November 28, 2018

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


In this issue:

Guarantees: the next big art market scandal?
When she paints a river, the water colors her work
How Picasso’s Blue and Rose Periods Lay the Foundation for His Art
Austria returns wrong Klimt to wrong family
The importance of art clubs in schools
When an artist lost her home — and entire portfolio — N Street Village helped
Whimsical and Wild, Upcycled Art Home for Sale in Florida—All Artwork Included
Double vision: Paris show displays two Mary Magdalene Caravaggios
Overcoming the Difficulties of Painting en Plein Air
How Should We Look at Cornelius Gurlitt’s Trove of Nazi-Looted Art?
David Hockney painting sells for $90M, smashing auction records

 

 


 

Guarantees: the next big art market scandal?
Third-party auction deals have made some people very rich—but they may be bad for the market in the long run

Third-party guarantees at auction—the art market’s hybrid of a risk hedge and a speculative gamble—are on track to hit an all-time high of around $2.5bn in 2018. On the face of it, guarantees offer a high level of certainty: the auction house secures a consignment and the seller receives a minimum price, whatever the outcome of the sale. But after the 2008 financial crisis, when sales tumbled and in-house guarantees forced auction houses to pay out large sums to consignors, they all but disappeared between 2008 and 2010.

Since then, auction houses have increasingly sought to offset this risk to third-party guarantors—individuals or consortiums that often have vested interests. Such deals are now the norm for high-value Impressionist, Modern and contemporary works. But experts warn that third-party guarantees, if misused, may precipitate a crisis.

“Guarantees have the potential to be the next big art-market scandal, if they are not carefully managed,” says Harry Smith, the executive chairman and managing director of the London-based art advisory firm Gurr Johns. “We seem to have one every 20 years, so maybe we’re due for another. And most crises come out of conflicts of interest.” Smith believes that third-party guarantees should come from a financial source without a “vested interest in the art market”, rather than being “passed around between a small club of guarantors, many of them with a direct interest”. The members of this club, he adds, are “often an auction house’s prime clients”, so the auction house is effectively negotiating a deal between two clients.

Guarantees increase liquidity by tempting people to buy and sell works when they do not need to, but they are also increasingly being used as a speculative, potentially lucrative financial mechanism. In the London sales during October’s Frieze week alone, the overall value of guarantees increased by 50% on last year, rising from an estimated £44.8m (from 32 lots) to £66.6m (49 lots), according to the analysis firm ArtTactic. Projections from one guarantor’s in-house analysis team estimate that auction sales worth $3.47bn worldwide in 2018 will have been covered by a guarantee, $2.5bn of those offset to a third party.

Follow the money

The extensive use of third-party guarantees is just one sign of the “increasing financialisation” of the art market, says Georgina Adam, editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper and the author of Dark Side of the Boom. “I do think it is worrying… they can reduce the work of art to a purely speculative instrument, and some of the third parties have no real interest in the art—added to which, the deals are hardly transparent.” Although auction houses “run a pretty clean ship”, according to Kenny Schachter, a collector, art dealer and journalist, he adds: “What’s pretty unregulated is what these idiots are doing in the room among themselves.”

Even before the financial crisis highlighted the risk of guarantees, Bonhams’ then-chairman Robert Brooks issued a public statement opposing guarantees in November 2007. “The minute an auction house moves away from simply being an intermediary between buyers and sellers and takes on the role of financier, it starts to change its core character as well as the relationship between the seller, his agent and the buyer,” he said. Brooks went as far as to say that the rising use of guarantees by some auction houses “ultimately erodes the credibility of the industry and thus its stability”. Bonhams has since changed its tune, and began to issue guarantees even before its acquisition by the private equity group Epiris in September.

Others believe that guarantees “distort the market and inflate prices”, says Rebecca Foden, a lawyer at the London firm Boodle Hatfield. Since third-party guarantors know the amounts and terms of the bids they have pledged, they are arguably in a better position than rival bidders, Foden says, which creates an “uneven playing field”. Becky Shaw, another lawyer at Boodle Hatfield, says that, although a third-party independent broker is an “appealing idea”, it is perhaps unlikely until there is demand for it by guarantors, or unless guarantees become subject to regulation.

One collector, who guarantees around four works a year for an amount “in the tens of millions”, says that funds would be better off protecting the masses than policing an elite market. “I think, in the art world, everyone deserves what they get. These are super-wealthy people playing a game largely fuelled by ego and their own conceit about how clever they are at trading in art.”

Increasingly sophisticated

Guarantees have become increasingly sophisticated. “Some of it is so convoluted that I have a hard time understanding the basic elements because there are so many variations of the guarantee,” Schachter says. These guarantees cannot be seen as formulaic because they relate to the motivations of buyers and sellers, and to market conditions, says Tom Mayou of the London-based advisory firm Beaumont Nathan. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the terms “irrevocable bid” (used by Sotheby’s) and “third-party guarantee” (Christie’s) are essentially the same thing, but are used interchangeably.

Schachter, who also guarantees works, says that there are “only a handful of people who guarantee works at $20m to $30m or more”. The Mugrabi and the Nahmad families are reportedly among them. It was the Nahmad family who apparently gave the highest ever third-party guarantee, at $150m, for Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) (1917), which sold at Sotheby’s New York for $157.2m in May. So, as Schachter says, you have to know the market “because you’re up against the Mugrabis and the Nahmads… you can’t come in there foolhardy and think you’re going to walk away with a fat profit”.

The London-based dealer Inigo Philbrick offers around 20 to 25 third-party guarantees a year on works by artists such as Rudolf Stingel, Christopher Wool, Mike Kelley, Richard Prince and Wade Guyton. “For me, the best outcome of a guarantee is that you make a lot of money [without buying the work]. Say it’s a million dollars that you’ve risked, then you’d want to make $100,000 to $150,000 as your fee,” he says. “The second-best outcome is that you get a work you were happy to buy at a price you were happy to own it at. The second-worst outcome is that it sells on one bid and you make $5,000, having put in all this effort to negotiate a deal. [And] the worst outcome is the sort of guarantee you do purely for financial speculation and end up with a painting you don’t want to own.”

