April 4, 2018

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

In this issue:

Jacob Lawrence Painting Missing for Half a Century Goes to Auction
A brush with madness
UK teacher wins global best teacher prize
Banksy Blitz Continues in NYC with New Murals in Brooklyn
This New Website Is Offering Free Art Lessons from Professors and Artists
As Closely Watched Case Nears Possible End, Lawyers Duel Over Berkshire Museum Sales in Massachusetts Supreme Court
Michaels to close most Aaron Brothers stores in brand repositioning
Nothing but Bic Pens Will Do for Latino Artist Raul the Third
Carter Sexton features local artists
Trump Signs Bill Boosting the NEA and NEH Budgets He Wanted to Eliminate
A Super-White Coating Based on a Beetle’s Scales Could Transform Paint





Jacob Lawrence Painting Missing for Half a Century Goes to Auction
A historical scene from the Chesapeake-Leopard affair (the 1807 incident that led to the War of 1812), the painting is headed for auction on April 5.

A missing painting from Jacob Lawrence’s Struggle . . . From the History of the American People series, a work effectively lost in an unknown private collection, has resurfaced after decades off the radar. The 19th panel of the series, “Tension on the High Seas,” shows a British naval officer hovering menacingly over three bound and wounded American captives, their heads hung so low that they disappear into their shoulders. A historical scene from the Chesapeake–Leopard affair (the 1807 incident that led to the War of 1812), the painting is headed for auction at Swann Auction Galleries on April 5. It’s expected to sell for between $75,000 and $100,000.

The painting’s discovery “brings to light an important missing link in our understanding of a defining, yet lesser-known series in Lawrence’s career,” Elsa Smithgall, a curator at The Phillips Collection, wrote Hyperallergic in an email. “It provides hope that the other four panels, whose whereabouts have eluded us so far, will at last emerge. This particular panel, with its striking depiction of the British impressment of American sailors, is one of several from the series that examine the history of the War of 1812. As such, it brings a fuller, richer context to the mounting drama of Lawrence’s overall visual narrative.​” (Smithgall organized an exhibition of 12 works from the Struggle series at the Washington, DC museum in 2015.)

When he first came up with the idea for the series in the 1950s, Lawrence intended Struggle as a 60-work book project. “He wanted to convey the history of the entire American people,” Nigel Freeman, director of the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Auction Galleries, told Hyperallergic in a phone interview. But Lawrence ended up painting only 30 panels (covering 1776–1817), and the book project never materialized. Created in the mid-1950s, the complete series of 30 panels was displayed only twice, in 1956 and 1958. It was acquired in its entirety by a Long Island collector named William Meyers in 1959, who proceeded to sell the works off individually throughout the 1960s, Freeman said, dispersing them far and wide.

In 2000, on the publication of Lawrence’s catalogue raisonné (He remains the only African-American artist with a catalogue raisonné of his complete works, Freeman said), it was discovered that six of his panels from the Struggle series had gone missing. One, of the Boston Tea Party, has been found since, but until now, there were five works still unaccounted for. (As Smithgall noted, four panels currently remain at large.)

The Struggle series hasn’t been seen in its entirety since 1958, but the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts hopes to amend that. According to an Elizabeth Hutton Turner article published in The Magazine Antiques last year, the museum plans to organize a touring exhibition of the whole Struggle series in 2020. Maybe by then, at least one more of the missing panels will have re-emerged. Hyperallergic


A brush with madness

The paintings and life story of Vincent Van Gogh would appear to make the case that there's a connection between great art and madness. But does that apparent link have any real basis in science? Rita Braver takes a closer look:

In the midst of his fierce and ultimately losing battle with madness, Vincent Van Gogh made some of the most beloved paintings in the world.

"They are highly expressive," said Mary Morton, curator of French paintings at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. "And they're certainly informed by what must have been his awful experiences of mental breakdowns."

Morton says his 1889 self-portrait was painted in a mental asylum after Van Gogh famously cut off a piece of his own ear. But it's the other side of his head that he displays in this work.

Did he want to show the world the good side, that he was OK, asked Braver?

"No, not necessarily -- I mean, does he look OK to you?" Morton replied.

"He looks mysterious, and kind of tortured," Braver said.

"Yeah, and a little bit sick. He's haunted, is what he is. He looks very haunted, and I think that he's expressing that in a very honest way."

Months later, Van Gogh is widely believed to have committed suicide.

He is just one of scores of visual artists, writers, musicians and other creative people (including Ludwig van Beethoven, Mark Rothko, Sylvia Plath, T.S. Eliot, Irving Berlin, Virginia Woolf, and Ernest Hemingway) who are known or believed to have suffered from mental illness.

"Study after study after study has shown that there is a disproportionate rate of mood disorders, in particular, in highly-creative people," said Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and is considered a leading expert on mood disorders in artists.

Braver asked: "What is known about what goes on in the brain that might create a relationship between mania of some kind and creativity?"

"One of the things that has been observed since mania was first written about is that people have more energy, more drive, they take more risks," said Jamison. "It's the profound despair that comes from depression that gives them a very different kind of appreciation of the human condition."

Some preliminary studies also suggest a neurological explanation: the brain's frontal lobe seems to be activated in a similar way during mania, schizophrenia and creativity.

But whatever the reason, Jamison says artists who suffer from mental illness -- like Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Lowell, whom she has studied extensively -- share an important trait: they can somehow muster the power to channel their suffering.

Lowell, Jamison said, "had one of the worst variations of bi-polar that I've seen, in terms of just severity. What it took was this iron will, this ability to get up the next morning and sit down and write."

