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Linda

2019 – What a year!?

Without a doubt, 2019 will be remembered as a year of transition.

A year full of political and financial uncertainties which consequently also reflected on the art market.

Although the art world was confident, not anticipating major changes in Europe’s so-called “big apple” – London – Brexit led to the closure of some galleries and the opening of their headquarters from London to Paris, to name some of them: – White Cube, David Zwirner, Pace Gallery.

The year was enriched by the 58th Venice Biennale curated by Ralph Rugoff “May You Live in Interesting Times” which – as the title suggests – proved to be a true reflection of the climate of great changes we are experiencing, with works focused on current themes concerning international politics, environmental emergency and social problems such as the issue of migrants, the feminist movement, racial and gender equality.

On the occasion of the Biennale, the city’s foundations and museums have prepared exceptional exhibitions such as the retrospective on Jannis Kounellis at the Prada Foundation, Arshile Gorky at Ca’ Pesaro, the monograph on Georg Baselitz at the Academy Galleries, Luc Tuymans at Palazzo Grassi, Pino Pascali at Palazzo Cavanis and Alberto Burri at the Cini Foundation.

With a witty appearance the street artist Banksy, not officially invited to exhibit but also inevitable figure that this year has caused a lot of talk about himself, was also noted.

In addition to this performance followed by a mural in the Dorsoduro district, Banksy was able to anticipate and ride the Brexit wave with the work “Devolved Parliament“, strategically put up for sale by Sotheby’s on the occasion of the last London auctions prior to the exit of the Great Britain from the EU, marking the record for the artist with 11.1 million euros.

Always on time on occasions, this time anticipating Christmas, the artist offers his version of Santa Claus on a wall in Birmingham, rendering the tragic beauty of the holidays into flesh and blood.

Instead, Maurizio Cattelan, on the occasion of Art Basel Miami – after 15 years of absence – presented his new sculpture “Comedian“.

The edible banana attached to the wall with adhesive tape and priced at 120,000-150,000 $, was a winning strategic move to get the whole world talking about it, and it is clear that the old concept of the value we attribute to things is reconfirmed to be still very much popular.

Cattelan had leapt to the headlines already in September when his work “America“, a massive gold toilet, was stolen during his recent solo show at Blenheim Palace, Oxford.

2019 was a year characterized by very important retrospectives dedicated to great artists, such as Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern in London, Antony Gormley at the Royal Academy, Mario Merz and Cerith Wyn Evans at the Hangar Bicocca in Milan, the aforementioned Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace in Oxford, Lucio Fontana at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and many others.

The result of 4 years of work, with almost 80 works on display, I would say that the exhibition of the year was “The Young Picasso – Blue and Pink Periods” at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, where even the prestigious monograph on Rudolf Stingel had a huge feedback.

In international auctions the climate of uncertainty was recorded in the appearance of a smaller number of works valued above 20 million dollars, perhaps a symptom of a period of little confidence.

Despite this the general results were quite positive again this year, so much so that we have witnessed excellent records, including Jeff Koons who has reconfirmed himself as the most paid living artist in the world with the “Rabbit“, a sculpture of 1986, sold at auction in May by Christie’s New York for 91.1 million dollars.

It was a year of great changes for the historic Sotheby’s auction house – founded in 1744 – which passed into private hands following the sale last June: entrepreneur and collector Patrick Drahi bought the giant of the sector for 3, 7 billion dollars.

The main international trade fairs have registered excellent sales and the recently concluded Art Basel Miami, featuring a positive climate, seems to be no less so.

Similar to it, Frieze London has also enjoyed excellent feedback from the public and buyers, so much so that in the climate of uncertainty many have called it a bubble of happiness.

Also Fiac in Paris saw a great success both in sales and in public, a result obtained also thanks to the first benefits of the shift of interests.

The Turner Prize – established in 1984 – was for the first time assigned to all four finalists, Lawrence Abu Hamdam, Helen Cammock, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani.

The innovative proposal came precisely from the artists through a letter to the jury explaining that at such a difficult time, their choice to present themselves as a collective is a symbolic gesture in the name of sharing and solidarity, in art as in society.