The hedge-funders’ new Ferrari

Attracted by reports of high earnings, new third-party guarantors—many from financial backgrounds—are coming into the market, trading guarantees like futures. Speaking on ArtTactic’s podcast in September, Asher Edelman, the founding member and chief executive of the art-lending company Artemus, said that being a guarantor “is the hedge-funders’ new Ferrari”, and that he sees a “naïve crowd” of guarantors “doing pretty dumb transactions… and they’re gonna get stuck with them”. Doug Woodham, the former president of Christie’s for the Americas, also warns of the pitfalls of being a novice first part guarantor here.

Yet Adam Chinn, the chief operating officer at Sotheby’s, disagrees that guarantees are conflicting. “You may make the argument that there’s an inequality of information [between bidders], but I don’t think there’s a conflict of interest,” he says. Collectors today are more financially sophisticated, Chinn says, so “if I [the collector] want to buy object A, it makes sense for me to back object A, because if I don’t get it, I get paid, and if I do get it, I wanted to buy object A anyway”. Chinn believes that, in this way, guarantees have shifted from an almost wholesale market to being retail.

In the New York sales in May, around 65% of guarantors at Sotheby’s were private collectors (40% were first-timers), according to Chinn, while in November 2017, that proportion was 75%. Last year, 70% of lots backed by a third party sold above their irrevocable bid, so “you’ve got around a one-in-three chance of having to buy the property and around a two-in-three chance of getting paid”, Chinn says.

“Guarantees are like those ‘no money down, get rich quick’ ads,” Schachter says. “There’s no other speculative vehicle that affords you the upside with only having to pay in the case of a losing scenario.”

Imbalance of information

Last-minute third-party guarantees are also on the rise, with some clients waiting for a catalogue to arrive before combing it for lots to back. Such guarantees are announced in one quick burst just before an auction starts, which increases opacity, the dealer Nicholas Maclean of Eykyn Maclean says. This “rush of information at the beginning of the sale [is something that] many people miss”, he says. “They should be announced lot by lot.”

If a third-party guarantor buys a work, they receive a “financing fee” from the auction house and therefore pay less for the work than any competitors. Other bidders have no idea who is bidding on behalf of the third party—a bone of contention for Maclean, who suggests that “the auctioneer should be the one carrying out the bid for the guarantor, or it should be announced which member of staff is bidding on their behalf. It would be more transparent, particularly to new buyers unaware of the intricacies.”

He cites one problematic scenario. “If, hypothetically, a dealer sees a client who announces they’re going to bid on a painting, the next day the dealer could call the auction house and ask to guarantee it. The temptation might then be for the guarantor to get on the telephone and bid that person up.”

Auction houses put the onus on guarantors to disclose to their clients that they have a financial interest in a lot. But it is unclear whether this always happens, particularly when last-minute saleroom announcements make it impossible for bidders to question their advisers, says Doug Woodham, the managing partner of Art Fiduciary Advisors and the former president of Christie’s for the Americas. “For all they know, the person they asked to bid on their behalf may now have a financial interest in that very lot,” he says. Woodham suggests that collectors have formal agreements with their advisers to prevent this. “But unfortunately, there is no way for collectors to independently confirm their advisers’ actions because the identities of third-party guarantors are not disclosed by auction houses,” he says.

Possible solutions

New companies that could provide a solution to this regulatory gap are now entering the market. Christine Bourron, the chief executive of the art-market analysis firm Pi-Ex, has developed a financial instrument that enables investors to buy fractions of guarantees independently of auction houses—the first such product to be authorised by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Aimed at institutional investors, a Contract on Future Sales (CFS) is standardised, like a futures contract, and therefore tradeable. “Professional investors can take a position on the future price of a painting; if they invest in 1% of a painting estimated at £1m, they will get 1% of the hammer price,” Bourron says. “We’re going to bring transparency and grow the fine-art market by opening it up to the financial markets.”

Pi-Ex’s guarantee product is yet to be fully launched for investors, and with so much power held in a small core of the market, it remains to be seen whether it will work in practice.

Propping up the market?

Although guarantees have been the subject of criticism for inflating prices, it is hard to imagine returning to a market without them. “When you look at the performance of an artist, you cannot ignore whether or not some of his or her works were covered by third-party guarantees, because this is going to affect the prices,” Bourron says. “If you sell your work without a guarantee, you cannot expect to have the same performance.”

Schachter likens auctions with heavily guaranteed lots selling on one bid to the backer to “a dog and pony show… they’re bringing out these paintings that are, in effect, pre-transacted”. At a conference in April, Amy Cappellazzo, the chairman of fine art at Sotheby’s, seemed to suggest that auctions could become obsolete, because “by the time [the sale] happens, everything that was spontaneous
and interesting has already happened”.

Manufacturing a new price level for an artist by giving an artificially high third-party guarantee is possible, but costly to maintain. “Manufacturing prices at auction is expensive; you have to pay a lot of money to the auction house,” Philbrick says. “The market is often too savvy for that. Just because one work sells for X amount, it doesn’t mean that everyone is going to start buying for that amount.”

Although it is currently dominant, the auction market for post-war and contemporary art is only around 20 years old. Only when those with vested interests in artists who regularly appear at auction with third-party guarantees (such as Basquiat, Warhol and Richter) retire or die, or when tastes inevitably change, will these multi-million prices be revealed as being built on firm foundations—or on stilts.

How auction guarantees work

Guarantees ensure that a work is pre-sold at a minimum amount, either backed by the auction house itself (house guarantee) or by a third party, who receives some of the upside should the work sell for more (typically 20%-30% of the overage above the guarantee, although this can be as low as 10% or as high as 50%). The more risk a third party takes on, the higher the potential reward. The Art Newspaper

 

When she paints a river, the water colors her work

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona is known for its stellar collection of art inspired by water, but a new exhibition takes that water connection to new depths.

A series of richly colored abstract paintings by Twin Cities artist Annie Hejny, gathered under the title "Waterlines," are not just evocative of certain bodies of water. Curator Dave Casey explained that these paintings are actually made with them.

"So the water of Lake Superior and the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan and the Minnesota River — those are in these paintings," Casey said.

And not just water, but sediment, too. The paintings have a texture that, combined with layers of paint, gives them an almost geographic feel. Even though the works aren't figurative paintings of a lake or a river, Casey said, you still can feel the presence of that body of water in the painting.

