Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Art gets under the skin

A HOBART artist's work using human tissue has sent authorities into a spin.

But Alicia King just wants people to debate the technology of biology.

Artist-in-residence at the University of Tasmania School of Medicine, King, 25, has grown a cell "membrane" over her sculptural forms, using a stock line of human tissue cells.

The uni's ethics committee has given her permission to use her own and consenting patients' discarded tissue.

The Royal Hobart Hospital has rejected her advances so King plans to use her skin cells.

Her Melbourne exhibition, which opens tonight, coincides with parliamentary stem cell legislation debate -- adding interest to her art.

"I use the cells over three-dimensional forms, it forms an outer membrane," said King, who is doing her PhD in fine art.

She uses a stock line of cells called He--La, fast-growing ones originally taken from a cervical cancer in 1951 and used in labs around the world.

Her work, which uses dyed-pink cell membranes, poses questions about what it means to be alive.

"That's what it's all about, about how we define ourselves as human," said King.

"I'm interested in issues like xenotransplantation, using animals to grow organs for humans. I think people should be part of the debate.

"It's about how we treat other living things and our relationship with them."

King says she has her own concerns about animal welfare, but not hard and fast rules.

She hopes to use discarded tissue, probably skin cancers.

"Tissue is already used for research, with consent, and then discarded. But I'll use my own anyway, taken off by a surgeon in a shave biopsy," she said.

RHH chief executive officer John Menzies said such use of tissue could not be approved.

"While we appreciate an artist's creative desire to use various and unusual materials in the creation of artworks, the Royal Hobart Hospital does not and can not authorise the use of human tissue or clinical waste for the purpose of or the use of such materials in art," he said.

King's work, called I'm growing to love you runs until September 24 at the Linden St Kilda Centre in Acland St.

Art Museum: A Small Investment for Large Return
Art Museum Director Janet Riker.

Art Museum Director Janet Riker.

The University Art Museum has greatly enhanced its profile since its inaugural exhibition in 1967, becoming a leading exhibition facility in the region and a critical part of the intellectual infrastructure accessible to UAlbany students. Yet major upgrades and facelifts have been harder to come by.

"It is time to address the restoration and renovations required to make the University's Museum a venue that fully accommodates the most recent developments in contemporary art and meets the accepted standards of the field," said Art Museum Director Janet Riker.

Three Selective Investment Awards will boost the Museum's ascent up the aesthetic ladder. "The initiatives were developed as part of the Compact Planning process by the entire Museum staff," said Riker. "They are critically important projects but very difficult to support with general operating income or through outside fundraising. They will enable us to accurately assess our overall facility needs, launch an endowment campaign and address a much-needed technical upgrade.

"While not huge infusions of cash, they represent substantial investments in the Museum's future. I'm thrilled now to be able to move forward on our goals, and confident that these resources will help us leverage additional support."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The fine art of faking it

August 12, 2006

ART forgery is almost as old as portable art itself, dating back at least as far as the Romans copying the Greeks, but its exposure never fails to cause a sensation.

In purely monetary terms, the National Galley of Victoria's disputed Head of a Man is worth an estimated $25million if it really was painted by Vincent van Gogh, but almost nothing if it was not.

As The Australian's art critic Sebastian Smee has pointed out it is not the first time doubts have been raised about this jewel in the NGV's crown. In 1999, Rembrandt's Portrait of Rembrandt, bought in 1933, was confirmed as genuine sufficiently to satisfy the NGV after testing. Nor, by any means, is the now disputed picture the only van Gogh painting that has been called into question.

In 1932, a Berlin cabaret performer turned gallery owner named Otto Wacker went on trial in connection with 30 fake van Goghs he had displayed. Suspicions were aroused by the paintings even though Wacker had obtained certificates of authentication from Julius Meier-Graefe, an art critic at one of Germany's most respected newspapers.

In his 1970 book The Fabulous Frauds: Fascinating Tales of Great Art Forgeries, Lawrence Jeppson writes that Meier-Graefe testified in court that some of Wacker's van Goghs "were of such high quality that, if proved false, no expert in future would ever be able to distinguish between true and fake van Goghs with any certainty". Wacker was convicted of fraud on circumstantial evidence and the source of the fake van Goghs was never discovered.

Despite the exposure of the Wacker forgeries, not all of them dropped out of circulation. As late as 1970, a "self-portrait" peddled by Wacker was hanging in the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

The NGV's van Gogh portrait may be many things, including the genuine article, but at least the disputed picture does not appear on the list of known Wacker forgeries. Nor does the van Gogh sunflower painting bought by a Japanese corporation in 1987 for nearly $US40million; its authenticity has been defended by the National Gallery in London, where it was exhibited for 10 years, against claims that it is a fake.

