Giant Ghandi Sculpted from Sand for Martyr's Day

Mahatma Gandhi, Martyrs' Day, sand sculptures
Sixty-two years after Mahatma Gandhi's death, nearly 150 artists from across India assembled at the beaches of Pandabar. Sand sculptures depicting Gandhi's life and values were created just in time for Martyrs' Day, Jan. 30. [Credit: Sify]

INDIA — On January 30, 2010, sixty-two years after Mahatma Gandhi was killed, thousands came to the beach near his birthplace to pay homage to the Indian spiritual leader. The date is observed annually as Martyrs' Day, and this year 150 artists from across India came to the small port town of Pandabar to create 75 magnificent sand sculptures depicting Gandhi's philosophy of peace.

"With this event, we want to give youngsters a feel of the life of the Mahatma and his values. We have involved some 150 people — students of fine arts and artists..." an event organizer told the press.

The works are on display until February 5.


Celebs Inaugurate 1st Annual Art Los Angeles Contemporary

Art Los Angeles Contemporary, Pacific Design Center
The inaugural Art Los Angeles Contemporary international contemporary art fair is being held January 28-31, 2010 at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.
LOS ANGELES — Recent American Idol guest judge Neil Patrick Harris and Brothers and Sisters star Rachel Griffiths were among the A-listers at Thursday evening's opening gala for the first annual Art Los Angeles Contemporary. The international contemporary art fair is in its inaugural year and continues through Sunday at the 14-acre campus of the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood. The event boasts displays from 55 "blue chip" art galleries along with world class artist talks, panel discussions and an artist film screening series.

This premiere January event is part of the annual Los Angeles Arts Month - raising "awareness, appreciation, and participation in the arts in Los Angeles in all forms."


Art Gallery of Alberta's Grand Opening

Top ART News Headlines for Friday, January 29, 2010

Art Gallery of Alberta, Randall Stout
The Art Gallery of Alberta will open to the public on January 30, 2010. [Credit: ©Richard Lemermeyer]

The Art Gallery of Alberta's Grand Opening | EDMONTON — After ten years of planning, three years of construction and $88 million, Canada's 85,000-square-foot Art Gallery of Alberta will open to the public on January 30, 2010. The original building, known as the Edmonton Art Gallery, was designed by Don Bittorf in 1969; the new structure is the design of LA-based architect Randall Stout. "Environmental sustainability" was a major factor in the construction of the building, which also features a gift shop, restaurant and 150-seat theater. Ten thousand tickets were given away to the public for free admission on opening weekend. [Source: Canadian Architect]

A.J. Casson, Group of Seven, Barrie Art Club
Missing — The original House and Hills (1959) painting by Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson. [Credit: Barrie Art Club]
Painting Switcheroo Victims Want Their Original Back | ONTARIO — The Barrie Art Club is in a state of panic after discovering their prized House and Hills oil painting was stolen. When the Canadian Group of Seven artist A.J. Casson visited the Art Club in 1959, he not only conducted a painting workshop but created and gifted an original 9x12-inch work to the group. On Wednesday, police confirmed suspicions that the original in storage was switched out with a giclée (high-quality print) copy that had been made for display purposes. Authorities and group members are appealing to the public for help in locating their stolen treasure. [Source: The Barrie Examiner]

Exhibit Turns Modern Art Into Literal Rubbish | LONDON — British artist Michael Landy is curating a new exhibit by contacting his peers and asking them to donate art for his show. But the pieces won't hang on the walls at the South London Gallery. Instead, the artwork will be placed into a glass and metal Art Bin as big as a room; at the end of six weeks all of the artwork will be thrown away as trash. Modern Art is Rubbish is described by Landy as "a monument to creative failure." The show opened Thursday and so far holds fifty of Landy's own paintings, as well as others by well-known artists Tracey Emin, Peter Blake and Damien Hirst. Landy is accepting public contributions through March 14. [Source: Times Online]



Falsely Attributed Leonard da Vinci Fetches $1.5 Million

Top ART News Headlines for Thursday, January 28, 2010

La Belle Ferronniere, Leonardo da Vinci
La Belle Ferronniere was once attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519); the artist is currently listed as unknown.
Leonardo Pronounced as Fake Fetches $1.5 Million | NEW YORK — Even if for a little while, merely brushing elbows with an Old Master evidently has some value. The "after" Leonardo da Vinci painting known as La Belle Ferronniere sold for $1.5 million on Thursday, exceeding Sotheby's pre-auction estimates of $300,000-$500,000. The portrait was once thought to be a da Vinci and became the subject of a scandalous 1929 trial over attribution. In 1993, a da Vinci specialist ultimately ruled that the oil painting was executed in the mid-17th century, well after the master's death. [Source: AFP]

Seven-Year-Old Prodigy May Be the Next Picasso |  ENGLAND — Kieron Williamson has a waiting list of hundreds requesting commissions, he recently sold 16 paintings for $29,280 in 14 minutes -- and he's only seven-years-old! The boy from Holt, a small town in England, works in pastels, watercolors and oils to create paintings inspired by the local landscape. Williamson's artistic talents are already being compared to those of Pablo Picasso, who was himself recognized as a child prodigy. [Source: Reuters]

