Moving animation

A round-up of films showing that animation is all about movement, really. Let’s start with something literal.

Nude Descending a Staircase No.3 by Marco Brambilla
“The figures of No. 3 constantly reconfigure themselves to cascade down an unseen stairway,” says regular NOWNESS contributor Brambilla. “The body, shapes and colour palette are pure Cubism, now expanded into three dimensions using state-of-the-art computer technology.” Brambilla’s No. 3 is a simulation of a walk cycle, which itself is an abstraction of human movement taken from motion-capture recordings. Variations of the cycles are rendered at different speeds and collaged into a kinetic composition that constantly evolves.

As well as bringing life to the models, this film shows you can animate the cameras filming those models.

Daria Kashcheeva combines stop motion, documentary-style filmmaking and painterly techniques
The trauma that spirals out inexorably from a single instance of failed connection between father and daughter is captured with an affecting candidness by Daria’s use of stop motion animation. For her, the technique affects a closeness with the world of the characters as a tactile reality. “I like the air between the camera and the puppets, which is tangible and which I cannot feel in computer 2D animation.” This proximity to the characters is further enhanced by Daria’s painstaking filming technique. Instead of adopting the fixed perspective of an objective viewer, she simulates the cinematic effect of hand-held footage by animating the motions of her camera as well as the movements of her puppets.

How about animating something that doesn’t move for 50+ years?

A whale can live 50-75 years. Its afterlife is equally long and spectacular
After a whale dies, it begins to sink. As it drifts slowly downward, its body provides sustenance for an incredibly diverse community of organisms. In Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale), the stages of consumption are illustrated by paper puppets of the fish, crustaceans and microscopic bacteria that feed upon the whale for decades after its death.

Or something that hasn’t moved for thousands of years?

Frozen for millennia, an ancient Greek soldier is freed to charge into battle once again
The artifacts that underlie so much of our understanding of the ancient world can often feel like brittle remnants of a dim and dusty past that’s hard to access without context and extensive knowledge. But sometimes just a little kineticism can transform a bit of pottery into a living story. Such is the effect of this animation produced for an exhibition at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology at the University of Reading in the UK, which breathes life into war scenes from a vase found on the island of Euboea and thought to date to roughly 550 BCE.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous; animating continental drift, as the UK stupidly slides away from Europe.

Max Colson satirises post-Brexit UK in a 3D-modelled animation
Brexit really has brought out the worst in people. The rhetoric spewed by certain right-wing politicians has allowed blatant racism to ooze out of hiding, revealing a cesspit of empire-loving xenophobes that wouldn’t know what makes Britain “Great” if it smacked them in their bland food-loving faces. But with that rather enormous caveat, it’s also been an utterly fascinating time for people-watching. If you’re interested in the idea of ‘Britishness’, like artist Max Colson, the past three years have been a revelation. Via nostalgia for a Britain of the past (in many cases a fictional country that never really existed), there’s a tonne of insight into the values, fears and neuroses motivating us Brits. It’s these idealised views of Britain that Max has mined for his latest short film The Green and Present Land.

Make a wish

Something very magical and dreamlike yet mundane and industrial about this recent art installation.

A fleeting dandelion wish processing facility appears for two days outside of Los Angeles
A recent two-day installation in Commerce, California afforded visitors an opportunity to evaluate and deposit their secret wishes. Dandelions, which was organized by the anonymous artist group The Art Department, took place in an administrative building at the Laguna Bell electrical substation from May 11-12, 2019. The cavernous space was transformed into a secret wish processing facility, where visitors submitted their wishes for questioning and analysis before receiving a dandelion to send their wish in a whoosh down a chute of either slam dunks or long shots.

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A factory that processes your dandelion wishes
Visitors who wanted to make their wishes in person were handed a ticket and instructed to climb a flight of rusted stairs that led to a dilapidated administrative building. Inside, a grassy, dandelion-lined corridor pointed wishers to their first station: a cramped office where a brusk employee asked the visitor to describe their wish without spilling the specific details (the Department of Small Things That Float on the Wind, which oversees the wish-processing facility, firmly believes that sharing a secret wish automatically disqualifies it from coming true). The bureaucrat asked more general questions. Could the wish be categorized as altruistic or selfish? Did it pertain to romance or your career?