"The final product is beautiful, but there's a huge process that goes along with this work that's just as interesting and just as beautiful as the work itself," he said.

More of Annie Hejny's paintings hang on the wall of her studio in Minneapolis. They are large, luminous works filled with rich colors and contrasts that flow across the canvas and draw in the viewer. They feature deep blues and greens with occasional bursts of yellow or rust. Shelves hold glass bottles of water labeled with the names of their sources: Coffee Lake, Torrey Lake, Minnesota River, Mississippi River.

"I always like to say that my process starts at the shoreline," said Hejny.

Hejny first came up with the idea of harvesting water for her paintings a few years ago. On her first attempt she grabbed a container, headed to the river, filled the container with water, and came back. Easy, but for one thing.

"I didn't have honorable practices," she said. "It didn't sit well with me. I knew there needed to be something more — I needed to have a philosophy behind my practice."

Then Hejny read Robin Wall Kimmerer's book "Braiding Sweetgrass." Kimmerer is a professor of environmental biology and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In her book, Kimmerer talks about the "honorable harvest."

"Know the ways of the ones who take care of you — so you may take care of them," Hejny read from the book. "Introduce yourself. Be accountable as the one who comes asking for life. Ask permission before taking, abide by the answer. Never take the first, never take the last."

Hejny incorporated those ideas into her harvesting practice. As she approaches a lake or a river, she reflects on her intentions. She notices the light, and the colors along the shoreline. Hejny often leaves a gift in exchange for what she's taken — dried flower petals. She then takes the water and sediment back to her studio and creates.

She hopes her work inspires people to think about their relationships with nature. And she hopes they'll begin to pay more attention to issues affecting drinking water and water quality.

"And I also hope that these paintings are a way of giving back, showing respect," she said. "Telling the earth and the water, 'Here's something beautiful that honors you.' So this is my language for showing that."

"Waterlines" runs through Jan. 6 at the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona. MPRnews

 

How Picasso’s Blue and Rose Periods Lay the Foundation for His Art
Whether or not one considers Picasso a prodigy, Musée d’Orsay’s Picasso. Blue and Rose allows the public to bask in the world of a young, energetic, and sensitive artist.

Picasso is back in the spotlight in Paris, but this time, there is a twist. The exhibition Picasso. Blue and Rose at the Musée d’Orsay examines the pivotal early years of the artist’s career, before he was the Picasso we now know. One of the most comprehensive collaborations between Musée Picasso Paris and Musée d’Orsay to date — surely the largest in scale — with an impressive selection of loans from public and private collections, it features around 300 artworks (including 80 paintings) dating from 1900 to 1906.

In search of his artistic identity, the 18-year-old Pablo Ruiz Picasso arrived in France from Spain in 1900. He was delighted to be selected to exhibit his paintings in the Spanish pavilion at the universal exhibition in Paris, which was visited by nearly 50 million people. Though he had already experimented with modernism, his academic paintings won him this opportunity, and the chance to relocate to Paris, then the capital of the art world. Picasso arrived at Orsay train station — now the Orsay museum — with his friend, a young Catalan painter, Carles Casagemas, in mid-October. The two painters immersed themselves in the vibrant Parisian art scene. In 1901 Picasso had his debut exhibition at French dealer Ambroise Vollard’s prestigious gallery. The paintings of this period are bursting with the vibrant colors of Fauvism, and show the influence of van Gogh in their style and Toulouse-Lautrec in subject matter.

Still struggling to make ends meet, Picasso lived between France and Spain. He was in Madrid when he learned that Casagemas had committed suicide over a failed love affair. This personal tragedy marked the beginning of the eminent blue period. Shades of Prussian blue, sapphire, and ultramarine are seldom warmed by touches of burnt sienna or ochre in these paintings. His searing portraits of Casagemas in his coffin — three exhibited side-by-side in the exhibition — evoke the elongated faces, tonality, and expressiveness of El Greco’s paintings.

A color palette that could hardly be more austere is paired in the blue paintings with themes of misery, pain, and poverty; slow art sales following a brief period of success exacerbated Picasso’s depression. He depicted the marginalized and disabled, winding drunks and bent beggars, and women of the Saint-Lazare prison, all in cool tones that dominate the canvas. The paintings of this period are accompanied by several ink drawings and a handful of sculptures. A melancholic atmosphere pervades the works in all media — somber images of despair that are difficult to look away from.

Picasso himself did not consider his blue and pink periods as separate. The curators likewise attempt to integrate these artistic phases. Yet, as visitors roam through the galleries, the atmosphere insubordinately changes. Gloom is displaced by a dash of bliss as shades of pink — rose in French — illuminate the canvases.

Settling in Bateau-Lavoir, a cheap residence heavily populated with artists, Picasso mingled with poets and writers including Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob, and André Salmon. He famously said, “Apollinaire knew nothing about painting, yet he loved the real thing. Poets have a sixth sense. In Bateau-Lavoir days, the poets had that sixth sense.” These fruitful encounters inspired Picasso to explore more lighthearted themes, such as circus acts, harlequins, and clowns.

While soft shades of fuchsia, light pink, and orange render a sense of visual jubilance, Picasso’s subjects, often depicted off-duty, appear pensive, meditative, and at times dispirited. These behind-the-scenes images of meandering buskers contrast with the work of artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, and Seurat, who were inspired by the spectacles. The rose period remains one of the most important periods in Picasso’s career as it marked his break with figurative paintings, which he returned to occasionally throughout his life.

The exhibition concludes with a switch from rose to ochre. During the summer of 1906 in the Spanish village of Gósol, away from the modernization taking place in Paris, Picasso took up earth tones and produced 300 artworks in a creative frenzy. Connected with nature and the tranquility of rural life, he began exploring expressive yet simplified forms of the female body. Iberian art, along with the work of Gauguin and Cézanne, which Picasso greatly admired, are clear influences on his work from this period. These colossal figures, with simplified features, paved the way for the creation of “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907 and the emergence of cubism.