Roger Rucha, Queen Elizabeth II, Jelly Belly jelly beans
Candy shop co-owner Nick Adlam poses with a portrait of the Queen made from over 10,000 jelly beans. [Credit: Times Online]
Sweet Portrait of the Queen | ENGLAND — A sweet portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has gone on display at Fizziwigg's candy shop in East Sussex, England. San Fransisco-based artist Roger Rucha created the 4-foot-high mosaic entirely out of Jelly Belly jelly beans - over 10,000 of them. In 2008, the artist gave George Clooney the Jelly Belly "treat"ment; the portrait of the actor was later auctioned off for charity. [Source: The Press Association]


OH SNAP! The Art of Betting on the Super Bowl

Top ART News Headlines for Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Orleans Museum of Art, Ideal View of Tivoli, CLaude Lorrain
Indianapolis Museum of Art, The Fifth Plague of Egypt, Joseph Turner
If the Colts win the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis Museum of Art gets a 3-month loan of the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Ideal View of Tivoli (1644) by Claude Lorrain [left]; if the Saints win, NoMA will borrow IMA’s The Fifth Plague of Egypt (1800) by Joseph Turner [right].

OH SNAP! The Art of Betting on the Super Bowl | In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, what could be more popular than betting on which team will take home the trophy? How about the ongoing Twitter rivalry between two museum directors - Max Anderson of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) vs. E. John Bullard of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NoMA). Refereed by art blogger Tyler Greene, the final wager was decided Wednesday afternoon: If the Colts win, IMA gets a 3-month loan of NoMA’s Ideal View of Tivoli (1644) by Claude Lorrain; if the Saints win, NoMA gets a 3-month loan of IMA’s The Fifth Plague of Egypt (1800) by Joseph Turner. [Modern Art Notes]

Shepard Fairey, Obama HOPE Poster, Associated Press
The iconic Obama HOPE poster was designed by Shepard Fairey and based on a photograph taken by Mannie Garcia for the AP.
Obama HOPE Poster Artist May Face Criminal Charges | NEW YORK — An update in the case of the Fairey v. Associated Press - a NYC judge revealed that Shepard Fairey is the target of a pending criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office. At a hearing Tuesday, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein denied a motion by Fairey's attorneys in the ongoing civil case involving the artist's use of a photo of the President. Fairey revealed in October that he deleted and faked evidence to mislead his lawyers. [Bloomberg]

Swiss-American Philanthropist Donates Art to Cuba | HAVANA — "I will continue buying and donating works from the collection to the Cuban people," said Swiss-American philanthropist Gilbert Brownstone after hand-delivering the first installment of nine artworks to Cuba this week. The gallery owner and former curator of the Museum of Modern Art, Paris will give a total of 120 pieces by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, among others, to Cuba's National Museum of Fine Art. Brownstone, who has hailed the communist island as having done much for its people, was awarded the Medal of Friendship on Monday by Cuba's Council of State. [Reuters]

Good Boy, Michael Dickinson
Stuckist artist Michael Dickinson faces jail time for his Good Boy (2006) collage mocking Turkish prime minister Erdogan.

Artist Stuck(ist) to His Principles Faces Jail Time | ISTANBUL — Michael Dickinson, a British member of the Stuckist art movement in Turkey, may be thrown in jail over his collage mocking Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. Good Boy (2006) shows Erdogan as a dog being lead by an American flag leash. The artist refused to pay a fine imposed by the judge in Istanbul, saying, "I told the judge that if he gave me a fine I would not pay it in protest at the attack on my freedom of speech." Proceedings were adjourned  Wednesday and are scheduled to resume March 9. [BBC News]

Largest Moon Sculpture on Earth Is Out of This World | DUSSELDORF — An 82-foot wide sculpture of the moon - the largest in the world - is on display in Germany, along with replicas of the sun and its planets. Based on high-resolution satellite images, the elaborate heavenly bodies are part of Out of This World - Wonders of The Solar System, on view inside of a 380-foot tall obsolete gas holder called the Gasometer. The show is open through December 30, 2010 as part of Ruhr 2010, the European Capital of Culture – a year-long series of art events and exhibits in Germany’s Rhine Ruhr area. [PRWeb]


New Feature! Top ART News Headlines of the Day

Top ART News is launching a new feature today! Aren't you glad you stopped by?!

While sifting through all the most popular, most talked about art news stories on the web, the author of this blog finds so many interesting art news articles that she wants to share with readers. Unfortunately, due to time limitations (note: the author also has a full-time job and created Top ART News for fun in her spare time), she simply can't cover every story in full. So what to do?

Well, dear readers, starting today, in addition to featured articles, Top ART News will frequently post a summary list of the best art stories making internet headlines. (And feel free to share your suggestions via email or Twitter!)

Here we go...