Then the wishers were ushered to the next station, where they took a more thorough survey on the WISH_TEK2000, an old, ’90s-era computer running on DOS. At the end of the survey — which asked you to rate your general luck on a scale of one to 100 — the computer spat out the likelihood of the wish being granted; for me, it was a long shot.

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The whimsical journey, which was unique, beautiful, and expertly produced, may feel like it lacked depth conceptually, but was genuinely engaging. Even though it was visually impressive, it didn’t dissolve into Instagrammable gimmicks. Pulling visitors into the immersive script discouraged them from breaking the fourth wall by pulling out their phone, and the surveys put pressure on visitors to think more seriously about what they may wish for if they actually had the chance for it to come true.

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Dalí’s back

Another art and AI post, but with a difference. An exhibition at the Dalí Museum in Florida, with a very special guest.

Deepfake Salvador Dalí takes selfies with museum visitors
The exhibition, called Dalí Lives, was made in collaboration with the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (GS&P), which made a life-size re-creation of Dalí using the machine learning-powered video editing technique. Using archival footage from interviews, GS&P pulled over 6,000 frames and used 1,000 hours of machine learning to train the AI algorithm on Dalí’s face. His facial expressions were then imposed over an actor with Dalí’s body proportions, and quotes from his interviews and letters were synced with a voice actor who could mimic his unique accent, a mix of French, Spanish, and English.

Behind the Scenes: Dali Lives

Whilst we’re talking of Dalí, let’s go behind the scenes of that famous portrait of him by Philippe Halsman. No flashy, cutting-edge technology this time, just wire, buckets and cats.

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The story behind the surreal photograph of Salvador Dalí and three flying cats
The original, unretouched version of the photo reveals its secrets: An assistant held up the chair on the left side of the frame, wires suspended the easel and the painting, and the footstool was propped up off the floor. But there was no hidden trick to the flying cats or the stream of water. For each take, Halsman’s assistants—including his wife, Yvonne, and one of his daughters, Irene—tossed the cats and the contents of a full bucket across the frame. After each attempt, Halsman developed and printed the film while Irene herded and dried off the cats. The rejected photographs had notes such as “Water splashes Dalí instead of cat” and “Secretary gets into picture.”

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Time.com have a great interview with Philippe Halsman’s daughter Irene on what that shoot was like.

The story behind the surrealist ‘Dali Atomicus’ photo
“Philippe would count to four. One, two, three… And the assistants threw the cats and the water. And on four, Dali jumped. My job at the time was to catch the cats and take them to the bathroom and dry them off with a big towel. My father would run upstairs where the darkroom was, develop the film, print it, run downstairs and he’d say not good, bad composition, this was wrong, that was wrong. It took 26 tries to do this. 26 throws, 26 wiping of the floors, and 26 times catching the cats. And then, there it was, finally, this composition.”

Coincidentally, Artnome’s Jason Bailey has been using AI and deep learning to colorize old black-and-white photos of artists, including that one of Dalí’s.

50 famous artists brought to life with AI
When I was growing up, artists, and particularly twentieth century artists, were my heroes. There is something about only ever having seen many of them in black and white that makes them feel mythical and distant. Likewise, something magical happens when you add color to the photo. These icons turn into regular people who you might share a pizza or beer with.

Making an exhibition of yourself

The faces are real this time, though the galleries aren’t.

Put your head into gallery
Georgian artist Tezi Gabunia wants to trigger a dialogue about hyper realistic issues in art. His modus operandi is falsification. In his work “put your head into gallery”, Gabunia wanted to bring the galleries and the art to the people, and not the other way around.

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Whilst the images are striking, I wonder if he’s just pandering to our vanity, though. I mean, look at the queues.

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Put Your Head into Gallery

Reconsidering Degas’ ballerinas

As part of our ongoing CPD programme, I recently completed an online refresher course on child sexual exploitation; the different grooming models, how to spot the signs, where to go for guidance, and so on. It’s all as horrible as you’d expect.

Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace) UK
Pace is the lead national charity working with parents and carers of exploited children.

And then, coincidentally, I spotted this article on the paintings and sculptures of ballerinas by Edgar Degas.

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans
I’ve seen many representations of ballet dancers in Degas’ work over the years, but this time around was different because I had read Julia Wolkoff’s The Sordid Truth behind Degas’s Ballet Dancers last year.

The formerly upright ballet had taken on the role of unseemly cabaret; in Paris, its success was almost entirely predicated on lecherous social contracts. Sex work was a part of a ballerina’s reality, and the city’s grand opera house, the Palais Garnier, was designed with this in mind. A luxuriously appointed room located behind the stage, called the foyer de la danse, was a place where the dancers would warm up before performances. But it also served as a kind of men’s club, where abonnés — wealthy male subscribers to the opera — could conduct business, socialize, and proposition the ballerinas.

Sounds a little like child sexual exploitation to me. As well as prompting you to look at the sculpture of the little fourteen-year-old dancer with fresh eyes, he asks you to reconsider this painting, The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage.

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What might look at first glance like a depiction of the beauty of dance takes on a more sinister nature when you notice the men on the right side of the painting, perhaps a pair of wealthy subscribers getting a special preview of that night’s ballet and their choice of ballerinas. You might never look at another of Degas’ ballet paintings the same way again.

Painting (by) numbers

Jason Kottke shares with us the work of Roman Opalka, evidently a man of focus and determination.

Painting infinity
In 1965, French-born Polish painter Roman Opalka began work on his series of paintings OPALKA 1965/1 – ∞. Starting in the top-left corner of a canvas, he painted the number “1”, then “2”, then “3”, and so on, continuing until the canvas was full of consecutive whole numbers. At the top of the next canvas, he picked up where he’d left off, and then just kept going from canvas to canvas. By 1970, Opalka abandoned working on anything else and devoted himself solely to filling canvases with numbers.

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Roman Opalka’s numerical destiny
He understood his work as the culmination of a lifetime of painting when he famously proclaimed. “It’s important that my last Detail should not be finished by me, but my life.”

He pursued this culmination on a daily basis, eight hours a day, until the process of painting led him to “white/white” — that is, white numbers on a canvas with a background painted white, the same as the numbers. After three years (1968, possibly 1969), Opalka began to add 1% white pigment to the black background. Gradually, over time, as more paintings were painted, the black surface would become gray. As he continued to count and to paint five, six, and seven digit numbers, he discreetly added 1% white to each canvas, thus making the surfaces appear increasingly lighter. In the late 1970s he declared that the background of his canvases would eventually appear white, the same white used to paint the numerals that would finally dissolve into the surface, embody the surface. Ultimately, there would be no distinction between the white numerals and the white surface; they would culminate as a form of blankness, possibly transcendent, as the numerals grew invisible within the prospect of infinity, the Samadhi or highest level of meditation.

Not to be confused with:

From Warhol to minimalism: how painting by numbers revolutionised art
It took a genius to see the genius of Dan Robbins, the inventor of painting-by-numbers who has died aged 93. For art critics, painting-by-numbers was, and is, a byword for robotic repetition and unoriginality – and that was exactly what Andy Warhol adored about it. In 1962, when he was searching for a mechanical artistic process, he painted a series of homages to Robbins. His Do it Yourself paintings mimic painting-by-numbers landscapes, with blocky areas of flat colour guided by a grid of numbers visible through the paint.

Return of a lost love

From The Art Newspaper, news of a cupid’s return.

Hidden Cupid resurfaces in one of Vermeer’s best-known works after two and a half centuries
On the original canvas, the Cupid “picture within a picture” hung on the wall behind the letter-reading girl. It was detected 40 years ago by x-ray, but scholars had always assumed that Vermeer himself painted over it, says Uta Neidhardt, the senior conservator at Dresden’s Gemäldegalerie. The decision to restore Cupid to the work was taken after recent laboratory tests established beyond doubt that the figure was overpainted decades after Vermeer completed it.

