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- 01/09/14--12:13: _Performing Arts Pic...
- 01/09/14--12:31: _Small But Mighty: C...
- 01/10/14--07:15: _Adele Buys Middleto...
- 01/10/14--09:07: _Heart of Darkness: ...
- 01/10/14--09:20: _New York
- 01/10/14--09:37: _New York
- 01/10/14--10:02: _WEEK IN REVIEW: Fro...
- 01/10/14--10:28: _Broadway Spring Pre...
- 01/10/14--10:48: _London - Cork Street
- 01/10/14--10:48: _London - Kingsland ...
- 01/10/14--10:48: _New York
- 01/10/14--11:37: _Performing Arts Wee...
- 01/13/14--17:18: _Top Lots From Antiq...
- 01/14/14--04:48: _24 Questions for Re...
- 01/14/14--07:44: _First Look: Art Sta...
- 01/14/14--08:56: _Cooper Union Passes...
- 01/14/14--09:31: _FIT
- 01/14/14--10:16: _New York
- 01/14/14--12:15: _Slideshow: "Art as ...
- 01/14/14--12:39: _Q&A: Alain de Botto...
- 01/09/14--12:13: Performing Arts Pick: Satyajit Ray Box-Set
- 01/09/14--12:31: Small But Mighty: Chinese Snuff Bottles Make a Comeback
- 01/10/14--09:07: Heart of Darkness: HBO’s “True Detective”
- 01/10/14--09:20: New York
- 01/10/14--09:37: New York
- 01/10/14--10:02: WEEK IN REVIEW: From SFMOMA to Sotheby's, Our Top Visual Art Stories
- 01/10/14--10:28: Broadway Spring Preview: The Plays
- 01/10/14--10:48: London - Cork Street
- 01/10/14--10:48: London - Kingsland Road
- 01/10/14--10:48: New York
- 01/10/14--11:37: Performing Arts Week in Review: "True Detective" and More
- 01/13/14--17:18: Top Lots From Antique Clock Auctions
- 01/14/14--04:48: 24 Questions for Reluctant Retrospective Subject Art Spiegelman
- 01/14/14--07:44: First Look: Art Stage Singapore 2014
- 01/14/14--09:31: FIT
- 01/14/14--10:16: New York
- 01/14/14--12:15: Slideshow: "Art as Therapy" Auction at Paddle8
- 01/14/14--12:39: Q&A: Alain de Botton on "Art as Therapy"
As anybody who pays attention to film knows, the Criterion Collection is continuously doing undervalued and important work in the fields of preservation, restoration, and promotion of the best of world cinema. Like it or not, their releases have formed a cannon of great cinema and, for the most part, it’s hard to argue with their choices. This week, the ARTINFO Performing Arts Pick comes from Criterion’s sister company, Eclipse, which releases stripped-down box-sets that put a spotlight on a regional film genre or an underappreciated corner of a classic director’s career.
“Late Ray” ($35.96, criterion.com) focuses on the films of the great Indian director Satyajit Ray that were made during the final decade of his life. The set includes three films: “The Home and the World” (1984), adapted from the novel “Ghare Baire” by Rabindranath Tagore (Ray had earlier made a short film about the famous writer); “An Enemy of the People” (1989), adapted from the play by Henrik Ibsen; and “The Stranger” (1991), based on a short story written by Ray in 1981. The three films bare little resemblance to the Apu Trilogy for which Ray is famous — each was made indoors due to the director’s declining health, and represents an emerging theatricality that is noticeable in the pace, camera movement, and attention to dialogue. But this doesn’t make them any less important. If anything, they deserve special attention, especially “The Stranger,” which features one of Ray’s most beguiling scores (all of which, since 1961, he composed himself) and which should be considered one of the great swan songs of cinema. This is a group of films to cherish and discover.
Snuff bottles may be small, but they exert considerable pull on collectors. While 17th-century Europeans stored their powdered tobacoo in boxes, the humidity in much of China (and the lack of pockets in Chinese garments) necessitated a handheld, airtight repository — and thus the snuff bottle was born. The tiny vessels — the focus of "Small Delights: Chinese Snuff Bottles," a yearlong show now up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — were first made in China in the 17th-century and became widely used in the 18th, with some of the most sought-after examples coming from the imperial workshops of the Qianlong emperor, a noted patron of the arts.
Collectors are drawn to the bottles, which measure between one-and-a-half and 3 inches tall, for their “tremendous range of materials and subjects,” says Marsha Vargas Handley, owner of Xanadu Gallery in San Francisco, which deals in the elegant objects. “You can have, in miniature form, an example of a top 18th-century porcelain or a wonderful overlaid-glass carved bottle.”
