Archive for “artist”

Daniel Joseph Martinez wins 2014 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts

Los Angeles, 15 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Daniel Joseph Martinez has won the 2014 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, a prize which awards $75,000 to a mid-career artist.

Based in Los Angeles, Martinez is known for is known for his experimental approach, and a predilection for risk-taking. His work was featured in the 1993 and 2008 Whitney Biennials: during the latter, the artist gained particular recognition after distributing badges to visitors that read: “I can’t imagine ever wanting to be white.” Examples of Martinez’s work can be seen in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, amongst other institutions.

The Herb Alpert Awards in the Arts recognises five artists annually, giving an “unrestricted” prize of $75,000 to a creator in the fields of dance, film/video, music, theatre and the visual arts. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the award, which was established in 1994.

Artist Betye Saar wins lifetime achievement award

Los Angeles, 14 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Los Angeles-based artist Betye Saar has been awarded the 2014 Edward MacDowell Medal, a liftetime achievement awarded by the MacDowell Colony — America’s oldest artists’ colony.

Saar is to receive the award on 10 August, during a ceremony held on the MacDowell Colony’s expansive campus in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Former recipients of the prize include playwright Edward Albee, architect I.M. Pei, and writer Philip Roth. Last year’s prize was awarded to Stephen Sondheim, the American composer known for his contributions to musical theatre. Winners can come from any of seven categories: architecture, visual art, musical composition, theatre, writing, filmmaking and interdisciplinary art.

Commenting on Saar’s selection in The Los Angeles Times, Lowery Stokes Sims, Curator of New York ‘s Museum of Arts and Design, and Chairman of this year’s selection panel, stated that the artist “has impacted a whole new generation nationally for whom polemics are a concern, and shown the how to do it right”. Saar’s works include bowed assemblages of figures and other objects, as well as sculptures and large-scale installations. The artist is currently the subject of “Redtime EST”, an exhibition at New York’s Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announces the winners of its 2014 fellowship

New York, 11 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has announced the list of successful applicants for its 2014 United States and Canada fellowship. 177 scholarships, including one joint award, have been chosen from almost 3,000 applicants, and represent talent from 56 different disciplines.

Including the creative arts, humanities and natural and social sciences, the foundation has awarded the fellowship to 23 members in the Fine Arts section, as well as eleven from Photography and fourteen in the Film-Video category. The winners are chosen based on their prior achievements and promising futures, and are to receive funding for a 6- to 12-month-long project. A comprehensive list of winners can be found on the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation’s website.

The foundation was established by the United States Senator Simon Guggenheim and his wife in 1925 as a memorial to their deceased son, and has since granted over $135 million to around 17,700 individuals.

Qatar Museums Authority unveils an impressive sculpture by Richard Serra

Zekreet (Qatar), 10 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

On 8 April, Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), which works to consolidate the resources of museums in Qatar, unveiled a monumental sculpture by the American artist Richard Serra.

Entitled East-West/West-East, the sculpture consists of four steel plates each measuring around 15 metres in height. Installed in the Brouq Nature Reserve near Zekreet in western Qatar, the four elements of the sculpture are positioned in a valley which lies sixty kilometres from Doha, Qatar’s capital.

The installation coincides with the artist’s first solo exhibitions in the Middle East, which are to take place at the Al Riwaq Art Space and at the QMA Gallery in Doha, and have been organised by Alfred Pacquement, previously the director of Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Bridget Riley brings colour to a London hospital

London, 10 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Bridget Riley, a London-born artist, has created a colourful mural to run along the walls of the trauma unit at St Mary’s hospital in London. The work, a 56-metre-long fresco, is composed of the bold stripes of paint which characterise the artist’s work.

It is not the first time that the artist has created this genre of mural, having previously painted similar murals on the corridors of the 8th and 9th floors of the building. Other celebrated murals include those at the Tate in London and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

On this occasion, the work has been commissioned by the Imperial College Health Care Charity, an organisation which aims to raise funds for medical research and London’s five biggest public hospitals. Situated on the 10th floor of the building and in the trauma unit, the work is intended to lift the spirits of its viewers and to serve as a reminder of transition.

Bridget Riley, 82, has developed a body of work situated firmly in the realm of Op Art. Strongly influenced by Victor Vasarely, she is predominantly interested in optical illusion.

Claude Lévêque gets iPad app

Paris, 10 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

A new app has been launched to coincide with the unveiling of a new Claude Lévêque work  — a red neon light installed in the pyramid of Paris’s Louvre.

The app provides a comprehensive guide to Claude Lévêque’s oeuvres, presenting a hundred works accompanied by videos of installations, sounds, music and a previously unreleased interview with the artist. Expectected to be regularly updated by its creators, the app can be downloaded free of charge from site Art Book Magazine until 30 April.

A belief in experiences: Thiago Rocha Pitta

São Paulo, 10 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Based in Brazil’s São Paulo, artist Thiago Rocha Pitta quit formal arts education, becoming – in spite of his decision – one of the country’s most captivating contemporary artists. His varied practice engages in built, urban, and wild environments, at once using the city and pointing to something beyond it. Art Media Agency spoke to Thiago about being an artist in São Paulo.

What’s your background? When did you first decide to be an artist?
I grew up in a studio, because my father was an artist. I can’t remember exactly when I decided to be an artist – or even if it was a decision. But I found myself alongside my father from a young age, taking lessons from him – somehow it was natural for me to follow in his footsteps.

When I turned 18 and arrived at art school, I had to decide what I wanted to do as an artist. I was much more conscious of that than when I was a child, and just free.

Which art school did you go to?
It was the Federal University of Rio – but I didn’t finish.  Arts education was very old-fashioned, and because I had spent so much time with my father, I arrived at art school more skilled than others. To me, the first year seemed like a waste of time, because I was more ahead of the majority of the students.

Plus, formal education in Brazil remains quite poor: even if you go to a good private school, the art education is second-rate. Also, Brazil has only recently started to stage important international shows, which is incredibly significant in terms of education because now we can see what we were only reading about in books before.