Other artists who struggled with mental illness included Ernest Hemingway. "I think that Hemingway had a very complicated view of his own illness," Jamison said. "For example, when Scott Fitzgerald wrote his great essay about depression, 'The Crack-Up,', Hemingway was scathing in his criticism of Fitzgerald for having gone public about having been mentally ill."

Since then, dozens of artists, including performers like Kurt Cobain, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Janet Jackson, Carrie Fisher and Demi Lovato, have struggled publicly with their mental illness.

Michael Angelakos is founder of the indie band Passion Pit -- cool enough to land on Letterman. He says some of his most popular songs reflect his ongoing battle with bipolar disorder.

Braver asked, "People think, 'Oh well, somebody is in a manic state, they're so productive, they're so creative.' Do you think that was true for you?"

"Sometimes," Angelakos replied. "There's a double-edge sword here -- you may be productive, but not everything makes sense."

"Were there periods where you couldn't work at all, where you just felt despondent?"

"Oh, absolu -- yeah, I mean most of my 20s was taken over by depressive periods," he said. "I would have to literally fling myself up into a manic state to get things done. It pretty much ruined my life in my 20s, absolutely."

Today, at 30, Angelakos is taking medication and also undergoing electroconvulsive therapy -- options not available to many artists of the past. He says he is trying to keep himself on track, and also raise money and awareness. His hope: to help other artists understand they can cope with mental illness -- yet, like Vincent Van Gogh, still create visionary work:

Mary Norton said, "We don't want our artists to be like everybody else. We want them to provide the kinds of emotional experiences that are not mundane. And certainly Van Gogh does that for us." CBS News


UK teacher wins global best teacher prize

A teacher from north London has been announced as winner of a competition to find the world's best teacher.

Andria Zafirakou, who teaches art and textiles in a Brent secondary school, has won a prize worth $1m (£720,000).

She has spoken of the hardship and overcrowded housing conditions facing many of her pupils.

But in accepting the prize, she called for more support for the "power of the arts" in school, particularly for the "poorest communities".

First UK winner
Mrs Zafirakou becomes the first UK winner of the Global Teacher Prize, beating teachers nominated from more than 170 countries.

The prize, launched in 2015 by an education charity, the Varkey Foundation, was created to give more status to the teaching profession, with an Oscars-style awards ceremony in Dubai.

Prime Minister Theresa May sent a video message commending Mrs Zafirakou and said great teachers needed "resilience, ingenuity and a generous heart".

Racing driver Lewis Hamilton, Olympic champion Mo Farah, former US vice president Al Gore and former UK prime minister Tony Blair were part of the event honouring the north London teacher.

In her acceptance speech, she said schools should be "safe havens" and called for greater recognition for the value of arts subjects in school.

She warned of "deprivation" and "tough lives" where "children may not eat well because their lunch boxes are empty".

But she said school could make a great positive difference - particular through creative subjects.

"Too often we neglect this power of the arts to actually transform lives, particularly in the poorest communities."

The teacher from Alperton Community School has been praised for her work with the local community as well as with pupils.

She says the mix of people and languages in this part of north London is a "beautiful challenge" which creates a "buzzing" atmosphere.

It is claimed as one of the most ethnically diverse places in the UK, with 130 different languages spoken in the London borough.

She has learned basic phrases in languages such as Hindi, Tamil and Gujarati and has visited homes to build links with the school.

Mrs Zafirakou has been praised for making her pupils feel secure, working with the police to make sure they travel to and from school in safety.

And she will have to stay in teaching, because a condition of the prize is remaining as a teacher for at least the next five years.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds sent a message to say her "story of selflessness and dedication is truly inspiring".

Head teachers' leader Geoff Barton said the award "reminds us all of the power of great teachers, the importance of creative subjects, and demonstrates the world class standard of UK education".

Quiet place to work
When she reached the top 10 shortlist, she spoke of the disadvantages facing many of her pupils.

"By getting pupils to open up about their home lives, I discovered that many of my students come from crowded homes where multiple families share a single property," said Mrs Zafirakou.

"It's often so crowded and noisy I've had students tell me they have to do their homework in the bathroom, just to grab a few moments alone so they can concentrate."

In response, she organised extra lessons during the day and the weekend, including giving pupils a quiet place to work.

The nominations from Andria's school said:
"I am submitting a nomination for a teacher who is a true gem, one who inspires such possibility and potential in her students, their parents, the staff, her peers, the local community, and future teachers and leaders."

"A phenomenal teacher and leader. She is guided by a moral compass that underpins a passionate desire to give every student at her school the world - no ceilings, no limitations, no boundaries."

"She is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to ensuring that students deserve the best education possible."

"One lady with care and passion can make a huge difference to the lives of many. She is upbeat, full of character, highly regarded and I wish all schools were blessed with a senior leader such as her!"

The finalists were drawn from more than 30,000 nominations in 173 countries.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation which runs the competition, said he hoped "Andria's story will inspire those looking to enter the teaching profession and shine a powerful spotlight on the incredible work teachers do all over the world every day".

