Sunday, September 29, 2013

Call for Papers: TRAC2014

Preferential scheduling Deadline: November 31, 2013

Focus on the Aesthetic Principles and Values

TRAC2014 will focus on the aesthetic principles and values implicit in the representational art of the 21st Century. Having established at TRAC2012 that the representational art community has an important voice, it is timely to explore and articulate its distinctive aesthetic values, vision and philosophical outlook. Our purpose is not to establish a single monolithic aesthetic for representational art, but to identify commonalities, understand the unique possibilities of representational art, and perhaps provide some illumination about future directions.

One of the features of representational art, for example, is attentiveness to the data revealed to our visual sense. The goal of contemporary representational art is not merely to replicate visual data: cameras can do this much more effectively. On the other hand, visuality is important to the representational aesthetic.

What relationship to the world is the artist striving for?
What values guide the hand?
What is the place of the beautiful and the sublime in the process?
Are political, moral, or metaphysical goals at work?
What is the relationship of the artist to reality?

The conference is planned as a focused but non-doctrinaire event, of serious academic standards. Papers of high quality on a variety of topics in the aesthetics of contemporary representational art are invited and welcomed.

We are particularly interested in papers about:

  • The Impact of Roger Scruton’s “Why Beauty Matters” and “Beauty”.
  • The Life and Work of Odd Nerdrum.
  • How 21st Century representational art differs from earlier representational art.
  • The role of beauty and/or the sublime.
  • What might be the aesthetics of 21st Century representational art.
  • Are there common principles shared by representational artists?
  • Does the democratic popularity of representational art confer on it any unique value or potentiality?
  • The possibility of cross-cultural aesthetics in representational art.
  • Do globalization and rapid cultural change provide uniquely relevant material for representational artists?
  • The internet and contemporary representational art.
  • The 21st Century representational art movement as a renaissance.
  • The aesthetic contribution of the craft aspect of representational art.
  • Can representational art convey truth? If so, how, and of what kind?
  • Allegorical symbolism in the new millennium.
  • Idealism, imagination and representation.
  • Morality and politics in 21st century representational art.
  • What is the relation to reality of the authentic representational artist?
  • Aesthetic analyses (not autobiographical) of significant contemporary works of representational art.

More Information

Saturday, September 28, 2013

New-York Historical Society: The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution

Works by Duchamp, Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh will be on display in The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution, which revisits the famous 1913 New York Armory Show on its 100th anniversary. In 1913, the International Exhibition of Modern Art came to New York. Organized by a small group of American artists and presented at the Lexington Avenue Armory (and thus nicknamed the Armory Show), it introduced the American public to European avant-garde painting and sculpture. This exhibition is an exploration of how the Armory Show inspired seismic shifts in American culture, politics, and society.

The Cleveland Museum of Art Wades into Global Controversy over Antiquities Collecting with Exhibition and Catalog on its Ancient Bronze Apollo

The Cleveland Museum of Art rarely publishes catalogs that try to stir broad public debate on politics, law, cultural identity and global diplomacy.
With the release of a new catalog on Friday, however, the museum is wading directly into the international controversy over collecting ancient works of art whose ownership histories, or provenances, remain partially or entirely unknown.

The book, “Praxiteles: The Cleveland Apollo,” authored by the museum’s curator of Greek and Roman art, Michael Bennett, accompanies a new exhibition opening Sunday that focuses on a controversial ancient bronze statue of Apollo purchased by the museum in 2004.
Using scientific evidence and art-historical analysis, Bennett builds the most forceful case yet that the life-size bronze is an ancient Greek original, not a later Roman copy, and that it is likely the work of Praxiteles, one of the greatest sculptors of ancient Greece.
 In a press conference at the museum Friday, Cleveland museum Director David Franklin called the Apollo "arguably the greatest antiquity in a North American collection."
The book is also an impassioned critique of international laws aimed at halting trade in looted antiquities.

