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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.

Wednesday 16th November 2016Artist Spotlight: Nenous Thabit

Continuing our theme of hope in the face of strife from last week with another dose of perspective, today's Artist Spotlight is going to look at the work of a young Assyrian sculptor named Nenous Thabit who has a powerful dose of hope for everyone affected by the destruction wrought by the Islamic State.

Most of the Islamic State's terrorist campaigns are launched at the local people, and one of their most potent weapons is the destruction of local temples and historic sites for being 'un-Islamic'. This breaks the link the local people have with their cultural heritage and, in theory, makes them more likely to embrace the twisted vision of Islam espoused by the terrorists.

His project will be a long one, but it's truly inspirational - he hopes to recreate many of the most famous works that have been destroyed by the Islamic State. At only 17 years of age, he has been practicing sculpting in his father's workshop, who is a professional sculptor.

Thabit was inspired to action by the destruction of the ancient Assyrian temple of Nimrud, which IS fighters bragged about destroying with sledge hammers and bulldozers for not being Islamic.  

“They waged a war on art and culture, so I decided to fight them with art. Lamassu is my favourite statue, it is the strongest creature in the Assyrian heritage.

“In Iraq, there are people who are killed because they are sculptors, because they are artists. Continuing to sculpt is a message that we will not be intimidated by those devils.

“My dream is to become a prominent artist in Iraq to make my country proud and show the world that we in Iraq love life and cherish our heritage.”

So far, he has completed 18 new statues, including one of Lamassu, and is looking forwards to attending art school in the city of Dohuk in the coming year. Hopefully, he'll be able to maintain his optimism in the face of anger, and recreate many more of the lost treasures that so many artists, historians and curators have been racing to preserve.
 

Posted on November 16th 2016 on 09:04pm
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Friday 11th November 2016A Sense of Perspective

Many artists like to style themselves as rebels of some description. Whether they are taking on social preconceptions, highlighting biases or simply experimenting with brand new techniques in an innovative way, they do, on some level, deserve the title. But no matter how starving you are as a starving artist anywhere in the West, you probably don't have it as bad as the artists currently hoping to rebuild the cultural legacy of Iraq.

Modern social, economic and cultural disputes aside, the area known as Mesopotamia (between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now northeastern Iraq) is also known as 'the cradle of civilization', and with good reason. It was responsible for much of the early development of civilization thousands of years ago, ranging from agriculture to mathematics to art, and that makes the modern day problems that much more devastating. Priceless art from the last several thousand years is looted and sold on the black market to finance terrorism, and it all winds up in the hands of a wealthy collector somewhere.

Fortunately, the artists of the region haven't entirely given up hope that arts and culture will flourish again after the latest war to rage. In the ruins of a bombed out shopping centre, Iraqi-Canadian artist Riyadh Hashim and 16 other artists staged an art exhibit. Yes, you're reading that right.

Unfortunately, the exhibition was shut down only four hours after it started by the local police. Hashim had obtained verbal permission from the mayoralty of Baghdad in order to stage the show in the ruins of the Al-Hadi shopping centre, but that held no water with the police and the show was closed. Fortunately for all, Iraqi television news had arrived beforehand and over 150 visitors got a chance to see the show.

Now, Hashim hopes to restage the show, entitled Karrada, with a new range of artists and more formalized permission from the local authorities. Whether or not those authorities are ready for the sort of impact that powerful art pieces can have on the general populace remains to be seen, but here's hoping that they let the show go on.

So just remember - the next time you think you and your artist friends are being rebellious intellectually, remember what it really can mean.
 
(Image: AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
 
 

Posted on November 11th 2016 on 08:50pm
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Wednesday 09th November 2016Dump Trump

What is it with artists and toilets?

From the days of Marcel Duchamp and his infamous urinal installation, many conceptual artists seem to feel like a toilet is an original means of expression. While a toilet is arguably a means of expression, it's rarely one that most people would associate with artistic expression.

Of course, we've covered a number of toilet installations in the past partly due to their hilarity factor, but this latest one sort of verges on the surreal. Just days before the upcoming US presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a toilet covered in a wide range of anti-Trump rhetoric with the words 'Dump on Trump' was left outside the back door of the American Visionary Art Museum.

The Museum is currently treating it as an artistic donation, and has yet to dispose of the "piece" in the hopes that the artist will come forwards.

Rebecca Hoffberger, the executive director and founder of the AVAM says that this is far from the first piece of donated art they have received, and hilariously enough, it's not even the first - or even the second - toilet that they have received.

The first two were sent in by another artist, Duane Gerald "Shorty" Davis Sr., but neither contained anything close to the kind of rhetoric on the 'Dump Trump' sculpture - or perhaps installation piece? Conceptual specimen? Terminology fails to cover such eventualities.

