park in 1979. In Golgotha (c. 1987), he used a crucifix format to memorialise the school teacher John Godson and his six pupils who died when the Ghost Train went up in flames. To Sharp, there was never any doubt that the fire was an act of sabotage, intended to close the park down so the site could be taken over by developers. Given the woeful history of Sydney's urban high-rise, this is not so far-fetched. If the park remains alive today it is largely because of the agitation Sharp spearheaded.

In 1990, when he transcribed the word "Eternity" onto a five-metre sign for a store in Darlinghurst, Sharp tapped into some deep part of the city's collective psyche. Eternity had been the trademark of the religious loner Arthur Stace, who had spent more than 30 years writing it in chalk all over Sydney. Sharp had already used the word in his iconic print Eternity Haymarket!, made in 1978 when arguments were raging about the redevelopment of the old market area. The logo would go on to adorn the Harbour Bridge in 1999 and feature during the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

The way Sharp brought new life to one infinitely suggestive word represents his most spectacular success from many forays into appropriated imagery. In Eternity Haymarket! the starry sky is borrowed from another of Sharp's perennial heroes, Vincent van Gogh. The army of cartoon characters and comic figures in the street is nothing less than an anthology of Australian popular culture.

One of the magical aspects of Stace's "Eternity" is that it was a message of cosmic import conveyed in the most ephemeral of mediums. It led a furtive, underground existence but Sharp brought it out into the light, making it an ironic symbol of a city perpetually in the throes of destruction and renewal. Had he written "Mammon" in the same cursive script, it might have been more truly representative of the spirit of Sydney.

Although Sharp's posters exist in the thousands, many of his important paintings remain in his possession, where they are jealously guarded from the prying attentions of dealers, collectors and fans. He is absolutely sincere in his admiration for "holy fools" such as van Gogh, who devoted himself to painting with manic intensity, selling almost nothing during his lifetime. Sharp believes that art is not a commercial activity but a way of communicating heartfelt spiritual and political truths. In recent years, he has combined those two poles with works that pursue the theme of indigenous justice, from a simple wooden crucifix painted in the colours of the Aboriginal flag to a vibrant appropriation of an 1888 drawing by Phil May of The Bulletin, in which an Aboriginal woman is treated as "a curiosity in her own country".

This may sound a trifle dogmatic but Sharp is far too various in his interests, too much of a born satirist, to get caught up in the process of sending messages to the viewer. Throughout this chaotic, encyclopaedic exhibition, one keeps stumbling across shrewd little vignettes that speak more eloquently than some of his grand statements. It's hard to imagine a more succinct comment on Australian culture than the cartoon character Boofhead saying: "But I don't give a stuff about opera!" This drawing appeared at a time when Joern Utzon's vision for the Opera House was being dismantled by local bureaucrats.

Perhaps there should be a set of Boofhead awards for crimes against culture. I'd be happy to nominate the American director Christopher Alden for the cliched, totalitarian version of Tosca he recently foisted on Sydney.

Sharp is emphatically someone who does give a stuff, in a country where the arts are treated with grand indifference. For all the frustrations he inflicts on his friends and admirers, there is nobody like him - nobody who has given up the entire world in order to be a Sydney artist. Like van Gogh, in the word balloon that emerges from one of Sharp's collage works, there are moments when he sees with a terrible lucidity.

© 2010 Fairfax Digital;jsessionid=20A19343CF49B71B8ADA9572F6CDC3A2?sy=afr&pb=all_ffx&dt=selectRange&dr=

"I've Never Seen A Straight Banana: TINY TIM CD Release/Tribute Party." - Upcoming Shows, Price: $20, 9:00 PM - October 30 at Joe's Pub, 425 LAFAYETTE STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10003.

Show Description

At age 16, Richard Barone produced an album for pop icon Tiny Tim. Though best known for his whimsical 1968 hit "Tip Toe Thru The Tulips," his marriage to Miss Vicki on the Tonight Show (boasting the largest television audience of the 1960s apart from the moon landing) and his bizarre persona, Tiny Tim was actually a American Musicologist long before universities had degrees in the subject.

The album, "I've Never Seen A Straight Banana - Rare Moments: Volume 1" features songs ranging from the first Edison cylinder, obscurities from the 1920s and '30s... to a special nod to Bob Dylan.  As Barone was still in high school - then went on to form the Bongos, create a series of acclaimed solo albums, sold-out concert events at Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl, and author "FRONTMAN: Surviving the Rock Star Myth" - the album was never released, until now.

On the anniversary of Tiny Tim's historic performance at London's Royal Albert Hall, tonight's event will be a festive CD Release celebration for the album, as well as a tribute to the man himself, with guest performers and speakers. The program will be augmented with video clips, and the new CD will be available for sale.

In the spirit of Halloween weekend, audience members are encouraged to attend dressed as Mr. Tim. Best costume/Tiny Tim lookalike will be awarded with a free copy of the album and other prizes.

Guest artists/speakers include Terre Roche, Deni Bonet, Anthony DeCurtis, Jenni Muldaur, Gary Lucas, Candy John Carr, Everett Bradley, Joe McGinty, Joe Franklin, Spats White, Jism (from Ism), Steve Addabbo, Eddie Rabin and more to be announced!

Hosted by Richard Barone.

MP3 credit:
"I've Never Seen A Straight Banana"
(Words & music by Ted Waite, 1926) Arranged by Richard Barone & Matthew Billy, 2009

Mojo Associates for Fine Art is not associated with Joe's Pub. All rights belong to the author(s).,com_shows/task,view/Itemid,40/id,4796

"Stop the presses: Art critic wins Pulitzer" by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times.

April 20, 2009.

Finally, the curse is over.

New York Times art critic Holland Cotter today won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. He's the first art critic to get the nod in 35 years, since the late Emily Genauer of Newsday won in 1974.

The Pulitzers have sideswiped art criticism a few times since then, giving the prize to writers who have either included visual art as one element among others -- performing arts, movies, etc. -- and one year it went to a writer in the specialized field of photography. But Cotter is the first since Genauer to claim art critic as a full-time occupation.

As an added bonus, Sebastian Smee, whose lively art criticism was added to the Boston Globe last May, was a finalist.

© 2009 Los Angeles Times

"The 2009 Pulitzer Prize Winners"


For distinguished criticism, in print or online or both, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Holland Cotter of The New York Times for his wide ranging reviews of art, from Manhattan to China, marked by acute observation, luminous writing and dramatic storytelling.


