Holding on

Banksy’s not the only street artist out there trying to make a difference.

Stik hoping to raise £120k at auction to fund sculptures by local artistsHackney Citizen
Hackney’s street art megastar Stik is to auction off a unique model of his first ever public sculpture, Holding Hands, to fund a series of outdoor artworks by local artists. The maquette, a one-off, small-scale version of the sculpture, is predicted to fetch around £120,000 when it opens for bidding at Christie’s tomorrow as part of the auction house’s ‘Post-War and Contemporary Art’ sale. All proceeds will be donated to Hackney Council to help bankroll a series of public works by East London artists.

Hackney Street artist Stik to ‘empower’ local artists by funding a series of sculpturesHackney Gazette
Hackney Mayor Phillip Glanville thanked the artist, who has lived and worked in Hackney for 20 years, for his “record of activism” and generous donation. “We’re proud in Hackney to be able to support and share the creativity of our residents. This represents a long-standing commitment to inclusive public art that can be enjoyed by everyone in our parks and public spaces and I can’t wait to see the creativity that Stik is helping us to showcase and unlock,” the mayor said.

Check out Christie’s video about the original sculpture.

How the street artist STIK is standing up for the next generationChristie’s
The Holding Hands sculpture is being installed at a poignant time in our history, when holding hands is not always possible. But it is a symbol of hope for what has always been, and what will be again.

That bronze maquette had an estimate of £80,000–120,000, and went for a fantastic £287,500, great news for Hackney’s artists and residents.

The story doesn’t end there, though.

Stolen posters donated to Hackney by artist Stik returned after appealSky News
“Holding Hands shows two people looking in opposite directions yet holding hands in a symbol of universal love and solidarity,” Stik said. “The fact that so many prints were returned to the people of Hackney only amplifies its meaning.”

Detective Constable James Readman said it is “really encouraging” that the public has listened to the appeal and “done the right thing by returning a large proportion of the prints”.

BA bargains

A year ago I shared an article about British Airways being fined a record £183,000,000 by the ICO for a data breach in 2018. Here’s an update to that story.

BA fined record £20m for customer data breachThe Guardian
The fine is the biggest ever issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), but a fraction of the £183m fine initially announced last year. This was reduced after investigators accepted BA’s representations about the circumstances of the attack; and was reduced further to take into account the dire financial position of BA since the onset of Covid-19.

They’re not having an easy time, to say the least. I wonder how successful this auction was for them.

Hit hard by travel disruptions, British Airways will sell a $1 million Bridget Riley painting and 16 other works at Sotheby’s this monthArtNet News
The painting, titled Cool Edge, carries no guarantee and is estimated to bring in between £800,000 and £1.2 million ($1 million to $1.5 million) at the July 28 “Rembrandt to Richter” evening sale. It was previously on view in a luxury lounge at Heathrow airport in London. […]

With the exception of Terry Frost’s 1997 painting Colour Down the Side 1968, which is expected to go for £20,000 to £30,000 ($25,000 to $37,000), each work in the online sale is estimated below £15,000 ($19,000).

Well, that Bridget Riley looks to have sold for £1,875,000. That would have helped towards that ICO fine…

Feeling hungry? #2

Start the day with an egg.

Watch a Korean chef make the perfect tornado omeletThe Awesomer
We have a hard enough time making omelets that don’t break apart on us when folding them over, but this Korean chef makes it look easy to create one with a swirled design that looks like a tornado.

How about a sandwich for lunch.

Figure and groundFutility Closet
A recipe for “toast sandwiches,” from Mrs. Beeton’s Dictionary of Every-Day Cookery, 1865.

Ingredients. — Thin cold toast, thin slices of bread-and-butter, pepper and salt to taste. Mode. — Place a very thin piece of cold toast between 2 slices of thin bread-and-butter in the form of a sandwich, adding a seasoning of pepper and salt. This sandwich may be varied by adding a little pulled meat, or very fine slices of cold meat, to the toast, and in any of these forms will be found very tempting to the appetite of an invalid.

Don’t forget your five portions of fruit and veg.

