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Art News and Updates from Gallereo

All the latest news from the art world, as well as what's happening here at Gallereo. If you've built a gallery at Gallereo, let us know about your experience and you and your site could feature in our blog in the coming weeks.

Friday 11th September 2015Curator Salaries and Museum Bankruptcies

Executive salaries have been in the news quite a bit ever since the global financial meltdown in 2008. In case you hadn't been paying attention, or were on another planet during that time, executives at major firms that had experienced some serious financial trouble - and in some cases, were even directly responsible for the global issues - were being given outrageously large bonuses and salary raises despite their damaging actions. This trend has continued in many of the world's largest firms, even as companies are trying to refuse to provide raises for the lower levels of staff - you know, the people who actually do the work.

With all that in mind, it's hard to tell if the current situation at the beleaguered Detroit Institute of Arts should be surprising or not. For those of you who haven't been following the situation, partially as a direct result of the collapse of the US auto industry, which was centred around Detroit, the entire city of Detroit has declared bankruptcy. The bureaucrats charged with turning the city's books around have explored various methods of raising funds, and briefly floated the possibility of selling off some of the highly-valued collection from the Detroit Institute of Arts (as we wrote about previously). Fortunately, this idea was largely quashed, although some factions within the municipal government are still keen on the idea.

The truly baffling element, however, comes in the form of a press release from the DIA. They have decided to grant salary raises to their three top executives: the former CEO Graham Beal, the COO Annmarie Erickson, and the CFO Robert Bowen. These aren't mere pittances, however - each salary has been raised to the tune of $49,000 USD, an increase of more than the average yearly income of the residents of Detroit. The reason for this extremely generous raise? The turmoil caused by trying to fight off the city's emergency manager, who was the main driving force behind the idea of selling off parts of the museum's collection. Yes, you read that correctly: in order to cope with the possibility of selling off the collection due to lack of funding, they have given raises to their chief executives. The mind boggles.

As if that wasn't enough of an insult, the departing CEO Beal, who stepped down in June, was also granted a hefty severance package of $285,000. But wait, there's more! Beal was granted a loan from the museum to develop his house - and the entirety of that loan has also been forgiven, to the tune of over $155,000! It beggars belief, but there you have the solid numbers. It's a disgrace when the corporate financial excesses bleed over into the art world. Here's hoping it doesn't start a trend.
 

Posted on September 11th 2015 on 06:28pm
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Wednesday 09th September 2015Artist Spotlight: Heather Barnett

We've written about some pretty strange media over the course of the Artist Spotlight series, from smells to blood to self-referential machinery, but in this week's edition, we're going to look at a whole new order of material: life itself. Before you start to worry about the ethics of genetic manipulation or anything of that nature, relax: we're talking about slime molds.

In case you've never heard of them before, slime molds are actually an extremely strange type of organism known as a supercell. Slime molds have no organs, no brains, nothing except the ability to replicate their simple cellular structures. They follow extremely simple rules, yet are capable of mapping entire areas of forest floors - or, as is the case more often lately, entire labs run by robotics systems analysts. They can evaluate their surroundings and make calculations about the best ways to move forwards - all without even the most rudimentary of brains.

Some artistic purists may complain that her explorations of the interactions between art and science are a little too technical, but they are perhaps ignoring the true function of art: to make us reflect on what it means to be a thinking, conscious being in this crazy world we live in. Speaking to Wired magazine in an interview, she explained her primary working themes. "I'm interested in what we can learn from nature as individuals as organisations as a society. For me as an artist it is a fascinating subject matter. It's also my working material."

Speaking about her latest project, which was on display earlier this year for a limited engagement, she said, "Broad Vision is an innovative interdisciplinary learning project, which puts the students in charge of their own research and allows them to explore new and stimulating interactions between art and science. The residency at arebyte gallery offers a fantastic opportunity for the students to share their experiences of interdisciplinary inquiry and showcase the results of their creative collaborations with public audiences."