Technology, including new startups, art created by artificial intelligences or Cryptoart – a market that involves only digital works of art to be purchased with digital currency is also playing an increasingly important role in the art world.

We are in the era of interactive images and many museums are moving to accommodate new methods of using and learning. In Italy, the M9 in Mestre and the MAV in Ercolano are an example, the new generation museums that use advanced technologies and immersive installations.

The desire to live a 360° cultural experience is increasingly leading to the creation of virtual tours in many cities of art, the most recent promoted in Milan on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci.

In recent years, online art sales have shown considerable growth (in double figures) and have produced revenues of about $ 6 billion, a sign that the art market – very traditional in structure and dynamics – is opening up more and more to new languages.

I imagine that the future of art will reserve us many beautiful surprises and also in 2020 there will be fun!

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

Do you have a sense of humor?

-Part III-

Here we are with the third part that tells you about the most ironic contemporary art and artists, the ones who brought us a smile but also brought us to reflect on serious and topical issues.

Let’s see what they are!

As we have seen, over time many artists have reflected on the right to claim the original idea of ​​a work of art and have wondered about the aura surrounding the artist’s myth.

Gavin Turk (England 1967) – exponent of the YBA – also deals with this theme by reflecting on the concept of authenticity and authorship of artistic creation and in many of his works takes up iconic works of great artists of the past by exploring the symbolic power of works of art and the almost sacred aura that surrounds them.

Having obtained fast publicity in 1991 when – on the occasion of the final thesis at the Royal College of Art – he proposes “Cave”, an installation in which in a completely white space a simple blue plate commemorates his presence: “Gavin Turk, Sculptor, worked here, 1989-1991”.

The ironic inspiration comes from the commemorative plaques placed on the walls of the city palaces and it is thanks to this funny idea that Turk is noticed by Charles Saatchi and invited to exhibit with the Young British Artists, thus becoming part of the group of famous British artists emerging in the late 1980s.

Have you ever heard “I could do this too?”, Here: he did it!

His personal research leads him to redo in a playful key such works as – for example – Jackson Pollock’s action painting, Andy Warhol’s serigraphs, Alighiero and Boetti’s embroideries, Piero Manzoni, Salvador Dalì, Enrico Castellani, as well as “La Fine Di Dio” by Lucio Fontana.

Sarcasm is not just conceptual or self-referential, but it also ironizes on the dynamics of the contemporary art market that imposes some “must haves”, names that cannot be renounced in any self-respecting collection.

“Is it the work of art that makes the artist or is it the artist who makes the work of art famous?”

Turk enjoys the concept of the possibility of reproducing by reinterpreting the idea behind artistic creation.

In these reinterpretations the English artist often leaves a sort of personal recognition that can be his name embroidered in the tapestries, he himself as a subject in screen-prints or his initials in spatial concepts.

From the interpretation of these works we can deduce that Gavin Turk not only has the full mastery of the most diverse artistic techniques such as sculpture, painting, and photography, but also how evident is his ability of assimilation and identification with the most different artists.

Gavin Turk, “Land and Sky”, 2012

Embroidery on canvas

Gavin Turk, “Refuse”, 2012

Painted bronze

 

Micheal Elmgreen (Denmark 1961) and Ingar Dragset (Norway 1969), Elmgreen and Dragset – an artistic partnership since 1995, are also involved in ironic installations; their works are somewhere between art and architecture and play on the alienating effect of the re-contextualization of everyday objects, and their reflections that may arise from new and unsettling combinations.

Their “Powerless Structures” are installations that overturn the rules of space and physics with the clear ironic and polemical intent to create paradoxical contexts; often their public sculpture interventions re-contextualize also the place where the work is placed, as in the case of “Short Cut” (2003 – in collaboration with Fondazione Nicola Trussardi and Massimo de Carlo), an installation with a decidedly alienating effect that sees the Fiat Uno with a trailer caravan as the protagonist. Mass tourism and Italian stereotypes are served: the plaque of Naples, the map of Rimini and the subcompact have the flavour of the 80s national-popular holidays.