The value of a banana: understanding absurd and ephemeral artworkThe Conversation
In September, the Guggenheim Museum in New York acquired Maurizio Cattelan’s Comedian by anonymous donation. … Comedian reignited a set of questions that seem to flare up with some regularity: what makes something a high-priced artwork when another, seemingly identical, object is not?

A little more than five portions here, though.

A Goldsmiths grad student just dumped 31 tons of carrots into the School’s courtyard for his MFA exhibitionArtNet News
“In the city, we are not very connected to the processes of how the things we consume are produced, under which circumstances and conditions,” Evans explained. “Looking into peasant culture, ecology, farming, and the soil is a way to reorient my compass into finding other ways of relating which perhaps aren’t so detached from land, plants and foods.”

See also: Bar workers dump leftover ice in closure protest

Worth the wait?

Well, I’m back in the office for the first time in six months, surrounded by hand sanitisers and risk assessments, one child has returned to school for her final year after in effect six months off, another will be leaving home in a week to start university in a place currently under a local lockdown, so my head’s full of concerns and anxieties I don’t wish to think more about here thank you very much. So let’s put all that to one side and relax with some music.

John Cage, the man behind a much loved piece of nothing, perhaps hadn’t realised how literally some people would take his instruction to play ‘as slow as possible’ when performing one of his compositions. Piano notes eventually fade away, but notes on an organ can be held indefinitely.

A 639-year-long John Cage organ performance has a long-awaited chord change todayClassic FM
Organ2/ASLSP, ‘As Slow as Possible’ is a keyboard work written by John Cage in the mid-1980s. The score consists of eight pages of music, to be played at the piano or organ, well, very, very slowly. […] Up until this time, the most recent note change occurred on 5 October 2013, and the next change will sound on 5 September 2020, with the organ playing a G sharp and an E, until the next scheduled chord change on 5 February 2022.

The concert (installation art performance? sculptural exhibition?) is taking place in Halberstadt, in Germany, thought to be the place where the first modern keyboard organ was built in 1361, 639 years before the turn of the 21st century, hence the duration of this piece.

A 639-year concert, with no intermission for coronavirusThe New York Times
Andreas Henke, the town’s mayor, said that most of Halberstadt’s inhabitants probably didn’t even know about the piece, or, if they did, they referred to it as “that cacophony.” But, he added, “John Cage carries Halberstadt’s name out into the world.”He said the performance raises “philosophical questions about how we confront time.” “We are all so consumed by our daily working lives,” he said. “This forces us to stand back and slow down. It is very special to be a part of an art project that will connect generations and last for generations,” Mr. Henke added. He said that it was “his great hope” that the project would make it to 2640.

Of course it was livestreamed, but see if you can resist the urge not to fast-forward to the chord change moment, three hours and twenty minutes in…

Too subtle a change for me, I think. It’s an interesting idea, though: if you remove the human from the music-making process, you remove the need to constrain time to human scales. But without the human, can we still comprehend it as music? A drone that lasts for years and years just reminds me of my tinnitus.

Smile for the robot

This couple hired a robot photographer for their wedding dayMy Modern Met
For anyone wondering about how the guests felt about having the robot photographer at the wedding, the groom assures that Eva was positively received by the entire wedding party. “This was a fantastic addition to our day and our guests are still talking about it,” Gary told Bride Magazine. “It made a nice change from the normal photo booths.”

But don’t worry, Eva isn’t designed to replace real photographers. Gary and Megan hired a professional photographer, too. “The robot is a great alternative to traditional photobooths, which are slowly going out of fashion,” Service Robots says. “Hiring both a traditional photographer and a photobooth robot like Eva means newlyweds can look back on crisp, professional shots as well as more candid, fun and cheeky photographs taken with the robot’s help.”

Playing around

I know nothing about guitars (or ukuleles, for that matter), but I can tell that playing this “self-playing” guitar would not be as simple as that description suggests.

Self-playing electric ‘circle guitar’ can pick at up to 250 bpmdesignboom
Anthony Dickens has built the circle guitar with the help of a team of brilliant engineers to generate sounds, textures, and rhythms that would be impossible with a conventional electric guitar. What differentiates the new design from other electrics, is the motor-driven spinning disc in its body that rotates at up to 250 bpm under the strings. This innovative feature makes it possible to exceed what the musician’s hand can achieve alone.

