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Friday 28th March 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 7: Palma de Mallorca

Ah, Mallorca - one of the true jewels of the Mediterranean. A long-time vacation hotspot in the truest sense of the word, the island Mallorca - or Majorca, if Spanish isn't your native tongue - has always been a destination worthy of its touristic leanings. Moody mountains, the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean, and a panoply of gorgeous beaches all combine to create a truly stunning landscape. However, there's more to Mallorca than just beaches and nightlife.

As with many towns that grow around the tourism industry thanks to their natural beauty, the main port and city of the island, Palma de Mallorca, has attracted more than its fair share of the artistically inclined. And, as with many such places, some of those who come to visit eventually find themselves falling so deeply in love with the place that they never leave.

One such visitor was the famous Spanish painter, Joan Miro, a native of Barcelona who fell so deeply in love with the island that he made it his adopted home in 1956, where he lived and worked until his death in 1983. As a result, Palma de Mallorca boasts one of the most impressive Miro galleries in the world, the Fundacio Miro, where visitors can see a wide-ranging collection of his works, and visit the actual studios where he painted some of his most famous works.

Miro isn't the only reason to visit Palma, however, as there are several other galleries that are worthy of note. One of the most impressive is the legacy of Juan March, who was, at one point, the sixth richest man in the world, the Museu Fundacion Juan March, which is home to works by the most influential and well-known Spanish artists. The collection features a number of additional works by Miro, as well as works by Salvador Dali, and in 2009 added a new wing to the museum entirely dedicated to the works of Pablo Picasso.

A little more off the beaten track is the Es Baluard Museu, which features a number of contemporary artists who have a connection to the Balearic islands and the Mediterranean. The building itself is almost a work of art that spans the centuries, as the gallery is partially housed in a 16th century Spanish fortress, and partially within a beautiful newly-constructed minimalist wing. It features original works by the likes of Cezanne, Picasso, and Gauguin, as well as the ever-present Miro. If you can tear yourself away from the stunning beaches and moody Mediterranean lighting, these galleries are guaranteed not to disappoint.

Posted on March 28th 2014 on 12:56am
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Tuesday 25th March 2014The BBC Rededicates Itself to the Arts

The BBC is one of the most beloved British institutions, one that has reached hearts and minds of millions of citizens for nearly 100 years. Over the course of that long life, it has occasionally varied in its goals, depending on the view its directorship takes of the current cultural climate and how the BBC fits into that milieu. Naturally, the BBC News and the World Service are what made the name for the corporation in the early days, but as the media landscape changes, the institution is taking steps to ensure that it stays relevant. In a boon for art lovers everywhere, the current Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall (who also happens to be Baron Hall of Birkenhead), has recently decided that the BBC's role in the art world should be stepped up several notches.

"The arts are for everyone, and from now on BBC Arts will be at the very heart of what we do," Hall said, and drove the point home by appointing several prominent figures in the arts to leadership positions within the BBC, including the director of the prestigious Tate galleries, Sir Nicholas Serota, and the director the National Theatre, Sir Nicholas Hytner.

Nobody can doubt the genuineness of Hall's desire to bring the BBC Arts into the foreground. "I want BBC Arts – and BBC Music – to sit proudly alongside BBC News … We’ll be joining up arts on the BBC like never before – across television, radio and digital. And, we’ll be working more closely with our country’s great artists, performers and cultural institutions," he said, although it remains to be seen how well the corporation will be able to cope in an increasingly digital world. The success of the iPlayer system seems to bode well, but larger organisations have been seen to stumble occasionally when it comes to emphasising digital offerings.

Regardless of their digital fortunes, it speaks well of the BBC that in an era of financial instability and insecurity and government austerity programs, that the arts aren't always getting the short end of the stick. The BBC has the potential to truly reinvigorate the performing arts scene all across the United Kingdom, and has the chance to set an example for other countries and governments around the world to rededicate themselves to creating a rich cultural tapestry.

