January 6, 2021

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

In this issue:

4th-grader’s art patch sent to the stars on SpaceX rocket
'Long overdue': US will build national museums for American Latinos and women's history after Congress approves historic bill
Curators responsible for Queen’s art collection lose their jobs in Covid-19 cost-cutting exercise
Art in the New Normal: Art Buying 101
Is this ‘enormously powerful’ painting of Jesus Christ by El Greco? Spanish expert questions new attribution





4th-grader’s art patch sent to the stars on SpaceX rocket

When SpaceX’s Dragon rocket launched on Dec. 6 bound for the International Space Station, it brought a piece of Lebanon County with it.

A patch created by fourth grader and Lebanon native Joshua Ferguson, a student at Milton Hershey School, was selected to be sent on SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station as part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.

Joshua created the patch in 2019 when he was in second grade.

Joshua was ecstatic when he learned that his patch had been chosen. “I jumped a lot and was screaming a lot,” he recalled. “I had so many emotions, like ‘woahhh is this really happening, I can’t believe that this is going on!’”

At Milton Hershey, located in Hershey, Dauphin County, more than 370 total patches were submitted as part of the contest, 143 created by first and second grade students and 231 by third and fourth graders. One patch from the first two grades and another from the second two grades were selected by the school to be sent to the space station.

The mission taking Joshua’s art to the ISS also contains art from another Milton Hershey student, Zoya Johnson, now in sixth grade.

Teachers along with students in kindergarten through fourth grade voted for the winning patch during lunchtime, when they were displayed to vote. Joshua’s patch was one of the two winners, even though he doesn’t usually spend his time drawing, preferring Legos and miniature soldiers.

In total, 67 patches were selected out of a total of 21,200 submitted on an international level, with entries reflecting the “international” in the station’s name: Students from Brazil and Canada also saw patches included in the launch.

“I saw another patch of NASA’s that had a rocket on it, so I wanted to do that but wanted the rocket to be the main part of the patch,” Joshua said.

Joshua Ferguson’s art contains Jupiter, Saturn, the SpaceX rocket, the International Space Station, Earth and elements meant to celebrate Milton Hershey School.

The school applied to partner with the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program in 2019 and was selected by NASA to participate. That year, high school students at the school saw their gravity-related experiments sent into space and returned to Earth.

Joshua wants to be an aerospace engineer when he grows up. “When I heard about the patch, in Mr. Crowley’s room, I said that if I win this, I want to devote my life to space,” he said.

He added that the sheer size of space and the fact that most of it remains a complete mystery makes him want to devote his life to the topic. Joshua is getting a telescope soon. “I probably can’t find unknown stuff, but I want to learn the basics,” he said.

More than 1 million people, including Joshua, watched the launch via a video livestream at 9:45 a.m. Dec. 13. According to the student space program, the spacecraft is set to land on Earth again on Jan. 8, although it is as yet unknown when Joshua’s patch will return to Earth.

But he is anticipating the day it does. “When it comes back, we will probably buy a pretty expensive frame and hang it up in the house,” he predicted. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


'Long overdue': US will build national museums for American Latinos and women's history after Congress approves historic bill
Bipartisan effort, decades in the making, permits Smithsonian Institution to move ahead with plans

After a decades-long struggle, legislation to create a National Museum of the American Latino and a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, DC under the umbrella of the Smithsonian Institution was approved last night by the US Congress.

Since the passage of separate bills by the US House to found the women’s history museum in February and the Latino museum in July, Senate approval of the initiatives by unanimous voice vote had seemed all but certain this month but was thwarted on 10 December by a lone US lawmaker, Mike Lee of Utah, who called the proposals for such dedicated institutions “divisive”.

Lawmakers in both the Democratic and Republican parties then joined forces to have the bills included in $1.4tn omnibus legislation for funding the US government that could be passed by both houses before Congress’s holiday break. The bills had drawn broad bipartisan support. The legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

The effort to create each museum stretches back decades. In 1994, a Smithsonian task force issued a report stating that the institution displayed a pattern of “willful neglect” in representing Latino contributions to US culture. In 2014, Congress created a congressional commission to study the potential for a US museum of women’s history, arguing that American women have always been marginalised in the Smithsonian’s narrative of US history and that 2020, the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, was an ideal time to start rectifying the imbalance.

