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Thursday, August 28, 2008
  Damien Hirst Production Line
I find it interesting that a backlog of about 200 works by Damien Hirst can be news. He's the closest thing we have to a Britney Spears in the art world, with the media looking for any excuse to publish a story on the man (I realize I do it too). All the art world needs now is some art celebrity sex tapes and some police mug shots of artists that have misbehaved. I would probably subscribe to an art gossip magazine if it was cheap.

Anyway, what was I talking about? I have the flu and I'm taking lots of evil tablets from big pharmaceutical companies, so sticking to the point can be challenging.

The Times Online has reported on Hirst's "mountainous backlog" of more than 200 works by the artist and his production line sitting in the White Cube gallery in London.

"The items include 34 butterfly paintings dating back to 2005; six medicine cabinets with price tags of up to £2.5m and a batch of 25 fly and resin coated skulls. The “Hirst mountain” held by the White Cube gallery, and detailed in next month’s issue of The Art Newspaper, shows the challenges of selling mass-produced art." Times Online

In a later Bloomberg report, White Cube's Jay Jopling said that their stock level for Hirst was normal and the gallery is NOT sitting on a "mountain" of Hirst works.

Jopling said "The appetite for Damien's art is such that we never have enough and I'm always keen to have as much work on consignment as possible. The market for Hirst was strong and suggestions to the contrary were based on redundant documents."

It'll be interesting to see how much more we hear of Damien Hirst as his big auction at Sotheby's draws closer. I'll be disappointed if it doesn't make the 6 o'clock news.

Update: There's an interesting Damien Hirst interview (video) with Tim Marlow on the Sotheby's website here.
>> Damien Hirst News
Monday, August 25, 2008
  Marla Olmstead Documentary - My Kid Could Paint That
my kid could paint that documentaryI finally watched the Marla Olmstead documentary that people have been commenting on in earlier Marla posts here, here, and here. The comments that people have left on earlier posts are very FOR or AGAINST the little "child prodigy" with very few neutral opinions on the whole saga. I still think the art critic Clement Greenberg got it right when he said..

"In visual arts, prodigies don't count. In music and literature, yes, but not in art." Clement Greenberg

For those that don't know, Marla Olmstead is a child painter that quickly rose to fame at the ripe old age of 4, before a 60 Minutes episode doubted the authenticity of Marla's work. Some of the doubt has since disappeared for some people and she is back in demand with art collectors, selling original paintings for tens of thousands of dollars.

The documentary called "My Kid Could Paint That" by director Amir Bar-Lev seems like a fair and balanced portrayal of Marla and the Olmstead family. The filmmaker seemed to become very attached to the family and struggled to confront them when his suspicions were aroused about who painted the more "polished" works, but he generally let's the viewer come to their own conclusion.

I felt uncomfortable through a lot of it, especially when Marla's father was around (most of the film). His performance just wasn't convincing for me. I think Marla's an adorable little child, but I didn't see a child prodigy in the film. Hopefully Marla's mother will step in when it looks like her child is losing too much of her childhood, as she seemed to have the interests of her child before the money and fame, which is not the same impression that I got from the father.

Here's a quote from the director Amir Bar-Lev..
"If Marla wasn’t doing the paintings, why would Mark and Laura ever have allowed 60 Minutes to do a piece? Why would they have invited me to make a documentary? Especially given my “deeper truth” speech upon our agreement? Marla had done one sub-par painting – what did that prove? Was it really conceivable that Marla had been propped up in front of a bunch of paintings that she hadn’t done – and hadn’t ever said anything about it? And was it really possible that Mark could hide this from his wife – it would mean that, mysteriously, every time a painting was completed, Laura was out of the house? I had to conclude that the Olmsteads’ version of events was the most likely – or rather, in retrospect, I chose to conclude that – it was far more comfortable than the other, darker scenarios."

More of Marla Olmstead's work can be seen at her website here.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
  Art Crimes
ArtInfo has an interesting little piece on art crimes and how they affect the market. The strangest form of art crime has to be stealing sculpture for scrap metal. Like the 2 ton Reclining Nude by Henry Moore that was stolen from the Henry Moore Foundation in 2005. As scrap metal it would have made £3,000 or $5,800, but it was insured for £2 million.

They list the top four art crimes as Vandalism, Forgery/Deception, Art Theft, and Antiquities Looting.

I think buying art posters should be a crime too as there's just too many artists out there with rooms filled with cheap original art. Or at least buy prints signed by the artist!