Posted on March 25th 2014 on 04:43am
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Friday 21st March 2014Inspiration Station: Exit Through the Gift Shop

As we mentioned in our previous post, street has come an incredibly long way towards being accepted, albeit somewhat paradoxically, as part of the mainstream art world. Despite being forged in the underground (often literally - take a look at a New York City subway train next time you happen to be in town), it has recently begun to blossom into psychedelically coloured gallery spaces throughout much of the art world, and even reaching film festivals, as we'll see in Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film.
 
Click here to watch the trailer on Youtube.
 
One of the most celebrated art documentaries in recent years, Exit Through the Gift Shop debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010 to excellent critical reception. The first feature-length film by the only street artist most people can name, Exit Through the Gift Shop rapidly expanded in fame and prominence. It details the story of a videography-obsessed store owner who happens to be related to an extremely famous street artist who goes by the name 'Space Invader'. Visiting home in France, he films his cousin at work and the work itself, and eventually reaches out to Shepard Fairey, the American street artist, and the two travel across the United States filming a huge variety of work. Eventually, they meet up with Banksy, they put on a show, and all sorts of excellent hijinks ensue that we won't spoil for you here.
 
The film itself, narrated by Rhys Ifans, is a true joy to watch, and sticks with you for quite some time after the credits roll. Amusingly enough, the real Banksy is slightly less than willing to come right out and say how much of the film (if any) is actually true documentary, or whether the entire thing is actually what's known as a mockumentary (think "This is Spinal Tap"). Considering the sly gutter smirk that barely hides behind every piece of work Banksy has ever done, it's not hard to imagine that the entire film is an elaborate joke being played by an artist who doesn't truly feel - and doesn't want to feel - a part of the more "traditional" artistic community.

The only way to decide for yourself, of course, is to see the film. No matter what you wind up believing (believe that Banksy isn't going to drawn out to say one way or the other), there is something truly inspiring about the types of work that Banksy does, and you may find yourself even more eager than usual to get back into the studio (or the street corner) after you finish watching. Enjoy!

Posted on March 21st 2014 on 11:24pm
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Tuesday 18th March 2014Street Art Crosses Into the Gallery

Contemporary art always seems to be reinventing itself. In fact, almost the very nature of the word 'contemporary' seems to imply a constant sense of reinvention and re-examination. Every since Marcel Duchamps stuck a urinal in a gallery in 1917, scrawled the name 'R. Mutt' on it and titled it "Fountain", thereby kicking off the Dada movement in the popular imagination and all that came after it, there has been a constant desire to push the envelope of what constitutes "art". That trend is rarely more visible now than in many types of installation work that, in many opinions, border on the ridiculous (see our recent post about Shia LaBeouf's attempt to apologize for plagiarism with a plagiarised installation/exhibit titled #IAMSORRY).

An equally in-your-face artistic revolution has been taking place outside the gallery over the past several decades, in the form of graffiti. While many scoffed at the elaborate system of tags that suddenly appear across the concrete canvases that fill the urban world, it is growing harder and hard to maintain the belief that there is no artistic merit to the pieces. By now, the name 'Banksy' is popular from the art world to the hipster world and many places in between, arguably the poster child for the serious street artist (though doubtless, he would reject that with a smirk). Any number of street artists have more cult followings, but the popularity is on the rise.

Nothing showcases the rising arc of street art's popularity more thoroughly than the furor that arose surrounding the mural 'Slave Labour' by Banksy in 2013. Painted as a large mural on the side of a thrift store in North London during a single night, the piece depicts a small boy sewing a Union Jack. As a result of this choice of venue/canvas - sometimes it can be hard to tell which is which with street art, as the reactions of the passersby must surely be considered part of the piece itself - the owners of the building instantly became the owners of the piece itself, and had the entire section of concrete wall removed. The piece, such as it is, eventually sold at auction for a staggering $1.1 million USD. If that doesn't drive home the reality of street art as valid, nothing will.

Finally, many of those who began careers and gained fame as street artists have quite comfortably made the transition to more easily saleable formats. Shepard Fairey, a United States-born street artist famous for a number of pieces, most notably a widespread sticker campaign featuring late wrestler Andre the Giant beneath huge block letters saying 'OBEY', was also the creator of one of the most iconic images of the last decade, a red blue and yellow poster featuring President Barack Obama subtitled 'Hope'. Banksy also hasn't steered clear of similar popular fame, having even recently produced a documentary (arguably a mockumentary) recently entitled 'Exit Through the Gift Shop', which we'll be looking at in our next post!