Top ART News Headlines for January 26, 2010

Art Attacks: From Vomiting on Mondrian to Elbowing a Picasso | Thus far, the week's most overwhelmingly popular art news story is the report of the art student who fell and tore into a Picasso at the Met. Of course, she wasn't the first person to cause major damage to a treasured work of art. From the gal who smeared lipstick across a Cy Twombly to the guy who attacked a Michelangelo with a hammer, check out these top ten art attacks. [The Independent]

Soumaya Museum, Carlos Slim, Fernando Romero, Mexico City
A rendering of Mexico City's Soumaya Museum, funded by telecom magnate Carlos Slim and currently under construction. [Credit: Fernando Romero]
Mexico's Carlos Slim Builds a Dazzling Art Palace | MEXICO CITY — One of the world's richest tycoons, Carlos Slim, is building an 183,000 square-foot, 5-level art museum in Mexico City.  A telecom billionaire, Slim has amassed an impressive art collection of 66,000 pieces, which includes the second-largest private collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin outside of France. The Soumaya Museum, scheduled to open in late 2010, was designed by Mexican architect Fernando Romero, who is coincidentally married to Slim's daughter. [BusinessWeek]

Baz Luhrmann to Paint a Mural on Mumbai Wall | INDIA — Australian screenwriter, producer and director of Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann will be in Mumbai this week but not to shoot a movie - he'll be painting. Luhrmann has teamed up with artist and fellow Aussie Vincent Fantauzzo to paint a new dance-themed mural on a wall at Le Sutra art hotel. []

British Library, Klencke Atlas
The 350-year-old Klencke Atlas, recorded as the largest book in the world, will be displayed this summer. [Credit: British Library]
Largest Book in the World Goes on Show for the First Time | LONDON — Measuring 5x6-feet, the 350-year-old Klencke Atlas is recorded as the largest book in the world. For the first time ever, the giant tome will be on view with its pages open at the British Library this summer. The exhibition will show that prior to 1800, great maps were considered to be great works of art, displayed as prominently as paintings or sculptures in palaces and homes of the wealthy. [The Guardian]

A Cultural Agony in a Nation Where Art is Life | HAITI — A report on the damage to cultural treasures in the suffering Caribbean country, including the status of the Nader Art Gallery, the largest single collection of Haitian primitive art, and Port-au-Prince's main art museum. "Every Haitian is an artist. Art, it is us, it's what we are. Even our children are artists," one museum board member told reporters. [LA Times]

Banksy's "Exit Through the Giftshop" Premieres at Sundance

PARK CITY, UTAH — Although it wasn't part of the official lineup, it was called the hottest ticket in town when it premiered at this year's Sundance film festival. Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film by the elusive British street artist Banksy, made its debut in front a full house on Sunday night.

Exit Through the Gift Shop bills itself as “the world’s first street art disaster movie"; its title is based on the Disneyland/Disney World engineered design of having guests exit attractions via the gift shop, making them more apt to purchase souvenirs.

Banksy's graffiti artwork began popping up all around the walls and sidewalks of Park City last week. But one question still remains - did Banksy attend his own premiere? Since his identity is unknown, nobody knows for sure. But the artist did issue the following statement which Sundance Director of Programming John Cooper read to the audience:
"Ladies and gentlemen, and publicists:

Trying to make a movie which truly conveys the raw thrill and expressive power of art is very difficult. So we haven't bothered. Instead, this is simply an everyday tale of life, longing, and mindless vandalism. Everything you are about to see is true, especially the bit where we all lie.

Thanks for coming, please don't give away the ending on Twitter. And please, don't try copying any of this stuff at home, wait until you get to work."
Watch the trailer for Exit Through the Gift Shop:




Mona Lisa is Da Vinci's Self-Portrait, Says New Scientific Theory

Pablo Picasso, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Actor
Researchers plan to exhume the body of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519); the artist is thought to be buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert at the royal Château at Amboise in France's Loire Valley.
LOIRE VALLEY, FRANCE — In this week's Mona Lisa news comes a story that even The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown would probably find far-fetched. Researchers from Italy's National Committee for Cultural Heritage have asked permission to exhume the remains of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) from his tomb in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert at the royal Château at Amboise in France's Loire Valley. The scientists believe that the Mona Lisa may actually be Leonardo da Vinci in disguise. The theory: if researchers can locate the artist's skull and use it to reconstruct his face, they may finally be able to identify the famous "lady".

“If we manage to find his skull, we could rebuild Leonardo’s face and compare it with the Mona Lisa,” said Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist from the committee.

Some scholars believe that the artist's presumed homosexuality and love of riddles led him to paint himself as a woman. But not all historians are so enthused by the plan.  

Nicholas Turner, a former curator of drawings at the Getty Museum, told the press, "It sounds a bit fanciful, slightly mad, as if the Leonardo bug has taken hold too firmly in the minds of these people. We know Mona Lisa was a specific person, she existed and it's her portrait," he said. "If Leonardo heard about all this, he would have a good chuckle."

The project could receive formal approval by summer 2010.

After Two Centuries, the Mysterious Location of a Constable Painting is Identified

John Constable, Stour Valley and Dedham Church
John Constable, Stour Valley and Dedham Church
Compare the top painting - The Stour Valley and Dedham Church (ca. 1814) by John Constable - with the bottom landscape - a recent photo of the field identified in Constable's painting. [Photo Credit: The Independent]

ENGLAND — Nearly two hundred years after it was painted, the mystery of the exact location where John Constable (1776-1837) created his beloved work The Stour Valley and Dedham Church has been solved. Although the landscape has changed drastically since the early 1800s, a researcher for the National Trust, a conservation organization in the UK, was able to use historic maps and reference points to pinpoint the location shown in the painting.

