The De Soles and Ann Freedman reach settlement in forgery case

posted by – 02/11/16 @ 1:21pm

The forged Rothko at the center of the Knoedler trial.

This week saw the close of a highly publicized case involving a now defunct, well-known New York gallery and charges of fraud and racketeering in their sale of a forged Rothko. Sources like the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and ARTnews documented the three-week trial in which Domenico and Eleanore De Sole, who bought the forged painting for $8.3 million, accused former Knoedler & Co. director Ann Freedman, a woman the couple “trusted,” of consciously selling counterfeit work. It also came to light that the gallery sold more than 30 other forgeries since 1994, making many question Freedman’s claims that she had no knowledge that the paintings were fakes.

Knoedler was, according to De Sole, “the best gallery in America.” Knowing this sterling reputation, De Sole, the chairman of top auction house Sotheby’s, felt he had no reason to question the work. However, closer looks into the provenance Freedman provided for the Rothko in question soiled her – and the gallery’s – reputation. On the list of experts that Knoedler claimed authenticated the work and could vouch for its authenticity were people who are not qualified or even attempt to authenticate artwork.

The case has many art world insiders reeling. The art market relies largely on sales by big-name artists like Rothko and Pollock. How, then, did so many forgeries painted by the same man in Queens and distributed by one now-disgraced dealer go undetected? Because many art deals, especially involving multi-million dollar acquisitions, are shrouded in secrecy. No one thought much, then, of the mysterious Mr. X, the anonymous collector that was purported to be the seller. Until recently, no one questioned whether or not he even existed because, as De Sole said, Knoedler is “the best” and would not handle inauthentic work.

The case has many people looking beneath the art world’s high-culture façade to the sketchier, more dishonest aspects of the acquisition process. We are led to believe that the Rothkos and Pollocks of the world are one-of-kind, irreplaceable works. If De Sole, a man who is constantly in the presence of masterpieces and high-dollar pieces, can fall victim to the forgery trap, there’s no telling to what extent other buyers have gullibly purchased counterfeit work. The case reminds buyers that there are significant risks involved in art buying and that due diligence is necessary in order to avoid a multi-million dollar mistake.

#TheUnknowns at Sotheby’s: Using social media as a curating and collecting tool

posted by – 02/09/16 @ 1:03pm

#TheUknowns includes work by artists that Kasseem Dean and Canon, the sponsor of the event, discovered on Instagram. This is “One White Earring” by featured artist Princess Smith. Photo courtesy of the Huffington Post, James Barrett.

In the early 2000s, Kasseem Dean – better known as Swizz Beatz – produced a string of hits for some of today’s most successful hip-hop artists, including Jay Z, T.I., and Beyoncé. Thanks in part to the success of these musical artists and the exposure he received as a result, Dean started collecting artwork from some of the world’s most prominent visual artists. As Nate Freeman reports in ARTnews, Dean’s past purchases have included “the likes of Chagall, Miró, Basquiat, and Warhol.” However, while the work gracing the walls of his home may impress visitors and portray a certain high-culture status, Dean has decided to turn more towards art that he personally connects with, rather than art that experts and history tells him is valuable.

Enter Sotheby’s and their collaboration with Dean in his new project – #TheUnknowns at S|2. In an interview with ARTnews and in the show’s wall text, Dean wants to convey the artistic value of little-known artists he found on Instagram. By using social media, Dean could communicate with artists genuinely and directly. This way, he says, selecting work “didn’t…feel like the lottery” and “wasn’t over-promoted.” At this show, then, audiences will be seeing work by unfamiliar names and, in doing so, be forced to judge it based on quality and gut feeling rather than previous knowledge.

On the receiving end of Dean’s search are artists on Instagram who can essentially represent themselves and their work any way that they want to rather than jockeying for gallery representation or struggling to be featured in a show. For artists still looking for success and way to break into the art world, Instagram allows them to show their work to more people than would otherwise see it locked up in a studio. With this project, Dean is acknowledging social media as a valuable resource and breaking down the perceived barrier between unknown artists and major arts organizations that historically revert to established names and reputations.