“There was even a layer of dirt above the original varnish on the Cupid, showing the painting had been in its original state for decades,” Neidhardt says. The overpainting was also slightly darker than the colour used by Vermeer in the background of his work, because the later artist needed to compensate for the darkening varnish on the original, she says.

“This is the most sensational experience of my career,” she says. “It makes it a different painting.”

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As well as restoring the painting, quite a number of art theory re-writes are required now, I think.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer
We know from x-rays images that on the background wall, just above and to the right of the young woman, Vermeer had included a large-scale ebony-framed painting of Cupid (the same one that appears in A Lady Standing at a Virginal). It was later painted it out by the artist himself.

The Cupid would have made it clear that the content of the young woman’s letter was of an amorous nature.

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A great start

A wonderful, rambling interview in The Art Newspaper with Damien Hirst. As well as a discussion on his art and influences, it was nice to hear him talk of the old days in Leeds.

(Did I mention I went to the same art college he did, and did the same foundation course, albeit a few years after?)

Blossoming artist: Damien Hirst on returning to the studio, fluorescent florals and the ‘muppets’ in government
How formative was your experience of studying art at school and at art college?

I did a foundation course, which was the greatest thing. I think everybody should do one, whether you become an artist or not. I remember there was someone who was 60 on the course; I went straight from school, almost. It was only a year but it just blows your mind. There’s older people, younger people—a big mix—and people who were doing everything: graphic designers, fashion designers, textiles. It was just really brilliant. If you ended up being a bank manager, I think it would be great to have done a foundation course.

I’m just incredibly lucky to be healthy, to have an arena where whether people like it or don’t like it, it’s considered. Leeds University has a library which is just art; I remember being in there looking at all the books thinking that I had to read everything before I can begin. And then I thought I’d never ever get a book with my name on it. But I should try anyway; it would be amazing to have a book with your name on it on the shelves.

Generative art’s rich history on show

Artnome’s Jason Bailey on a generative art exhibition he co-curated.

Kate Vass Galerie
The Automat und Mensch exhibition is, above all, an opportunity to put important work by generative artists spanning the last 70 years into context by showing it in a single location. By juxtaposing important works like the 1956/’57 oscillograms by Herbert W. Franke (age 91) with the 2018 AI Generated Nude Portrait #1 by contemporary artist Robbie Barrat (age 19), we can see the full history and spectrum of generative art as has never been shown before.

Zurich’s a little too far, unfortunately, so I’ll have to make do with the press release for now.

Generative art gets its due
In the last twelve months we have seen a tremendous spike in the interest of “AI art,” ushered in by Christie’s and Sotheby’s both offering works at auction developed with machine learning. Capturing the imaginations of collectors and the general public alike, the new work has some conservative members of the art world scratching their heads and suggesting this will merely be another passing fad. What they are missing is that this rich genre, more broadly referred to as “generative art,” has a history as long and fascinating as computing itself. A history that has largely been overlooked in the recent mania for “AI art” and one that co-curators Georg Bak and Jason Bailey hope to shine a bright light on in their upcoming show Automat und Mensch (or Machine and Man) at Kate Vass Galerie in Zurich, Switzerland.

Generative art, once perceived as the domain of a small number of “computer nerds,” is now the artform best poised to capture what sets our generation apart from those that came before us – ubiquitous computing. As children of the digital revolution, computing has become our greatest shared experience. Like it or not, we are all now computer nerds, inseparable from the many devices through which we mediate our worlds.

The press release alone is a fascinating read, covering the work of a broad range of artists and themes, past and present. For those that can make the exhibition in person, it will also include lectures and panels from the participating artists and leaders on AI art and generative art history.

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Process Compendium (Introduction) on Vimeo

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Not happy with the world

It seemed a simple gimmick, to present a globe upside down to mirror the sense of geopolitical unease we feel. But nothing is without consequences.

LSE considers altering sculpture to show Taiwan as part of China after student pressure
Mainland Chinese students protested against the demarcation of Taiwan on Mr Wallinger’s sculpture, and the use of a red dot for Taipei as the capital city of a country, like other nations shown on the globe.

