The Online Otto Dix Project

A German Artist and Print Maker

The Beast Jesus Painter Returns

Las Bodegas de BorjaShe’s baaah-ack!ecce-sm

Remember Cecilia Giménez? She helpfully tried to restore a faded art fresco … and then she butchered it. As a result, her work became an Internets meme … then it became a media circus.

“I never would have attempted it if I knew it would lead to this,” Giménez told the Telegraph. “I started it, then I went on holiday and by the time I returned, well … you know what happened.”

A little lament won’t stop Our Lady of the Shaky Hand’s return to the Internets. She donated the painting above to the Roman Catholic charity Caritas. It was entitled Las Bodegas de Borja and featured a scene from Cecilia’s home town.

The charity sold it on eBay. The minimum opening bid was $390.00. Its provenance certainly helped move the needle. The work is attributed to Cecilia Giménez, the restorer of Ecce Homo, aka the Painter of the Beast Jesus. The charity didn’t just sell a painting, it sold an Internets meme. Las Bodegas de Borja eventually went for $1423.98.

Earlier:  [Behold, the Beast Jesus! | Beast Jesus is an Internet meme]


Was Renoir A Modernist?

Portrait of Mme Marie Murer

“Portrait of Mademoiselle Marie Murer” (1877), acquired in 1924. The book documents the provenance of this and every Renoir in the Barnes collection.

Edward Sozanski reviews Renoir in the Barnes Collectiona book by Martha Lucy, a former Barnes Foundation curator and John House, a leading Renoir scholar who died last February.

The Barnes Foundation was a educational institute established by its namesake in 1922. Albert C. Barnes amassed a fortune from the development of the antiseptic drug Argyrol which was a reasonable treatment for gonorrhea. His earnings helped fuel an obsession with Turn-of-the-Century French art.

During his lifetime, Albert Barnes  amassed hundreds of pieces of ImpressionistPost-Impressionist and Modernist art as well as furniture, artifacts, and highly crafted objects. Barnes created a somewhat eclectic collection yet it is concise in one regard: it is characterized by an obsession with Renoir.  The Barnes Foundation houses 178 pieces by the French master.

Because Renoir is distributed throughout the Barnes’ galleries, it’s difficult to appreciate the founder’s devotion to the master. The Lucy/House book documents all these works and provides them with the prominence they deserve. Renoir in the Barnes Collection also delves into the collector’s somewhat controversial claim that Renoir was a modernist.

As Sozanski points out, this characterization of a painter of voluptuous nudes in Arcadian settings may strike many as incongruous. It’s not easy to imagine Renoir dabbling in modernism then talking shop afterward with Henri Matisse.  Yet Barnes’ claim persists. The exhibition Renoir in the 20th Century was curated in support of the notion.  Martha Lucy agrees.

“Part of what I try to do is overturn the idea that Renoir doesn’t fit into the collection. Renoir was a modernist for his time and for artists who came after him,” she writes in the book. “Barnes wanted to show that modern art is not a rejection of tradition.  Renoir helped him make a pedagogical point.”

Near the end of his life, Renoir did break with his own tradition. He added what Claudia Einecke refers to as “modernist flair.” His subjects were removed from fashionable bourgeois settings and placed against contrasting neutral backgrounds. Several wore costumes that were distinct from their roles in daily life.

Modernist? If we paint the term with a very large brush then we can include 20th Century Renoir with the modernists. Yet the “flair” we find in Renoir at this time was already in committed to canvas by others. He was to modernism what Rod Stewart was to disco. The White Pierrot, which Renoir in the 20th Century cites as an example of “disorienting alienation” was his version of Do You Think I’m Sexy?  Renoir was jumping someone else’s train, a notion that Ezra Pound would have probably found unbecoming.

My Art For An Enema!

Sigmund Freud: What's On a Man's Mind Art Poster Print

I know what guys want…

Well here’s something: A man from Queens, NY took out an ad on Craig’s List. Exciting! What’s it say? It says he’s willing to trade a “rare 1950s poster” for a two hour massage and enema.

If you rub his body for two hours then shove a hose up his ass and flush his colon with water he’ll give you the poster on the right.