Although collecting snuff bottles became a trend in America and Europe in the 20th-century, the demographic has started to shift toward mainland Chinese collectors, as is the case with much of Chinese art. But Western aficionados retain an edge. “Americans and Europeans are still playing a very active role in the market, even as they’re being elbowed out in other aspects of Chinese art,” says Bruce MacLaren, a specialist in Chinese art at Bonhams New York. In recent years, high-profile single-owner collections from Mary and George Bloch, Linda Riddell Hoffman, and Paul Braga have hit the block.
WHERE TO FIND THEM
The influx of Chinese buyers has buoyed the snuff bottle market, with both galleries and auction houses seeing increased demand. All the major auction houses as well as more than a dozen snuff bottle dealers in North America (vetted by the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society) now sell the items. “As with any antique collectible there are a lot of things out there, but you have to be careful because there are many modern copies,” Handley warns. Moreover, while lesser-quality bottles may be readily available, prime pieces are becoming harder to find. “There are plenty of mediocre bottles out there,” says MacLaren. “The really good ones are rarities, but as long as you’re willing to pay, you can find them.”
There is an incredibly diverse range of materials out of which snuff bottles are made: organic materials like wood, bamboo, amber, even nutshells; hard stones like amethyst, lapis, aquamarine, and quartz; and different styles of glass, including overlaid, clear, monochrome, and lacquered. The way a bottle feels can be as important as how it looks. Currently, the most desirable are fashioned from jade (especially the white variety), other hard stones, and enameled porcelain. “Jade is a very important stone to the Chinese, and the really good-quality jade always fetches a premium,” says Marley Rabstenek, a consulting appraiser for Doyle New York. She watched a Chinese white jade snuff bottle with a coral stopper soar past its $15,000-to-$20,000 estimate to bring $80,500 at Doyle in March 2012. Glass, which was relatively new to China at the time the bottles were being made, is also coveted—especially in those examples with painted insides, which are usually signed by their creators. The technique requires artisans to use a tiny hooked brush and work backward: First applying the most-visible finishing touches, then the middle ground, and lastly the background. A glass bottle with a painted interior by Ding Erzhong from 1906 leaped past its presale estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 to achieve $80,500 at a September 2013 sale at Bonhams New York.
PLENTY OF PRICE POINTS
Bottles made in imperial studios tend to fetch the highest prices, no matter the material. The Qianlong period (1736–95) is currently the most sought after; according to MacLaren, “anything the emperor looked at or breathed on” does well at auction. The most expensive snuff bottle ever sold, which went for $HK25,300,000 ($3.2 million) at Bonhams Hong Kong in November 2011, is a Qianlong-era creation. The record-breaking enameled glass bottle features a rare painting of a European woman. While Qianlong bottles are popular now, the scarcer 17th-century bottles, bearing reign marks from the Kangxi and Yongzheng periods, will often bring more money; for instance, an enamel-on-copper Kangxi bottle fetched $HK3,620,000 ($466,000) at Bonhams Hong Kong in May 2012.
“Seven-figure snuff bottles are pretty rare,” says MacLaren. “By and large, a high-end snuff bottle will be in the range of $20,000 to $50,000.” A midrange example can be had for $2,000 to $10,000. But prices for snuff bottles are extremely variable, and the quality of the material, the carving or decoration, the condition, and the age all have an impact on the cost. “There are lots of different varieties,” says MacLaren. “That’s something that makes them collectible. You can have so many different types.”
· The most coveted inside painting artists are Ma Shaoxuan (1867–1939), Ding Erzhong (1865–1935), and Ye Zhongsan (1875–1945).
· Although snuff bottles are primarily Chinese objects, they were also made in Mongolia, Tibet, and Japan. Often they were manufactured in Japan for the Chinese market.
· In the mid 20th-century, snuff bottle aficionados gathered encyclopedic collections containing one bottle in every material. Today most aim to collect the best examples of any type.
