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Friday 30th September 2016The Emperor Goes to Auction

You may or may not remember one of our more hilarious stories from the past couple of months: all across America, an anarchist artist collective put up naked - and incredibly unflattering - statues of United States Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. Anarchists have never been known to pull punches in any form, so the title of the statue series was as offensive as the statues themselves, "The Emperor Has No Balls". Sure enough, they left out a specific part of typical human male anatomy during the sculpting process.
The statues were immediately taken down by various parks departments across the country, of course, but not before they had managed to attract thousands of deeply amused viewers, and a corresponding number of selfies with the naughty and admittedly rather repellant statue.
The New York Parks Department won the entire internet that day with their simple response to the placement of the New York version of the statue, with their spokesman tweeting,  "NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small".
But the saga of this incredibly disruptive yet hilarious art series hasn't ended, as it turns out that during this coming October, an auction house located in Los Angeles (where one of the statues appeared in an park) will be selling the foam piece. Surprisingly enough, the estimated worth of the statue is between $10,000 and $20,000 USD, although it is only expected to fetch somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 by the time the gavel falls.

The auction house responsible for the upcoming auction had the following to say in a published statement: "The explicit statue quickly became a symbol of political protest art and garnered international coverage when the gallery refused to hide or censor the statue, choosing instead to display it prominently and in public view."
It seems hard to imagine (pun intended) that someone would willingly pay $15,000 USD for an ugly foam statue of Donald Trump naked, but then Julien's Auctions was right to call it an important piece of political protest art. It's likely to only increase in value regardless of how the election goes in November, whether as a result of his defeat or his shockingly unbelievable ascendancy to the highest public office in the nation.
Either way, it's an interesting investment - except that in this case, it's probably not such a bad thing that art investors would be likely to lock it away from the public view.

Posted on September 30th 2016 on 09:00pm

Wednesday 28th September 2016Artist Spotlight: Dragan Ilic

When you've had a career that spans almost 50 years, it's only natural to be completely fascinated by the technological developments that you've seen over the course of your lifetime. As in the case of Serbian artist Dragan Ilic, that fascination can lead to some pretty interesting results.
Those readers of a comparable age to Mr. Ilic will have no difficulty understanding this fascination, but for those younger readers who have grown up with the internet, it probably bears pointing out that his first solo exhibit was in 1975, well before the existence of the internet and definitely before the age of ubiquitous robotic manufacturing. So try to view his latest work with the full scope of that appreciation.
As Ilic explains in his global artist statement, "The starting point in my work is conceptual analysis and de/reconstruction of the process of drawing as inscription of bodily activities on paper and opening the space for communication of ideas or realization of specific artistic intentions."
So, without further ado, here's an animated GIF of Ilic at work with one of his most recent projects, DI-2K4.

Later on in his statement, he argues, "realization and excitement felt as a result of inclusion of various auxiliary tools into the process of work, whether pencils as basic „artistic tools“ or various multifunctional technological pieces of equipment which have become an integral part of my work – have confirmed the decision to build my own artistic expression at an interaction between the body and the machine, the natural and the constructed, the intimate and the structural and the physical, symbolical and imaginary space."
Aside from being an impressive sentence - yes, that was one sentence - you can't deny that he can write one hell of an artist statement. Whether or not you accept what he has to say about the nature of his artistic practice is naturally up to you, but this writer is definitely a fan of his latest ongoing work, which is entitled 'PEOPLE I DON'T LIKE', and recently has added a continuation based around installations at seven sites across the United States where he'll be performing/creating site-specific symbolic portraits.
One wonders if he ever gets too dizzy to continue, or if he simply really enjoys this process at a basic physical level. Perhaps there's truth to the saying that we always suffer for our art.