I came across a few nice teachers, though only a few. At the time, I was also learning a lot working as an artist’s assistant – much more than I was at university. And I didn’t have time to manage all three things: art, art school, and my work as an assistant. My work as an assistant provided me with money to live – it paid for rent, food, drink! I didn’t have time for art school any more.

I do have a deep admiration for teaching: I think there’s huge generosity in the profession and – at first – I very much wanted to be a teacher, but the academic environment wasn’t exactly attractive to me at that time.

That’s perhaps quite a sad reflection on the Brazilian education system. Do you know whether things have changed since then?
I’ve heard it’s very much improved. And I still believe it was a very important place: I met a lot of friends and colleagues, and I had wonderful relationships with some of the teachers. I could also sit in on classes from other disciplines – from philosophy, from anthropology – which was very important.

But I believe that art is something which is difficult to teach. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but I believe in a more intimate transmission: the old-fashioned model of master and assistant, or learning through having a direct experience with artworks.

But art school was a good experience: I was a bit of a rebel in high school, and I was still a bit of a rebel in art school. But I’ve survived in life, even though I left school – it’s fine. Sometimes I miss it – but I don’t regret it.

Your work features a number of natural elements – has this always been the case?
I would rather say raw elements, primary elements… I like to think of myself as a “cook”, who transforms these raw ingredients. What interests me is not nature itself, but its place within society.

Is your association with the natural world in any way political? Is it, for example, saying that the way in which we interact with nature is wrong, or that we should change how we think about it?
I think it is political in the sense that I am somehow looking through a perspective that is not against society, but away from society… It is not my goal to judge how people should or should not relate to nature.

Many of your works appear to point to a natural disaster – of structures which have fallen into landslides, or uninhabitable regions of land which appear flooded. There appears to be an understanding of nature as something which is falling apart.
There have been four or five big extinctions across natural history, but I don’t think nature itself looks at them disastrously. It moves in cycles. Nature is not falling apart, it’s constantly moving and evolving… It might be something else which is falling apart.

So why make art – is it to warn people of this, or to reiterate the idea that we should interact with our environment carefully?
No – it’s not to warn people. People are warned by scientists, who are much more skilled than me. To make art is to believe in something that cannot be adequately expressed through language – but that we can still see and feel. It’s a belief in an experience.

How does your work relate to urban environments and cities?
I’ve been developing a contrast in poetics within an urban space, which can be very powerful I think. For example, I recently did a piece entitled Project for a Stormy Weather Painting, which was a huge piece of canvas where the rain acted as a brush, spreading iron oxide colours on this blank, white wall. It’s a kind of window on the past, where what is displayed is exactly what is covered by the asphalt and concrete. Another work, entitled The Camp Goes Camping, portrays a tent, full of plants, placed in a dry square, which can incite fear within people.

The dryness of the urban space can be fertile – you just have to know how to use it, and everything else comes naturally.

Is it challenging to be an artist in São Paulo?
It’s particularly challenging for me precisely because it isn’t a challenging city – it doesn’t have the level of energy that I’m looking for. My imagination starves here.

Is it difficult to be an artist in an environment which feels so money-driven?
It is and it isn’t. Sometimes it feels very superficial, soulless, and boring – but also artists have never been in such a comfortable situation, which means that we can live off our work.

You’ve produced installations, sculptures, drawings and photographs – how do you choose the media you work in?
I actually view them all as the same – for me it is always the same ghost making itself visible through different bodies. Some are more heavy, like my sculptures, and some are lighter, like my video or watercolour pieces.

I don’t create the ghost, I just render it visible, which isn’t really a choice that I consciously make. Things dictate by themselves how they will come to exist.

Interview with Cripta Djan: the power of Pixação

São Paulo, 10 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Djan Ivson Silva, otherwise known as Cripta Djan, is one of Brazil’s most prevalent and outspoken pixadores. Pixação is a Brazilian street art movement, born in the 1980s, which involves the use of a distinctive cryptic alphabet to tag buildings. Djan, leader of the Cripta gang, uses the city as his canvas and has taken part in a series of interventions against the institutionalisation of street culture. Art Media Agency met with him to gain an insight into his practice of pixação in the streets of São Paulo.

Tell us a little bit about your work: what exactly is pixação and how did you get involved in the practice?
Pixação is an urban street art movement which was born on the outskirts of São Paulo. A pixador is like any other artist; the only difference is that we take on the city in an illegal way, defying authority as a means of establishing freedom. I started to practice pixação when I was 12 years old and I became a part of the Cripta gang in 1996, when I was 13.  It gave me a way of being adventurous in the city, using the very fabric of the urban to create a certain history and to gain street status. Pixação is a way of creating and limiting space at the same time — pixadores are both rebellious and revolutionary, we aim to actually transgress rebellion, using the city as our support and medium through which to create art and provoke. You need courage, boldness, and various other qualities to practice it; it is  illegal, it goes against authority, but above all, pixação is freedom.

So what’s the difference between grafitti and pixação?
Firstly, the origins are very different. Whilst grafitti is also a street movement, it was born in the 70s in New York. Pixação on the other hand was born here in Brazil, and remains inherent to this country and culture. The most traditional forms of pixação are practised in São Paulo and Brazil. It is also aesthetically very different — pixadores are not influenced by grafitti. Some Brazilian grafitti artists have claimed to be pixadores who have then become grafitti artists – but that is a lie. Once a pixador, always a pixador.

How do you view the relationship between artistic intervention and private property?
Pixação opens up the debate of public versus private space. Our society today does not truly allow us to have the freedom to express ourselves; pixação is a way of re-establishing that freedom, by taking the city and actually adding to its construction. The movement gives people the real possibility to express themselves on the subject of social issues: the unjust social structure, inequality, poverty, and the lack of opportunities in the poorer areas due to social invisibility. Sometimes, artists simply paint to escape. Young artists need to find a way of exploiting their potential — they don’t have the opportunity to be classical artists even if they want to be, because of those very issues which they denounce through art. The reality is that that if we waited to gain permission to paint,  pixação would never exist. Artistic intervention is born out of necessity, and the only way to make ourselves heard is through attacking those boundaries between public and private space.

