The Online Otto Dix Project

A German Artist and Print Maker

Ferdinand Hodler At The Neue Galerie

From September 20th to January 7th, the Neue Galerie will present “Ferdinand Hodler: View to Infinity.” This will be the largest New York exhibition to date of the renowned Swiss artist.

The exhibition will be curated by Jill Lloyd, an independent writer and curator who has worked with the Neue Galerie on numerous occasions. She assembled one of its more renowned exhibitions, “Van Gogh and Expressionism” back in 2007.

The Hodler exhibition will feature sixty-five paintings and twenty drawings from public and private collections. To round out its aesthetic appeal, Lloyd includes furniture by Josef Hoffmann that was designed for the Hodler apartment.

The display will provide examples of all major periods of his career and includes his most memorable series. In 1912, Hodler painted his lover, Valentine Godé-Darel, as a young and vibrant girl. A couple years later, after the birth of their child, she was diagnosed with gynecologic cancer. A series of paintings allow the viewer to follow her decline from vibrant youth to an agonizing death in 1915.

To help the viewer connect with the artist, the curators included forty-five photographs of Hodler which were taken by Gertrud Dübi-Müller. An illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition.


Here’s some potentially bad news if you own a Caravaggio.

Chances are you acquired it when the Baroque master’s entire body of work numbered about 90 pieces. In 2010, his catalog expanded by slightly more than 1% when an unknown painting was discovered in the possession of Jesuits in Rome. Two years earlier, The Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew was added after curators for Queen Elizabeth II had it authenticated.

These discoveries pale in comparison to a recent find from a castle in Milan. After working for two years in secrecy, historians from the Brescia Museum Foundation claim to have unearthed 100 paintings and sketches by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.

Since the announcement came without warning, it created a storm in the art world. On Friday, the researchers published their findings on eBooks at Amazon. The announcement was met with immediate skepticism.

“I will wait to consult the complete research, but the drawings I’ve seen so far do not seem to me attributable to Caravaggio,” said Francesca Cappelletti told Reuters. Cappelletti  is an expert on the Lombardy master who was never consulted by the Brescia researchers.

“We must be very prudent,” said Cristina Terzaghi, the author of a book on Caravaggio. “These sketches were well known. I had myself seen them. Their research must be carefully studied and verified by the scientific community.”

Even the owners were skeptical.

The works were housed in a castle collection owned by the city of Milan. “The drawings have always been there, and have never yet been attributed to Caravaggio,” said Elena Conenna, the council’s spokeswoman for culture. “We’ll be very happy to discover it’s true. But it’s strange. They weren’t in a hidden place, they were accessible to all.”

If the Brescia team is correct, if the works are by Caravaggio, the entire collection could be worth more than 860 million dollars. Since it’s no longer as rare, your Caravaggio will probably be worth a little less….

Mark Lugo Redux

Adam Lindemann is a New York writer and art collector. Earlier this year, he opened a gallery named Venus Over Manhattan on New York’s Upper East Side. Lindemann selected a space that used to house the Vera Wang Bridal Boutique. His debut exhibition was inspired by the story of an aristocratic, naval-gazing esthete. The debut featured no works from his own contemporary blue chip collection. That was fortunate for Lindemann, a polo-playing socialite that ARTNews once described as cocky.

Yesterday a short white male strolled into the gallery which still displays its debut exhibition. He wore an untucked black-and-white checkered shirt and dark denim jeans. The little man was carrying a large shopping bag.

Along the back wall, he was approached by a lone gallery rent-a-cop who told the NY Post he was “keeping an eye” on the suspicious patron. The man asked the guard if he could take a picture of Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio, a mid-Century work by Salvador Dali. That’s fine, he was told, as long as he didn’t use a flash.

The gallery security officer was then distracted by another visitor.

It seems the short little man used that moment to make a very big move. He pulled the Dali off the wall and put it in his shopping bag. Security cameras captured him as he left the gallery. When the rent-a-cop returned to the scene of that earlier exchange, he discovered an empty space where the Dali used to be.

Insurance adjusters told police the work is valued at around $150,000.00.

[NY Gallerist | NY Daily News]

UPDATE: The painting was returned via a trackable shipment

Counsel For A Runaway

A retired Massachusetts state trooper who was featured in a prominent Norman Rockwell illustration has died according to the Associated Press. He was 83 years old.

Norman Rockwell created over 4000 original works in his lifetime, a fraction of which can be considered icons of Americana. One of those works is The Runaway, a 1958 illustration for the Saturday Evening Post.

