When Eben Lazarus and Hannah Hunt showed up at London’s National Gallery in July armed with tape, glue and hidden Just Stop Oil T-shirts, they didn’t come to look at art. But five minutes before they glued themselves to the frame of John Constable’s “The Hay Wain” and called on the British government to stop new oil and gas licenses, they paused in front of Diego Velázquez’s “The Toilet of Venus.”
It was not Velazquez’s soft brushstrokes that drew them in but an edgier story they had heard about the 17th-century work. In 1914, Canadian suffragist Mary Richardson attacked the painting with a hatchet, slashing the figure’s back and hips, to protest the arrest of a fellow activist and condemn the work’s misogynist imagery. Richardson’s act inspired so many copycats that some British museums temporarily banned women from visiting.
Looking at the painting, Lazarus felt swept up in a bigger history of civil disobedience. “It was this surreal connection to those who had come before us and fought for basic rights that we now take for granted. It just solidified our conviction in what we were about to do,” he said. “It was actually quite a peaceful moment.”
Shortly thereafter, Lazarus and Hunt covered “The Hay Wain” with a poster showing a chaotic, apocalyptic vision of the English countryside and glued themselves to the original work’s frame. Kneeling on the floor of the gallery, Lazarus cried out, “When there’s no food, what use is art? When there’s no water, what use is art?”
That day, the pair joined the notable annals of an idiosyncratic protest movement that sounds more like a Dada-inspired performance piece. In the past few months, activists around the world have been affixing themselves to the frames and glass coverings of artworks — a Picasso in Australia; a Botticelli in Italy; a Raphael in Germany — and demanding their governments stop supporting the fossil fuel industry. In early October, Just Stop Oil activists threw soup at Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the National Gallery before gluing themselves to the wall beneath the work. A tactic borrowed from street protests, the glue increases the time protesters have to deliver their message from what, in an instant, can become an international stage.
These Super Glue subversives have been derided as publicity-seeking Philistines and hailed as martyrs for a vital cause. But lost in the noise is the reality that these acts are part of a long history of protest in museums. That activism has reached a fever pitch in recent years, with protesters calling on institutions to rethink their collections, diversify their staff, return looted artifacts and expunge toxic donors. At a time when museums have become ground zero for rewriting narratives of the past, it should be no surprise that climate activists have also turned to them in hopes of rewriting the future.
Western museums have long presented themselves as objective keepers of history and sanctuaries, separate from current events. This is, of course, an illusion. In the 1960s, artists like Hans Haacke started creating works that directly challenged museums themselves, sparking a movement known as Institutional Critique, which would go on to include works by Andrea Fraser and Louise Lawler.
Haacke’s famous “MoMA Poll,” made during the Vietnam War, asked museum visitors if the fact that Gov. Nelson Rockefeller — then chairman of MoMA’s board — had not “denounced President Nixon’s Indochina Policy” would dissuade them from voting for him. For another work meant to critique the divide between art and the outside world, Haacke set up a telex machine to print live news updates on a seemingly endless paper scroll.
Speaking about the work in a 2008 interview, Haacke said, “What concerned me at the time and what is still important for me today is that people coming into a gallery, a museum, or another art exhibition venue, are reminded that these art spaces are not a world separate from the rest of the world. The world of art is not a world apart.”
Climate activists have embraced this thinking. Through their actions, a John Constable painting becomes more than some escapist countryside fantasy — it becomes a poignant reminder that the natural landscape is endangered. Pablo Picasso’s “Massacre in Korea” doesn’t just show history, it warns of war and famine that could come with a warming Earth. And Sandro Botticelli’s “Primavera” isn’t about celebrating the beauty of spring — it’s about mourning the biodiversity we are at risk of losing.
Leonardo Basso, a 23-year-old student in Padua who helped Ultima Generazione activists with planning before they protested in front of Giorgione’s “The Tempest,” says these actions give renewed power to art. “If we just keep that art locked in the museum, and we don’t do anything with it but show it to some paying customers who post it on Instagram, then art just becomes like the coffee we get at Starbucks,” he says. “The art is still available to us. We need to use the art.”
Kirsty Robertson, a professor at Western University and author of “Tear Gas Epiphanies: Protest, Culture, Museums,” sees parallels between activists like Basso and the Situationist International, an anti-capitalist group of artists and thinkers active from 1957 to 1972. The group’s slogan, “Sous les pavés, la plage!” (“Beneath the pavement, a beach”) gets at the logic behind gluing yourself to a painting: Scrape the varnish off the status quo and you’ll find something better below.