Pixação is a form of artistic intervention: if it started to be exhibited in galleries, would it no longer be classified as pixação?
It’s a difficult transition to consider. A gallery would merely be an aesthetic representation of pixação, a caricature of true pixação which belongs on the street. On the street it transgresses, and often makes people uncomfortable. It has real aesthetic potential, its power lies in the effect it has on people. I have participated as a pixador at several events, such as our intervention at the Bienal de São Paulo, because it is important to represent it.  It is a symbolic representation. A pixador who goes from working in the street, into the field of art — that is to say into a gallery or whatever — risks losing the very reason which lies behind being a pixador in the first place. There is a very strong link between the pixador and the city, and of course amongst the pixador community itself. People copy our aesthetic, sometimes for monetary benefit. The point is that it is illegal, it is symbolic. It was born in the street, as soon as it goes into a gallery it loses what it stands for.

What is it that inspires you about the city? Is there an artist for example, that you draw particular inspiration from?
Many pixadores are inspirational. There are several in São Paulo particularly, from who I drew a lot of inspiration when I started painting. A pixador named #Di# was probably my greatest inspiration. He worked with so much gusto – he was the pixador who most expressed the voice and character of São Paulo. There are so many others who do incredible works on the city, individually or as part of different crews. The city itself is the best canvas of all.

Would you say that the most important thing in pixação is to be seen, or to embody a political statement?
Both. Its aesthetic and its mystery are very important, but being seen and its public power are equally important. It is considered as a crime here in Brazil, but we are not criminals. It is an expression of marginalisation within society, and there are many pixadores who even have to hide what they do from their own family. It is not easy.

How would you define art?
Art is the need to express oneself, it is something that communicates and that creates a dialogue. Everyone has the need to express themselves; grafittiists, contemporary artists, classical artists, pixadores… as for what art itself is, it is merely a reflection of that need for expression.

Alan Davie, 1920-2014

London, 8 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The Scottish artist and post-war pioneer Alan Davie has died at his home near London, aged 93.

News of his death came on the eve of his retrospective at Tate Britain, which opens today. A contemporary of Jackson Pollock and David Hockney, Davie experienced success during the 1960s and 1970s – particularly in the United States – before dropping into relative obscurity until very recently. Renewed interest in the artist’s work has led to the large-scale exhibition, on which he recently commented in The Telegraph: “Really I need the whole of the Tate to show my work. One display isn’t enough.”

Born in 1920 in Grangemouth, Scotland, Davie studied at Edinburgh College of Art. He was also an accomplished musician, playing the saxophone and jazz piano. The Telegraph’s Mark Hudson, who has profiled Davie since 1982, described his work as “a jazz freedom that blew away the cobwebs of the austerity-era art world”.

Preserving a legacy: the artist’s estate

Paris, 3 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Upon an artist’s death, further to the process of dividing up inheritance between the different beneficiaries, estates are usually created in order to conserve the artist’s work and perpetuate their legacy. Their main tasks can range from copyright law to valuing a collection, but what they are most recognised for today is their expertise in authenticating works. In this vein, artists’ estates exercise considerable influence upon the art market, in allowing it to continue to operate reputably.

Role and structure
These organisations generally take three different forms today – either composed of beneficiaries of the artist’s work, or a collection of specialists, or they adopt a mixed approach, combining specialists with beneficiaries.
In the instances where beneficiaries – who are often descendants of the artist – make up the committee, the organisation will also be in charge of managing the rights and reproductions of the artist’s images. In this way, the estate or foundation earns royalties from any commercial use of the artist’s works – which are then invested in research, educational programmes, and authentication studies.
Often created in the wake of an artist’s death, these organisations can also take on social aims, closely linked with the artist’s vision. The Keith Haring Foundation, for instance, dedicates part of its funds to AIDS-prevention programmes. In fact, the foundation was created while Haring was still alive, a few months before his death in 1989.
Other foundations award prizes, such as the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation (RRF), which recognises around sixteen emerging artistic organisations annually across the United States. These are awarded the SEED grant, which affords these young organisations the chance to grow and develop.

The Estate Director: an often-lucrative profession in its own right
The estates of contemporary “stars” like Warhol and Basquiat are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. However, it is not merely big-name foundations that can be profitable. The example of Jonathan Clark, an English art dealer profiled in The Telegraph a few years ago, illustrates the point. This 20th-century British art specialist has made a name out of managing and valuing estates. Having gained the rights to the estates of Ivon Hitchens and Roger Hilton, one of the most prominent abstract painters of the 1950s, whose work he helped to promote, Clark then obtained the estates of Kenneth Armitage, Adrian Heath, John Wells and Bryan Wynter, amongst others. Clark has since succeeded in turning tasks such as promoting work, publishing catalogues and organising exhibitions into a lucrative activity for himself.

The high cost of authentication
However, in recent years, estates – particularly those linked to high-selling artists – have undergone numerous changes. While it may not have been their primary aim, authentication work has gradually come to occupy a large part of the foundations’ time and money. Linked to the staggering growth of the art market – with works commanding ever-higher prices – the authentication of pieces has become an integral concern.
However, authentication committees do not provide legal cover, and their legitimacy is dictated by the market. If the estate involves the artist’s beneficiaries, then this legitimacy is accorded almost automatically; otherwise, the market selects the organising body providing the most cover for each particular case.
The influence of these committees, particularly in their power to authenticate pieces, is therefore considerable within the art market, where they have emerged as key players. The release of a certificate of authenticity can today alter the value of a work by several thousands of dollars – and even by millions.
While the foundations’ initial aim was to protect and promote an artist’s oeuvre, they have now become active players on the market. For the “stars” of contemporary art – the highest-selling artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol – the task at hand has become enormous. The growth in demand for certificates has, naturally, been accompanied by an increase in rejections.