– Adele Buys Middleton Portrait: British songstress Adele has acquired a portrait of Duchess Catherine, aka Kate Middleton, by artist Darren Coffield. "It's my ironic take on celebrity that made Adele come in to see my work," Coffield said. "I did Kate Middleton and I'm sending that to her." Adele may also have commissioned Coffield to create a portrait of her. "She was asking whether I would take a commission to paint her or maybe someone in her family," the artist added. [Bang Showbiz]
– Contemporary Art Trove to Philly: Curator Katherine Sachs and her husband, former Saxco International CEO Keith L. Sachs, are gifting some 97 works from their vast contemporary art collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, including pieces by Jasper Johns, Louise Bourgeois, Jeff Wall, Donald Judd, Allora & Calzadilla, Ellsworth Kelly, Kiki Smith, and many more. "This is an extraordinarily interesting and generous and thoughtful gift to the museum — a wonderful game-changer for us. So I'm as pleased as can be," said PMA director Timothy Rub. "The Sachses have collected artists who we've not been able to acquire. Their collection fills significant gaps in ours and complements ours in significant ways." [NYT, Philadelphia Inquirer]
– Castro Goes Gallery Hopping: Fidel Castro made a public appearance for the first time in nine months when he showed up at an art opening in Havana. Pictures show him conversing with artist Alexis Leyva at arts organization Romerillo Studio, which has been described by Communist Party publication Granma as devoted to "the development and dissemination of the arts and human understanding." The last time Castro made a public appearance was for a school inauguration in April. [Fox News Latino]
– Lynch Talks Photo: Ahead of his new show at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, David Lynch gave an extensive interview about his photographic work. [FT]
– Saadiyat Island Worker Conditions: Two recently released reports offer conflicting details regarding conditions for workers on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates, where the Louvre and the Guggenheim are building satellite museums. [TAN]
– New Art Rental Venture Launches: New York-based startup Art Remba allows clients to rent art from galleries in the city. [BW]
– British art public relations giant Sutton PR is crossing the pond and opening a New York office that will be led by Jennifer Joy, with gallery Lehmann Maupin as its first global client. [Press release]
– Andrea Fiuczynski is set to leave after 28 years at Christie's, where she currently serves as president of operations in Los Angeles, to helm Sotheby's West Coast operations beginning February 1. [NYT]
– Actress Rebel Wilson will play a night guard at the British Museum in the forthcoming third installment of the "Night at the Museum" franchise. [Deadline]
ALSO ON ARTINFO
Check our blog IN THE AIR for breaking news throughout the day.
Out in the flat swampy Louisiana marshland, dark secrets are emerging from the damp earth. It’s 1995, and two detectives — Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) — are assigned a strange case: A young unknown woman is found in the middle of a field, the victim of a horrific murder, her body positioned in a specific way that hints at a sadistic and occultish motive. Told in flashback, we see both men being interviewed about the case in 2012 and recounting, in different ways, what happened 17 years before. Hart, a traditionalist, is confused by what he doesn’t understand and warns about building a narrative out of clues instead of facts. Cohle, who burns with quiet intensity, sees those same clues as an intricate puzzle that must be solved, no matter what it takes.
This ideological split is integral to the dynamic at the heart of HBO’s “True Detective,” which premieres January 12. Written by crime-novelist Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”), the crime thriller uses its two leads to stage a philosophical debate about human nature. Is stability, found in the structure of family, what gives life meaning? Or is everything unpredictable and fleeting and ultimately meaningless? Fukunaga stages many of the scenes between the two characters in cars, giving them ample time to explore their views of the world, resulting in long soliloquies, especially from McConaughey. These can be stiff, even distancing, but are smartly undercut with humor, most of the time from Harrelson, whose reaction shots here deserve a supercut. The dynamic between the two actors, at times unsettling and absurd, falls somewhere between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.
Some will be put off by the theatricality of it all, but if you want realism go watch “Cops” or something. This is different, sort of. It’s still a Hollywood product, so it feels like it needs to explain a character’s actions through psychological motivation and backstory — Hart hasn’t always lived up to the moral foundation he espouses, while Cohle’s obsessiveness is the product of a tragic past. But it’s totally invested in the artificiality of it all. Instead of winking at us as it enters the murky waters of noir, it dives right in.
The first thing that reveals the earnestness of “True Detective” is its slow and measured pace. The camera is steady and deliberate, even economical, and Fukunaga isn’t afraid to hold a shot for a long time (the interview segments, especially with McConaughey’s character, are a perfect example) or linger on a small but crucial detail. The editing mirrors this, using a lot of dissolves. But as the series progresses, and the stakes (and characters) get higher and higher, Fukunaga begins to ramp up everything. The tone, which opens like a Southern drawl, becomes frantic. The camera follows suit, resulting in a bravura scene toward the middle of the season composed of one take (you’ll know it when you see it). As we get deeper and deeper into the muck, each episode vibrantly lets content dictate form.
“True Detective” isn’t withdrawn from the clichés of the genre; viewers looking for something completely new will have to look elsewhere. Instead of trying to break free of the style, it seeks to explore it from within, treating familiar tropes with respect for the history of crime drama, from pulp novels to modern police procedurals. If you’re not a fan of this type of show, this won’t be the one to convert you. But if you are, “True Detective” will be a breath of fresh air.
