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Expect to be delighted and outraged by our incisive and sprawling coverage of culture and arts.

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    Photograph by Seth Browarnik

    Opening Night of Perrier-Jouët's L'Eden

    The three-day event series, held in partnership with DesignMiami/ and run by Simon Hammerstein (of NYC's the Box), opened at Casa Faena with burlesque performances and a performance by Sarah Jessica Parker. The immersive experience transformed Faena into a Garden of Eden and was filled with acrobats and a dancer en pointe walking down a row of champagne bottles.

    Photo Courtesy The Bass

    Public Art Fund's Brunch at Casa Tua

    Public Art Fund and MGM Resorts Art & Culture had an intimate brunch honoring Ugo Rondinone, Xaviera Simmons and Claudia Comte at Casa Tua. MGM Resorts is the first-ever partner of Art Basel in Miami Beach's Public sector which is produced in collaboration with The Bass. Public Art Fund is a leading organization that brings contemporary art to audiences through ambitious (and free) exhibitions.

    Photo courtesy of The Cultivist's Instagram

    The Cultivist's Art Basel Miami Lunch

    The Cultivist, a global arts club that offers "uniquely privileged access to every aspect of the art world" and has about 600 members hosted a lunch on the beach at The Setai.

    Photo courtesy BFA

    Dom Pérignon's Annual Art Basel Party at WALL

    Dom Pérignon threw their 7th annual Art Basel party at the W Hotel's night club, WALL. The party was themed Transformation in honor of their limited edition bottle designed by artist Michael Riedel. Hosts Aby Rosen and Vito Schnabel were joined by VIP guests including Gucci Mane, Hank Willis Thomas, Rosario Dawson, Dustin Yellin, Paul Kasmin, Jay Jopling and Paloma Picasso.

    Photo courtesy Anne Spalter

    PULSE Young Collectors Cocktails

    PULSE Miami Beach hosted their annual Young Collectors Cocktails, which featured performances by Erica Prince, Beach Sessions curated by Sasha Okshteyn, dance performances presented by the Knight Foundation and a Young Collectors Tour led by Arthena. If you're still in Miami, Anne Spalter's site-specific installation, Miami Marbles, are a must-see.

    Photo courtesy Jared Siskin and Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

    Interview Magazine and Perrier's Cocktail Party Celebrating ARTXTRA
    Interview Magazine and Perrier hosted a party on the beach at the Nautilus, a SIXTY Hotel, to celebrate ARTXTRA, a program that supports groundbreaking emerging artists. Work by Perrier's award nominees Saya Woolfalk, Hayal Pozanti and Eric Rieger were showcased.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Promoting culture is imperative for Arabs given the destruction of, and war on, culture launched by extremist and terrorist groups in the Middle East/North Africa region, said Sultan Al Qassemi.

    "Every single member of our community in the Arab world has a responsibility and has the ability today, thanks to mobile phones, to document and save culture in case it disappears," Al Qassemi, founder of the Barjeeel Art Foundation, told me.

    Sultan Al Qassemi (Abu-Fadil)

    And it's not limited to elites, he insisted.

    Al Qassemi was attending Kuwait-based Nuqat's conference boosting innovation, promoting entrepreneurship, uncovering censorship, and serving as a teaching platform.

    This year's three-day conference was entitled "The Seventh Sense: Powering the Creative Economy."

    Al Qassemi spoke on the Arab world's rich history in culture, and promoted the notion of cultural diplomacy, but admitted funding in general remained a hindrance to supporting the arts.

    Screen shot of Barjeel Foundation home page

    He said Kuwait was a frontrunner in establishing art museums.

    Al Qassemi, a noted patron of the arts from the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah where he set up his foundation, is a Renaissance man.

    He is a columnist and commentator on Arab affairs whose articles have been published in the Guardian, CNN, The Independent, and Foreign Policy, and is a successful businessman to boot

    But his passion is to save everything from lullabies to poetry, to music, to paintings and sculptures.

    In his Nuqat presentation, Al Qassemi said challenges facing the creative economy in the Arab Gulf region included copyrights, the artist as master, and the lack of respect for intellectual property rights.

    "Challenges facing the registration of intellectual property rights mean waiting at least a year to do so," he noted, pointing to the high cost incurred by a creative person who has to register in each separate country.

    Additionally, cyber crime laws are not properly developed to halt intellectual property right theft and there is no Arabic language website to handle the matter.

    Al Qassemi on Arab art and culture (Abu-Fadil)

    Another major hitch is the burden of social and religious censorship, the closure of exhibitions deemed too provocative in Arab Gulf countries, and petrified educational systems, said the outspoken Al Qassemi.

    His foundation's mission is to promote art by artists from the Arab world through local and international exhibitions.

    Al Qassemi, who is also the co-director of the Dubai Global Art Forum that gathers artists, curators, musicians and writers to exchange and debate ideas on chosen themes, recently gave a talk at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt on the political undertones of iconic 20th Century artworks in the Arab world.

    The subject: artworks as tools of soft power and propaganda by various Arab governments, including the Baathist regimes of Syria and Iraq, and the pan-Arabist government of Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahram Online reported.

    His talk coincided with the Barjeel Foundation's opening of the Hurufiyya: Art and Identity exhibition on letterism.

    Screen shot of "Politics in Modern Arab Art" poster

    The dynamic Al Qassemi rattled off a list of exhibitions to me that Barjeel was promoting from the end of 2016 through 2017, including the show in Alexandria, Egypt, as well as contemporary and modern art events in Tehran, Amman, Paris and Washington, DC.

    I asked if Tehran wasn't a sensitive topic given the tension between certain Arab countries and Iran, and the complicated geopolitics of the region.

    His reply:
    "Tehran is, and will remain forever, our neighbor. We here in the Gulf don't have an issue with the Iranian people. We have a huge disagreement with the Iranian government. But it doesn't mean that this should stand in the way of people-to-people, even commercial, exchange."

    Cultural exchange and tourism are probably among the most important things that bind people, he said.

    "I think this helps to calm the atmosphere, even if governments disagree, so this is something that we have to keep in mind," he explained.

    The Nuqat conference was followed by four days of intensive workshops including designing and producing Arabic fonts using the Glyphs app, knowing one's customer to improve one's business, food in motion videography, Sadu-inspired product design from tapestries, boosting one's employability in the creative industry, and creative problem solving skills in leadership.

    Tarek Atrissi explains the mechanics of font creation (Abu-Fadil)

    Nuqat is a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of creativity in the Arab world.

    I attended the first two workshops featuring Lebanese graphic design, typography, calligraphy and lettering expert Tarek Atrissi, and, Syrian entrepreneurship, design thinking and business management trainer Yara Al Adib.

    "I'm interested in how typography becomes part of the visual language," Atrissi said, adding that one can create compositions and visuals without resorting to pictures.

    Creating Arabic fonts (Abu-Fadil)

    Atrissi said the Arab brand was becoming cool again and that common factors in the Arab world were language and change, with the complexity of culture in every aspect of design.

    For Yara Al Adib, designers must know their customers to improve their businesses.

    Unfortunately, many designers focus more on the creative side of their projects and neglect business requirements that keep them financially viable. Communicating about, and marketing, designers' brands is almost an afterthought.

    Yara Al Adib (right) helps trainees wed creativity, entrepreneurship (Abu-Fadil)

    "You have to be relevant digitally, but customer service should not be digital," Al Adib said of the need for the human touch.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Andy Warhol, Open This End, 1962, Acrylic on canvas, 8 x 11 in. (20.3 x 27.9 cm). The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles partial and promised gift of Blake Byrne. © 2015 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    The final leg in the two-year journey of "Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Blake Byrne Collection" exhibition continues at the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Oregon. This amazing show's travels began in 2015 at the Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, which coincided with Blake's 80th birthday celebration, and then toured to The Ohio State University Urban Arts Space and Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University. "Open This End" assembles both iconic and lesser-known selected works from Byrne's remarkable and distinguished collection, which features more than 1,200 pieces, narrowed down to about seventy-five for this exhibition.


    John Sonsini, Blake, 2005, Oil on canvas, 72 x 60 in. Collection of Blake Byrne. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

    This delightful presentation is a virtual window into a serious collector's personal vision through an art historical context, highlighting some of the most influential artists of the last fifty years, carefully and skillfully tracing a number of intertwined narratives in the progression of contemporary art from the 1960s to the present. Organized over the last five years by Barbara Schwan, Executive Director of The Skylark Foundation, this is a simply remarkable exhibition on so many levels, and supporting her efforts to produce a scholarly and impressive hardcover catalog were Richard J. Powell, Kris Paulsen, Kimerly Rorschach and Bruce Kogut. The title comes from a small 1962 silkscreen painting by Andy Warhol, the earliest work in the show, which suggests an invitation for the viewer to explore this soon-to-be "unpacked" display, which, like a gift being unwrapped, always brings with it an element of surprise, anticipation and delight.


    Installation, "Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Blake Byrne Collection," Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon.

    Joseph Wolin, the curator of the exhibition elaborates: "By extension it also suggests that contemporary art may comprise a sometimes puzzling package that we can unlock for both pleasure and edification. In a more humorous vein, the title implies that there exists a certain way to approach contemporary art and its history, a particular end from which to open the box (in this case, a crate!), an implication belied by contemporary art itself, and by the multiple, parallel, interconnected, open-ended, and at times contradictory artistic and historical threads the exhibition gathers together." For any number of reasons, the title seems to fit rather cleverly and appropriately, but the irony is that from the get-go Byrne was not interested in building a collection to impress others with brand names like Warhol, but rather with very little guidance early on, used his intuition to seek out works that would provoke an emotional response, regardless of how obscure the artist was initially, it obviously was a chance that Byrne felt worth taking. I'm reminded of Evel Knievel's own fifteen minutes of Warholian fame, which came with a personal observation just after one of his well-known and dangerous motorcycle jumps: "No risk, no reward."