The other nine finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2018 were:

•Nurten Akkuş a pre-school teacher and principal, Samsun, Turkey

•Marjorie Brown, history teacher, Johannesburg, South Africa

•Luis Gutierrez, social science teacher, Bogota, Colombia

•Jesus Insilada, English teacher, Iloilo, Philippines

•Glenn Lee, engineering and technology teacher, Hawaii, United States

•Diego Mahfouz Faria Lima, school director, Sao Paulo, Brazil

•Koen Timmers, lecturer and computer science teacher, Heusden-Zolder, Belgium

•Eddie Woo, maths teacher, Sydney, Australia

•Barbara Anna Zielonka, English teacher, Nannestad, Norway. BBC


Banksy Blitz Continues in NYC with New Murals in Brooklyn
Two murals by the secretive British street artist have appeared at a former gas station in Midwood.

Banksy’s latest series of interventions in the New York City streetscape continued apace today. This afternoon the artist revealed on Instagram that a mural in the Midwood section of Brooklyn that had come to widespread attention last week is in fact his doing.

The mural is a characteristically coy commentary on capitalism, although it is accompanied by a smaller piece that depicts a seal. The pair is located in Midwood, at Coney Island Avenue and Avenue I. The larger one features what looks like a real estate developer (equipped with both a briefcase and a hardhat) brandishing a whip in the shape a rising red line graph, while a procession of children, a woman, an elderly person, and a dog flee. Nearby, a smaller mural whose connection to the theme of gentrification is indecipherable, features a seal balancing a ball — formed by the unpainted circle where a sign used to hang — on its nose.

When I arrived in Midwood to check out the rumored Banksy around 6:30pm on Friday, a handful of people were shooting photos of the mural and taking turns posing with it. Over the half-hour I was at the scene, several more arrived in their cars, pulled into the vacant lot — a former Mobil gas and service station — snapped a few photos, and left. One group even staged an impromptu photo shoot in front of the seal mural, which is on the actual former service station; the gentrification-themed mural is on the exterior wall of a neighboring pre-school.

When I spoke to a man named Shehine who works at the Sunoco gas station across Coney Island Avenue from the murals, he said they’d been painted several days earlier, perhaps as early as last Saturday (March 10), and that many people have been coming through to take photos. Though the gentrification mural is classic Banksy — perhaps even a reference to the Trump Village properties in nearby Coney Island — the seal seems more impromptu and unusual. Maybe Banksy was on his way to the New York Aquarium at Coney Island. Hyperallergic


This New Website Is Offering Free Art Lessons from Professors and Artists

For many people, finding an art class that is both accessible and affordable can be difficult.

“A lot of kids don’t have art programs at their school, or the programs they do have are meager and underfunded,” artist and art professor Clara Lieu told me on a recent afternoon. “Many adults, too, don’t know where to start—or can’t afford the courses that are available.”

In 2017, Lieu launched Art Prof, a website that offers a wide range of art classes, captured in videos. Taught by professional artists and university art teachers, courses range from the basics, like drawing, to more complex or niche mediums, like types of sculpture, printmaking, and animation. Professional development advice is available, too, in videos with titles like “Facing Artists Block” and “Selling Your Art.” What’s more, lessons are fun. One instructor, illustrator Casey Roonan, often starts lessons with an impression of actor Matthew McConaughey in the cult film Magic Mike. In other videos, a pet guinea pig makes cameos as a very cute, albeit silent, studio assistant.

Most important to Lieu, however, is that the site and its courses are completely free. “The second there’s a financial barrier, that’s going against our mission: to be accessible to everybody,” Lieu explained.

A longtime adjunct professor at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Lieu recognizes the value of art schools, continuing education courses, and online programs. Knowing that tuition costs can be extremely prohibitive, and that websites like Lynda.com and Skillshare.com have paywalls, she wanted to provide a no-cost alternative for those who can’t afford classes, or who live in areas where art instruction isn’t readily available.

The concept of Art Prof came to Lieu about four years ago, while she was teaching at RISD and writing an advice blog for artists called “Ask the Art Prof.” She started the column expecting to receive queries from her RISD students, but quickly found herself responding to all types of artists, from professionals and university students to schoolchildren and retirees. The questions she fielded ranged from “How do you draw the human face?” to “How can I tell if I’m skilled enough?” Simultaneously, she was volunteering for an outreach program called RISD Project Open Door, which offers art classes to Rhode Island teens who have little or no exposure to the subjet.

“Before then, I hadn’t realized there was such a huge range of people who wanted to study visual art, and who really had nowhere else to get the information that they needed,” Lieu remembered. “I thought, ‘There’s gotta be a way, with the technology we have now, to give people that access.’”

In step, she began speaking with fellow professors and her RISD students about her blossoming idea: to develop art classes for anyone who can connect to the internet. In 2016, she and her business partner, producer Thomas Lerra, launched a Kickstarter campaign and raised $30,000 to fund the creation of the website and a core group of instructional videos. Last year, they launched Art Prof, and continue to persist on donations alone via Patreon.

“It’s a little bit Khan Academy, in terms of being an encyclopedia; a little bit Antiques Roadshow, it terms of the interactive critiques; and, of course, a little bit Bob Ross,” Lieu said of the site.

When it comes to instructional courses, Lieu and her staff of teaching assistants (many of whom are her former students from RISD) began by producing foundational videos on drawing, collage, mixed media, and painting. These videos are geared towards beginners, both in terms of skill, which is entry-level, and cost of materials.

Even the more advanced classes that have begun to pop up on the site offer a range of options when it comes to supplies. In marker drawing, balsa wood sculpting, or oil painting, for instance, instructors shed light on both economical and higher-end materials that can be used for a given project. The site also comes equipped with what Lieu refers to as the “art supply encyclopedia,” a sweeping list of the materials mentioned in Art Prof’s videos, and where to snag them.