Also nominated as finalists in this category were: Inga Saffron of The Philadelphia Inquirer for her fascinating and convincing architectural critiques that boldly confront important topics, from urban planning issues to the newest skyscraper; and Sebastian Smee of The Boston Globe for his fresh, accessible and energetic reviews on the New England art scene, creating for readers a sense of discovery even as he provides discerning analysis.

The Pulitzer Prizes -- Columbia University, 709 Journalism Bldg., 2950 Broadway New York, NY 10027

"Work by Dennis Nona will appear in the Berlin exhibition The Tropics: Views from the Middle of the Globe, on show at the Martin-Gropius Bau from this Friday until the new year."

The Tropics. Views from the Middle of the Globe
Exhibition Venue: Martin-Gropius-Bau

12 September 2008 to 5 January 2009

An exhibition of the Goethe-Institut and the Ethnological Museum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Made possible by the Federal Cultural Foundation
Curators Alfons Hug, Peter Junge, Viola König
Media partners rbb Inforadio, rbb Kulturradio, rbb Fernsehen

Twenty years after the trailblazing show Les Magiciens de la Terre in Paris the “Tropics” exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau is once again attempting to explore in troubled times the currents of energy and subtle discords between the hemispheres, to show which cultural forces are working in harmony and which in opposition to one another. The exhibition aims to create an incorruptible, crisis-resistant stock of images that permits a non-hierarchical view of the world.

The general idea is to re-aestheticize the subject of the tropics, not to look at them from a political and economic viewpoint for once, but to concentrate on culture as a counterweight. Instead of one-dimensional debates on poverty (or hunger, or violence, or political crises) or crass generalizations we are offered a glimpse of the artistic complexity and aesthetic richness of the tropics in a way that promises to change the terms of the North-South dialogue. This will free the South from the trap of always being seen in a bad light, while the North’s insistence on explaining the world in economic terms can be put into proportion, thus paving the way for a genuinely cosmopolitan and multi-perspective view of the world in the Humboldtian sense. So the exhibition is a way station on the road to the Humboldt Forum, which in future will invite the non-European cultures to a dialogue with the European masterpieces on the Museumsinsel here in the heart of Berlin.

The concept of the tropics was always a cultural construct, and not just for those who lived outside them. Notions taken from literature and the plastic arts always came between the nature of the tropics and its perception by human beings. Interpretations and ways of seeing the tropics are like a library of images or a museum of make-believe, a repository of our dreams and secret desires. Even today it is still the artists who shape our view of the tropics.

The exhibition begins with the European projection of the tropics, while at the same time attempting to reflect this construct. This ambivalence shows itself in the different approaches of the three curators. Alfons Hug shows not only works by contemporary artists from the tropics, but also works by artists who, though not themselves from the tropics, take them as a theme. Viola König groups objects under the heading of “Colours and Sounds of the Tropics” so that common features of certain aspects of art from the tropics can be explored. Peter Junge presents examples of art from the tropics concerning three basic themes of human societies, whose only common feature is that they are assigned to cultures belonging to the geographically defined region of the tropics. Aspects of the European notion of the tropics are not reflected in these works. Whether they constitute parts of a body of tropical art having points in common that fundamentally distinguish them from artworks external to the region is a question that the exhibition can only raise, but not ultimately answer. As far as the discourse on the tropics is concerned, the openness of this situation is a good thing. It helps to deconstruct the image of the tropics constructed by Europe, which is necessary if we are to have a new vision that does more justice to this theme.

Around two hundred exhibits from Africa, Asia, Oceania, Australia and tropical America from the collections of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin, which are among the world’s largest, are confronted with works by forty contemporary artists from Brazil, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Old and new art rub shoulders with each other. In the contemporary art section the subjects extend from Indonesia to Cuba, from West Africa to Brazil.

This exhibition is the first attempt to build a bridge between works that arose in pre-modern times and contemporary works. Modernism has deliberately been left out since, for example, Picasso’s references to African art or the German Expressionists’ to Melanesian sculpture have been sufficiently illuminated elsewhere.

The pre-modern art shows us the tropics as they were before they lost their innocence and morphed into the so-called Third World. It responds to the stigma of its present exclusion with serenity and composure. Its charm consists in its irresistible formal language, the wealth of shapes, the spiritual content, and the ability to involve the viewer in a dialogue. The strength of the contemporary art, on the other hand, lies in its high degree of reflectiveness and critical potential. At the same time, however, today’s artists also reveal a revival of individual mythologies. Points of contact are provided by the fact that not a few contemporary artists systematically appropriate elements of old cultures and incorporate anthropological or ethnological themes in their works.

In addition to about 200 old artworks by mainly anonymous artists from Ghana, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Hawaii, Samoa, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Bolivia, it is planned to show works by the following contemporary artists:

Franz Ackermann (Germany), Pilar Albarracín (Spain) Alexander Apostol (Venezuela), Fernando Bryce (Peru/Berlin), Edward Burtynsky (Canada), Roberto Cabot (France/Brazil), Marcos Chaves (Brazil), Walmor Corrêa (Brazil), Daspu (Brazil), Maurício Dias/Walter Riedweg (Brazil/Switzerland) Dinh Q. Lê (Vietnam), Mark Dion (USA), Adriano Domingues (Brazil), Theo Eshetu (Ethiopia), Sandra Gamarra Heshiki (Peru), Andreas Gursky (Germany), Candida Höfer (Germany), Pieter Hugo (South Africa), Jitish Kallat (India), Mariana Manhães (Brazil), Milton Marques (Brasilien), Beatriz Milhazes (Brazil), Marcone Moreira (Brazil), Marcel Odenbach (Germany), Paulo Nenflídio (Brazil), Denis Nona (Australia), Sherman Ong (Singapore), Vong Phaophanit (Laos), Navin Rawanchaikul (Thailand), REA (Australia), Caio Reisewitz (Brazil), Mauro Restiffe (Brazil), Julian Rosefeldt (Germany), Hans-Christian Schink (Germany), Gerda Steiner/Jörg Lenzlinger (Switzerland), Thomas Struth (Germany), Fiona Tan (Indonesia/England), Guy Tillim (South Africa), David Zink Yi (Peru/Berlin)

© 2008 The Berliner Festspiele

"Hippie hippie shock, in technicolour." - Australia's globe-trotting hippies of the 1960s are making war, not love, over a movie version of their lives, writes Paola Totaro, The Sydney Morning Herald.

November 17, 2007.

