The Online Otto Dix Project

A German Artist and Print Maker

Haring Miami, Now With Free Admission

Free as a bird, now

Haring Miami dropped its admission price this weekend. The exhibition opened Wednesday and featured 175 works by the Pennsylvania artist. Tickets were originally $25.00 through online sales or $30.00 at the door. By Saturday, prices had plunged. Admission fell from $30.00 to free.

To what do we owe this act of benevolence?

There were major authenticity concerns from the Keith Haring Foundation. The group filed an injunction in Miami district court to remove 165 works it feels were improperly attributed to the artist. The suit contained a deadline for action by Friday at 7:00pm. But the deadline passed without a court order and the exhibition continued as planned.

Things changed on Saturday. Judge Marcia G. Cooke ruled in favor of the Haring Foundation. She ordered the removal of 165 questionable works. She also ordered the destruction of all catalogs and brochures for the show. With only ten pieces remaining on its walls, the Design District dropped its prices from $30.00 to free.

The Artist Known As 43

Portrait of the Artist As A Naked PresidentBack in the Naughts, I documented my outrage with the Iraq War on Blog Day Afternoon. For five straight years I threw snarky spitballs at the Bush Administration from the back of the proverbial room. So when the former President’s secret paintings were revealed this week, several BDA readers wanted to know what I thought of them. My response was probably disappointing: I don’t hate them.

There’s rumors on the Internets that an intruder known as Guccifer infiltrated an online email account that belonged to W.’s sister. Basically he guessed her password. Once inside he found a trove of pictures and personal correspondence. Guccifer was nice enough to share three of particular interest to this blog: Paintings by George W. Bush.

Given that Dubya destroyed three businesses, launched an unprovoked invasion and fiddled while New Orleans drowned, these might be his finest accomplishments. They’re a little touching if somewhat naive.

By his own description, the former leader was a “War President” who famously touched down on a aircraft carrier and paraded the deck in a military flight suit. He was The Decider, a heroic description somewhat at odds with his fumbling grasp of language and his penchant for accidents. As the spotlight receded into the Dallas suburbs, the former Commander-in-Chief appears to have taken another attempt to reshapen his image. This time he is depicted in a much more vulnerable position: Alone and naked in the shower.

So, no, I don’t hate these paintings by George W. Bush. Perhaps if he was raised by parents with less aspiration for power, he could have pursued the arts rather than the wars that defined his ill-fated presidency. But it’s hard to imagine Poppy with tolerance for that sort of thing. For him art is a hedge against inflation. It’s unfortunate. The country would have been better served by this somewhat surprising twist in its narrative.


How Much Is A Work Of Art Worth?

The ScreamThe New York Times published an interesting article about the contemporary art market. Although buyers increasingly treat art as an investment, the market is characterized by opaque transactions with little outside oversight. The industry is designed to separare customers from their money.

The article highlights several notions which make the market an inefficient investment vehicle. Collectors face pricing opacity and deliberate attempts to obfuscate value. At the same time, the art market faces little regulatory enforcement.

1. First bids are generally fictional numbers pulled from the auctioneer’s ass.

2. Collectors often bid against collaborators who’ve agreed to pay a minimum price in exchange for profits from a final bid that exceeds it.

3. Galleries — in New York anyway — stone-cold ignore a 42-year-old law that requires them to post prices.

The Times, being the Times, focused its attention on wealthy collectors while its final point applies to most buyers. The majority of art is sold in galleries without posted pricing. Without this tool, it’s very difficult to assess the value of a artist in the gallery market.

Art prices are driven by public taste, not intrinsic value. Since tastes shift with time, value is a moving target. This makes it difficult to gain returns on investments. Market opacity makes it nearly impossible.

Art is a bad investment. It’s nearly impossible to assess the risk of a particular piece but even those who collect for pleasure want some assurance of price integrity. The only way to provide that is with greater transparency. Unfotunately, the Times article doesn’t paint a rosy picture.

Antonio Frasconi, Master of the Woodcut, Dies at 93

 Antonio FrasconiIn Church his mother would talk about the surrounding art as though it was commissioned by God. If her son was born with The Gift then he would certainly be famous. She encouraged his talent. Famous people didn’t toil in  restaurants like she did.