Posted on March 18th 2014 on 10:24pm
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Friday 14th March 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 6: Cologne

When most people think of Germany and art, they think of the famous museums in Berlin and they think of the world-renowned Bauhaus art movement. There is a lesser-known artistic gem in Germany, tucked away in the western end of the country near where the borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands intersect. While it's a relatively large city, it still doesn't typically make the usual top lists for art lovers to visit, which is a true shame.

Partly due to its interesting cultural fusions due to the border proximities, Cologne is a burgeoning center of contemporary art, and there are more than 30 museums to visit, as well as hundreds of galleries, with new ones opening all the time. The Museum Ludwig is one of the most well-respected museums in Cologne, featuring a stunning collection that bridges a number of artistic sensibilities in the contemporary era, from pop art to surrealism and abstract art, as well as one of the largest collections of the works of Pablo Picasso in all of Europe.

If more traditional European artwork is your style, visit the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, which hosts an equally impressive range of works dating from back to the 13th century up to the current artistic era. Most notably featuring works by Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt, there is something to satisfy every traditional taste, from Bosch's "Adoration of the Child" to "Langlois Bridge at Arles" by Vincent Van Gogh. There are also a number of Monet paintings, although the museum was recently forced to admit that a sixth Monet was a forgery when it was examined prior to restoration in 2008.

For those who prefer a different way to experience art, Cologne is recognized by many as hosting the world's original annual art fair, Art Cologne, which began way back in 1967 as Kölner Kunstmarkt. Open to the public, the fair runs for 6 days, and attracts upwards of 60,000 visitors to view contributions from galleries from around the world. This year, the Art Cologne fair will be running for a shorter timespan, from Thursday, April 10 to Sunday, April 13, 2014 - so if you're planning a visit, see if you can get a last-minute flight in time to visit the fair! Booking last minute  can be a great way to save money, as airlines and hotels are eager to fill up any empty seats and rooms. What better way to celebrate spring than by a whirlwind weekend trip to Germany's beautiful artistic side?

Posted on March 14th 2014 on 08:28pm
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Tuesday 11th March 2014Licensing Your Work

The dilemma of whether to license your work or not is one that most artists dream of. Of course, some artists find the idea almost insulting, a dilution of the power of the original piece of work. However, not everyone has such high-minded ideals about every single piece they've ever done. As lines between art and design and other "art-ifacts" become blurrier in the digital era, it's a question that more and more of us can hope to have to answer. It seems almost like a dream come true - you create one piece, and get to sell it over and over again, getting your work in front of as many eyes as possible. However, there are some tricky things to consider when it comes up.

First of all, there is that issue we mentioned earlier: does plastering your work over cheap posters and coffee mugs and t-shirts somehow diminish the value of your work? That's up to you to decide, of course, and it probably also depends a bit on who wants to license your work and how much they're willing to pay for it. It's not impossible to realize the dream of using licensed work to pay for day to day life, and enable you to spend more time on the art you refuse to license. That's the dream, as long as you can keep your "serious" art separate from your licensed works.

That possibility raises the next issue, which is a very serious one: what kind of terms are you willing to accept? Before you sign any kind of licensing agreement, make sure you examine it very carefully, or better yet have a lawyer look it over for you to make sure there are no hidden pitfalls that could trip you up later down the line. Make sure that your percentage is fair, and that you are allowed to create work that falls outside of the agreement - if they want the rights to everything you produce, suddenly you might find your 'serious' art on coffee mugs across the nation. (Note: this isn't legal advice, we're not lawyers - so be sure to consult with one before signing anything).

Another thing to consider is the possibility of using a fulfillment house to let you cut out the middleman and sell your artwork directly on a huge variety of different objects. There are a number of companies that work with your digital files to produce anything from iPhone cases to sweatshirts, although they all offer varying degrees of cost and compensation, so make sure you take the time to find a production company that makes it worth your while. If you have to sell 1000 of something before you see a profit, you might be in for some trouble. With a bit of careful searching, you can find a way to turn your art into money without the fuss of having to produce the final products all by yourself. Good luck!