Taiwanese students however maintained the globe should remain as is, as Taiwan operates like any other democratic nation with its own government – led by president Tsai Ing-wen, a LSE alumnus – currency, military and foreign policy. Most of its 23.5 million people identify as Taiwanese.

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Wallinger’s upside-down globe outside LSE angers Chinese students for portraying Taiwan as an independent state
Although recent news articles say that LSE has now agreed to change the colour of Taiwan from pink to yellow on the globe, to make it appear part of the People’s Republic, these reports appear to be premature. An LSE spokeswoman told us this morning: “We are consulting our community and considering amendments to the work. No final decisions have been reached.”

The LSE director, Minouche Shafik, may now be regretting what she said at the unveiling: “This bold new work by Mark Wallinger encapsulates what LSE is all about.”

Damien Hirst and Da Vinci in Leeds

Leeds plays host to two artists at completely opposite ends of the art world.

Damien Hirst homecoming announced for Yorkshire sculpture festival
The inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International festival on Wednesday announced plans to display in Leeds and Wakefield provocative works such as The Virgin Mother, a 10-metre high surgically flayed pregnant woman, and Black Sheep with Golden Horns, part of Hirst’s animals in formaldehyde series.

Hirst grew up in Leeds and followed in the giant footsteps of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore by going to Leeds Arts University, then called Jacob Kramer College.

He recalled happy, important visits to Leeds Art Gallery. “I never thought I’d ever be famous or considered important or anything like that, but seeing paintings by people like John Hoyland, Francis Bacon, Peter Blake and Eduardo Paolozzi – alongside the aquarium and natural history stuff in the City Museum – opened my mind to art.”

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Meanwhile, at Leeds Art Gallery currently…

Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing
The Royal Collection holds the finest surviving group of Leonardo’s drawings – more than 550 sheets that have been together since Leonardo’s death, acquired by King Charles II around 1670. As paper is damaged by light, these drawings cannot be on permanent display.

So to mark this anniversary, we are collaborating with 12 museums and galleries to stage simultaneous exhibitions of Leonardo’s drawings across the United Kingdom from 1 February – 6 May.

The exhibition
12 of Leonardo’s sculptural drawings are presented at the home of sculpture at Leeds Art Gallery. Although none of Leonardo’s sculptures themselves survive, the drawings on display provide an unparalleled insight into his investigations and thinking as an artist, and his reach across parallel areas such as anatomy as well as proposed sculptures and his design for the monumental Sforza monument.

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And that story about one of his paintings is still rumbling on.

London’s National Gallery defends inclusion of Salvator Mundi in Leonardo show after criticism in new book
If Lewis is correct, then the consensus was that only part of the painting was by the master, with the remainder presumably done by his assistants. Yet in Syson’s National Gallery catalogue entry, the painting is unequivocally attributed to Leonardo and described as “an autograph work”. Exhibition curators are fully entitled to make their own judgements, but it is surprising that Syson’s entry does not at least allude to the suggestion by other scholars that parts of the picture may have been painted by assistants, even if he went on to dismiss this idea.

Everything’s upside-down

Feeling disorientated?

Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger unveils new public work, The World Turned Upside Down
Forcing the viewer to reconsider their relationship to the traditional Mercator projection of the world (i.e. the one most of us immediately see in our mind’s eye when we’re asked to conjure up an image of the globe) by asking us to consider both the vastness of the oceans and the true size of Africa, The World Turned Upside Down we’re told, reflects “the spirit of progressive enquiry that has characterised the School since its inception.”

Minouche Shafik, LSE Director, is quoted as saying, “this bold new work by Mark Wallinger encapsulates what LSE is all about. We are committed to tackling the biggest global challenges through our research and teaching, and this means seeing the world from different and unfamiliar points of view.”

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It’s a simple idea, effectively realised, and sits nicely alongside this magazine cover from Germany.

“A small twist with a big impact”: New ZeitMagazin International cover reflects topsy-turvy Europe
The new SS19 issue of ZeitMagazin International, the German weekly’s English-language sister publication, is all about Europe in a time of confusion and uncertainty. Mirko Borsche, the creative director of the biannual glossy magazine, has created a limited-edition cover for 1,000 copies showing the map of Europe turned upside-down.