Is it authentic? Based on the ad, it’s hard to tell.  This poster has had a long production run. It’s still printed today. If it is an early copy, then what’s the poster worth? Here’s an early version that I found on eBay. The current bid is US $129.99. Let’s hope the Craig’s List bidder is doing it for the love of enemas and not the value of the art….



Art Fraud and the Unsuspecting Buyer

Art thiefAlong with the rise of online auctions and sales, the art world has seen an increase in fraud. This type of crime generally manifests in two different ways: reproductions that sell as originals or fabrications that are attributed to well-known artists.

The New York Times just published an article on this type of fraud. They illustrated the scenario with a “Picasso” that sold for $450.00 on eBay. Would you buy such a thing? Should you? I suppose it depends. If you want to believe there’s a chance you snagged a Picasso for $450.00 dollars and the item that you framed represents a hope and a dream, then why not? In this sense, it’s not much different from a lottery ticket. Your numbers won’t come in and the item you bought is not a Picasso. But, hey, I guess you never know.

For better results, you should develop a plan before you buy. This will help you create a more worthy endeavor and make you less susceptible to holy-shit-there’s-a-Rembrandt-for-300-dollars-on-eBay!!1!!  Apart from fraud protection, there’s another upside to this type of strategy: a collection is more valuable and interesting than a random assortment of art.

The first step is to decide what to collect. This well help narrow your focus and make it easier to develop expertise. While it’s a daunting task to master 19th Century French poster making, it’s much simpler to digest that niche than the entire history of human art.

The next step is to tread lightly into the art world. Talk to dealers and collectors. Submerge yourself in forums and discussion groups. At this point, you want to learn how to evaluate, select and interact with dealers. You want to learn how to handle yourself and establish a good relationship. Trust me on this. A good relationship with a trustworthy dealer is priceless. As your relationship blossoms, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of exclusive offers which are consistent with the strategy you developed in step one.

Next you want to research the art itself. Learn how to evaluate its provenance and its condition. Make sure you look at many examples of the artist’s work. Once you’re very familiar with an artist, it becomes much easier to spot a fake. If the style doesn’t feel right that should give you reason for pause. Some artists go through many metamorphic changes over the course of a career. Hermann-Paul is a great example. But I won’t buy these outliers without good provenance or the support of a reputable dealer.

There are no guarantees but if you follow these steps you should be ready to buy. Happy collecting.


[NYT: A Picasso online for $450? It’s a steal – via The Age to save you a click]

Our Lady Of The Shaky Hand

The Last Supper of the Internets

Cecilia Giménez, the octogenarian art restorer from Spain has become an Internets meme. When her church received a water damaged fresco, the elderly Spanish parishioner picked up paint and a brush and attempted to restore the work. Comedic hijinks ensued.  Local authorities threatened legal action while they insisted their number one priority was restoration.

Giménez’s cartoonish rendition of Christ has invaded popular culture. The Internets are collecting a series of Giménez restorations such as the one depicted above. Ironic art aficionados have even launched a petition to save her work from restoration.

Art Theft: Old World vs. New World Edition

The abominable snow artistA few years ago, Vienna provided the art world with Robert Mang, a thief of sophistication with an eye for refined women and an affection for Renaissance art. At four in the morning, he prowled through the halls of Vienna Museum of Art. He could have left with anything. He selected a Benvenuto Cellini.

Ransom notes were exchanged. And police followed an elaborate paper trail but it was pictures from a surveillance camera in his mobile phone that led to his downfall. Mang was arrested three years after the theft. He was tried and sentenced to four years in a Viennese court. When his picture made the local papers, he was suddenly popular among Viennese women who were susceptible to the allure of a handsome bad boy.

Here in the US, thieves broke into an abandoned California shop in search of copper wire. This type of theft is so prevalant in that state, whole neighborhoods are reported black for lack of copper wire. Inside the shop, our intrepid thieves stumbled upon a large trove of Kinkade kitch. They made off with at least forty works with a reported value of $300,000.00.

Sell fast, my pretties. The market value on that shit comes with a shelf life comparable to a fruit fly with the Ebola virus. Kinkade was the Robert Wood of the Mega Church set.

Your Author Shrugs At A Lost Martinez

Ecce Homo DIY Art Restoration

About a month ago, a church in Borja, Spain received a donation from the granddaughter of Elías García Martínez, a 19th Century Spanish artist who toiled at the tail end of an uninspiring academic tradition. It was the only known example of the artist’s work in town – a factoid that would help fuel this story’s over reaction.

