Size Matters

The Art Newspaper published a story entitled, “Size Matters: Why is the work getting bigger?” At the height of the mortgage bubble, art prices were hitting records highs but Georgina Adam was struck by something else: art was also increasing in size. When money was flowing and real estate was easy to acquire, the wealthiest collectors had veritable museums and the means to fill them. For these types of collectors size really did matter. It’s easier to fill excess space with very large items.

When the bubble collapsed in the fall of 2008, art prices contracted along with real estate. Collectors scaled back and size no longer carried a premium. Works shrank along with the economy. Collectors returned their focus on art that could fit in a residence. “Domestic-size art,” as Todd Levin, an art adviser labeled it.

Now big is a back, according to Ms. Adam. The global economy is far from robust but the wealthy are doing well. Many of them still have large spaces to fill:

Big works, however, are exactly what many of today’s alpha collectors want. With the growth of private museums, they have space to fill and the means to do so. They also want works with huge visual impact: contemporary art spaces, be they private or public, need to grip visitors, give them an “experience” and send them away thinking “wow!” Size is one way of achieving this.

As an art print collector, it’s hard to relate….

Did Conservative Ideology Stunt The Journal’s Art Coverage?

“Critics all over the world are using the News of the World scandal as an opportunity to do what should have been done years ago,” Rolling Stone’s avenging angel Matt Taibbi writes, “which is indict Rupert Murdoch in the court of public opinion.”

Thus begins an ARTINFO piece on how conservatism stunted the WSJ’s art coverage. Rather than an exception to Taibbi’s rule, ARTINFO became one of the many groups piling on in wake of the phone hacking scandal. Certainly Murdoch deserves the notoriety he now enjoys yet there’s something unseemly about the timing of the piece even if I generally agree with it.

Continue reading Did Conservative Ideology Stunt The Journal’s Art Coverage?

Book Review: Stealing Rembrandts

The book Stealing Rembrandts offers a glimpse into the world of art theft through the pilfering of just one artist. Over the past 100 years, some eighty Rembrandts have been stolen. That is good enough to rank him second only behind Mark Lugo’s favorite target, Pablo Picasso.

Mark Lugo: Correction Edition

Last week I wrote that police found a $350,000.00 Picasso in Lugo’s apartment which was stolen from a New York hotel. That assertion was based on an AP report. Today, the AP issued a correction. The stolen work that was valued at $350,000.00 was by the French artist Fernand Leger. It was indeed taken from a New York hotel. Police did find another Picasso in Lugo’s Hoboken apartment. It was valued at $30,000.00 and it was taken from a Manhattan gallery.

Forbes provides a helpful list of the stolen art in Lugo’s possession.

Alexander Calder Tribute

Google Calder TributeIf you haven’t seen it by now, Google is running a tribute to Alexander Calder on the occasion of his 113th birthday. Mr. Calder personally stopped celebrating birthdays in 1976 but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate his. The mobile is interactive and almost as enthralling as Calder’s own mobiles. Does this remind you of the time one of his mobiles appeared on Antiques Roadshow? Let’s watch a second time: Alexander Calder Mobile ca. 1950 – $400,000.00 to $1,000,000.00

Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

Lucian Freud, a contemporary painter of the human form and grandson of Sigmund Freud, died on July 20th. In what is generally considered the final act of an early 21st century life, Freud’s Wikipedia page was updated earlier today by an editor named Cynwolfe.

Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 which meant for a time he shared a city with artists whose work I see echoed in his – Otto Dix and George Grosz. Like those icons of Weimar Berlin, Freud depicted his subjects in a brutally honest manner that may have made Sigmund smile but generally resulted in an unflattering portrait. But where Dix and Grosz may have mocked the human condition in a jaded manner that was formed by war, Freud was generally more sympathetic.

Freud’s portraits were often free of judgement and unlike his grandfather, he avoided psychoanalysis. He said everything he did was autobiographical. In many ways, it was all a self-portrait. As the critic William Feaver once observed, Freud restored portraiture to its “proper place” with depictions of all types of people, not simply wealthy men and their pampered wives.

[BBCThe Gaurdian (photo gallery)]

Art Update: Overreaction Edition

As I mentioned earlier, on Sunday a French national spray-painted two Poussin works at the National Gallery in London. Apparently pleased with himself, he remained at the scene and waited to be taken into custody. Police were happy to oblige. I’m pleased to say, the Poussins have been restored and returned to their place in the exhibition.

The Poussin vandalism triggered a debate on museum security along with some obligatory overreaction.

The Art Media Agency considers large amounts of security guards to prevent vandalism in the future.

The Guardian’s Jonathon Jones would like to see entrance fees, baggage checks and generally tighter security.

Over at the Telegraph, Florence Jones thinks everyone should chill. Bag checks and a fee won’t discourage determined vandals.

And with the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looming, Bob Duggan thinks art vandalism could be the next terrorism!

Vandalism At The National Gallery

The National Gallery in London moves at its own pace. It’s generally not known for breaking news. Yet earlier today it grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons. A fifty-seven year old man, walked into the gallery and spray-painted two pieces by the French Master, Nicholas Poussin.

According to a report released earlier today, a gallery assistant came across a man as he sprayed red paint on the works. The damaged pieces were The Adoration of the Golden Calf (shown left) and The Adoration of the Shepherds. Both were painted around the same time, between 1633 and 1634. Police were called and the man was immediately arrested.

The Guardian provided an eye witness account:

Steven Dear, who was visiting the gallery with friends, said: “I heard a lot of gasping and turned around and saw him finishing spraying the larger painting. My reaction was to stop him doing any physical damage. I thought he might try to pull it off the wall.

“He was just stood there on his own. He seemed proud of what he had done, giving a verbal protest – some kind of explanation in French as to why he had done it – and then just standing there waiting to be arrested. At no point did he try to escape.

“The security guards then came over and snatched the paint cans from him, before clearing the room. It wasn’t obvious why he did it, perhaps it was some kind of protest. Maybe a protest at the nakedness of the painting. He covered it all.”

Galleries have a great appeal because they provide a chance to witness the detail of the work – its brushstrokes, its paint textures, its surface cracks, and its flaws and stains. These are the details that reproductions can never quite capture. It’s what drives us to galleries and museums in such large numbers for a chance to see “the real thing.” Those details are somewhat obscured under glass. If acts suchs as this one cannot be stopped by museum security we might lose the gallery experience as works are moved under glass.

The World’s Most Expensive Paintings

Nick Squires at the Telegraph has compiled a list of the top-five most expensive paintings. As you can imagine, Picasso dominates the list. The only surprise is the absence of Warhol who’s consistently second in yearly sales figures:

Wine Is Fine But Lugo’s Quicker

Mark Lugo at Gary's Wines in NJ

If Mark Lugo ever shows up at your house, you maybe should ask him to leave. Lugo, as you know, has stolen Picassos from galleries, Mie Yims from hotels and a few of other artists during a June acquisition spree. He’s currently held in San Francisco on a series of felony charges associated with a Picasso theft from the Weinstein Gallery.

It turns out, art isn’t the only thing he steals. The  BLT Fish sommelier also enjoys fine wines.  And much like he does with art, the one-time Per Se staffer expects steep discounts. According to the Jersey Journal, back in April Lugo was arrested for the theft of approximately $6,000 worth of wine from Gary’s Wine and Marketplace in Wayne, N.J. The Wayne Township court scheduled Lugo for a June 9th court date but he never bothered to show. As a result, there’s a warrant for his arrest for failure to appear.