“It’s interesting, because the European map looks totally strange, even though fundamentally I haven’t changed anything, apart from turning the country labels 180 degrees.” He says the decision was mainly motivated by the team in Berlin’s feelings about Brexit. “Personally, I’m sad about it,” he says. “But like the cover itself, I think it will change everything without changing very much.”

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Art, design and politics are more entwined than ever.

Luc Tuymans: ‘People are becoming more and more stupid, insanely stupid’
This is a dark time, Tuymans says. “Think of England, it’s no longer an empire although the English still think it is, which is basically insanity. Think about Brexit, about this narcissistic idiot Trump, the whole constellation of the West is in dire straits.” In the face of this, it is important to study not just our history—“people forget, that’s one thing,” Tuymans says—but the way we construct it and misremember it. At the heart of Tuymans’s project is a central conceit: that images are unreliable, that they can offer us no more than a fragment of reality and that our own memories, personal or collective, mislead us.

Take it easy

Remember Florentijn Hofman’s gigantic rubber duck in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour some years ago? Something else is floating about there now.

KAWS floats a massive inflatable sculpture in Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour
The reclined, monochrome figure is the largest to date for the American artist, with recent previous iterations of the project installed at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan, and on Seokchon Lake in Seoul, South Korea. The figure was purposefully designed to be in a peaceful repose, its crossed-out eyes gazing at the sky above.

“I was thinking of all the tension in the world, and I wanted to create work that would make people think about relaxing,” KAWS recently told TIME. “And there’s nothing more relaxing than lying on your back in water and looking up at the sky.

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It’s can’t be that relaxing for the organisers, though.

A giant KAWS sculpture will float in Hong Kong’s harbor
The 10-day waterborne installation, set to begin March 22nd, is the latest stop for a touring exhibition of the giant sculpture to different Asian cities, dubbed “KAWS:HOLIDAY,” and organized by AllRightsReserved. The company put together other viral hits in Hong Kong’s main harbor, including Paulo Grangeon’s sleuth of 1,600 papier maché pandas and Florentijn Hofman’s giant rubber duck, which famously deflated in 2013. The KAWS sculpture will be anchored in the harbor by a metal base weighing 40 tons, with the project costing over HK$10 million ($1.3 million), according to the South China Morning Post.

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Art and biology

Exploring ways of representing the human body has been a mainstay of art for millennia. Here are two examples — one hard as iron, the other soft as paper.

The body as machine: first imagined in 1927, now brought to new, animated life
Originally an interactive installation, this short video from the German animator Henning M Lederer breathes new life into Kahn’s illustration, augmenting the original image with mechanical movements and sounds. Lederer’s update offers a visually and conceptually rich melding of technology, biology and design, echoing a time when machinery permeated the collective consciousness in a manner quite similar to computing technology today.

There are many more videos (including some wonderfully animated book covers) on Henning Lederer‘s website, but for a different take on what goes on inside us, check out the work of Eiko Ojala.

Paper illustrations and GIFs explore the body and mind in new work by Eiko Ojala
New Zealand and Estonia-based illustrator Eiko Ojala creates cut paper illustrations that present shadow and depth through creative layering of colorful pieces of paper. Recently, his editorial illustrations have been focused on the mind and body, like a cut paper GIF he created for a story on heart attacks in the New York Times. Others, like two Washington Post illustrations, attempt to uncover the thoughts and feelings sequestered in children’s minds by layering images inside the shape of a boy’s profile.

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Faith in fakes

Everything went according to plan, the art thieves made off with an incredibly valuable Brueghel. Only it wasn’t.

Italian police reveal ‘€3m painting’ stolen from church was a copy
The town’s mayor, Daniele Montebello, was among the few people privy to the subterfuge, and had to keep up the pretence in the hours after the heist, telling journalists that losing the painting was “a hard blow for the community”.

“Rumours were circulating that someone could steal the work, and so the police decided to put it in a safe place, replacing it with a copy and installing some cameras,” Montebello said on Wednesday night. “I thank the police but also some of the churchgoers, who noticed that the painting on display wasn’t the original but kept up the secret.”