Like the Situationists, today’s protesters are “using this act of disruption to jolt people out of their normal, everyday lives,” Robertson says. The setting amplifies the shock. “What’s so special about museums is that they are this point of contact between a wealthy elitist history and the public,” she says. “The artwork is an emergency button.”
Beka Economopoulos, the Not An Alternative co-founder and activist behind the push to remove climate change denier David Koch from museum boards, sees this movement as part of a “continuum” of arts-focused climate activism that includes organizations like BP or Not BP and Liberate Tate. Recent economic strain — including England’s cost of living crisis — gives these buzzy actions depth, she says.
“We just see the value of art going up and up while low-wage workers and communities are having a harder and harder time making ends meet. Our values are topsy turvy, and that is brought into stark relief in a museum setting,” she says. “It’s not attacking the sunflower painting as much as it is attacking something that can symbolize the deep violence of an economic system that creates extreme wealth and extreme poverty.”
Critics say these activist groups aren’t challenging museums, they’re just using them as particularly sensational soapboxes. BP or Not BP gave witty, Shakespearean-style performances and Liberate Tate did creative art actions — including faking an oil spill on the museum floor — all to ask British institutions to stop taking money from Big Oil. But the groups gluing themselves to paintings and riding their fame to headlines don’t have such tangible demands for the institutions they occupy.
When protesters stage actions in museums, “you’ve got to ask yourself the question, why are you in a museum? What are you saying to the museum?” says Emma Mahony, a professor who studies museums and activism at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. She praises Liberate Tate for bringing art lovers to their side and worries that the super-gluers are pushing away potential supporters. “You’re not going to make friends with oil bosses, but you have to bring the 99 percent onboard if you want to achieve something.”
While Lazarus insists Just Stop Oil isn’t trying to be popular, at the National Gallery over the summer, he took pride in bringing at least a few people onboard. As he and Hunt walked into the gallery where “The Hay Wain” hung, they saw a group of schoolchildren studying a painting nearby. They stopped, unsure whether to go through with the protest. “I think it was just because of that tendency to protect children,” he said. “But, actually, they deserve to know the truth. Everyone does.”
As they finished their speeches, the children — who are more likely to face the harsh realities of the climate crisis than many of us — erupted into cheers.
Who is the wealthiest person at Art Basel? This ATM is displaying users' bank balances for all to see – CNN
“ATM Leaderboard,” the group’s latest work, is a working ATM that displays the cash balances of anyone who uses it for the entire art fair to see. It ranks users — with photos captured by the ATM’s camera — according to the size of their bank accounts, like the high scores of a classic arcade game.
Currently top of the “ATM Leaderboard” is an individual with a $2.9-million account balance, according to MSCHF. (A video of the ATM’s display screen, taken by an attendee, shows a bearded man in a pink T-shirt alongside the seven-figure sum; the timestamp shows he has held the number one spot since Tuesday.)
“ATM Leaderboard,” a new art piece from the Brooklyn-based collective MSCHF, asks Art Basel Miami Beach attendees to put their money where, well, their money is. Credit: MSCHF
At Art Basel Miami Beach, where the art world converges for a week of fairs, lavish parties and music festivals, artworks regularly sell for millions of dollars.
“‘ATM Leaderboard’ is an extremely literal distillation of wealth-flaunting impulses,” Daniel Greenberg, co-founder of MSCHF, told CNN in an email. “From its conception, we had mentally earmarked this work for a location like Miami Basel, a place where there is a dense concentration of people renting Lamborghinis and wearing Rolexes. These are analogous implicit gestures to the ATM Leaderboard’s explicit one.”
Perrotin is currently hosting MSCHF’s debut show at its New York gallery, describing the group as “a conceptual collective whose elaborate interventions expose and leverage the absurdity of our cultural, political, and monetary systems.”
As to where the ATM may pop up next, Greenberg said that’s up to whomever wants to acquire or borrow it. Top scores will remain on the leaderboard after each showing, arguably raising the stakes for subsequent users.
“Because of the camera, the ATM keeps a continuous record of each person who uses it and also each location that it is installed, so we hope that it will have an opportunity to move through more spaces,” Greenberg explained.
If you have a cool $3 million in cash (or more) sitting in your bank account, and want the world to know it, you can visit the ATM at Art Basel Miami Beach through Saturday.
Art Basel Miami Beach Sales Heat Up Despite Current Crypto Winter – BNN Bloomberg
(Bloomberg) — What a difference a year makes.
Just 12 months ago, with the price of Bitcoin hovering around $57,000, it seemed that Art Basel Miami Beach was in fact a crypto celebration with an art fair on the side. At the time, the NFT craze was in full swing, and the medium’s many proponents were bent on establishing it as on a par with such traditional art forms as painting and sculpture. In tandem with the City of Miami’s all-out push to become a crypto capital, Art Basel Miami Beach had become a ripe venue for digital art patrons and crypto companies to stake their claim as forerunners of a new establishment.
