Saturday 28th February 2015Selfie Stick Bans
Back in January, there was an article here on Gallereo about a new phenomenon that's changing that most post-modern of new media art forms, the selfie. Snicker all you like, but it's hard to deny how the term has captured the popular imagination, and by extension, no surprise that someone cashed in by developing what is essentially a hand-held tripod, used to extend the compositional range of your selfportrait. It grips your phone, and the camera's shutter is triggered remotely by a button in the handle.
It's that last part that got them into trouble originally in South Korea, where the devices were first banned, but that trend is spreading almost as fast as the selfies they enable. Major museums and galleries in cities around the world have begun to prohibit their use, and for a wide variety of reasons. The primary issue seems to be that they're concerned the devices will completely disrupt the atmosphere, and in some cases, actually damage the works of art themselves. Oddly enough, many stress that they haven't actually had any issues with the devices as of yet, but hardly a week goes by when another blurb is splashed across the internet that yet another museum or gallery has announced a prohibition against their use.
One would think that this is simply a logical extension of the standard museum and gallery line, which variously prohibits flash photography and the usage of tripods, but perhaps a bit of free publicity is just too tempting to turn down. In the more general public sector, those who criticize the devices seem to find them obnoxious, which is probably simply an extension of their hatred of the entire selfie concept. In the art museum sphere, it seems that the main fear is vandalism - and on the surface, that seems plausible, except that it ignores a simple fact of human nature. If someone is going to be so insensitive and boorish as to damage priceless works of art, they're going to do it anyways, whether they have a selfie stick or not, and banning the sticks isn't going to remove the keys and coins in their pockets which could do exactly the same job. We should simply be doing our best to create a respectful atmosphere where our own enjoyment doesn't need to compromise the enjoyment of others.
Posted on February 28th 2015 on 03:38am
Wednesday 25th February 2015Remember the $6.5 Million Dollar Photo?
A little while ago, we wrote about the biggest sale price ever achieved for a photograph. The photograph, Phantom by Peter Lik, reportedly sold for $6.5 million dollars, blowing away any other possible contenders for the title. Naturally, the art world went a bit bananas about it, and social media was even worse (though that shouldn't really surprise anyone, at this stage of the game. We expressed a few reservations about the closed-door nature of the sale, which meant that not only was the buyer's name not released, the private sale didn't offer any way to verify this sale price. It may be that those reservations were well founded.
According to a recent article by the New York Times, the entire thing may simply be a clever usage of the media and their readiness to trumpet astonishing headlines. There is little doubt that the sale actually took place, but it's hardly fair to compare it to the works of the previous record holders, Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman, who garned $4.3 and $3.9 million respectively in 2011, both of which were sold in full view of the public in a traditional auction setting.
Speaking to the New York Times about Phantom and the sale headlines, Michael Hoppen, a London gallery owner, said, "It’s an abomination. Art, whatever the medium, is something that moves and informs you or changes your opinion. This has nothing to do with art or creative photography, and the tragedy is that it brings the whole business down."
He may very well have a point. Lik has apparently been frustrated by his lack of critical acclaim, despite being one of - if not the - most financially successful fine art photographers in the world. Art critics are rarely swayed by money, priding themselves on the quality and impact of the art itself, as Hoppen described. But on the other hand, Lik's narrative that the elitist art world has shut him out directly due to his mass appeal may also have some merit. Phantom certainly is a beautiful photograph, that cannot be denied - but is it really $6.5 million USD worth of beautiful? Lik and at least one other person certainly seem to think so, but is it really worth that much? That, dear reader, is up to you.
Posted on February 25th 2015 on 05:11pm
Friday 20th February 2015Artist Spotlight: Salvador Dali
Typically, in the Artist Spotlight series, we take the time to highlight a contemporary artists who, for one reason or another, is making headlines. Sometimes, however, the pull of an artist is so great, the work and character so appealing, that it is impossible to avoid writing about them. Salvador Dali is just one such man, although calling him a mere mortal seems like an insult to his memory.
One of the world's most famous Surrealists, and one of the founders of the entire Surrealist movement, Dali was a figure literally like no other. Sporting a famously bizarre moustache, it sometimes seems like his entire character could be extrapolated from that one personal detail. Precise, talented, flexible, and completely out to lunch, Dali was nevertheless incredibly creative and gifted, always hoping to push the envelope of what could be accomplished at the time.
Perhaps most famous for his melting clocks (the actual piece is entitled 'The Persistence of Memory,' and hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, just so you know), Dali was one of the great technical experimenters outside of the world of painting. We think of 3D movies and stereoscopic glasses as something that has just begun to gain popularity, but Dali and Walt Disney were experimenting with the technique nearly 50 years ago. Not much actually was produced by their collaboration in terms of functional technology, but nevertheless the foundations were laid for the future of stereoscopic imaging.