Bennett states that such laws – while correctly focused on halting illegal activity - have also cast a stigma on “orphaned” works such as the museum’s Apollo, whose time and place of excavation and recent history are unknown.

Archaeologists familiar with the Apollo have said on numerous occasions that when museums collect such works, they encourage looting and trafficking of antiquities.

Bennett, however, states that the Apollo was one of thousands of antiquities in private hands whose ownership histories are not completely documented. Lack of such documentation, Bennett writes, is not evidence that an object was looted. It’s not a case of guilty until proven innocent.

“Illegality cannot be presumed, or we are heading toward a repeat of the Spanish Inquisition or the McCarthy hearings,” Bennett writes.
In an interview earlier this week, Franklin said that he considered Bennett’s catalog and the Apollo exhibition the opening salvo in a debate that will culminate with a symposium at the museum in about a year.

“It’s stating our position on many things people have talked about,” Franklin said of the Bennett catalog. “It’s a very dramatic moment for the museum.”

Franklin said the symposium would include archaeologists and other experts who may not agree with the museum’s position on the Apollo and on antiquities collecting in general.
But he said he wanted to hold the symposium after giving scholars a chance to absorb Bennett’s arguments.

The opening of the Apollo show and the release of the catalog coincide with the opening of a second antiquities exhibition opening on Sunday:   "Sicily: Art and Invention Between Greece and Rome."
The exhibition stirred controversy over the summer when Sicilian authorities threatened to cancel the Cleveland run of the show, which opened earlier this year at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, if the museum didn't pay additional loan fees imposed at the last minute.

Last month, the Sicilians relented in exchange for the Cleveland museum's agreement to exhibit works from its collection in Sicily in 2015.

Bennett called the simultaneous opening of the two shows on Sunday "an ancient art double feature."
The exhibition Apollo exhibition includes two ancient Roman copies of the Apollo sculpture, which help prove that the ancient bronze purchased by the museum was the original on which the copies were based, Franklin said.

The loaned works are the marble “Apollo Sauroktonos,” or “Apollo the Lizard-Slayer,” from the Louvre Museum, a first-century ancient Roman work, and a second, first-century Roman marble version of the same motif from the World Museum in Liverpool.

The museum has dated its bronze to 350 B.C. and believes it may be the original referred to as a work of Praxiteles by the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder.

In the sculpture, Apollo is depicted as an adolescent god in the act of slaying a reptilian creature crawling on a tree branch.

According to ancient Greek myth, Apollo, the god of light, reason, poetry, music and prophecy, destroys chaos by killing the creature.

An ancient Roman sculpture of the Apollo Sauroktonos, or Apollo the Lizard Slayer, from the Louvre Museum in Paris. Comparisons between this Apollo and a bronze purchased by the Cleveland Museum of Art prove that the Cleveland version is the earlier ancient Greek original on which the Roman version is based.

Bennett’s catalog essay states that Pliny erroneously identified the reptile in the sculpture as a lizard. Instead, Bennett states, it's a mythical python - not to be confused with the enormous snakes of Africa and Asia.

The curator therefore retitled the work “Apollo the Python Slayer” and theorizes in the catalog that the sculpture may have been connected to the ancient Greek site of Delphi, where Apollo’s triumph over the python was regularly re-enacted in religious processions.

The museum reportedly paid $5 million for the sculpture, which it purchased in 2004 from Phoenix Ancient Art, based in New York and Geneva, Switzerland.

Ali Aboutaam, one of the firm’s two principals, was convicted in absentia in Egypt in 2003 on charges of smuggling and sentenced to 15 years in prison. The New York Times reported in 2007 that the charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.

Ali's brother and partner, Hicham Aboutaam, pleaded guilty in New York in 2004 to a misdemeanor federal charge that he falsified a customs document.