    Jack Pierson, Nothing (Yellow, Blue, Red), 1992, Mixed media, 54 x 112 x 1 in. (137.2 x 284.5 x 2.5 cm). Collection of Blake Byrne. © Jack Pierson; courtesy of Regen Projects, Los Angeles. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

    In fact, risk is related to reward and achievement for most of the artists represented in this memorable exhibition, especially for Warhol, as it is for most great private collections of contemporary art. This is an era when some noted art collectors around the planet have built huge museums for their own collections, including François Pinault in Paris, Jorge Pérez in Miami, Eli and Edythe Broad in Los Angeles, Dutchman Joop van Caldenborgh and Budi Tek in China, among others. Blake Byrne's goal was not to construct an art fortress to protect his artworks, but to choose to live with his most treasured pieces, rarely "de-acquisitioning" any of them, and eventually passing on portions to other institutions. Byrne graciously does this from time to time; his promised gift to MOCA LA of 123 works, for example, remains the largest and most generous donation in the museum's history, in fact, over half of the works included in "Open This End" are from the promised gifts to MOCA LA, as well as a good selection that has been promised to Duke University's Nasher Museum.


    Mark Bradford, Spinning Man, 2007, Mixed media collage on canvas, 72 x 84 in. (182.9 x 213.4 cm). Collection of Blake Byrne. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Luciano Fileti.

    The story of Blake Byrne is unique, and is encouraging news for young collectors that have an interest in contemporary art, but at first have little background in art appreciation and a sense of where to begin. Byrne first started accumulating modest pictures during his honeymoon in Paris, and after several moves in between, he landed in Providence, a significant art city and home to thousands of artists as well as the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the world's best art schools, and then to Fort Worth, where he and his family regularly visited the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for inspiration. He eventually moved back to Manhattan in 1988, taking up residence at 58th Street and 7th Avenue, so naturally he would visit the 57th Street art galleries in his neighborhood, which strengthened his perspectives on art.


    Sherrie Levine, Une Pipe: 1, 2001, Cast bronze, 2 ½ x 5 ¼ x 1 ½ in. (6.4 x 13.3 x 3.8 cm), Edition of 12. Collection of Blake Byrne. © Sherrie Levine; courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. Photo Alan Shaffer.

    I first met Blake and his family on the day they moved into the Victorian house next door to mine on the historic east side of Providence, Rhode Island. He was in the business of managing TV stations, and his magic touch made them profitable. He also had all the makings of a great collector: inquisitive, instinctual, studious, intelligent, adventuresome, open-minded, enthusiastic, an astute eye and a warm heart, along with a willingness and the resources to invest in works of art with which he also wanted to enjoy living. As our friendship developed, I introduced him to the campus of RISD, and as I recall, he began acquiring a few works here and there of local artists, such as Bill Drew and several very early works of mine. Mr. Byrne was a proud workaholic, and was especially adept at analyzing TV station data reports every evening when he finally arrived home. Surely it was this experience and training that later he applied to buying art, after he retired as a broadcast executive and began collecting in earnest in 1988. On the advice of Jack Tilton, his long-time friend and mentor and highly respected Manhattan gallerist, Byrne went to Art Basel with Tilton in 1988 and made his first cutting-edge art purchases, including works by Juan Muñoz, Cristina Iglesias and Richard Tuttle, among others. Not bad for the first date! And, fortuitously, he started collecting Marlene Dumas at bargain prices the following year, a wise decision, as her works have since shot up greatly in value. From this jumping off point, he assembled an impressive collection that is both expansive and focused, maintaining strong commitments to certain artists that he has accumulated en masse.


    Jennifer Steinkamp, Jimmy Carter, 2002, DVD animated painting, dimensions variable. Collection of Blake Byrne. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Acme, Los Angeles. Photo by Alan Shaffer.

    "Open This End" does not try to track a single theme or storyline, but takes advantage of the significant strengths of Byrne's collection that offers a unique and personal overview of contemporary art. With the size, breadth and complexity of this memorable show, it's not possible here to examine select works in detail, but suffice it to say that the following alphabetical sampling of "Open This End's" line-up will give you a clear perspective on what constitutes a wonderfully revealing and dramatic presentation: Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Marlene Dumas (11 works), Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Douglas Gordon, David Hammons, Bruce Helander, Thomas Houseago, Mike Kelley, Martin Kersels, Martin Kippenberger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Glenn Ligon, Agnes Martin, Rita McBride, Paul McCarthy, Steve McQueen, Matthew Monahan, Juan Muñoz, Wangechi Mutu, Bruce Nauman, Albert Oehlen, Paul Pfeiffer, Jack Pierson, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Tony Smith, Jennifer Steinkamp, Luc Tuymans, Andy Warhol, Kehinde Wiley and Christopher Williams. It should be noted that this list signifies only about 10% of Byrne's entire collection, which continues to grow. As a whole, this distinguished assortment of human creativity provides an astute summary of most of the important trends in contemporary art since the 1960s. Kimerly Rorschach proposes a striking summation in her insightful catalog essay, "Blakean Vision," which is appropriate to repeat here: "Through collecting, the collector can engage with and consider the great issues: love and loss, birth and death, the fate of our planet, our identity and culture, both collective and individual--in short, our humanity."

    Happy Birthday Blake Byrne!


    Installation, "Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Blake Byrne Collection," Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Oregon.

    For additional information and a complete list of works included in the exhibition, go to: The exhibition continues at the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art, Lewis & Clark College, in Portland, Oregon through December 11, 2016.

    To purchase a copy of the "Open This End" exhibition catalog (120 pages, 77 color plates, hardcover, $50.00 + S&H), send an email to The Skylark Foundation via the website ( or directly to Executive Director Barbara Schwan (

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    At exhibition openings, by mail and over the telephone, art collectors regularly ask Northampton, Massachusetts painter Scott Prior to produce works just for them. Sometimes, these collectors suggest an image they want him to paint. Most of the time, they simply tell him, "I want anything." Money and praise are offered, but Prior approaches these offers warily. "I'm not encouraging," he said. "For every 10 people who ask me to do something, I may do one. When I don't know the person, how can I be confident there won't be problems down the road? With strangers, I don't even know what the problems might be."
    Actually, Prior knows generally what the problems are if not the particulars of a specific collector. He may find himself dickering over the price with "someone who thought that going to the artist directly means paying less. For me, it doesn't." Commissioned paintings aren't shown in galleries, which for a slow-producing artist like Prior means that they take away from his main form of promoting work, and hold less prestige than pictures he created on his own initiative. These works also take more time than others, because of the need for meetings, telephone conversations and making appointments. "I had agreed to do a portrait of a woman in Boston, but just the time it takes to drive to Boston and back, taking photographs, talking with her and negotiating this, that and the other was more than I could spare. I had to write her a letter asking to be let out of our agreement, because I just don't know when I'll ever get to do it."
    There may be other problems as well, including the possibility that the collector may not like the work when it is completed. "People wanting to commission a piece say, 'I have this in mind,' but it's hard to interpret what they actually have in mind," said Sue Furlan, studio manager for Santa Fe, New Mexico sculptor Larry Bell. "There have been touchy situations where people are not satisfied. You don't really know what they had in mind." If the commissioned work is a portrait of the collector, the likeness may also not be pleasing to that person. The late Gregory Gillespie, a painter in Belchertown, Massachusetts, noted that when he had been asked to do a portrait ("I'm not a portrait painter; I'm not about absolute likenesses"), he makes two stipulations in his agreement: "First, the portrait may not be flattering and it may not even look like you," he said. "Second, I can take as long as I want."
    He added that "someone who wants me to do his portrait basically wants a Gillespie with himself in it." In a larger sense, individually commissioned art work will be a variation of an artist's previous work, rather than something new and original in itself. For that reason alone, it may be less interesting to create. However, as the commissioned piece will be based on past work, it may be easy to price. The first step in arranging a commission of this type usually involves the collector coming to the artist's studio to look at earlier work -- the actual pieces or photographs of them -- "to see if there's anything they like," Prior said.
    For New York sculptor Alice Aycock, who doesn't "have stock items," she assumes that "anyone who would commission me would know my work pretty well." She and the collector have an extended conversation about what the individual wants, after which she makes "a drawing of the proposed piece and, if that is approved, I will price the work."
    Her price includes the entire cost of designing and fabricating the piece, plus a mark-up of between 10 and 20 percent as profit. If the collector's price restraints come up early in the conversation, however, she can "design to a budget." Prior and Gillespie both work on verbal agreements, but Aycock, who has received a number of both public and private commissions over the years, writes her own contracts ("I have enough contracts around that I can refer to them in writing up my own"), occasionally consulting a lawyer. The contractual points in these contracts include: how the sculpture will be constructed and installed, payment by the collector (usually in installments, such as one-third deposit, another third when the piece is half done and the final third after the work is installed), timeliness (when work will be completed, when final payment is due), who pays for insurance (in shipping and installing the work as well as liability insurance), who pays for shipping and installing the piece, who controls the design (the artist) and that there will be no alterations in the final work (unless approved by the artist).
    The contract would also clearly state that the artist owns the copyright including photographic rights to the work. If the work will be photographed and those images are to be used in some manner, such as on a company's stationery, the artist would charge an extra (negotiable) fee. Tom Eccles, executive director of The Public Art Fund in New York City, stated that a contract should describe how damage to the artwork will be handled. "You want to know if the work will be restored or removed," he said. "You don't want something looking hideous out there with your name on it, because that can be damaging to your reputation."
    There may also be provisions for mediation (if there are disputes), legal expenses (if the artist isn't paid on time and must sue), reimbursing the artist for travel (food, lodging, transportation) and framing (selecting and paying for it). Daniel Greene, a portrait painter in North Salem, New York, noted that his New York City framer sends him photographs of a variety of different frames, from which he and the individual or group commissioning the portrait make a selection. "If convenient, I try to meet with the client or committee to see what other portraits they may have commissioned, to see how they are framed, to see where my portrait will be hung and what might be relevant to the background," he said.
    At times, the collector or commissioning agent will write a contractual agreement, which may be brought to a lawyer for review or handled solely by an artist who feels confident in the terminology and the area of law. When Neil Estern was selected by the federal government as the main sculptor of the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., he was sent a 40-page contract "of which maybe seven pages referred to me and what I was going to be doing. They piled responsibilities on me that I didn't want, such as insurance that I don't want to carry and crating and shipping that I won't be responsible for. I rewrote those seven pages to make them more to my liking, and I never heard a complaint."
    Commissioned work usually involves having the piece approved by the buyer during one or more steps of the creation process -- for instance, the design or half-way done or at the end. (Collectors who only buy work from exhibitions, on the other hand, approve or disapprove of the artwork on the basis of their decision whether or not to purchase it.) In addition to the design, Aycock allows an inspection of the work in progress, while Estern's work may be approved as a design, in clay and when completed. Commissioned art tends to be more collaborative, and the artist must be willing to work the collector during the process of creation, which may bring up issues of personal confidence and integrity. "You have to know where to draw a line and where to bend a little," Gillespie said. "If I'm doing someone's portrait and the guy says, 'I can't stand this painting,' I might be open to certain suggestions. If he says, 'My wife is allergic to yellow,' I might tone down the yellow. But if they want a totally different painting, they have to go to a different artist."
    Greene noted that he asks for a one-third deposit and bills for the remaining two-thirds after the portrait has been completed. "I don't ask for a second one-third payment, because that would suggest that they should approve the work in-progress," he said. "If they don't like the final work, they don't have to take it -- that's my guarantee -- but I won't make changes in the middle." To protect himself from possible rejections, Prior noted that "I won't do a painting on commission that I wouldn't do anyway." Similarly, a rejected commissioned piece by Larry Bell "would go into the other realm of sales," Furlan said -- in other words, gallery art. Artists concerned about the possible financial loss might want to add an "acceptance upon proposal" clause to a contract stating that, if the final work conforms to the proposal, the artist will be paid in full regardless of whether or not the collector likes the piece. (There could also be a provision that the artist would be reimbursed for his or her time and expenses if the work is not approved.) Certainly, if there are changes to the original design that the artist looks to make during the process of creating the piece, those need to be approved by the individual or group commissioning the work.