Few areas of the world were closed to him, in fact, and he experimented with a large number of media, and pushed the boundaries of what was regarded as art at the time. Perhaps most interestingly, though, was that he was one of the first to realize that being his own character, being larger than life, could advance the rest of his career - probably most notable was him showing up to a fancy dress ball in New York with Gala, the love of his life, dressed up as the Lindbergh Baby and kidnapper. He eventually decided to apologize given the uproar, but it's the perfect example of how he pushed envelopes in everything he did.
In the words of Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst, "I have been inclined to regard the Surrealists as complete fools, but that young Spaniard with his candid, fanatical eyes and his undeniable technical mastery, has changed my estimate." So too has he done for us all.
Posted on February 20th 2015 on 02:37pm
Wednesday 18th February 2015Picasso Again - But Now Theft?
Picasso and his works seem to be all over the art world news, lately. Marina Picasso, the late artist's granddaughter, made waves several weeks ago when she announced that she plans to sell off portions of her collection of works by the famous Cubist master, bypassing the auction world and selling them privately. A Picasso piece was also stolen from the Miami Beach version of the Art Basel art fair around the new year, although that small theft pales in comparison to the one that has been alleged now.
The case in question involves a handyman who worked on the Picasso estates in the 1970s, who is alleged to have stolen a huge number of works worth an estimated £50 million on the auction block. The handyman, Pierre Le Guennec, claims that the pieces were given to him by Picasso's second wife in 1970, with the nothing more than the words, "Here, it's for you. Take it home." The Picasso estate, and his surviving son Claude, contend that this is completely ridiculous given the value of the pieces in question. Claude Picasso told the French newspaper Liberation, "That doesn't stand up. These works were part of his life."
The pieces in question amount to some 180 lithographs, collages and paintings, as well as 91 drawings all by Pablo Picasso. They have remained virtually untouched, sitting in the handyman's garage since the day he brought them home.
Originally, there were no formal charges laid against Le Guennec, while an investigation began to determine how he came to be in possession of them. After eight months of searching, formal charges were finally laid by the police. The pieces were seized, and the couple could face up to five years in prison and a 375,000 euro fine.
Probably the most important pieces that were seized was a watercolour that was painted during the artist's famous Blue Period, as well as 9 Cubist paintings that make up a massive portion of the value of the art hoard. These pieces alone are estimated at a value of £24,500,000, making them as valuable as all the rest of the pieces put together.
It remains to be seen whether or not the couple will be found guilty, as the case is still winding its way through the various legal niceties, but regardless, it is good to see these masterworks back in the light of day where they can be appreciated by everyone.
Posted on February 18th 2015 on 02:34pm
Friday 13th February 2015Can Video Games Be Art?
At first blush, many of you are probably reacting with horror at the very idea. Video games? Art? You can't be serious. But once you get over your initial fit of laughter, and you begin to take a closer look at some of the work that is being produced in the newest crop of games, you might be willing to admit that these artifacts have come a long way since Pac-Man and Pong. If films as art is within your sphere of acceptance, then video games can't be far behind.
Ultimately, it really comes down to what art means to you. If art is something that challenges social perceptions, inspires emotions or adds a little touch of beauty in the world, then some of the latest video games will likely knock your socks off. In fact, the medium has advanced so much and taken such a hold in the modern world that a museum dedicated to them was recently announced in the United States.
Located in Rochester in New York state, the World Video Game Hall of Fame is a project by the Strong National Museum of Play, and as the Strong put it, created to "recognize individual electronic games of all types — arcade, console, computer, handheld, and mobile — that have enjoyed popularity over a sustained period and have exerted influence on the video game industry or on popular culture and society in general," which does rather sound like something an art museum might be able to claim.
Whether or not that sways you, it still begs the question, "can video games be art?" The answer, of course, is yes, but they are not inherently art. If you believe that Shia LaBoeuf sitting in a room where anyone can do anything they want to him - or the piece by the original artist he was ripping off, for that matter - counts as art, then a video game with an emotionally charged narrative that asks deep questions about the nature of morality, friendship and loneliness can't be that far away from the mark.
So before you give up on the latest generation, take a bit of time to get to know what you might be dismissing. Angry Birds probably isn't art, but who knows - those pigs are rather remarkable.
Posted on February 13th 2015 on 02:22pm
Wednesday 11th February 2015Selfies - From Space!
While it's with heavy fingers that we type the world 'selfie' at all, it's hard to get away from it in the world of photography at the moment. In this one case, however, it's with pleasure rather than trepidation that we type the word, as it also happens to involve astronauts and outer space. If you happen to have a few spare quid lying around, you might just be able to pick yourself up a piece of space photography history in the next few weeks, as a number of photographs from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration archives are going up on the auction block.
Depending on whom you ask, the star of the lot might be the first space selfie, taken by the late Col. Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin in 1966 with the curve of the Earth just visible in the background, or it might be the 1972 photograph taken by Eugene Cernan of Harrison Schmitt and the American flag planted on the lunar surface, with the Earth in the background. The Cernan photograph has been called "one of the great photos to come out of the space program," but it's hard to deny the buzz behind the Aldrin picture (sorry, we couldn't help ourselves).