The NGV's portrait could be considered a bargain compared with Blue Irises, for which disgraced Perth entrepreneur Alan Bond agreed to pay $US49million in 1987, though he subsequently failed to produce the cash. Even an unsigned minor work by van Gogh can attract serious money, as occurred in 2003 when a Japanese auction house sold an obscure portrait for $US500,000 after initially setting the reserve price at $US80. A last-minute authentication resulted in some spirited bidding.

"The problem with art," writes novelist Peter Carey in Theft: A Love Story, "is the people who buy it." But while art forgery typically emanates from unscrupulous dealers and neglected artists out for revenge on the snobbish art world that has failed to reward their genius, the practice is not unknown even among the old masters.

Michelangelo was not above producing fakes, according to his contemporary biographer Giorgio Vasari, who died in 1574. In Lives of the Artists, Vasari, who met Michelangelo, describes how the then struggling young artist, who was an accomplished copyist, was advised that an original life-size statue of a sleeping Cupid he had sculpted could be sold for a higher price if the buyer thought it was an ancient artefact. Vasari wrote that Michelangelo then buried the statue and used other ageing techniques.

When the buyer, a cardinal, learned of the deception, he promptly demanded a refund. Interestingly, in this case Vasari sided with the artist against the victim of the hoax: "The fact is that, other things being equal, modern works of art are just as fine as antiques; and there is no greater vanity than to value things for what they are called rather than for what they are."

In despair, the artist character in Carey's novel asks: "How do you know how much to pay if you don't know what it's worth?" Vasari acknowledged that "every age produces the kind of man who pays more attention to appearances than to facts". Meanwhile the Cupid statue, which, despite the deception perpetrated by Michelangelo would now be considered priceless, appears to have been lost.

The life of an artist is often chaotic and some modern artists have proved themselves adept at manipulating the trade in their work. Pablo Picasso, who was the most commercially successful artist in history as well as one of the most widely imitated, was aware that his signed works were much more valuable to collectors than unsigned ones.

Picasso would also authenticate his own work on the basis of his own assessment of its quality. He told an interviewer who asked him how he remembered which paintings were his and which were not: "If I like it, I say it's mine. If I don't, I say it's a fake."

Picasso has even been quoted as saying he was prepared to claim a fake as his own work: "If the counterfeit were a good one, I should be delighted. I'd sit down straight away and sign it."

The art market in Australia, as elsewhere, is riddled with fakes, or at least it's rumoured to be. In contrast to the vigorous public discussion of literary hoaxes, little is said publicly by the art establishment about forgery in this country, a reticence that has been interpreted as self-protection. No one who buys or sells art wants to see the expensive investment suddenly rendered worthless.

It is a matter of public record, however, that forgeries of many of Australia's best-known artists have been listed in sale catalogues, only to be withdrawn. According to online consultancy Caslon Analytics, assumed Australian fakes include a "Russell Drysdale" known as Boy Feeding Dogs, a "Brett Whiteley" called Lavender Bay, and a picture entitled Siege at Glenrowan that, it was claimed, formed part of Sidney Nolan's iconic Ned Kelly series.

Whistleblowers such as historian Susanna De Vries-Evans and art dealer Lauraine Diggins have claimed that art fraud in this country is highly organised and extensive. DeVries-Evans admits to having once bought a fake Arthur Streeton and alleged that she received death threats followed her attempts to return it.

De Vries-Evans holds our libel laws partly responsible for creating what she says is a climate of fear in the art world. An unsubstantiated accusation of fraud can certainly prove costly. In 1995, a Double Bay art dealer who was falsely accused of selling fakes was awarded more than $100,000 by the NSW Supreme Court after a disgruntled overseas buyer claimed he had been sold a phoney Picasso lithograph.

Occasionally, though, some light touches this dark trade. A scandal broke in 1998 when it was revealed, during a court case in Sydney over a contested will, that hundreds of fakes had been sold by deceased Paddington art dealer Germaine Curvers. Painter William Blundell admitted that he had been paid by Curvers to produce a steady stream of what he termed "innuendos". The commissions from his patron included supposed Nolans, Arthur Boyds, Drysdales and even the odd Picasso. According to Blundell, the works were produced for a nominal fee merely as "decoration", though Curvers was said to have resold them at a profit of as much as 2000 per cent.