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    Once again, as our nation deals with Trumpism, Bruce Springsteen's poetry and prose can bring courage. When returning to the United States in 1982, I was stunned by the way the Reagan administration had sped up deindustrialization, expanded the arms race, escalated the dirty wars in Central America, and ignored the first signs of AIDS. My best friend had just bought Springsteen's newly-released Nebraska but he had been waiting for just the right time to ceremoniously open the album and share the first-listen. Reassurance was found in his words, "Man turns his back on his brother, he's no friend of mine."

    And, yes, the "Boss" continued to provide the wisdom and inspiration that helped guide us through Supply Side Economics, Iran-Contra, the crack and gang years, followed by the War on Drugs and, in general, Americans retreating from the values that had made our democracy great.

    Years later, we were challenged and comforted by Springsteen's "The Streets of Philadelphia," "American Skin," "The Rising," and his recent incorporation of music that drew from Pete Seeger to Irish balladeers and New Orleans jazz to help us grapple with bigotry, the Iraq War, and Hurricane Katrina. As we come to grips with the Trump election, Springsteen's autobiography, Born to Run, may contain more insight into the roots of our political crisis than anything I’ve read.

    Springsteen starts with the "Pax Americana" of the 1950s. Speaking for so many Baby Boomers, he begins his life story, "Here we live in the shadow of the steeple, where the holy rubber meets the road, all crookedly blessed in God's mercy, in the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, race-riot-creating, oddball-hating, soul-shaking, love-and-fear-making town of Freehold, New Jersey."

    Working class kids (or, at least, white youth) during "the American Century" were "destined to live the decent hardworking lives of their parents ... if they could scoot through these years of wild pounding hormones without getting hurt or hurting someone else." Bruce was acculturated into a value system where you "remain true to your crew, your blood, your family, your turf, your greaser brothers and sisters and your country. This was the shit that would get you by when all of the rest came tumbling down."

    However, Springsteen doesn't romanticize the so-called "Greatest Generation." Despite all of his family's and neighbors' strengths and the cross-cultural fertilization that he experienced, when his family migrated to California, his mom's first words were testimony to the segregation that also pervaded American life. She asked at the gas station, "Where do people like us live?"

    Fans who parsed Springsteen's lyrics for insights into his relationship with his father will not be disappointed. As Bruce would explain before singing "The River," Douglas Springsteen had his son's hair cut while hospitalized in the wake of a motorcycle accident. A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, his dad taunted him saying that the army will make a man out of him. When Bruce came home from a secret trip to the draft board, however, and said that he had failed his physical, his father was typically tight-lipped when revealing his true emotion, "good."

    Springsteen would then sing, "I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young, they raise you up to do what your daddy done."

    Not surprisingly, given the number of references to radios in his lyrics, Springsteen finds multiple meanings in the "radio days" of his youth. The radio was more than a "CB-cult cross-cultural outreach" allowing hungry hearts to come together across hundreds of miles of the night sky. It was a hands-on tool for experimentation. Just as Bruce's grandfather wired and soldered electric wires and filament, and sold rebuilt radios to poor black harvest workers, his mentor, "Tinker," could redesign "anything at all, patch it up, jury-rig or jimmy it back into working order." When "the Apocalypse rolls back the clock to year zero, you'll want and need only Tinker at your side."

    The radio stories are more than nostalgia about "Yankee ingenuity." They were grounds for frontier-style experimentation and the improvisation which is an essential component of the education needed for self-rule and for reinventing ourselves for the 21st century. Between the lines, Bruce is recalling the need for a post-modern means of self-expression to replace the hands-on inventiveness of the industrial era. By the time Springsteen found his "adult voice" in Darkness at the End of Town, he clearly was wrestling with the way that deindustrialization was undermining hope. I had not realized, however, that his previous album, Born to Run, was not about teen spirit but about the threatened spirit of our democracy in a post-frontier, pre-globalization era. Springsteen describes the reasons for both of those transitional albums:

    I was a child of Vietnam-era America, of the Kennedy, King, and Malcolm X assassinations.

    ... Dread - the sense that things might not work out, that the moral high ground had been swept out from underneath us, that the dream we had of ourselves had somehow been tainted and the future would forever be uninsured - was in the air.

    With Born in the USA, Springsteen became the poet of the people at a time the extreme segregation by economics replaced de jure segregation, and became joined with de facto segregation as the original sin of our new post-industrial world. The Boss knew he was now a "fortunate son," but he felt accountable to the people he'd grown up with. His discovery of Hank Williams and Woody Guthrie, combined with travels west into the new frontier where Hispanics followed in the path of the "Okies," inspired a new series of masterpieces.

    "The Ghost of Tom Joad" helped crystalize the issues of the 1990s multicultural frontiers. Springsteen started with his personal need "to know where my family, my grandparents, my mom, dad and sisters - fell in the American experience." He told the tales of folks who felt "weathered, wiser but not beaten." Springsteen "traced the stories out slowly and carefully." He "thought hard about who these people were and the choices they were presented with." Even as the hope of working people declines, his lyrics insisted that they and we must shun escapism. Appropriately, the hope he sought was found in the writing of "Across the Border."

    We are now paying the price of too many people in America and other nations failing to face up to "the weight of our unsorted baggage." It became "heavier ... much heavier," and "with each passing year, the price of our refusal to do that sorting rises higher and higher."

    As Springsteen wraps up his story, he explores his battles with depression, as well as his relationship with his father. His dad taught him the "blue-collar narcissism of 'manhood' 1950s-style. An inner yearning for isolation, for the world on your terms or not at all. ... The distorted idea that the beautiful things in your life, the love itself you struggled to win, to create, will turn and possess you, robbing you of your imagined, long-fought-for freedoms." But, his father was more than "another chaos-sowing schmuck." Bruce was determined that "the sum of our troubles would not be the summation of our lives together."

    Springsteen's genius is the way he shares these quests with his audiences. "I work to be an ancestor," he affirms. He pursues a story with no end that "is simply told to your own blood until it is passed along to be told in the blood of those you love, who inherit it." As his story is told, it is altered, creating "the rebirthing seed of renewal, a different destiny ..."

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  • 12/05/16--03:57: Is Art History 'Fake News'?

  • The glut of information being produced online and shared across social media has given rise to the “Fake News” phenomena. When it is not flat-out lies, fake news is usually opinion masquerading as journalism, designed to sway attitudes or just bring in site visits. Was the most recent presidential election in the United States tipped by the sharing of fake news across the web? Is that possible? Before you blame the blogs, contrarians might fire back that the establishment media regularly delivers opinion as fact in tilted coverage. Few ever admit that the “unbiased” media is on their side. The left points to the corporate structure of mainstream media and the right points to the high percentage of media employees who vote left of center. But everyone agrees that fake news, be it clickbait or prosletyzing by other means, is a threat to the very social order we all enjoy.