It seems nobody’s updated ArtNet News yet, even though they’re referencing this Guardian article.

Thieves just used a hammer to steal a $3.4 million Pieter Bruegel the Younger painting from a remote Italian church
Using a hammer to break the case, the thieves lifted the picture—worth an estimated $3.4 million, according to press reports—and made off in Peugeot car. Police believe two people were involved in the heist. They are now are investigating CCTV footage from around the town and the province for clues.

Unforeseen Brexit impact #324

As the slow-motion car crash that is Brexit continues, here’s a look at how some in the art world are dealing with its ramifications.

Art world scrambles to ship art before Brexit deadline
The British Council is sending all works for Cathy Wilkes’s Venice Biennale exhibition in Italy “well ahead of the 29 March deadline to avoid any possible disruption”, says a spokeswoman. Wilkes, who is based in Glasgow, Scotland, has been selected to fill the British Pavilion this year.

The organisers of the biennial’s Irish pavilion are also transporting works from Eva Rothschild’s London studio early to avoid any delays at British ports. “We don’t know what’s going to happen after 29 March but it’s not worth the risk of things getting held up at customs. The ramifications are huge,” says Mary Cremin, the commissioner and curator of the pavilion and director of the Void Gallery in Derry, Northern Ireland.

It’s not just a problem for British art going out to Europe.

The prospect of hefty EU import taxes is already disrupting exhibition programmes in the UK. Tornabuoni Arte in London is closing its show of paintings by Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana two weeks early and transporting the works back to Italy to avoid a potential multimillion-pound reimport bill. Italy’s import rate stands at 10%.

“We are covering our backs because no decision has been made yet, but we are looking at an enormous amount of money to reimport incredibly expensive works. It’s crippling,” says a gallery spokesman.

The title for the Venice Biannale’s art exhibition is so appropriate.

Biennale Arte 2019
The 58th International Art Exhibition, titled May You Live In Interesting Times, will take place from 11 May to 24 November 2019 (Pre-opening on 8, 9, 10 May). The title is a phrase of English invention that has long been mistakenly cited as an ancient Chinese curse that invokes periods of uncertainty, crisis and turmoil; “interesting times”, exactly as the ones we live in today.

Miró Miró on the wall

New York’s Museum of Modern Art has a Miró exhibition on currently.

Joan Miró: Birth of the World
Drawn from MoMA’s unrivaled collection of Miró’s work, augmented by several key loans, this exhibition situates The Birth of the World in relation to other major works by the artist. It presents some 60 paintings, works on paper, prints, illustrated books, and objects—made primarily between 1920, the year of Miró’s first, catalytic trip to Paris, and the early 1950s, when his unique visual language became internationally renowned—to shed new light on the development of his poetic process and pictorial universe.

A little too far for me to visit, though they have a great set of images of the exhibition. (My favourites of his aren’t to be found, however.)

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Here’s a New Yorker article about the exhibition and the painting that gave the show its name.

Joan Miró’s modernism for everybody
The moma show focusses on that apotheosis with its eponymous star attraction. Miró painted “The Birth of the World” in 1925, while in the company, and under the spell, of the circle of Surrealist poets and artists around André Breton, who called Miró “the most Surrealist of us all.” It presents drifting pictographic elements—a black triangle, a red disk, a white disk, an odd black hook shape, and some skittery lines—on an amorphous ground of thinned grayish paint that is loosely brushed or poured and that soaks here and there into the unevenly primed canvas. The painting yields a sensation of indeterminate depth and expansiveness. It’s large—more than eight feet high by more than six feet wide—but feels larger: cosmic. You don’t so much look at it as fall into it. There had never been anything quite like it in painting, and it stood far apart from the formally conservative, lurid fantasizing of Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and other Surrealist painters.

Reading about Miro made me think of Calder and his mobiles, so I was pleased to see the article subsequently go off in that direction.