Blundell boasted of producing thousands of fakes over three decades; if true, that would make him one of the most prolific and versatile art forgers of all time. Some artists, he said, were a doddle. "The Whiteleys are easy," Blundell said in an interview with Ben Hills, "I can do 20 or 30 sketches in a couple of hours." A week after Blundell made his stunning confession, a Sydney auctioneer withdrew a Whiteley charcoal sketch from sale, citing buyer nervousness.

Forgery on an impressive scale has also been uncovered in indigenous art, with the incidence of real or alleged fakery similarly dependent on the stature and saleability of the individual artist.

Leading painters such as Turkey Tolson Tjupurrula, Kathleen Petyarre and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri have all found themselves embroiled in controversy. In 1997, Petyarre's estranged de facto husband claimed he was largely responsible for a prize-winning work entered by his former partner. A subsequent inquiry by the Museum of the Northern Territory found insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation.

Two years later, Tjupurrula admitted he had signed a work that was painted by someone else, while fellow artist Ginger Riley identified works bearing his name which he said he had not produced on sale at galleries in Melbourne and Adelaide.

In 2001, Adelaide art dealer John O'Loughlin pleaded guilty to selling fake Tjapaltjarri paintings, some of which had reportedly found their way into the NSW Art Gallery and Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.

Other indigenous artists have been exposed as impostors. Sakshi Anmatyerre was revealed to be Farley French, an Indian from Kolkata who sold works to Paul Hogan, the Sultan of Brunei and members of the Packer family. Male Aboriginal painter Eddie Burrup turned out to be Perth-based Elizabeth Durack, a white woman of Irish descent.

Large sums are involved, but art forgery is not just about the money. In reality, the estimate as to the market value of a painting such as Head of a Man is immaterial, given that a picture owned by a public gallery for so many decades is never likely to again be offered for sale. Of greater importance to the NGV, and the taxpayers who fund it, is how individual art lovers would respond to the picture if it turned out to be a fake. Would they be entitled to feel that their trust in the experts has been abused?

When the Eddie Burrup hoax was revealed, Art Gallery of NSW director Edmund Capon was quoted as claiming that the issue was of no importance in relation to the gallery's attitude to the work. "I don't give a hoot who painted it," he declared. "We're not judging the artist. We're judging the work of art."

Some of his colleagues, however, expressed outrage at the deception. Though some commentators claim that the issue of the artist's identity does not affect the aesthetic quality of creative work, no art exists in a vacuum. Biographical, historical and emotional factors are among those that inevitably shape appreciation of art.

The well-known legend of van Gogh, the painter who suffered for his art, feeds the public fascination inspired by his work and drives up the price. In our secular modern world, works of art attract some of the idolatry once associated with religious relics. Much of the popular appeal of Aboriginal art lies in the perception of an aura of pre-commercial spiritual authenticity.

We should not underestimate the ethical aspect of human creativity. Even if Picasso was correct when he said that art is the lie that tells the truth, faith in the genuineness of art is essential to an appreciation of its meaning and value. As professor of philosophy Denis Dutton explains: "Part of what individuals admire and enjoy in art is innovation and originality; forgery by its nature is derivative and unoriginal. Historically speaking, the artist is an imaginative and revolutionary creator; the forger is always a parasite."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Smithsonian Museums Make Art Conservation Part of the Show

Lunder Conservation Center allows visitors to see conservators at work

Washington – For six years American art lovers were deprived two of the country’s most significant collections. The Old Patent Building in Washington badly needed restoration, and that meant the two museums that called it home, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) had to close. Now, both museums are open again, and the public is well rewarded for the wait.

Not only was the Old Patent Building refitted and museum exhibits revamped, but unexpected innovations debuted at the July 1 reopening. The most unique of these may be the Lunder Conservation Center, which has boldly taken conservation out of the back room. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls enclose five conservation areas, which offer the public a look at experts saving precious artworks for posterity. Putting conservation activities on permanent view is a museum first.

The areas on view include separate conservation spaces for paintings, objects of art, paper and frames. Artworks in stages of painstaking restoration are on display, as are the people restoring them.

When asked about working in a fishbowl, SAAM paper conservator Kate Maynor said it took a little adjustment for the conservators, but that it is “fantastic” for the visitors. “It’s not only giving them a window into the more specialized work that we do here, but into more basic preventive care that people can apply to the things that matter to them.”