Constable, who was born in Suffolk county England, once said "I should paint my own places best," and that he did. The artist became known primarily for his landscape paintings of the area surrounding his home, Dedham Vale, so much so that the area was eventually nicknamed "Constable Country". Fans of the Romantic painter have identified the exact locations pictured in a majority of Constable's rural paintings, but a handful - including The Stour Valley and Dedham Church, until recently - remain elusive to this day.

The Stour Valley and Dedham Church was painted around 1814. Dramatic changes to the landscape over the many years subsequent made finding the spot where Constable stood to paint his masterpiece that much harder. But Martin Atkinson, property manager of the National Trust and Constable enthusiast, has finally solved the mystery. He believes the painting shows Langham church, Dedham church, Fen Bridge and the bend in the River Stour, all of which sit within the picturesque Dedham Vale Area of Natural Beauty.

"It's great to see where an old master once stood - and be inspired by the same views as them," Atkinson told The Press Association. "When I discovered that I had worked out the location where Constable painted this particular masterpiece, I couldn't believe it. All the pieces of the jigsaw finally fitted together."


Oops! Museum Visitor's Fall Damages Rare Picasso

Pablo Picasso, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Actor
Pablo Picasso's Rose period painting "The Actor" (1904-1905) was accidentally damaged by a visitor to the Met on Friday, Jan. 22. [Credit: Metropolitan Museum of Art]
NEW YORK — It probably could've happened to any of us, so just be thankful it wasn't you! A visitor attending a class at the Metropolitan Museum Art on Friday afternoon lost her balance and fell directly onto a Pablo Picasso painting. And yes, the rare artwork was damaged in the process.

In a statement released Jan. 24, the Met said, "The accident resulted in an irregular vertical tear of about six inches in length in the lower right-hand corner. The painting was taken immediately to the Museum's paintings conservation studio for assessment and treatment. Fortunately, the damage did not occur in a focal point of the composition, and the curatorial and conservation staffs fully expect that the repair — which will take place in the coming weeks — will be unobtrusive."

The painting entitled The Actor was created in the winter of 1904-1905, during Picasso's famous Rose period, a time when the artist's palette consisted of cheerful orange and pink hues as opposed to the cool, somber tones of his previous Blue Period. The image of the costumed acrobat was painted on a nearly 6x4-foot canvas which Picasso had already used for another painting.

Museum officials expect to have The Actor restored in time to include the painting in their forthcoming exhibition Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, slated to open April 27.



Identify Forged Masterpieces at the V&A Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum, Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries
In 2003, Britain's Bolton Museum bought the Amarna Princess sculpture; it turned out to be a fake created by forger Shaun Grennhalgh and was seized by the Metropolitan Police Service’s Art & Antiques Unit in 2006. The sculpture is part of the new V&A exhibit. [Credit: V&A Museum]
LONDON — If it were genuine, the collection of masterpieces on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum would be worth $6.45 million. You expect to see authentic artwork when you visit a world-famous museum, but the unusual show at the V&A is celebrating the fine art of forgery. More than 100 fake works, including paintings once attributed to graffiti artist Banksy and sculptures not really by Barbara Hepworth, are part of the London museum's new exhibit  - The Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries.

"This display will demonstrate that art crime is not just a topic for historic consideration. It reveals a situation very much alive and at the forefront of the art and antiques unit's priorities today," said Detective sergeant Vernon Rapley, head of the Metropolitan Police's art and antiques unit. "We hope that by highlighting some of the new techniques criminals use, we can educate people in what to look out for and encourage greater reporting of these crimes," Rapley told Sky News.

The fakes seized by the Metropolitan Police went on display for the first time on Saturday, and can be seen at the V&A through February 7.

Many of the works were created by one of most notorious forgers in British art history, Shaun Greenhalgh, while others were done by John Myatt and Robert Thwaites. Items like vintage typewriters and false stamps were used by the forgers to create letters, invoices and other fake documents of authenticity - all of which are also included in the exhibit.

[Click the video player for an exhibit preview]



New Study Paints Grim Picture of the Arts Industry

WASHINGTON, DC — The first National Arts Index, a study eleven years in the making, was released Wednesday by the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in the United States, Americans for the Arts. From 1998 to 2008, the survey scored 76 indicators, including music royalties, Broadway ticket sales, museum visits, philanthropy and the number of college art majors, to measure the health and vitality of the arts industries in the United States.

The Index score for 2008 was 98.4, the lowest overall, and a 4.2% decrease from the previous year. The highest Index score of 105.5 was measured in 1999.

Americans for the Arts, National Arts Index
The first National Arts Index released Jan. 20 shows America's artists and arts businesses fell into their biggest slump in more than a decade in 2008. The highest Index score was measured in 1999. [Credit: Americans for the Arts]

Key findings of the National Arts Index:
■ The number of nonprofit arts groups grew from 73,000 to 104,000 since 1998 - at the rate of one every three hours between 2003 to 2008. Still, one out of three failed to break even on their budgets, even in the best economic years.
■ The arts follow the nation's business cycle and depend on billions of dollars in consumer spending. Researchers predict the arts "may not 'hit bottom' until 2011" when a rebound will begin.
■ Public participation in the arts is increasing on the Internet, at ethnically and culturally specific organizations and at home as people create their own art. Attendance at mainstream arts organizations is in a steady decline.
■ Arts and cultural groups are losing market share of philanthropy to other charitable causes, including international, environmental and disaster relief.
■ Demand for arts education is up as more college-bound high school seniors are completing four years of arts and music, and the number of college art degrees conferred annually has grown by 45,000 over the past decade.
The National Arts Index will be released annually in October.

