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Friday 29th May 2015Incredible New Auction Sale Record

While it seems like the entire art world is abuzz about art fairs lately, the auction world is still going strong and setting new records of its own all the time. The big Western auction houses, Christie's, Sotheby's and the lot are regularly being joined by new auction houses in emerging markets in rapidly developing nations such as China, India, and the United Arab Emirates. The older houses still seem to be the reigning champions when it comes to sales records, as we saw over the course of May when a brand new auction record was set at Christie's.

The auctioned piece that set the new world record was Women of Algiers (Version O) by Cubist master Pablo Picasso, one of the pioneers of the entire Cubist genre. The work, which was completed on February 4, 1955, is an oil on canvas piece featuring the characteristic bright colours and blend of organic and geometric shapes that are the hallmarks of the Cubist movement. The final auction price? A whopping $179.4 million USD. This makes it not just the record for a Picasso, not just the record for a painting, but the record for any piece of art ever sold at an auction in the world. (See the painting to the right, courtesy of Christie's.)

That's not the only thing that's stunning, though. This individual record sale was part of a larger week-long auction series put on by Christie's which featured artists from the 20th century, and included many of the biggest artistic names of the century. Aside from the Pablo Picasso mentioned, Claude Monet, Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Egon Schiele and Piet Mondrian were among those on the block. The final total for the works that changed hands? $1.4 billion US dollars. Yes, billion with a 'b'.

Perhaps auctioneers aren't going to be so worried about art fairs after all, if they keep consistently breaking their own records. Naturally, art from such established masters is an excellent investment that is virtally guaranteed to appreciate in value for those who have the initial capital – after all, it's like real estate – it's not like those old masters will be making any more of it. Perhaps there is room for auctions and art fairs to co-exist, as they tend to operate in slightly different areas of the market, but much of the smaller business that was once the bread and butter of the auction house has moved away to the art fair – we'll do a bit of research to see what the record sale made at an art fair is!

Posted on May 29th 2015 on 03:41am
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Wednesday 27th May 2015Artist Spotlight Retrospective: Christopher Burden

Most artists consider themselves deeply committed to their own work. It's one of the things that drives them forwards, gives them inspiration, and instills a complete authenticity to their pieces. While it's hard to measure commitment in a quantifiable way, it's hard to find many artists who are as committed to their performance work as the late Chris Burden. Burden, who passed away just this year on May 10th, was an artist who made a name for himself early in his career in the 1970s in the United States with a variety of performance pieces. While his later career moved away from performance towards installation pieces, he is still best known for his performance work.

There is a very important reason that he is best known for his earlier works, and why this article began by discussing artistic commitment to one's work – arguably his most famous piece is entitled 'Shoot', from 1971. As you might begin to guess by now, the piece actually involved him getting shot with a live bullet by his assistant. It was only in the arm, but there are few artists in the world who are that dedicated to shocking people.

Another of his more famous pieces was entitled Trans-Fixed, and involved Burden, a Volkswagen Beetle and two long nails. The nails were hammered through the palms of his hands, evoking images of crucifixion. That piece was enacted a mere 3 years after he had taken a bullet in Shoot, showcasing his willingness to literally suffer for his art.

Much speculation has been made about how he went down this path, with some critics suggesting that it is a result of a childhood accident at age 12 on the island of Elba, Italy, the same place where Napoleon was exiled. After a motor-scooter accident, he had to undergo emergency surgery on his left foot without the benefits of anesthesia. During his long recovery from this tragedy, he began to develop an interest in art and photography, which may be responsible for his association between art and physical pain.

By the end of the 1970s, however, he had begun to move away from his so-called 'danger pieces' towards large sculptural installations, many of which involved intricate machinery and engineering, and began almost to move towards design and industrial engineering. Regardless of how you feel about the trajectory of his career, he was a fascinating artist and complicated man, and the art world will miss his unique brand of work.  

Posted on May 27th 2015 on 06:08pm
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Friday 22nd May 2015Art Fair Popularity Still Growing

Art fairs are the hottest thing happening in the art world right now, and unless you've been living under a rock with earplugs in, you've probably noticed that they seem to be popping up everywhere. From Basel, Switzerland to Miami Beach, Florida to Hong Kong, China to just about everywhere in between, art fairs are rapidly becoming the hottest place for collectors to buy art, no matter if you're an amateur building their first collection or a professional speculator looking to grab some original work by an up and coming young artist before sale prices really take off.