The painting can be seen in the triptych above. On the left, we can see how it looked two years ago. It shows the onset of water damage. In the middle frame, we see how it looked when it was donated by the artist’s granddaughter. The paint was peeling fast. Finally in the third frame we see … WTF?

The third frame shows how the painting looks today – like an early hominid with constipation. What happened? An elderly neighbor was displeased with the painting’s condition. She took it upon herself to restore the work. It was quite an undertaking for someone with absolutely no training. Her restoration soon became too big for her; one thing led to another and, well, you can see the result.

She meant well.

A quirky story in the Information Age doesn’t stay local for long. This one was picked up by blogs and mainstream media outlets. Zee News, The National Post and The Telegraph referred to the damaged work as a “masterpiece.” Countless others used language that inferred it as such.

Certainly, this must be a disappointment for the church but the art world didn’t lose a special painting. Quick – how many of you heard of Martínez before this incident? It’s an interesting story but let’s not get carried away. Losing this Martínez is like losing a Warner Sallman.

UPDATE: The restorer’s name is Cecilia Giménez. On Spanish television, she claimed that a priest had advanced knowledge of her effort.  Borja “authorities” are considering legal action but they insist their priority is restoration. Yes, please! Somebody restore that 19th Century piece of shit to its original form so the public can see where the decorative salt-n-pepper shaker market derives its inspiration.

Romney And The Arts

Mitt Romney sat down for a lengthy interview with Fortune. In that interview he offered some insight into his position on arts funding. It’s not encouraging.

In order to reach his goal of a 20% GDP cap on spending, he offered the following budgetary cuts: “the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities.”

This year, the federal government will spend around $2 billion dollars on those programs. Romney’s budgetary goal is a 3.3 trillion dollar spending reduction. With the elimination of those programs, he finds himself with only 3.298 trillion dollars to go.

Down in Virginia, there’s a Federal agency that consumes considerably more dollars than the ones he mentioned. The Pentagon’s base budget is around $500 billion dollars. Its precious wars add another $100 billion dollars.

If Romney eliminated military programs, he’d achieve 18% of his spending goal with a single stroke of the pen. Yet he appears fixated on programs that will get him only 0.0006% closer to the desired goal.

So why is does he want to axe Amtrak, PBS and the NEA? Liberals love those programs and conservatives hate them. In other words: politics as usual.

The Google Doodles

Google Calder Tribute

Unless you’re the most passionate Microsoft bigot who travels only with Bing, you’ve seen the Google Doodles.

In honor of milestone anniversaries, cultural events and extraordinary people, Google incorporates referential design elements into its front page logo. The doodle on the left appeared on July 22, 2011 in honor of Alexander Calder’s 113th birthday. It responded to a mouse drag by moving like a mobile.

On a typical day, these doodles can be seen by hundreds of millions of people. That makes them among the most viewed works of art in the world. For comparison, Musée du Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, receives about 15,000 visitors per day.

Did you ever wonder who was behind the Google doodles? If you have, then you’re in luck. The BBC provides a nice glimpse into the Google team of doodlers.


Tastes Like Hate

After its president made controversial statements about gay marriage, long lines formed in support of the Chick-Fil-A fast food chain. When he saw the spectacle on television, one thing occured to a California artist. Manny Castro said, “I thought of the photographs from 40 years ago of Christians protesting blacks marrying whites.” On Facebook, he posted, “Replace ‘black’ with ‘gay’ and here we are today.”

If anti-gay crowd would show its support for Chick-Fil-A, then Castro would display his contempt. The California artist painted a mural on a franchise in Torrance. Using design elements from the food chain, he painted “Tastes Like Hate” along with a depiction of the company’s cow.

He calls his graffiti “not that much of a crime” but rather “a protest.” It was, he notes, removed within an hour. As of late yesterday, police still haven’t arrested the artist. “Our investigators are still working the information that they have,” Torrance police Sgt. Steve Jenkinson told the Los Angeles Times.

UPDATE: Manny Castro was arrested for vandalism two days after this story was published. He was released after posting $20,000.00 dollars bail.