People are returning to museums and finding the joy that comes from encountering beauty. I recently had the o pportunity to speak at the MOA Museum of Art, spectacularly located on the slopes above the coastal city of Atami, south of Tokyo, about the healing power of the arts.
The museum exhibits an impressive collection of Japanese and East Asian art, including three national treasures and numerous important cultural properties. In addition to the paintings, works of calligraphy, sculptures and other crafts, there is a Japanese style garden with tea houses and a Noh theater.
Speaking from the spectacular stage of the Noh theater, I stressed the vital importance of the humanistic elements in illness and healing. As medicine and psychology become more technological, we need to remember how humans have relied for a long time on art and music to nourish the soul. The effective practice of medicine and psychology requires not only talk therapy but also the use of therapeutic approaches that are nonverbal, creative, and somatic.
Cultures are embedded and sustained in art and music. Stories out of Ukraine reveal the tragic destruction of art treasures. Knowing the vital importance of cultural heritage, Russian military forces are destroying not only the infrastructure of Ukraine but also ruining or stealing thousands of priceless objects from art museums. Disturbing news from Kherson reveals that as Russians retreated, they did not just relocate ammunition and troops, they also loaded 15,000 art pieces from museums into trucks and took them to occupied Crimea. A 75-year-old Kherson resident said she cried all night when she saw soldiers throwing invaluable paintings into trucks without any packaging, as if they were rubbish.
The session in Japan began with a moment of gratitude that we were able to enjoy art in the safe, peaceful sanctuary of the museum. I then explained how arts, music, and literature are integrated into all my psychology classes at Stanford as an integral part of the curriculum I call “heartfulness.” This is because creating art, both individually and in community, has profound healing power, as we know from scientific evidence that participating in cultural activities is good for our well-being.
My young college students at Stanford are living in their heads and need to reconnect to their body, mind, and spirit. Engaging in creative arts can help to decrease stress, anxiety, depression, and the effects of trauma. Expressive arts therapies create ways to express and process emotions that may feel beyond words and can help to increase emotional centeredness and creative problem-solving abilities.
We also have evidence now that attending galleries and concerts and viewing films have physical and mental benefits, including increased rates of good health, satisfaction with one’s life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression. Studies suggest that simply experiencing beauty—in nature or in a single flower; in viewing a painting, in listening to music, or in seeing another’s smile—may increase feelings of connectedness, compassion, and even critical thinking skills.
The moment of reflecting on heartfulness and art ended with a call to find beauty, every day, in every moment that we can.
Jeff Boyes and Dan Mumford are two of those artists for me. Each has a distinct, exciting style and each just so happens to love the same movies, both big and small, that I do. Luckily for them, my taste is pretty broad so I’m not the only person who likes movies such as The Lost Boys, Aliens, John Wick, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
All of those, and a whole lot more, are part of Boyes and Mumford’s latest dual exhibit, “Both Sides 3.” It’ll first be on display presented by Gallery 1988 on December 1 from 7-10 p.m. at 1056 S. Fairfax Ave. in Los Angeles, and will follow online at gallery1988.com the next day. For now, here’s a small selection of work from the show.
12 x 24 inches, edition of 50.
18 x 24 inches, $65-$80. Edition 30-50.
12 x 24 inches, edition of 50.
18 x 24 inches, $65-$80. Edition 30-50.
12 x 12 inches, $40-$50. Edition 30-50.
(Okay, I know this isn’t really a genre movie… but it’s kind of a fantasy and Boyes only chose one actual genre movie, Lost Boys, as part of his work in this show—so I stretched a little.)
TORONTO — A Métis playwright, a pianist who combines baroque and Middle Eastern music and a dance industry veteran are among the winners of this year’s Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prizes.
The Metcalf Foundation awarded five Ontario artists $25,000 each, plus $10,000 for their selected proteges.
The winners named at a Toronto ceremony include Métis playwright, actor and Toronto theatre director Keith Barker with protégé Chris Mejaki; and Brampton-born pianist and composer John Kameel Farah, with protégé Evan Pointner.
Other Toronto-area winners include choreographer and dancer Natasha Powell, with her protégé Raoul Wilke; composer and music educator Suba Sankaran, with protégé Shirsha Chakraborty; and orchestra composer Roydon Tse, with protégé Sami Anguaya.
The five winners, chosen from a list of 15 finalists, have all been producing and showing work for at least a decade. The remaining 10 finalists will each receive $2,000.
Organizers say the prizes — dubbed “Johannas” — reward artists who have made “a recognized impact on the field and the public, and show great promise in the ongoing pursuit of their ambitious and visionary practices.”