The two Senate sponsors, Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, greeted the passage of the omnibus legislation. “Women have been a central part of American history from our founding to the present day in every way, whether it’s science, business, the arts or politics,” said Senator Feinstein. “A permanent museum to celebrate those contributions and tell the stories of so many incredible women is long overdue.”

The challenges facing each museum are significant: organisers have noted that after decades of reversals, legislation to establish the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History was approved only in 2003, and that 13 years then ensued before that museum’s doors opened in 2016. The institution has since inspired audiences and proved highly popular.

The bills included in the omnibus legislation call for 50% of the funding for each museum to flow from the federal government and 50% from private sources. Organisers say that each institution could potentially be built on or near the National Mall. The Art Newspaper


Curators responsible for Queen’s art collection lose their jobs in Covid-19 cost-cutting exercise
Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures post, held by Desmond Shawe-Taylor, will be ‘lost and held in abeyance’

The surveyors in charge of the Queen’s vast art collection have been made redundant as part of a cost-cutting restructuring of the Royal Collection Trust (RCT). Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures and Chief Surveyor, and Rufus Bird, Surveyor of The Queen's Works of Art, will leave the organisation under a voluntary severance programme initiated in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. The trust looks after more than a million objects held by the Queen as sovereign.

“Following a restructure that was necessary due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 130 roles at Royal Collection Trust are to go by the year, including that of the Surveyor,” says a RCT spokeswoman. According to the Times, which first reported the story, the RCT has lost £64m in the past year due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“The posts of Surveyor of The Queen’s Pictures and Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art will for the time being, be lost and held in abeyance. The Director of the Royal Collection, Tim Knox, will assume overall responsibility for the curatorial sections, supported by the Deputy Surveyors of Pictures and Works of Art,” she says.

The role of Surveyor was first held by Abraham van der Doort from 1625 to 1640; other previous incumbents include Anthony Blunt (1945-73), who was exposed as a Soviet spy, and Kenneth Clark (1934-44), former director of the National Gallery in London.

Shawe-Taylor, who has been in post since 2005, recently curated Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace at The Queen’s Gallery, London (until 31 January 2022) which includes works by Titian, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Claude Lorrain and Canaletto.

Alastair Sooke, the art critic at the Daily Telegraph newspaper, writes however: “For anyone who cares about knowledge, the news is concerning. Is the Royal Collection’s decision symptomatic of a worrying wider tendency: namely, the demise of expertise?” A spokeswoman told Sooke: “By losing, albeit temporarily, the surveyor role, several other curatorial roles will have been saved from the risk of redundancy, thereby retaining specialist expertise and talent across the curatorial sections.” The Art Newspaper


Art in the New Normal: Art Buying 101
Just like you would go to a lawyer for legal advice, a doctor for medical advice or a financial advisor for financial advice, there are art professionals, gallerists and art advisors who can guide you in making an art purchase.

There are many art worlds with many audiences, regional, national and international. Twenty years ago, there were specific art capitals around the world. In the United States, they were New York and maybe California, the rest were considered regional and of local interest. Then, in Europe, there was London and perhaps Berlin. Hong Kong and lately Beijing dominated Asia.

At one time, if you were a serious artist, you would think it almost mandatory to move to one of these art capitals, but in today’s art world, things have changed. There are now vital, self-sustainable art centers throughout the world and within each country, especially the United States.

Today, we have vital art centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Miami and New York—just to mention a few in the U.S. Throughout the world, connected first by art fairs and now by the digital platforms, there are art centers internationally that operate in sync with one another, as well as autonomously.

There are also different platforms for an artist to show and to even sell their works more directly, especially in this age of COVID-19. With galleries having limited capacity, and now being less frequented, many take to Instagram and other digital platforms or show their work in their local communities.

The international art world has had to adjust in big ways to the changing ways of engagement and appetites of its audience. There has been an increased digital aspect to the art world over the last few years, but it competed with the gallery and the art fair and museum scene, and the majority of the higher level of sales was reserved for in-person instances. The speed with which the art world adapted to the digital age was slower than most, but now in these times, digital is our common way of life, and the art world has taken to its portals. Major galleries are also opening smaller satellite branches, such as in the Hamptons, and now plan for some to open (at least for the season) in Palm Beach. This has also given a boon to more regional and local galleries, as patrons still have a strong desire to go and see artwork in person as well. Galleries have adjusted to COVID times by limiting their number of visitors, seeing people via appointment and holding several private views instead of big openings.