The AVAM has no plans to destroy the piece, but it may not be put on display without a claim of ownership by the artist, and Davis has disavowed this current piece.

"We totally believe in individual freedom of expression, but we’re also very concerned about anything that could be directed ... on just anger and hate. Because in the long run, I don’t think that solves anything," continues Hoffberger.

Here's hoping that the AVAM keeps the piece and that the artist comes forwards to claim the piece in the horrific event of a Trump victory - or even in the case of a Clinton victory, as a memory of just how close the country came to jumping the shark.

Posted on November 09th 2016 on 08:03pm
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Labels: , art donation, avam, trump

Friday 04th November 2016Art Market Disruptors

One of the biggest buzzwords spawned by the tech industry in recent memory is 'disruption'. It more or less does what it says on the tin, but in this usage it has the added context of being a disruption of the current market structure driven by technological innovation. Uber is a prime example - they've taken ubiquitous smartphone technology and used it to completely disrupt the taxicab market. Airbnb used the internet and mapping services to completely disrupt the hotel industry by allowing random people to rent out apartments or even spare rooms on a temporary basis.

There are many other successful examples, and far more failed examples, but the most notable failure (from our perspective, anyways) is the failure of any of the disruptive technologies to catch on in the art market.

We've covered a number of the possible disruptors over the past few years, ranging from new and exciting online auction platforms to the Tinder-style art-buying app Wydr. But as of yet, none of them has really had anything close to what could be termed a disruptive impact.

Many theories have been floated about why these technologies haven't caught on in the art world, but one of the most interesting ideas is that the art market's disruption happened well before anyone was using the term. The advent of computer-managed databases for price indexes, forecasts about auction prices and art investment projections completely changed the way business was done in the art world already, in a way that neither taxis or hotels could be.

Of course, in parallel, one might argue that hotels and taxis were disrupted by the advent of online bookings and telephones to summon a cab, but those disruptions occurred so long ago that the market had matured enough to become ripe for another disruption. It's unlikely that we'll see another disruption of the taxi industry until driverless cars become commonly available, and another when autonomous drones really take off - and who knows when that will be.

With that parallel in mind, is the art world ripe for another disruption? Some want to claim that the art world is simply too real and present to be disrupted by a digital technology, but perhaps that's because "the art world" is too monolithic an entity to be disrupted by a single event, rather than the fact that it is immune to disruption.

Digital photograph destroyed entire companies, and the ability to virtually walk through photorealistic representations of museums may completely tank actual visitor numbers. Only time - and genius - will tell.

Posted on November 04th 2016 on 07:49pm
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Wednesday 02nd November 2016Project Spotlight: Common Ground

Only rarely do the art world and the Guinness Book of World Records find themselves in common company, but that was just what happened thanks to the latest project from New Creatures, a collaborative effort from partners Jason Naumoff and Ajamu White. Entitled 'Common Ground', the project was an attempt to link up a wide array of kinetic sculptures located across the country that would set each other off in a massive chain reaction that circled the entire country.

The website succinctly explains the generalities of the project:

"In a divided America, is it possible to find common ground?

"Common Ground" is a collaborative kinetic art installation about connecting America through creativity and problem solving. Artists and makers in 5 cities were asked to create kinetic installations inspired by their region and important contemporary issues in their community.  All participants worked with each other to connect their pieces through common communication mediums like texts, emails, and phone calls. As one installation ends, the next is triggered to begin.

The final collaborative chain reaction successfully circled the country in 5 minutes."

Unfortunately, they seem to have glossed over how successful the project was, highlighting only a few projects, but nevertheless the idea is a fascinating one. This writer had originally envisioned a country-wide 'Rube Goldberg'-type machine, sort of a 'Hands Across America' but made out of weird sculptures, which doesn't seem to have been the result (sadly!).

That being said, 6 different cities/regions participated in the project, each providing a series of sculptures that roughly spanned the country. Oakland, Phoenix, Atlanta, New Hampshire, Detroit, and then back around to Oakland.

New Creatures aims to create participatory design projects: "We create highly participatory experiences that engage and inspire. Our goal is to combine true creativity and never attempted ideas, with expert production and professionalism. We dream of New Creatures, build them by hand, then send them on their way hoping the world likes them as much as we  do."

While it seems like this particular project failed to gain the widespread support it needed to really gain traction and make a powerful statement, it was nevertheless a great concept that just needed a bit more focus on grabbing participants in order to make its mark.