OK, so I can’t pretend to understand even half of this—mechanical step sequencer discs? hexaphonic pickups?—but it’s great to see the start of what is in effect a brand new type of instrument, one I reckon Wintergatan’s Martin Molin would love to get his hands on.

If redesigning musical classics is your thing, check out this other designboom post I came across, via Moss and Fog. Looking closer, you can see it’s from 2017, so I’m not sure if this ever took off, but I’m smitten, to say the least.

The Elbow cassette player is a turntable tonearm for tapesdesignboom
In an industry obsessed with nostalgia, the humble cassette seems to have missed out on the craze that turned old school records back into a music must-have. Yet Brainmonk, the design team behind the Elbow clip-on casette player, have other plans to give the traditional tape the attention it deserves. Described as a ‘portable cassette player reduced to the core,’ Elbow gets rid of the heavy plastic casing that’s usually found on a tape players and strips it back to a single clip-on pulley that almost leaves the cassette to play itself.

After looking into this a little more, I can see that it didn’t take off. According to its Facebook page, the project is suspended, and they’ve not bothered renewing their website domain. This Verge write-up perhaps gives us a clue why.

The Elbow cassette player concept is as impractical as a cassette tape – The Verge
I’m curious what kind of battery life you could get out of an object like this. My guess is not much. But, really, this concept is more of a fashion accessory than a 21st century sequel to the Walkman — just like the cassette tapes that it will theoretically play.

Tactile

As shown in an earlier post about light switches, it’s the little things in life that can make all the difference.

A short history of door handlesApollo Magazine
We have all become suddenly more aware of the moments when we cannot avoid touching elements of public buildings. Architecture is the most physical, most imposing and most present of the arts – you cannot avoid it yet, strangely, we touch buildings at only a very few points – the handrail, perhaps a light switch and, almost unavoidably, the door handle. This modest piece of handheld architecture is our critical interface with the structure and the material of the building. Yet it is often reduced to the most generic, cheaply made piece of bent metal which is, in its way, a potent critique of the value we place on architecture and our acceptance of its reduction to a commodified envelope rather than an expression of culture and craft.

At least someone’s making an effort.

Sekhina designs minimal concrete light switches and plug socketsDezeen
Hungarian design brand Sekhina has made a series of light switches and plug sockets from concrete as an aesthetically pleasing alternative to plastic. Billed as the first of their kind, Sekhina founder Gábor Kasza made the concrete covers for switches and sockets after not being able to find any similar products made from the material.

Waterways

It’s nice to see Futility Closet properly up and running again, now that the libraries Greg Ross visits are mostly all open. I thought these two recent entries went well together.

The Moses BridgeFutility Closet
Visitors to the Fort de Roovere in the Netherlands cross a moat using a sunken bridge designed by Ro & AD Architects.

Thinking bigFutility Closet
Parliament considered the plan [to straighten the Thames] but never implemented it. “Revely had rather an awkward way of letting loose his real opinions; and he habituated himself to a sarcastic mode of delivering them,” read his obituary. “It need not be added, that such qualities were not calculated to render him popular.”

There are some more images of Revely’s plans on IanVisits, a London heritage blog.

Getting galleries right — for all of us

It’s been months since I’ve been to a gallery or museum. More of them are reopening, though many are still facing a difficult future. But how they are dealing with their past and present is just as challenging.

Black artists and gallerists on what a more inclusive art world would look likeArtsy
In an interview with Hyperallergic, Brandon explained her comment. “Ever since I started working at SFMOMA, I have watched leadership tokenize their non-white employees all while trying to silence them by implying that their concerns, frustrations, and experiences are not real,” she said. “The events that transpired regarding the Instagram post highlights leadership’s inability to recognize the racism within museums amongst employees and donors.” In recent weeks, five senior leaders have resigned from SFMOMA amid a growing chorus of accusations of institutional racism.

Penn Museum to remove skull collection of enslaved peopleHyperallergic
The objectionable collection belongs to Samuel George Morton, a 19th-century Philadelphia-born, UPenn-educated physician who collected hundreds of skulls, including those of enslaved Africans, Native Americans, and Cubans to try to reinforce his white supremacist, pseudoscientific theory that the brains of some races are larger than others.