One of the most interesting things about the art fair, well, 'movement', for lack of a better term, is that it's no longer limited solely to the type of large, global cities mentioned earlier. Smaller cities around the world are getting in on the action, as evidenced by the latest art fair in North America to get some serious traction, which is located in Vancouver, Canada. Not to say that Vancouver doesn't have the potential to be a world-class city, but its art fair is simply not at the same scale as the others we've mentioned – although this could be set to change. With nearly 180 art fairs taking place each year around the world, the popularity of the style is dramatically expanding each year, and as long as organizers, galleries, collectors and visitors are eager to get involved, smaller fairs like Art! Vancouver are likely to continue to expand as well.

In fact, art fairs have become so popular in recent years that in 2014, total sales from art fairs around the world topped $13.3 billion dollars. While that doesn't really hold a candle to the kind of sales that are still being generated by the more traditional auction house system, it should still be making auctioneers a bit nervous. If small fairs like Art! Vancouver can survive their first couple of years and make it to the big leagues, then the entire auction paradigm might be on it's way out, with the exception of the very highest priced items that are too valuable to be sold in the fair environment.

As Art! Vancouver director Lisa Wolfin said, “If Basel can do it for 40 years, Vancouver can too. It’s a matter of starting and building.” She's probably right – as long as the local and global art communities stay involved! If you hear about a local art fair in your community, why not stop by and support local artists? It's fun, and you might find your own work there one day!

 

Posted on May 22nd 2015 on 05:24pm
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Wednesday 20th May 2015More Video Game Art Intersections

We've recently discussed the debate over whether or not it's reasonable to treat video games as art, admittedly with vary degrees of conviction. While it's hard to label games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty 'art', their complex storytelling and visual flair sometimes verge on the cinematic – and few people would quibble over whether or not cinema can be considered art. Once you've accepted the fact that traditional barriers mean less and less as technology advances and the focus can once again move back to the impact of a certain object, arguments against the idea grow weaker and weaker.

The important thing is to not get too set in your perception of what a video game is. As we said, GTA and CoD are not really attempting to be artistic, but they're only one possible interpretation of art. Nobody would disagree that an Ingmar Bergman film is art, but nobody would argue that Jaws is anywhere on the same plane. In other words, the format doesn't define the perception of art/not art, but rather the content, intent and impact of what is done with the format. Following that premise, we dive into the artistic video games of Pippin Barr, the New Zealand–born video game designer now based on the island of Malta.

“The world of video games is so often so hostile to contemporary art and its ideas, and if not hostile often just utterly indifferent,” Barr said, speaking to digital culture magazine Vulture. “Games are a very interesting platform from which to explore ideas about art and to allow or encourage game players to think about those ideas.”

He's created a variety of different games which intersect with the art world, and he's had a few intersections with the art world himself. Famous performance artist Marina Abramovic, whose piece 'The Artist is Present' at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City both fascinated and frustrated viewers as they waited in line for hours for a chance to sit opposite the artist, collaborated with Barr on a digital version that mimics the experience virtually – right down to the museum's hours of operation. This is, of course, just one of the games that he's created, and he's constantly working on more, often in collaboration with the Marina Abramovic Institute, so swing by his website to check out what he's been up to lately – as long as you don't mind a possible wait!

 

Posted on May 20th 2015 on 03:21pm
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Friday 15th May 20153D Printing Art

It's no secret that 3D printing has been taking the world by storm over the past couple of years. From 3D printing custom mobile phone cases to 3D printing entire houses, it's an entirely new paradigm when it comes to the construction of objects large and small. It's probably no surprise, therefore, that there is a lively and developing community of artists who are taking advantage of the new technology to explore sculpture and modeling in entirely new ways.

Probably the most appealing element of the ongoing 3D printing revolution is the development of different materials that can be printed. Original 3D printers were slow, clunky, and extremely limited in terms of the kind of materials they could construct with. Often, users were limited to one type of plastic, but as the technology has evolved, so too have the materials available to both makers and artists.