By age twelve, he learned to make prints at a local art school but he soon denounced formal art education. It was impossible for the average student to learn the pertinent questions let alone the proper answers, he thought.

He earned money from political caricature while he maintained a secret admiration for Doré and Goya. An exhibition of Gauguin’s woodcuts changed his perspective. A similar effect was struck by American Jazz. That quintessential style provided the sound track by which he worked under the aesthetic guidance of the modern French master.

Antonio Frasconi was born in Buenos Aires and drawn north by American Culture. The Second World War had ended and much of the earth was in ruin. America, by contrast, seemed vibrant. Her music was alive and her authors received international accolades.

He arrived with a one-year scholarship and by 1946, he had his first show at the Brooklyn Museum. Frasconi eschewed art that dwelt on aesthetics. For him the motif was more important. His work advocated social justice while it denounced racism, poverty and war.

In 1953, Time Magazine referred to him as “America’s foremost practitioner of the ancient art of the woodcut.” Forty years later, he was described as the best.

Read More [NY Times | Philip Nel | MoMA]

Gray Skies At Morning, Ai Weiwei Takes Warning


Ai Weiwei posted this picture of himself in a gas mask on his Twitter feed….
© Ai Weiwei/Instagram

Particulate matter is a term for solids in the atmosphere. The smaller the particle, the more lethal it is to humans. The smallest of these particles are classified PM2.5 because they are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. They are dangerous because they can lodge deep inside lung your tissue.

In the United States, the EPA mandates no more than an average of 15 micrograms per million over a period of three years. According to the World Health Organization, safe daily levels are those with measurements under 25 micrograms per square meter.

What does this have to do with art?

The man on the left is the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Yesterday he posted a picture of himself in a gas mask with a fog grey sky behind him. It was succinct commentary on conditions in Beijing. Remember, WHO considers 25 micrograms per square meter safe. Now consider this: Last weekend, Beijing’s atmospheric pollution shattered all records. The official measurement was 600 micrograms per square meter.  According to Reuters it was much worse — 900 micrograms.

If a society can’t provide a habitable environment, then it fails at the most basic level. When conditions become inhospitable, it falls on the people to change them. This applies even in totalitarian societies. Caution be damned if the atmosphere is killing you. Yet now we find the usually defiant Weiwei in a display of reserved acceptance. He’s not trying to change conditions; he’s just blocking them out.

Should he wear the bottoms of his trousers rolled?

Käthe Kollwitz In Brooklyn

kaetheAs Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Franz Marc hit new highs at auction and as the Neue Gallerie is about to open German Expressionism, the Brooklyn Museum catches the curl with its own exhibition of a German Exressionist.

Käthe Kollwitz: Prints from the “War” and “Death” is set to open March 15, 2013. The exhibition will feature prints that emphasize the impact of war. It includes many favorites from the War and Death cycle along with 13 rarely scene prints.

Kollwitz chronicles the human toll inflicted by armed conflict. We feel the pain and suffering, the pangs of hunger and the devastation of families torn apart. The emotional element of her work was heightened by personal loss. Her son Peter was killed in the opening months of the First World War.

The exhibition will be displayed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art on the 4th Floor of the Brooklyn Museum. It runs until September 15th.


A Trove Of Modern Posters Goes On Sale At Auction


The Hans Sachs Poster Collection for sale by Guernsey’s Auctioneers and Brokers January 18 – 20

In 1891, Henri Toulouse-Latrec produced La Goulue au Moulin Rouge. It soon became the definitive work of the poster revolution. Latrec employed a color palette that was commonly used by 19th Century lithographers yet his work was decidedly more brilliant, his colors more vibrant. When he saw it, Andre Mellerio exclaimed, “This is no longer just a poster, yet it is not a print. It is a work of hybrid pungency deriving the two. It is a modern poster.”

The following year, Latrec produced five other major works of poster art. His production was complimented by artists such as Eugène Grasset, Henri Ibels and Hermann-Paul. The poster revolution was in full swing. Along with their cohorts, these artists filled the streets of Paris with bright color and elegant design. Their posters helped capture the imagination of many young people. And Hans Sachs was one of them.