Art Prof’s videos also encourage aspiring artists to develop their own process and style. “We don’t want to tell people, ‘this is how you draw,’” said Lieu. “Our approach is: Here are five ways of drawing. Now you figure out, on your own, which parts you like and which parts you don’t like.”

With new videos being added on a regular basis, it seems that Art Prof is on its way to meeting one of its goals: offering something for everyone. “I want to reach people who don’t have access to art classes, but also people who do have a high school art class, but want more, beyond what the teacher can give them,” Lieu said. “Really, I hope that we become a comprehensive encyclopedia for all visual artists.” Artsy


As Closely Watched Case Nears Possible End, Lawyers Duel Over Berkshire Museum Sales in Massachusetts Supreme Court

The battle over the Berkshire Museum’s controversial plan to sell artworks from its collection, including two important Norman Rockwell paintings, in order to pursue what its leadership terms a New Vision, has been long and grinding.

But on Tuesday, at the John Adams Courthouse in downtown Boston, the fight may have finally entered its final round. At a hearing in the afternoon, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office and the museum asked Justice David Lowy of the state’s Supreme Judicial Court to sign off on a deal they had previously reached, while attorneys for plaintiffs who had filed to block the sell-off made a last-ditch attempt to have the agreement rejected, scaled back, or modified.

If the court grants approval, and barring any new further legal challenges, the museum will be able to proceed in selling works by artists including Francis Picabia, Alexander Calder, and Albert Beirstadt to raise a sum that Sotheby’s has estimated could be more than $50 million. Museum groups say that such a move would undermine donors’ trust and encourage other financially strapped institutions to take similar steps. The Berkshire Museum’s team argues that it is essential for its survival.

The 50-minute hearing was fast-paced, with four lawyers—one for the Attorney General’s Office, one for the museum, and one each for two groups of plaintiffs—presenting brief statements while fielding interjections from Justice Lowy.

“I have to tell you, I’m watching two different movies,” Lowy said at one point, in response to the dueling narratives being proffered.

William Lee, the Berkshire Museum’s lead attorney, described an institution that had acted carefully in crafting a plan that would ensure its long-term existence as a pillar of its community. “This is a museum that is providing a science program for under-resourced schools that can’t provide science programs,” he said. “This is a museum that is providing a portion of the population that lives below the poverty line with their window to the world”—borrowing a phrase from Zenas Crane, who termed the museum that he founded in 1903 a “window on the world.”

In sharp contrast, Michael Keating, an attorney for Berkshire County residents as well as Tom Patti, an artist with a permanent installation at the museum, said that “there are several questions that the museum has failed to answer” about its plans and governance. He argued that, consequently, the “petition bears particular scrutiny by this court.”

Keating, whose team in the courtroom included Martha Coakley, a former Massachusetts attorney general (who, as it happens, was born in Pittsfield, the home of the Berkshire Museum), argued that the court should appoint a Special Master to oversee the sale and use of any generated funds, and questioned the museum’s claim that it truly needs some $50 million in order to fulfill its mission.

Nicholas O’Donnell, an attorney for current and former museum members, highlighted the dangerous precedent that the case could set, with other museums looking to sell their works rather than engage in the difficult business of fundraising. “The auction house is going to do what auction houses do, which is sell to the highest bidder,” he said, so that the works “will be scattered to where, we don’t know. That is hard to square with the intent of Zenas Crane and Norman Rockwell.” (Rockwell himself donated two of his paintings that are among the group marked for sale.)

At the core of the dispute is whether the proposed agreement between the Attorney General’s Office and the museum meets what with known as “cy-près doctrine,” which stipulates that, as circumstances change, the intent of donors should be followed as closely as possible. In this case, that means that the court has to weigh whether the museum has shown that selling some of its art is necessary for fulfill its mission.

The agreement previously reached between the Attorney General’s Office and the Berkshire Museum states that the museum will be able to sell works in three tranches. The first $50 million of any prospective sales will be available for spending without restriction, going toward maintenance, renovations, and its technology-focused New Vision; any additional money would go to a fund to benefit collection care and future acquisitions. (The museum would also be able to decide not to sell later tranches if it reached that target figure beforehand.)

The headline-grabbing aspect of the deal when it was announced last month was that an unnamed buyer had been found for Shuffleton’s Barbershop (1950), the Rockwell masterpiece at the center of the dispute. That buyer has agreed to display it publicly after extending a loan of up to two years for public display in Massachusetts. (That work had been estimated to sell for between $20 million to $30 million, but the offered price has not been revealed.)

Courtney Aladro, an assistant attorney general, told the court that, after a seven-month investigation, her office believed that the museum’s plan to try to raise $50 million was appropriate, even if it involved selling works with restrictions placed on them by donors or legislation. Near the end of the investigation, Aladro said, her office came to understand that a lower figure, of around $25 million that had been proposed by a consultant with the museum, “addressed only then-current deficits. It didn’t provide a sustainable, viable path forward for the museum to be self-sufficient.” (Other museum experts have suggested that lower amounts, as little as $4.5 million, might be enough sustain it.)

“We have a $1.2 million structural deficit; we have about $6 million left,” Lee, the museum’s attorney, said during his presentation. “We had $7-and-a-half million when this litigation started, but the structural deficit has consumed 20 percent of that. There is not time for us to wait another year or two or three.”