Dynamically liaising with a distinguished client base of elite private collectors, decision-making art consultants, corporate art consultants, curators, architects, interior designers and decorators, as well as prestigious business, government, diplomatic and social VIPs, AMSTERDAM WHITNEY Gallery pre-eminently affords the acquisitor the extraordinary opportunity to acquire the most carefully curated, Contemporary Masters in the global art market. Known as "The Most Beautiful Gallery in Chelsea,” AMSTERDAM WHITNEY Gallery is strategically located in the "Heart of Chelsea" the unrivaled, influential global epicenter of the art world. Home to over 200 leading galleries and the Chelsea Museum of Art, Chelsea is the ultimate undisputed international art destination for the informed acquisitor, decision based consultant and accomplished artist. The cachet of Chelsea attracts prominent art visitors worldwide. In quest of the "creme de la creme" of global contemporary artists, AMSTERDAM WHITNEY Gallery's criteria is to highlight and showcase in a curated museum-caliber ambiance, Contemporary Masters and interpret significant art movements, reflecting diverse trends and mediums including Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Collage, Drawing & Watercolor. Featuring contemporary Representational Figurative art to Abstract work, modern Surrealism to today's Neo Post Impressionism, Portraits to Abstract Expressionism, AMSTERDAM WHITNEY Gallery is the acknowledged definitive global art resource for the informed collector, cognoscenti and professional art consultant. Its museum-curated, influential monthly exhibitions afford the private collector and demanding art professional a stimulating museum forum environment to view outstanding art and acquire the most exciting, innovative talent of the present day art world.
— Janelle Zara examined the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s redesign plans and decision to demolish Mario Botta’s classic staircase.
— Hitchcock-inspired, wig-collecting photographer Alex Prager answered this week’s questionnaire.
— Judd Tully looked forward to Sotheby’s upcoming sale of a portion of the Jan Krugier collection in London.
— Coline Milliard interviewed Delfina Entrecanaleson her foundation’s expanded plans for 2014.
— Angela M.H. Schuster spoke to the State Hermitage Museum’s directorMikhail B. Piotrovsky on the occasion of the institution’s 250th anniversary.
— Scott Indrisek visited the Bushwick studio of up-and-coming artist Davina Semo.
— Thea Ballard reviewed Martha Rosler’s new book“Culture Class.”
— Artist Gregor Hildebrantcreated a playlist of songs that have inspired his practice for Modern Painters.
— Ashton Cooper instructed collectors on how to collect Chinese snuff bottles.
— Eileen Kinsella picked “The Art of Food and Drink” at Christie’s as the sale of the week.
This Week's Videos:
“All the Way,” the title of Robert Schenkkan’s new play about Lyndon Baines Johnson, not only recalls that crafty politician’s 1964 election motto but also stands as the leitmotif for the dramas that will fill out the second half of this Broadway season. No punches are pulled among the offerings, from a 1920s expressionist play about an adulterous murderess (“Machinal”) to a comedy about a group of heterosexual trannies in a 1950s Catskills resort (“Casa Valentina”) to the furious exasperations of a 79-year-old female urban terrorist refusing to go gently into that good night (“The Velocity of Autumn”). Could the reason for this be that, for the first time in recent memory, the roster is all by American playwrights? None of that British reticence as the season unfolds with characters who are reaching for an American Dream that celebrates ambition, iconoclasm, libertarianism, and, of course, the pursuit of happiness.
Commercial realities being what they are on Broadway, it’s no surprise that the hottest tickets will be powered by marquee names, including Denzel Washington in the Lorraine Hansberry classic “A Raisin in the Sun,” James Franco in John Steinbeck’s heartbreaker “Of Mice and Men,” and Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame as LBJ. But a recent survey of Broadway theatergoers noted that the most loyal — and frequent — audiences are those who choose plays over musicals. It’s a habit that is likely to continue given the promising nature of the line-up. These are just some of the shows to keep your eye on in the months leading up to the Tony Awards.
“Outside Mullingar,” opening January 23. Tony Winner John Patrick Shanley (“Doubt”) is said to be back in form with this romantic comedy starring Brian F. O’Byrne and DebraMessing. For this world premiere, the Bronx-born playwright travels back to his ancestral roots — rare for him — for what is being billed as an “Irish ‘Moonstruck,’” containing as it does all the emotional conundrums that were in his 1987 Oscar-winning movie. In rural Ireland, a shy cattle farmer pushing 40 is coaxed into a union with his misfit neighbor despite the threat of disinheritance and feuding families. Shanley recently told the New York Times that he never wanted to write about the Irish, preferring the head-smacking passion of Italian-Americans. This looks like it may well have been worth the wait.
“All the Way,” opening March 6. Bryan Cranston trades the drug labs of “Breaking Bad” for the backrooms of political intrigue and manipulation in this study of one of America’s most turbulent periods. The drama begins as Johnson assumes the presidency in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination and cajoles, seduces, and bullies through the passage of the historic Civil Rights Bill and election to a full term. In the course of the three-hour drama, the Texan grapples with everyone from J. Edgar Hoover to Martin Luther King to segregationist senator Richard Russell and even black militant Stokely Carmichael. Johnson’s powers of persuasion are as masterful as they are cunning. Imagine: a Congress that manages to pass something.