THEY were creative, fearless and used a mordant satire in their war against, well, everything. Nothing was sacred, not the Queen, the prime minister, the military, religion nor race. In the end, they were arrested, charged and locked in the slammer, and made front-page headlines in two hemispheres.

This was not The Chaser but the legendary Oz magazine , launch pad of Australia's hippie intelligentsia, 1960s firebrands, artists and anti-establishment rebels all.

Until Hollywood came along, keen for permission to rewrite their stories for the big screen - and armed with fat cheques to smooth the way.

The movie's script, based loosely around Oz editor, Richard Neville's memoirs, Hippie Hippie Shake, was written by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) and filming has just finished in London with a star-studded cast including Sienna Miller, Cillian Murphy, Max Minghella and Emma Booth.

Neville sold the film rights, reportedly for six figures, more than 10 years ago. "Suddenly, a couple of years ago, it all happened and exploded," he told the Herald yesterday. "The script kept changing and I made some changes myself on the last draft, but I have not seen it since. I am watching from afar. I've got my fingers crossed that they'll do a good job and if they don't, I'll be disappointed."

But many of Oz's other luminaries and protagonists, including Germaine Greer, the Sydney artist Martin Sharp and the film director Philippe Mora, have questioned their former colleagues' decision to allow their personal lives - and history - to be rewritten in a movie funded by General Electric, produced by a Universal Studios-owned British production house and played by non-Australian actors.

Greer, portrayed in early drafts of the script as a joint-smoking nymphomaniac, fired the first salvo in her Guardian blog, saying the writers had fashioned her likeness "out of their own excreta". Others, like Richard Neville's then girlfriend, Louise Ferrier, had suffered an even worse fate on film. Greer said Ferrier had been dubbed a "siren with a penchant for threesomes" because she once posed naked with Jenny Kee for an Oz cover: "She was actually better known for her Sunday lunches, roast leg of lamb Australian-style (grey to the bone)."

Greer describes Richard Neville as "one of the least talented people on the London scene in the '60s", while his book of memoirs and the revisiting of Oz was a "continuing search of the fame and fortune that continue to elude him".

Neville says he toyed with responding to Greer but decided against it: " I feel I have been ennobled by Germaine's comments … I've been jammed somewhere between Steve Irwin, Princess Diana and the stingray."

At home in Sydney's Bellevue Hill, Martin Sharp, one of the artistic powerhouses behind many of Oz's most famous covers, told the Herald he allowed the reproduction of some of his artwork but had signed no waivers to the movie's producers, accepted no money for his portrayal, and continues to be appalled by the script.

He counted 55 scenes in which his character appears and which he says were concoctions: "It was complete fiction. It is not even about mere historical inaccuracy. That is the inherent problem with this sort of filmmaking. I was really shocked when I read the first one [script] and I am not much less shocked now.

"They are trying to use real people as an anchor for their fantasy … it is a theft of one's life and is a very uncomfortable feeling. If they want to make a fantasy, why don't they use fictional characters."

According to insiders, the director, BeebanKidron, flew to Sydney in July for a series of quiet crisis meetings and met several protagonists, including Louise Ferrier, the designer Jenny Kee and Neville's Oz co-editor in London, Jim Anderson.

Dozens of script changes were made, incidents and events rewritten and even relationships and sex scenes were amended after being branded "fictions" by other real protagonists. Further, say insiders, some characters who did not appear in the early script drafts were added as their waivers were signed and cheques - for "research" - accepted.

At least four of the original Oz types, including Kee, Ferrier and Anderson, are said to have been paid $25,000 each for their characters to be fictionalised on screen while Robert Whitaker, the London photographer, has reproduced his famous nude Oz cover placing the actors in place of Ferrier and Kee.

The film director and former Oz illustrator and artist Philippe Mora, who lives in Los Angeles, says his colleagues havesold out.

"The issues of the '60s were freedom of speech, integrity, anti-hypocrisy from the 'establishment' … personally, I don't think you can be against the war on terror, as Richard Neville has continued to write, and then go and sell your life story to General Electric. I'm no saint nor am I holier than thou, but if you sell out part of your life story, do you sell out to the parties you publicly opposed using moral and political arguments?

"Accuracy in history is another point but no one seems to care about that. And if real names are being used, why not keep it factual? I also think this was a very Aussie story because our perspective as outsiders was part of the impact we had on London at the time … so why use English actors in the main roles? Can't Australians act as Australians? … The script I read is a cliched attack on artists and hippies."

Mora directed Trouble in Molopolis, a fictional portrayal of the Australians' storming of London, shot in 1969 and funded by his then flatmate, Eric Clapton. Still held in the national archive in Canberra, it starred many of the Oz protagonists, including Greer, Neville and Sharp, as themselves.

Oz burst onto the Australian publishing scene in 1963 and launched the work of some of Australia's best-known authors, critics and and artists, from Robert Hughes and Greer to Sharp, Mora, Lillian Roxon, Bob Ellis and Michael Leunig. The first edition, published on April Fool's Day, contained irreverent drawings by Sharp of the Queen on roller skates. Later, launched in London in 1967, Oz quickly gained a huge underground following.

The movie focuses on Neville, Sharp and Jim Anderson's move to London and the years following when Sharp drifted away. Felix Dennis, who had then joined the group, brought in a group of high school students to guest-edit the May 1970 issue. They produced a parody which featured a highly sexualised image of Rupert Bear. Known as Schoolkids OZ - and mistakenly interpreted as a publication for children - issue number 28 came to the attention of the Obscene Publications Squad, sparking a landmark legal battle in the Old Bailey which was defended by John Mortimer, who was assisted by the young Australian Geoffrey Robertson. It became the longest obscenity trial in the history of English law.

The boys from Oz, who once turned up to court in school uniforms, were initially sentenced to hard labour, but appeals led to their sentences being commuted - so long as they ceased publication.

Neville says he was impressed with director Kidron's approach and that she seemed determined to throw herself into it "and make a great film … if it's not a good movie, nobody blames the book's author, anyway".

"And of course the film has the chattering classes chattering," he said. "More than ever. That is how it should be, and why not?"

© 2007 The Sydney Morning Herald.

"Andy and Oz: Parallel Visions" - October 20 - December 30, 2007.