In the following podcast, listen as Randy Cohen, Vice President of Local Arts Advancement for Americans for the Arts, discusses the new National Arts Index, how it was created and why it's so important for the industry.

For more information, please visit


It's the Year of the Tiger and the Thrill of the Size

tiny tiger sculpture
A Tawainese man has carved what he says is the tiniest tiger sculpture in the world; it was created to celebrate the Chinese year of the tiger, which begins Feb. 14, 2010. [Credit: Reuters]
TAIPEI — According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the year of the Tiger will begin on Feb. 14, 2010 - and sculptor Chen Forng-shean is already celebrating. The 54-year-old artist from Taiwan spent four hours a day for three months carving a tiny tiger sculpture that's smaller than a grain of rice. The tiger is so small, in fact, that it's tiny enough to pass through the eye of a needle; it measures just one millimeter (.04 inches) in height and just over one millimeter in length.

Chen, who has been sculpting as a hobby for more than thirty years, carved the object from resin and claims it is the world's tiniest tiger sculpture. It took him ten attempts before he achieved the finished product, which is fully visible only through a magnifying glass.

"If the hands shake a little bit, the work would jump away and disappear," Chen explained to Reuters. "For this tiger, the toughest part is because it is three-dimensional. It can be looked at from any angle and still seem very lively. Coloring is also very hard," he added.

The tiger sculpture is estimated to be worth $94,000, but Chen says it's not for sale.



"Incredibly Atrocious," Wrote Nixon on Modern Art

Richard Nixon, modern art, Norman Rockwell portrait
A portrait of 37th President Richard M. Nixon painted by Norman Rockwell in 1968. [Credit: National Portrait Gallery]
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A 30-page memo released Monday by the National Archives reveals that the 37th President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, thought of modern art as "decadent" and "incredibly atrocious."

In a memo of January 26, 1970 to his Chief of Staff, H.R. "Bob" Haldeman, Nixon wrote, "As you, of course, know, those who are on the modern art and music kick are 95 percent against us anyway. I refer to the recent addicts of Leonard Bernstein and the whole New York crowd." He continued, "When I compare the monstrosity of Lincoln Center with the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, I realize how decadent the modern art and architecture have become."

Nixon went on to categorize modern art as something the "Kennedy-Shriver crowd" encouraged. "But I have no intention whatever of continuing to encourage it now," he declared. "P.S.," Nixon concluded, "I also want a check made with regard to the incredibly atrocious modern art that has been scattered around the embassies of the world." The embassies, he wrote, "were loaned some of these little uglies from the Museum of Modern Art in New York."

The 30-page modern art memo is among 280,000 pages of previously unseen documents, 12 hours of sound recordings and 7,000 images from the personal collection of White House photographer Oliver F. Atkins, all released this week by the National Archives and the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.


Photo By President Medvedev Outbids Putin Painting

Dmitry Medvedev, photograph, auction
This photograph showing an aerial view of the Tobolsk Kremlin was taken by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev; it sold at auction for $1.7 million on Jan. 15, 2010. [Credit: AFP]
ST. PETERSBURG — The third and current Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was among the noteworthy contributors to an annual benefit auction held Saturday evening in Saint Petersburg. A 27"x38" black-and-white photograph taken by the Russian leader fetched $1.7 million for charity. The funds will be distributed amongst a children's hospital, an alcoholism rehab center and an assistance program for WWII veterans.

The bid winner was Mikhail Zingarevich, a board-member of the wood and paper company Ilim, where Medvedev worked as legal affairs director in the 1990s. Medvedev's photography "is very professional and really pleases me," Zingarevich told the AFP.

The photograph shows an aerial view of the Kremlin, or fortress, captured by Medvedev during a helicopter ride over Tobolsk, an ancient city in western Siberia. A painting by his predecessor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin commanded $1.2 million at auction last year.



Mona Lisa's High Cholesterol and Other Masterpieces Diagnosed

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa
Professor Vito Franco studied 100 famous artworks for evidence of disease; he says Mona Lisa exhibits clear signs of  xanthelasma (a cholesterol deposit) in the hollow of her left eye and lipoma (a fatty tissue tumor) on her right hand.
FLORENCE — The Mona Lisa and the new McDonald's in the Louvre's underground mall may have more of a connection than meets the eye. Vito Franco, a professor of Pathological Anatomy at the University of Palermo, believes Leonardo da Vinci's smiling model exhibits telltale signs of high cholesterol. More specifically, the Italian medical expert says the famous lady shows symptoms of a cholesterol deposit in the hollow of her left eye (called xanthelasma) and a fatty tissue tumor on her right hand (known as lipoma).