A scandal? Maybe. But the ladies of the Milan “parlour” will surely have forgiven them since in 2005 they created a Prada boutique complete with accessories – “Prada Marfa” – in the middle of the Chihuahua desert, to quench the thirst for shopping.

The humour of Elmgreen and Dragset has led them to pay homage to the birth anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh (March 30, 1853) with a 4-ton ear-shaped pool, “Van Gogh’s Ear”, installation placed in 2016 in half air at the entrance to the Rockefeller Centre in New York.

Elmgreen and Drugset, “Short Cut”, 2003

Installation

Elmgreen and Drugset, “Van Gogh’s Ear”, 2016

Installation

 

Another artistic collaboration that over the last 20 years has developed a corpus of experimental and very varied works is formed by Jennifer Allora (Puerto Rico 1974) and Guillermo Calzadilla (Cuba 1971), Allora & Calzadilla – who in their works range between different media such as sculpture, photography, installation, video and performance.

The light-hearted and cheerful tone should not deceive, because the duo is strongly committed to the historical and political front, tackling socio-cultural issues that reflect and investigate the fractures within today’s society.

Since 1995, the year in which their association was born, they have concentrated on exploring the social and political aspects of contemporary living. Playing on the contradictions of western society, their sculptures, performances and installations create unsettling, recognizable but at the same time alienating situations and images.

The ironic and polemical intent inherent in their works has led them to create apparently light and amusing sculptures such as “Hope Hippo” (2005), a life-size hippopotamus that wants to be a critical representation and a mockery of military equestrian monuments.

In 2011 they represented America on the occasion of the 54th Venice Biennale, staging a reflection on the obsessions of the world superpower, between contradictions and false myths.

It welcomed the public of the “Track and Field” pavilion, an overturned tank transformed into a treadmill where a real athlete was training at regular intervals, amidst a strident sound of tracks and scrap metal, a disturbing mix of sporting records and wars – not always – won .

The sarcasm of Allora & Calzadilla peeps out not only in large installations but also in smaller works, such as “Bandage” (2011), a faithful reproduction in metal of a banal plaster.

Allora & Calzadilla, “Hope Hippo”, 2005

Installation

Allora & Calzadilla, “Track and Field”, 2011

Installation

 

Continuing with the artistic collaborations, in Italy it is Bertozzi and Casoni who bring irony to everyday life by playing with the staging of the – bad – habits of today’s society between consumerism, waste and decadence.

Using only ceramics, working with an exceptional mastery, Giampaolo Bertozzi (Borgo Tossignano 1957) and Stefano Dal Monte Casoni (Lugo 1961) achieve impressive results showing the potential of a medium sometimes considered – wrongly – a second category.

The collaboration started in 1980 becomes more conceptual since the 1990s, and then opens up to technical experiments towards an increasingly objective and realistic rendering of the chosen objects.

In their works the hyper-realism that deceives the sense of sight and the technical-artisan virtuosity of their art take shape in conceptual works and in very colourful, ironic and often unsettling combinations.

In addition to the theme of memento mori and vanitas, Bertozzi and Casoni are also dedicated to the objective representation of the present; everything that is ephemeral and perishable becomes an icon and a work of art, a metaphor for the human condition: packages of detergent and food, and dirty dishes are a criticism of the consumerism of contemporary living while the cabinets for medicines, symbols of help but also of pain and sickness are overflowing with cigarettes, skulls and moldy objects.

The moments of daily life are crystallized forever in an “epic of trash” – as they themselves called it – that immortalises the obsessive accumulation of today’s consumer society towards disposable, futile and superfluous products.

They are currently on display until November 20 at the MARCA of Catanzaro, with the personal “Bertozzi & Casoni. Land!“.

Bertozzi e Casoni, “Avanzi”, 2001

Polychrome ceramic

Bertozzi e Casoni, “Brillo Box”, 2008

Polychrome ceramic

 

But one of the greatest representatives of hyperrealism in sculpture was Duane Hanson (USA 1925 – 1996), an artist who most of all knew how to portray all the defects and characteristics – sometimes funny – of American culture down to the smallest detail.

His “realism of anonymity”, as it has been defined, amuses and amazes for the meticulousness and precision of the details that go to create real sculptural illusions.