The Andy Warhol Museum along with the National Gallery of Australia presents the works of seven prominent Australian artists influenced by the work of Andy Warhol in the exhibition Andy and Oz: Parallel Vision. This exhibition features a cross-generational exploration. Martin Sharp, Richard Larter and Robert Rooney are representing the 1960’s and 1970’s; Tracey Moffat and Juan Davila the 1980s; Fiona Hall representing the 1990 and Tim Horn representing 2000 to the present. Some parallels between these artists’ works and Andy Warhol’s art will be immediately apparent while others will be unexpected and even surprising. The exhibition’s works will be drawn predominantly from the National Gallery of Australia’s collection and comprised of a variety of media including photography, paintings and sculpture.

Andy and Oz is a curatorial collaboration between the National Gallery of Australia’s Curator, Dr. Deborah Hart and The Andy Warhol Museum’s Director Thomas Sokolowski. The exhibition is presented in conjunction with the National Gallery of Australia’s 25th birthday celebration.

This exhibition coincides with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Australia Festival, October 11 - November 17, 2007. Hold on to your seat mate, it's going to be a wild ride!

Get ready to immerse yourself in the sheer beauty, imaginative power, and unadulterated spectacle of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Australia Festival! Bold, diverse, engaging and purely entertaining, the program features the very best visual and performing from Down Under delivered directly to Pittsburgh's stages, galleries, and theaters. Over 100 artists and performers, 34 performances, 6 outrageous weeks, 5 special events, 4 exhibitions, ONE WILD RIDE!

For tickets, call 412-456-6666; visit; and Groups of 10+ call 412-471-6930

The Trust's Australia Festival is supported by the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government's arts funding advisory body; and the Carol R. Brown Performance Fund for support of the Australia Festival.

©2007 The Andy Warhol Museum.


"Andy and Oz: Parallel Visions" - A collaboration between the National Gallery of Australia and The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, USA.

11 October until 30 December 2007.

As part of the National Gallery’s 25th anniversary celebrations a special exhibition of Australian art will be shown at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, USA. The exhibition will focus on the work of prominent Australian artists whose art has affinities and correspondences with the renowned American artist Andy Warhol.

The Australian artists cross several generations and include works from the late 1960s through to the present. The artists, selected in a collaboration between Tom Sokolowski, Director of the Andy Warhol Museum, and Deborah Hart, Senior Curator, Australian art, National Gallery of Australia, include: Andy Warhol, Martin Sharp, Richard Larter, Robert Rooney, Tracey Moffatt, Juan Davila, Fiona Hall, Tim Horn, Christian Thompson and Liu Xiao Xian. The works in the exhibition include paintings, screenprints, digital prints, photography, sculpture and video.

This collaborative exhibition between the Warhol Museum and the National Gallery of Australia will convey parallels between the Australian artists’ works and Andy Warhol’s art and ideas. The show will provide a greater awareness of significant Australian art and artists internationally. It is also a celebration of the extraordinary legacy of Andy Warhol that is continuing to make its impact around the world.

Andy and Oz: Parallel Visions coincides with a festival of Australian culture organised by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

This exhibition is supported by Ann Lewis AM, Pat Corrigan, Henry Gillespie, Penelope Seidler, Qantas, The National Gallery of Australia Council Exhibitions Fund and the American Friends of the National Galley of Australia Inc.

© 2007 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.

"The Next Big Thing" by Lindsay Hutton.

Saturday, February 10, 2007.

Somewhere along the road to 2007, things have gotten snarled up. A game-show host type smarminess has been mistaken for entertainment. In essence, a true entertainer is a rare beast these days and one of the outright characters of this fraternity was the late, great Tiny Tim. Considered in some quarters as a novelty act by lazy, tunnel-visioned malcontents, his voice has been known to polarize. It displayed a richness and soul of a great orator. Of someone who interpreted classic and contemporary material with an otherworldly abandon.

These three recent releases of rare and unreleased material recorded in Australia are a timely reminder of this genius. They really don’t make them like this anymore. The project has been put together by Martin Sharp in a kind of Alan Lomax capacity, this Australian pop artist and co-writer of Cream's "Tales Of Brave Ulysses" (!) is ready to share his adventures with new generations who have yet to discover the greatness of Herbert Khaury’s alter ego. In the liner notes he declares that "it has been my greatest honour to march some miles with this ‘soldier of showbusiness'". That last part is key to the whole phenomenon, this hippie Harry Lauder belongs to a great lost era before style was coached to overtake substance.

"Chameleon" is a reissue of the original, very rare album that came out in the early 80’s with unissued bonus tracks of takes from the same sessions. It must have been a total gas to have been there. With his renditions of “Stayin Alive” rubbing shoulders with relative standards like “The Great Pretender” and “Tiny Bubbles”. And how many people could tackle “The Mickey Mouse March” and come out unscathed.

"Wonderful World of Romance" was originally only available as a "direct-to-disc" album for promo purposes only. This only covered the second session until now and has an additional 11 takes and different cuts. WWOR is Tiny Tim somewhat "unplugged" along with piano, cello and trademark ukulele. performing material from the early 1900’s. “Wandering Down Memory Lane With You” is an amazing title. I imagine that some of this will sound plain weird in today’s wired world and it’s all the better for that fact. Solid, sonic uke.

"Stardust" is 26 previously unreleased tracks which includes an alternate take of "Highway To Hell", with a vocal that sounds like Paul Rodgers on helium. His unique ability to cherry pick material from all eras and stamp them with that unbridled falsetto, sounds like. You get “Nobody Loves A Fairy When She’s Forty” sitting alongside “People Are Strange” on Planet Tim and it seems like the perfect fit.

These releases are all curated perfectly with extensive notes in very cool 16 page booklets printed on quality stock. Lovingly tailored to complement the recorded content. All three are available on the Zero Communications imprint from Japan.

(Many thanks to Susumu Hirakawa)


I just got mine in the post today - worth every hard-earned yen. In a day and age when most music is free for the plundering off the internets, these cds are well worth owning, especially Chameleon. They sound great, they look beautiful, they even smell good.

For those needing more info on Tiny, I suggest reading this article by Bucks Burnett from when Tiny's other masterpiece, "Girl" came out:
# posted by Anonymous brother randall
It's true, these things do smell good. And most releases these days just smell. Or should that be stink? Everything about these is simply a cut above.
# posted by Blogger Lindsay Hutton

"Hello, stranger"

He was a crooner in the mould of Valentino who emerged from the New York avant-garde to win the hearts of middle America. Looking like a scarecrow, deeply religious, girls still fell at his feet. Ten years after Tiny Tim's death, Chris Campion celebrates the oddest pop star the world has ever seen and discovers from those who knew him the secret of his talent

September 17, 2006.