Professor Franco says he spent about two years analyzing roughly 100 works of art for evidence of disease and illness. He studied masterpieces ranging from Egyptian sculpture to contemporary paintings, with his concentration mainly on Renaissance pieces like the Mona Lisa.

“I look at art with a different eye from an art expert, much as a mathematician listens to music in a different way from a music critic,” Franco told The Times. He presented his findings of afflictions in the various artworks at a recent medical conference in Florence.
Additional diagnoses: in Diego Velázquez's Las Meninas, the Spanish child Margarita likely suffered from both a thyroid condition known as goiter and the genetic disorder linked to premature puberty, McCune-Albright syndrome; the unusually long, thin fingers of the young nobleman in Sandro Botticelli's Portrait of a Young Man indicates that the subject suffered from Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder of the connective tissue; and the swollen knees of Michelangelo, as depicted in the foreground of Raphael's The School of Athens, were likely caused by kidney stones.



Million Dollar Monet Recovered After 9 Years

Claude Monet, Beach in Pourville
Claude Monet's oil painting "Plage de Pourville" (1882) was recovered this week after being stolen from Poland's National Museum of Poznan in September 2000.

WARSAW — French Impressionist Claude Monet's 1882 oil painting Plage de Pourville has returned home to Poland after being stolen more than nine years ago. A spokesman for the Poznan police told the AFP that the artwork "had been kept in a good condition" and "hasn't suffered any visible damage."

The Monet painting depicts a beach in Pourville, a small village on the Normandy coast of France, where the artist often found inspiration. In September 2000, the artwork was on view  at the National Museum of Poznan in western Poland; it was the only Monet  in the country on public display.

The suspect allegedly cut the original painting from its frame and replaced it with a copy painted on cardboard. Investigators say he had been seen sketching in the museum galleries just two days before committing the crime.

Plage de Pourville was valued at an estimated $1 million at the time of the theft, but a museum official told the press, "to us it was a priceless masterpiece."

Fingerprints and other evidence helped police to identify the thief, who later confessed to the crime. Identified only as Robert Z., the 41-year-old suspect was arrested Tuesday in the southern Polish city of Olkusz. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.



Pop Artist Arrested for Tiger Woods Gatorade Stunt

Gatorade bottles, Tiger Woods
A Colorado artist was arrested Wednesday for replacing Gatorade labels with his own "pop art" version; the labels feature a picture of Tiger Woods, his wife Elin Nordegren and the word "Unfaithful".
DENVER — "Good for Gatorade and good for art" - that's the pitch Colorado artist Jason Kay emailed to parent company PepsiCo before being arrested Wednesday. The 38-year-old Kay thought his "pop art" Gatorade labels would "get people talking about how stupid the whole thing with Tiger Woods is," but instead the artist faces a maximum of five years in prison and up to $450,000 in fines.

The unemployed Kay replaced the labels on one-quart bottles of Tropical Mango Gatorade with his own version; a picture of Tiger Woods, his wife Elin Nordegren and the word "unfaithful" printed in bold black capital letters. Kay then snuck the bottles back onto shelves at various stores in the Denver area.

According to an affidavit filed by the Food and Drug Administration, Kay told federal agents, "I didn't think this was a big deal." Kay compares the Gatorade bottle labels to pop art and claims the stunt was his attempt at emulating Andy Warhol. In fact, Kay was hoping to work out a partnership with the beverage firm wherein they would "participate unofficially (while denying this connection) by providing support to [Kay] for travel and per diem in various cities."

Gatorade was a major sponsor of Tiger Woods but ended their endorsement after news of the golfer's alleged infidelities broke in December. Kay has been charged with misbranding and altering food labels with intent to seriously harm a person's business.



Alleged Con Sells Fake Picasso to Buy a Real De Kooning

Pablo Picasso, La Femme au Chapeau Bleu, art forgery
A fabricated chalk drawing "La Femme au Chapeau Bleu" (1902) allegedly by Pablo Picasso was seized by the FBI. [Credit: FBI]
LOS ANGELES — An alleged con named Tatiana Khan could serve up to 45 years in federal prison for masterminding an art forgery scheme, according to a criminal complaint filed Jan. 7 by the FBI. Khan, the owner of the Chateau Allegré gallery in West Hollywood, is charged with paying an artist $1,000 to fabricate a 1902 Pablo Picasso pastel drawing entitled La Femme au Chapeau Bleu ("The Woman in the Blue Hat"); she then sold the piece to an unsuspecting art collector for $2 million.

The complaint maintains that Khan convinced an artist that the real Chapeau Bleu had been stolen from one of her clients and she needed a forgery drawn to be used in catching the thief. Khan later sold the fake for $2 million, by purportedly convincing an art collector that she was acting as a broker for the estate of late magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes. The art collector eventually contacted an expert who recognized the drawing as a copy.

The FBI reported that they also seized from Khan a painting by abstract expressionist artist Willem de Kooning, allegedly purchased with $720,000 of the proceeds derived from the sale of the fake Picasso drawing.