“A Raisin in the Sun,” opening April 3. Although the most recent revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 seminal drama of an upwardly mobile African-American family was only a decade ago, the reason for its return is simple: Denzel Washington’s desire to play Walter Younger, the role that made a star of Sidney Poitier. Poitier was around 32 years of age when he created onstage the Chicago limousine driver who yearns to strike it rich by investing his mother’s insurance check in a liquor store. Washington turns 60 this year but there’s no age limit on ambition and the angst of dreams deferred. Joining Washington is a first-rate cast, which includes Diahann Carroll as Lena Younger, who is determined to spend the money on a house, and Anika NoniRose as Walter’s sister, Beneatha. Think of Washington’s casting as redressing the error of the last revival, which starred an out-of-his league Sean “Puffy” Combs in the role of Walter.
“Act One,” opening April 17. Show people love shows about show people: “Gypsy,” “Funny Girl,” “The Producers,” and “Bullets Over Broadway,” to name just a few. So it seems inevitable that someone would decide to adapt for the stage Moss Hart’s classic theatrical memoir, “Act One.” Lucky for us that someone is writer-director James Lapine, who, like every other person in the field, has long been obsessed with Hart’s tale of escaping an impoverished outer-borough childhood to toil under the white-hot lights of Broadway. “Act One” deals largely with his collaboration with the acerbic George S. Kaufman, which yielded his first hit, “Once in a Lifetime,” which would be followed by “You Can’t Take It With You” and “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” Tony Shalhoub and Santino Fontana both play incarnations of the mercurial and complex Hart, who would die in 1961 at age 57.
“Of Mice and Men,” opening April 17. James Franco and Chris O’ Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) make Broadway debuts in John Steinbeck’s heartbreaker about two peripatetic ranch hands who join forces to combat loneliness and share a dream. Franco is the smart-witted George, who forms an unlikely alliance with O’Dowd’s lumbering, feeble-minded Lenny, who delights in soft furry things, like rabbits. They are no match however for the inexorable and fatalistic winds whipping through Depression-era California. Directing the production is Anna D. Shapiro, whose rigorous eye brought her a Tony Award for “August: Osage County.” In that show, the unruly family was bonded by blood. Here, the love between George and Lenny is a voluntary social contract, which makes the tragedy all the more terrible — and timeless.
This week, Patrick Pacheco drops his massive 2014 Broadway preview. If you’re planning on seeing anything on the stage this year this is a must-read. The first part focuses on musicals, while the second part focuses on plays.
Craig Hubert reviews HBO’s “True Detective,” a dark and mysterious crime-drama starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.
Larry Blumenfeld writes about Ramon Diaz, who is responsible for the “deepening and broadening of Afro-Latin influence and expression within jazz’s ranks.”
We discuss the controversy surrounding “Saturday Night Live” hiring comedian Sasheer Zamata this week.
Our Performing Arts Pick this week is the “Late Ray” DVD box-set from the Criterion Collection, which collects three late-period films from the Indian director Satyajit Ray.
On the blog: Jane Campion is the Cannes jury president; Common has a new song; we take a look at the underappreciated Michael Yonkers; we suggest you listen to Angel Olsen’s “Hi-Five” and St. Vincent’s “Digital Witness”; and discussLeo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill’s new hip-hop show.
Name: Art Spiegelman
Age: 65 (“I’m still 65 and it’s a dangerous time to have a retrospective. It all comes with so many weights since 65 is this magic number when I should learn how to play golf and like white shoes.”)
Occupation: Comics Artist
City/Neighborhood: SoHo (“As I’ve done since 1976.”)
Your current exhibition at the Jewish Museum, “Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix,” is your first U.S. retrospective. How does it feel for your career to be celebrated in such a huge show?
On the one hand, it’s kind of amazing because it looks so good. I was going to say it’s well hung, but that brings up horses or something. It’s beautifully installed. On the other hand, the whole notion of a retrospective is a kind of shaky experience. I have no idea what happens on the other side of a retrospective. De Kooning said it should never be done while you’re alive, but the research reveals that he had at least two. So what are you gonna do?
The U.S. premiere of your performance piece “Wordless!” will take place at BAM on January 18. What brought you to performance? How did your process change when creating in a new medium?