Anish Kapoor says art gallery ‘tokenism’ with diversity must endThe Guardian
As he prepared to open the UK’s first large-scale art exhibition since the lockdown began in March, Kapoor delivered blistering criticism of the museum world. “Contemporary museums, they need to stop tokenism. Collect an Iranian artist here, a South African artist there or whatever. They need to really begin to try to properly take on … what is contemporary culture today? How do we represent it in objects in our museums. It is not straightforward. But tokenism can’t happen any longer.”

How recent anti-racism protests have pushed a longstanding debate about colonial looting in EuropeThe Art Newspaper
“All these things are connected,” says George Abungu, an archaeologist and former director of the National Museums of Kenya. “If the museums had dealt with it a long time ago, it wouldn’t have been looked at like this. But now history has caught up. Repatriation is part of this discussion about colonialism and racism.”

The museum where racist and oppressive statues go to dieAtlas Obscura
The museum’s message is clear: A monument is not a descriptive account of history, but instead a historical artifact that tells a story about power. In a setting that invites scrutiny, visitors can study Berlin’s monuments to grasp more clearly who had power and how that power was used. […]

“It is a great mistake to describe the monuments as history or heritage,” Neiman goes on. “We don’t memorialize every piece of our histories. We pick and choose those men and women whose lives embodied values we want our communities to share.”

Bird watching, kind of

Find yourself staring out of windows? Try some different ones.

WindowSwap lets you cycle through picturesque views from all over the worldThe Verge
There’s something very positive about the experience. Strangers are taking their time to share their favorite watching spot to help those who might not have one (or are just tired of their own). It is a small gesture of kindness and reminder of the positive ways the internet can make the world feel smaller.

As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of working from home is I get to enjoy the view of our little bird feeder all day. I’ll be back in the office at some point, I’m sure, but I know which website to turn to when I get there.

Bird Library, where the need to feed meets the need to read
Welcome to the Bird Library, feeding the birdbrains of Virginia. Concerned about bird literacy? So are we. We believe in biodiversity and welcome birds of all colors, shapes, and species … even squirrels.

Its live video feed is the only way I’ll get to see cardinals, I think, and all the library’s other exotic (to us in the UK, at least) patrons.

But if you’re wanting to see some truly beautiful birds:

Fantastical images of birds from the 2020 Audubon Photography AwardHyperallergic
The National Audubon Society annually rewards excellence in nature photography; the 2020 winners offer a stunning array of aviary photographs that continue to amaze with their vivid colors and curious behaviors.

This hypnotic artwork from Andy Thomas is my favourite, I think. I’ve seen visualisations of bird flight before, but not their song. These reinterpretations of bird song take very strange and dramatic forms reminiscent of flowers, insects and the birds themselves.

Digital sculptures visualize chirps of Amazonian birds in a responsive artwork by Andy ThomasColossal
Based on an audio recording from a 2016 trip to the Amazon, Australian artist Andy Thomas interprets birds’ trills, squawks, and coos through an animated series of digital sculptures. … With each chirp, the fleeting masses contort, grow, and disassemble into a new, vibrant form.

Instead of a window I could happily have this playing on a loop all day on a monitor on a wall or something. I wonder what the sparrows and goldfinches on my bird feeder would make of that.

It’s a cover-up

Yes I know they might not be very comfortable, but are you wearing yours yet? No? Here’s a little encouragement.

Wear a mask, save livesMoss and Fog
[H]ere are some cleverly edited classic paintings, with the characters all wearing face coverings. The work of Genevieve Blais, her Instagram account is PlagueHistory, and uses black humor to get the point across.

I’ve found myself trying to hold my breath for the entire time I’m wearing mine, to stop them from fogging up my glasses. Perhaps I need a different mask.

Clever ramen face mask that makes the fogging up of glasses look like steam rising from the noodlesLaughing Squid
Artist Shibata Takahiro, an animator by trade, created a very clever protective face mask that looks like a yummy bowl of ramen for the bespectacled population. This design incorporates the inevitable fog of glasses that occurs while wearing a mask as steam rising from the hot noodles.