It's always fascinating to see the boundaries of what constitutes art being pushed. Rather than having clearly defined areas of perception in the world - this is science, this is art, this is technology, this is social psychology, etc - it's far more accurate to appreciate that all of these various elements interrelate in this glorious experience we call reality.
 

Posted on September 09th 2015 on 06:26pm
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Friday 04th September 2015Welcome to Dismaland

The world just can't get enough Banksy. From fighting over the rights to spraypaint scrawls on walls to outright thefts of public property to million dollar auction prices, Banksy is one of the most well-known disruptive influences in the current art world (whether this is a blessing or a curse depends on which part of the gamut you're in). The satirical lampooning of popular culture and media icons continues in his latest project, a massively scaled installation titled Dismaland Bemusement Park.

Set up in the English coastal town Weston-super-Mare in the south-east part of the country, the grey skies most often seen above the park seem perfectly suited to a grim, bleak mockery of Disneyland, the famous American theme park that refers to itself as 'The Happiest Place on Earth'. The entire place is a monument to the destruction of ersatz happiness: the castle centerpiece of the real Disneyland has been reconstructed and burned down, and the entire place is strewn with the gritty underside of the world - that which we pretend to ignore yet obsess over compulsively, and that which is just downright alarming. Cinderella's coach has crashed into a building and is surrounded by paparazzi, while children are offered advance payroll loans on their allowance.

There's more to the installation than just sending up Disney, however, as there are several galleries contained within the installation itself. Showcasing works from Jenny Holzer, Damien Hirst, and a number of other artists whose pieces were felt to support the underlying premise of the "park", over 50 in total from around the world. Banksy also has several new pieces on display, the most poignant of which is presented as a game, where visitors pilot boats filled with migrants through corpse-riddled waters. Definitely much grimmer than the real deal, it nevertheless sparks much more thought, debate, and dialog. Even the gift shop is more novel, where it's supposedly even possible to pick up a kit designed to hack bus stop billboard displays - no word on the price, however

Tickets to Dismaland are limited to 4000 per day, and cost under $5, meaning that they're likely to be sold out each and every day. It opened on August 22, but it will only be open until September 27, so be sure to get in there while you have the chance. It might not be the happiest place on earth, but it sure is the most interesting for the moment!
 

Posted on September 04th 2015 on 06:47pm
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Wednesday 02nd September 2015Public Art Series: Covent Garden

All too much of the world's beautiful artwork is hidden behind a gallery door. While some of these masterpieces must be shielded from the elements, in our reverence we often ignore the works that appear right in front of us in daily life: public art. Breaking down the barrier walls to the inner sanctum of aestheticism, the public art installation is art at its best - art that reaches as many people as possible. To celebrate that role, we're going to be starting a new series dedicated to examining the world's most beautiful and influential public art pieces, both permanent and ephemeral.

In a world where Photoshop can easily alter what appears to be incontrovertible evidence, Charles Petillon has a bit of a problem. His installations are so grandiose that he must constantly work to convince his audience that his photographs are not altered digitally in any way (aside, presumably, from the exposure adjustments that almost every good photographer applies). His typical style, at the moment, involves typically mundane settings transformed into eerie spectacles - using only balloons.

“I want to change people’s point of view, their perspective of a place they see every day and never really look at. A swimming pool, a field: if I suddenly put something strange in it like these balloons you will see it differently. I don’t want my works to be seen just as decoration, there is always something they are trying to draw out or question.”

To that end, his next project involves the world-famous Covent Garden, which he'll be filling with over 100,000 glowing white balloons. Titled Heartbeat, the balloons will pulse semi-regularly with flashes of light that propagate through the entire mass like waves, creating an impressive effect. This is also a first for Petillon, who typically photographs his installations and exhibits the photos, without making the installations themselves available to the public view.

Petillon was a bit nervous about the project from the beginning, saying, “I have never done anything on this scale so it has been quite daunting. Because it is such a historic place, we had to be very careful – I wouldn’t want to be the French man who made Covent Garden fall down.”