The piece shown to the right is actually a 3D printed sculpture executed entirely in sandstone by Swiss architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger, entitled Arabesque Wall. It's currently on display in a gallery in Toronto, Canada, as part of an exhibit on 3D printing by the Design Exchange entitled 3DXL: A Large-Scale 3D Printing Exhibition. Not exactly the catchiest title, but the exhibit is part technical showcase and part art exhibit, so perhaps they can be forgiven.

As Design Exchange president Shauna Levy explained to the CBC, “Up until now, 3D printing has been almost behind a veil and has been a mystery to many people.” The exhibit features the work of 3D designers and artists from around the world, and will be on display until August 16 in downtown Toronto.

Visitors can also see 3D printing in action thanks to a working 3D printer that is creating life-sized chairs for an installation that is part of the exhibit. Each chair takes 11 hours to make, so you probably won't have the patience to see one spring to life from nothing while you watch unless you're extremely lazy, but it's still fascinating to watch for a minute or two. When you then compare the relative simplicity of the chair construction to the wildly intricate complexities of Arabesque Wall, you finally begin to truly appreciate the wide range of possibilities that 3D printing provides artists, designers, and makers of all tastes and talents.  

Posted on May 15th 2015 on 03:00pm
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Wednesday 13th May 2015New Stock Photo Resource Roundup

Using stock photos in your work can be a bit tricky. A well-chosen stock photo can complete a design or mockup perfectly, but choosing poorly can make your piece look like a bit of a joke. In an effort to maximise their earning potential, many photographers looking to make some extra cash will take endless streams of photos in the most forced and contrived settings in the hope that someone will come along one day and need a photo of an actor playing a stockbroker with a banana on his head, or something equally ludicrous. Even actor Vince Vaughn got in on the action as part of a marketing campaign for his latest movie, when they lampooned stock photo conventions using the actors from the movie.

But naturally, many artists and designers want more choice than the stock photos that are acceptable for use in Powerpoint presentations and annual reports. This has given rise to an entire new style of stock photography, and a number of websites have sprung up to cater to the need. Best of all, there are also a new crop of websites that offer these types of stock photos for free, no matter whether you're using them for a commercial project or just for fun.

Having just found a few of these sites for our own design projects, we decided to share them with you so that you can avoid the bad stock photo curse. One of the best is 'Death to the Stock Photo', which clearly pulls no punches when it comes to their perception of the classic style of stock photo. A simple sign up for their email list will get you a monthly pack of stock photos delivered right to your inbox. If you like their style, they offer a premium option as well. Picjumbo also offers non-traditional stock photos, but they don't make you wait for monthly packages. Their free photos are also carefully organized, making it easier to find something appropriate, although their collection is still getting started and is nowhere near as large as more established stock photo sites. Finally, Unsplash rounds out the options with completely free stock photos that are released under the Creative Commons Zero license, which means they can be used for any project, private or commercial, with no attribution required whatsoever.

Hopefully, you'll find something that will inspire and complete your latest project, or if you're a photographer, you might want to consider submitting your own work!

Posted on May 13th 2015 on 10:36pm
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Friday 08th May 2015Create for Your Health

As every creative person knows, there is a deep sense of satisfaction and well-being that comes from the act of creation. Whether it's a reaction to the catharsis many people achieve from creating or the simple fact of having added to the beauty in the universe, it's impossible to deny that creating makes us feel better, brings light to dark days and helps us deal with our emotions and experiences. It turns out that there is a solid scientific base for this perception, as opposed to the purely anecdotal evidence that every artist has.

In the last couple of years, some important and pioneering research has been conducted by scientists around the world on the measurable neurological impact of art. Without going into the admittedly slightly tedious details of the various studies, we can still identify how to benefit from the results they identified. One study, which compared the neurological changes experienced by two groups of people – one group created art, and the other discussed it at length in a museum environment – found that participants who created various pieces of artwork over a 10 week period had significantly increased the density of their neural pathways in certain areas of the brain, while the group that merely discussed artwork experienced no changes. Specifically, the areas of the brain that benefited from the creation process were related to emotional awareness and 'psychological resilience', which is to say that it made them better able to cope with stress and made them feel much happier.