The Observer

He was a gothic apparition in a grey plaid jacket, a mane of wiry black hair spilling over the shoulders. His face, powdered and blotchy, ashen white, was dominated by a set of large teeth and a nose as big and majestic as the beak of a bald eagle.

When Tiny Tim scuttled out of the wings, onto Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In in January 1968, American TV audiences had never seen the like. The show's co-host, Dick Martin, looked on agape as this curious-looking creature pulled up beside him and hoisted a ukulele by its neck out of a large black shopping bag.

Then he started to sing - racing through a medley of 'On the Good Ship Lollipop' and 'A-Tisket A-Tasket' - in an eerie, warbling falsetto, enunciating every word like a pantomime dame. The latter was an adapted nursery rhyme that had provided Ella Fitzgerald with the novelty hit that launched her career in 1938. He didn't perform it like Ella, though. In truth, he didn't perform like anybody else at all, adding his own interpolations to the songs in a flurry of gestures - eyes rolling from side to side and skyward, hands fluttering in front of him - and child-like sound effects. The second he finished, he backed off stage to stunned applause, furiously blowing kisses to the studio audience.

That 90-second TV appearance, seen by 35 million Americans, and a whimsical 1968 novelty hit, 'Tip Toe Thru the Tulips', launched Tiny Tim as the unlikeliest pop phenomenon the world has ever experienced.

There was nothing small about him. Tiny Tim was six foot one and larger than life in every way imaginable. He was a walking anachronism set adrift in the modern world, a troubadour performing Depression-era songs of love and longing. He insisted that the spirits of the original singers - crooners like Russ Columbo, Rudy Vallee, Henry Burr and Bing Crosby - lived inside him.

'He could illustrate any aspect of the human condition with a song,' says Australian artist Martin Sharp, co-founder of Oz magazine, who first met Tiny Tim in the early Seventies and became his friend, patron and producer. 'He had thousands of songs at his command, that he knew by heart, which constituted a whole history of popular song, stretching back to the days before recorded music.'

New York Times critic Albert Goldman described Tiny as a 'pop dybbuk' - a wandering spirit inhabited by the ghosts of pop culture past, present and future - while a critic in the Wall Street Journal's weekly National Observer magazine wrote:

'He sounds alternately like Eleanor Roosevelt, Yma Sumac and Vera Lynn. He looks like Sir Alec Guinness as Fagin, Joan Baez after a week without sleep, Margaret Hamilton as the wicked witch in the Wizard Of Oz, and the gaunt mummy of Pharoah Seti the First.'

There was certainly something unearthly about him. He claimed to subsist on a diet of wheat germ, apples, pumpkin seeds and honey. But no one ever knew for sure because nobody (not even his closest confidants) ever saw Tiny Tim eat or drink in public. A devoutly religious man, who lived his life according to the tenets of the New Testament and peppered his speech with thanks to the Lord, he was fey and effeminate, spoke in a courtly manner and addressed everybody as 'Mister' or 'Miss'.

He seemed so genteel and naive that there were those that refused to believe that he was real and not a put-on or an act. But the only part of Tiny that was made-up was his face.

His run at the top was brief but intense. For three years, when Tiny Tim's dream world collided with our reality, he was one of the hottest stars on the planet. The three albums he recorded between 1968 and 1969 for Frank Sinatra's Reprise label - released this year for the first time on CD as a box set through Rhino Handmade - offer a captivating window into his world.

He would in time be written off as a one-hit wonder, a fluke and a freak. Few looked beyond his eccentric appearance and behaviour. But those that did recognised a profound and singular talent and speak of him with an inordinate fondness.

'You're looking at someone who was a giant, in my estimation,' says Martin Sharp. 'He was working with nothing, playing in strange venues to people who didn't understand him or came out of curiosity, but he was always tremendously giving in his performances.'

'He just wanted to entertain,' says Ron DeBlasio, Tiny's personal manager from 1968 -'70. 'That was his main goal. He didn't care about many of the things other artists cared about; namely money, better billing, being able to play the best places in town. He was definitely out of step.'

When fame arrived he was more than prepared for it. Herbert Khaury had spent close to 36 years dreaming of celebrity before he achieved it. Living in a small room in his parents' apartment in the Bronx, he was surrounded by stacks of 78s and a wind-up Victrola on which to play them. He was born in 1932 in New York City, at the height of the Depression, but by immersing himself in a fantasy world, he was inoculated against the rigours of life.

As a child, he pored over comic books and movie magazines, listened intently to weekly radio serials. He would play act his own radio shows, ad breaks and all, performing all the characters. At one point, he adopted the middle name 'Buckingham' in honour of Captain America's sidekick, Bucky.

His elderly parents, Tillie and Butros, didn't know what to make of their only son. Both were first-generation immigrants: Tillie, a Polish Jew from a strictly-orthodox family; Butros, a devout Lebanese Maronite. Both worked at factories in the garment district of New York. All their attempts to normalise their child ended at naught. Herbert retreated more and more into his own private world, buttressed by glamour and romance.

In 1952, aged 20, he was taken by some local youths to a prayer meeting at band leader turned evangelist Jack Wyrtzen's Word Of Life ministry in Manhattan. 'There I was, living in a tenement on a block crowded with thousands of people, and my heart was filled with cursing and sin,' he told writer (and later actor) Harold Ramis in a 1970 interview for Playboy. 'It was like a miraculous gift when I discovered Christ; I had someone I could talk to personally. I started praying about my career. Then all of a sudden, in 1953, like the snap of a finger, the idea came to me to try singing in a higher voice.'

As soon as he heard himself sing, he was convinced it would be the key to his success. Inspired by Rudolph Valentino, he developed a romantic look to go along with the voice, growing his hair long and powdering his face into a deathly white pallor. This began his lifelong affair with cosmetics.

'I clean my body and my skin many times a day,' he explained. 'To me, this is a way to keep in touch with the purity of women. A beautiful woman from the age of 11 to the age of 25 can be the essence of life and youth if she can keep herself morally, spiritually and cosmetically clean. So, to me, this white powder was not a stage effect to help my career; it was the symbol of purity and youth and of my personal 24-hour-a-day involvement with romance.'

By this point, he had incorporated his fantasy world so wholly and absolutely into everyday life that his desire to maintain its purity and efficacy (largely) over-ruled sense and reason. But the outside world, especially in 1953, wasn't so understanding.

Living in New York City he had to run the gauntlet of public displeasure over his appearance every single day. Local children took to calling him 'Crazy Herbie'. He was well aware that his presence caused people extreme discomfort.