Authentication: no mean feat
The owner of a work, who judges it to be authentic, in good or bad faith, cannot willingly accept a denial of authenticity. Multiple refusals often lead to the work’s owner bringing the estate to the courts. In fact, this surge in lawsuits against foundations has led to several abandoning the practice of authentication altogether – the cost is just too high. Of course, estates benefit from liability insurance, which aims to cover all legal costs, but the insurance policy linked with this type of protection has increased exponentially.
In 1996, the Pollock Foundation became one of the first to cease all authentication activity. They were followed by Roy Lichtenstein’s in 2011, then by the foundations of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring in turn. However, dissolving authentication committees has not altogether ceased the estates’ implication in legal cases.
After dissolving its authentication committee, the Keith Haring Foundation published a statement saying: “After careful consideration, the trustees came to the conclusion that the public and the Foundation’s charitable mission would be better served if the resources presently required for the operation of the authentication committee were redirected to purposes more directly related to the charitable goals designated by the Foundation’s founder, the artist Keith Haring.” They continued that they are “exploring the development of a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work”, but would “discontinue accepting applications”.
In February 2014, nine collectors filed a complaint against the Keith Haring Foundation, stating that the organisation had refused to authenticate their works, and claiming $40 million in damages for lost sales. In the file, they made refrence to the foundation’s “irrational” and “irresponsible” attitude, whilst also denouncing its actions, claiming that the authentication committee acted in secret, without backing up its decisions with any solid evidence, or without even physically seeing the works in question.
The committee was dissolved in 2012 in order to protect the foundation’s interests, but the collectors accused it of having an enduringly harmful effect on the art market’s reaction to new works by Haring. As an example, they reference the exhibition “Haring Miami” in 2013 which was severely reprimanded by the foundation, who accused them of displaying around 200 fake works. The collectors asserted that the works are authentic and originally belonged to one of Haring’s former lovers, a DJ who owned several of the artist’s works. They also named the street artist Delta Cortez who, alongside the DJ, was judged to be a reliable source.
The costs entailed in these judicial procedures are, clearly, considerably high for the estates. The foundation dedicated to Keith Haring was preceded by that of Andy Warhol, who ceased its authentication operations in 2011 after spending more than $7 million on legal defence. The Andy Warhol Foundation had been implicated in lawsuits filed by the film director Joe Simon, who was refused the organisation’s seal of approval on a self-portrait that he judged to be an original Warhol. Much of the issue arose from the foundation being the only official authenticating body of the influential Pop Art painter, who produced a vast amount of works during his lifetime, reguarly fetching prices over $1 million.
The decision to dissolve this aspect of the foundation’s organisations took effect in early 2012, following a strategic revision of the organisation’s priorities. Created a few months after Andy Warhol’s death in 1987, the foundation now favours investing its funds in providing artist’s grants, as well as other activities in the visual arts sphere.

A conflict of interest?
The problem extends beyond the art market, however. The sums of money thrown about in the courts are colossal, and the authentication committees are regularly accused of not administering certificates impartially. Certain owners of works whose authenticity has been refused have claimed that these rejections are motivated by a wish to limit the amount of works on the market, and thus bolster the prices of their artist. One of the main problems is linked to the difficulty of remaining subjective when issuing certification. When the Andy Warhol Foundation was created, respecting the artist’s wishes, it sold off a number of works in order to free up cash flow, which would in turn allow the organisation to carry out actions such as valuations and social projects. However, when the authentication committee refused to provide a certificate for several pieces, a “class action” was brought against them by a group of collectors. The committee’s reasoning for rejecting the works’ authenticity was that too many exterior sources had participated in their realisation – an explanation that could seem contradictory given that the artist called his studio “the Factory”.
In court, the works’ owners, frustrated, took the viewpoint that the committee was refusing to attribute the works to Warhol for the sole purpose of wanting to limit the number of the artist’s works on the market. In a similar vein, other estates have been sanctioned previously for only awarding authentication to pieces for which they will receive a share of the profits in the event of resale.
Artists’ estates today occupy a key position within the art market, for their importance in promoting work just as much as for the power that they wield over its legitimacy. However, this power is not without its risks, and the organisations must withstand heavy criticism and, sometimes, legal action, in a world that is dominated by commercial interests, when the estate’s primary aim is in fact to be an advocate for their artist.

The artist behind Zoo Project killed in Detroit

Detroit, 1 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Bilal Berreni, a French artist, perhaps better known under the alias Zoo Project, has been found dead in Detroit aged 23. The circumstances of his death remain elusive, but the basic facts were released by The Detroit Free Press, who reported on the troubling discovery.

The artist was shot in July 2013, but following this fatal shooting his body remained unidentified in a morgue in Detroit, unconfirmed until March 2014. The artist’s political and social reasons for pursuing art in Detroit could form some sort of an explanation as to why he became a target.

Zoo Project’s work served as an ironic depiction of capitalism. The artist, originally from Paris’s 20th arrondissement, created large-scale black-and-white works which criticised present-day society with a strong political message.

Bilal Berreni carried out his artistic mission in places which were the settings of revolutions, amidst a constantly changing landscape. He journeyed to Tunisia and Libya, where he relentlessly painted images of the revolutions’ martyrs, and it was this same interest which also led him to Detroit.

Influential abstract painter Chu Teh-Chun dies aged 93

Paris, 1 April 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The influential Chinese artist Chu Teh-Chun (Zhu Dequn) has died in Paris at the age of 93.

Born in China in 1920, Chu Teh-Chun moved to France in 1955, inspired by the work of Matisse, Cézanne and Monet. He is often associated with his better-known contemporaries Zao Wou-Ki and Wu Guanzhong, who all learned Western art in Paris during the 1950s. His blending of traditional Chinese painting techniques with Western abstractionism has been widely celebrated.

Chu Teh-Chun was the subject of a recent exhibition at Paris’s Pinacothèque, which closed just weeks ago on 16 March. An extract from the exhibition’s catalogue, written by Marc Restellini, describes him not as “a Chinese artist who adopted Western language; instead, he represents a reclaiming of tradition”.