Nominees were selected through juried Ontario Arts Council competitions in dance, music, opera and theatre, as well as competitions focused on francophone, Indigenous and northern communities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 29, 2023.
Does comparing a piece of digital art to a screensaver count as a diss? An online skirmish between famous A.I. artist Refik Anadol and New York Magazine’s senior art critic Jerry Saltz escalated into full-on beef on X over Thanksgiving weekend. It raised age-old questions about the role of art critics, but this time the whole Web3 community got involved.
The fight broke out over Unsupervised, a 24-foot-tall screen-based work installed on the ground floor of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2022 and recently acquired for the museum’s permanent collection. Undeniably eye-catching, it is made up of multi-dimensional waves of color that represent an algorithm’s interpretation of MoMA’s entire online catalog, echoing the forms of some of modernism’s most famous movements. Artnet News’s own critic Ben Davis found the work pleasant enough but clearly over-hyped, with MoMA boldly claiming that it “reimagined the history of modern art and dreams about what might have been.”
As is often the way of art critics, Saltz has never minced his words when it comes to appraising the cultural value of Anadol’s work. His review for Vulture in February conceded that Unsupervised was clearly a hit with audiences and, even, “mildly entertaining for whole minutes at a time,” but ultimately found it cosily banal and, if anything, too easy on the eye. “In this hypercontrolled, antiseptic setting, art and doubt maintain separate bedrooms,” he said.
Most memorably, Saltz described the work as “a massive techno lava lamp,” and “a half-million-dollar screensaver.” It is these contentious comparisons that are still being debated on X to this day.
Things kicked off earlier this month, when Saltz synopsized his take on X: “Refik Anadol’s mind-numbing multi-million dollar spectacle is a house of cards and hall of mirrors. Momentary diverting gimmick art. Take away the music and it’s just a banal screensaver.”
Anadol clapped back, saying “ChatGPT writes better than you.” He clarified that he meant anyone “like Jerry” who “needs to research, understand the medium!” His implication seemed to be that Saltz had failed to grasp the work’s technical complexity. Shortly afterwards, Beeple posted an image of Saltz and Anadol in a face-off and Anadol thanked him for “making it more historic.”
The digital art mega-collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, who owns works by Anadol, also weighed in. “The complexity and depth of his installations go far beyond visual aesthetics; they provoke thought, evoke emotion, and invite viewers to engage with art in a fundamentally new way,” he argued. “The widespread connection people feel with his work clearly shows its relevance and impact.”
Whether you could even diss digital art by likening it to a “screensaver” became a matter of widespread debate. Artist Zach Lieberman commented that “screensavers are wild and showed all kinds of other possibilities with computation,” citing pipes, flying toasters, and lissajous figures. Magda Sawon, who co-founded Postmasters Gallery in 1984, said its “Can You Digit?” exhibition from 1996 had a section on screensavers. “Some were top grade art,” she said. “25 freaking years ago.”
A few days later, Saltz re-emphasized, for anyone who was still unclear, that he does not like Anadol’s art. “I have said exactly why,” he said. “I love A.I. art. I love all tools & technologies! I am merely criticizing an artist’s work for what does with their material & tools.”
“Your words has no meaning to me,” Anadol replied, appearing to be very worked up. “You never talked to me, never visited my studio, no idea who i am, why and how I create art. But Let me tell you; I create my work from my heart!”
“The world you coming from is changed! New world is bright, new world is inclusive, new world has no gates!” he added, concluding: “I’m everyone! You are no one!”
Various anonymous avatars with high follower counts leapt to his defense. The DJ and NFT enthusiast 3LAU wrote: “Good ‘critics’ are last century, funny that is your pride in your bio. No one remembers a critic when they die, people will remember Refik Anadol.”
Saltz has reasserted his right to criticize Anadol’s work, even without a degree in data science. “My job is to look, keep looking,” he said. “My job is to notice things & then say what I noticed. That’s it. We don’t have to agree. I want all artists to be successful. The good, the bad, and the very bad.”
The heated discourse seemed to amplify tensions between the traditional art world’s old guard and the Web3 community, with its strongly held suspicions of “gatekeepers.” The vindictive tone of some of Anadol’s supporters also recalled the backlash experienced by Artnet News’s Davis, who wrote last month about falling foul of “parasocial aesthetics” after he reviewed an exhibition by the TikTok-famous artist Devon Rodriguez. The social media star in turn goaded his furious mob of fans into targeting Davis with an onslaught of insults and threats.
Is there hope that these differences might be put aside? Though the public dispute did not look like it was about to be resolved any time soon, Anadol has since claimed that he and Saltz “are now in an beautiful dialogue.” “This is how we grow, all together,” he concluded, channeling some characteristically Web3 optimism. “Future is bright!”