    The next time you are in a museum, though, ask yourself if the importance of the works on display are there because of the actual merit of their maker, or if they are the fake news of the creative class. In contemporary art, there is a shell game of would-be Bernie Madoffs building empires out of flipping unknown artists for twice or more of the original purchase price. These days the artists caught up in these huckster vortexes are usually earnestly imitating some art historical variant of blurry abstraction in their studios. One way to increase the value of these (or any other) artwoks is to get it shown at an institution, preferably an important museum. We want to believe that museums base their selections of what to show on something quantifiable and merit-oriented; We are comforted, then, with art history, a narrative of why each picture on the wall fits in there. Yet if the history of art is any indicator, art history is an organic construct that changes often with scant justification for the choices of who is included and who is left out. This fluidity is cyclical at times - just follow the auction prices long enough and you will see artists ebb and flow. When we go offline and enter art spaces, is there any guarantee that the art history we are being presented is just fake news?

    Beyond the speculation that one could bribe their way into contemporary museum collections with the right shameless peddler of snake-oil-on-canvas, look back a little further... the justification for inclusion in the collections of museums is that the artist “is important in art history”. Artists with technical skill and quantifiable talent are often “not important” to the narrative of art history… or so we are told. How does the narrative of art history go? Scratch the surface and it is often summarized “this artist is important because he influenced that artist” and to make it less boring, “this artist is important becasue he reacted against that artist”. That’s it? No, there is a third, voluminous category. The plaque on the wall of the museum with utter gibberish. While the former two here are weak arguments that a little scrutiny might reveal as fake news, the latter here, shameless artspeak, is so purposefully indecipherable that one can safely assume one is being lied to about the validity of what is on the walls. Would museums perpetuate fake news as art history to include friends and business partners in their collections? Perish the thought (but it probably happens every day).

    Museums are a lot like Washington DC, but with better fashion sense and whiter walls. Art History is often fake news used to talk down to the masses with a comfortable fable that encapsulates the interests of the institutional class. The proper term for art history, therefore, is propaganda. If they were honest about this, wouldn’t it at least sound like a much sexier major?

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    The Greeks thought of mythology no different than early history. A myth, after all, was a story told and passed on by word of mouth. It was speech, tale, conversation and narrative. Oral tradition fuelled mythology for a very long time, almost throughout the history of the Greeks. But the invention of the Greek alphabet and writing more than three thousand years ago enriched the stories Greeks said about themselves, their gods, heroes, and others.

    Reading Homer and Hesiod, both epic poets who flourished in the eighth century BCE, is reading mythology at its incomparable best.

    Homer's Trojan War was no fiction. The "Iliad" and the "Odyssey" educated Greeks for millennia. The stories of the epics became the substance from which the poets of classical Greece built their masterpieces of tragedy and comedy.

    Hesiod, a shepherd of sheep in the valley of Mount Helikon in Boeotia, even wrote "Theogony," myths, stories of how the gods and the cosmos came into being.

    Hesiod said the Muses of Mount Helikon taught him their "beautiful song." The Muses were daughters of Zeus, father of the gods, and Mnemosyne (Memory). They were goddesses of learning.

    Hesiod opens his "Theogony" with the Muses singing of Zeus and the other gods.

    Hesiod also speaks of the origins of the cosmos. He gives primacy to chaos, Earth, dark Tartaros (underworld), and Eros in the creation of the universe. Chaos, void and disorder, brought forth darkness in the form of Erebos and black Night. These dark forces coupled, giving birth to Aether, upper atmosphere, and Day.

    Earth meanwhile became the planet we know: graced with mountains, rivers, valleys, and seas. In addition, the Earth gave birth to the Sky and the stars. Then the Earth bedded with the Sky and brought into being the Titan gods and Okeanos. Finally, Eros' powerful attraction - modern-day gravitation -- kept the cosmos together. Hesiod says Eros was also the most beautiful of the immortal gods: relaxing the limbs of both gods and men, muddling their senses and reason.

    The gods, natural world, and the cosmos are inseparable in Greek mythology and thought. They are natural forces that give the natural world and the cosmos harmony, order, and beauty. Zeus was a weather god responsible for the climate and rain in particular. His sister, Demetra, was agriculture. Hephaistos was fire. Sun-Helios ripens the crops and brings life and light to humans and the universe. Athena was intelligence and reason.

    But the heroes are the heart of Greek mythology. The case of Herakles explains why.

    Herakles was born in Thebes. His father was Zeus and his mother Alkmene, wife of Amphitryon. Hera, wife of Zeus, discovered the infidelity of her husband and sought revenge against Herakles, whose name, ironically, meant Kleos (glory) of Hera. Herakles suffered enormously from the vindictiveness of Hera.

    Hera's cruelty started immediately after the birth of Herakles. She sent two snakes to kill baby Herakles. But baby Herakles struggled the snakes.

    Herakles received good education and athletic training, especially in driving chariots, wrestling, shooting with bows and fencing. He chose the hard but virtuous way of making a living. He fought injustice and killed several monsters that threatened humans.

    Herakles defeated a neighboring state oppressing Thebes. The grateful king of Thebes gave Herakles his daughter, Megara, in marriage. Megara and Herakles had several children. Hera inflicted Herakles with madness. He killed both his wife and children. When Herakles recovered his sanity, he went to Delphi and the Oracle told him in order to expiate his crime he had to serve the king of Tiryns Eurystheus for twelve years. Completing those labors would earn him immortality.

    Herakles set for Tiryns and for his arduous tasks. Gods rushed to his assistance. Apollo gave him a bow and arrows; Hermes brought him a sword; Hephaistos constructed a golden breastplate; Poseidon gave Herakles horses; and Athena handed him a robe. Herakles also made his own distinct weapon, a wooden club.

    His first labor was choking to death the lion of Nemea that had terrorized people in the region of Argos. He skinned the lion and wore its pelt. The second labor was to kill the many-headed Hydra of Lerna. Herakles brought his nephew Iolaos for help. When Herakles cut off a head of Hydra, Iolaos cauterized the stump, thus preventing the growing of two new heads. Herakles cut the Hydra open and took its poisonous blood. He would apply the venom to the tips of his arrows. But he, too, sometime in the future fell victim to this poison.

    Herakles performed successfully another ten dangerous tasks that led him all over Greece and the world. He captured a sacred golden-horn deer belonging to Artemis and killed the eagle that ate the liver of Prometheus, the Titan god who brought fire and knowledge to humanity. He fought the Amazons. He even went to the underworld and fetched the giant and ferocious dog Kerberos.

    Though Herakles was sometimes violent, his courage and virtue were prodigious. Titan Atlas instructed him how the cosmos works and Herakles brought that cosmological knowledge to Greece. He founded the Olympics. And when his second wife's tragic mistake led Herakles to his death, Zeus immortalized him in a constellation.

    The story of Herakles, like other Greek myths, highlights the early values of Greek civilization: the anthropomorphic gods and heroes serve the public good. The gods, with all the assets and some defects of humans, provide the unity and purpose of Greek society and the natural world. In trying to understand the gods, the Greeks invented science. And in an effort to diminish the friction and war among hundreds of Greek states, the Greeks rushed to the Olympics, which were dedicated to Zeus: the purpose of the games being more than athletic excellence. The Olympics reminded the Greeks they were one people. In fact, during the games all warfare ceased.

    In an age of no heroes and hazardous politics, Greek mythology provides models for heroes and better society.

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    When, in 1967, the National Gallery of Art in Washington purchased Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Ginerva de' Benci from the royal family of Liechtenstein for $5 million --a record price at the time-- few doubted its authenticity.


    Now, almost sixty years later, learning that a Russian billionaire collector paid $127.5 million for an image of Christ by Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, one would want to stop for a moment and ask if the whole art world has gone topsy-turvy. A few days ago, the New York Times revealed the fascinating story behind this painting, which was bought at an obscure estate sale a decade ago for less than $10,000. Then it was considered to be merely the work of Leonardo's school.


    After careful cleaning and restoration, some experts looked at Salvator Mundi more favorably and declared it to be an authentic work by Leonardo himself. Still, a number of museum specialists continue to have serious doubts about its authenticity. In 2013 Sotheby's sold it for $80 million to a Swiss art dealer who, within only days turned around and sold it to an unsuspecting Russian client for an additional $47.5 million. All of the above led Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev to file high profile lawsuits against the Swiss dealer and Sotheby's auction house. As for myself, I have to say that, if it is indeed by Leonardo, then it's probably the most charmless work of his I have ever seen. Here's my sincere advice to billionaires eager to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get their hands on a "rediscovered" Leonardo -- don't be foolish. There's no way that one of his paintings has been sitting in someone's attic for 500 years waiting to be discovered.


    Now here's another bit of art news that stopped me in my tracks. We're learning that our Parisian friends have accepted the donation of a monumental sculpture from Jeff Koons --the 30-foot-high Bouquet of Tulips-- which will be installed next year in the plaza in front of the Museum of Modern Art and the Palais de Tokyo. According to the New York Times, Koons's sculpture, depicting a hand grasping a bouquet of tulips, "is meant to echo the hand of the Statue of Liberty, a gift to the United States from France". To that, I would say 'give me a break': his sculpture comes across as the most banal work from this celebrity artist. I have the suspicion that when it's ultimately installed, it will be as much ridiculed and dismissed as the embarrassingly ugly 300-foot tall bronze statue of Peter the Great erected in Moscow twenty years ago.


    Now, let's change the subject to something cool, very minimalistic, and very, very beautiful. Of course, I'm thinking about Agnes Martin and the silence and solitude of her paintings, with their seemingly simple geometric compositions, most often consisting of several horizontal stripes.


    Strangely enough, I've been thinking about her paintings after seeing two newly released French movies, Elle and Things to Come (2016), starring Isabelle Huppert, one of my all-time favorite actresses. Huppert's face and composure remain surprisingly cool no matter what extreme situation her characters are thrown into. And like with Martin's paintings, the more you pay attention to Huppert's famously controlled and cool appearance, more complex and hidden emotions are revealed.