Whether or not one considers Picasso a prodigy, Picasso Blue and Rose allows the public to bask in the world of a young, energetic, and sensitive artist who took up challenge after challenge to achieve a unique visual language of his own, after which he no longer signed his artworks “Pablo Ruiz Picasso.” He was now simply Picasso. Hyperallergic

 

Austria returns wrong Klimt to wrong family
Painting of apple trees is pulled from exhibition after admission that its restitution was a mistake

Austria has been criticised for moving too slowly to return works looted from Jews in the Nazi era. But now the country is facing criticism for returning a painting too hastily—and to the wrong Jewish family.

Apple Tree II by Gustav Klimt was one of 300 works included in the exhibition Gustav Klimt: Artist of the Century at the Leopold Museum in Vienna (until 4 November) organised for the centennial of the artist’s death. It was loaned by the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, established by the luxury goods mogul and art collector Bernard Arnault. On 22 June, the day the show opened, the Leopold Museum announced that it would not be showing the painting, saying in a statement: “Seeing as this artwork is currently the subject of a dispute between several people and institutions, which has not yet been resolved, the Leopold Museum has decided not to show the painting. The dispute was caused by the fact that while the painting was restituted by the Republic of Austria 18 years ago, it has recently transpired that a mistake was made with the decision to return this work.” The painting has since been returned to Arnault’s foundation.

Part of the problem is due to a confusion of two paintings: Roses under Trees from 1905, and Apple Tree II from 1916. The first painting was the property of Viktor Zuckerkandl and part of the collection of the Purkersdorf Sanitorium in Vienna, a gathering place for Viennese literati. Klimt painted several portraits of Zuckerkandl’s wife, Amalie.

When Zuckerhandl died, his niece Nora Stiasny inherited Roses under Trees, in 1927. The Nazis made an inventory of her family’s property in 1938, and Nora and her mother were killed in the Belzec death camp in 1942. Nora had tried to fund an escape from Austria by selling the picture to a Nazi official who had been a childhood friend. The official eventually bequeathed Roses under Trees to a girlfriend, who sold it in 1980 through the Swiss dealer Peter Nathan to the then-planned Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where it now hangs.

Apple Tree II, the painting removed from Leopold show, first came to public attention when the prominent Jewish collector Serena Lederer lent it to an exhibition in 1926. After the Nazi annexation of Austria in 1938, the picture appeared on a list of Lederer’s property. Lederer died in 1943, and many of her family’s paintings were seized by the Nazis and later destroyed in 1945, when retreating German soldiers set fire to Schloss Immendorf, where the looted works were held. To complicate matters further, a provenance report from last year suggests that the Lederer family collection included two paintings with the title Apple Tree.

In 1961, Klimt’s Apple Tree II was donated, along with other Nazi-looted paintings, to Vienna’s Belvedere Gallery after the death of Gustav Ucicky, a former Nazi party member and director of propaganda films who some think was one of Klimt’s six illegitimate children. But some experts believe that a member of the Lederer family had sold the painting to Ucicky, raising doubts about whether it was actually looted.

After a journalist raised doubts about Apple Tree II’s ownership, in 2001, Austria’s Art Restitution Advisory Board investigated and ruled that it had originally been the property of Nora Stiasny. The painting was returned to a surviving member of her family, Hermine Müller-Hoffmann. Hermine’s nephew, Viktor Hoffmann, who was living in Sweden, sold the picture, which was valued at a reported €20m. The current owner remained anonymous until it was revealed at the press preview for the Klimt show. The painting was removed from the exhibition the next day.

Suspicions around the work’s provenance circulated even before it was handed over to Stiasny’s heirs, and experts called the mistaken restitution an “open secret” for years. In 2015, the Commission for Provenance Research found that the work owned by Nora Stiasny was actually Roses under Trees. But the Lederer family’s overtures to reclaim Apple Tree II were rejected last year by the fiscal procurator, which legally represents the Austrian government.

It is not clear who is now liable for the wrongful restitution. The Austrian government is reviewing the legal implications of its decision, but has still not redressed its error. Documents cited by the Austrian press suggest that the heirs of Viktor Hoffman in Sweden might be liable if their former ownership is questioned. Since the painting was shipped out of Austria in June, the Lederer family’s options to recover the painting have become even more complicated.

While Austrian art restitution specialists say they were surprised by the Arnault’s foundation’s willingness to loan the painting to the Leopold Museum, it is unclear how deeply he and his advisers looked into the provenance of a work that was restituted by the Austrian government. The foundation has not responded to requests for comment, nor have Lederer’s heirs. The bigger question of whether Klimt’s Apple Tree II will be seen publicly again remains. The Art Newspaper

 

The importance of art clubs in schools

I teach medieval history and American history at Bayside Academy located in San Mateo. I have held an art club every Wednesday during lunch for the past few years; the club’s name is Dragons, Anime and Manga Art Club. Early in my teaching career, I found that many students desire the need to create art, I have witnessed art helping students with their social, emotional and academic development. My call to action is simple, but profound: Teachers — start an art club and allow students to create art pieces that they desire, without any boundaries or restrictions.

By hosting an art club that allows for free expression from students they can feel open to experimenting and creating from their imaginations. Students have unique ideas and powerful imaginations and need the space to work through their artistic expression on their own terms, without any objectives and boundaries. I have found that by allowing students to create openly, they produce pieces that are unique to their individual desires. For example, a student a few weeks back has been experimenting with water coloring, and then he had the interesting and striking idea to place clear tape over the water coloring giving the pieces a vivid and profound effect. I expressed to the student I was amazed by his creativity and his openness to take such an artistic risk in the moment. Additionally, students are free to make mistakes, which result in the students making discoveries because mistakes do make the brain develop and grow.

Interestingly, the club is a refuge that draws interesting and unique artists. Some students who are not artists do wander in to the club but since they are allowed to create freely they quickly discover that they too are an artist — naturally. Some students will simply sit, eat their lunch and listen to music — and they may not even produce a piece, but the key factor is that they are allowed to find their level, daydream and make their art when they wish. Above all else, the students are highly social and as they sit, create, eat, chat and listen to music; they learn that they are in control of their artistic destiny in the moment. When I began the club, I was under the impression I had to run art tutorials, directly teach weekly club lessons and head art projects. As I noticed that students open up their individual artistic expression when left on their own, I decided to let the club members create pieces on their own terms.