Four major art crimes and how they affect the market
"Today, the largest victim of art crime is the art trade. This multi-billion-dollar legitimate industry is victimized to the tune of a conservatively estimated $6 billion per year, most of which goes into the pockets of organized crime." ArtInfo
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
  Aboriginal Artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Emily Kngwarreye Photo One of Australia's most interesting painters was an old Aboriginal woman that didn't start painting until she was about 70 and wouldn't know a Rembrandt from a Rothko, but she painted like an angel. Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910-1996) only painted for a short time but was very prolific, pumping out around 3000 paintings in eight short years.

The genius of the old woman from the remote desert community of Utopia, in the Northern Territory of Australia is starting to be acknowledged at auction with her 1995 work "Earth's Creation" selling for more than a million dollars in 2007.

"Emily Kngwarreye’s paintings are a response to the land and the spiritual forces which imbue it; the contours and formations of the landscape, climatic changes, the parched earth and flooding rains, the shapes and patterns of seeds and plants." From a biography of Emily Kngwarreye at the National Gallery of Australia

The Exhibition "Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye" has recently been to Japan at the National Museum of Art in Osaka and The National Art Centre in Tokyo, where 120 works by Kngwarreye were on display. The exhibition will now go on show at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra until the 12th of October 2008. Which means that I might have to reward myself with a roadtrip, a few nights in a nice hotel, and a ticket to an exhibition. I may have to pop over to the National Gallery of Australia while I'm in Canberra and say hello to DeKooning's ugly Woman V, Pollock's big Blue Poles, an Anselm Kiefer, and Freud's tribute to Cezanne.

Click on Kngwarreye paintings below for bigger versions..

Emily Kame Kngwarreye Painting Big Yam Dreaming
Emily Kame Kngwarreye - Big Yam Dreaming 1995
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas - Approx 291 x 801 cm

Emily Kame Kngwarreye Painting The Alhalkere Suite
Emily Kame Kngwarreye - The Alhalkere Suite 1993
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas - 22 Panels Approx 120 x 90 cm each

Emily Kame Kngwarreye Painting Earth's Creation
Emily Kame Kngwarreye - Earth's Creation 1994
Synthetic polymer paint on canvas - 4 Panels Approx 275 x 160 cm each
Monday, August 18, 2008
  Gargbage as Art
Here's a video from a television show in Australia called the Chaser's War on Everything. I started on YouTube looking at a song (Tom Waits - Hold On) that was recommended to me and an hour later I was still looking through videos!

There's plenty more clips of the Chaser's War on Everything on YouTube here. They hold nothing sacred and poke fun at anyone or anything, but they're no longer making the show.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
  Martin Creed's Runners + Clever Marketing
ArtReview has put together a video (below) on Martin Creed's latest creation at the Tate Britain. Creed is the artist that won the Turner prize in 2001 for his "lights going on and off" work where an empty room periodically had the lights turned on and off, which reminds of a Simpsons episode where Homer keeps turning the light switch on and off; lights go on, lights go off, lights go on...

Anyway, the new work which is called "Work No. 850" or "The Duveen Galleries Commission 2008" by Martin Creed is described by the Tate like this.. "Work No. 850 centers on a simple idea: that a person will run as fast as they can every thirty seconds through the gallery. Each run is followed by an equivalent pause, like a musical rest, during which the grand Neoclassical gallery is empty.
This work celebrates physicality and the human spirit. Creed has instructed the runners to sprint as if their lives depended on it."

You can also apply to participate in Work no. 850 as a runner AND earn £9.35 per hour for your effort. There's more information at the Running Project website here. I wonder if my fast waddle would allow me to qualify as a runner.

Here's the ArtReview video report on the running man exhibition..

And here's a clever response to the ArtReview report. You would hardly know it was a Puma advertisement if it wasn't for the Puma shoe close-ups and the Puma logo at the end of the video.

The artist Martin Creed also has a useful online presence which is both refreshing and surprising. Firstly I was surprised that he actually had a website (I still haven't figured out why a lot of famous artists don't have one) and secondly that it functioned in a logical and easy to understand manner. I expected to be tricked or confused by it, but it all made a lot of sense.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
  Art Market Editor Job at The Art Newspaper
If only I paid more attention in English classes at school.. and could work well in teams.. and remain calm under pressure! They're just some of the qualities that I don't have for an interesting job at the Art Newspaper. It sounds like a dream job for someone into art and wanting to travel to some interesting places.

Here's what they're after..