Revolutionary Digital Art Frame Personalizes Your Photos

Casio Digital Art Frame, International Consumer Electronics Show
The Casio Digital Art frame was unveiled this week at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS — The innovative folks at Casio have announced what they're calling a "revolutionary" digital art product. The new Digital Art Frame was unveiled at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Available Spring 2010, the Digital Art Frame uses image recognition to transform digital photographs into personalized works of fine art. Users can choose from eight different effects to apply to their photos: watercolor painting, colored-pencil sketch, pastel painting, pointillism, air brush, oil painting, Gothic oil painting and Fauvist oil painting.

The Digital Art Frame offers additional features including the Art Dynamic Photo function, which will allow users to create moving works of art, and Adobe® Flash® Lite™ playback technology, giving consumers the option to display preset Flash content like clocks and calendars.

Casio Digital Art Frame, International Consumer Electronics Show
The Casio Digital Art frame offers eight different effects which users can apply to transform photos into personalized works of art.



Princes William and Harry's First Double Portrait Painting Unveiled

National Portrait Gallery, Prince William, Prince Harry, artist Nicky Philipps
Jan. 6, 2010: The first double portrait painting of Princes William (age 27, shown standing) and Harry (age 25, seated) went on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.
LONDON — The first double portrait painting of Diana's boys, Princes William and Harry, officially went on display Wednesday at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

British artist Nicola "Nicky" Philipps was commissioned to depict the brothers in their official context but said she also wanted to convey a human element. "I hope I have also captured some of the brotherly banter that characterized the sittings," she explained.

The Princes sat for Philipps five times over a period of six months, beginning in August 2008. The artist told the Times Online, "When they arrived for the first sitting they entertained themselves. We chatted; sometimes they would banter together. It made such a lovely scene that I picked up on that and let them. They were just two brothers chatting. They did a lot of laughing.”

The oil painting shows Prince Harry, 25, seated and in conversation with Prince William, 27, who stands in a doorway of the library of Clarence House, their official residence since 2002. Both brothers wear the military uniforms of the Household Cavalry.

"The first portrait of the princes captures them formally dressed, but informally posed," said National Portrait Gallery director Sandy Nairne. "It is a delightful image which extends the tradition of royal portraiture," she added.


Before You "Buy It Now" - A Warning to eBay Art Collectors

eBay, art fraud, art collecting
Art dealer Michael Zabrin pleaded guilty on Tuesday to selling fake contemporary artworks on eBay.
CHICAGO — You can buy and sell just about anything on eBay, but scammers like art dealer Michael Zabrin reinforce and remind us all of the warning, caveat emptor.

Zabrin was among a group of seven charged with trading fake artwork in March 2008. According to a plea agreement filed Tuesday, Zabrin, a 57-year-old art dealer from Chicago, admitted to swindling at least 250 art collectors out of more than $1 million using his companies Fineartmasters and ZFineartmasters to sell counterfeit art prints over eBay. He pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and could receive up to 13 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 at the sentencing scheduled for March 23.

According to the Associated Press, when Zabrin needed more prints to sell, he would contact his sources in Spain and Italy. When he ran out of fake Pablo Picassos he would say, "I need some P's." When he needed bogus works by Roy Lichtenstein, he would say: "I need some L's." He has admitted to selling fakes by contemporary masters Picasso, Lichtenstein, Chagall, Miro and Dali.

Zabrin paid between $1,000 and $1,500 for each art print, which he then "resold at no less than three times his cost" to unsuspecting eBay buyers. Some customers who realized they'd been scammed returned the fakes, but Zabrin acknowledged that he simply waited a few months and just resold them to someone else.

Authenticity is perhaps the most crucial aspect of art collecting; this latest eBay fraud case only reinforces the importance of performing due diligence before you click "Buy It Now".



A London Gallery's Secret Chagall Acquisition Revealed

Marc Chagall, Jewish Museum of Art, Ben Uri Gallery
"Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio" (1945) by Marc Chagall was recently acquired by Ben Uri Gallery.

LONDON — It was kept on the down low for a while, but a small London gallery has finally revealed one bargain of an acquisition. By not drawing attention to a certain Paris auction last fall, Ben Uri Gallery, a Jewish Museum of Art in London, scored a fantastic deal; they paid a mere $43,000 for an obscure Marc Chagall gouache painting worth an estimated $1.6 million.

The gallery's silence also avoided any potential hassles with French officials preventing the rare piece from leaving their country.

The 20"x14" artwork, Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio (1945), depicts a crucifixion to represent the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. Chagall kept the piece in his personal collection until his death in 1985; the artist's son sold it to a private French collector a couple of years later.

The painting is scheduled to go on display this week at London's Osborne Samuel Gallery.


Signage or Art? Provocative Murals Spark Debate

Ho-Down Mural Project, Erotic Heritage Museum, Las Vegas
The Ho-Down Mural Project, an art installation sponsored by the Erotic Heritage Museum in Las Vegas, has caused a debate over the difference between signage and art. [Credit: Steve Marcus.]

LAS VEGAS, NV —  A provocative public mural art installation exhibit sponsored by the Erotic Heritage Museum of Las Vegas is causing quite a debate. The non-profit museum was recently charged with a signage code violation after their so-called Ho-Down Mural Project was labeled pornographic by city officials.

“They are not signs,” commented Allen Lichtenstein of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “There was no violation of anything. This is art.”