The club receives art supplies donated from community members. For example, a teacher on the Peninsula named Pam has been a silent benefactor for the club since the beginning. Through her support, the club has been able to hold art raffles, use great art materials and enjoy art books. I have also reached out to the San Mateo Lion’s Club and they have generously donated funds to the club. These actions demonstrate that community members play an important role in student’s artistic development as well. I am truly thankful for the support from community members, such as Pam and San Mateo Lions members who have offered their assistance. We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Teachers! Start an art club, make a difference and the rewards will present themselves. The Daily Journal

 

When an artist lost her home — and entire portfolio — N Street Village helped

Sometimes, seeing a work of art will make you feel a certain way. Creating a work of art can make you feel a certain way, too, said Ruth C. Mohamed Nur.

We were in the art studio at N Street Village, a charity for homeless women that is a partner in The Washington Post Helping Hand. Spread out on a table was some of Ruth’s art: pen-and-ink portraits embellished with colorful coronas of flowers, butterflies, ankhs, African masks and other symbols.

“I put a lot of flowery stuff in because that’s how I really want to feel sometimes,” said Ruth, 57. “And a lot of times, I’m not feeling that way.”

Ruth became homeless about a year ago. Art had always been a part of her life. She started drawing at 4. When she was little, her parents took her to galleries in Washington.

“The African Art Museum was on Capitol Hill then,” Ruth said. “We’d go down to the Smithsonian and just walk about.”

When she was old enough, Ruth would catch the bus and go by herself.

She was an art major at the University of Maryland, studying with such figures as David Driskell, Sam Gilliam and Anne Truitt, and becoming enamored with Romare Bearden’s work.

Ruth developed her own style, creating large collages and art quilts. She was an art teacher in public schools in the District and taught art to senior citizens in Prince George’s County.

Ruth did some graduate work at Howard University, but when her marriage fell apart, she dropped out of school to care for her two sons. And when her father started showing signs of dementia, she moved into the family home in Northeast Washington to care for him.

Ruth said that after her father died, she had a falling out with the rest of her family. With no place to live, she wound up at N Street Village’s Patricia Handy Place, a building on Fifth Street NW that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing for women experiencing homelessness.

She hadn’t been there long when another resident told her about the offerings at N Street Village’s flagship location near Logan Circle, such things as yoga, meditation, dance exercise and — three times a week — art classes.

“I hop on the shelter bus,” Ruth said. “It brings me here. I find out they have art. They have art supplies. They have sketchbooks and pens.”

When Ruth became homeless, she lost her large portfolio of work, the quilts and collage-bedecked canvases she had spent years creating.

“I have very little space now, so I’m doing drawings,” she said. “I’m coming up with a lot of stuff I didn’t know I had in me at all. I’m working on a series of homeless women.”

She showed me a stark piece. A short-haired woman stares at the viewer. She’s standing against a brick wall but is also embedded in a spider’s web.

Ruth first thought she had created the woman from her own imagination but then realized it’s another resident of Patricia Handy Place.

Ruth works a part-time job as a substitute teacher at charter schools. Her goals include finding a full-time job teaching art. She’ll never stop creating it.

“If you’re working with your hands in an artistic or crafty way, you don’t have time to cry,” Ruth said. “You don’t have time to have the blues. You’ve got to think about something else. When I’m drawing, I can’t think about all this chatter in my head.”

Ruth’s sons are grown now. She thinks they’re doing well. She hopes they are. But she’s lost contact with them. It’s hard to stay in touch when you’ve lost everything and for months didn’t even have a phone, she said.

But in nearly every work that Ruth draws, she inks “Bakri” and “Anwar” in tiny letters among the flowers and the butterflies.

“Now if they ever see it, they may be able to see their names,” she said. The Washington Post

 

Whimsical and Wild, Upcycled Art Home for Sale in Florida—All Artwork Included
We've seen many homes marketed as "works of art." However, in this case in Florida, there are oodles of artwork for sale along with the house.

We've seen many homes marketed as "works of art." However, in this case, there are oodles of artwork for sale along with the house.

This residence in Wilton Manors, FL—owned by “upcycle” artist Michael Jude Russo—is crammed with hundreds of his creations. It's now on the market for $1.2 million. All art included.

The self-described "green" artist purchased the 10,081-square-foot space in 2005, but moved in in 2010—after transforming the home, which is now filled from floor to ceiling with his sculptures, custom furniture, and fanciful artwork.

Fish mobiles float from the ceiling, flamingos perch in the hallway, and insects bug out on the walls. Wherever you look, Russo's creations stare back. Don't worry, they don't bite.

There's more than a gallery's worth of objects to take in. It can be difficult, but if you're able to see past the 400-plus pieces of art that fill up the two- bedroom, two-bath home, you can soak in what Russo calls his “Zen paradise.”

The open floor plan has a small kitchen and walls of glass that offer abundant garden views. The outdoor area includes a shaded patio, nursery, garden shed, and pool with water features and fountain.

The whimsical artwork is all made from found materials.

“The art that I create is a direct result of influences on my life situations, impressions, and experiences," Russo says. "The challenge is to materialize ideas using everyday substances and objects. The world gives me all the ‘art supplies’ that are necessary.”

Look closely and you'll be able to discern the original materials—from sneaker treads to mailboxes, from paintbrushes to window wipers—living second lives as works of art.

This isn't the first time Russo has sold his entire body of work that's evolved around his living quarters.

"The home I sold in New York City was a complete original design with much of it built in," Russo says. Both the furniture and artwork from that home were sold to a collector in 1998, allowing him to move on to his next project. Now Floridians have a chance to snag a Russo original.

"This home is really one of a kind," says listing agent Virginia Hornaday of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. "The inspiration came from his lifelong belief in the circularity of good design (no 'dead ends') and its integration with nature. He's brought the landscaping inside the home with the sliding glass walls, round windows, and positioning on the lot. It's a wonderful example of how to redesign a typical Florida home." The Middletown Press

 

Double vision: Paris show displays two Mary Magdalene Caravaggios
Scholars are divided over whether either of the paintings of Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy—or both of them—are copies

The inclusion of two paintings depicting Mary Magdalene in a Paris show dedicated to Caravaggio has sparked controversy among scholars of the maverick 16th-century Italian artist.