Posted on November 02nd 2016 on 06:22pm
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Monday 31st October 2016In Lighter News

Things may have seemed a bit grim in our last post, so in honour of Halloween we've decided to take things in a somewhat brighter direction this time around.

Performance art is one of the most polarizing types of art for most viewers - people tend to either love it or hate it. Whether it's Marina Abramovic or Shia LaBeouf, people's reactions are widely varied, ranging from complete irritation to enthusiastic acceptance.

Fortunately for the subject of today's post, the police in Portland, Maine, were a little more understanding than most critics - at least, they were patient at first.

In a Halloween 'dress rehearsal', Asher Woodworth (hard to believe that's actually his real name, and that is not a picture of him on the right) was arrested for dressing up as a tree and blocking the middle of a downtown intersection. Of course, Portland, Maine, doesn't have much of a downtown, exactly, but nevertheless, he took root in the spot and wouldn't move.

Apparently, he wanted to see how he could impact 'people’s natural choreography.'

The police arrived, naturally, and asked him to stay out of the street, which he did at first - but perhaps the wind changed direction and he was back in the middle of the street and eventually had to be arrested by the Portland police.

Well, ten out of ten for dedication, Asher, but it's probably better to focus on something that has a bit more political or social impact and doesn't just sound like you lost a bet and needed to come up with a good excuse for doing something silly.

Will it be the start of a new artistic career for Mr. Woodworth? Only time will tell, but he's clearly shown that he is willing to suffer for his art, even if only temporarily.
 

Posted on October 31st 2016 on 06:20pm
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Saturday 29th October 2016Real Life or Movie Plot?

The art world never ceases to amaze. This sheer amazement is one of the most appealing aspects of the entire business, one that more than makes up for all the pretentiousness and bad gallery openings.

The Italian mafia has apparently been selling artistic and cultural treasures that have been looted across the Middle East and Africa from Libya to Iraq. They have been purchasing them from Islamist militants including the Islamic State, and have been paying for the stolen treasures with arms.

What's even more incredible is the brazenness with which this process occurs. A journalist posing as an art buyer was able to enter a makeshift showroom (apparently located, surreally, inside a salami factory).

It's stories like this that make one wonder whether or not it's real life or a convoluted and possibly stereotypically-lazy movie plot. Unfortunately, the material damage caused by this kind of looting is not only devastating to the sum of human cultural achievement, but also to the people who are currently living under the rule of terror.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano is deeply concerned by the discoveries, which have been known to authorities for some time before they could be rooted out. “We have studied the ‘GDP of terror’ and we know that one of the components is the commercialization of stolen art. The stolen artifacts feed ISIS and contribute to the GDP of terror.”

This kind of looting isn't limited to trade with the Italian mafia, however, as we've discussed here on Gallereo in the past. Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin recently spoke to the UN Security Council on the issue. “Around 100,000 cultural objects of global importance, including 4,500 archaeological sites are under the control of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The profit derived by the Islamists from the illicit trade in antiquities and archaeological treasures is estimated at US$150-200 million per year.”

According to journalist and author Luca Nannipieri, much of the art that is acquired this way becomes effectively laundered through various intermediaries and then winds up in legitimate collections in universities and museums around the world.

As a result of his work chasing the threads of this convoluted world, he has an understandably rather grim take on things. "It is said that beauty will save the world. That is false. Beauty and art are often the reason for murders, destruction, oppression, and devastation.”

A depressing thought, and one that will hopefully be proven wrong as the next chapter of the world unfolds before us.
 

Posted on October 29th 2016 on 07:18pm
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Wednesday 26th October 2016Artist Spotlight: Hoxxoh

If you've been to downtown Miami in the last couple of years - perhaps during a visit to Art Basel Miami Beach (we wish) - you've probably passed one of several intensely bright, geometric murals painted on a large scale on the sides of buildings. These are the product of a street artist known as 'Hoxxoh' and his team, though perhaps better known by his given name Douglas Hoekzema.

The pieces are massive, colourful, geometric and kaleidoscopic, often playing upon the tricks of optical illusion that can seem to make a static image move as your eyes travel across the piece.

Speaking to an interviewer from The New Tropic, he explained how he developed his process: "I think it was 2008 or 2009, I discovered this mark…painting it over and over and over. And through this repetition I started discovering these other patterns it can make and then it became containing the madness.

So the logical thing was “I can do a freehand circle and only paint in that.” And the next step was increase the scale of the circle. And then, for the last year or so it was concentric rings, which is read as a mandala. And then this current year I offset the rings, which is being read as a portal or a vortex. And in that sense it’s really exciting with my work, reducing it just to this one mark and one mechanism and then these ready-made guns that you’ll find in Home Depot: an airless spray gun or the "weekend I’m gonna paint my picket fence" little gun. That makes a different mark."