The museum's ultimate plan was to dedicate the artworks to the city. Supporters say the murals painted on the building's exterior walls have artistic value and are a celebration of under-appreciated Urban Art. Critics found offense in the exposed nipples on the portraits of women.
Museum curator Dr. Laura Henkel explained, “These murals are intended to present a forum for conversation and education on sexuality and art.” She continued, “We were instantly sensitive to the community and voluntarily applied 'pasties' to cover portions of the artists’ renderings so the art would not be damaged.”

In a city known for sex, drinking, gambling and a "what happens here, stays here" mentality, one can't help but wonder how the murals got so much notice in the first place.


Simon Cowell's Holiday Bonus Banksy, a Degas Redux

Edgar Degas, The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage
A version of "The Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage" (1874) by Edgar Degas was commissioned from Banksy as a Christmas gift for Simon Cowell. The American Idol judge was painted into the work as the ballet master.

LONDON — What does one buy for the blunt mogul Simon Cowell for Christmas? Executives at Cowell's record label Syco came up with a creative holiday bonus/gift idea for the man who can buy virtually anything (and would likely criticize a less than satisfactory gift to your face). Turns out the British star is reportedly a secret art collector, a fan of both French impressionist Edgar Degas and graffiti artist Banksy. As a thank you for the success of the season's X Factor, Syco execs scored a rare personal commissioned painting from Banksy. The artist is said to have recreated the 1874 masterpiece Rehearsal of the Ballet Onstage by Degas, mocked-up with Cowell featured as the ballet master. The artwork cost an estimated $800,000.

So how did the critical American Idol judge react to the unique present? Did he call it "horrendous," "dreadful," "a nightmare?" Luckily, no. Sources say Cowell took one look at the painting and declared it "hilarious."



Louvre Exhibit Examines the "Infinity of Lists"

Umberto Eco, Louvre museum, The Infinity of Lists
Guest curator Umberto Eco at the Louvre.  
[Credit: Lea Crespi, 2009.]
PARIS — A few days into 2010 and how many of us are sticking to our list of New Year's resolutions? We all make lists, especially at this time of year - resolutions, gifts for loved ones, groceries for holiday dinners. Bloggers especially love a good list. Even artists make visual lists in their paintings.

This concept of lists, as they've evolved throughout time in art and culture, is the subject of an exhibit at the Louvre museum, Mille e tre. Guest curated by Italian author Umberto Eco, the exhibition presents not only ancient and contemporary artworks, but a program of cultural events centered around the theme described as “The Infinity of Lists".

“The subject of lists has been a theme of many writers from Homer onwards. My great challenge was to transfer it to painting and music and to see whether I could find equivalents in the Louvre, because frankly when I suggested the subject I had no idea how I would write about visual lists,” explained Eco.

Why do we seem to obsess over lists? Humans attempt to grasp the incomprehensible through lists in the form of things like catalogs, dictionaries and museum collections, says Eco.

In a recent NPR interview (click player to listen), Eco discusses his list philosophy. Marie-Laure Berndac, a curator at the Louvre, also discussed the exhibit. "There's this kind of obsession in the list, because a list is never exhaustive," she said. Berndac explained that lists have been found everywhere since man was able to write, even on hieroglyphics on ancient pieces of Egyptian art.

And when asked what book Eco would bring on a desert island? His response was the ultimate list - the phone book, of course.


Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Opens in Charlotte

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, Charlotte, North Carolina
The exterior of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte, featuring Sol LeWitt's "Wall Drawing #995". The museum officially opened January 2, 2010. [Credit:]

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A large excited crowd gathered in front of Charlotte's newest modern art museum on Saturday as new Mayor Anthony Foxx performed his first ribbon cutting ceremony. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art opened its doors for the first time, inviting visitors to view selections from its 1,400 piece collection. Only a handful of the artworks have ever been publicly exhibited in the United States.

The impressive modern art collection was amassed by the late Hans and Bessie Bechtler, a Swiss couple who made their fortune in air-filtration technology. Some of the works are accompanied by books, photographs and letters illustrating the artists' personal connections to the Bechtler family. Mid 20th-century artists including Miró, Giacometti, Picasso, Calder, Hepworth, Nicholson, Warhol, Tinguely, Ernst, Le Corbusier, Chillida and many others are represented.

The Bechtler Museum is only the second structure in the United States to be designed by internationally renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta; he also designed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.


String of Art Thefts Hits Southern France

La Cadiere d'Azur, France, art theft
Thirty artworks were reported stolen from a private villa in La Cadiere d'Azur, France.
DRAGUIGNAN, FRANCE — Just days after a Degas pastel was reported stolen from the Cantini Museum of Marseille, another theft of artwork has occurred in the southern coastal town of La Cadiere d'Azur, France. The owner of a private villa was vacationing in Sweden at the time of the break-in but returned home after a caretaker reported the burglary. A preliminary inventory estimates around 30 artworks were taken, valued at a reported $1.4 million. The stolen collection includes pieces by Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau.

The medieval Provencal town of La Cadière d'Azur is a charming hilltop village surrounded by wooded hills of olive trees and famous vineyards. An investigation is being carried out by officials in nearby Marseille as well as by France’s Central Office for the Fight against Traffic in Cultural Goods. There is no indication that the two art crimes are linked.


Related Posts with Thumbnails