In drawing from talent “tucked into some barely-liked corner of Instagram,” Dean aims to convince people who may not otherwise be art buyers that there is in fact an “entry point into these galleries and into these museums and into these auction houses” no matter how intimidating or high-brow they may seem. Dean admits that the show isn’t completely perfect and calls for some slight changes, but he hopes, at least, to encourage a broader audience (whether seasoned buyers or new ones just starting out) to buy work they connect with, rather than work they feel obligated to enjoy.

$1 Million gift to RxArt draws attention to benefits of art in hospitals

posted by – 02/02/16 @ 2:03pm

Artist Kenny Scharf paints a mural in the stairwell of the Pediatric and Adolescent Psychiatric Units at Kings County Hospital as a part of an RxArt project in September 2013.

This week, ARTnews and the Wall Street Journal reported on a landmark gift that the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation made to RxArt, a nonprofit organization aimed at helping children heal through exposure to visual art. The foundation donated $1 million in honor and memory of Eliza Moore, who helped create RxArt 15 years ago. According to ARTnews, this sizable gift enables the nonprofit to commission at least five major projects each year.

The gift symbolizes a mindset that many hospitals are adopting: that visual art in the hallways and rooms of recovering patients can increase recovery rates, contribute to an overall sense of peace, and serve as a welcome distraction from tiresome recovery processes. Dr. Lisa Harris of Eskenazi Health said it best in her quote to Jacoba Urist for NBC News: “If an art installation gets a patient out of his room or paintings take a person’s mind off their pain and lower their stress levels, the art isn’t just decorative anymore.” For hospital patients, art serves a purpose that it doesn’t have on a gallery wall. Instead of being a focal point on a spot lit white wall for consumption and purchase by visitors and buyers, contemporary art in hospitals serves to brighten and liven up the typically sterile, clinical hallways. Sometimes, the presence of contemporary art even becomes an educational outlet; in that capacity, it is also a distraction from the monotony of stressful health-related discussions.

Urist addresses, too, the obstacle that hospitals face in trying to develop arts programs and build an effective art collection: funding. In the article, the director of Yale University Health, Dr. Paul Genecin, reminds us that “we are in a time of great austerity” and that, in effect, “art projects seem nonessential.” With data confirming the psychological benefits art affords patients, at what point will art be considered a valid expense rather than a frivolous one?

Hopefully, the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation’s gift to RxArt will bring attention to the necessity for arts funding in hospitals. Meanwhile, it’s nice knowing that, for at least 5 locations, RxArt will be able to introduce contemporary art to boost children’s recovery and make their hospital stay a more pleasant one.

For more information on RxArt, visit their website here.

“Widespread chill” in art sales has auction houses changing their tactics

posted by – 01/31/16 @ 12:58pm

Picasso’s ‘Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)’ (1955), which broke global auction records when it sold at Christie’s last year.

Art sales have been making headlines for a few years now due to their exorbitant totals for works from big-name and newcomer artists alike. According to one estimate by Citi Private Bank, the average annual growth rate of the global art market since 2000 lies around 13%. In just two consecutive days of auctions in May 2015, Christie’s and Sotheby’s combined reported sales topping $1 billion. At Christie’s, Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O)” cost one investor a pretty penny – a record-breaking $179.9 million.

But the art market bubble does not appear to be expanding as quickly as it once was. According to the same Citi Bank report, annual growth rates are now hovering around the 9% mark. In the Wall Street Journal, writer Kelly Crow attributes slowing growth rates to “falling oil prices, volatile stock swings and China’s deepening economic woes,” among other things. When the stock market fluctuates and worries buyers, they are less likely to take risks with their investments. And like stocks, art values can vary widely and drop suddenly. Nonetheless, Kelly’s cited experts remain confident that the we will not see an art-market crash.

Auction houses, too, are paying close attention to changes in customer mindsets and purchases. For example, Sotheby’s will “focus on artists [they] know sell well,” rather than showcasing newcomers that are still foreign to buyers. More attention is being paid to guaranteed sales, making the practice of auction more “choreographed.” If that meets securing a bidder to appease the seller’s mind, many auction houses are ready to do that. While sales estimates are lower and some art values are decreasing, experts maintain a positive outlook since, historically, art has been a secure market in which investors can secure and protect their wealth.

