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Turning YouTube Comments Into Art

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If written today, “In Search of Lost Time” might well be an Internet novel. The Web has become the first port of call in any search for what we’ve once seen or even felt. It’s our externalized memory—in the never-fading photographs on Instagram or Facebook, in the dangerously searchable chats, the indelible e-mails, or in our improbably granular Uber and Venmo histories. Our memory also lives, in part, on YouTube: every movie scene you’ve ever watched; every historical event you’ve ever (or never) witnessed; tours of every place you’ve ever visited; and recordings of every song you’ve ever listened to, or cried to, or loved to. But the thing about a shared memory is that it’s not just yours—though you may recall it on your own, so can anyone else. And they leave comments.

Chiara Amisola, an artist from the Philippines, believes that the YouTube comments section is “one of the last sacred spaces of the internet.” In contrast to the hypercuration of the social-media profile, anything goes in the comments. Amisola is fascinated by the commenters who, as she puts it, “gush out stories (real or fake?) about falling in love, being saved, or just tripping madly to some low qual upload of a post-rock song,” she wrote in an Instagram post. Clicking on a song uploaded more than a decade ago, you end up falling down a rabbit hole—or hundreds of rabbit holes—if you take a look at the archive of feeling that unfurls beneath the video, like some mixture of bathroom-wall graffiti and Talmudic commentary.

Thesoundof.love, a “web experience” Amisola created this past Valentine’s Day, explores “the rawness of human intimacy and confession in the YouTube comments left under love songs.” The page is minimal: each comment appears in large black text above the video in question, which plays inside a small circle that rotates like an LP. YouTube’s hierarchy is reversed: the comment is moved from the margins to the center, taking the place normally occupied by the video, and the milky white background, free from ads and alerts, becomes a blank canvas for imagination. Most of the videos are still images or album covers; when there is, say, a performance of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” you can watch it without too much trouble, but the videos are more to be glimpsed than watched. We’re instead asked to pay attention to the text.

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If it sounds like a reach, it often is. Many of the comments match the dime-store sentimentality of the songs—often indie and prog rock—that they comment on, redolent of online mawkishness and marked by the Internet’s pervasive fetishization of trauma. There are many wishes to be stronger or better, memories of long walks and talks in woods and fields, fervent messaging, long phone calls that go deep into the night, regrets, mistakes—in general, lots of high school. But there are also some statements that have a near-poetic texture and lift. “Now I’m on the other side guys, love is beautiful,” reads one comment, on “Poison Oak,” by Bright Eyes. Another, on “Friendships and Love,” by Rocketship: “sitting in Union Station at the end of summer and realizing that everything is going to change very soon.” The language isn’t eloquent but the image is, and the fragmentary form, like a single remembered line of verse, leaves a suggestive echo.

Most of the comments are sad, laden with pathos that is often amplified by the Internet-inflected language in which they are written. There is something inscrutably poignant about a memory of a recently deceased grandmother or the wistful recollection of touching a lover’s hair that’s punctuated with “lol” or “lmao.” The canned, unschooled, even naïve language is, in this context, a marker of authenticity, a touch of nature. The underlying point is simple but important: everyone, no matter how well they can express it, sometimes wants to relive the warm glow of youthful love, or to remember how they danced on their wedding night, or, with that repetition compulsion that we all have, to listen to a song that was the soundtrack to a breakup. Many would share these emotions and memories only with their closest friends, or their diary. For some, though, the comments section—like their Twitter feed, or their Instagram page—might well be their diary.

These comments are evidence of a song’s work in the world, testimony to the multitude of ways it can be meaningful. Every song, like every work of art, cultivates an invisible community of those in whom it resides, and proves the point, over and over, that there is no such thing as a unique feeling, a unique love. Or, rather, that shared feelings and experiences are always shared differently, and they can exist in tension. “The same guy who has loved me since I was 16 years old dedicated this song to me,” someone writes about “Pictures of You,” by the Cure. “I’m 43 now and no one will ever love me or understand me the way he does.” The same song makes another person think of her boyfriend Chris, who took his own life. “When he was laid to rest they buried him with a suit that he wore when we went to our last prom, the guitar necklace I gave him for Christmas that December and finally the polaroid picture he took of me at the lockers and they had put it in his pocket close to his heart,” they write. “This song goes out to you Chris and to all who suffer loss but are brought together out of love.”

The juxtapositions sometimes have the disorienting extremity that marks the scroll or the feed, where the utterly banal is jumbled together with the devastating—of which we’re simultaneously reverent and, in the Internet’s anonymous and unverified economy of affect, suspicious. “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” by Death Cab for Cutie, reminds one person of a suicide pact that they had with their friend, from which (the commenter claims) they were saved only by their mother’s intervention. On the same track, a commenter writes, “i sing this song to my cat who is getting pretty old. i’ve lived my entire life with her, and i honestly love her more than anyone in the world. living without her won’t really be living.” One of the strangest and most wonderful comments, on “Talking,” by Haruomi Hosono, recounts an impromptu funeral, in the Netherlands, for a green parrot that the commenter found lying on its back on the ground. “We carefully put it in a cardboard box filled with leaves, and later buried it underneath a tree in the park nearby, next to a raspberriebush that my foraging friend found,” they write. “During this entire funeral we had my mobile phone playing this first song in the background . . . from this exact YouTube-video.” In the talky second-person register that marks so many of these statements—most of which are consciously addressed to an audience of fellow-listeners—the commenter signs off: “I hope you all have a beautiful day, and a beautiful night.”

The Internet’s archives of human emotion prove the grand community of experience on a scale that, even a couple of generations ago, was unthinkable: even in the far reaches of YouTube comments, the most throwaway of online forms, we can find a record of the millions of private memories and feelings that flood our world like invisible radio waves. In their often hackneyed and humble language, the comments collected on thesoundof.love, an infinitesimal fraction of this motley corpus, point toward just how much feeling there is and will always be out there—how much longing, how much regret, how much love that, like the Internet itself, haunts our collective reality even when it can’t be seen. ♦

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Who is the wealthiest person at Art Basel? This ATM is displaying users' bank balances for all to see – CNN

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Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

After cutting up a $30,000 Damien Hirst print, getting into a (now settled) legal entanglement with Nike over custom Satan sneakers and sending Grimes to the Met Gala with a sword made from melted-down guns, Brooklyn art collective MSCHF is now daring the wealthiest attendees of Art Basel Miami Beach to reveal themselves.

“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.)

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"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.

“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.”

The project is a joint effort between the art collective and Perrotin Gallery, which also represents Maurizio Cattelan, the provocateur whose banana-taping antics at Art Basel in 2019 created a multi-day frenzy at the annual fair.

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.”

On display are “wavy” versions of classic sneaker silhouettes (an earlier version of which is subject to an ongoing lawsuit from Vans); swords from the “Guns2Swords” project; a three-dimensional model of Jennifer Lopez, constructed from paparazzi photos of her leaving a dance class; and one of Boston Dynamics’ “Spot” robots rigged with paintball guns. (The engineering company condemned the latter project and disabled the robot through a backdoor, according to the exhibition.)

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.

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Art Basel Miami Beach Sales Heat Up Despite Current Crypto Winter – BNN Bloomberg

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(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.

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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.”

Healthy Sales

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.

Looking Ahead

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.

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Natalia Goncharova Earned Her Place In Art History

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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.

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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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