As the 1890s progressed, the poster revolution spread across the continent. In Germany, a young dental student was smitten by their design. Beginning in that decade Hans Sachs began to collect promotional posters. With a keen eye for design he began to amass one of the finest collections of poster art the world has ever known. After graduation, he had more money to devote to his hobby. He soon published a magazine devoted to Poster collection. The magazine enjoyed a large international following and his collection continued to grow.

In almost every story set in Germany in the early the 20th Century the Nazis come along and ruin things. This is no exception. During a night of gratuitous violence known as Kristalnacht, Hans Sachs was arrested on charges that he was born to Jewish parents. For this offense, he was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp and his poster collection was seized by the Gestapo. Sach’s wife was able to post bribe and secure his release. The couple fled to the United States.

Fast forward to 2005. Sachs’ son Peter was a retired airline pilot with a little time on his hands. The lull enabled him to ponder that age old question, “What ever happened to my father’s poster collection?”

As it happens much of it survived the Second World War. Many of Hans Sachs’ posters were stored in the basement of the German Historical Museum in what was once East Berlin. With the help of a team of lawyers with restitution experience, Peter Sachs was ultimately able to regain ownership after a lengthy trip through the German court system.

If the legal battle wasn’t challenging enough, the posters arrived in New York on the night of Hurricane Sandy. A dutiful shipping company was able to get them out of a JFK Airport warehouse as the waters were rising.  They were able to get them safely to Guernsey’s Auction House in Manhattan where they will go on sale on January 18th. Those unable to attend the auction may view the catalog and submit bids at Live Auctioneers.

Read More: [Guernsey’s: The Hans Sachs Poster Collection | Live Auctioneers]


An Exhibition of Anti-Gun Violence Art

flynnConsidering Harm opens at A Seed on Diamond Gallery today at 1:00 pm. It is an exhibition of 29 mixed media prints by the artist Pamela Flynn. The series was designed to heighten gun violence awareness. And while its opening corresponds with contemporary events, the work actually began two years ago.

This series of prints was inspired by a specific event.  On August 30, 2011 Tameka Johnson was struck by a stray bullet as she slept with her infant child in a second floor apartment. Tameka died of her wound. She was twenty-two.

The pieces were designed to be confrontational. In one example, you stare down the barrel of a gun into a playground. Violence shatters youthful innocence. Another features a series of Roman numbers, notches that tally nameless victims. Each piece documents a particular incidence of gun violence with a caption that describes the event.

Pamela Flynn will donate proceeds from the sale to CeaseFirePa.

Read More: [Considering Harm | CBS Philadelphia]

German Expressionism 1900-1930

Young Woman With A Red FanWe love the Neue Gallerie.  And it’s not because we helped finance its collection, the Neue’s exhibitions are always well-curated and deeply satisfying. Last fall, the Upper East Side gallery dedicated two full floors to Ferdinand Hodler. It was the largest New York exhibition of the renowned Swiss artist to date.

Hodler is well-known for his symbolist work but the Swiss painter  adapted an expressionist aesthetic late in his career. It is for this reason that he provides a nice segue into the Neue’s winter exhibitions.

Opening February 7th, the gallery will present  German Expressionism 1900-1930: Masterpieces from the Neue Galerie Collection.  According to the New York Times,  it will include many of the Neue’s greatest hits, like Hermann Max Pechstein’s “Young Woman With a Red Fan” (shown here on the left) and Kirchner’s “Tightrope Walk.” Neue goers can expect to see works by artists such as Lovis Corinth and Gabriele Münter, that have never been shown at the museum before.

On the same day, the gallery will open a second exhibition: German and Austrian Decorative Arts from Jugendstil to the Bauhaus. It will feature art from the collection of Harry C. Sigman, a wealthy Los Angeles lawyer who was drawn to the gallery because, as he told the Times, it “is one of the only museums in America that is specialized both by geography and by time.”

Ronald Lauder is the owner of the Neue Gallerie. Sigman met him just once before he decided to donate more than 100 works to the gallery. Sigman said it just felt like a perfect place to house those items. We agree.