The exhibition at the Musée Jacquemart-André, organised by the Institut de France and Culturespaces, an independent company, includes ten works by Caravaggio, seven of which are shown in France for the first time—including the famed Lute Player (1595-96) from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

However, the decision to include two versions of Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy—one painted in 1606 and authenticated only in 2014, the other painted around the same time, known as the “Klein Magdalena”—has reignited debate around their attributions.

“It is unusual to see both versions together. It is therefore interesting to see them side by side,” says Gert Jan van der Sman, the professor of the history of drawing and printmaking at Leiden University. “But to my mind, both [works] are 17th-century copies after a lost or as yet untraced original. Most scholars are sceptical about the [2014] attribution to Caravaggio,” he says.

John Gash, a senior lecturer in art history at the University of Aberdeen and a Caravaggio expert, says he is “sceptical” of the version that was identified as authentic in 2014, but is looking forward to seeing the works next to each other in Paris “in order to judge their relative merits”. Another scholar who asked to remain anonymous conceded that “the issues of replicas and authentication in Caravaggio studies are such a minefield.”

Other scholars welcome the move. Richard Spear, an Italian Baroque expert at Princeton University, says: “It is not unusual for exhibitions to show versions of a work for study. Indeed, that is one of the best things exhibitions can do in order to advance scholarship. This is a good opportunity to form an opinion, especially on the version attributed to Caravaggio [in 2014] by Mina Gregori. Dawson Carr, who organised the Caravaggio exhibition at London’s National Gallery in 2005, concurs: “It doesn’t really matter what individual scholars conclude—the important thing is that the paintings are seen and compared.”

The painting attributed to Caravaggio in 2014 was found in a European private collection and was identified as authentic by Mina Gregori, an Italian art historian and prominent Caravaggio scholar. In the catalogue of the current exhibition in Paris, Gregori writes that “the execution and the stylistic examination of the painting unquestionably confirm the hand of the master: the quality of the workmanship, the intensity of the expression.”

Gregori partly based her attribution on a 17th-century wax Vatican customs stamp found on the back of the painting stating that this Magdalene was “for the benefit of Cardinal Borghese of Rome”. The work was due to be sent to Chiaia, an affluent neighbourhood of Naples where one of the artist’s most high-profile patrons, Costanza Colonna, lived. Colonna may have acted as a go-between, commissioning and forwarding the work to Cardinal Borghese.

Rossella Vodret, a curator at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, endorsed Gregori’s attribution in 2016 by including the work in the exhibition Caravaggio and His Time: Friends, Rivals and Enemies, at the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo.

Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy was previously only known through copies made by followers of the artist. At least eight reproductions are thought to be in existence, adding to the mystery around the fate of the original. The copy that is housed at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Marseilles, for example, is believed to have been made by the Flemish artist Louis Finson.

The curator Francesca Cappelletti defends her decision to include the work in the show, saying: “The Magdalene discovered by Mina Gregori in 2014 shows an incredible quality of modelling and expression. This is an incredible occasion to see the paintings together. Most scholars haven’t seen them so far, and it will be very interesting to compare opinions in a [possible future] seminar.”

The “Klein Magdalena”, meanwhile, is on loan from a private collection in Rome. Cappelletti points out that this version was discovered after the Second World War by the critic Roberto Longhi, and was published by the late art historian Maurizio Marini. It was included as a Caravaggio work in the exhibition Visions and Ecstasy: Masterpieces in Europe between 1600 and 1700 held at the Vatican Museums in 2003. The Art Newspaper

 

Overcoming the Difficulties of Painting en Plein Air
Kathleen Dunphy, Linda Glover Gooch, John Poon, Dave Santillanes, Kathryn Stats, and Colley Whisson offer expert advice.

Painting outdoors in the open air can be a frustrating and even discouraging experience for the uninitiated. Today’s best plein air painters experienced those same overwhelming feelings when they first began painting outdoors. But what they’ve all discovered is that the struggles and initial failures are more than worth it.

Six outstanding plein air painters have agreed to share useful tips that helped them push through those early struggles. Learn how they assimilate landscape overload and use all the material gathered on-site when creating larger studio works.

What was the most difficult thing for you to overcome when you first began painting outdoors?

Linda: Simplifying the subject and not being overwhelmed by the vast view.

John: Seeing accurate values under extreme lighting conditions.

Dave: Not using enough paint.

Kathryn: Trying to paint the whole world on a single canvas. Choosing subject matter and defining the outside perimeters for the canvas.

What advice do you have for those just beginning this adventure?

Kathleen: Find a good workshop that will address your needs. Ask questions. Don’t be intimidated by people who are painting better than you. Practice, practice, and persevere.

Linda: Go easy on yourself. Work small and study plein air works of those you admire. Practice a lot.

John: To overcome the effect of a painting appearing darker when brought in from the outdoors, a trick that helped train my eye to see values more accurately when outdoors was to establish a key on my palette. I placed a patch of sky color to dry, which I had mixed while in the studio and knew to be accurate under gallery lights. On location, I carefully tried to match that value. This helped to make the paintings look more natural when brought indoors.

Dave: Don’t worry about the success or failure of the painting. Treat it as a “study” of color and atmosphere.

Kathryn: Look for the dark patterned shapes that define a composition. Choose high contrast compositions as opposed to close value situations. Think of light and dark patterns as abstract puzzle pieces. Use a viewfinder to focus in on your main subject.

Colley: First, start with drawing.

There’s a lot to deal with for the uninitiated plein air landscape painter. How do you suggest they assimilate all the information and translate that to canvas?

Kathleen: Don’t try to paint everything you see. Focus and concentrate on one clear intent per painting. Do several thumbnail sketches, cropping and enlarging, pulling back to focus or home in on smaller parts of the big scene. This exercise will help you determine what interests you most, and what not to paint.

Linda: Start with up-close and personal scenes. Don’t try to paint the whole Grand Canyon, just pick a small portion and learn from there.

John: Consign the entire scene to just three or four simplified masses. Group things together. The ground plane and hills, for example, can often combine to form a single large mass that separates from the lighter value of the sky. In this way, it helps organize the vast amount of detail, and keeps detail subordinate to the larger shapes of the design. Rather than painting every blade of grass, unify the area into a mass with broad brush strokes, then apply just a few details to define the subject.