The auction takes place on February 26th in London, courtesy of Bloomsbury Auctions, and the collection is visible in Mallet Antiques as an exhibit entitled 'From the Earth to the Moon'. As Sarah Wheeler, who is Head of Photographs at the auction house, put it, "These photographs are more than merely documentary, many are simply sublime. They represent a golden age in the history of photography as well, when a few men went to the unknown to bring back awe-inspiring pictures. The view of the first Earthrise over the lunar horizon changed Man's relationship with the cosmos forever."
The prices aren't particularly astronomical, perhaps surprisingly, considering that Wheeler is correct in noting their impressive historical value. The estimated sale prices for the photos range from £300 to £10,000, which is still a pretty penny, but can you really put a price on the first photos of our own planet? Nothing would beat being able to casually mention, as your friend whips out their selfie stick, that you happen to have the first selfie from space.
Posted on February 11th 2015 on 10:56pm
Friday 06th February 2015Picasso Sell Off
The granddaughter of Pablo Picasso, famous master of Cubism, has announced that she plans to sell some of the massive collection she inherited “one by one, based on need”, in order to finance her charitable work. Her collection of works by Picasso is estimated at over 10,000 individual pieces, ensuring that she probably has enough material to keep any sort of charity work going that she cares to undertake, with ease. Media reports are rife with speculation only, however, as Marina Picasso has announced that she plans to sell the work privately, and hasn't said much more than that.
In an interview with the New York Times, Marina Picasso said, "“It’s better for me to sell my works and preserve the money to redistribute to humanitarian causes. I have paintings, of course, that I can use to support these projects.”
This, naturally, sent the world of the art auctioneer into a tizzy, amid fears that a large sell off of Picasso's work could depress the value of every other Picasso on the market. This was further compounded by the fact that nobody knows exactly how many pieces she plans to sell from her collection, which has approximately 300 paintings in addition to a much larger number of etchings, sketches, and ceramic pieces.
Rumours are that she plans to sell seven major paintings, which could fetch up to £200 million, although this is not confirmed. All she has said done is confirm that she plans to sell some, and to dispel rumours tht she was also planning to sell Pablo Picasso's villa, La Californie, in the south of France where she currently lives.
Speaking to The Guardian, Melanie Gerlis of The Art Newspaper said, “She obviously is great provenance and she must know a lot of people. The reality is that there are a lot of ways to sell art. We are used to auction versus dealer but now you have auctions acting as dealers, you have agents, you have advisers, people are even selling things over Instagram. It is a changing landscape. If she was selling 300 paintings all at the same time then yes that may depress the market. It doesn’t sound to me like it is going to be a dramatic fire sale.”
Hopefully, once everyone has gotten over the shock of the idea that she's selling things privately instead of using a "respectable" auction house (although it seems like the media are almost creating that frenzy themselves), we can relax in knowing that she's putting the money from the sales to a good cause.
Posted on February 06th 2015 on 05:21pm
Wednesday 04th February 2015Are Living Subjects Inherently Exploitative?
Most artists have worked using living subjects at some point in their artistic careers, and there's naturally nothing wrong with that - people tend to make excellent subjects. But what happens when the piece is no longer a sketch, painting or sculpture? What happens if the piece is actually an ongoing performance/installation piece that has two people living inside it? Most of us will still not take issue with it, as they are presumably there by choice. What happens if the two subjects in the piece are homeless, and were hired by the artist to live in the piece? Suddenly, firm moral ground begins to feel a bit shaky, but it's up for debate if the ice is too thin to hold our weight.
The piece, entitled "The Alien Within: A Living Laboratory of Western Society," certainly has a ring of charged politicism, but that's nothing really all that new in the art world. The artist, Anders Carlsson, saw the two homeless participants begging on a street corner, and offered them some money to work together with him on a project to raise awareness about class inequalities and the struggles of poverty. They are paid an hourly wage that amounts to roughly $600 over the course of the project.
"People want to escape the discomfort, not knowing how to relate to someone so unequal," he said in a radio interview. "In a way, there's no escape." Not everyone is particularly pleased about the project, though, and a number of activists have decided to protest outside the Malmö Konsthall, where the project is located. "I had very high expectations," protestor Ioana Cojocariu said, "but when I entered the room, it felt like an ethnological exhibition, where black bodies had been replaced by poor bodies…I think artists are well-intentioned but there have been errors."
Curiously enough, there don't seem to be many interviews with the two people themselves, Luca Lacatus and Marcella Cheresi. That somehow seems to make the media reports about the project more exploitative than the project itself, but Lacatus did have this to say when eventually interviewed by a local Swedish paper, "We've already got used to being looked at. It is better to be here than out on the street. Here it is warm and dry anyway." While, on the surface, it doesn't seem like a profound indictment of the denial of poverty, perhaps it is anyways. But don't they have a right to decide if they're being exploited?
Posted on February 04th 2015 on 08:49pm