Like all professional worlds, there are many levels and factions that comprise the art world that exist simultaneously. In time, we would like to discuss all of it, but to start with, let’s talk about the international scene. This is where culture is made, seen, bought, critiqued and discussed. It comprises large and small galleries, and there is a connection amongst many of them internationally.

As we have mentioned before, there are many players in the art world: artists, galleries, critics, collectors, advisors and private dealers, as well as museums, curators, art fairs and auction houses. This makes it incredibly complex and hard to standardize. Let’s start with the artists themselves. Artists usually have primary galleries, and they may have more than one in different countries, but the prices are standardized. This world operates independently and in sync with one another. This is how an artist’s reputation grows and they get noticed…all over the world.

Regional galleries feed into this world as well and also operate on their own. In these instances, you will find works by more local artists and the art community tends to be more insular.

People collect work for many reasons and all are valid. Whether it is a desire to particulate in the current culture being formed, an investigation into a past time and place, simply to have art in your environment for the sheer enjoyment it brings visually or for investment reasons. Art has shown that it performs well as an asset class, and much art is bought as investment.

Whatever your reason, it is a world with new ideas and singular creative visions, and buying art is a wonderful way to view and live in the world.

Art Buying Tips

While there might be more than one gallery that features an artist work around the world, there should be the same price structure that is adhered to. Ask questions, ask to see the artist’s CV, where they have exhibited and been collected, read reviews. This helps to understand his or her standing in the art world and substantiate the price levels.

Art professionals want to talk about art—do not be shy to ask questions. You do not have to buy without learning about it; the art world wants to share its knowledge.

Just like you would go to a lawyer for legal advice, a doctor for medical advice or a financial advisor for financial advice, there are art professionals, gallerists and art advisors who can guide you with knowledgeable advice. Reading about the artist and a period is so enjoyable and will help you refine your eye. A wonderful way to learn and grow is to find a gallerist or advisor who you respect and feel comfortable with—do not be intimidated. They can lead you into a world of adventure and discovery in art—a wonderful place to be, especially in these current times. Worth


Is this ‘enormously powerful’ painting of Jesus Christ by El Greco? Spanish expert questions new attribution
Art history scholars disagree over possible discovery of work by Renaissance master, which is owned by private collector

A small-scale painting of Jesus Christ carrying the cross has been attributed to the Renaissance artist El Greco by scholars at a Spanish university. Ximo Company, the director of the Centre d’Art d’Època Moderna (CAEM) at the University of Lleida, Catalonia, insists that the work, which only measures 57.5cm in length, was not produced by El Greco’s workshop or any of his students.

Fernando Marías, a professor of art history at Madrid's Universidad Autonoma, tells The Art Newspaper, however: "Although I have only seen the pictures in El País and on Twitter, the painting is doubtful [as an autograph work by El Greco]. It looks reworked and restored—the mouth is terrible, so are the cross, hands and signature."

The painting comes from a private collector who asked Company to study it and its authorship. The research process and technical analysis, which took more than two years, was undertaken with Carmen Garrido Pérez, the former director of technical documentation at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, who died last month.

“This little canvas has a wonderful freshness, tenderness and quality... the face of Christ is enormously powerful, silent and expressive,” Company told El País newspaper. He says that the work could have served as a model for other paintings. Also “the refined finish of this exquisite work” and its small size mean “it could also be a work conceived for the private oratory of a noble or clergyman”, Company adds.

“Reviewing published documentation, it is known that in the inventory of El Greco's assets, made by his son Jorge Manuel Theotocópuli between 17 April and 7 July 1614, mention is made of a painting with the title Christ with the Cross on his Back; this could refer to our work. After comparing it with others of the same iconography, we are not aware that there is any [other work] with smaller dimensions,” he says.

But Marías disagrees with these conclusions. "[The painting] comes from an unknown collection in Valencia and lacks provenance or an old photograph," he says, noting that "the connection with El Greco's 1614 inventory is wishful thinking at best". He adds: "Nothing has been said on the material aspects of the canvas or published radiographs or other types of material. I won’t trust it until I see all the materials they could have gathered." At the time of publication, the Lleida University team had not responded to a request for comment.

The newly attributed work, which will be boosted in value commercially, was compared with pieces in the El Greco Museum in Toledo and the Prado. One of El Greco’s most celebrated paintings of Christ carrying the cross is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The artist was born Domenikos Theotokopoulos in 1541 on the island of Crete. The Art Newspaper


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