The American artist made his debut by addressing social issues often overlooked by the art of those years, investigating the conditions of the marginalized, such as the homeless and ethnic minorities, a commitment demonstrated by denunciations such as “Trash” (1967) or “Race Riot” (1968), a sculptural group that describes the brutality and abuses of the police towards the minority of colour.

It was not until the early 1970s that Hanson began to focus on the American middle class, recreating life-size people down to the smallest details that, thanks to their hyper-realistic rendering, aroused surprise and fun.

Painters, tourists, old people, waitresses: the real protagonist of Hanson’s works is crowd, banal but unsettling for the attention to detail – from clothes to moles on the skin – disturbing for the resemblance with real people we might meet on the street as soon as we turn the angle.

Impossible not to smile in front of the middle-aged housewife in a tight-fitting outfit accompanied by the poodle who sleeps at her feet, or in front of the couple of American tourists with sunglasses, slippers, camera and nose in the air.

Just this year his 1989 installation “Lunchbreak” was revived in the Unlimited section at Art Basel, Basel. The construction workers perfectly reflect a real moment and seem to rest after installing some stands at the fair.

Duane Hanson, “Tourist II”, 1988

Mixed Media

Duane Hanson, “Lunchbreak”, 1989

Mixed Media

 

Another master of hyper-realism, Ron Mueck (Melbourne 1958) also creates sculptures with meticulous attention to detail that represent faithfully reproduced human beings with altered dimensions.

Often giants, his characters portray human feelings and fragility, amplified to the point of causing the viewer a sense of anxiety.

Mueck, who previously worked for film and television, made his debut in the art world in 1997 with “Dead Dad”, a work created following the death of his father: impossible to remain indifferent to the faithful reproduction in scale of the little bloodless body.

The definitive consecration took place in 2001 on the occasion of the 49th Venice Biennale, when in the spaces of the Arsenale he exhibited “Boy” (1999), a child 5 meters tall scared and huddled on the floor.

In his works, mystery, fear and wonder are tied together and those who observe them have the feeling of being catapulted into a fairy-tale world among skulls, giant orcs, but with vaguely offended air, and dormant, a bit sullen faces. It almost seems to hear them breathing, as it seems to be able to hear the gossip whispered by the two elderly women in the work “Two Women” 2005, hard in the eye and critical in the attitude.

Ron Mueck, “Boy”, 1999

Mixed Media

Ron Mueck, “Untitled (Big Man)”, 2000

Pigmented polyester resin on glass fibre

 

Continuing on the theme of sculpture, one cannot fail to mention the Italian artist Paola Pivi (Milan 1971), who has always been committed to environmental problems and uses different artistic mediums and techniques ranging from sculpture to installation, from photography to performance and often include live animals.

The latter, out of their natural context, appear as a dreamlike vision, provoking an alienating effect on the observer, disoriented by a real image but imbued with fantastic elements.

Suspended images created by the artist play on nonsense, such as the donkey in a boat in the middle of the sea or the leopard walking among cups of cappuccino.

You certainly know it for its famous bears with coloured feathers, works that have a very pronounced playful component, phosphorescent and playful animals that lightly and playfully remind us of the serious problem of climate change that is forcing many species to adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Ironically, Pivi’s fluorescent bears run for cover, responding to the danger of extinction with a practical change of clothes: they replace the thick fur with a light plumage, much more suited to high temperatures.

The references to soft toys make Paola Pivi’s works ironic and similar to children’s games, leaving only a distant echo of the dramatic dimension of stuffed animals.

Paola Pivi, “Untitled”, 2003

Photographic print on DIBOND sheet

Paola Pivi, “Ma’am”, 2016

Installation view

 

The playful dimension is also an integral part of the work of Takashi Murakami (Tokyo 1962), a Japanese artist who outlined and in fact founded the post-modern artistic movement Superflat, characterized by bright colours and figures without perspective derived from graphic art.

Strongly influenced by manga, science fiction, but also by traditional Japanese painting, Murakami creates funny and colourful characters, smiling mushrooms and sharp-toothed monsters that have become icons and symbols of complex and delicate themes, which hide a complaint against the apparent carelessness behind the apparent marginalization of the otaku subculture.