The conservation labs care for the works in both the SAAM and NPG museum collections. Although conservators rely on the "eyeball" test to assess an artwork, the labs are equipped with sophisticated technological aids. NPG paper conservator Rosemary Fallon describes the process: “We examine it in various lighting conditions, even ultraviolet light, and that can give us clues about what the materials are. Sometimes by looking we can tell what the materials are. Sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that.”

When it gets more complicated, on-site ultraviolet and infrared viewing systems and stereomicroscopes are put to work. If more analysis is required, the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute in Suitland, Maryland, can conduct more extensive tests. Conservators also study the artist’s habits and circumstances, and collaborate with curators to determine what should be done to conserve an artwork. The first step is often to “stabilize” a work, to prevent more deterioration before further treatment. “Our patients can’t speak to us; we have to decipher what they need,” Maynor says.

The 981-square-meter center gives conservators expanded workspace. Labs are equipped with large tables and specialized equipment for cleaning and repairing works of art. There is a suction table for removing stains, a spray booth and other tools of the esoteric trade. Each lab has specific needs. Frame conservators gild, carve and cast materials to restore old frames and make new period-appropriate frames. Painting conservators carefully clean, repair and sometimes retouch paintings. Paper conservators are challenged with preserving ephemera such as prints, photographs, drawings and watercolors. Object conservators restore 3-D objects of diverse materials from small figurines to huge sculptures.

The conservation team also monitors temperature and humidity in the galleries using hygrothermographs. Some fragile works require the creation of microclimates within their glass cases, Maynor explains.

The six-year hiatus while the museums were closed gave curators a chance to conserve pieces for which there was no assessment time during the usual cycle of new and returning exhibitions. “During all that time we were reviewing, examining,” says Fallon.

Beyond maintaining the collections, the center provides a resource for conservation science. The goal is to “inspire all who visit to learn more about how to care for treasured objects at home and encourage them to help preserve public art in their communities,” according to SAAM director Elizabeth Broun.

Information kiosks and displays beside each lab educate visitors about that lab’s particular conservation techniques through video clips and “before-and-after” photos. A live camera lets visitors closely watch ongoing work in the paper lab, the objects lab and the paintings studio.

Conservation becomes more difficult when artists choose materials that do not have prolonged durability. Maynor said, “We work with artists to educate them about the consequences” of using poor materials. Outreach programs also are planned for conservation professionals, students and the interested public, who might want to know the best way to care for Granny’s quilt or that heirloom Federal table.

Additional information is available on the NPG Web site, the SAAM Web site and the Smithsonian Institution Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

Saturday, August 05, 2006

State Funding Announced for Allentown Art Museum Expansion
Story posted on 2006-08-04 18:32:00
69News 69News 69News

It's been years in the making , but plans to expand and modernize the Allentown Art Museum are moving forward. Governor Ed Rendell announced the state is investing 6 million dollars in the museum's expansion and modernization project. WFMZ's Joscelyn Moes has more.

The Allentown Art Museum is getting to be too big for its current building.
So to accommodate its growing needs , the museum plans to expand and modernize.
Today , Governor Ed Rendell threw his support behind the project in the form of a 6-million dollar state grant.
6:17-6:27--Governor Ed Rendell sdfdsfsdfdsfsdfdsfsdfsdfsd
And when you think about what this project is gonna do , it's really almost mind-blowing the difference it's gonna make.
Governor Rendell says once the project is completed it will helpimprove the quality of life for local residents, draw visitors to the community, and spark additional economic activity.
15:20-15:29--Governor Ed Rendell
That's important to businesses who make relocation decisions. They want their employees to be able to experience high quality art, culture, music.
Under the museum's current plan , the building will more than double in size.
19:18-19:33--David Brigham
People will see some things rolling out in the next 12 months including the demolition of the properties behind us which are part of our expansion site, improvements to the interior of the museum, and renovation of the sculpture court at the back of the building.
The additional space will help accommodate the growing number of visitors.
In the last four years , the number of people passing through the museum's doors has jumped 80 percent.
21:40-21:50--David Brigham
We're not reinventing the old retail Allentown. This is a new Allentown and culture is going to be one of the centerpieces of that.

The museum will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 20-09 , and officials say they hope to make significant progress on the project by then.

The art museum won't be the only place growing in the Lehigh Valley.
Governor Rendell also made a stop today at Lutron Electronics in Upper Saucon Township.
He presented the company with a check for more than four million dollars to help pay for its expansion project.
Lutron plans to build a new 250-thousand square foot office building and a parking deck.
It's also adding on to its product evaluation building.
The project is expected to create some 500 jobs.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Museum of Modern Art in New York Newly Expanded

The spacious MoMA lobby holds large crwds and large pieces of art

Peter Reed
Peter Reed
Today, MoMA occupies a space more than 58,000 square meters, almost double its original size and capacity before the expansion project from 2002 to 2004.