Art Market Editor - maternity cover (full time)
The Art Newspaper

Salary: dependent on experience

The Art Newspaper is looking for an experienced art market journalist/editor for a period of 10 months, starting 1 November 2008.

The candidate will be based in our London office working on our monthly issues, and must be willing and able to join The Art Newspaper team for Art Basel Miami Beach (Dec 2008), Armory in New York (March 2009) and Art Basel (June). The role includes reporting on auctions (many of which take place in the evenings) and art market news, as well as coordinating our team of international reporters.

The ideal candidate will have demonstrable experience of art market reporting and editing.

However, we will in exceptional cases consider candidates with a track record of working in the art market who wish to transfer to journalism, or general arts journalist/editors with robust modern and contemporary art history who would like to specialise in the art market.

Shortlisted candidates may be asked to complete a written assignment or art history test.

Ability to work in teams with other writers and editors, and remain calm under pressure, essential.

Please send a CV with covering email explaining your suitability for the role and salary expectations to a.hales (at) Closing date for applications Thursday 21 August.
Anna Hales
a.hales (at)
Deadline for application: 8/21/2008
Link to the Job Posting is here.
  BgArt News Blog Keywords & Google Analytics
I installed Google Analytics on BgArt News Blog a couple of days ago. It's a free website statistics program that gives you very detailed information on where your visitors are coming from, how they are finding you, what pages they're looking at, and a bunch of other stuff that is probably very useful.

I only have the data from less than one day, but it's still very interesting. For example, BgArt News Blog is a blog about art, so which keywords below do you think sends more traffic?

The top five countries that visitors come from are the United States with 51% of the share, United Kingdom 9%, Australia 5%, Canada 3%, India 2.8% and 68 other countries taking the rest. Also, the average time a visitor spends on the site is 2 minutes and 18 seconds.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008
  Lascaux Cave Paintings in France
An anonymous comment mentioned the Lascaux cave paintings on an earlier post about a sports art prize, so I thought I would see if there's any good websites on them. I found one on the French government's culture portal online here. There's a "Virtual Visit" which shows paintings in each of the cave rooms (or are they called crevices? sections?.. there's probably a word for a cave room.. Batman would know it.)

The Lascaux caves were discovered in 1940 by some teenagers chasing after their dog called Robot. They were opened up to the public, but like everything else we touch, we were destroying them. So they were closed to the public in 1963 and were restored. More recently there has also been a fungus causing damage in the caves which is believed to have been created by an air conditioning system that was installed in the caves. The cave paintings are estimated to be 16,000 years old.

lascaux paintings in france
Grouping of horses running, with a bulls head.

lascaux caves in france
This horse above looks like it was taken straight from an old Chinese ink painting.

lascaux cave paintings
Two bison. The French cave paintings are very different to the Aboriginal cave paintings in Australia that I have seen. The Lascaux paintings are so much more fluid, a bison looks like a bison, and they capture movement very well. The Australian cave paintings are more linear, still, almost like paper cutouts of the animal, and much more childlike. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just different.

french cave paintings lascaux
This is an image in the "Shaft of the Dead Man" where a bison looks over what seems to be a dead man on the ground. There's also a rhinoceros to the left and a quirky looking bird on a stick just below the dead man.

There's much more information and plenty of pictures on the French culture website here. I just thought I would share the website as I love cave paintings and the art of children, both for similar reasons; they don't complicate things.
Monday, August 11, 2008
  Damien Hirst Auction - Beautiful Inside my Head Forever
The much talked about Damien Hirst auction is coming up soon. I thought it was the 15th of this month, which is why I thought I would mention it now, but it's the 15th of next month. The Sotheby's London auction is called "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" and will take place over two days on the 15th and 16th of September.

There will be 223 lots up for auction, with more than £65 million expected to be raised from the sale. They are new works by the artist, mostly from 2007 and 2008.

You could call it an auction retrospective as there seems to be pieces from most periods of Hirst's career, but they were all produced in the last year or two. So I couldn't work out if he was at a time in life where he needed to summarize and look back over his career or his bank manager was poking him with a stick. Just because old works sell well doesn't mean an artist should keep producing them.

Damien Hirst says "After the success of the Pharmacy auction, I always felt I would like to do another auction. It’s a very democratic way to sell art and it feels like a natural evolution for contemporary art. Although there is risk involved, I embrace the challenge of selling my work in this way. I never want to stop working with my galleries. This is different. The world’s changing, ultimately I need to see where this road leads."