Perhaps you prefer doughnuts to noodles.

Make your own Krispy Kreme face shieldYouTube
Andy Clockwise shows you how you can make your very own Krispy Kreme face shield using just the lid from a 12 box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, some sticky tape and a pair of scissors.

I think I’ll pass on that. How about these instead?

Face masks hold fish tanks and overgrown patches of botanics in surreal illustrations by Kit LayfieldColossal
A long way from the packs of blue, disposable masks many of us bulk purchased at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the face coverings Philadelphia-based illustrator Kit Layfield envisions are a bit more complex and otherworldly. He draws intricate contraptions featuring the traditional nose-and-mouth covering that then are connected to larger collars adorned with luxuriant shrubs, miniature ecosystems, and tiny fish tanks. The individual subjects all are situated within the diverse environments, providing the necessary structure to keep the micro-systems flourishing.

Van Gogh’s ongoing troubles

Remember that stolen Van Gogh painting? Photos of it turned up a few weeks ago. I wonder if there’s been any further news.

Images of a stolen van Gogh give experts hope it can be recoveredThe New York Times
A private art detective investigating the case said he was sent the images of the work, which was taken from a Dutch museum in March.

The painting is shown between a copy of The New York Times, which featured an article on the theft, and a copy of a biography of a man who had previously stolen van Goghs – The New York Times

Dutch art detective says he has ‘proof of life’ of stolen Van Gogh paintingThe Guardian
They have been passed to the police after being obtained by Arthur Brand, a renowned art detective. Brand told Agence France-Presse that the photographs had been “circulating in mafia circles” and had been handed to him by a source he declined to identify.

Then there’s this odd story about (another) one of his selfies.

Self-portrait or portrait of Theo?Van Gogh Museum
Van Gogh specialists from the museum recently returned to study the two portraits afresh. A publication on photographs of Vincent and Theo contained new insights regarding the likenesses and differences between the physical appearance of the two brothers. Some researchers had also harboured prolonged doubts about the identification made in 2011.

Left: Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1887. Right: Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait or Portrait of Theo van Gogh, 1887 – Van Gogh Museum

The resulting discussion made it clear that, based on all sources and arguments, it was not possible to determine with certainty which of the brothers is depicted on the portrait that was identified as being of Theo van Gogh in 2011. The decision has therefore been taken to use the title Self-Portrait or Portrait of Theo van Gogh for this painting from now on.

Perhaps this might help.

Here’s how 20 famous historical and fictional figures ‘really’ looked likedeMilked
Bas Uterwijk is a Dutch photographer and digital artist who likes to show how famous historical and fictional figures ‘really’ looked like in his realistic digital portraits.

Vincent van Gogh – Bas Uterwijk

He’s not the only one using ‘deep learning’ networks to understand more about Van Gogh and his work.

MIT CSAIL develops AI to show how artists created their famous paintingsdesignboom
You mightn’t have thought that Vincent van Gogh and artificial intelligence go hand-in-hand, but thanks to a system developed by researchers at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), we can now see his painting technique like never before. The system, called ‘Timecraft’, takes the image of a finished painting and analyzes how it was likely to have been originally created. The resulting time-lapse videos provide an amazing insight into renowned works from famous artists such as Cezanne and van Gogh.

But let’s not forget what brought us all here in the first place, some incredible imagery.

Getting inside Van Gogh: A new blockbuster show in Paris in photosForbes
The digital art museum L’Atelier des Lumières brings Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings to life, projecting them on the walls, ceilings and floors of a former foundry, accompanied by music and immersing visitors in the chromatic splendor of the artist’s pictorial world. […]

The first digital art center in Paris, established in a restored 19th-century foundry, the Atelier des Lumières creates monumental digital exhibitions that surround visitors with the pictorial world of the greatest artists.

Wandering through Vincent Van Gogh’s Iris

Van Gogh, Starry NightAtelier des Lumières
The new digital exhibition in the Atelier des Lumières immerses visitors in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), a genius who was not recognised during his lifetime and who transformed painting. Projected on all the surface of the Atelier, this new visual and musical production retraces the intense life of the artist, who, during the last ten years of his life, painted more than 2,000 pictures, which are now in collections around the world.

Culturespaces