Now Bitcoin is trading around $17,000, and the excesses of 2021—think crypto- sponsored yacht parties, NFT stunts, Web3 conferences and metaverse ragers—are mostly things of the past. Holdouts include the blockchain company Tezos, which is an Art Basel Miami Beach partner again and has sponsored a series of talks at this fair. But on the whole, art is front and center once again this week in Miami.
It’s a turn of events that many in the art market are greeting with something bordering on relief.
“It’s the post-FTX world,” says New York dealer David Lewis in his booth on the fair’s opening day, referring to the collapse of the crypto exchange founded by Sam Bankman-Fried. “The art world has always been really wary of the crypto world,” a wariness, he says, that appears to have been justified. “I think there’s a lot of comfort in the fact that a lot of the ways of doing things that have been going on for years or decades—or if you think of painting, centuries—are back in the lead.”
As Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB) opens its doors to a VIP crowd celebrating the Florida edition’s 20-year anniversary on Tuesday, Nov. 29 (VIP days Tuesday and Wednesday, with public days following through Saturday), it certainly feels as if analogue is ascendant. Many of the fair’s 282 galleries seem to have brought textile works and heavily layered paintings to the fair—“definitely things with texture, things that appear handcrafted,” says adviser Suzanne Modica, noting that she has yet to see the entirety of the fair. “I think the quality is quite good,” she says. “People have brought works to sell.”
In the first three or so opening hours, sales seem to be happening at a steady clip.
This is partly the result of a healthy amount of pre-selling, a phenomenon in which a gallery sends a PDF to clients containing artworks it intends to bring to the fair. Those clients might then put a work on reserve (or even better for the dealer, buy it outright), and consummate the transaction after viewing the work in the first few hours of the fair.
“We pre-sold a lot, so the first hour or two is people seeing the pieces,” says Malik Al-Mahrouky, a sales director at Kurimanzutto, a gallery with locations in New York and Mexico City. Its pre-sales included, he says, a painting by Gabriel Orozco priced around $500,000 and two paintings by Roberto Gil de Montes, which sold for roughly $85,000 and $35,000. While English was far and away the dominant language heard in the fair’s aisles, Al-Mahrouky says he is surprised by the number of serious foreign collectors. “There are lots of Europeans this time around,” he says. “Last year there weren’t nearly as many.”
One collector with works on reserve is Pete Scantland, the Columbus, Ohio-based chief executive officer of Orange Barrel Media, who says that while he “wanted to show up at the fair and be surprised,” he couldn’t help himself and “did peek at a few of the PDFs.”
Even before the fair began, Scantland purchased a work by Igshaan Adams, an artist known for lavish tapestries on view in Casey Kaplan Gallery’s booth. For the most part, Scantland says, he spent the first few hours of the fair just looking around. “Leslie Martinez, who’s showing at And Now gallery’s booth—I’d seen images of her work, but to see them in real life? That’s what it’s about,” he says.
The art fair comes on the heels of New York’s November auction season, where a few record-setting weeks nevertheless showed signs of slackening demand. The spotty bidding on view was attributed by some to jitters over the prospect of global recession.
Multiple dealers wonder if such fears will trickle down (or flow sideways?) into the rest of the market. “I think every dealer in the world asks themselves that question,” says the dealer and former Goldman Sachs partner Robert Mnuchin. “Has it, is it or will it? And I think the answer is none of us know at the moment.” His major takeaway from the November auctions, he continues, is that “the strongest part of the market was the outstanding works. Anything that was outstanding, almost irrespective of the price—not totally, but that was the predominant desire.”
Given the size of the fair and breadth of its offerings, it would be a stretch to say that most of the work at the fair is outstanding. But at the end of the first day, multiple galleries reported major sales. Mnuchin says he sold a large work by El Anatsui for $1.75 million. Gladstone Gallery reports selling an Alex Katz painting for $1.2 million. And Jack Shainman Gallery says it sold a 1997 painting by Kerry James Marshall for $2.8 million.
Indeed, as Miami enjoys yet another week filled with parties, art fairs, product launches and yes, a few crypto-related events, it seems that rich people are still spending money, with not so much going to digital art.
“It’s lovely to not have this kind of crypto frenzy,” says Kibum Kim, standing in the booth of his buzzy gallery Commonwealth and Council. “It’s just more calm, and there are more conversations about art. No one is sticking a phone into our faces trying to show us their digital wallet.”
So does he—or did he—have any crypto-rich clients? “Of course not,” Kim says. “We’re a serious gallery.”