The artist realised his record at auction last November in Hong Kong, when an untitled oil on canvas diptych sold for $9.1 million at Christie’s. In 1997, he became the first Chinese artist to be elected to France’s Academy of Fine Arts.

Artist Raymond Gervais recognised

Montreal, 28 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Raymond Gervais, an artist who works with word and sound, has been named winner of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, awarded six times annually by the Governor General of Canada.

Since the 1970s, the Canadian artist has produced a considerable body of performances, installations, texts and objects, employing a varied selection of materials including photos, discs, and sheet music. The artist’s chosen elements join together to form works which consider the history of sound and the avant garde, sound technology and personal history.

Gervais notably participated in the CUT exhibition with artists Christof Migone and Jocelyn Robert in 2006, before becoming the focus of the exhibition “Raymond Gervais 3 x 1″, a retrospective produced in collaboration with VOX in 2011.

Sharjah Art Foundation selects 7 contemporary artists to support

Sharjah (United Arab Emirates), 28 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Seven artists have been selected by the Sharjah Art Foundation as part of its programme to support new artistic creation in 2014. The artists are to receive various resources, as well as a platform for both experimentation and production. The seven creators are Marwa Arsanios, Elena Artemenko, Ali Cherri, Ahmad Ghossein, Jumana Manna, Zineb Sedira and Raed Yassin.

The selection was made by an international jury, made up of independent curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh, Pooja Sood, the Director of the International Artists’ Association, and Hoor Al-Qasimi, the President and Director of the Sharjah Art Foundation.

The Production Programme was launched in 2008 at the Sharjah Biennial.

Li Fang, capturing the essence of the moment

Paris, 27 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Li Fang is a Chinese painter born in Jiangsu province. A professor of fine art in China, she came to France in 2001 to finish her studies and wholly dedicate herself to her painting, which is both subtle and moving. AMA met with her at Claire Gastaud’s stand at Art Paris Art Fair.

Could you present your work to us?
I studied a very academic and classical version of the fine arts, so I am a specialist in oil painting. I studied all the purely academic techniques, which aren’t always enough for me to properly express myself on my chosen subject of everyday life. I’m still looking for a way that enables me to express myself – I’m looking for a new side of painting. I’m pretty inspired by new technologies like photo and video, which provide the opportunity to show movement, but also light, speed, and instantaneousness. I want to bring all these thigns to the canvas, and reinterpret them.

There are tinted areas to your paintings that have a particularly dynamic quality to them. What are you hoping to capture – the essence of movement?
I’m looking to interpret the concept of movement. A moment that appears at the same time that it disappears. There is only the present that exists. I’m looking for this present.

Are there influences from Chinese philosophy in your work that focus on this concept of the presence and quest for a pure moment?
In Chinese philosophy, we often say that the present is all that matters – this has really influenced me, I think. Also, in the aesthetics of Chinese painting and calligraphy, negative space is more important than positive. We pay particular attention to the rhythm between lines and empty space. In my last series, this concept was portrayed in the presence of the colour white: not white paint, but the white of the canvas. It gave the measure of space, and let in light to the painting.

Your work is serial, and your series are given very simple names: PelousePassantsPiscine. You seem to be very attached to the simple and the mundane. Is this because the simple is, in reality, not so simple?
Yes, the only thing I am looking for in my painting – and in my life – is simplicity. I try to be very minimalist [laughs]. I seek to make my titles the simplest possible. I leave a lot of room for imagination, and I don’t want to impose things upon my paintings. The simple seems to be so ordinary – but it has a lot of meaning behind it. Simplicity is a force.

These simple images mean something to everyone. Do they allow us to be a part of your painting?
Yes, but they also create an impression which is less individualist and more universal, where everyone is concerned.

What is your vision of contemporary painting? You said that you were looking to go beyond a purely academic practice.
It’s very simple. As soon as I learned oil painting and all the classic academic techniques, straightaway I was looking to perfect them. In Paris, I realised that my painting was not contemporary. It was technical, it possessed all the right qualities, but it wasn’t a painting of this era. I then realised that it was more important to be an artist or a painter from our time.

What are your future projects?
I’m still working on my series, which are quite large. I don’t plan my exhibition projects – that is done with my galleries, and their propositions. I only paint.

ARKEN Prize awarded to Danish artist Jeppe Hein

Skovvej (Denmark), 25 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The ARKEN Prize, awarded by the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art in Skovvej, Denmark, has been given to Danish artist Jeppe Hein.

The prize aims to recognise a contemporary artist or collective which has made a significant international impact, acknowledging current artistic creation with a global outlook. Intended to be “a personal honour” for its recipient, the prize sees winners receive DKK 100,000, to be spent however they choose.

Jeppe Hein has gained recognition both in Denmark and internationally for his playful installations, which rely heavily upon viewer participation. His work often distorts reality, with altered park bench seats or mirrored constructions forcibly altering the way in which we perceive and interact with our environments. Born in 1974 in Copenhagen, the artist lives and works in Berlin.

ARKEN also awarded to travel grants of DKK 50,000 to Astrid Kruse Jensen and Emil Westman Hertz.

Ed Ruscha brings traffic commentary to New York

New York, 19 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

According to The New York Times, Ed Ruscha is to join the extensive list of artists to have their work featured along New York’s High Line.

Ruscha is known for his commentary on contemporary American structures, juxtaposing landscape imagery with features of an urban existence. His art relies heavily on words, evoking imagery from text, and is often concerned with traffic and the road. Therefore, his choice of work to exhibit on the High Line, which marks his first public commission in New York, is rather fitting. Honey, I Twisted Through More Damn Traffic Today (1977) is to be hand-painted on the outer wall of a building overlooking the public walkway and park. The work will be on view from 6 May for a year.

Speaking to The New York Times, Cecilia Alemani, Director of High Line Art, said of the work: “It has an intimate quality and is a piece you can experience just by walking it. The original drawing was very much about LA traffic, but I think Ed picked it because the High Line is now such a popular destination that it becomes a commentary on all kinds of traffic today.”