    Reading the recently published biography of Agnes Martin by Nancy Princenthal, Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art, you learn that her life was anything but quiet and simple. There was a lot of drama, a lot of instability, and a lot of pain. And, as with so many great artists, all that turmoil was transformed into poetic, poignant, philosophical artistic sermons.

    To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read The New York Times article about his classes here, or an Artillery Magazine article about Edward and his classes here.


    Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.

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  • 12/05/16--19:16: Souls United
  • at the risk of sounding didactic,
    to reduce us to gender
    is to reduce us to language
    invented before we knew what a wheel was;
    That is how far you have to go
    to get to a before we had a word for man
    and a word for woman
    'Mrs. John F Kennedy'
    hidden somewhere in that is a person
    trapped somewhere in that is a soul,
    fragile as the ornaments she'd order to try and restore her life
    trying to grow a world in a rented garden
    her lifeboat was the bed of dead and famous men
    To Bobby: "do you think Mrs Lincoln imagined there would be monuments built to her husband?"

    what if instead of 'husband and wife' they'd called it
    'life friends' or 'equal partners,' or 'souls united'
    anything other than complete erasure of self
    would she have had a better chance of achieving her wish: dying together?

    I bet words took off to expand sex, as most inventions do;
    'Your cock's so big it hurts;'
    an ancient script needed to help get women pregnant
    words create distance
    suggesting there is somewhere to go
    when there isn't, apparently
    but we probably needed to invent the wheel to find out

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    Where is She Going?: Sweet Charity Revived

    I had a great time at the New Group's current, vest pocket revival of Sweet Charity, directed by Leigh Silverman. Its clear raison d'être is star Sutton Foster, who creates a goofy and endearing Charity, the perpetually out-of-luck romantic whose eight-year employment in the "rent-a-body business" hasn't hardened her to the possibility of finding love. Even in the opening scene, while waiting for her newest beau, Charlie (his name is tattooed on her arm), she sings to a series of potential new beaus in Central Park who sling her around and upside down, an apt movement metaphor for her grab-at-anything approach to love. The production is carried along by Foster's inspired clowning and song-and-dance brio. She even dances in character. Her sleek Reno Sweeney tapping is here replaced by gangly body language that embodies the character's confusion over her endless bad choices.

    Oscar, the insurance actuary she thinks may finally whisk her away to a happily-ever-after ending, is usually cast as some variation on a milquetoast. But Shuler Hensley's Oscar is a hulking sad sack who hints at a troubled history with women. Hensley's tender rendition of the title song is the show's loveliest musical moment, and gives off a disquieting sense that he's trying to talk himself into something he may not be ready for.

    Charity and her crowd have a raffish Damon Runyon-like affability, the Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields score is rousing, and even second-rate Neil Simon packs plenty of zingers. The New Group's cast is game, though so stretched by the double and triple--and in the case of crazy versatile Joel Perez, quadruple--casting that they seem to be always catching their breathe.

    But neither Charity nor Charity has aged well. The show's satire of beatnik culture ("Rhythm of Life"), dead-eyed discothèques ("Rich Man's Frug"), and pay-to-play sexuality ("Big Spender") made it feel right of the moment when it arrived at the top of 1966. (Not to mention the wailing guitars in "Rich Man's Frug," among the first electric instruments used in a Broadway pit.)

    But by the time Fosse's film version arrived three years later, the show was the victim of a changing culture. Its flower power hippies and the dance hall "hostess" who must hide her occupation in order to make a respectable marriage (a contrivance easier to accept on stage) were corny and contrived.

    Fosse realized this when he revived Charity in 1985, locking it down firmly in the 1960s and speeding the tempo, lest anyone linger too long over a character whose doormat qualities now seemed more discomfiting than funny. Later revivals have fussed over Charity, trying to make her more independent and self-aware, but gullibility and bad choices are baked into the character.

    Foster's effervescent and inventive performance only acerbates the issue. Is dancehall employment really her only career option? With her shiny bright looks and bubbly personality (even in what looks like one of Jane Fonda's leftover wigs from Klute), she'd rake in the tips if she ever abandoned the FanDango Ballroom for one of those hat check gigs dreamed of as if it were a lottery win.

    Reviving Sweet Charity also means confronting its Fosse DNA. No show is as much Fosse's as Sweet Charity, in which he truly emerged as a musical theater auteur. It was his idea to adapt Federico Fellini's emotionally devastating Nights of Cabiria to Times Square New York, changing its scrappy Roman streetwalker to a slightly worn dance hall "hostess." (Fosse had already been making notes for a musical set in a dance hall.)

    Fosse wrote the initial adaptation. The songs were written to specific spots he identified. He tailored the role of Charity to fit the singular talents of his wife, the great Broadway dance star, Gwen Verdon. And he created not only Charity's "funky junk" dance language but a stylized movement landscape that gave the show the feel of an urban fable.

    Choreographer Joshua Bergasse mostly manages to escape Fosse's long shadow--no small feat. His dances are confident and varied, if not memorable, and he makes maximum use of the postage stamp-sized stage. Bergasse smartly uses the center of the stage as an axis around which the dances swirl, making sure everyone in the three-quarters seating area has a view. He leans heavily on his star, adding Foster to both "Big Spender" and "Rich Man's Frug," numbers originally designed to give Charity a well-earned breather. I don't remember much about his voguing choreography for "Rich Man's Frug," but days later I was still laughing at Foster's inspired counterpoint clowning during the number.

    Fosse's adaptation, though close to Fellini, was dark and sometimes unpleasant. Like Cabiria, Charity was tough and streetwise (she goes for blood in a fight with a dance hall colleague). Fosse did his own version of a scene in which Cabiria is hypnotized and humiliated in a theater. (Charity's took place in a sideshow and featured the lovely Coleman-Fields song, "Pink Taffeta, Sample Size Ten," which was lost when the scene was cut.) Fosse finally enlisted Neil Simon to tweak the show's book and give it some much-needed humor. Simon also softened Charity, making her a second cousin to Guys and Dolls's Miss Adelaide, a hopeless romantic forever waiting to be wed.

    One thing they never got quite right was the ending. In the final moments, Fellini rescued Cabiria from utter despair with a moment of transcendence, leading to one of the great cinema fade-outs. Fosse and Simon treat Charity's abandonment by Oscar as a joke. He suddenly turns Victorian, fixating on the long line of men who came before him, and pushing her into Central Park Lake as he runs away. Emerging from the water, Charity spots a good fairy who promises her a happy ending, but doesn't realize that she's merely an advertisement for a new television show, The Good Fairy. Off she saunters, determined to live "hopefully ever after." The ending is more flippant than upbeat, and treats Charity like a patsy. Fosse and Simon lowered the stakes for Charity and left both critics and audiences unsatisfied. (Fosse's film version aimed for that transcendent Fellini feeling with a final shot reminiscent of Chaplin disappearing into the bustling New York City streets in City Lights.)

    Subsequent revivals have struggled to make the ending, if not happy, then less jokey.

    Silverman stays true to the original ending, with Foster and Hensley playing the moment of abandonment darker than ever. (Silverman also gives Charity's dunking in the lake a witty, John Doyle-ish representational twist.) Charity's searching "Where Am I Going?" is now the show's final moment, and as she sings, she's joined by others, including Oscar. In that moment, Silverman creates a New York City full of lonely, isolated souls ever hopeful that someday they'll connect. It's a plausible conclusion for a 2016 Sweet Charity whose final image reflects a populace fully wired but yearning for personal connection.

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    "I've lost the youthful naivetyé that leads me to think authorities should be torn down. I see it as an on-going negotiation." Norweaygian- born Gardar Eide Einarsson who is now based in Tokyo, knows first-hand how different societies deal with authority.

    Einarsson grew up in grew up in Norway in the 1970s and 80s, a time more focused on the utopias of community, and in which conflict was discussed less than it is today. He later moved to New York City, drawn to rebellious cultures as he always was. His work explores authority and the way it asserts itself through images: ""I'm attracted to images that have a falseness to them that reveals that the images are not 100 per cent believable," he says.

    In this video Einarsson presents an installation from 2016 consisting of found objects: blue lights from Tokyo's Yamanote train line in Japan. The lights were installed at the train line to reduce the number of suicides as they are supposed to have a positive, comforting effect. Read more about this specific work here:
    The title of the Einarsson's installation - 'Distinct Functional Layers Help Establish Hierarchy and Order' - is taken from Apple's presentation of a new operating system (iOS7).

    Gardar Eide Einarsson (b. 1976) is a Norwegian artist working in installation, printmaking, painting and sculpture. His work explores forms of social transgression and images for political subversion. His work has been shown worldwide and is held in the collections of the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, LACMA, Los Angeles and MoMA, New York, USA.

    Gardar Eide Einarsson was interviewed by Christian Lund at Nils Stærk Gallery in Copenhagen in February 2016.

    Camera: Simon Weyhe
    Edited by: Klaus Elmer
    Produced by: Christian Lund
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

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    "More and more people now evaluate the importance of art, not from a perspective of what's entertainment and what's merely superficially titillating or entertaining, but from the perspective of finding what is going to reach down into your core and lift you up on those days when you feel at your worst. What's going to remind you that there is something deeply beautiful, powerful, and trustworthy in you, your human journey and the world."

    In late September of this year, in the nucleus of all things cultural and emphatic, the potpourri of humans, interests and accomplishments, (New York City, East 42nd Street to be exact), Spar Street, standing 6'4" with a tranquil demeanor, watched three courageously progressive, fervent women receive an award. He watched his sculpture, The Agent of Change, transcend from a piece of his collection, to a tangible symbol of perseverance, honor and leadership. On that day, three legatees, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Her Excellency Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President of Malta and Her Excellency Madam Ban Soon-taek, First Lady of the United Nations, were each celebrated for their leading roles in sustainable development, gender equality and women's empowerment. The Agent of Change Award, created by the Global Partnerships Forum, honors the mission of people who haven't lost focus on what matters. And its Spar Street's art that supports that in more ways than one.