I remember being a little confused by the relative obloquy, among art-world cognoscenti, of a related and, to my naïve eye, equally wonderful artist: Alexander Calder, whose mobiles had taken Miró’s influence to literal heights, with variations on the Catalan’s repertoire of catchy, nature-allusive forms suspended in air. But I quickly absorbed a message that I must not take Calder seriously. […]

Miró now squares up with Calder as an entertainer allergic to portentousness and even, each in his own way, anti-modern, given to timeless, simple pleasures of recalled childhood and artisanal tinkering. Miró is fun. He earns and will keep his place in our hearts, rather exactly like Calder, with abounding charm.

Joan Miró: Birth of the World | MoMA exhibition

Art theft and protection

What starts off as a celebration or glamorisation, almost, of theft soon dissolves into quite a sad character study.

The Secrets of the world’s greatest art thief
“Don’t worry about parking the car,” says the art thief. “Anywhere near the museum is fine.” When it comes to stealing from museums, Stéphane Breitwieser is virtually peerless. He is one of the most prolific and successful art thieves who have ever lived. Done right, his technique—daytime, no violence, performed like a magic trick, sometimes with guards in the room—never involves a dash to a getaway car. And done wrong, a parking spot is the least of his worries.

[…]

Breitwieser and Kleinklaus, though, have no friends. “I’ve always been a loner,” he says. “I don’t want any friends.” Kleinklaus, he claims, feels the same. They occasionally spend time with acquaintances but never invite anyone over. If repairs are needed in his room, he does them himself. Nobody is allowed to enter, ever, except him and his girlfriend. “We lived in a closed universe,” Breitwieser says.

They’re both nearing 30 years old when their universe starts to crumble. A notion had been building in Kleinklaus ever since the night they spent in police custody in Switzerland—that perhaps there’s something more fulfilling than life as an outlaw and rooms filled with riches. She’d like to start a family. But not, she realizes, with the man she’s been dating for almost a decade. There is no option for a child in their conscribed existence. They could be arrested at any minute; they can’t even entertain visitors. She begins to feel suffocated.

Quite the cult figure – the art thief becoming the art subject, as well as the inspiration for a movie.

He seemed not to be in it for the money. But Banksy, on the other hand …?

The fascinating legal conundrum facing Banksy
Although the court confirmed that Pest Control trademark registrations were valid, the judge noted that the documents filed in the proceedings showed just limited use of Banksy brand. Basically, the Banksy logo is only used on certificates of authenticity released on Pest Control letterhead, and on some canvas frames. This is a clear weak point in Banksy and Pest Control’s legal strategy going forward. If Banksy wants to keep enforcing any of his trademarks in courts around the world, and avoid the risk of them being canceled for lack of use, he will need to show judges stronger evidence of his brands being used in the market. This probably means he needs to start regularly producing and selling his own branded merchandise through a specialized commercial vehicle, which so far has not really happened–and may be considered by Banksy himself as antithetical to the very anti-capitalistic message he wants to convey through his art.

Taking his camera for a walk

You can’t beat a bit of New York street photography.

“Foot Traffic” by photographer David Nelson-Hospers
A great series from American photographer David Nelson-Hospers. Originally from Western Massachusetts, and currently residing in Brooklyn, “Foot Traffic” focuses on the flow of everyday life in New York City. Documenting the city streets and the people that crowd them he manages to highlight the social landscape and moments that are often overlooked.

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Part of me thinks it must be easier to find such captivating images in an interesting, visual place like New York compared to where I live. But a larger part of me thinks that’s just an excuse I’m making up to mask my jealousy/laziness/cowardice.

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Electronic embroidery

As if computers weren’t complicated enough already.

A programmable 8-bit computer created using traditional embroidery techniques and materials
The Embroidered Computer by Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak doesn’t look like what you might expect when you think of a computer. Instead, the work looks like an elegantly embroidered textile, complete with glass and magnetic beads and a meandering pattern of copper wire. The materials have conductive properties which are arranged in specific patterns to create electronic functions. Gold pieces on top of the magnetic beads flip depending on the program, switching sides as different signals are channeled through the embroidered work.

electronic-embroidery-1

See also The 200 Year Old Computer for more connections between thread and computing.