'There's no denying that I'm ugly,' he said. 'In fact, I think I've got the kind of looks that can drive people to madness. Once, a guy stopped me on the street and said, "You make me want to throw up my breakfast."'

He would often joke that looking like he did meant never having to worry about finding a seat on the subway. Herbert started looking for his big break by performing at talent shows, parties and even the subway system in the 1950s, swapping his guitar for a ukulele early on because it was less cumbersome if he needed to make a hasty exit.

He was given the name Tiny Tim by one of his first managers, George King, who, according to one apocryphal story, was trying to facilitate bookings at clubs looking for midget acts. Herbert had already performed under a succession of monikers, including Larry Love, Darry Dover, Judas K. Foxglove, Rollie Dell and Texarcana Tex. But Tiny Tim was the one that stuck.

His first paying gig was in the basement of Hubert's Museum, a 42nd Street institution that housed a flea circus and freak show. He was billed as 'The Human Canary'. He finally started to find acceptance of sorts among the music freaks who swarmed around the Greenwich Village cafe scene. At Café Wha?, he palled around with a young Bob Dylan. He also became friendly with Lenny Bruce - a joint gig was advertised with the slogan, 'Lenny Bruce speaks for profit, Tiny Tim sings for love' - and appeared in films by underground film-maker Jack Smith. At a lesbian club called Page Three, he was billed as 'The Answer To The Beatles!'.

All this activity led Tiny to acquire a reputation as 'the court jester of the underground'. He was invited to perform at private parties in Manhattan for the boho rock set, once serenading a wide-eyed Mick Jagger with a version of 'Time is on My Side', with tick-tock sound effects between each line.

In 1965, he secured a seven-night-a-week residency at the hippest club in New York, Steve Paul's the Scene. Tiny described it as 'a night spot for rich kids who wanted to act like Village hippies' that was 'packed with lovely teenage girls'. He played between sets by Hendrix, the Doors and the Velvet Underground and had the audience pounding on the tables, crying with laughter. Jim Morrison even offered Tiny his song 'People Are Strange'.

His big break finally came on one rainy Monday evening in August 1966. It was a slow night down at the Scene and Tiny didn't feel much like playing. But he decided to give it his all, as if he was stepping out onto the stage at Carnegie Hall. Sitting in the audience was Reprise Records boss Mo Ostin, his art director Ed Thrasher, and their wives. Ostin had come down to check out another act he was interested in signing.

'I can't remember who it was now,' Thrasher says. 'And I'll bet Mo couldn't either. But as we were waiting, this goofy-looking guy with a shopping bag gets up out of the audience and walks up on stage. Everybody's wondering, what the hell is this?!'

Given the inclement weather outside, Tiny decided to start his set with an old Perry Como hit, 'Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella'. 'As I started picking up my energy, I heard someone laughing,' he recalled, 'and by the time I got into my two-voice duet, this guy was really cracking up.'

It was Mo Ostin. He offered to sign Tiny on the spot. Three months later, the sessions for Tiny's debut album began at TTG Recorders studio in Hollywood. He was paired with the new in-house producer at Reprise, Richard Perry.

Perry would be a pivotal figure in Tiny Tim's rise. He is the hand behind million-selling records by Carly Simon and Barbra Streisand but, to this day, he considers God Bless Tiny Tim as one of his greatest achievements. 'It was the realisation of a dream that Tiny and I both had,' Perry says fondly. 'The high falsetto voice is all that most people remember. That was the least interesting aspect to me. I immediately saw in him the ability to be a true showman. There was nothing that he wasn't capable of doing.'

With God Bless Tiny Tim, Perry fused his passion for Broadway musicals with the cartoon psychedelia of Sgt. Pepper, creating a musical backdrop that acted as a dreamscape for Tiny's performances. He added theatrical sound effects and had Tiny talk to the listener throughout the record. 'I don't think anyone has ever done anything like that, before or since. It was very interactive.'

The result was truly psychedelic, not through any affectation of sound, but because it's so acutely keyed-in to Tiny Tim's personality. The producer also convinced Tiny to expand his repertoire beyond the rousing romanticism of his sheet music standards and he set about collecting a selection of contemporary songs to set alongside the versions of Tiny's curios from the past. Perry had Tiny perform several of the duets that were a crowd-pleasing staple of his live performances. On a version of Sonny & Cher's 'I Got You Babe', he flip-flops between the male and female parts, engaged in a cross-gendered conversation with himself.

The album sounds as fresh today as when it was recorded, helped in no small part by rich and fanciful arrangements overseen by Artie Butler (the arranger of Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World' and hundreds of other classic cuts). He assembled the cream of LA musicians for the recording, including many of the seasoned session players who had helped create Phil Spector's Wall of Sound: drummer Hal Blaine, guitarist Tommy Tedesco, and 'the first lady of bass', Carol Kaye. 'You see, I didn't write funny for him,' Butler says. 'I wrote as if I was writing for Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. And the combination of the serious and his child-like approach just worked.'

As the sessions drew to a close, Perry took Tiny down to audition for a new variety show scheduled to start on NBC as a mid-season replacement for The Man From Uncle. 'No one ever imagined when we finished the album that he'd be able to get on TV,' says Perry. 'But the Laugh-in people flipped out when they saw him.'

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was hip and irreverent, both in tune with and subtly mocking the grooviness of Sixties youth culture. Tiny fitted the bill perfectly. Executives at the network were so nervous about his appearance that the show's producer George Schlatter told them Tiny was actually a major celebrity in disguise. By the time they found out he wasn't, it was too late. Tiny really was a major celebrity and everyone wanted a piece of him.

He was picked by Cosby-Silver-Campbell, a talent agency co-owned by comedian Bill Cosby. As Tiny's day-to-day personal manager, Ron DeBlasio had to deal with all his client's idiosyncrasies.

'He was extremely out of the norm,' says DeBlasio. 'This was a man who powdered and bathed himself with creams and lotions, yet put on a jacket that looked like he'd slept in it. And most of the time he did sleep in it!'

Tiny also insisted on answering every piece of fan mail he received personally. Despite his peculiarities, DeBlasio was won over by Tiny's commitment to his profession and the strange contradictions within his character.

'Here is a man who is in the middle of the hippie era, loved all the things that hippiedom had to offer, yet he was vehemently opposed to any kind of drugs or medication. He was a supporter of the war in Vietnam and a flag-waving patriot at a time when everyone was questioning American values.'