    Hawaii based sculptor and painter, Spar Street's mission as an artist and human being is simple, but not always the easiest to fulfill- focus on what is most important in life. The fundamental philosophical questions - what matters to you? Who is your most authentic self and what is your most authentic life? - are at the heart of each piece. It's not just the recipients of the Agent of Change Award who hold Spar's work near and dear. Many notable collectors have taken notice of his work, and have collaborated to follow this trajectory... and they truly believe in what Spar's creativity strikes within.

    "Some art is a direct connection to the divine, and allows us direct access to feeling the depth of what life can be. I'm not drawn to every kind of art. Like all of us, we're drawn to certain kind of foods, certain kinds of music, certain kinds of art, and I know what I like in all three. The art that really matters to me is the art that drives me to a profound sense of connectedness and feeling. When I walk into a space and encounter art that opens my heart and touches my soul, that is a significant contribution to humanity, in my opinion. From my perspective, that is the highest purpose art can serve- to uplift and inspire humanity, to touch our souls, to open our hearts and remind us what matters most."




    Spar's list of collectors features some of the most well-known and respected individuals in their fields. Luminaries such as Sir Richard Branson, Ted Turner, Eckhart Tolle, Natalie Cole and Jane Goodall are among them. He has worked with major institutions as well, such as The GRAMMY Foundation, Nike, Neiman Marcus Group, B.C. Children's Hospital and the United Nations, UNESCO, and now UN Women, amongst many others.

    "I was the official artist for the Grammys for a number of years. Around 2001, the the president of the Grammys foundation introduced me to Michael Nobel," Spar comments. "We were talking about the power of art, and they engaged me then and there to create a sculpture to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Heart of Peace is that sculpture."

    Spar was recently invited by Claes Nobel, of the famed Peace Prize family, and the cofounder of the World Peace One Foundation, to create the sculpture award titled The Heart of Peace to "... honor those persons who ceaselessly dedicate their lives to world peace and world service, and who are creating a better, safer, and saner world."

    The visual features of Spar's sculptures could be described as large, bronze, silver or gold leaf-plated structures, mirror-like in surface and familiar in form, but with a subtle abstract quality. One piece resembles a towering, dancing flame, while another, Exalted Giving, seems a work of flowing steel, a looping figure connected infinitely at its base. While his work begins with classic sculpting of an idea (or a series of collaborative ideas when it comes to commissioned artwork), the pieces then take on a more high-tech approach. Spar's work is technically difficult to produce, due to the long curves and planes, all of which need to be perfect and in balance with each other. Once a piece is finished in plaster with a steel armature in the center, it is 3D scanned to ensure exacting standards in its reproduction. From there, Spar works in close collaboration with his California foundry. It takes many expert artisans to bring cast bronze and stainless steel sculptures to life, and American Fine Arts Foundry is the only foundry in the world entrusted to cast the only sculpture known to have come from the hand of Leonardo da Vinci. The result, for Spar, is the technical excellence of each and every curve.




    Upcoming projects and shows include an exhibition at Dubai's Avant Gallery in the Four Seasons Resort, Art Miami and peak-season shows in Aspen and Vail, CO. His stunning Upcountry Maui studio has become a go-to destination for art-loving tourists and natives alike, so if you are in that area, be sure to check it out.

    "It's profoundly beautiful to see that many people come and appreciate art, I love it. It inspires me to see what art can do to enliven a city. Public art provides a sense of place, carrying the flame of culture, of a community's ideals. The parks and public spaces come alive. The artwork we see every day impacts us, even in subtle ways, inviting us to be our better selves. There's a fragile nature to our petty fears and mundane preoccupations, but as we grow through that fragility, we find our true strength and resilience - more than we imagined possible. And in finding that strength, we come together. That is the power of art. Sometimes we just need a push, a reminder."

    Keep up with Spar Street by visiting his website:


    All images courtesy of Spar Street.

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    One of the great bon vivants in the history of the Los Angeles underground has died. Jim Fittipaldi, 59, was struck by a massive heart attack on Saturday, December 3, at his home in Florida. He had left Los Angeles about six years ago but the transformative changes to the semi-industrial neighborhood he left behind make it seem like it has been fifty years since his departure.

    An artist with a touch at caricature so deft that he elevated the medium to high art, Fittipaldi’s notoriety and legacy rests as the proprietor of Bedlam, a prominent underground club in what is now the Arts District in Downtown Los Angeles. In a universe of fly-by-night operations, Bedlam under Fittipaldi’s direction lasted well over ten years in a few incarnations all within a few blocks of the Traction Avenue epicenter of the former warehouse district.

    Bedlam was, first and foremost, a bar. That there was no liquor license and the party raged well past California’s mandatory 2:00 AM last call were part of the attraction. Conversation was privileged over music, appealing to a clientele with personalities. Rotating art exhibits adorned the walls and for six years an offshoot Bedlam Gallery of Jim’s in Los Feliz on Hillhurst served as a midpoint for Westsiders to be invited to the gallery’s afterparty in what was then the still-scary then-empty warehouse district in Downtown Los Angeles, ridden of its first generation of trustafarian artists by the call home from mom and dad after the 1992 Rodney King riots.

    As the nascent residential push in Downtown Los Angeles waned about then, Fittipaldi was one of a new generation of Downtown residents without the embossed Cal Arts degree... but overflowing with creative approaches to getting the rent paid. His solution, regularly-scheduled parties, inevitably with the theme of art, as the cavernous spaces that bore the Bedlam name always carried a who’s who of who was left downtown when the deluge of the 1980s receded.

    Bedlam proved that the ugly exteriors of the warehouse district were actually decent infrastructure and that the allure of an expertly-curated atmosphere would attract people from all walks of life. That Downtown Los Angeles now hosts dozens of nightclubs proves his prescient vision. But there was only one Bedlam and no nightspot carries the vibe that balanced quiet speakeasy and howling time like Bedlam. Of course, being illegal, the open presence of narcotics as well as smoking allowed inside brought out the sense in visitors that there was nowhere else to go, that the best spot had been found, that the only possible destination was home to bed or out to breakfast as the sun rose. An immaculate dresser, there was an assumed dress code emphasizing classy with Jim himself partial to nostalgic vintage wear. Nooks and crannies made for great make-out spots when the couches were occupied.

    That he passed away on the same date as the Oakland Ghost Ship artist collective tragedy is an eerie coincidence. Bedlam, though a refuge from the sameness of L.A. nightlife for artists and seekers of all stripes, was no collective. There was never any doubt whose speakeasy it was, who curated the art, who pocketed the money, who showed you a good time, who opened his doors to outcast Los Angeles. There never seemed a single safety hazard there, what with one man taking full responsibility; perhaps a last lesson this inimitable impresario leaves us with as he departs for Happy Hour on a higher plane.

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  • 12/06/16--07:58: What Does It All Mean?
  • 2016-12-06-1481039684-4519536-Being_and_Nothingness_French_first_edition.jpg

    "Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me," goes the old saw and just because you have a negative view of reality doesn't mean you're depressed. Naysayers don't make for ideal dinner guests and those who express the point of view that life is utterly meaningless are not going to be honored at the ceremonies for Project Hope. But there's something cleansing in holding not only a negative view about one's own prospects, but mankind in general. It's tiresome to hear evangelical and hortatory speech full of promises that can never be fulfilled. Yes, indeed we're all here for a short stay, in which we make a bit of a fuss, before giving up and finally dying. "First you suffer, then you die," sings a rock group called Vomitorial Corpulence, a Christian Goregrind band from Melbourne. As Macbeth says, "Life's... a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." However, while it's alright for Vomitorial Corpulence or Shakespeare to spout these verities, try it out on your friends and you'll soon find yourself ostracized for not getting with the program. This is the age of totalitarian thought, where words are monitored for their attitudinal content and the true problem of having to make meaning in a world where there's no program, no panacea, and really nothing that will alleviate either the disease of consciousness and longing or the pain of existence is glossed over. Caden Cotard, the main character of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, NY initially seems to be dying from an incurable disease, but what the film reveals is that the disease is life itself.

    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

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    For Architectural Digest, by Nick Mafi.

    It's almost impossible to imagine New York City without such landmarks as Central Park. Yet, were it not for a mid-19th-century bill enacted by the state legislature calling for more than 750 acres to be allocated for the grounds, New Yorkers would've never been able to experience the spoils of the iconic park. But what about other would-be landmarks that, for reasons political or other, were never realized in New York City? The new book Never Built New York (Metropolis Books, 2016) explores that very topic. Included in this tome are unbuilt projects such as a beautiful Park Avenue skyscraper by Zaha Hadid; a design for Brooklyn’s Dodger Stadium that featured a giant dome to shield players and fans from the rain; an airport perched on steel columns 200 feet above street level, spanning from 24th to 71st Street and Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River; and many others.

    "The drawings in this book . . . are for me not a compendium of nostalgia, regret, or opportunities missed," writes architect Daniel Libeskind in the book's introduction. "They are, on the contrary, drawing the open mind to rethink the built and unbuilt." Indeed, by looking at old projects through a modern scope, we are better able to learn from past mistakes when designing future structures. Here, you will find a sampling of the scrapped projects the book examines.

    The book's cover image shows Zaha Hadid's design for a skyscraper on 425 Park Avenue, one of several entries in a 2012 competition eventually won by Foster + Partners.

    Although The New York Times gushed over Moshe Safdie's bold design for the city's very own version of Habitat 67, noting that the plan was breaking "just about every housing and building rule, precedent, practice, custom, and convention,” the project never took root.

    Plans were in place for Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao to have a Manhattan sibling. But after the events of 9/11, the world economy turned downward, and funding (and enthusiasm) for the ambitious project evaporated.