Dave: Learn to see the “light family” and the “shadow family” independently in order to create an apples-to-apples comparison of color throughout a landscape. For example, if you can isolate your vision to only the shadows (or the darkest darks on each plane) and compare these dark shapes from background to foreground before painting them, you’ll have atmosphere figured out in very short order.

Kathryn: Paint all the darkest shapes first, then medium values, and finally, the lightest value patterns. Don’t get lost in minutia; for example, rather than draw every tree separately, find a way to group them as a mass into one large group. Limit detail. Hold off the most essential details until the last 1 percent of the painting.

Colley: Doing small thumbnail sketches is an ideal way to begin. Initially, it’s best to choose a subject that’s not too difficult and is within your skill level.

What’s the best way to use plein air work and photography in the studio?

Kathleen: When painting in the studio, plein air studies are used as reference, but I rarely just “size up” a successful study. For larger studio works, I will refer to my photos for a design idea, then use the studies for color reference and inspiration for the central theme of the painting. I try to look at the photo reference infrequently while I’m painting, relying mostly on the studies, sketches, and memory.

Linda: I use my plein air work mostly to note colors or the flavor of my palette and to identify the mood of the scene. The photo will assist me further in the detail of a larger painting and also in any compositional changes I might want to make. Both are a jumping off place for me. I don’t want to be married to the photo.

John: The outdoor sketch is quite useful for accurate color notes when working on a larger studio painting. The photo still falls short in accurately recording color and value, the main shifts occurring in the hue, saturation of the lights, and value of the shadows. An accurate field sketch serves as a reliable road map for me. Because our minds are so limited in creating unique and varied shapes, the photo is a good resource for capturing the subtlety and nuance of our subject. So, the color sketch and photo reference can both be combined to good effect when creating larger studio works.

Dave: Use a bad photo and a good plein air study. You can even convert the photo to black and white; this will keep you from chasing bad color information and help you rely instead on a true first-hand source for that information. Of special importance are the shadows. If you only get one thing right in a plein air study, make sure it’s the shadows.

Kathryn: I view variations of photos taken of the subject on my computer. Along with the plein air sketches, and material from these other sources, I try to design the most interesting composition. If I want to be true to the original plein air piece, I grid and size it up to a canvas of similar proportion in order to maintain the ratio of the original composition.

Colley: In recent years, I’ve used my outdoor work as research and development time. I look for something different, possibly a subject that I’ve never painted before. I take these concepts and ideas to fuel my studio work, believing that “Where I’m going is more important than where I’ve been.” Today, I tend to rely on my photographic reference more than ever. The camera has become my 35mm sketch book. Outdoor Painter

 

How Should We Look at Cornelius Gurlitt’s Trove of Nazi-Looted Art?
Gurlitt: Status Report, An Art Dealer in Nazi Germany makes a long-hidden art collection with a dark provenance accessible to the public.

Much of contemporary Western life is marked by an increasing anxiety regarding consumption. When possible, some of us try to understand where the objects in our lives come from in an attempt to avoid products created under inhumane or ecologically destructive conditions. While accepting that nothing is produced without contributing to some measure of harm, ethical consumption means choosing the less bad option. It means deciding to support or boycott something on the basis of its provenance.

Mostly, this applies to consumer goods: food, clothes, and other necessary items. However, this desire for transparency and knowledge of what we participate in can also be observed in recent museum practices, some of which attempt to unearth and lay bare the conditions in which art is produced, bought, sold, and finally, exhibited. This is the guiding principle behind Gurlitt: Status Report, An Art Dealer in Nazi Germany, currently on view at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, in collaboration with the Art and Exhibition Hall in Bonn and Kunstmuseum Bern.

In 2012, to the astonishment of the international media, a collection of more than 1,500 immensely valuable artworks were discovered in the Schwabing apartment of one Cornelius Gurlitt during an investigation into possible tax evasion. At the Gropius Bau, a selection of this art, including works by Rubens, Rodin, Renoir, Monet, and countless other masters, reemerges after decades of being hidden from public view. Part exhibition, part presentation of research findings, the exhibition strives to show exactly how these artworks came to be in Gurlitt’s possession.

Cornelius Gurlitt, who died in 2014, bequeathing his entire estate to the Kunstmuseum Bern, really only plays a bit part here. The exhibition’s real protagonist is his father, the art dealer Hildebrand Gurlitt, who founded the collection. Hildebrand Gurlitt was a canny operator who, despite being part Jewish, managed not only to survive but to thrive in Nazi Germany. He achieved this through full cooperation: facilitating the sale of so-called “degenerate art” to (mostly) foreign buyers to buoy the regime’s coffers, while also acquiring suitably völkisch art from Nazi-occupied countries for the planned Führer Museum in Linz. At the same time, Gurlitt made money siphoning off countless works for his own collection. Where the art came from, and the reason behind each individual sale — if the pieces were sold at all — did not really concern him. After the war, he was successfully de-Nazified and exonerated, and went on to become the director at Kunstverein Düsseldorf. He died in a car accident in 1956.

At the Gropius Bau, the art of Gurlitt’s collection — much of it on view for the first time — becomes almost incidental. More important is its provenance, the winding routes it took to get here, and whether it was looted or sold under duress. The real point of this research — undertaken by an international team of experts called the Schwabing Trove Taskforce — is to understand whether the artworks were legally or illegally attained and, in the latter case, to return them to the heirs of their rightful owners. To this end, the exhibition is full of text and is as much an educational exercise as one centered on the appreciation of art. Particular artworks are exhibited alongside case studies documenting their original owners, predominately Jewish people forced to sell their possessions, or whose homes were looted as they either fled or were murdered. These small family histories make fully apparent the horror on which Gurlitt’s successful career was founded.

One such example is Thomas Couture’s “Portrait of a Young Woman” (1850–1855), an oil painting of a dark-haired young woman looking relaxed as she idly clutches a necklace, turning slightly to meet our gaze. From the adjoining vitrine, we learn this belonged to George Mandel (1885–1944), one of the leaders of the French resistance. In 1954, his companion Béatrice Bretty spoke of a painting of a woman. The painting had a small hole in the canvas and went missing from Mandel’s Paris apartment following his arrest. Examining Gurlitt’s cache in 2017, restorers detected this hole, thereby identifying it as the aforementioned missing painting.