Posted on September 28th 2016 on 08:36pm

Friday 23rd September 2016The Worst Ferry Disaster You Never Heard Of

It's not as terrible as the headline sounds, trust me. Instead, it's something far more hilarious.
Recent visitors to New York and Staten Island have been privy to one of the best-kept nonexistent secret tragedies to befall the United States: The Staten Island Ferry Octopus Attack. No, you didn't miss a news headline - it's all an elaborate stunt by artist Joe Reginella to dupe tourists into searching for a nonexistent museum.
Dubbed "Staten Island Ferry Disaster Memorial Museum", the museum was promoted in some fake brochures passed out around the New York area. Some of the more gullible tourists felt the need to excoriate the United States for concealing such a tragic accident, although it's likely that they'll simply pretend they were in on the joke.
A beautiful statue was erected on the Staten Island Ferry Docks for a brief time, commemorating the "disaster", and we can only hope that it will be retained somewhere as an ongoing exhibit, even if it's necessary to inform visitors that it never really happened.
Reginella describes the entire project as "part practical joke, part multimedia art project, part social experiment."
Here's the elaborate description of the event from the website:
"It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan. Nobody on board survived and only small pieces of wreckage have been found…strangely with large “suction cup-shaped” marks on them. The only logical conclusion scientists and officials could point to was that the boat had been attacked by a massive octopus, roughly half the size of the ship. Adding to the tragedy, is that this disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public as later that day another, more “newsworthy” tragedy would befall the nation when beloved President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. The Staten Island Ferry Disaster Museum hopes to correct this oversight by preserving the memory of those lost in this tragedy and educating the public about the truth behind the only known giant octopus-ferry attack in the tri-state area."

Posted on September 23rd 2016 on 07:27pm

Wednesday 21st September 2016The Weird and Wonderful

Art imitates life, and life imitates art. Old sayings are often ridiculous, but that one certainly holds true, especially in an age of social media photography and vapid self-reflection. But there are few times when it's been more literally true than during a recent moment in Berlin.
A large statue of American pop star Rihanna was unveiled in June as a part of the ninth iteration of the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. Built by Colombian sculptor Juan Sebastián Peláez and entitled Ewaipanoma (Rihanna), the statue is a much larger than life version of Rihanna, clad in nothing but a bikini. The only thing missing from the statue is her head, while a 'to scale' version of her face is plastered across her chest as the sculpture holds up sunglasses to hide her nonexistent head.
So what better way to reflect on the absolute insanity of that old saying than to see a picture of Rihanna visiting the sculpture of herself and striking the same pose?
One can't help but wonder if the accompanying photo (credit: Hayden Manders) is a work of art in and of itself. In the technical sense, it is, as in 'he has copyright to this piece of imagery', but what about from a formal aesthetics sense?
If we accept Richard Prince stealing other people's Instagram photos, enlarging them and claiming to have modified them enough to distinguish his own copyright (backed up by the American legal system), is a photograph of a sculpture a work of art in its own right? Especially one that actually (whether intentionally or not) makes a commentary about the nature of that work?  
It seems like a far more valid premise than Prince's, to this writer at least. Perhaps there's an interesting photo series to be made there, with each photo starring one person and the sculpture that supposedly represents them.
Probably not a great way to make friends in the art world, as Prince has found out. However, the art world does also love a rebel, regardless of whether or not they actually like them. No matter which side you come down on, there's something weird and wonderful about this photo - and perhaps it wouldn't last as a series, since the spontaneity would be lost. 
What do you think? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Posted on September 21st 2016 on 07:06pm

Friday 16th September 2016Does Defacing an Artwork Create a Copyright?

It's more or less an open secret that the legal system's understanding of the nature of art is deeply flawed. Of course, both sides of the argument tend to believe it's flawed in the other direction, as in the case of the work of Richard Prince that we've covered extensively here in the past.
What makes a collaborative work of art? Does a remix constitute copyright infringement or creative license? It's the quintessential question of the postmodern world - and even if you think we're living in the post-postmodern world, the legal system still hasn't really caught up.
But regardless of how carefully you've been following these struggles over the years, you probably never expected that a 90 year old woman from Germany would be at the centre of the debate.
The woman, whose name was reported as Hannelore K. by German authorities, was visiting the Neues Museum in Nuremberg and stopped to admire a piece by 20th century avante-garde artist Arthur Kopcke. The piece, apparently entitled "Reading-work piece" (probably a terrible translation from the German, apologies that we can't find the proper name), features a blank crossword grid. Beside the piece is a sign in English that says 'Insert Words'.
So that's exactly what she did. She began to fill in the crossword puzzle squares, and managed quite a few before museum officials stopped her and called the police.
She was released after briefly being questioned by the police, but the story doesn't end there. While that alone would probably be enough for the basis of an article, the really juicy bit comes in the form of her response.
She's suing the museum for removing her additions to the artwork, claiming that she has a new copyright on the collaborative result of her tweaks to the piece. Whether this is her opinion or the suggestion of her lawyer remains to be seen, but it's a story that strikes straight to the heart of the question of the nature of media and art.
Interestingly enough, the Fluxus school which Kopcke was a member of during his career, doesn't seem to support the museum's decision to "restore" the work. As Ars Technica quoted The Art Story:
"Fluxus artists did not agree with the authority of museums to determine the value of art, nor did they believe that one must be educated to view and understand a piece of art."