Naturally, every artist has experienced this at some point in their artistic career, but it's nice to have some solid scientific backing for your personal experiences, especially about issues as complicated as neurology. It doesn't matter whether or not your art is your entire life or just something you dabble in, it's nice to have a body of evidence that proves how beneficial it is. Not that we need it, of course!\

So the next time you find yourself feeling stressed out or a bit overwhelmed by life in general, it's probably a good idea to find some time to create. If you ever find yourself a bit of a loose end, take – or make – the time to do a little creating, and protect yourself against future stress while creating something that you can be proud of. If you're stuck for ideas, why not take a look through our inspiration and project idea posts to get inspired? Just explore the tags on the right.  

Posted on May 08th 2015 on 04:04pm
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Wednesday 06th May 2015Christo Returns with Another Great Project

While not exactly the most prolific artist on the planet, Christo has finally returned from a 10 year hiatus to realize his latest masterpiece. Admittedly, his projects tend to be of a scale so grand and dramatic that he can hardly be expected to produce them as rapidly as someone working in more conventional areas, but a 10 year gap between projects is quite a long silence for the artist who once said, 'The work of art is a scream of freedom.' Unfortunately for him (and by extension, unfortunately for all of us), his wife and long-time collaborator, Jeanne-Claude, passed away during the preceding 10 years due to complications from a brain aneurysm, which no doubt contributed to his withdrawal from the art world.

However, Christo will scream again this year in Italy, as he plans to create a massive, temporary installation on Lake Iseo, following his signature style of ephemeral projects that bewitch the imagination. The project, dubbed 'The Floating Piers', will be a 3 kilometer pier that connects three of the lake's islands, all while wrapped in 70,000 square meters of silken yellow fabric. Like all of his projects, it's a huge undertaking to complete the installation, and it will only exist for a very short 16 days in the month of June 2016.

Christo's last piece, produced with his wife before her death, was an installation titled 'The Gates' in New York's Central Park, which consisted of - you guessed it - a staggering 7,503 'gates' of saffron yellow fabric that were interspersed along the various walking paths of the park. It cost an unbelievable $21 million USD to create, and took nearly 30 years to complete from conception to installation, but it was hailed by many critics as a triumphant success. The New York Times, that most prickly of art critics, called it "a work of pure joy, a vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence, the first great public art event of the 21st century."

Hopefully, The Floating Piers will be hailed as an equal success, as it's to deny the fact that the world can always use a bit more good will and simple eloquence - both the art world and the rest of the world included. If you're in Italy during the magical two weeks that it exists, be sure to take the time to visit it.

Posted on May 06th 2015 on 04:11pm
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Friday 01st May 2015Artist Spotlight: Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama is probably the most influential artist that you've never heard of. There are any number of reasons why you may not have run across her before, unless you're a devotee of the early 1970s abstract expressionist art movement that was quite popular in New York City around that time. Recently, however, someone got around to tallying up the attendance numbers of her work in 2014, and the numbers seem to showcase something rather extraordinary. Her works attracted an astonishing 2 million viewers in the year 2014, which easily makes her the most popular artist in the world for that year.

Surprised?

Stop and think about that for a second. Not only is it a wildly impressive statistic, it is even more poignant for the fact that most people under the age of 60 have probably never heard of her before. She influenced a number of genres and artists that you have heard of, however, including Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, the entire abstract expressionist movement and the ridiculous joy we have all come to know and love as Pop Art.

So where did she come from? No artist emerges from a vacuum, and Yayoi is no exception. Born in Japan to a family of merchants in 1929, she rebelled against the prescribed life her family offered and opted to become an artist. Frustrated with the exquisitely beautiful but conservative nature of the Japanese art scene of the time, she decided to move to New York City in the late 1950s and began to work in the abstract expressionist style that was a major theme in American art at the time. When the 1960's hippie movements kicked off in full force by the end of the decade, she was well positioned to incorporate the free-spirited nature of the age, and gained recognition with works that blended performance art, exhibits and exhibitionism. The 'happenings', as they were termed, tended to involve a crowd of naked participants festooned with polka dots, which was naturally quite risque for the time.

Unfortunately, like many creative types, she found herself experiencing psychiatric problems, and voluntarily admitted herself to a care facility in her native Japan, although she still continues to produce works from within that environment. She should also be credited for incredible staying power - at age 86, she's still putting on shows and exhibitions around the world! Her newest solo show will be opening on September 17th at the Louisiana Modern Art Gallery in the United States.

Posted on May 01st 2015 on 03:46pm
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