The last few years what I’ve been doing is commixing my discipline with other media: with a dance company, with glass fabrication, a book called “MetaMaus” where an exhausted interview got distilled into a 300-page book I designed, and ultimately collaborating on this exhibition itself with Rina Zavagli-Mattotti, who is the curator I trust enough to let this happen against my better judgment. And now “Wordless!”, which is a way of finally seeing to fruition a project that didn’t quite come together, which was a music theater piece called “Drawn to Death” about the rise and fall of the American comic book we were trying to get made with [composer] Phillip Johnston. When it failed I just wanted to hang with him some more and tried to find an excuse. Ultimately that excuse was afforded to us by the Sydney Opera House. It is a hybrid of something between a slide-talk with a slight veering toward stand-up comedy, interspersed with still images, but also with QuickTime movie adaptations of the wordless woodcut novels of the ’20s and ’30s. They are mostly now relatively unknown, but were a very important moment in helping what’s now called the graphic novel and had been a really large influence on me when I first discovered them in the mid ’60s. An influence renewed when I was asked to work on the Library of Americas collected works of Lynd Ward, the most important American exponent of the woodcut novel. And I tried to figure out why these things were taken so seriously, although they deserve it, and were reviewed with great respect in the same newspapers that would have no use for their own comics in the back of the paper. So that was something I was trying to pry apart, seeing that now these are referred to as among the first graphic novels. It’s because they had gravitas, a seriousness of purpose that’s not usually attributed to something once it’s also funny. It offered me a way of finding a visual voice to approach serious subject matter in my own work. Some of the pieces in “Maus,” like the suicide of my mother sequence, are clearly inspired by some of Lynd Ward’s work. I loved these works and could never talk about them when I was lecturing on comics. Here, it got to be a whole event because Phillip Johnston now lives in Sydney and it was a chance for us to work together. Phillip is especially gifted at silent movie scores. The goal had been to not make these things look like animatics, like badly schematic animated cartoons, but to respect what they were as books while acknowledging and taking advantage of the fact that they were inspired by silent movies of their time. So this required a lot more precision than either of us expected. We moved forward and tried to find music to allow one to have an enhanced first reading of works that presumably the audience wouldn’t be familiar with and let it enter in between rounds of rapid-fire patter so when your left-brain gets exhausted by my yacking, you are then given respite by being able to look at these beautiful images and music in different styles. They careen between two sides of your head until a revelation happens, if we’re lucky.
What project are you working on now?
Damned if I know. Working on a sketchbook to find out how to reinvent myself on the other side of a retrospective.
What’s the last show that you saw?
The very last show was the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana, their permanent collection. Before that was the Ad Reinhardt at the Zwirner Gallery.
What did you think?
Blew me away. It was amazing. For one thing it validated my notion that all of us artists, or probably all of us people, are at least schizophrenic, probably multi-phrenic. Seeing how agile Reinhardt was as a cartoonist and how very specifically engaged with the craft of making a cartoon and inventing a new kind of comics page, a kind of comics essay using the very surrealism that he put down as low art while working at his craft as a cartoonist, was mind blowing. It was one of the highest quality shows I’ve seen in a long time. What’s interesting to me is that all of a sudden comics now have cache as opposed to being the absolute gutter medium that I grew up thinking I was working in. You didn’t get no respect being a cartoonist. If I wanted to pick you up at a bar in 1973, I would not tell you what I did for a living. Now that’s all different. Here’s Ad Reinhardt being revealed as a high practitioner of comics art.
What’s the last show that surprised you? Why?
Balthus at the Met. The work he did when he was 11 is pretty damn great and ties directly in with the “Wordless!” project. I’ve been considering using “Mitsou” as one of the pieces we would show.
Describe a typical day in your life as an artist.
Oh Jesus. I can’t remember. A typical day in my recent past has been get up and retrospect, look back at the work you used to do when you were a famous artist. A typical day will start with me showing up at my studio to either meet somebody if meetings are required or dealing with mountains of emails until about noon, because I need some lag time between dreaming and dreaming on paper. And then getting started around 1 or 1:30 and working till 9. That work consists of making marks on paper, ripping them up, making other marks, salvaging the ones I could salvage, and starting again as I tried to find something new. And once something new has been found, working for months and months on refining the idea.
Do you make a living off your art?
Yeah, always have. I have the good fortune of not being in the art racket, in that it’s not my job to curry favor with a bunch of cake eaters who have the money to buy my work and hide it forever or keep it as a trophy until it appreciates in value and peddle it elsewhere. It’s a much more democratic thing to work for reproduction and have people vote with their wallets by saying, “I’ll pay $20 for that book.” I’m fortunate in that “Maus” continues to function as if it was a brand new bestselling book every year. So it takes the heat off, it becomes an ongoing grant to allow me to pursue whatever goes through my head.
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
In order to avoid being banal I should just say it’s my coffee pot, but it really is, sad to confess, my computer.
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
In the black inky pit of anxiety that I live in. It ranges from looking at other art to reading to taking notes on things I see around me.
Do you collect anything?
I accumulate a lot of stuff. I have an enormous library of comics-related art, Picasso and Beckmann books as well.
What is your karaoke song?
I’ve never karaoked. Maybe the “Sheik of Arabi” would work, some other 1920s ditty.
What’s the last artwork you purchased?