Before the museum bought the sculpture from Phoenix Ancient Art, it obtained a written statement from German lawyer Ernst-Ulrich Walter stating that he found the sculpture lying in pieces in a building on a family estate he reclaimed after the fall of East Germany.

Walter also reportedly said he remembered seeing the piece on the family estate in the 1930s.
The museum has never released Walter's statement and has no plans to do so, Bennett said Friday.
Based on the statement from Walter, and on scientific tests, Bennett states in the catalog that the sculpture was excavated and removed from its original site as long as a century ago, placing the work beyond the reach of modern laws aimed at halting the looting of ancient artworks.

In 2007, Agence France-Presse reported that unnamed Greek officials stated that the Apollo was fished out of the sea between Greece and Italy. Greece never presented evidence, but in response to the country’s claims that the work was stolen, the Louvre canceled plans to exhibit the Cleveland sculpture in an exhibition.

Franklin said Friday that research by the museum proves conclusively that the Apollo "was not recently pulled out of the ocean but has been on dry land for some time."

Art Market Shuts Out All but the Super Rich

El Greco’s ‘‘Saint Dominic in Prayer,’’  expected to sell for  £3 million to  £5 million, went for £9.15 million at Sotheby’s in July.

El Greco’s ‘‘Christ on the Cross’’  did not even make it to the lower end of its estimate at a Sotheby’s London auction in July.

When this column first appeared on March 29-30, 1969, thousands of objets d’art ranging from Antiquity to the 20th century turned up at auction every week.

A budget of £50 was ample to buy, say, eight cups and saucers in Chantilly or Worcester porcelain of the 18th century. Mahogany furniture of the 18th and 19th century, often deemed too plain and dismissed as “brown wood,” could routinely be had in London for less than £100, and its American versions, Georgian or Federal, were amazingly cheap.

In Paris, at the old Hôtel Drouot, which held the monopoly on auctions in the French capital, sales went on every day, many without any catalog. To know what was up for sale, you had to go to the viewing on the working day preceding the sale. The slim catalogs printed for the more ambitious auctions only provided basic information limited to two or three lines. Buyers needed to make their own judgement.

A similar situation prevailed in London. There, auctions were almost exclusively attended by dealers. Sitting at Sotheby’s around one of their time-honored U-shaped tables covered in green baize, where the objects were passed to those in the front row, potential buyers made up their minds after an ultimate verification. Tactile handling was deemed as essential as visual inspection. In contrast to Paris, sales were conducted by category (antiquities, medieval art, silver), but in London, too, it was up to the buyers to decide what they were looking at.

Paintings and sculpture were the two main areas that commanded large prices and yet, even there, the art hunt was not beyond the reach of those with little cash. In Paris, paintings could be bought at sessions where no expert had been brought in. Many coups were made by those blessed with a sharp eye. In a nutshell, collecting was a pastime affordable to all classes. Accordingly, the buyers’ social background was highly diversified.

 At Drouot sales in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a treat to watch well-dressed gentlemen from the expensive Paris neighborhoods standing next to seedy-looking characters from the Saint-Ouen flea market, all waiting for some rarity they had spotted to come up. In London, browsing around Portobello Road antique shops, you met characters straight out of a Charles Dickens novel, walking away, eyes gleaming, a coveted catch in hand.

Together, the auction scene and the many shops selling antiques were the training ground where connoisseurs were formed. The daily encounter with hosts of objects, paintings, drawings and the rest amounted to so many exercises at recognizing authenticity and aesthetic validity — away from the secure environment of museums, where everything is cut and dried.
Several factors contributed to the undoing of this environment.

he attention paid to art sales in the news media probably played a leading role. I plead guilty. In 1969, this column became the first to deal with the art market as a weekly news item. A few months later, a London broadsheet recruited a statistician to tackle the subject.
Actually, there cannot be meaningful statistics regarding art sales. The concept of statistics applied to any market implies the existence of identical units and no two works of art are identical. No one had informed whoever turned to a statistician that one Impressionist landscape by Monet does not equal another Impressionist landscape by Monet. Never mind: The column in the London daily drew attention to the subject.