    In December 1945, prominent U.S. real-estate developer William Zeckendorf proposed a radical design for New York's next airport: a $3 billion elevated runway that would stretch 144 square blocks along the Hudson River (from 71st Street to 24th Street). The plan for the airport, which would have rivaled LaGuardia for total plane capacity, was eventually declined.

    Roosevelt Island, the 147-acre strip of land in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, was once intended to house several 50-story apartment buildings with built-on platforms containing schools, shops, and recreational space. The design was scrapped in favor of a much more modest design, which included smaller apartments and nothing more.

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    Art Basel in Miami Beach was less crowded this year, with politics prevalent and the mood a bit muted. However, despite a 9.4% decrease in attendance, dealers reported several sales below the $500,000 mark and more in-depth conversations.

    "Spending money on art is not a priority, perhaps, in the present climate, but the trick is to have a diverse portfolio," said Eivind Furnesvik of Norway-based gallery STANDARD (OSLO). He sold an Alex Hubbard fibre glass piece priced at $95,000. Sean Kelly sold almost all of the works presented during the VIP preview, including a Los Carpinteros video purchased by the Pérez Art Museum Miami for $60,000 and a Hugo McCloud painting for $45,000. Blue-chip British artist, Bridget Riley, did exceptionally well with "Rose Gold 2" (2012) selling for $800,000 and "Harlequin" (2016) for £70,000 at Galerie Max Hetzler.


    New York dealer Jack Shainman strategically showed a painting by Kerry James Marshall, who has received a lot of attention surrounding his critically acclaimed exhibition at the Met Breuer. "We sold the work for $600,000 to a US collector," said Shainman. "The waiting list for his works is vast." David Zwirner also sold work by Marshall, in addition to works by Sherrie Levine and Yayoi Kusama. "We've seen dedicated collectors, great curators. It's a healthy market," said the dealer.

    Earlier this year, Marshall's record price doubled at Christie's New York, when "Plunge" (1992) sold for $2.1 million. His previous auction record was set in November 2014 when "Vignette" (2003) sold for $1.02 million.

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    ZEALnyc, December 6, 2016

    Cherry Jones, one of the great actors of our day, recently celebrated a milestone birthday (November 21) and we at ZEALnyc saluted and paid tribute to her on this happy occasion. She has been nominated five times for a Tony Award, winning twice -- first in 1995 for her staring role in the Lincoln Center Theater's revival of The Heiress, and then again in 2005 for her portrayal of Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley's play Doubt. Her career has spanned the trifecta of mediums encompassing stage, film and television, while being honored along the way with numerous awards documenting her excellence in these fields; she has received an Emmy Award, numerous Drama Desk Awards (in addition to her Tony Awards and nominations), as well as receiving a special GLADD Media Award.


    After receipt of 2009 Emmy Award

    While her training and earliest work had its roots on the stage, she has navigated effortlessly back and forth from film and television beginning as early as the late 80's with a large filmography that includes The Horse Whisperer, Erin Brockovich, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Ocean's Twelve, to name only a few. Newer audiences may be more familiar with her work as President Allison Taylor on the hit television series 24 and most recently through guest appearances on the award-winning series Transparent (Amazon Video). Ms. Jones expressed her joy at the diversity of her work in a New York Times article earlier this year: "I'm Having the Kind of Year Actors Live For."

    We are very happy to share well-wishes from a few of the artists and administrators who have been fortunate to cross paths and work with Ms. Jones over the years. Their words speak for themselves and provide the strongest testament and endorsement of a great artist. We're all looking forward to many years and many wonderful performances ahead.

    André Bishop, Producing Artistic Director, Lincoln Center Theater, NYC

    Cherry Jones is one of America's finest and most admired actors. I say "finest" because of her talent, her versatility, her emotional depth and her intelligence. She walks onstage and everything suddenly seems brighter. And it is - because of her. I say "admired" because she is kind and caring, a great company member, and unafraid to speak her mind and express her doubts and fears. She is not closed off as a human being, she is open to everything around her. And she has, for all her success and all the respect she garners, a lovely modesty, a sort of secure insecurity.

    When Lincoln Center Theater offered Cherry the leading role of Catherine Sloper in The Heiress -- a beautiful, sensitive, and ultimately strong-willed young woman -- Cherry received the offer and the script and automatically assumed she was being offered the role of Catherine's protective, dotty elderly aunt! It never occurred to her that she was being asked to play the lead. Of course her performance as Catherine made history and she has continued to make history ever since.

    She is a great artist and a great human being, and everyone at Lincoln Center Theater (especially me!) is in her thrall and always will be.


    Cherry Jones and Jon Tenney in 'The Heiress;' Lincoln Center Theater

    Marc Masterson, Artistic Diretor, South Coast Repertory, Costa Mesa, CA

    I have known Cherry since we were both frightened children in conservatory at Carnegie Mellon trying to bury our southern accents in speech class. Cherry met that challenge with a fierce determination that has characterized her work ever since. She is smart and strong and powerful, with a wry sense of humor and a delightful twinkle in her eye. I have followed most of her work in New York and deeply admire her talent, her character, and her humanity. I directed her in my senior project in school with a play called Circus Lady and she made it so easy -- all I had to do was give her the stage. Happy birthday my dear friend!


    Todd Haimes, Artistic Director, Roundabout Theare Company, NYC

    Cherry Jones is so talented, so giving, and so incredibly warm that to wish her merely a happy birthday doesn't seem like enough. So I will wish for Cherry all of the joy that she has brought to her audiences and many friends over the years. I feel privileged to have been a small part of the wonderful work that she has shared on New York stages. She is a singular performer, and the theatre would be a lesser place without Cherry Jones in it.


    Cherry Jones in 'Doubt'; photo: Joan Marcus

    Doug Hughes, Director of Broadway productions of 'Doubt' and 'Mrs. Warren's Profession'

    There are precious few genuine stars of what used to be called "the legitimate stage." Cherry, you are indisputably one of those: An actress of charisma, integrity and genius. The spiritual descendant of Le Gallienne and Julie Harris.

    I could go on endlessly about how great thou art. But since that is universally acknowledged, I will simply state that over the years we've worked together, I've never once seen you forget the joy that is so essential to surviving and flourishing in our strange racket. Time and time again, I've been a witness as your radiant love for the theater flowed through rehearsal halls and across the footlights. Each time, I have been lifted up.

    Thank you darling Cherry -- Happy Birthday and all love, Doug.


    Sally Hawkins and Cherry Jones in Roundabout Theatre's 'Mrs. Warren's Profession'

    2016-12-06-1481058128-3081803-CherryJonesinGlassMenagerie.jpgCherry Jones in 'The Glass Menagerie'


    Cherry Jones in an early performance.


    Read more from ZEALnyc:

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    'Nutcrackers' in all shapes and sizes this holiday season!

    Finding your inner Olaf at all the NYC area ice skating rinks

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    At long last, we are ready to discuss Jan Fabre himself. Along with the other journalists who went to Saint Petersburg, I was invited to dinner and a chat with Fabre. He ordered pasta and meticulously pre-cut it into such little pieces that he could wolf it down without looking at it or, seemingly, thinking about it or tasting it. Nearing 60, he has frosted blond hair, the face of a hawk, the build of a pugilist, and a tremendous amount of jittery energy.

    Jan Fabre at the opening of Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

    As an artist with one foot, and sometimes two, in the conceptual mode, it is not always necessary to look at Fabre's work in person or even in reproduction in order to grasp the essentials. His actual artwork often serves merely to instantiate in physical form the important thing about it - the idea. Let me demonstrate. When I spoke with him, he told me about his idea of the horizontal body. The vertical body, in his system, is the one we are familiar with. The horizontal body is a human volume, but filled with undifferentiated blood. As a liquid, it cannot be wounded. A knife passes through it; a bullet passes through it. It heals in the wake of insult. Fabre hopes that we are moving toward the liquid horizontal body: the indestructible human.

    When he told me this idea, I asked him if he considered himself an alchemist. Leave aside a moment whether or not what we think alchemy is real. The question here means, does Fabre subscribe to the mode of thought of the alchemists? To which he vigorously replied that he does.

    Well OK then. This tells us some things we need to know in approaching his work.

    Alchemy is a doctrine of transformations. It is a system by means of which one thing is made into another thing. Any number of systems may produce transformations though. The alchemical system has distinctive properties. I think of alchemical thinking as analogical thinking. In his novel Kraken, China Miéville gives an adept (if comically critical) description of this mode of magical thought. His lead character, Billy Harrow, observes a moldy radio which, because of its suggestive decay, can tune in to "some opaque flow of decayed information or other." Thus he discovers the world of magic:

    Apparently, Billy thought, he lived now in a trite landscape. Deep enough below the everyday, Billy realised with something between awe and distaste, a thing has power, moronically enough, because it's a bit like something else. Want to hex up briars, what else should you throw behind you but an old comb? All it took was a way with such cute correspondences.

    - China Miéville, Kraken, p. 244

    The analogical thinker thinks in terms of similarities between superficially distinct things. The magician is capable of animating these analogies, so that two things become one, and the powers of the one are expressed by the other. This effects the alchemical transformation: A is like B, and thus A becomes B.

    Jan Fabre's horizontal man is an alchemical concept. A human-shaped volume filled with a human substance (blood) becomes human, or rather the human becomes this fabrication - and in so doing, assumes its properties of indestructibility.

    Let's say that you, the reader, are the kind of level-headed individual who doesn't believe in magic. Of what use is Jan Fabre to you? As a real magician, he is of course no use at all. But consider the territory in which he works. He doesn't work in the real world. He is an artist. He works in a land of make-believe where a thing can be true simply because he asserts it is. In his weightless realm, magic is real. What impact does this reality have outside its hothouse? How does it affect the real world? We will look further at his work and try to answer this question.