As Edmond Francey, head of Christie’s contemporary sale this coming February, puts it: “Sometimes you need to reassure a market.” And until global markets generally stabilize, auction houses will be doing just that.

Locally-based shows introduce international talent

posted by – 01/26/16 @ 3:48pm

Made in LA 2012: Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

In her article for the New York Times about Hammer Museum’s upcoming “Made in L.A.” show, Jori Minkel emphasizes the vast geographical diversity of artists that will be showcased at the biennial exhibition. While the show aims to embrace local talent, it is hard to ignore the fact that this upcoming edition of the show draws from a multitude of areas and nationalities much different than the L.A. locale or lifestyle. From Lebanon to Australia, Brazil to Germany, and everywhere in between, this show exemplifies a growing trend in the art world: the increasing globalization of exhibitions and the art market.

According to curators Aram Moshayedi and Hamza Walker, this transition from local to global is “natural,” though unprovoked. Like many other urban centers, Los Angeles is home to increasing numbers of artists from around the world. It is no wonder, then, that these expats made their way into local shows. And these curators are okay with that. Rather than excluding good artists due to birthplace, the duo opted to showcase the best work within their reach.

Nashville, too, can relate to the sensation of an increasingly diverse population and creative demographic. Not only are musicians moving to town in hordes; galleries like Tinney Contemporary are continuing to represent and show artists that hail from all corners of the world. This increasing diversity and the increasingly important global aspect of the art world adds to budding urban centers like our own, introducing locals to global perspectives and aesthetics we may otherwise miss out on.

Does the globalization of art work to the advantage of the viewer? For the eye-opening, educational effect art can have on audiences: yes. Take José Betancourt’s work that we showed in August for example. In it, the artist draws from memories of his early life in Cuba. The experiences he illustrates and alludes to cannot be found in the U.S. at all, much less within Nashville’s city limits. Without viewing his work, Nashville audiences would perhaps not even consider political issues that lie just 90 miles south of Florida. In this way, the globalization of art, its consumption, and the ease with which we can view work from around the world is to everyone’s advantage.

 

To learn more about the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A.” show, click here.

“New Photography” in the digital age

posted by – 01/19/16 @ 3:46pm

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‘The Sun,’ pages 1-2 from volume one of Mishka Henner’s ‘Astronomical’ (2011). Photo: Mishka Henner/Bruce Silverstein Gallery.

Recently, the Museum of Modern Art in New York introduced the 25th edition of its show “New Photography” that offers up-and-coming photographers and their work invaluable exposure to both the art world and to general audiences. However, as art critic Richard B. Woodward points out in his article for the Wall Street Journal, this show represents a marked change taking place in the photography sphere. According to Woodward, “for today’s artists, computer skills are now more needed than camera know-how.” This statement may be a bit harsh but is not without merit.

Historically, photography has served as a truth-telling medium in that it records a specific moment in time that can be replicated and shared just by saving the film. In its early stages as a medium, photography documented reality as it happened and catalogued the history of the time and place in which it was taken. It limited the artist’s ability to edit the result; the image captured by a camera’s lens and printed through darkroom ritual exposed a true moment. Any edit would be obvious, obtrusive, and overtly false.

Now, photographers are not so limited to that one perfect exposure. Besides evolving photographic techniques and modern in-camera technology, artists today benefit from seemingly infinite amounts of computer software that can alter the original image beyond recognition. This software allows the most amateur photographers to alter the reality captured by their camera. With just a few clicks on Photoshop, photographers can erase their subject’s superficial imperfections, change a model’s hair color, or make a shot of a dawn sky look like one at dusk. No longer must “photographers” settle for the product of a darkroom’s manual process.