A colourful online catalogue raisonné of Cézanne’s oeuvre

New York, 14 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

The new catalogue raisonné dedicated to Cézanne’s oeuvre is to be published online soon in its entirety. Freely accessed by all, this novel method of publication represents an innovative new step in the development of the catalogue raisonné.

The last catalogue raisonné to be dedicated to the artist dates back to 1996. It was compiled by John Rewald, Walter Feilchenfeldt and Jayne Warman, but was met with some criticism with regards to the significant lack of colour images included in the publication. Critics claimed that, by displaying the works in black and white, the true enjoyment of a catalogue raisonné was lost.

This new catalogue raisonné has been compiled by David Nash, co-owner of the Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery, and has benefited from the influence of Walter Feilchenfeldt and Jayne Warman, who have returned to the project. Only one work has been added to the previous catalogue – Baigneurs (between 1902 and 1906), which was sold by Christie’s in 2011.

David Nash quickly came to the conclusion that it would be easier to publish the catalogue online. This decision brought numerous advantages: democratisation; easier research methods thanks to a system of keywords; speed and efficiency of publishing; and the ability to show the images in high definition and, most importantly, in colour. The authors of this new catalogue raisonné have also decided to include photographs and postcards of places painted by Cézanne.

A trial version of the catalogue is to be made available to scholars and art specialists on 12 May. Following this, it is to be published in full and made available to a limitless web-based audience.

Chinese artists amongst those on Boeing 777 flight

Beijing, 14 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

A new report has revealed that 19 Chinese artists are amongst the passengers on board the Boeing 777 flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing, whose exact whereabouts remains unknown.

The artists, who hail from Beijing, Shanghai, and provinces including Shandon, Jiangsu, Sichuan and Xinjiang, were travelling to Kuala Lumpur to take part in the exhibition “Chinese Dream: Red and Green Painting”, organised by Art Peninsular Enterprise. It was to be the fourth time that they had taken part in the event. Amongst those on board the plane are Meng Gasosheng, Vice President of the Association of Chinese Calligraphers, Liu Rusheng, Director of the Nanjing Painting and Calligraphy Academy, and Memetjan Abra, a painter from Xinjiang.

Would Lorenzo the Magnificent have collected art today?

Paris, 13 March 2014, Art Media Agency (AMA).

“My painting’s just about entertaining people, I’m surprised it’s lasted so long”.

This was the sentiment expressed by Andy Warhol who, in the 1980s, was already surprised by the longevity of his works. The artist, it seemed, certainly hadn’t presumed that his own 15 minutes of fame would extend into the 21st century. According to Art Price’s Art Market Trend report 2013, Warhol was the most profitable artist at auction last year, with the sale of 1,459 of his works realising a dizzying overall total of $367,410,717. And this is not taking into account Warhol’s influence in popular culture – screen prints by the artist have now become iconic representations of Pop Art.

The artist’s popularity provokes a number of questions: how does an artist’s renown – and the subsequent value of their works – endure? Is this value intrinsic to works, or does seemingly unshakeable popularity express a broader inertia within the art world? And – if the latter is the case – how do works become popular in the first place? Do certain bodies have an influential, or prescriptive, effect on the works we see and buy?

Warhol was well aware of these challenges, declaring: “No matter how good you are, if you’re not promoted right, you won’t be remembered” – a sentence which proved to be strongly indicative of the artist’s prescience. Integral to Warhol’s visibility was Irving Blum, the Director of Feru Gallery who, in 1962, became the first to present the artist’s work to the public. The exhibition, which featured Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can, prompted scandal, receiving a negative response from critics who attended. Art Historians refuted the notion that an art gallery could be made to resemble a “grocery store” and, confronted with a lack of sales, Irving Blum was forced to purchase the works himself.

Despite this, however, Blum’s efforts would later come to be seen as exemplary by those who sought to promote the artist’s oeuvre. The gallerist invited Artforum to the exhibition, introducing Warhol to John Coplans, who would become one of his biggest advocates. In 1987, Blum furthered the artist’s visibility when he placed Campbell’s Soup Can on public display, giving the piece to the Washington National Gallery of Art on permanent loan. Blum finally sold the work to MoMA in 1996, who paid the gallerist $15 million – he had originally purchased the piece for ten monthly payments of $100.

This anecdote demonstrates the potentially significant influence of collectors in the promotion of an artist’s career. Whilst the role of Irving Blum as art dealer is of incontestable importance, his association with John Coplans, the visibility of the National Gallery of Washington, and – finally – MoMA’s decision to purchase the piece were all actions which served to build Warhol’s legitimacy, advocating his entry into the history of art hall of fame.

In the contemporary art world, Charles Saatchi has had a role of comparable importance: his 1997 “Sensations” exhibition is widely credited as having launched the formerly “undiscovered” group which came to be known as the YBAs.

Today, collectors play a central role in the art world: they support artists, have a significant effect on current tastes, and frequently make the contents of their collections available to museums. The latter has the additional benefit of quashing the scathing accusations or critiques which portray the art collector as a particularly cold figure. It is not uncommon for those who buy art to be associated with a particular financial shrewdness: a desire to establish a lucrative portfolio, to dodge tax, or to lend works to museums in an attempt, not to share works with the public, but to raise their value. Those who critique collectors in this way appear to suggest that they are a body whose actions manipulate the art world, producing anomalies which have the dangerous potential to alter the face of the contemporary art world entirely.

But, between ideology and pragmatism, idealism and cynicism – what is it that motivates art collectors? At what moment did they arrive at the forefront of the art world, and do they really play a central role in its structure?

The collector: art enthusiast or investor?

Art Vantage LTD PPC, the specialist art pension fund, states that it has made a cumulative net return of 27.5% since 2011, demonstrating that it is possible to build a profitable portfolio in which art becomes an asset.