    I saw some hollow monks that he had fashioned out of chicken-wire robes covered entirely in thin slices of bone. These unsettling figures were still being unpacked, because the show was not entirely installed in October when I visited.

    one of the bone-monks before installation

    I had to deal with them largely as concepts. Here is some of what Fabre said about these pieces in 2004:

    The monk-like figures I have been working on have their origin in my writings about a fluid body, a body consisting exclusively of blood. I have been thinking about what would happen should our internal skeleton be projected outward and become an external skeleton. One consequence would be that we could no longer be wounded... These ideas have led me to the use of human skeletons, which I acquire in India and Leuven and saw into thin slices that can be sewn together. These slivers have the visual characteristics of Bruges lacework, a transparency of sorts.

    - from a interview with Michaël Amy

    We begin to see what kind of a mind takes to analogical thought. It is associative, playful, given to looking at things backwards or inside-out. Fabre settles on a conceptual framework in advance but once he locates himself inside its universe, his ideas are not doctrinal at all. They are purely inspired. One simply cannot make a leap from the general proposition of an unwoundable body to the specific image of a hollow monk wearing a robe made of bone slices. One can fill in the conceptual linkages afterward, but this is not the same. I think that Fabre's method is to create a zone in which pure inspiration is ultimately just grounded enough to make any sense at all. He is avoiding the sterility of dreams on the one hand, and on the other, the drudgery, for him, of syllogistic thought.

    installation view, Jan Fabre, Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

    For me, these are the two key modes of thought: analogical and syllogistic. Analogical thought, as we have seen, yields spontaneous transformations of one thing into another. Syllogistic thought does not. It produces ever-increasing insight into the nature and qualities of each thing with regard to itself. It allows change by means of manipulation of the qualities of each thing with regard to itself. Syllogistic thought produces these effects through the operation of syllogism, and the body of formal logic in general, on the output of empirical observation. If analogical thought depends on associative inspiration, then syllogistic thought depends on linear rigor. Analogical thought is most native to magicians, and syllogistic thought to scientists.

    Consider another conceptual artist, Ai Weiwei. He too has a show up right now which I have not seen. No need. It's called Laundromat, at Deitch Projects right here in New York. The concept for this show was that Ai went to an evacuated refugee camp in Greece. He collected clothing that had been left behind, took it back to his studio in Berlin, and thoroughly washed it. Now it is displayed at Deitch in a manner reminiscent of a laundromat.

    installation view, Ai Weiwei, Laundromat, Deitch Projects, New York

    In my experience of Ai's work, this is entirely consistent with his syllogistic outlook. He begins not with an abstract idea, but with a specific concern about a phenomenon in the real world - in this case the refugee crisis. As an artist, he seeks to create an object addressing and expressing his concern, but as a political provocateur aspiring toward virtue, he wishes the object to carry moral weight. Working syllogistically, he soon comes to the heaps of abandoned clothes, not only a real artifact set but a long-time symbol of those who have vanished (see the Holocaust Museum in DC). Continuing to work syllogistically, he turns to his own interaction with these objects. To express his reverence for these missing crowds, his self-abasement in the face of their tremendous suffering, he draws on the strategy of Mary Magdalene, perhaps as filtered through Mother Theresa - the humble act of washing. He washes the clothes, taking away everything that stank, that stained, that stole away color and comfort. His washing yields things that are soft, and warm, and prettily colored, retrieving beauty even from the grey depths.

    To say that Ai thinks like a scientist, that his images arise logically from their antecedent themes, is not to say that they are without resonance, without suggestion - without the basic magic of art itself. It is only to say that you can see every step as he walks all the way from here to there. His inspiration takes the form of identifying the essential about things in themselves.

    This mode of work, so deeply rooted in reality, is necessary, because reality is so hard to see. Ai's art is an art of returning obscured reality, in all its brutal woe, to the viewer.

    Fabre's mode of work, just as necessary, addresses a different phase of the needs of the human soul. His flights of fancy, his freewheeling linkage of images, his synthesis of imaginary philosophies, serves to remind us that the world need not be only as it is. It may still become something new, something alien, something which will terrify and surprise and delight us.

    installation view, Jan Fabre, Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

    This answers, I hope, that question I asked on your behalf before: if there is no real magic, what good does Fabre do me? How does his fantasy world affect my real one? This is the answer: his work acts to liberate you. Every named thing seeks to shrink toward the center of its territory. If we name ourselves realists, then we will retreat to the center of reality, to the very real, the tediously real. We will burden ourselves with more limits than reality itself imposes. By sending postcards from the land of the impossible, Fabre reminds us of the broad limits of the possible, and shakes the scales from our eyes which hide from us the strangeness of the true.

    To be continued.



    Jan Fabre: Knight of Despair/Warrior of Beauty, State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, until 4/30/2017

    Ai Weiwei: Laundromat, Deitch Projects, 18 Wooster St., New York, until 12/23/2016

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  • 12/07/16--13:14: Ted Jackson: Art Review
  • Strolling through the bohemian section of Amsterdam called "The Pijp," I stumbled into a pop-up gallery and discovered a great painter named Ted Jackson. I really loved Jackson's impressionistic interpretations - they were equally distinctive and ironic. One can feel homages to Manet, Gauguin, and Matisse in Mister Jackson's powerful works.

    Here are a few of my favorites:

    "Turquoise Sky" I found lovely and simple yet iridescent. It feels as if the flowers are bursting into the sky, reaching up towards the infinite.

    "Sarphati Park" is obviously Jackson's homage to Manet's "Déjeuner sur l'herbe." I loved the color palate that Jackson employed to convey the feeling of a long summer-into-autumn day filled with leisurely long talks.

    I found "Woman in Green Dress" to be harmonious and poetic. I loved the texture of the woman's dress as well as the sofa.

    "Abstract Reflection" is a lusciously swirling scheme of colors moving through a soft mist.

    I guess that being within walking distance of the Van Gogh museum necessitates an homage to the master. In "Blue Moon" Jackson colorfully conveys a warm and serene summer evening in Amsterdam - the perfect soft palate for a lovers' stroll.

    Finally, there was a fish-eyed painting of a canal that I thought was exquisite:

    Touring the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, The Stedelijk Museum as well as the Anne Frank House were all riveting experiences filled with emotion and wonderment, but it was equally splendid to stumble upon the work of a contemporary artist trying to capture some of the beauty that he sees in the world. For more information please visit and whenever you visit The Pijp keep your eyes open for an amazing pop-up gallery!

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    At 78, Ben Zander is a young man in a hurry.
    The conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston Youth Philharmonic Orchestra has more energy than most people half his age.
    A third of his age.
    You name the fraction; Maestro Zander has the juice.
    To wit:
    I don't know what you did last summer, but Zander took 120 teenagers in his orchestra first to Carnegie Hall where they played two free concerts to packed houses, with thousands in the audience never having attended a classical concert before.
    The programs he chose for his charges were so difficult that even the New York Times wondered how kids could play such demanding music--and play it so well.
    While in New York, Zander finished fundraising a cool million, so that he could take his kids not just to New York but to Spain for two weeks, where they played to enthralled houses across the Iberian peninsula.
    Those kids better have their passports in order, because they'll be heading to South America this summer and back to Europe the summer after that.
    But it's not as though Zander is only active in the summer.
    He's just coming off the first round of concerts with his Boston Philharmonic, the highly acclaimed adult ensemble that specializes in terrifyingly difficult and innovative programs.
    He auditions and re-auditions his youth orchestra members every season, which means that while you and I are watching Game of Thrones, he's listening to no less than 275 teens play their violins, cymbals, or whatever.
    Of course, that's not all. Zander flies to London in March to take the baton for Beethoven's 9th with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall.
    Zander is hardly a cruise control conductor.
    He has ideas.
    "The inventor of the metronome," Zander says, on a fall afternoon as he navigates his boat down the Charles, "was a friend of Beethoven's.
    "Beethoven loved the idea of the metronome, because now he could communicate his tempi quickly and easily.
    "Most conductors ignore his tempi, which he put onto all nine symphonies.
    "They play the 9th symphony in around 82 minutes, but if you look at what Beethoven actually wrote on his scores, it should not take more than an hour."
    So Zander is quietly preparing to upend two centuries of musicology and perform Beethoven's 9th at what will seem like a shockingly breakneck pace.
    "It's what Beethoven wanted," he insists, clearly taking great delight in épater-ing the bourgeoisie.
    Zander has won two Grammy nominations; perhaps the recording of Beethoven's 9th he'll produce this spring will finally net him the award itself.
    Of course, there's more.
    Zander, a born teacher, has discovered the joys of teaching online, using the internet as a force multiplier for his master classes.
    One of his videos has already scored more than 66,000 hits, he notes with great pleasure.
    "They're watching all over the world," he says happily, steering his craft among the rowing skulls congesting the late afternoon Charles.
    You may need a nap after hearing all this, but Zander clearly does not.
    He's certainly in no mood to quit anytime soon, however.
    Zander has a special fondness for Tchaikovsky, leading to his programming of Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony in his recent round of concerts.
    "I only do it every eight or ten years," he says, "so I'll probably only be doing it one more time after this."
    Of course, that would put him in the mid to late 80s, but why stop when you're on a roll?
    Zander quotes the writing of his former wife and, by all accounts, BFF, Rosamund Zander, whose writing on positivity and possibility infuses every thought, word, and deed.
    "Imagine if I went negative in front of my youth orchestra," Zander says, obviously not imagining any such thing. "It would be over in a minute.
    "Energy," Zander says, "is like manure. You can't stack it up. You have to spread it around!"
    Zander next spreads around his energy conducting the BPO on November 17th.
    Tickets are going fast, but not as fast as Zander himself.
    Catch him if you can.

    For further information,

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