Four of the works to be sold will benefit four charities chosen by Damien Hirst. The Demelza, Hospice Care for Children, Survival International, Strummerville and Kids Company will each have a Hirst work sold for their cause, with each of the works estimated to reach £400,000-600,000. The very successful RED auction that Hirst and Bono (U2) organized earlier this year has made a philanthropist out of the wealthy YBA.

Here's some of the Damien Hirst lots that will go up for auction next month. The catalogue for the Beautiful Inside My Head Forever auction can be browsed online at Sotheby's. I think you have to be logged in to view auction lots at Sotheby's, but it's free and easy to join.

The Dream by Damien Hirst

The Dream (lot 110, Morning Sale)
foal, glass, steel, resin, silicone and formaldehyde solution
231 by 332.6 by 138.1cm.
executed in 2008
£ 2,000,000-3,000,000
€ 2,530,000-3,800,000
US$ 3,950,000-5,930,000

The Kingdom by Damien Hirst

The Kingdom (lot 5, Evening sale)
tiger shark, glass, steel, silicone and formaldehyde
solution with steel plinth
214 by 383.6 by 141.8cm.
executed in 2008
£ 4,000,000 - 6,000,000
€ 5,060,000-7,590,000
US$ 7,900,000-11,850,000

The Golden Calf by Damien Hirst

The Golden Calf (lot 13, Evening Sale)
calf, 18 carat gold, glass, goldplated steel, silicone and
formaldehyde solution with Carrara marble plinth
398.9 by 350.5 by 167.6cm
executed in 2008
£ 8,000,000-12,000,000
€ 10,120,000-15,180,000
US$ 15,800,000-23,690,000

Spot Painting by Damien Hirst

Aurothioglucose (lot 7, Evening Sale)
household gloss and enamel
paint on canvas
172.7 by 274.3cm.
executed in 2008
£ 400,000-600,000
€ 510,000-760,000
US$ 790,000-1,190,000

Spin Painting by Damien Hirst

Beautiful Helios Hysteria Intense Painting
(with Extra Inner Beauty)
(lot 227, Afternoon Sale)
household gloss on canvas
diameter: 45.7cm.
executed in 2008
£ 60,000-80,000
€ 76,000-102,000
US$ 119,000-158,000

>> Art Auctions, Damien Hirst News
Saturday, August 09, 2008
  Great Painters also Suck
Some of my favorite painters are also some of the painters that have produced the ugliest paintings I have seen.

Oskar Kokoshka produced some very lovely and ugly paintings. Brett Whiteley produced some very nice and hideous paintings. Lucian Freud got it right and wrong. Richard Diebenkorn went from genius to Sunday painter and back again in a day.

All of my favorite painters also produced some of the ugliest paintings I have ever seen. The four painters above are not necessarily my favorites, but I do love them. I wonder if it's because they were brave enough to experiment and not care what their admirers or collectors had liked of what they had produced.

Painters have off days and produce crap paintings, but they also lash out when they feel they are trapped, which often creates crap as they're experimenting. It's crazy to think a great painter will always produce great work, as a lot of painting is just playing around. Picasso produced some of the ugliest and most beautiful paintings I have seen because he kept shooting at the target. Sometimes he hit bull's eye, sometimes he shot nowhere near it.

This post is inspired by copious amounts of Henschke red wine, Johann's Garden, grown in South Australia.. plus another bottle earlier in the night that I can't remember the name of ;-)
  Olympic Games
I thought I should mention the Olympic Games, just because everyone else seems to be mentioning them. Peer pressure gets to me sometimes too and I think I should be like the rest of us.. it's human nature to feel like one of the pack. So here's a lovely picture that I stole from the ArtDaily newsletter.

olympic games photo
I thought the photo looked a bit Sigmar Polke or contemporary Chinese art (without the gaping smiles).
Friday, August 08, 2008
  Artist Royalties
There has been more talk of an artists royalty scheme in Australia, where artists (or their family if they are dead) receive a small percentage each time their work is resold in the future.

The Sydney Morning Herald says "It (the government) is determined to introduce a resale royalty scheme this year giving artists a percentage of the sale price whenever their work is sold. The details have yet to be finalised but some industry bodies have called for a flat rate of 5 per cent on all sales and for the royalty to apply to all works sold for more than $500. That would mean an artist who sold a work 10 years ago for $500 could reap up to $10,000 if it was sold again for 200,000."