So what, then, qualifies as photography today? At a certain point, can we disqualify someone as a photographer? As Woodward insinuates, it seems that some of the skill previously required to capture a perfectly-lit, thought-provoking image in one take, without the crutch of digital tools, could soon become a rarity. Sure, software can be used to simply enhance a raw image in terms of contrast, color, and sharpness. When, though, do those edits produce falsities that photography alone could not produce? With digitally enhanced work, we may lose some of the honest and documentary aspects that traditional photography promised and that viewers valued.
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To learn more about “Ocean of Images: New Photography 2015,” click here.

The Modern Day Rain Dance

posted by – 11/04/15 @ 6:02pm

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           As the third year of California’s historic drought comes to an end, the lack of rainfall is beginning to become the rule rather than the exception in the Golden State. California will have been an official state of emergency for a whole year in January, yet to the chagrin of many residents, there do not seem to be any rain clouds on the horizon. However, in the midst of this unprecedented lack of rainfall, artists have found a way to provide Californians with the comfort of a rain shower, while also raising questions about global warming and the social responsibility of residents in the face of a dwindling water supply.

Enter the Rain Room. Originally created by London-based rAndom International, this artificial rain shower is relocating to an area where its message is particularly salient: Southern California. The exhibit is set up as a room with grated floors and ceilings, which facilitate the recyclation of water and the creation of an essentially endless rain shower. The room uses 3D sensors that track the movements of viewers and cut off the fall of water directly over their heads, allowing viewers to feel the unique sensation of traversing through a heavy rainstorm without being drenched by water.

To Californians, the message of water conservation combined with the sensation of being so close yet so far away from water has hit home in a big way. To the surprise of the show’s curators, 17,000 people have already pre-purchased tickets to view the exhibit, which many see as a harbinger of good things to come. However, given the ascetic beauty of the show combined with its message of sustainability, it is not surprising many Californians have found the exhibit appealing. In the face of the worsening drought, the reduction of daily water usage has become an integral part of life for many Californian families. The average American family consumes 400 gallons of water in a single day, and the Rain Room uses a mere 528 total gallons that are continually recycled throughout the room to produce and essentially endless rain shower. The message is clear—in the face of environmental change, a calculated and robust effort to increase the sustainability of our resources can create conditions of abundance even in the face of a changing climate. For Californians, this model is already a part of life, but it is not yet for the rest of us. The plight of California has provided us with a possible glimpse into a world in which we continue to take from the planet more than it can give, but the message of the exhibit suggests a potential solution. However, in the mean time, we can only hope that the Rain Room brings with it an end to California’s historic drought, and that by learning from the lessons of the Golden State we won’t ever need any rain dances of our own.

Art donors are increasingly giving works of art to non-profit organizations

posted by – 11/03/15 @ 4:08pm

 ‘Dandelion Seed,’ a kinetic sculpture by Bill Wainwright, was donated to the Boston Children’s Hospital by a collector. Photo: Jessica R. Finch

‘Dandelion Seed,’ a kinetic sculpture by Bill Wainwright, was donated to the Boston Children’s Hospital by a collector. Photo: Jessica R. Finch

In an interesting article posted in the Wall Street Journal two days ago, an unusual observation and subsequent discussion is brought to light. In recent times, many art collectors have decided to donate their works of art to smaller non-profit organizations such as hospitals, libraries, retirement homes, etc instead of museums. Many of the donors said that they decided to do this because if their works were donated to a museum, they would most likely be put in a large warehouse for storage, where they would get little installation exposure. This phenomenon seems like a great idea, especially when there are monetary, societal, and emotional benefits coupled with little costs associated with these decisions.

Jessica R. Finch, art program manager at Boston Children’s Hospital says, “studies have shown that artwork helps to reduce stress and boredom, reduces blood pressure and increases white-blood-cell count, all of which are factors in the healing process.”

Donors also receive significant full fair market value tax write-offs for their donations, depending on certain stipulations of course.

One cost associated with this is the insurance costs for these non-profits increasing with the acquisition of such works and the security associated with the pieces contact with mentally handicapped individuals in a retirement homes (a concern cited in the article).

Collecting art for non-profits also can have very significant benefits monetarily if the value of a piece donated to their organization increases dramatically such as a hospital’s purchase of a Milton Avery piece in the 1950’s.