A lot of stuff I get in trade. I think it’s one of two pieces. A painting by Lorenzo Mattotti graces a small pied-à-terre we have in Paris. He is a great comics artist, but also a really luscious painter and we have a large black and white picture of an intertwined couple that is a pleasure to look at. Before that I bought something in 2005 that was painted directly onto our sheetrock by Gary Panter. Prior to that, the bed had these bookshelves straddling across and one night in the middle of the night the lintel cracked and the books fell on our heads while we slept. I realized I didn’t ever want to sleep looking at the underside of a shelf again. We came up with the great notion of getting Gary to paint something on the wall, which is like Popeye descending a staircase.
What’s the first artwork you ever sold?
It’s always artwork for reproduction; I barely ever sell my originals. The first thing I did was for a local weekly bad newspaper called the Long Island Post in Queens where I grew up. When I was 13 I went there with a portfolio because it seemed important to me as a cartoonist to get published. Instead they did something incredibly humiliating — they wrote an article about me: “Budding Artist Wants Attention.” And then published one of my drawings at the top of the article. It was a watercolor picture of Frankenstein’s head. Anyway, two years later I went back there and got a gig and started doing some illustrations for them on a weekly basis. Around the same time, an aspiring cartoonist pal of mine, Jay Lynch, living in Miami, discovered there was a weekly anti-Castro magazine coming out that had anti-Castro cartoons mostly on the cover by [Antonio] Prohias, the cartoonist that drew “Spy vs. Spy” for MAD. So not having any politics whatsoever at age 13, I figured I could come up with an anti-Castro gag and I did and they bought it. My politics then changed so I was really embarrassed by my mercenary, ambitious, youthful self who just wanted to get into print.
What’s your art-world pet peeve?
The art world.
What’s your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?
I don’t gallery hop. On rare occasions there’s a show that starts screaming that I’ve go to go see it. And then museums, which makes whatever deli is near the museum my favorite watering hole before or after. Because of New York’s anti-smoking laws my favorite watering hole is over at my place afterwards with friends who tolerate my addiction.
What is your favorite deli?
Well, it’s like a deli. Right near my place there’s a coffee shop right below Green Street when it crosses Canal. There’s a small Dominican restaurant with very good Dominican food and really great coffee. It’s finally something that doesn’t belong in Manhattan and has hung on for decades.
What’s the last great book you read?
That one is an easy one. Two weeks ago I read Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Talented writer.
What work of art do you wish you owned?
Lots. Usually the way I go to museums is very capitalist. I think of it as a shopping trip and I’m allowed to own one in my fantasy life. I go out with a picture every time I go, so it’s a large imaginary collection. There’s one that I use as my screensaver on my iPhone, which is one of my favorite pictures. A Philip Guston Klansman in pinks and reds and he’s painting another Klansman while smoking.
What would you do to get it?
Have an interview with ARTINFO and hope that somebody bequeaths it to me.
What international art destination do you most want to visit?
I’ve made a number of trips to see the Prado and never gotten there. It seems by far the place I must go see. The first time I tried to go we went via Barcelona and we liked Barcelona too much and never got to Madrid. Finally I proposed to my wife [Françoise Mouly] and we got remarried. We had first gotten married in 1976, a shotgun marriage with immigration authorities holding the shotgun and then decided to do it up better. So I was all set to go to the Prado for our honeymoon and found out that French people think of Venice as the equivalent of Niagara Falls, so I was stuck in Venice where it was mostly renaissance art, dammit. So I’m still looking forward to Velazquez and Goya eventually.
What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?
Kim Deitch, whose show I want to see at Scott Eder Gallery. I love his work. I think he’s underappreciated even in the universe of comics that he functions in. And Mark Beyer who does, I guess what would be called, outsider paintings.
Who’s your favorite living artist?
Probably Chris Ware. But Maybe Kim Deitch or Gary Panter or Charles Burns or Lynda Barry. It’s in the world of people who make comics.
What are your hobbies?
I don’t know what they are. The same way I don’t karaoke, I don’t hobby. I like to look at stuff and make stuff but I don’t know how to add something else in.