Hopefully, he will succeed in his goal of having visitors see the old building in a completely new light. The exhibit runs from August 27 to September 27, so be sure to pop by for a visit if you're in the neighbourhood!
 

Posted on September 02nd 2015 on 06:49pm
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Friday 28th August 2015Here's the Artist Statement

It's probably fair to say that most artists hate to write. There are the exceptions, of course, those lucky few who have talents that bridge the multiple medium divide, but they are far from the rule. It's unfortunate that so much of the value of a piece of work is generated by the story behind it, when artists tend to be loathe to commit it to paper - or at least, to commit it to paper in a manner that is in any way sensible or understandable to the general collector. There is a certain joy in writing art-speek, the tangled mesh of intricate phraseology and vague aesthetic theories that tend to comprise most artist statements, but not everyone is equally adept at it. So why bother?

A new website has come to our attention, one with a cheeky purpose on the surface and a possibly inspiring purpose hidden beneath. Called the 'artybollocks generator', it does more or less what it says on the tin: it will use algorithms and a database of art-speek and aesthetic theory terms to generate an artist statement for you. The particular gem we received on our first visit runs as follows:
 
My work explores the relationship between acquired synesthesia and recycling culture.
With influences as diverse as Wittgenstein and Andy Warhol, new tensions are crafted from both explicit and implicit discourse.
Ever since I was a postgraduate I have been fascinated by the theoretical limits of the universe. What starts out as yearning soon becomes corroded into a dialectic of lust, leaving only a sense of unreality and the inevitability of a new understanding.
As intermittent forms become clarified through emergent and repetitive practice, the viewer is left with a tribute to the inaccuracies of our future.

By the time you reach the end, your eyes may be starting to go slightly crossed as you try to unravel the sense out of what is, in fact, complete gibberish invented by a machine. But to the unenlightened, it sure sounds good. In fact, it sounds so good that it leads us to the hidden purpose behind this post: next time you're stuck on where to go next, try visiting the artybollocks generator. Click through a few times to generate a nonsensical artist statement that appeals to you, and get to work creating the pieces described by the algorithm. Through the most random of inspirations, you may find yourself creating something that's actually quite wonderful - and hey, at least the artist statement is already finished for you!

Check it out at http://www.artybollocks.com/ and have some fun next time you're stuck for ideas!

Posted on August 28th 2015 on 04:30pm
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Wednesday 26th August 2015Did a Chinese City Steal the Bean?

One of the most intriguing and visually commanding pieces of public art in Chicago is a 2006 sculpture by Anish Kapoor entitled 'Cloud Gate'. It features a huge ovoid, typically referred to as 'the bean' by locals, which has been constructed out of mirror-quality chrome in order to reflect the clouds and sky above the Windy City. It's one of their most well-known pieces of public art, which makes it all the more galling to Kapoor that it appears a Chinese city has created a public art sculpture that is essentially exactly the same as his. (On the right, top: the original Cloud Gate, and below it, the Chinese knock-off).

The city of Karamay, in northern China, has begun to construct a virtually identical ripoff of Cloud Gate, and remarkably unapologetically. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog, Ma Jun, the head of the Karamay Tourism Bureau, said, “The idea of the oil bubble comes from the Black Oil Mountain, which is a natural oil well in Karamay. You can’t say we’re not allowed to build a round sculpture because there already is a round one.” Interestingly enough, Ma refused to name the artist who created their version of the bean, which as of yet appears to have no title.

Kapoor said in a statement, "It seems that in China today it is permissible to steal the creativity of others. I feel I must take this to the highest level and pursue those responsible in the courts. I hope that the Mayor of Chicago will join me in this action. The Chinese authorities must act to stop this kind of infringement and allow the full enforcement of copyright."

Curiously enough, the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, is a typically acerbic - even aggressive - public figure, and yet all he had to say on the subject was, "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, is what I would say. And if you want to see original artwork like this or like the Bean, you come to Chicago." While that may seem rather blase on the surface, he sort of has a point - it's not too likely that many tourists are going to change their travel plans to China instead of Chicago just because of this plagiarism. But then on the other hand, any artist who has ever had their work misused can immediately attest to how incredibly infuriating it is to see someone else profiting off of your creativity and hard work.
 