For the most part, DeBlasio felt it better to shield his client's personal convictions from public view, even devising a system of codes to keep Tiny 'on message' during interviews. 'I felt that the audience didn't want to hear any politics. They just wanted to be entertained by this weird character who was trying very, very hard to entertain them.'

Tiny himself was sanguine about the success he had striven so hard for: 'My Laugh-In appearance led to nationwide acceptance - and rejection. I got a lot of terrible mail, but at least it showed that people were moved enough to write in. I know I have a talent for making people either very happy or vehemently angry.'

Ernie Clark was one of those who became an instant fan. He now maintains an official Tiny Tim website ( and has a huge collection of memorabilia. He was 13 years old when Laugh-in aired and remembers watching it with his family.

'I'd never seen anyone like him before,' he says. 'I was completely mesmerised. He seemed like someone from another planet. My dad didn't like Tiny too well though, because of his effeminate aspect. As a matter of fact, I had this big poster of Tiny on my bedroom wall and my dad tore it down one day when I was at school.'

Despite his innate conservatism, straight society didn't regard Tiny as one of their own. At best, he was seen as a hippie parody. At worst, an insufferable freak. Even members of the counter-culture were appalled. After putting Tiny Tim on their July 1968 cover, Rolling Stone received an extremely ornery letter from one of their readers.

SIRS: Is Tiny Tim a success? Is Rowan & Martin your gauge for success? What exactly do you mean by 'success'? Fuck all of you.

Nowadays the notion of a pop star whose success stems solely from TV is absolutely commonplace. Back then, it was very new. By 1966, the Monkees had already been manufactured for TV and moulded into pop stars. But Tiny Tim was ready-made; absolutely real, but stranger than fiction. He was possessed of an almost pathological honesty to reveal the most intimate details of his life that made him the perfect guest for TV talk shows.

It was the first time someone so alien had crossed over into the mainstream of popular culture. And, in that respect, Tiny paved the way for every other out-of-sorts character who tasted pop success - from Klaus Nomi to Boy George and Marilyn Manson. But there was absolutely nothing about Tiny that was contrived for the sake of persona. He was who he was. The curiosity into what made him tick fuelled a relentless tabloid interest in his private life.

'We never knew his age,' says Artie Butler. 'But we knew he was older.' Tiny was in fact 36 (almost 10 years older than both Butler and Richard Perry) in 1968. When asked to state his age, he often refused. This quickly became part of his publicity shtick. If pushed, he would claim to be 16. In one sense that was no word of a lie because, in his mind, Tiny Tim was eternally adolescent. Every new infatuation was like his first crush.

Perry recalls an incident that occurred while working on God Bless Tiny Tim. 'One time he called and asked me to come right over to his hotel. When I arrived at the door, he greeted me and led me in. He was so proud of the fact that the entire GTOs [Girls Together Outrageously, a seven-strong gang of groupies associated with Frank Zappa] had come to visit him. They were all lined up in his room. It was an amazing sight.'

He thought of women as celestial and immaculate creatures from another realm. His whole being was devoted to finding the 'eternal princess' of his dreams, 'a beautiful angel with the heart and kindness of an average girl'.

Every year from 1963 onwards, he ritualistically presented the girl whose beauty had made the greatest impression on him with a customised trophy. In 1966, the honour fell to a girl he knew and whom he named Miss Corky; she received a cup inscribed with, 'To Miss Corky, Fate Left Me Sighing, Sighing For You in 1966.'

'He made me go with him when he was delivering that trophy,' Perry recalls. 'And he was just so enamoured, he didn't want to leave. I had to drag him down the hall of the apartment building.'

He was also in the habit of presenting them with one-off acetates of songs dedicated to the girl in question. In turn, mementos from favourite girls were kept like holy relics in makeshift reliquaries. A cookie from Miss Corky was stashed in an empty jar of hand lotion and sealed with Scotch tape.

The speed of the modern world, Tiny maintained, had increased the opportunities to sin. He liked to refer to himself as 'the biggest sinner in the world' but was so hung up about sex that he couldn't even say the word, instead spelling it out letter by letter to avoid embarrassment.

Yet he would freely admit that when it came to s-e-x, he would often spill his s-e-e-d within seconds. In fact, if a girl would so much as touch him, Tiny was liable to explode. At the height of his fame, he even implored his managers to hire a handler to keep girls away from him.

'He was charmed by women but he also felt guilty that they aroused him,' says Ron DeBlasio. 'It was against God's will. A lot of the young girls at that time loved the purity and the honesty of him. It was a certain type of girl. The ones who were into rock'n'roll didn't get him. But the kind of girls who ran through the heather with flowers in their hair did. He had great fans.'

Spurred by the huge buzz generated by his TV appearances and debut album, plans were made to take Tiny into the live arena. A record as fantastic as God Bless Tiny Tim demanded a spectacle to accompany it. And that's what Tiny got when he hosted a sold out live show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in June 1968.

The stage was decorated with crystal chandeliers and free-standing ionic columns. There was smoke and showgirls and live birds that flew out of the wings and perched on Tiny's shoulder as he sat on a park bench. Designed by Joe Gannon (who later devised Alice Cooper's stage shows), it was the first theatrical staging of its kind that had ever been attempted for a pop concert.

The show was deemed such a success that a week-long residency was secured at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas for which Tiny was paid $50,000, a sum unheard of for a new act virtually unproven in the live arena.

Installed in a luxury suite, Tiny celebrated by ordering everything on the room service menu including desserts, twice over! The food was brought up in a procession of trolleys. It took four hours for it all to arrive. Tiny arranged all the dishes around the floor and bed of his suite, sat down in the middle of it and then waved it away without touching a morsel. 'You know what got me excited,' he told Australian writer Headley Gritter. 'The trays, with all those silver domes on top.'

He just wanted to see the fruits of his success, so to speak, not partake in them. He was also living out a scene he once saw in a movie. But once he hit the top, consuming was an overriding passion. He bought pricey cosmetics by the case-load, leaving behind what he couldn't carry.

Tiny went international, travelling to London in October 1968 for a sold-out appearance at the Royal Albert Hall. When Perry arrived in London, after having put the finishing touches to Tiny Tim's Second Album, he went straight to meet his charge who was touring the city in an open-topped Rolls.

'As I approached Carnaby Street, the streets were blocked off. It was completely mobbed with people wanting to get a glimpse of him. It was complete hysteria, almost as if Elvis was appearing.'

Rock royalty turned out for the show, a benefit for the Keystone charity. Both the Beatles and Stones and their various consorts, including Marianne Faithfull and Jane Asher, were in attendance. Again Perry conducted a full orchestra behind Tiny; a task, he says, that was far from easy.