While you can’t go wrong donating your works of art to a museum, there are certain social welfare benefits associated with donating to other organizations such as these non-profits that wouldn’t be realized if a piece is simply sitting in storage.

“Level of Confidence” interactive installation by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer grabs more than just your attention

posted by – 10/27/15 @ 2:32pm

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On September 26th, 2014, forty-three male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teacher’s College were kidnapped while on their way to a protest. According to many sources, buses they were taking into town were stopped by police to keep them from the area of protest. The altercation turned violent quickly, some men were killed on the spot and the rest were kidnapped and handed over to the Guerreros Unidos drug gang, who are said to have brutally murdered all forty-three students. Their bodies have yet to be found (mashable.com).

There have been many protests and much political unrest since the disappearance of these men. People are still, one year later, in anguish.

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In March of 2015, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer created a technologically integrated artistic installation which uses biological algorithms to best match the viewer of the installation with one of the forty-three victims of this crime, giving a “level of confidence” for the relative accuracy of your facial features compared to the victims. It is a very innovative installation to say the least. But it is not the innovative side for which most people commend the installation, rather it is the emotive side. Just like Charleston’s use of art to cope with the recent shooting, the viewers of this installation are meant to connect with the victims. This almost physical connection, where you see your own face next to the victims’, allows you to connect with the victims, to sympathize with them, to feel empathy for their loved ones. Connection helps people heal.

With the explosion of mass media’s influence over the way we view mass shootings here in the states, mass kidnappings in Mexico, or any other instance in the world where atrocities are committed against multiple people, it is hard not to become frustrated, confused, hardened. You get angry at the ones responsible. There has been incredible resistance to the media’s portrayal of the perpetrators, in which they give them the spotlight which sometimes was the impetus for the crime in the first place. This installation allows you to connect with the victims, not the perpetrators, which is crucial to healthy grief. An installation like this for all barbaric acts committed anywhere in the world would be a great use of resources. It could help the anger turn into healthier, more stable emotions, which could translate into greater change and more harmony within the communities affected.

Street Art Finds a Home in Atlanta

posted by – 09/30/15 @ 4:50pm

Street Art by Roa               

There are few cities in which side by side to a primarily southern, conservative population exists a vibrant culture of avant-garde, organic artistic creation. Today, the booming urban sprawl of Atlanta has provided artists with a niche to define themselves, which is limited in the traditional avant-garde meccas of NYC and LA, where the players and styles, particularly in street art, have already cemented their identities within the art world.

Street art, pioneered far away from the metropolises of the southern wild, has taken root in city once defined by conservatism and a reverence for tradition. Over the past 30 years, Atlanta has grown from a sleepy medium-sized city of 2 million to one of the largest city centers in the U.S. This demographic shift has brought with it the headwinds of the street art movement, which over the past several decades has grown to a level of national prominence, especially among millennials, as pioneers like Banksy, Shepard Fairy and others have consistently pushed artistic boundaries forward. The often politically charged and controversial works of street artists seem at first glance out of place in a generally traditional city such as Atlanta, but the relatively low cost of living and lack of established artists has created an environment of opportunity for young, ambitious artists. The result is a budding artistic movement that channels street art into confronting issues in southern communities, ranging from race issues to marriage equality. The Goat Farm, for example, is an old cotton gin turned into an artistic think tank meant to provide the city’s artists with an environment to display their work and share their ideas. This blend of southern culture and boundary-pushing art is truly unique and beginning to define a new artistic paradigm in Atlanta.

Hearing this story, it is hard not to notice parallels and more importantly the opportunities between Atlanta and Nashville. The thriving presence of musicians in Nashville is strikingly similar to Atlanta’s well established hip-hop scene, and provides an artistic foundation that could easily be augmented by the addition of forward-thinking, visual artists. Not to mention, our skyline is littered with the silhouettes of cranes as high-rise apartment buildings pop up across the city, and droves of millennials move here due to the affordability and opportunities that Nashville provides. An optimist would bet that Nashville has positioned itself well to receive an influx of artistic variety as our population booms over the next decade. Let us hope that the growth and artistic diversity that has transformed Atlanta will find its way into our city as well.