Posted on September 16th 2016 on 06:41pm

Wednesday 14th September 2016Artist Spotlight: Spencer Tunick

Would you get naked for art? This writer probably wouldn't, but that doesn't mean there aren't a number of people who would. Quite a large number, in fact. So large a number that photographer Spencer Tunick was able to achieve his dream of painting the town blue.
Not literally, though, because it was actually the naked volunteers who were painted blue from head to foot. Over 3200 people showed up to volunteer to be a part of the shoot, which is a rather impressive figure, pun intended (apologies).
The shoot took place in Kingston Upon Hull in England, as part of an art project called "Sea of Hull", which is a celebration of the region's rich maritime culture and history.  
“I can’t believe it,” Tunick said in an interview with the Daily Mail. “It was cold, it was chilly, people had to put lotionlike paint all over their bodies — every part.
“It’s beautiful. We are little strokes of paint. Everybody is equal.”
Certainly an admirable sentiment, even if it only lasted as long as the photoshoot.
One wonders if the Guinness Book of World Records has an entry for the largest gathering of naked people in body paint or something similar, because if not, maybe it's time to create a new entry.
The thing is, it's possible that Spencer Tunick might be the all-time champion in the category, since the entirety of his body of work involves large-scale naked photoshoots (again, pun intended). In fact some of his shoots have involved tens of thousands of naked volunteers, although they were absent the bright blue bodypaint.
While it might seem a bit silly at first, it's actually an interesting exploration of privacy in a public world. All of his shoots take place in recognizable public places, where we are traditionally covered up. Even dedicated nudists generally don't seem too interested in being naked in public when others are clothed.
However, his work has been regarded with some suspicion in his native America, where he has been arrested five times in New York City alone since 1992. He's filed civil rights lawsuits to protect himself and his participant volunteers, but has since decided to take his work out of the more puritanical United States and explore work in parts of the world who are less ashamed of the naked human form.
Of course, one could argue that this would diminish the impact of his work, but it's probably better to be out of jail and still creating than in jail for your artistic sensibilities.

Photo credit: Reuters / Andrew Yates

Posted on September 14th 2016 on 09:29pm

Friday 09th September 2016Google Launches New Arts and Culture App

It's hard to be Google without having an incredible amount of information in your database. The whole function of what they do is based around having the best searchable index of information, after all. But what about information that doesn't exist as part of a webpage? 
As artists, we're well aware of the fact that there is just as much data in imagery as there is in text, but tagging and searching that data is a monumental task. Fortunately for us, Google has been working on this difficult problem for quite some time, and has built up an incredible database of cultural history under the admittedly less than creative name Google Arts and Culture. 
Aside from the slightly boring name, however, the tool itself is absolutely incredible. There is such a vast amount of information available that almost anything you could possibly want to find out about is there, whether it's a piece of contemporary modern art or something from the stone age.  
But even more impressively, the app doesn't just contain information about all of these cultural artifacts, but actually visit them within the app. When pairing your smartphone with a cheap virtual reality headset, you can walk past your favourite Banksy piece on the virtual street or visit a temple constructed in ancient Greece. 
Google has also partnered with a number of art galleries around the world to share museum data such as open hours and ongoing exhibits, as well as log their current collections as part of a database. Opening the app while actually in one of the museums and scanning the piece you're standing in front of with your phone will allow you to pull up a huge amount of information about it. 
Unfortunately, only three museums are currently participating in the program, but naturally this is likely to increase dramatically once word of the app gets out to curators. It would certainly be most advantageous for them to work with Google rather than developing their own unique augmented reality apps and experiences. 
The three museums that are currently participating are the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Probably the most interesting aspects of the project is the way you can sort the results of your own searches. This allows you a variety of ways to look at the progression of art history, from how cats have been represented since ancient Egypt or the relative impacts of various seminal pieces in a specific genre or movement. 
The app is available for Android and iOS, or you can visit the website itself at