His collaboration with Marc Jacobs for the fashion house Louis Vuitton is famous, for which since 2002 he has reinvented some of the most iconic bags of the French fashion house, bringing a breath of light-heartedness to the world of luxury fashion among cherries, sweet eyes and colourful flowers.

Since 2011, following the terrible Tohoku earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the artist has also begun to explore the impact that natural disasters have on civilization and culture.

Terror and joy, recurrent aspects in oriental culture, are proposed by Murakami in luminous smiling flowers in contrast to heaps of skulls ­– vivacity of a precious and fragile life opposed to the cruelty of the passing time.

Takashi Murakami re-reads in pop key the impact of Western culture on Japanese civilization and his approach to art overcomes the boundaries between fantasy, fashion, technology and history, demonstrating that all of them are closely linked.

Takashi Murakami, “Flowers in Heaven”, 2010

Lithography

Takashi Murakami, “Skulls MCBST”, 2011

Lithography

 

In a difficult historical period like the one we are experiencing, taking life – and contemporary art – with a touch of irony helps to play down and give that touch of lightness that never hurts …

…. Smile!

P.S. There are still many interesting artists I could talk to you about, if you would like to learn more, do not hesitate to contact me.

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

 

Artexit

October is about to end and Brexit – now at the door – could change the games.

In a positive or a negative way?

It is a question that everyone is asking, but apparently doubts about what could or could not happen for now remains uncertain, pending the agreement between the parties.

London – considered the “Big Apple” of Europe – has a very important role and position within the art market and its success is due in particular to the English regulatory model, which sees import taxes at 5% – the lowest in the EU – and Brexit could represent another opportunity for Great Britain to be even more competitive on the global market, implementing a regulatory review closer to its competitors USA (0%) and China (3%).

European Union legislation, with its complex bureaucracy and costly administration, allegedly penalized the London market by placing it in a position of disadvantage compared to its big rivals, New York and Hong Kong.

Brexit could therefore represent an interesting opportunity for Great Britain, free from the constraints of the EU, but it could also lead to a significant weakening of the market, since the exit from the European Union will stop the funds and financing of which the United Kingdom and its many museums and galleries have benefited from, not to mention individual artists.

An example of the monumental sculpture “Angel of the North” (1994-1998) by Antony Gormley located in Gateshead, was financed exactly thanks to EU funds.

Already at the time of the referendum many internationally renowned artists such as Tacita Dean, Wolfgang Tillmans, Michael Craig-Martin, Banksy, the aforementioned Antony Gormley and many others – had taken the side in favour of staying within the European Union by actively joining to the “Remain” campaign by creating works of art, posters and slogans.

Strong concerns were also expressed by historical institutions and institutional roles – from the director of Tate Nicholas Serota to Martin Roth – director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, also worried about the consequences of the lack of European subsidies dedicated to research.

But it’s not just about funding. In addition to the disappearance of legal and economic facilities, the possible weakening of investments and the impact on the economy in general, other obstacles such as export licenses will also have to be taken into consideration.

Many of the leading players of the art-market are in fact evaluating a possible withdrawal of the works deposited in London, as Larry Gagosian, who apparently has already begun to move assets from London to the offices of Athens, Basel, Geneva and Paris.

Certainly London will no longer represent the world airport for the importation of works within the European Union and it is precisely the French capital that is preparing to take up the baton, having the second lowest European taxation with 5.5% .

Some important galleries – including White Cube, David Zwirner, Pace Gallery – are already planning to open Parisian offices and the city is ready to reap the rewards of moving capital, a situation that could therefore favour the French market.

Conversely, the galleries that have scheduled shows from November onwards have been organized in advance to bring the works to Great Britain, in order to avoid the risk of new rules on customs duties.

For now, despite the uncertainties, London continues to maintain its central role – just think of all the museums, galleries, international fairs and auction houses that have their headquarters here – and the good results obtained from the auctions just concluded and from the fair Frieze confirm it.

Regardless of favourable predictions or not, what emerges is the important repercussions on the global market implied by the United Kingdom leaving the European Union that make the close correlation between art, politics and the economy even clearer.