Posted on March 11th 2014 on 08:06pm
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Thursday 06th March 2014Super Bowl Art Bets

I had never even thought to wonder, 'How many artists are also Super Bowl fans?' In the United States, at least, it seems like quite a few. As surprising (or not) that may be, it turns out that famous galleries are also getting in the betting action, and have been for quite some time. There is apparently a long and storied history of famous galleries and museums in the hometowns of the competing teams making bets with each other on the outcome of the game. Not for permanent dispensation of their valued works, of course, but simply for a loan period of a few months - and, of course, some bragging rights.

While it doesn't happen every year, in 2011 Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art bet against the Milwaukee Museum of Art - and lost, having to endure a 3 month loan of "Bathers With Crab" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The Milwaukee Museum of Art had wagered "Boating on the Yerres" by Gustave Caillebotte.

This year's friendly bet was between Kimerly Rorschach, the director of the Seattle Art Museum,  and Christoph Heinrich of the Denver Art Museum. The Seattle Seahawks absolutely demolished the Denver Broncos, and as a result, the Seattle Art Museum is enjoying a temporary loan of the famous bronze Frederic Remington sculpture "The Broncho Buster" from 1895, which features a bucking bronco being tamed by a whip. Had the Broncos prevailed, however, they would received a loan of the "Sound of Waves," a beautiful 12 foot wide screen painting by Japanese artist Tsuji Kako from 1901. "Sound of Waves" features an eagle, not a Seahawk, but as Seahawks are an entirely fabricated species, it serves well enough as a trophy.

Initially, however, the Seattle Art Museum had gotten into some very hot water with Native American rights groups over their first choice of bet, which was a raven mask dating back 135 years, and considered a sacred spiritual object by Nuxalk Nation in Canada. Fortunately for all involved, as soon as the director learned of the problem. the Seattle Art Museum was happy to offer up the aforementioned piece by Kako in place. Even better, Rorschach apologized to Charles Nelson immediately via telephone, one of the Nuxalk Nation leaders, and agreed to return the mask to the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, British Columbia, and to make a formal public apology.

Posted on March 06th 2014 on 06:16pm
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Monday 03rd March 2014Near-Record Breaking Art Auction Sales

The art world has always been the home of the truly eye-popping auction piece. Whether it's a 700 year old Ming Dynasty vase selling for millions of dollars or a Van Gogh selling for tens of millions, these incredibly high prices have been commonplace for quite some time. That is, of course, until the global financial collapse in 2008 that depressed economic markets around the world in virtually every sector. Typically, because those who are buying these fantastically valuable items are inherently the extremely wealthy, the art auction market is typically a bit more robust when it comes to financial downtowns, but in 2008 auction prices and auction volumes took a serious hit.

In 2007, just one year before the bottom fell out of the financial sector and everyone took a tumble, the global art auction market had reached its pinnacle, with a staggering 48 billion euros in sales and auctions taking place. The market bottomed out in 2009, when it reached a low point of 28.6 billion euros, an incredible. Some analysts point out that this was actually nothing more than a return to the numbers posted in the early 2000s, and that the boom years of 2006 and 2007 were nothing more than an 'art bubble', something akin to a real estate bubble.

However, the last 3 years seem to have proven those pundits wrong, as the market rebounded in 2010 and has been on the rise since. Naturally, there are variations in sales within individual nations around the world, but the United States showed a whopping 25% increase in sales, snagging an equally impressive 38% of the sales around the world, up 5% since 2012. New York, unsurprisingly, is the centre of these sales, but buyers fly in from around the world to make purchases there. American artists are also at the forefront of the sales, with record sale valuations being posted for works by famous American pop-art pioneers Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in the years since the bubble had seemed to burst, back in 2009.

It will be interesting to see the possible effects on the stylistic choices that are made by artists hoping to capitalize on these trends, in an effort to predict the next big popular art movement. Now that the old post-modern refrain 'everything's been done before' has proven false by its very nature, a whole new world of artistic possibilities are being explored.

Posted on March 03rd 2014 on 05:51pm
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