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
Natalia Goncharova Earned Her Place In Art History
Natalia Sergeevna Goncharova’s cubist-futurist painting La Gare (train Station) fetched €963,000 (more than $1 million), surpassing the €500,000 to €800,000 estimate at auction this year.
At the turn of the 20th century, two wildly talented and rebellious students, Goncharova and Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov, met at the prestigious Moscow Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. They quickly became partners, sharing both a studio and a living space, and the art world was never the same. As founding members of the Jack of Diamonds, Moscow’s first radical independent exhibiting group, the lovers and collaborators struck a mighty fist through the firmly settled foundation of Russian art. Always stirring controversy while creating revolutionary works, the couple settled in Paris where they spent the rest of their lives.
Goncharova, a Russian avant-garde artist, painter, costume designer, writer, illustrator, and set designer, was also a founder — along with fellow Russian artists Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, and Marianne von Werefkin, and German artists Franz Marc, August Macke, and Gabriele Münter —of another radical art movement known as Der Blaue Reiter. Born July 3, 1881, in Nagaevo, Tula Governorate, part of the Russian Empire, she died Oct. 17, 1962, in Paris.
A pioneering avant-garde Russian painter, Larionov was also a founding member of an even more radical, but short-lived, group called Donkey’s Tail, which included Goncharova, as well as Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall, and Aleksandr Shevchenko. They were influenced by the Cubo-Futurism movement, and the group’s lone exhibition was held in Moscow in 1912.
Larionov, who was influenced by the Georgian artist Niko Pirosmani, painted in the style of Impressionism starting in 1902, and after visiting Paris four years later, he shifted to Post-Impressionism and then to a Neo-primitive style, partly derived from Russian sign painting. In 1908 he staged the Golden Fleece exhibition in Moscow, which included paintings by Matisse, Derain, Braque, Gauguin, and Van Gogh.
Together, Goncharova and Larionov developed a groundbreaking style of abstract art known as Rayonism, after hearing a series of lectures about Futurism by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet, editor, art theorist, and founder of the Futurist movement.
Goncharova’s father, Sergey Mikhaylovich Goncharov, was an architect and also graduated from the same Moscow Institute where she and Larionov fell in love.
In 1915, Larionov left Russia to work with ballet owner Sergei Diaghilev in Paris on the the Ballets Russes, gaining French citizenship and never returning to his homeland. He was born June 3, 1881, in Tiraspol, Kherson Governorate, part of the Russian Empire, and died May 10, 1964, in the Paris suburb Fontenay-aux-Roses.
Fifty-five years after his death, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow hosted the first major Larionov retrospective in Russia, divided into a Russian section featuring mostly paintings, and a French section, including paintings as well as a large collection of his graphic works, many on public display for the first time. The French portion also displays his works from the Ballets Russes, along with works of other artists from his private collection.
Larionov’s delightful “A Stroll in a Provincial Town” (circa 1909) is feverishly inspired by his first visit to Paris in 1906. The vibrant and bold colors depict a flamboyant and carefree lifestyle that is undoubtedly refreshing to a Russian native. The diversity of his work is stark in the Tretyakov Gallery exhibition which features this painting.
Meanwhile, in London, watercolors by Goncharova, including three of her costume designs estimated to fetch between £600 ($771) and £800 ($1,029), are going on the block at Dawson’s Art, Antiques and Jewelry sale on Jan. 19.
Her work is part of Russian art and objects dealer Christopher Martin-Zakheim’s extensive collection from his former shop Iconastas in Piccadilly Arcade. Martin-Zakheim was diagnosed with a brain tumor and consigned the remaining stock of his beloved store when it closed last year. He died on Dec. 25, 2018.
The regal Iconastas opened in 1974, specializing in Russian Art from the beginning of Christianity to the end of Communism. It’s where well-heeled international collectors would find everything from Orthodox Icons and crosses created from the 16th century until the 1900s, to Soviet porcelain figures from the 1920’s, or precious pieces by Faberge.
More than half a century after their deaths, Goncharova and Larionov continue to intrigue and shock the art world, sometimes in curious ways.
“Still Life with Teapot and Oranges” was, for more than 50 years, believed to have been painted by Larionov, but Aleksandra Babenko, an Associate Specialist in Russian Art at Christie’s, discovered that it had been painted by Goncharova. It sold at Christie’s in November 2017 for £2.4 million ($3.1 million).
‘The minute I saw the painting in the flesh, it took my breath away,” said Babenko. ‘The vividness and boldness of its colors, the accentuated ultramarine outlines, and the audaciously angled composition — all exemplified the youthful fervor and rebellious mood within Moscow’s artistic community in the early 20th century.”
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