The illustration features a young boy on a diner stool with a runaway knapsack on the ground beneath him. A state trooper leans over from an ajacent stool and counsels the wayward lad. The trooper was Staff Sgt. Richard Clemens Jr., Rockwell’s neighbor in real life. The pair lived in the Berkshires at the time.

The artist asked Clemens to pose with the boy, Ed Locke, in a local Howard Johnson’s diner. Rockwell produced the illustration from photographs taken on location.

In 2008, Clemens and Locke were reunited to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the work. Locke, who was eight at the time of the illustration, is unable to recall most of the details from that day but one thing remains clear in his memory: Clemens let him wail the police siren.

While Clemens had a copy of The Runaway in his house, it was not his favorite Rockwell.

“One of those I like best is ‘Freedom From Want,’ where everybody is sitting around having dinner and mother is bringing in a turkey and putting it down,” he told the Albany Times Union. “If you look closely, everybody sitting at the table has a glass in front of them. And every glass has water and in the water there’s ice. That’s the kind of detail he could paint.”

[Albany Times Union]

A Children’s Collection of Thomas Kinkade Commentary

The autopsy report for Thomas Kinkade was released yesterday. According to the Santa Clara County medical examiner, he died of an accidental overdose of Valium and alcohol. The reaction to the news mixed with empathy and snark. His supporters lamented his inner demons while his detractors amused themselves at his expense.

The following is a Children’s Collection of Snarky Kinkade Comments that were harvested from these fine Internets:

he should have prayed harder

That cozy log cabin, with fragrant smoke lightly filling the winter
air from the chimney, in a snowy forest…may you haters burn in that
cabin, as its goes up in a flash fire, from Thomas’ accidentally
spilled bourbon as he staggered to the back door to relieve himself in
the snow.

His work was an important representation of unimportant art.

American and Proud
I heard [h]is art was paint by numbers. He did a nice job.

> Artists seem to always struggle with depression and substance
> abuse. I guess even Christians ones do too.

So how does that explain Kinkaide’s problem?

Finally, Kinkade turned the numbing effect of his production-line
paintings on himself. If you take a stiff drink his cuddly balderdash
might look like art. Better make it two.

Darr Sandberg
> Kinkade absolutely captured that like no other artist could

You owe it to yourself to see more figurative art. Seriously

I refer to it as the KMart Blue Light Special of painting


Death Of A Kitsch Master

Thomas Kinkade died of “natural causes” this weekend. The self proclaimed “painter of light” left behind a wife, kids and a sizeable fortune. He made his money the old fashioned way: with huge reproduction runs. He was the Robert Wood of moral set.

Morley Safer has taken heat for his hit pieces on contemporary art. Safer questioned whether or not cutting edge works qualified as art. While his assessment of Jeff Koons may have missed, his summation of Thomas Kinkade landed squarely: “If you like six sugars in your coffee, these are the paintings for you.” Complexity is an acquired taste which can be stunted with large doses of sugar.

While Koons enjoyed incredible success at the high end of the art market, Kinkade built a fortune at thousand dollar clips. It is estimated that 1 in 20 American homes contains at least one of his works. Millions more owned Kinkade trinkets like puzzles and coffee cups that have since acquired a sugary patina.

Every artist has a unique vocabulary that characterizes his work. Kinkade’s was extremely narrow. It would be easy to identify his work without a signature if not for the fact that it might be confused with a Hallmark card.

That narrow skill set appealed to a large audience. Kinkade connected with people who liked shiny objects. They bought his work on the misguided notion that it contained value. On the outside chance they you’re reading this and you own Kinkade: sell it now. Dying was the best thing he could do for those who own his work. The window is small because the Kinkade phenomena will soon follow the artist to his grave. Kitsch is kitsch, people. And it’s not worth much.

The Case Review of Ai Weiwei

Did Chinese authorities have a change of heart?

On April 3rd, 2011 the Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport. Before he was able to board a flight to Hong Kong he was surrounded and arrested by a large contingent of police. Ai, always a bit subversive, drew their attention with a call for a Chinese Spring. Given the results of Arab Spring, his protest rhetoric didn’t sit well with Chinese authorities.

After his arrest, a much larger police squadron searched his Beijing studio for evidence to support his incarceration. They removed laptops and hard drives but not much more than that. Authorities had to be disappointed when they couldn’t find evidence to support the crime they were sure Ai Weiwei had committed. So they took a page out of Eliot Ness’s playbook: they charged him with tax evasion.

Ai Weiwei spent a brutal two and one-half months in police custody before he was released. During that time, a guard was never more than 30 inches away. As Ai showered, shit and shaved, a guard sat right beside him. It was, Ai said, a form of mental torture.