Posted on September 09th 2016 on 08:09pm

Wednesday 07th September 2016Art Fairs Go Digital

The art world is always in need of a shake-up. Whenever things get too settled down, by that point a changing of the guard is already long overdue. In what you would call 'industries', this phenomenon has come to be known as 'disruption', the latest buzzword that everyone needs to have a piece of in order to secure venture capital. While artists would never admit to it, the art world is an industry as much as any other - and so it is also subject to disruption.
That's where art fairs came into play. During the '00s and early '10s, the entire art world was shaken to its core by the sudden explosion of art fair popularity. Suddenly every single city with any kind of notable artistic community had to have its own art fair. Celebrities flocked to them, and so did artists and patrons. The gallery world was in disarray, and the auction world felt the rumblings of change.
So naturally, it was only a matter of time before the art fair world in turn was ready for disruption. Enter the Digital Madrid Art Fair!
Wait, what?
Yes, you read that right. While it's not immediately clear why it needs to have a specific location associated with it, the fifth iteration of a digital art fair has just launched. Founded by Kadeem Fletcher in 2014, version 5.0 just launched on June 16 of this year. Originally started featuring exclusively computer generated images, the project was such a success that it has grown dramatically to include photography, illustration, and fashion design - while still maintaining touch with its roots in the digital art world.
Speaking to the blog The Creators Project, Fletcher explains: "I have the foundation for delivering ideas and products, and I definitely use the skills that I've learned in school to better any creative situation I am in."
It's not really related to Madrid at all, which is arguably a bit of a weak spot in the marketing side of things, but then again Madrid represents a grounded physical location that those who are on the edge of taking the digital plunge can relate to without straying too far outside their comfort zone.
While it  may be savvy marketing, is it savvy art? That really depends on what you think about the nature of art, and the nature of disruption. It could be argued that even the most basic disruption is actually an art form because it requires a deep and intrinsic understanding of something before a new reaction is created.
If that isn't true art, what is? 

Posted on September 07th 2016 on 07:44pm

Friday 02nd September 2016P.S. Art

Most artists create for the sheer joy of it. No matter what your medium of choice is, it's an impossible urge to ignore. Art for art's sake is all well and good, of course, but sometimes it's nice to get some recognition of our efforts as well, and there are few better ways of getting recognized than to have a gallery show. But the gallery show is actually a distant cousin of the real prize: getting your work into a museum.

To make that giant leap to greatness can take many artists their entire careers. Some only attain the honour posthumously, once they can no longer appreciate it - but not Cliffanie Forester. She's managed to attain this incredible dream at the tender age of 18.

Her piece titled Uganda is hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, along with 88 other selected pieces from high school students. The piece features a young Ugandan girl looking wistfully out of frame, and was painting from a photograph she took during a drop to Uganda.

Her reaction on social media was amazing and spread far and wide, as you might expect from someone so young and so talented. On Instagram, she posted:

And then later, she followed it up with:

"People think I'm stopping here bc I achieved my ultimate goal... Lol, I'm getting another piece in the MET one day & nothing will stop me."

If you've been working diligently throughout your artistic career without this kind of milestone, don't worry. Try not to be discouraged in your own work, instead look on her and her fellow winners as an inspiration! She's an amazing girl and she'll no doubt become a force to be reckoned with in the art world in a few years, along with her fellow winners. Congratulations, Cliffanie and all the P.S. Art winners!

To learn more about the P.S. Art project run by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and New York School Department, visit their website here. You can see all the entries from the students in a wide range of ages, as well as more about each of the winners.

Posted on September 02nd 2016 on 08:39pm
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