Posted on August 26th 2015 on 03:20pm
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Friday 21st August 2015Jodorowsky the Crowdfunder

Crowdfunding has been getting a lot of attention in the news lately, and with good reason. We even discussed the practice in more detail earlier this month, so take a look back if you want a deeper look at it. As far as funding models go, it's often a bit difficult to find something that could rightly be called revolutionary - and while crowdfunding isn't exactly a new principle, the ease with which it can now be used by just about anyone in the world (remember the practical joker who raised $50,000 to make potato salad?) is certainly revolutionary.

It's not just tech startups and internet trolls that are making use of modern crowdfunding platforms, however. Legendary surrealist filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky is going to be crowdfunding his newest film, which is entitled 'Endless Poetry' (Poesía Sin Fin). The funding goal is a remarkably conservative $150,000, which puts to shame all the ridiculously overblown budgets that Hollywood is known for. In the first six days, the project had already raised over $42,000 USD, which is fairly impressive in and of itself.

The film itself is going to be centered on the life of the artist as a young man, growing up in Santiago, Chile, and his search for beauty in the world, surrounded by some of the most influential artists in his young life. After the spectacular and widely-publicised failure of the incredible and epic version of Dune that Jodorowsky created, it's perfectly understandable that he's grown extremely frustrated with the classic methods of funding movies.

“How can an auteur survive with American cinema’s colonization of the entire world? We are slaves to the economy, then we go to the cinema to distract ourselves for an hour and a half, and when we leave, we become constricted once again. Nothing has changed in our lives. A true piece of art has to change the very spirit of people. When I go to a theater, I should exist a different person. The movie must give me something—hope, knowledge, a hidden beauty kept inside that I didn’t even know was there.”

Now that would certainly revive flagging movie sales. Here's hoping his latest film will be just as surrealistically magical as the films he is best known for.


Posted on August 21st 2015 on 06:44pm
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Wednesday 19th August 2015Moscow Art Exhibit Attacked

While it was never exactly a haven for the culturally adventurous, Russia seems to be going through a bad time for artists lately. After the feminist activist group/punk band Pussy Riot staged a protest in the main cathedral in Moscow in 2012, the government enacted some tough new legislation aimed at curbing such protests in the future. The legislation was ostensibly around protecting the faithful, and like much of such legislation, it didn't take too long before it was being twisted around in the opposite way.

There is a large exhibit space next to Moscow's Red Square known as the Manezh, which is currently playing host to an impressive collection of pieces from some of Russia's most prominent and popular artists, in an exhibit entitled Sculptures We Don't See. Last week, the exhibit had some extremely unhappy visitors from the God's Will right-wing ultra-conservative religious group. So unhappy, in fact, that they took the opportunity to damage many of the artworks, tearing them off their plinths, throwing them on the ground, stomping on them and smashing some of them to pieces.

Several of the pieces were admittedly provocative, some featuring the severed head of John the Baptist, and a naked Jesus, among many others. Regardless, none of this justifies the violence and destructive nature of the attack. During video of the attack, the leader can be heard to shout, “Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary are being mocked. This is punishable under the criminal code.” Surely, however, if that were the case, they would have been dealt with by the proper authorities instead of being vandalized. Surely destruction of property is a crime as well, yet it seems that no charges have been laid against those responsible to date.

Naturally, the religious authorities in Russia were quick to denounce the actions of the God's Will group: “What so-called Orthodox activists do, as a rule, has nothing to do with religion,” Vladimir Legoida said, speaking on behalf of the Moscow Patriarchate. It's unclear where any kind of security staff were during the incident, but Enteo, the leader of God's Will, was detained only briefly by police after the destructive attack, and then released the same evening.

Hopefully, this vague and half-formed law will be stricken from the books, and self-proclaimed activists who deface national treasures will be treated with just as harshly as those who the law was originally supposed to protect.
 