In order to transform MoMA's original buildings and additions into a unified whole, the museum conducted a worldwide search for an architect to carry out their vision. Peter Reed is MoMA's Senior Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs.

Museum of Modern Art, architect, Yoshio Taniguchi
Architect Yoshio Taniguchi designed the expansion and refurbishment of the Museum of Modern Art
"You are visiting the newly expanded MOMA. We nearly doubled in size with this new building by Yoshio Taniguchi. There was something of an international -- not quite a competition -- but the museum invited 10 architects to make a kind of a proposal. And it was to get an idea how these architects think. In other words, we weren't asking for a blueprint of MOMA but how might you approach the idea of designing a modern art museum,” Mr. Reed told us. “That list of ten was then reduced to three finalists. And Yoshio Taniguchi was one of them. In the end, the trustees selected Taniguchi to design this building."

The Entrance
Taniguchi takes inspiration from the streets in New York City for the lobby design. The interior promenade offers expansive views of the Sculpture Garden and the light-filled atrium, which soars almost 34 meters above street level. The lobby houses the information center and ticket counters. It also provides access to the museum's theaters, restaurant, stores, and Sculpture Garden.

Museum of Modern Art, sculture Garden
One of many sculptures in the MoMA garden
Sculpture Garden
Among all the expansion and renovation, Taniguchi considers the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden the most distinctive single element of the museum. He preserved Philip Johnson's original 1953 design, but enlarged the garden and re-established the southern terrace. Views of modern sculptures, lush plants, and the reflection pool of the garden are now available from numerous vantage points throughout the Museum.

Museum of Modern Art, art gallery
Museum of Modern Art art gallery
Art Work
The new David and Peggy Rockefeller Building houses the museum's main collection and temporary exhibition galleries. Spacious galleries for contemporary art are located on the second floor; while smaller, more intimately scaled galleries for the main collection are on the levels above. Expansive, sky-lit galleries for temporary exhibitions are located on the top floor.

MoMA's collections are divided into six broad categories:
· Painting and sculpture · Architecture and design
· Film and media · Photography · Drawings
· Prints and illustrated books

Museum of Modern Art, automobiles exhibit
Museum of Modern Art vehicles exhibit

Architecture and Design Collection
Established in 1932, the architecture and design collection is the world's first curatorial department devoted to this category. The architecture collection documents buildings through models, drawings, and photographs. The design collection includes more than 3,000 objects, ranging from appliances, furniture, and tableware to tools, textiles, sports cars and even a helicopter. The collection provides an extensive overview of modernism.

Notable Artwork
Some of the most renowned paintings and drawings from the 19th to the 21st century are among MoMA's collections.

Claude Monet's culminating work from his career, the triptych "Water Lilies" covers a length of 6 meters of the wall.

Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night" paved the way for expressionist paintings to come.

Pablo Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", is perhaps the single most influential work in the history of modern art.

Paul Cezanne's watercolor "Foliage" explores colors and lines, leaving almost an unfinished impression.

Andy Warhol's iconic "Golden Marilyn Monroe", captures the glamorous yet transient legend of American popular culture.

Edward Hopper's "House by the Railroad" expresses a consistent theme of his works: loneliness.

Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World” is probably one of the most familiar American paintings of the 20th century.

And the list goes on. Familiar as these works may seem to visitors, curators of MoMA emphasize the idea of revisiting artworks.

Visitors enjoy relaxing in the museum's sculpture garden
Visitors enjoy relaxing in the museum's sculpture garden
"When I can, during the day or during the week, (I) take time out and to spend time in the galleries,” says Reed. “It might be in the painting gallery. There is a sense of revisiting, which I think is very important to stress for us as curators and for the visitors. Is it enough to say, ‘Oh, I saw that Jackson Pollack painting. I've seen it. Been there. Done that.’ What I like to do is revisit it. Look at it again and again and again and study it. And sometimes you see things differently. Sometimes, it's the relationship of how that work is installed in relationship to another work in the gallery. And I think this is important. This idea of looking repeatedly at works of art is important."

Intertwining dynamic architectural expression and brilliant exhibitions throughout the year, today's MoMA is more prepared to receive visitors around the world for a visit or a revisit.