The hearing on Tuesday was scheduled to begin at noon, but the audience began filing in at about 11:15 a.m., and ten minutes before the starting time there was not a seat left in the place. A small number of people stood around the edge of room, perhaps sharing in a sense of déjà vu. Several months earlier, in November of last year, many of the same people had met in Berkshire Superior Court in Pittsfield, just around the corner from the Berkshire Museum, for a hearing on a motion brought by opponents on an injunction to halt the sale. Back then, Judge John A. Agostini questioned the plaintiffs skeptically and ended up rejecting their motion. That led to the Attorney General’s Office joining the plaintiffs in their action, in order to have more time to complete an investigation.

An eleventh-hour ruling by a justice on the state’s appeals court, Joseph A. Trainor, brought the Berkshire Museum’s plan to a halt just three days before the first works were set to hit the block in an auction room in Manhattan in a sale scheduled for November 13, 2017.

In court on Tuesday, Berkshire Museum staff and board members took seats to the left of the room. There was Elizabeth “Buzz” McGraw, the president of the museum’s board, sitting next to Van Shields, who was sidelined during much of the legal tangling by a medical emergency. Together, McGraw and Shields led the charge on the deaccessioning, and McGraw in particular has been singled out by opponents of the sale for keeping it secret from the public until after a contract had been minted. At one point, she sent an email to board members with the subject line “Loose lips sink ships.”

Members of the group identified as Save the Art – Save the Museum, which has staged protests against the sale, were scattered throughout the rest of the courtroom. Among them was Mike Morin, a graphic designer with a white beard and a puffy olive-colored winter jacket, who told me before the hearing that he had visited the museum as a boy while growing up in Pittsfield. He now lives in Boston. “We’re hoping that the justice will listen to the two briefs and do what the [attorney general] didn’t do,” Morin said. Until the proposed agreement between the museum and the Attorney General’s Office was announced, those aiming to block the sale had hoped the attorney general would be their savior. “I don’t know what happened, but she did an about-face,” Morin said.

At the beginning of the hearing, Justice Lowy, who was appointed to the court in 2016 by Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, told the crowd that, since the Attorney General’s Office and the museum were in agreement, he thought it was important to hear opposing views. That was why he had made the somewhat unusual decision of allowing Keating and O’Donnell to speak even though they had filed only amicus curiae or—“friend of the court”—briefs, since they lacked standing in the case.

In his brief, O’Donnell pulled no punches, saying that the museum’s plans to “dispose of its most celebrated art would undeniably harm the public interest,” and calling the AGO’s decision a “complete capitulation” and an “inexplicable reversal.” “The present petition would hand the keys right back to the driver who crashed the car,” O’Donnell wrote, adding at one point, in reference to the trustees, “No group has ever less deserved a $50 million slush fund.”

In court, Keating argued that the museum’s agreement requires oversight by an expert. “What is the basis for the museum’s contention that it needs $50 million?” he asked. He said at another point, “It’s quite clear that, at the moment, there is no real plan to show what the cost and the income would be from the New Vision plan.”

When Keating’s talk turned to the ongoing structural deficit, he seemed to find a sympathetic audience. Justice Lowy asked him, “Didn’t I read that the fundraising stopped?”

“Yes, you did,” Keating replied enthusiastically, explaining that, when the museum’s leaders made their decision to sell art to fund their New Vision, they “terminated their fundraising efforts. A generous attitude toward that would be that they knew they didn’t have to fundraise anymore if they added $50 million to the coffers.” In his own, earlier remarks, O’Donnell had hammered that same point. “Not raising money is a really good way to run out of money,” he said.

Later, Lee, the museum’s attorney, maintained that the institution had only stopped its fundraising for a capital campaign, and that it had continued to otherwise raise money as per usual. He also rebuffed allegations that the museum had acted rashly or inappropriately, and that it did not have a plan. The museum, he said, “is in dire circumstances and looking for a way to fulfill its mission. It went through a two-year planning process and came to the conclusion that this was the way to do it.”

Responding to calls by Keating for the court to appoint an outside expert as a steward for the museum, Lee said, “There is a steward and an expert who represents the public in this—and that is the attorney general.” While Keating and O’Donnell “talk about what they don’t know,” he said, “that’s different than what the attorney general knows.” Alandro, the assistant attorney general, emphasized that her office will continue to have oversight of the museum, as is its responsibility under the law, and that the plan for “monitoring that is set up with the relief is sufficient.”

Justice Lowy quizzed both Lee and Alandro on why the agreement might not place some additional restrictions on the sale of art, perhaps mandating that they be sold to institutions that would continue to exhibit them in a manner that could fulfill the wishes of donors. Alandro said that such a rule “could depress the purchase price,” meaning that the board would not be able to realize the full value of the art. The assistant attorney general said that her office had taken the extra step of signing off on the private sale (without an auction) of Shuffleton’s Barbershop to an entity willing to display the work publicly only because a letter, from the Berkshire Museum’s director at the time of Rockwell’s donation, stated that the artist wanted the work to remain in its permanent collection.

(Observers have speculated that the still-anonymous buyer of the Rockwell work could be either George Lucas’s forthcoming Museum of Narrative Art, which just broke ground in Los Angeles, or the Crystal Bridges Museum of American in Bentonville, Arkansas. Both are deep-pocked enough to be able to afford the painting. After that proposed sale was announced, the three sons of Norman Rockwell, who had challenged the sale as part of suit helmed by Keating, dropped their objections.)

Lee ended his remarks with a deadline of sorts, saying that “April 6 is the day we need to go to press to sell in the spring,” That is the date that Sotheby’s—which still holds the 40 works earmarked for sale—will need to have the pieces confirmed in order to include them in the catalogues for its spring sale. Barring that, the next major sales for the auction house will be in the fall.