Yet the assessment carried out by Art Vantage LTD PPC’s has since been nuanced, with studies such as Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2014 offering a recent analysis of art’s potential profitability. The latter showed art to be the least profitable collector’s item, with an overall profitability of 3% – compared to 28% for cars. Despite this, art remains the more coveted item: whilst 44% of collectors questioned expressed a keen interest in collecting art, only 32% were interested in accumulating cars. The practice of collecting, it seems, lies somewhere beyond rational concerns.

Two recent studies have attempted to elucidate the motivating factors behind a collectors’ decision to buy. The first, Axa Art Survey 2014, was compiled from 1,000 questionnaires filled out by collectors across the world. The second, Art & Finance Report 2013, carried out by Deloitte and ArtTactic, was the result of a study focusing on 81 top-ranking international collectors.

Each of the investigations revealed emotion, and a sensitivity to art, to be the leading motivations for those who invest in art. 88% of those questioned for Axa Art’s survey said their decision to collect was influenced by an appreciation of beautiful objects. This sentiment was reiterated by the Art & Finance report, in which 83% of those surveyed cited a fondness or feeling for art as the driving factor behind investments.

In second place in the Art & Finance report was a collection’s potential social value (a motivating factor for 60% of respondents) and its associated advantages: access to exclusive networks, social prestige, and invitations to private events. 53% of those surveyed considered art as an addition to their existing assets – a figure which nevertheless merits some clarification: most of those who saw art as an asset also collected for pleasure, with only 7% of those surveyed citing investment as the sole reasoning behind their decision to purchase art. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study as a whole presents the collector as something of a hedonist, whose acquisition of art is accompanied by a strong desire to retain – or gain – money, rather than lose it.

The Axa Art Survey 2014 similarly touched upon the notion of art as investment: an analysis of the motivating factors behind surveyed collectors’ decisions to purchase art concluded that almost 24% had elected to buy pieces as a means of diversifying their investment portfolio. 37% of collectors surveyed described themselves as art amateurs, whilst 16% described themselves as “traditional” collectors – perpetuating a family tradition.

The decision to purchase a work of art was frequently found to be relatively instinctive. Of those surveyed, 65% admitted that rather than collecting systematically, they acted upon initiative, with 30% stating that their decision to buy was informed by the quality and value of a piece.

The results of these surveys offer some means of quantifying a phenomenon which otherwise remains private, shedding some light on the activities of the world’s foremost art collectors. Despite this, however, neither survey quite begins to contend with the more complex relations between intuition, investment, and pleasure. To better understand the phenomenon of collecting, it would be worthwhile to return to its earliest roots.

The evolution of the studiolo: the origins of contemporary collecting

Versions of the contemporary “collector” can be seen throughout history: purchased works served as a sign of social status, providing a visible attestation of their owner’s wealth – the tombs of the Pharaohs and the Palace of Babylon being a prime example. Already, at this early stage, collectors were the subject of criticism; in the 1st century BC, Cicero condemned the greed of the collector Verres, the praetor of Sicily.

It was not, however, until the emergence of the studiolo – or Cabinet of Curiosities – in the 15th century that the idea of a collection – and collector, as it is understood today – was formed. Though frequently confused with patrons, these early collectors were not solely interested in funding commissioned pieces, but were also active buyers. Statesmen such as Federico da Montefeltro, the Medicis and the House of Este set their sights on paintings, sculptures and antiques, expressing a particular predilection for decorative objects or commissioned works (with portraits being a notable example).

Lorenzo de Medici – frequently referred to as the laudatory “Lorenzo the Magnificent” was one such example: though he commissioned very few works himself, he helped to secure commissions from other patrons, and was an avid collector of both arts and literature – establishing the Medici library. Lorenzo the Magnificent also recognised the social ramifications of collecting, joining an increasing host of 15th century notaries who were using art as a means of demonstrating their political – and financial – weight. The Portrait of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino (1465) by Piero della Francesca, or the Medici-commissioned frescos of the Palazzo Vecchio are examples of this power-loaded form of artistic production.

Between the 1470 and 1480, the majority of Italian Princes collected. In Rome, Pope Paul II (1461-1480) began to gather medals and antiques under the guidance of Cyriacus of Ancona – an early art advisor – in order to reinforce the domination of pontifical power. In order to ensure that the decoration of her studio was of the highest level, Isabella d’Este would invite the finest artists of the period and impose strict rules upon their work. The latter established a conflation between patronage and collecting, funding works by artists including Mantegna, Perugino and Costa. She contributed to the emergence of the Maniera Moderna, promoting the movement by commissioning works by artists including Correggio.

The Italian wars and the powerful influence of Humanism allowed Italy’s influence to spread across Europe. Cities and monarchic courts became hives of collectors: this was the era of Arnolfini – the epoch which saw King Philip of Spain acquire almost 1,500 paintings across the course of his reign. Collections began to develop a coherency, were rationalised and – importantly – exhibited. From the 1530s, François I created his eponymous gallery at France’s Château de Fontainebleau, whilst Francesco I de’ Medici and Ferdinando I de’ Medici installed their collections in Florence’s Uffizi in 1581, the Cabinet of Curiosities falling gradually out of favour.

This initial stage of art collecting developed further still with the appearance of dedicated painting galleries, first opening in Venice in the 17th century before spreading across Europe in the 18th century – a period which saw fine art and those who studied it elevated to the level of “liberal arts”. Collectors were viewed as patrons, assuring the success of the artists they promoted. Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, a patron of Caravaggio, owned almost 600 paintings. The banker Vincenzo Giustiniani had a number of paintings purchased directly from Caravaggio and Carraccio. The gallery became an essential component of both the Palazzo and art more broadly, presenting not only works themselves, but particular styles, personal tastes, and evolutions in artistic practice. This model lasted until the 19th century, becoming strongly associated with arts academies.

The role of collectors has changed significantly since the appearance of the first Cabinet of Curiosities: collectors have influenced stylistic evolutions, provided funding for art, and increased its visibility. Collectors have grown to be amongst the biggest influencers for art world trends, with the history of art having been significantly influenced by their actions. Our brief study of their activity, however, also highlights their capacity to somewhat subordinate the status of artworks themselves: art has a complex social history, with collectors using pieces as components of broader, solipsistic hagiography, or as a means of propagating very personal ideologies.