Auctions became events and buying art a fashionable game played by ever-growing numbers. Countries previously barely involved in buying art in the Western market joined the fun. The sum total of the art of the past available for sale started dwindling, and prices shot up.

Auction houses strove hard to increase their part of the cake and only the fittest survived. The smaller companies gradually closed down, excepting those that had a niche market with a national base.
In the course of the past 30 years, the auction scene has been transformed beyond recognition. Nowhere is this as obvious as in their cataloging style. Those printed in connection with ambitious Old Masters auctions have entries running to several thousand words. Heavily footnoted, complete with bibliographical references that are not always indispensable, these read like excerpts from doctoral dissertations. Impressed, newcomers feel that rock-solid science is the foundation for the estimates. Few are ill-mannered enough to challenge the wisdom and ask, for example, why two paintings by the same artist that carry similar estimates can dramatically diverge.

This happened at a Sotheby’s London sale of Old Masters on July 3. El Greco’s “Saint Dominic in Prayer,” expected to sell between £3 million and £5 million plus the sale charge, cost £9.15 million. Within 30 minutes, a second El Greco, “Christ on the Cross,” also expected to sell within those limits, did not even make it to the lower end of the estimate when it realized £3.44 million. Amusingly, “Christ on the Cross,” which made slightly more than one third of the price paid for the first El Greco, is held by some to be the greater picture. The estimates had been given by highly qualified experts, but the regrettable fact is that wild variations have always characterized the art market.

There is, of course, one big difference with the past. Then, auctiongoers only ventured to buy expensive art if they felt competent to do so. Nowadays, the hard-nosed financiers who are so tough when making millions put a touching faith in the estimates printed in catalogs and in the advice they receive from auction houses. They curiously forget that it is in the auction houses’ commercial interests to sell the goods consigned to them. The higher the estimate is, the larger the charge to the bidder — and the more the auction house cashes in. Whoever heard of a departmental expert warning a client that his estimate was too high?

In areas other than painting and sculpture, where hype is most intense because these hold the strongest appeal to wealthy new players, many categories command lower prices. But even these are no longer within the reach of modest buyers.

Hardly anything worth a glance now sells below the $1,000 mark, whether it is Old Master prints, 18th- and 19th-century decorative art, or painted pots from Great Greece, in modern southern Italy. In New York, the two international auction houses will only process antiquities estimated to be worth at least $2,000, plus the sale charge and the city tax if the buyer is a city resident.

The evolution of the art market has been deeply anti-democratic. It takes a comfortable middle class budget to enter the field of antiquities, even at the lowest level. Old Master drawings that once were plentiful and cost very little, excepting those by the most famous masters, have become expensive rarities. In New York, only two or three yearly sales are held by each of the two leading auction houses. This leaves would-be collectors no chance of mustering the visual knowledge indispensable to turn into connoisseurs.

Academic knowledge can never be a substitute — gazing passively at works in museum exhibitions without the stimulus of the prospect of buying is a different experience. As their visual sense loses its acuity, buyers become unable to concentrate on what they see. Words alone matter and a strong punch is essential to titillate them.

The scene is now set for the exclusive triumph of contemporary art, where “estimates” keep rising. Spoofery is the order of the day. A “Balloon Dog (Orange)” under the Jeff Koons label — the artist does not personally fabricate the object — will appear at Christie’s New York in November. They call it a celebration of childhood and reckon the outsize toy will sell for $35 million to $55 million.

In May, at Christie’s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Dustheads,” in the American painter’s naughty-10-year-old manner, established a world auction record for the artist at $48.8 million. With deadpan (or unintended?) humor, Christie’s special press release for the image commented: “One of Basquiat’s Most Accomplished Paintings.”