Both O’Donnell and Keating called on the court to act. The former maintained that the court was not “presented with an all or nothing question here.” The latter advocated for “effective monitoring. For reasons that are not clear to me, the Attorney General does not think that it does not want to get into that.” In court documents, O’Donnell had put the decision looming before Justice Lowy starkly, writing that “this Court is now the last resort to avoid the Commonwealth becoming a shameful opening salvo in the pillaging of museum collections nationwide by opportunists.”

After the hearing concluded, with the Justice saying he would take the case under advisement, attendees stood for his exit and then spilled out into one of the hallways of the Adams Courthouse. “I thought he asked some really important questions,” Carol Diehl, of the Save the Art Group, said of the justice. “He saw that there were two different stories [and] there were holes in the argument by the museum. I thought that he was thorough.”

Lee, the museum’s attorney, told me, “We had a chance to present our case here today, and we’re sure we’ll get a full and fair hearing.” Referring to his client’s success in Superior Court and with the Attorney General’s Office, he said, “We’re hopeful that the full and fair hearing will reach the same result as it reached the prior two times.”

Asked if the museum had any regrets about the fact that the litigation has gone on for so long, stretching back to October 2017, Lee replied, “I think I can answer that for you very quickly: we didn’t sue anybody—we got sued.” The museum has simply been showing up, he said, in pursuit of the course of action it believes is best.

“Would we have preferred to be where we are today without litigation?” Lee said. “Of course. And I’m sure some of the other parties would as well.” ARTNEWS



Despite the board of directors’ decision to close the Memphis College of Art by May 2020, a group of students, artists, and arts professionals are rallying to keep the school open. They launched a “Save Memphis College of Art” petition, which has nearly 3,500 signatures, and they are also considering taking over the institution.

Tootsie Bell, an MCA alum, jeweler, and silversmith, started the petition. She is now working to make the group a nonprofit organization and will soon make public a plan to build a financially sustainable model for the beloved school.

Citing declining enrollment, overwhelming debt, and no viable longterm financial plan, the private college’s trustees voted to shutter the school in October 2017. According to Commercial Appeal, the institution has $7 million in real estate debt and a small endowment of less than $5 million.

“This has been a heartbreaking process,” MCA interim president Laura Hine said after the announcement. “But we remain proud of the creative energy MCA artists have long brought to Memphis, and are eternally grateful to the donors and foundations who have sustained us throughout our eighty-one-year history. The tremendous value of the artistic contributions made by MCA faculty, students, and graduates, over many decades, simply can’t be captured in words.”

For Bell, the school’s closure is not an option. She is currently working on a plan for “Save Memphis College of Art” to take over the school, after all of its properties—except for the site where its main academic building, known as Rust Hall, sits—are sold to pay off its debts. Bell is trying to fundraise more than $20 million to raise the institution’s endowment and to renew its lease with the city. She is also considering reopening the college at another location. As she told Commercial Appeal, “Our commitment is to have a higher-education arts institution in Memphis.”

The activist was inspired to organize after what happened with Sweet Briar College. Because of “insurmountable financial challenges,” the women’s liberal arts college in Richmond, Virginia had faced closure in 2015. It light of the institution’s dire situation, alumnae mobilized their community to raise more than $44 million to keep the college open.

“The Memphis College of Art is important to the cultural identity of Memphis,” signatory Tommus McKee wrote on change.org. Signatory Julie Sauls added: “MCA is the only art school in the area. We need it to provide texture and balance to the community.”

Hine applauded the group’s efforts, but said that in the end it comes down to “numbers and financial support.” “If Save MCA can come forth with a viable plan, fully funded and fully committed, of course we’re all ears,” she said. “But it has to be commitments from individuals or foundations in writing for us to be able to reverse course.” ARTFORUM


Michaels to close most Aaron Brothers stores in brand repositioning

The Michaels Companies is pulling the plug on its freestanding stores devoted to framing, wall art and other art supplies.

The retailer on Thursday announced that, following a strategic review of Aaron Brothers, it plans to close all 94 of its 97 full-size Aaron Brothers stores and reposition the brand as a “store-within-a-store” concept providing custom framing services in all Michaels store locations. Michaels will also rebrand Framerspointe.com, a company-owned online custom framing website, as AaronBrothers.com.

In fiscal 2017, Aaron Brothers’ net sales totaled approximately $110 million and had no material impact on the company’s operating income, according to Michaels. The company expects the after-tax cost of implementing these changes will be in the range of $37 million to $42 million, with the vast majority of the cost recognized in the first quarter of fiscal 2018.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said repositioning Aaron Brothers stores as a shop-in-shop concept and online service is both fiscally and operationally sound. He said the brand has been suffering from the rise of online framing services, which has reduced its profitability.

“It makes no real sense for Michaels to invest time and effort into a brand that has little potential as a stand-alone entity,” Saunders said. For more analysis, click here.

Michaels Cos. on Thursday also posted fourth-quarter sales that topped the Street and offered guidance for fiscal 2018 that was below estimates. Net income totaled $202.9 million, or $1.11 a share, in the quarter ended Feb. 3 (which included an extra week), up from $197.4 million, or 95 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Adjusted per-share earnings came to $1.19, in line with estimates.

Sales rose to $1.89 billion from $1.75 billion, ahead of analysts’ estimates of $1.879 billion. Same-store sales rose 2.5%, also more than expected.

For the full year, Michaels’ net sales increased 3.2% to $5.36 billion. Same-store sales inched up 0.9%.