'If there was a four-bar phrase that finished the song, sometimes he would feel he didn't want to bother completing it and would just start the next verse two bars earlier. And when you had a 45-piece orchestra, you had to somehow move them up two bars. It was very difficult. He would just go about his merry way and I had to sweat it out and keep them somehow locked in with him.'

Nevertheless, Perry considers the show (tapes of which were uncovered and released on CD in 2000) as one of the high points of their collaboration. For Tiny's Tim's Second Album, which was timed for a Christmas 1968 release, Perry expanded Tiny's palette with songs that touched on a more melancholic aspect to his personality.

But the album didn't fare nearly as well, largely because a bootleg album of recordings made in the early Sixties had been rush-released by a third party to cash in on Tiny's success. 'It may be the worst record ever produced,' he told writer Harry Stein with typical candour. 'In those days, I'd sometimes sing off-key on spite.'

An injunction was taken out to prevent the album's distribution. But by that time the damage was done. Close to a hundred thousand copies had already been sold.

By the time his third album, For All My Little Friends, came around in 1969, Perry had left Reprise and was much in demand as a freelance producer. Gene Shrively was drafted in to finish the record, which recast Tiny as a children's entertainer.

Looking to secure his client's future, DeBlasio set up a deal with Warner Bros to produce a Saturday morning TV show centred around Tiny, conceived like the Banana Splits as a mixture of live action and animation.

'We were using what later became known as 'synergy',' says DeBlasio. 'Everybody was all for it. But, at the last moment, Tiny didn't want to do it. I told him I thought he was making a big mistake. I felt that some of our options were closing. And so we parted company'.

Tiny's contract with Reprise lapsed in 1971. DeBlasio intimates that it was the very thing that made Tiny what he was - namely his old-fashioned ways and resistance to change - that ultimately stalled his mainstream career. But he acknowledges that, in some senses, television killed the musical star. 'People didn't want to pay to see Tiny. They just wanted to turn on their TVs and see him.'

However, Tiny's finest TV hour - his December 1969 marriage to a gawky 17-year old girl from New Jersey called Vicki Budinger (whom he rechristened Miss Vicki) - remains one of the highest-rated shows in US broadcasting history, beaten only by the Apollo 11 moon landing and the final episode of MASH. He had first spotted his bride in the crowd during a public appearance at a Philadelphia department store. After a six-month romance, they were married live on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show. The studio was decked out with 10,000 tulips and 45 million people tuned in to watch.

Tiny's strange ways would ultimately prove too much for his young bride. The marriage was short-lived. In 1972, a year after she had given birth to their only child, Tulip Victoria, Vicki walked, although the couple didn't divorce until 1977. Tiny was broke and in debt to the tune of $20,000.

He married twice more; renewing vows with second wife, Miss Jan, in an October 1994 ceremony at Spooky World theme park in Massachusetts that was again broadcast live on the Tonight Show, and marrying his third, Miss Sue, in a private ceremony nine months later. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 1995 and advised to lessen his performance schedule. But entertaining was his lifeblood. Tiny collapsed seconds after playing 'Tip Toe Thru The Tulips' during a performance at the Women's Club Of Minneapolis on 30 November 1996, dying off-stage in the arms of Miss Sue.

Just before his death, his career had started to pick up again. His reputation for no-holds-barred talk made him a popular guest on shock jock Howard Stern's morning radio show. The brief burst of massive fame sustained him for the next 30 years. The untold tale of his bumpy ride at the lower echelons of the entertainment industry is as riveting as his rise.

'He sabotaged himself on every level. And yet remained, un-sunk,' says British musician David Tibet, who records as Current 93 and who released three albums in the Nineties by Tiny. In recent years, Tiny's child-like view of the world has become a reference point for performers like Devendra Banhart and Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons). But the peculiar and contradictory quirks of personality that arose from the passions (sexual, musical, religious and patriotic) which drove him make him utterly unique. He was also ahead of his time in other ways. Nostalgia has, after all, become the engine of the entertainment industry.

'Was he a success or a failure?' asks Tibet. 'I think you'd have to say he was a huge success because he did everything on his own terms and he did it to the end. He never compromised his integrity because his integrity was so peculiar, there was no way it could be compromised. What could he do? Sell out? He was always trying to sell out. He just didn't think of it in the same terms as we did.'

Through all the ups and downs, Tiny's passion for performing continued undimmed, his perseverance steadfast. But, more pertinently, he was irrevocably wed to his fantasy world to the very end.

'My greatest unfulfilled ambition,' Tiny told Playboy back in 1970, 'is to be one of the astronauts or even the first singer on the Moon. But most of all, I'd love to see Christ come back to crush the spirit of hate and make men put down their guns. I'd also like just one more hit single.'

In Tiny's footsteps: five who owe him one

Alice Cooper

When the pantomime rocker first erupted into British public consciousness in the early Seventies, the Sunday Telegraph explained him to their readers as 'a cross between Rasputin and Bela Lugosi, or Tiny Tim after tip-toeing through deadly nightshade'. The comparison went further: the title of Alice's 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare has been seen by some as a tart rejoinder to 'Welcome to My Dream ', the opening cut on Tiny's debut. They shared a stage designer, too, in Joe Gannon.

Bob Dylan

He would doubtless never acknowledge the influence but the roughly-applied greasepaint Dylan sported for his Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975 was quite clearly appropriated from Tiny. The two had crossed paths several times in the Sixties. One evening was spent together with Tiny singing Dylan's songs back to him, only in the style of a Thirties crooner. In Tiny's account, Bob's only response was to offer him a banana.

Robert Smith

Scarecrow hair? That pancake make-up again? The look that Tiny pioneered came back into fashion through the squeaky-voiced Cure frontman, the archetypal kooky, goth loner.

Marilyn Manson

Obsessed with the works of Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl, Manson (like Alice Cooper before him) turned the innocence of Tiny Tim's quaint child-like world onto its head and transformed it into a three-ring circus of the grotesque and debauched. Manson has of late become (like Tiny) a celebrated chat show guest, feted for his laconic repartee.

Devendra Banhart

The fairytale dreamscapes and scratchy voice of the hippie freak-folk singer have often been compared to that of Tiny Tim, even though the latter could switch from his trademark falsetto to a thundering baritone in a snap.

· 'God Bless Tiny Tim: The Complete Reprise Recordings' is available from Tiny Tim's official website is

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