Posted on August 19th 2015 on 03:09pm
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Friday 14th August 2015The End of the Auction House?

It's a classic staple of the art world: numerous collectors and their factors gathering for a special event, an event in which millions of dollars worth of art changes hands, with a tidy profit for the organizers - the auction house. In a modern jet-setting world, it hardly seems difficult to imagine that the ultra-rich and their spokespeople are willing to fly around the globe in order to be at these events in person. Yet as the world moves at a faster and faster pace, sometimes it seems that the luxury of an in-person visit is often out of the question, despite what the record-setting auction sales numbers might tell you at first glance. Not only that, but the truly global nature of modern art collecting means that collectors are no longer concentrated in the West, with easy access to New York and London, not to mention the numbers of collectors who can't - or won't - afford to fly around the world just to make a few bucks.

Enter the online auction. Ever since a struggling little startup named eBay shook the ecommerce world to its very foundations, online auctions have grown in popularity, and it was only a matter of time before some new tech startup would come along and attempt to revolutionize the world of the art auction. Sotheby's, one of the premier auction houses in the physical world, has partnered with online auction specialists eBay and tech company Invaluable to change the way art auctions are conducted - and they're finally getting some traction. It's been a struggle to gain a foothold in a market so entrenched in the physical world, but with sales and bid prices going up nearly 35% since 2014, it's possible that the tipping point has finally been reached.

Speaking to Artnews online magazine in an interview, Rob Weisberg, the CEO of Invaluable, explained: "People like you and me have probably spent the greater portion of our lives connected and able to transact online and via mobile devices. You may not have the time or the inclination to read through an auction’s 200-page, color-coded paper catalogue; instead, you’d prefer a personalized communication that filters the merchandise and can show you items you actually might want to buy. And these are things you can buy with the click of a button while sitting in the comfort of your own home."

While it's not like to be the end of the major players in the auction world, perhaps the very term 'auction house' will cease to mean what it once did!
 

Posted on August 14th 2015 on 02:31pm
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Wednesday 12th August 2015Boston's Biggest Unsolved Art Heist

As any avid mystery fan knows, a 'cold case' is a term used by law enforcement agencies to describe a criminal case that was never solved, and has since gone 'cold'. There are no new leads to follow, and the entire investigation has hit a dead end, languishing in a file drawer (or hard drive) somewhere, waiting for something new to turn up. You probably don't need to be a detective to realize that very few of these cold cases are ever solved, and they get colder the longer they sit around. Except every once in a while, there is a lucky break, and suddenly the investigation is thrown wide open again - just ask the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The Gardner is a beautiful old museum, preserved exactly the way its namesake designed and arranged it, as stipulated in her will. Unfortunately, it is also the site of perhaps the most famous and high-valued art heist in the last 100 years, as in 1990, thieves absconded with an estimated $500 million USD worth of art. Thanks to Gardner's will, the museum now has 13 empty frames hanging on the walls which they are forbidden from moving, which used to house several paintings by Rembrandt, Manet, Degas and Vermeer. In an admittedly appealing attempt to turn this black eye into a method to keep the theft in the public eye, the museum generated a 3D walkthrough for the 25th "anniversary", available to guests that showcases the missing paintings as they were when Gardner herself curated the collection.

As it turns out, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't yet given up the trail of the thieves, and the case has suddenly gone from stone cold to warm in a matter of weeks. While the thieves stole the surveillance video of the night of the crime itself, the FBI recently released some video from the days preceding the theft, which appears to show the thieves doing a dry run of the heist. This is the first time the public has seen the footage, and almost immediately a lawyer stepped forward representing an anonymous client who claims to be able to identify one of the men in the video.

While there has been a neverending stream of public discourse on the matter, including various articles, books, and documentaries about the crime, this is the first time in 25 years that a real lead has developed. It may turn out to be nothing, but it goes to show that even after all this time, there is still the chance of returning these masterworks to the safe arms of the Gardner Museum.
 

Posted on August 12th 2015 on 03:14pm
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