Unfortunately it has come to our attention that just before the writing of this piece, there was a terrible accident at the site of Hoekzema's latest mural project in Miami. One of his assistants was killed after a 40 foot fall as their scaffolding collapsed during the painting process, and one other was injured and remains in critical condition at a nearby hospital. A third muralist was saved by his safety harness and was rescued by emergency crews on the scene.  

A statement from Eric Fordin, the Vice President of ownership company 4111 South Ocean Drive, LLC., read: "Tragically, a section of scaffolding at Hyde Resort & Residences Hollywood fell today. Security and safety are, and always have been, a priority at every one of our construction sites and an internal investigation of today’s events is underway. We are deeply concerned and send heartfelt thoughts to the individuals involved and their families."

Hopefully this tragedy won't prevent the completion of the piece, or impact the promising future prospects of the artist.

Posted on October 26th 2016 on 08:53pm
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Friday 21st October 2016Art, Emotion and Neurobiology

You might remember a post from earlier this year about museum pranks, and a case of mistaken identity. A pair of ordinary eyeglasses were left on the ground near a blank wall in an art gallery, and patrons automatically assumed that they were some piece of modern conceptual artwork, even going to so far as to carefully photograph the piece.

According to a recent study by researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, there's a very good reason for this hilarious misunderstanding: the way we perceive ordinary objects changes on a neurological level when we are told that they are 'art'.

Noah van Dongen, one of the researchers conducting the study at Erasmus University, explained some of the results of the study: "When we think we are not dealing with reality, our emotional response appears to be subdued on a neural level. This may be because of a tendency to 'distance' ourselves from the image, to be able to appreciate or scrutinize its shapes, colours, and composition instead of just its content. We know that our brains may have evolved with 'hard-wired' mechanisms that allow us to adjust our response to objects depending on the situation."

"What this work indicates, is that Kant's two century old theory of aesthetics, where he proposed that we need to emotionally distance ourselves from the artwork in order to be able to properly appreciate it, might have a neurological basis and that art could be useful in our quest to understand our brain, emotions, and maybe our cognition," van Dongen continued.

Interestingly enough, the study went on to explore whether or not these effects could be replicated when study participants were shown examples of still images and told that they were from either typical films or documentary films. When the images were labelled as from a documentary film, the neurological changes were reversed, indicating that the role of context in assessing our emotional reaction to imagery is more powerful than anticipated.

On reflection, though, it seems that a lot of this kind of information is already well known to critical theorists and philosophers, and that perhaps the world of neurobiology would be much better off taking a more interdisciplinary approach to problems of cognition - or at least that science students would benefit dramatically from a broader range of philosophy coursework than is currently common.

Posted on October 21st 2016 on 06:27pm
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Wednesday 19th October 2016Get Ready for 'Vessel'

Continuing our theme of New York from the previous week, in this post we're going to take a look at one of the most ambitious and polarizing public art/sculpture/architecture hybrids to be constructed in recent memory. Part of the Hudson Yards redevelopment project taking place on the West Side of Manhattan, the centrepiece will be a massive project by artist Thomas Heatherwick, of Heatherwick Studios.
 
The CEO of the firm behind the plaza development that will contain the structure, Stephen Ross, was quoted as saying, "It will become to New York what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, I believe." Bold words, and even more bold for being quoted before the final design for the piece was unveiled - only the price tag. Originally priced at a staggering $75 million USD, the cost has since ballooned to upwards of $200 million USD.

For a sculpture alone, that would be a truly inconceivable amount of money, but the Vessel is going to be far more than a sculpture - it would probably be more accurate to classify it as a very useless building.

The design, which has been described as reminiscent of a hollowed out bedbug exoskeleton (thanks for that imagery, by the way, Gothamist), is actually a scalloped tier of interlocking staircases that scale up over 150 feet. With 154 staircases and at least 80 landings, the piece will no doubt become a hive of activity, which will hopefully draw more appealing and less revolting comparisons to a beehive, once it is filled with the milling masses.

"When I was a student, I fell in love with an old discarded flight of wooden stairs outside a local building site. It caught my imagination and I loved that is was part furniture and part infrastructure. You could climb up stairs, jump on them, dance on them, get tired on them and then plonk yourself down on them."

While that might not be the most eloquent description of the grandiose Vessel project, it certain provides an interesting insight into the nature of the design process of what will no doubt become an iconic New York structure. While it might not attain the cultural heights of the Eiffel Tower, it is sure to become a recognizable part of the West Side skyline.  
 
Vessel render by Visual House-Nelson Byrd Woltz

Posted on October 19th 2016 on 06:23pm
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