Emphasizing the monstrous events that allowed these artworks to make their way into Gurlitt’s possession (Mandel was imprisoned from 1940 until 1944, when members of a pro-German militia executed him in the forest of Fontainebleau), the exhibition’s curators ensure it is difficult, if not impossible, to understand these artworks in purely aesthetic terms. We can just look at the artworks, of course, but that is to willfully deny the importance of historical context.

One of the gallery’s walls shows a photo of a crowd of German people, taken during the war. They stand amidst a sea of household objects, clothes, and other personal items. Notwithstanding that these goods were stolen from Jews being sent to their deaths, this crowd is there to buy. Remaining vague, the murderous provenance of these objects can be sidelined without much thought. At stake is that these sales were converted into hard cash — continued revenue that enabled the Reich to further their inhumanity. Through the example of just one individual, Gurlitt: Status Report, An Art Dealer in Nazi Germany uses provenance to make clear the entanglement of art and Nazism. Even in our contemporary era, where and how art is made, exchanged, and exhibited largely depends on the sum of our personal, mundane decisions: on choosing to see or not see.

Gurlitt: Status Report, An Art Dealer in Nazi Germany continues at Martin-Gropius-Bau (Niederkirchnerstraße 7 10963 Berlin) through January 7, 2019. The exhibition is organized by the Bundeskunsthalle and Kunstmuseum Bern. Hyperallergic

 

David Hockney painting sells for $90M, smashing auction records

Money has never mattered that much to David Hockney, as long as he has enough to continue working. But equally, he's also always had a good memory for figures -- for the pounds, shillings and pence. As a student at London's Royal College of Art, he remembers selling a drawing to a friend and fellow student, the American painter Ron Kitaj, for a princely £5. It meant that he could buy cigarettes in packs of 20. He sold another early painting, "Adhesiveness" (1960), to photographer Cecil Beaton for £40. That meant he could begin planning to travel abroad.

As it happens, Hockney also has a clear memory of what "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" originally fetched shortly after he painted it. On Thursday, at a Christie's auction in New York, the painting was sold for $90.3 million, an auction record for a living artist. But back in 1972, his New York dealer sold it for just $18,000.

For Hockney, the memory is still bittersweet. He felt ripped off. Last year, at his studio in the Hollywood Hills, he told CNN, "I thought it was a lot of money at the time, but within six months, it was sold again for $50,000."

After the sale, Hockney's American dealer, Andre Emmerich, "realized the pictures (in the show) were underpriced. A lot had been underpriced." But by then, it was too late. And so, as is often the case in the art market, someone other than the artist made a swift and substantial profit.

More is known about the creation of "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" than virtually any other single Hockney painting. The 1974 biopic "A Bigger Splash" chronicled its creation, and Hockney himself wrote about the painting in detail in 1988's "David Hockney by David Hockney: My Early Years."

"A Bigger Splash" was shot from 1971 to 1973 by British director Jack Hazan, who was given special access to Hockney, then living and working in London's Notting Hill, and his inner circle. A mix of fact and fiction, it centers on the painful unraveling of Hockney's five-year relationship with a young American artist, Peter Schlesinger.

Hockney told CNN the painting was inspired by an accidental juxtaposition of "two photographs on my studio floor, one of the Peter and another of a swimmer, and they were just lying there and I put them together." In his 1988 memoir, "David Hockney by David Hockney: My Early Years," he wrote: "The idea of painting two figures in different styles appealed so much that I began the painting immediately."

He worked on the picture for six solid months. The standing figure was always Peter Schlesinger. According to his official biographer, Christopher Simon Sykes, Hockney painted the swimmer first but then coated the canvas with a preparatory gesso, which prevented him from altering the position of the pool or the standing figure. It was a mistake.

Hockney gradually realized the painting -- in particular, the angle of the swimming pool -- just wasn't right. He wrote that, "The figures never related to one another nor to the background. I changed the setting constantly from distant mountains to a claustrophobic wall and back again to mountains. I even tried a glass wall."

Realizing the futility of his efforts, Hockney abandoned that effort and, reinvigorated, started the painting all over again. He chose a new setting, a pool by a house in the south of France that belonged to British film director Tony Richardson. He took two models with him: a photographer named John St. Clair and Mo McDermott, his studio assistant.

He took hundreds of photos of the two. St. Clair, the submerged swimmer, dived into the pool in his white briefs so many times that he eventually cracked his head on the bottom and had to stop. McDermott acted as Schlesinger's stand-in, wearing his reddish pink jacket by the pool. Back in London, Hockney persuaded Schlesinger to pose for him early one morning in Hyde Park for yet more photos.

Once back at his Notting Hill studio, Hockney painted for 18 hours a day on a canvas seven feet by 10. At one point, Hockney is filmed taking a Polaroid of the unfinished painting. At another moment, he paints in Schlesinger's brown hair with a long brush. "I must admit that I loved working on that picture, working with such intensity," he later told biographer Sykes. "It was marvelous doing it, really thrilling."

While he spent six months of the first version, the final "Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)" was finished in just two weeks, to meet a deadline for a New York show in May 1972. In "A Bigger Splash," Hockney, with his trademark bleached blond hair and black, owlish spectacles, stands in bright red braces and a bow tie, carefully checking out how the painting was hung and lit in the show. It was the star exhibit, perhaps an expression of Hockney's personal loss and his acceptance that his long affair with Schlesinger was finally over.

But as we now know, all this wasn't without a sense of Hockney feeling cheated by what happened next. An American, apparently alerted by a British dealer, just came in off the street and bought it. The dealer then promptly took it to an art fair in Germany and sold it to a London collector for nearly three times the price. As he wrote in "My Early Years": "Within a year people had made far more on that picture than Kasmin (John Kasmin, his London dealer), Andre (Emmerich, his New York dealer) or I had. Considering the effort and trouble and everything that had gone into it, it seemed such a cheap thing to do."

We can only imagine how Hockney will feel after this sale, when the painting he worked so hard on has sold for more than 5,000 times its original price. The current seller and the auction house will no doubt profit, but, as a Christie's spokesperson confirmed, "the artist will not be financially benefiting."
Christie's hasn't named the seller, but he's believed to be British businessman Joe Lewis, who has famously collected postwar British art for some time.
At 81, Lewis happens to be the same age as Hockney. He also has a net worth of $5 billion. CNN