For a simple explanation of what artist royalties are, the ArtsLaw website says "Resale royalties, sometimes called droit de suite, are a scheme whereby visual artists get a percentage of the increase in the sale price of their work each time it is resold. Resale royalty schemes exist in parts of Europe and the United States. These schemes came into existence out of a recognition that visual artists are not able to earn money from the licensing of their works as easily as other artists, such as composers and authors. This is because the primary value of a visual artwork usually attaches to the original work. Consequently, visual artists disproportionately miss out on making royalties from licensing the reproduction of their work."

I'm still yet to be convinced that artists deserve royalties on original art that is resold in the future. It just doesn't make sense to me. Of course I would never refuse royalties myself, but I would be giggling every time I received a royalty check/cheque as it would be money for nothing.

Why stop at artists receiving royalties? Why not extend it to house builders, car makers, and any other product that is resold for profit? If we sell our paintings at a price we believe is fair today, why should we profit again when it resold tomorrow? If the value of a painting goes down and it is resold, do artists have to pay a penalty fee to the art investor?

I also don't see the connection with the royalties that a writer or musician receives as their art is consumed differently. A painter should receive royalties for mass produced prints and posters as he/she created the original art, but after the product is sold, it is sold.. meaning it no longer belongs to the seller.

I do think artists are special (I have to say that as I am an artist), but I don't think we operate outside the laws of gravity. We can't sell something and still own it at the same time.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
  Post It Notes Art
post it notes artOver at the MadSilence blog there's a post about using Post It notes as a medium. There's a Post It note covered apartment (pictured to the left), a Post It note covered car, a flaming phoenix, and the Ray Charles portrait that I mentioned last year.

I do like Post it notes but my desk is so disorganized I can never find them, so I usually use the piece of paper closest to me to write my message down.

As a medium to create art, it probably benefits 3M (the company that makes Post-it notes) more than the artist. Post it notes don't stick to things for very long and I don't think the paper was designed to last. I do love mosaics though and a post-it note covered apartment makes me smile, so I'm not complaining.

There's more Post-it note madness over at MadSilence.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
  Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue Perfume
Bond no9 Warhol PerfumeTo celebrate the 80th anniversary of Andy Warhol's birthday, Bond No.9 is releasing their next Warhol inspired perfume, making it their third release to date. I had a whiff of their Silver Factory and Union Square perfumes inspired by Andy Warhol, and liked them both.

My perfume shelf was emptier than most hippies I know before I trialed a few samples of the Bond no9 Warhol perfumes. I now rarely leave the house without a splash or two of smelly stuff on me. Sometimes I'll even put perfume on while working at the computer, just because I like the smell.

From Bond No.9.. "Its name, Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue, recalls the artist’s formative pre-Pop years in 1950s New York, when he lived in the first of several apartments on Lexington Avenue and plied his trade as a prolific illustrator—mainly of imaginative shoes. Hence the Warhol-designed mélange of exclamation-point heels and high-button boots that covers the flacon. Lush and unapologetically seductive, Andy Warhol Lexington Avenue dares (perhaps for the first time in perfumery) to link two of the most ultra-feminine commodities a woman can own: fragrance and footwear."

Andy Warhol was born on the 6th of August, 1928 which would make him 80 years old today if he was still alive (he died in 1987.) It makes me wonder what he would be making today. I think he would have loved the digital age and embraced the internet. His homepage would probably look like as he was a business artist. I wonder if Google will celebrate the pop artist's birthday today with a Warhol/Google logo..
Friday, August 01, 2008
  Caravaggio's Kiss of Judas Stolen
Caravaggio MAsterpiece StolenA Carravagio masterpiece has been stolen from the Museum of Western and Eastern Art in the Ukraine. The painting has been called both "The Taking of Christ" and "The Kiss of Judas"

From a Reuters report "Police said they entered through a window, bypassing an outdated alarm system by removing a pane of glass rather than breaking it. They then escaped across the museum's roof."


"News reports said city police had been urging the museum to update its alarm system, dating from the mid-1990s, but the suggestion was turned down on financial grounds."

The National Gallery of Ireland also owns a version of the Caravaggio painting, so all is not lost.

Update: I seem to have posted the Caravaggio hanging in the National Gallery of Ireland above. Coxsoft Art thinks this version of "The Taking of Christ" below is the Odessa version that was stolen. Seeing both versions of the painting together make the stolen painting look like an average copy of the Irish version, but two small low resolution jpg images on the internet isn't really enough to make such a judgment.
Caravaggio's Kiss of Judas

>> Stolen Art
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