Chuck Rubin, Michaels chairman and CEO, said in fiscal 2018 the company plans to reinvest some of the benefits of tax reform to accelerate planned investments to drive future sales and earnings growth.

“We will invest to build a foundation to bring ecommerce fulfillment in-house; offer a more seamless omnichannel experience for customers; convert approximately 235 stores to our FMA format to create a more consistent, relevant layout; and strengthen our data analytic capabilities,” stated Rubin. “While this acceleration will result in temporarily elevated levels of operating expense in fiscal 2018, I am confident these investments will position us to increase our market share and expand our leadership in the arts and crafts channel.”

For all of fiscal 2018, the company is expecting sales of $5.21 billion to $5.29 billion, and adjusted EPS of $2.19 to $2.32. Analysts had expected sales of $5.36 billion and EPS of $2.59.

At the end of fiscal 2017, the company operated 1,238 Michaels stores, 97 Aaron Brothers stores, and 36 Pat Catan’s stores. Chain Store Age


Nothing but Bic Pens Will Do for Latino Artist Raul the Third

The most fascinating thing about art is the many forms it can take and ways one can make it. This also applies to comic books and graphic novels. Known best as “Raul the Third,” this artist has a unique style; using only Bic pens for his illustrations.

On March 9th, Raul the Third gave a talk at the Logan Heights Bread & Salt building, presented by the Athenaeum Art Center and La Jolla Country Day School. Growing up in El Paso, Texas, his father a salesman and his mother with the equivalent of a 2nd grade education, Raul didn’t have access to much in the way of fine art materials. Instead, he he’d find pens on his walks through El Paso and take them. As he and his family would wait for the bus, he’d draw whatever he saw.

Eventually, Raul knew he needed more. “You need something to give you inspiration,” said Raul. “You need to follow in someone’s footsteps.” It was only when he went to the local 7-Eleven to buy his father a newspaper that he found a renewed passion to draw. “I’d been there many times before, but this time it was when I became aware of the tower of comics, it’s sign saying, ‘Hey kids, 75 cent comic books!’” From here on, Raul began to spend a lot of time at the 7-Eleven; it became his “art museum” he said. From those books, he copied the images of super heroes and villains every day. “You are absorbing through your fingertips their powers, which you can later call upon.”

He continued the use of pens for much of his art. “My first book had the budget of $6.50, which was the cost of the Bic pens I used,” said Raul. His reasoning for using pens is because he wants to show kids that there are things accessible for them to use; that they shouldn’t get discouraged if they can’t get the latest and greatest art supplies.

Since then, Raul the Third as taught children, illustrated books like Lowriders in Space and his latest Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (both books written by Cathy Camper), and traveled the country giving talks.

In a short interview with Raul the Third, I had the opportunity to discuss more about his career and his decision to focus mostly on children-friendly content.

How were your early years as an artist looking for work?

The early years are a bit of a blur. At first, I was terrified to show anyone my work so I drew hundreds of pages in secret, drawing and redrawing images and pages. In Boston I decided that I wanted to work as an artist and nothing else. Being a college dropout, I always had to let myself in using the back door. I think it was my willingness to try and do just about anything that led to my success in various art forms.

How was this journey been for you so far as a Latino artist? How would you say your culture influenced your art?

Being a Latino in Boston was interesting as there are not too many of us up here, but I used it to my advantage and cemented myself as the go to guy by using my artwork as a vehicle to introducing the art community to issues that I felt were underrepresented in mostly exclusively white art scene in the Boston area. My culture and upbringing led me to create dialogue in my work on various topics including border issues, the immigrant experience and to create books where the central characters were Latino. I am happy and proud that my work is in the collection of many museums and institutions and that I get to work and collaborate with amazing publishers and writers. All in all, I have had an exciting career so far and I look forward to the decades to come.

What sort of reactions did you receive from your family members as you followed through with your art career?

My family loves what I do and they are incredibly supportive. Of course early on they were a bit concerned, not knowing or understanding how I could materialize my ambitions. They didn’t know any Latinos who were successful artists, so they didn’t think a poor Mexican boy could rise to those heights. It is one of the reasons why I visit hundreds of schools. I want those kids to see themselves through me and to understand that they can accomplish their dreams and that their personal stories and experiences are important.

What/where do you take inspiration from these days?


Do you have a set schedule or a process when you draw?

I live to draw and create art. Luckily my schedule is set to make as much art as I can before I kick the bucket.

What have been some high and low moments in your career?

I don’t think about low moments. Every moment teaches you something. The high moments are simply the fact that I get to do this for a living, but winning the Pura Belpre award, the Brother Thomas and MCC fellowships were definitely life changing experiences.

Your books and the classes you teach are all directed to children. What would you say that is?

Because life is filled with disadvantages and there are so many in our communities that aren’t treated equally. If my books and presentations can help give hope to our youth, then I will continue to help create them.

What advice do you have for all the aspiring artists out there?

Don’t let the naysayers without dreams and imagination get you down. Read and digest as many images as you can. Learn about the creators, authors and illustrators of your favorite books, paintings and movies and follow their examples. Don’t be so quick to define yourself and take any and all opportunities that come your way. Be proud of who you are no matter your upbringing and background. I can’t wait to see what you produce! The Beat


Carter Sexton features local artists
The LA art scene has exhibition openings aplenty, and we’re all familiar with the recent flourishing of galleries in DTLA.

If you’re a burgeoning artist in LA, however, you may struggle to find smaller, more local, more consistent shows where you can get a feel for collections, themes, or styles that resonate with audiences. Amateur actors who first move to LA know that they have open calls, extra work, and agents to pester. However, the art scene is frequently more of abstract entity to approach for new artists.