Today Chinese officials announced they would review Ai Weiwei’s multi-million dollar fine for tax evasion. In order to secure his June 22nd release, Ai agreed to pay 2.4 million dollars in back taxes and fines for evasion. Punishment for tax evasion is rare in China. The penalty was widely regarded as punishment for subversion.

The penalty prompted thousands of his supporters to make small donations to help pay the fine. People folded bills in airplanes and flung them over his gate. Some wrapped them around fruit and did the same. To stay on the right side of authorities, Ai said he would treat those donations as loans that he planned to repay.

Chinese authorities say the review will take about two months. Ai said he hoped it would be done earnestly and transparently. “How they handle this relates to issues of China’s rule of law and the safety of its people,” Ai said. “It has very broad implications. If they can’t resolve this issue very fairly and carefully, it will be bring harm to this society’s justice system.”

His Own Master

The arts are generally not a good pursuit for impatient individuals. With few exceptions, it generally takes years of toil and persistence to gain recognition. Van Gogh famously worked in virtual anonymity until his paintings broke sales records after his death. It’s hard to convince girls your dish washing gig is only temporary. “Once I’m discovered, I’ll pay my share of rent!”

Andrzej Sobiepan is a young Polish artist with either no patience or a very persistent girlfriend. He couldn’t stand the thought of toiling in obscurity.  “I decided that I will not wait 30 or 40 years for my works to appear” in a museum. Rather than bother curators with the laborious task of hanging his art, Sobiepan hung it for them. He walked into the Wroclaw National Museum and hung one of his paintings.

Sobiepan carefully chose a spot in the contemporary room for his small painting of a drooping leaf. He placed it after the guard wandered into another room. The painting remained undetected for three days. Once it was discovered, the museum director labeled it a “witty artistic happening.” The museum moved it near the gift shop. Since its discovery, the work had generated a good deal of buzz. It will be auctioned for charity.

Sobiepan accomplished his mission – his name is now recognized by the Polish art establishment. And what a name it is. According to Monika Scislowska, an AP reporter, “Sobiepan” translates to “his own master.” Unfortunately, “His Own Master” is a follower, not an innovator. The British artist Banksy pulled this stunt back in 2005 when he hung several of his own works in various New York galleries.

Cardinal Sin

If you’ve seen the excellent documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop then you’re familiar with a UK street artist known as Banksy. He is noted for enhancing streets, walls and bridges with stencilled dark humor. Since the early 1990s, Banksy has been at odds with the UK government. One man’s art is his government’s graffiti.

With a piece on display at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, has Banksy finally gone establishment? The work is included in an exhibition of 17th Century old masters. The artist used this opportunity to make a religious statement.

The work is called “Cardinal Sin.” It’s a reproduction of an 18th C. stone bust. Banksy sawed its face off and replaced its features with a series of small, multi-colored bathroom tiles. The effect is similar to the pixelized view many UK papers use to depict accused child molesters. With the use of a 18th C. bust, Banksy suggests the scandal pre-dates those from the reign of John Paul II by a couple centuries.

The statue is on loan indefinitely. Its debut was accompanied by a statement from the artist:

“I love everything about the Walker Gallery – the Old Masters, the contemporary art, the rude girl in the cafe. And when I found out Mr Walker built it with beer money it became my favourite gallery. The statue? I guess you could call it a Christmas present. At this time of the year, it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity – the lies, the corruption, the abuse.”

The public may have a short memory but the Catholic Church rape victims are not as lucky. Fortunately, Banksy was never one to tolerate complacency. While he may be featured with old masters, it’s clear he’ll never comfort the establishment.

Patron of the Arts

Remember Mark Lugo? He was a Hoboken sommelier who walked into a San Francisco art gallery and walked out with a Picasso. He pulled it from the wall without gallery assistance. Apparently they frown on that. After his capture, police searched Lugo’s Hoboken apartment and discovered an art collection worth more than $350,000.00.

While Lugo acquired most of his collection from hotel and gallery walls in New York, it was the San Francisco theft that captured the nation’s attention. Ask a Kardashian what affect fame has on price. The purloined Picasso has soared in value. One bidder offered $100,000.00 more than the gallery posted.

The Picasso was back on display last Monday at the Weinstein gallery but its owner has no intention to sell it. The stolen piece is worth more on the gallery wall than it is as a sales item. Since the Lugo Affair, foot traffic has risen dramatically.

“Every single solitary day, at least 10 people come into the gallery asking where the Picasso is,” the gallery president said. “It’s become such an important part, not just of our story, but I think the story of artwork in San Francisco.”

Despite a string of theft and incarceration, Mark Lugo has unwittingly become a patron of the arts, a designation he’d likely embrace.