The post-1980s avant-garde: the development of the contemporary collector

Political and social difficulties, combined with changes in the history of art in the 18th and 19th centuries, saw the importance of arts academies increasingly devolve in favour of a new dealer-critic model. This new approach to the consumption of art was better adapted to the numerous changes provoked by the industrial revolution and the 19th century avant-garde. Registering this new trend, collectors began to change their practice, beginning to work closely with prestigious advisors such as Paul Durand-Ruel, Ambroise Vollard, Pand L. Rosenberg, D. Kahnweiller or the Steins.

The system rapidly saw collectors integrated into the art world, with figures such as Peggy Guggenheim becoming overwhelmingly influential. Advised by Marcel Duchamp and Jean Cocteau, Guggenheim began to build her vast collection of contemporary art in the 1930s. Quickly declaring herself an “art addict”, she fervently worked to democratize modern art – following the interest of her uncle, the now infamous Solomon R. Guggenheim.

She opened the Guggenheim Jeune in London in 1938 with the aim of promoting young artists, dedicating her first exhibition to Constantin Brancusi. Guggenheim’s promotion of modern art continued with the opening of the New York-based Art of this Century Gallery in 1942, followed by the opening of her now-renowned Venice museum in 1952. Before this, the collector had used her influence to protect artists during the war, providing them with false papers and financing their journeys to the United States.

At the close of the Second World War, the collector began to play an increasingly influential role. Nevertheless, the heavy investment of both time and money which art collection required meant that the practice remained the preserve of intellectuals and the creative. In the 1970s, only 25% of collectors were leaders in business or industry – half had come from creative industries, such as fashion, media, or design. Nevertheless, the political and financial power asserted by this 25% minority allowed them to create major collections, many of which would later become major foundations – as was the case for the Guggenheim Foundation (1937), the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation (1940), the J. Paul Getty Trust (1953) or the Maeght Foundation (1964).

In the 1980s and 1990s, the demographic of art collectors changed further, with a number of factors further eroding the profession’s association with an intellectual and creative elite. Art collecting became at once more democratic and closer to business, with a decisive factor in this landscape’s evolution being a cycle of capital explosion since the 1980s, and the development of emerging economies. Between 1987 and 1990, a rise in the stock market freed up significant capital, which translated into significant investments in contemporary art.

In the 1990s, arts investment was fuelled not only by these new emerging economies, but by the rapid expansion of the internet. When she spoke to Art Media Agency in February 2014, sociologist Nathalie Heinich described the 1990s “art-finance bubble”, stating: “The reasons for this bubble were only partially linked to art, being strongly associated with the evolution of the world economy, financialisation, the emergence of traders and rapidly-established wealth, and new economies in emerging countries – so this mass of available money which could be spent.”

The profound economic disruptions of the 1980s and 1990s, along with successive “bubbles”, and an increase in globalisation, provoked an explosion in collecting art, further diminishing the gap between the economic and artistic spheres. Collecting became a distinctive, more developed act, with the art world becoming “hotter, hipper and more expensive” – as described by Sarah Thornton in her work Seven Days in the Art World. In 1992, the new shape of the art market had already been noted, with sociologist Raymonde Moulin declaring: “Today’s well-informed collector represents the original enlightened amateur.”

Together, these changes contributed to an explosion in the number of contemporary art collectors worldwide. Commenting in French newspaper L’Express in 2013, the CEO of Art Price, Thierry Erhmann, said: “At the end of the Second World War, there were 500,000 collectors. Now, there are 37 million collectors and amateurs who have a million dollars with which to make their purchases.”

Yet this major shift in the number of art collectors has not always been positively received. In 1959, Peggy Guggenheim was already expressing her discontentment at the commercial turn which art had taken, describing her frustration in her autobiography (released during the inauguration of her uncle’s museum). More recently, John Walsh, the art historian and former director of the J.P. Getty Museum declared the end of the “philanthropic era”. For Walsh, the contemporary collector approaches art as they would any other product: our interest in the works we buy – and our attention span – is considerably less than that of the esteemed collectors of centuries past.

Whilst it would be easy to dismiss Walsh’s comments as generalisations, the art historian’s comments may contain a morsel of truth. Nevertheless, it seems important to acknowledge the two-tier system of modern collecting, and the fact that many buyers no longer have the same networks and purchasing powers. Today’s art market is split between two parallel realities: the influential art collectors, and the rest. Though the number of collectors globally has increased, 51% of all art works sold internationally reach a price inferior to €1,500, and 81% for less than €12,000. According to the Axa Art Survey 2014, only 10% of collectors had collections with a value exceeding one million dollars.

Sarah Thornton analysed this two-tier system, heavily influenced by the “right of first view” – a privilege reserved for only the most distinguished collectors. Thornton states: “Only neophyte collectors offer more than the requested price… When a gallerist is confident about the demand for an artist’s work, he doesn’t risk selling it on a first-come first-served basis, or to the highest bidder. They build a list of potentially interested clients, seeking to place the work under the most prestigious ownership possible.”

Thornton’s comments demonstrate the infinitely complex nature which a discussion on art collection has. Contemporary art collection remains a domain which is at once highly confidential and difficult to document, and highly diverse. Nevertheless, a historical survey of the practice does offer some elucidation: collectors, it seems, remain an important influence in the contemporary art world – and their collections still hold an important place not only in the private, but in the public sphere. It also reveals that – in many ways – art collection has changed very little: though today’s art collectors may be different, art collection still follows the foundations laid down in the 16th century, closely adhering to both economic and social developments.

In Le marché de l’art, Raymonde Moulin states that the 1980s witnessed a “picture-mania” comparable to that formerly seen in 1st-century Rome, 15th-century Florence, the Netherlands during the 17th century, and in Paris during the 1770s. The contemporary art world seems to have once again fallen to the “picture-mania” of the 1980s – though of all its attributes, it is perhaps only its remarkable volume which is its most significant.