– Cooper Union Trustees Approve Tuition: The board of trustees of Cooper Union, the art, architecture, and engineering university in New York's East Village where every student has received a full scholarship since 1859, voted to reject a set of alternative proposals to remain and will begin charging students $20,000 in the fall. "The Working Group plan puts forward a number of recommendations that are worth pursuing under any financial model," the board of trustees said in a statement. "However, we believe that the contingencies and risks inherent in the proposals are too great to supplant the need for new revenue sources. Regrettably, tuition remains the only realistic source of new revenue in the near future." [Gothamist, Reuters]
– The Met Goes for a Touchdown: The Metropolitan Museum is tapping into Superbowl fever: Just in time for the big game on February 2, it is opening a pop-up exhibition tracking the history of football through the vast collection of roughly 300,000 vintage trading cards it received from late collector Jefferson Burdick. "Commercially printed lithographs are part of our printed visual culture," said Freyda Spira, assistant curator in the Met's department of drawings and prints. "It's viewed within the spectrum of what art is." The exhibition, "Gridiron Greats," runs January 24-February 10. [AP]
– Pope’s Motorcycle For Sale: Pope Francis is putting his Harley Davidson motorcycle up for auction in Paris to benefit Roman Catholic charity Caritas Roma. The 1,585cc Dyna Super Glide (the make popular with the Hell’s Angels) was a gift to the Pope on Harley Davidson’s 110th anniversary and the 77-year-old Pope "is not thought to have ridden the Harley." Pope Francis did however sign the gas tank and the bike is expected to bring between $16,400 and $20,500. [AFP]
– Israeli Curators Join Nazi Loot Task Force: In what the Times of Israel is calling an "unprecedented step," Yad Vashem senior curator Yehudit Shendar and Israel Museum European art curator Shlomit Steinberg have been appointed to join the task force that will deal with Cornelius Gurlitt’s Nazi loot trove. [Times of Israel]
– Marcos Aide Gets Jail Time: Imelda Marcos’s former assistant, 75-year-old Vilma Bautista, has been sentenced to two to six years of jail time for the attempted sale of the Philippine government’s Impressionist masterpieces. [NYT]
– De Blasio Yet to Name Culture Commissioner: New Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to appoint a new New York City commissioner for cultural affairs, leaving people to speculate that it could be actress Cynthia Nixon, Queens Museum director Tom Finkelpearl, or executive director of New York's Design Trust for Public Space, Susan Chin. [AiA]
– MoMA Backlash Continues: "The Museum With a Bulldozer’s Heart"; "MoMA: A Museum That Has Lost Its Way"; "New York's Museum of Modern Art: a case study in how to ruin an institution."
– City officials in Helsinki, where plans for a Guggenheim Museum outpost were voted down in 2012, have voted to set aside a parcel of land in the South Harbor area that could eventually house the Guggenheim Helsinki. [NYT]
– Former chief curator of El Museo del BarrioChus Martinez has been appointed as the head of the Institute of Art at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel. [Artforum]
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What would you do to help someone who felt anxious about the future? Or who felt a sense of sadness and loneliness? How could you make a long-term relationship more exciting or alleviate your feelings of being a loser? These are the questions posed by noted philosopher Alain de Botton, co-author (with art historian John Armstrong) of the recently released “Art as Therapy” (Phaidon), who is currently curating an online auction of works that he believes have a palliative effect on such conditions for Paddle8, which runs through January 23. Among the offerings on the block are pieces by Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, and Ed Ruscha. In a recent interview, Angela M.H. Schuster spoke with de Botton about the notion of therapeutic art.
Doesn’t the idea of using works for therapeutic reasons fly in the face of the adage “art for art’s sake”?
The idea that one might use art for “instrumental” reasons tends to set off alarm bells at the heart of the cultural elite, who contend that it’s not a pill, that it shouldn’t be asked to perform some specific function, especially something as egocentric as to “cheer you up” or to “make you a more empathetic person.” I couldn’t disagree more. If buying art is to matter to us deeply, then it has to engage with our emotions and bring something to what one might as well, and with no supernatural associations whatsoever, call our souls. Artworks are especially good at helping our psyches in a variety of ways: they rebalance our moods, lend us hope, usher in calm, stretch our sympathies, reignite our senses, and reawaken appreciation. In my estimation, auction houses should be apothecaries for our deeper selves.
That has long been the function of religious art, yes?
Religions have always been clearly on to this psycho-therapeutic score. For hundreds of years in the West, Christian art had a very clear function: it was meant to direct us towards the good and wean us off vice. A lot of Buddhist sculpture had an equally clear mission: to encourage us to achieve an inner calm by contemplating the serene expression on the Buddha’s face (and especially his smile). We should take something (but not more) from these examples and get a little more direct about what we demand from the art of our times.
So for the questions you pose [stated in the introduction above], what works would you recommend?
If budget were no object and the works were available, I’d advise taking in Sugimoto’s “North Atlantic Ocean” for the first problem, Richard Serra’s “Fernanda Pessoa” for the second, Jan Steen’s “Woman at her Toilet” for the third, and a 15th-century statue of the Buddhist saintly figure, Guanyin, for the fourth.
In your book, you identify seven functions that art should serve. Can you tell us more about them?
These functions include remembering, as we are prone to lose important information about events; hope, because optimism is key to a happy life; sorrow, which helps us manages our suffering; rebalancing our equilibrium; self-understanding; growth, to alleviate fears of things we find new or threatening; and appreciation, as all too often we fail to appreciate that which we have.
For more on Alain de Botton and “Art as Therapy,” visit www.artastherapy.com.