If you’re looking to show off a single piece, series of pieces/styles/themes of your artwork in a public gallery, Carter Sexton Artist’s Materials is the place to look.
Art, architectural, and engineering supply store by day, Carter Sexton features local artists who comply with exhibition entry regulations once a month for a night of wine and art consumption.

One of the co-owners of Carter Sexton Artist’s Materials, Nikki, emphasized the non-pretentious proclivity for community that motivated Carter Sexton to host themed exhibition nights. This vision is realized through the Art/Wine/Conversation nights. Often exhibition openings or single night shows can be a polarizing overwhelming or isolating. The Abstractions Art/Wine/Conversation night was a happy middle ground for the art show goer. I didn’t know anyone when I entered the gallery for the “Abstractions” theme exhibition, but the artists and owners themselves were readily available to chat about everything from the art on the walls to the very concept of community itself.

Carter Sexton Artist’s Materials hosts a themed Art/Wine/Conversation night every month and posts a call for submissions one month in advance. NOHO


Trump Signs Bill Boosting the NEA and NEH Budgets He Wanted to Eliminate
The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities will each receive about $153 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2018, around $3 million more than in 2017.

After twice suggesting the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, which are two of the largest sources of federal art funding, President Trump has signed an omnibus spending bill that slightly increases funding for both agencies.

The NEA and the NEH will each receive about $153 million in fiscal year 2018 — around $3 million more than their 2017 budgets of about $149 million.

Trump previously threatened to veto the $1.3 trillion spending bill, in part because it did not fully fund a wall on the US-Mexico border. “I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump said.

In a short statement shared with Hyperallergic, the NEA said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is deeply appreciative of the support of members of Congress.” The spending bill received bipartisan support, including the vocal support from a number of key Republicans, in the House and Senate.

President Trump proposed deep cuts to federal arts funding in 2017 and 2018, and suggested that the NEA and NEH be eliminated altogether in the near future. A wide range of lawmakers and organizations — most recently a coalition of 11 foundations — made statements in opposition to his proposal.

Government-funded arts organizations have often been targeted by advocates of limited government, although federal arts spending makes up a comparatively tiny portion of the budget. In 2016, approximately 0.004% of federal funding went to the NEA. That year, the states that received the largest share of NEA grant money were Vermont, Alaska, and Wyoming.

“With this funding, NEH will be able to aggressively support essential cultural infrastructure projects across the country,” Jon Parrish Peede, Senior Deputy Chairman of the NEH, said in a statement sent to Hyperallergic.

Echoing recent figures released by the NEA, which estimated that the arts contributed $763 billion to the US economy in 2015, Peede said, “Our federal dollars play a catalytic role in generating local investment and sustainable economic development.” Hyperallergic 

A Super-White Coating Based on a Beetle’s Scales Could Transform Paint
Developed from cellulose, it is remarkably thin and lightweight, and scatters light extremely well to achieve an incredibly bright white.

Scientists have developed an ultra-white coating that has the potential to revolutionize how we manufacture and apply paint. Developed from cellulose, it is remarkably thin and lightweight, and scatters light extremely well to achieve an incredibly bright white. As it is nontoxic and edible, the coating could even be used in the cosmetic, food, and pharmaceutical industries.

To produce this super-white substance, the team of researchers from the University of Cambridge and Finland’s Aalto University took a cue from nature. The material — which currently doesn’t have a name — mimics the structure of scales that cover the Cyphocilus beetle, a pallid bug that’s native to Southeast Asia. These scales, which are very thin, are formed from a dense and complex network of chitin, which scatters all wavelengths of light very efficiently; it is this particular exoskeleton that makes Cyphochilus appear so white.

Using small strands of cellulose, or cellulose nanofibrils, that were processed by mechanical defibrillation, the researchers engineered a flexible membrane with the same capability. They detailed their results in a study published this month in the journal Advanced Materials. The membrane, consisting of a particular combination of nanofibrils of varying diameters, is one of the thinnest materials developed so far that’s able to produce white. Just a few millionths of a meter thick, it scatters light 20 to 30 times more efficiently than white paper. The structure is “almost like spaghetti,” Dr. Silvia Vignolini, a Cambridge University researcher, said.

“What is cool is that with a really low amount of material, you can achieve a high intensity of reflection and whiteness,” Vignolini told Hyperallergic. “You don’t need to have thick material to have get 100% white, 100% reflection.”

While the researchers have processed the nanofibrils to create a flimsy membrane, they’re trying to find a way to produce a material for practical use, including as a paint for artists.

“Ideally we would like to make a powder that can be readily used and applied directly as you would do with a standard pigment,” Vignolini said. Once mixed into an organic solvent such as linseed oil, the coating would produce a bright white with just one layer, making the painting process less laborious in many cases.

Most white products that are commercially available, from paints to sunscreen, contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. While these materials are considered safe to apply, they are not sustainable, the researchers say (studies also argue that titanium dioxide nanoparticles pose a health risk). A coating developed from cellulose — which is naturally abundant, strong, and biocompatible — and reflects light extremely efficiently, represents a compelling alternative to current colorants.

The scientists hope to further optimize the coating’s whiteness by manipulating the configuration of nanofibrils. They will eventually try to manufacture it into a powder, which Vignolini says will likely sell at a pretty cheap price. Unlike Vantablack, you’ll be able to apply it yourself, like any other paint on your palette. Hyperallergic



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