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How A Hardware-Store Owner’s Foray Into Fine-Art Authentication



A new documentary follows a Brooklyn man trying to determine if a painting from a Moscow flea market is the work of a Russian master.


For Peter Guppy, the owner of Prosperity Hardware, in Brooklyn, the American Dream is an organizing principle. “The American Dream gives you the opportunity to achieve things,” Guppy, who emigrated with his family from Trinidad, in the seventies, declares with unflinching conviction in “Peter’s Painting,” a short documentary from the Brooklyn-based production company Rota6 Films. Nestled between a driving school and a luxury apartment building in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the hardware store is aptly named for all the things Guppy’s mother imagined that the United States represented: prosperity, wealth, a good life. When his quest for these aims took Guppy down a new avenue of art collecting—which he calls both a hobby and an adventure—he came to be the owner of a painting with a murky provenance, one that he thought could be the work of a Russian master.

About a decade ago, Guppy’s friend Valeri, an immigrant from Russia, was going through a difficult financial period. Guppy wanted to help but was reluctant to offer a handout, so the two struck a deal for Guppy to buy a painting that Valeri had purchased at an open-air flea market in Moscow, in the nineties. With its sharp lines, red and yellow geometric shapes, and Cyrillic lettering roughly translating to “the fifth congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party,” they thought it could be the work of Kazimir Malevich, the Kyiv-born avant-garde artist who was a pioneer of abstract art in the early twentieth century.

The film is shot almost entirely inside Prosperity Hardware. “When I’m in the hardware store, it’s like I’m in Peter’s mind,” Olivier Bernier, the filmmaker, told me. Just as the family’s business represented for Guppy’s mother the perceived good fortune of life in America, the painting represents it for Guppy. “In economics, you buy low and you sell high,” he says. “There’s money to be gained in art collecting.”

Convinced that the painting was “one-hundred-per-cent” real, Guppy sought to have it professionally authenticated, but struggled to be taken seriously as an art collector. It was Bernier and Tiffany Conklin, the founders of Rota6, who first heard about Guppy and his painting from a mutual friend and who set out to help him get the painting analyzed and, hopefully, turn it into the source of prosperity about which he had always dreamed. In the only scene set outside the hardware shop, Guppy delivers the painting to Art Analysis & Research, where Nica Gutman Rieppi, a professional art authenticator, examines it under a microscope, in search of identifying Malevichian details. Malevich’s work is known, for example, for perfectly straight lines, which he achieved by painting against a cardboard aid.

Back at the hardware shop, James Butterwick, a London art dealer specializing in Russian works, completes his own analysis of the painting. Flanked by hammers and foam paint rollers, Butterwick examines the painting through his round-framed glasses and declares that the chances the piece is real are “on a par with winning the lottery.” In his view, the coupling of the painting’s slight imperfections, which deviate from Malevich’s famously precise edges, with its dubious provenance is an undeniable red flag, but he stops short of classifying the work as a counterfeit.

When Bernier first set out to make a film about Guppy and his family’s business, he imagined a project about the effects of gentrification. But, in the process, he discovered an unexpected story, about Guppy’s appreciation for the irrefutable power of art. Guppy’s painting is something to believe in, whether or not it’s real, he told me: “We place value in it, but it’s really what we believe it to be.” For his part, Guppy has no doubt that his painting is the real thing.


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Toronto's outdoor museum for street art is a perfect activity for these pandemic times – blogTO



Dundas West Open Air Museum, a collection of murals clustered in a Toronto neighbourhood, opened about a year ago, but they’ve been very busy during that time.

Around 20 murals have been painted around the Dundas West area from Shaw to Lansdowne by local artists such as Jieun June Kim, Jose Ortega and Pablo Gomez.

All murals can be explored virtually on the museum’s website, which includes info about the works and artists.

The initiative was spearheaded by the artists along with Little Portugal and Dundas West BIAs, Lula Lounge, Toronto Arts Council and Creativo Arts.

It was inspired by similar public space projects in places like The Bronx and Berlin.

One of the new initiatives from the museum is an app that you can download to your phone and use to make your way among the murals, finding out information about each piece and the artists that created it as you go.

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, finding safe, outdoor activities in Toronto is on many people’s to-do list and this outdoor museum might just be one that’s perfectly suited to the times.

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Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star



It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.

When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.

But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.

“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.

“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”

John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.

His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.

A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.

The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.

“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”

First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.

John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.

“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”

That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.

“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”

@tyler_harper |

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Damian John holds a painting he recently completed of his grandmother. John will be exploring reconciliation through art during an event for BC Culture Days. Photo: Tyler Harper

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Outdoor art in a concrete jungle – Excalibur Online



Shaughn Clutchey | Arts Editor

Featured Image: Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard.
Photo Credit: Excalibur

Between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building is a set of three stone blocks. Two are made of concrete, and between them is a smaller piece of black cambrian granite. 

Inconspicuous in form and inviting as a spot to lean or sit between classes, these blocks are not remnants of ongoing construction or a sort of chic patio furniture. As a unit, these blocks are titled “Noire Solaire, Basse” and were commissioned by Canadian sculptor Jocelyne Alloucherie in 1993. 

Jocelyne Alloucherie’s “Noire Solaire, Basse” is located between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)

“Noire Solaire, Basse” is just one installation in a collection of vibrant outdoor sculptures located across the York campus. 

Although York began collecting sculptures as part of a campus beautification initiative in the early 1970s, new relevance has been given to this outdoor art collection in light of the cultural shift influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Modes of art consumption are changing—galleries, theatres, and other venues that have traditionally allowed for a direct, in-person relationship between art and audience can no longer operate in a traditional manner. 

Allyson Adley is the collection and education assistant at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). With much of York’s campus being closed this semester, Adley agrees that the importance of this collection has increased as a reminder of campus community and culture. 

“Engaging with artworks outdoors can be a meditative experience,” Adley explains. It can “provide students with an opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness by observing the artworks and their relationship to the surrounding landscape and architecture.” 

A third-year environmental studies student at York, who wishes to remain anonymous, agrees. “I love the idea of having art exhibits on campus,” they say. “It’s important to have art that can inspire or present the opportunity to admire creativity in normally bland areas.”

Mark Di Suvero’s “Sticky Wicket” is located near the Atkinson building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)

Adley iterates that completing a self-guided tour is a useful way to explore the collection. It is also an opportunity to acquaint or reacquaint with campus. 

“Following a self guided tour is an excellent way to get to know the campus and explore our outdoor collection,” Adley says. 

Adley adds: “Although the tour can provide information about the artist’s interests and motivations behind the creation of a given work, students are encouraged to consider their own personal responses. What comes to mind when standing next to a work? How does the work make you feel? Instead of relying on prescribed interpretations, can you bring your own perspectives into your process of meaning making and trust your own instincts and insights?”

These interpretations and perspectives can be related to the culture and society COVID-19 has created. 

One piece that stands out in this regard is Liz Magor’s “Keep,” conveying the idea of a natural retreat, particularly as a last resource. “Keep” consists of a bronze cast of a willow tree trunk with a rubber sleeping bag protruding from one end. 

Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard. (Courtesy of AGYU)

“The piece speaks of the need to escape from densely inhabited urban settings and find refuge in nature,” Adley explains . 

“I think in the current climate and context of the pandemic, social distancing and isolation has not been freely chosen but rather encouraged in communities across the world in an effort to protect people’s health and slow the spread of the virus.”

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