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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 and have some fun next time you're stuck for ideas!

Posted on August 28th 2015 on 04:30pm

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 07th August 2015Crowdfunding your Artwork

While it might sound romantic, and even be slightly enjoyable at first, being a starving artist sort of stinks when you get right down to it. Unless you've already made it as an established artist, it's more than likely that you've got a job that helps you pay bills, keep a roof over your head, and make sure your stomach is at least partly full. Wouldn't it be a dream come true to be able to do ditch the job and spend all your time working on your passion? Undeniably, unless you're one of those lucky and clever people who have also found a job that they truly enjoy doing.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last decade or so, you've probably heard the term 'crowdfunding'. You might even have supported a project that you were interested in. Essentially, crowdfunding is exactly what it sounds like - funding a project with small donations from a crowd of people, instead of a single wealthy patron. But did you know that there is a growing community of artists, writers and musicians who rely on crowdfunding to support their projects? A relative few, but the number is growing along with the popularity of the crowdfunding model itself.

It can be a daunting experience, to begin with, but the rewards are great if you succeed. If you're already comfortable building up a crowd of your own, a loyal following of fans, then you're well on your way to crowdfunding your next project already, as this is often the biggest stumbling block for artists - we tend to be an introverted lot, after all. At least with crowdfunding, you can ask for help digitally instead of in person!

There are a number of crowdfunding platforms available, from the grandfather of them all, Kickstarter, to IndieGoGo and GoFundMe, each with its own various benefits and pitfalls. The biggest pitfall tends to be that unless you reach your project's funding goal, all the money is returned to your donors. The exception to this is IndieGoGo, but they charge a higher fee for those types of projects. Explore the various options, take a look at the plans, and decide which site seems right for you. Then stop and examine the most successful projects, and use them as a model for how to design your campaign. Determining funding goals, the way you tell your story, and what you offer to your donors can make or break your campaign. You may not succeed your first time around - but learn from your mistakes, and try, try again, and you may just be able to live out that dream of making your passion your only job.

Posted on August 07th 2015 on 03:00pm
Labels: art, crowdfunding, job

Wednesday 05th August 2015Conning the Art World

It's almost a Hollywood truism - everyone loves a good con movie. Whether it's because we love the pluck and daring involved, or the rogueish charm of a carefully flaunted set of rules (perhaps, deep down, many of us were wishing we could do the same), we can't seem to get enough of them. With auction prices at record highs, not to mention the fantastical and unquantifiable value of owning a masterpiece, the art world is constantly full of forgeries, and the cons that have to accompany them.

With that in mind, a number of books have been published recently on forgery and cons in the art world, and contain an impressively entertaining array of stories collected over the years and, in some cases, centuries. The Art of the Con, by Anthony M. Amore is one such book, which covers an impressive scope of crime, and understandably so - Amore is the chief investigator for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. If it seems strange to you that a museum might have an on-staff position of chief investigator (which inherently implies a number of other investigators also on staff), make sure to grab a copy of the book, and you'll see why it's necessary. From entertaining stories to examinations of the techniques used by master forgers, it's quite an enjoyable read.

The monetary rewards of art forgery are hardly the only motivations for the practice, however. Many artists have found themselves decried - or worse, ignored - by critics, only to take their skills to the black market and the lucrative crimes that follow in its wake.
As Noah Charney, the author of The Art of Forgery put it, “Many want recognition. They have real skills and tried hard to make their own successes, before turning to fakes and the multiple benefits they derived—proving to themselves they were as good as past masters and showing up the critics who had ignored their own works.” Another excellent look into the world of art forgeries, The Art of Forgery has some of the most mind-boggling stories of the fraudulent art and their artists, from dealers who duplicated their masterpieces and sold both originals and forgeries to an artistic forger who was so incensed by getting away with his crimes that he sued himself in court and received 20 months in jail as a result. Enjoy!

Posted on August 05th 2015 on 03:34pm
Labels: art, con, forgery, fraud
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