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

Do you have a sense of humor?

Maurizio Cattelan image

 

-Part II-

If you are reading this article it means that you like ironic art and that you enjoyed reading the first part we dedicated to this particular aspect of art.
As we have seen, starting from Pop Art, fun and satire begin to play a greater role in the world of contemporary art. More and more cutting edge, irony does not spare anyone or anything and becomes an effective tool able to convey the author’s message in a more incisive way.

Banksy (Bristol 1974), an artist and writer who is one of the greatest exponents of Street Art, knows this very well. The secret identity is a moral and aesthetic choice that emphasizes its non-belonging to the system and a further way of fighting it: the use of stencils, previously prepared in the studio, allows it a rapid realization that is well suited to its sudden incursions in the nightlife of public spaces without ever having been discovered, a trick that is part of his “joke”.

Direct communication and the use of simple and incisive language reach and interact with a very large number of people belonging to different classes and ages.
His is an art of protest towards current politics, culture, ethical and social issues, which is expressed through a sharp satire: often at the limit of modesty, his works deal with “uncomfortable” and often unspoken subjects, as in the case of “Snorting Copper”, graffiti appeared on a London wall in 2006 that depicts a policeman making a cocaine line.

On other occasions, Banksy is the spokesperson for the counterculture and leads a revolt against the large multinational companies that manage and govern most of the planet with the sole purpose of enriching themselves to the detriment of the weakest.
The Bristol artist reworked advertising images and icons of our time as an act of social denunciation, often drawing from the English punk aesthetic of the ’70s, as in the case of works that reproduce the portraits of Queen Elizabeth or Winston Churchill in an ironic and desecrating way.
His political commitment, always very strong, led him to take a position on the Palestinian question, and in 2005 he made some stencils on the dividing wall in the West Bank. Its presence in such an oppressed and delicate area culminated with the opening in 2017 of the Walled Off Hotel in Palestine, a hotel that offers a view right towards the Wall.

His interventions did not spare even the works of the great masters of the past and the denunciation against consumerism makes its appearance in “Japanese Bridge” (1899), one of the most famous works of Claude Monet: the charm of the garden of Giverny is troubled by abandoned shopping carts and reflective signs (“Show Me the Monet”, 2005).

Not only famous persons and artworks have found place in his paintings, but also animals – often highly symbolic – like monkeys and rats: the latter are among his favorite objects, as they are animals living in shadow, rejected by society and therefore perfect metaphor that represents the “excluded”.
Banksy was able to collect and re-elaborate the witness left by Keith Haring, to whom he makes clear and direct references, especially in “Choose your Weapon” (2005), a work that alludes to the “Barking Dogs” of an American artist.

We must not forget the great hit at the Sotheby’s London auction in October 2018, when “Girl with Balloon” (2006) destroyed itself under the incredulous eyes of those present, becoming the first art action ever made during an art auction. If you think that those who bought it at £ 1,042,000 (including interest) found themselves with nothing in their hands you are wrong, because I am sure that when it comes back to market, the work will have acquired a new charm and extraordinary value.

The last intervention by Banksy that made much talk was his appearance in Venice during the opening of the Biennale in the guise of a street vendor, in strong controversy with the question of the cumbersome and annoying presence of cruise ships, an apparition followed from the murals in the Dorsoduro district.
By the way in Venice, this year the Serenissima risked not being included in the list of UNESCO Heritage due to the out-of-control tourism and the problem of large ships that continue to furrow the waters of the lagoon; among other things, last June 2, a cruise ship clashed against a tourist boat re-igniting the controversy.

Banksy’s humor centered the problem, anticipating the episode almost like a prophet.

Banksy, “Snorting Copper”
Banksy, “Snorting Copper”, Londra 2006
Graffito
Banksy Barcode
Banksy, “Barcode”, 2004
Serigrafy
Banksy, Happy Choppers
Banksy, “Happy Choppers”, 2003
Serigrafy

Previously mentioned, another exponent of street art is Keith Haring (USA 1958 – 1990), one of the greatest promoters of the concept of art within everyone’s reach in the effervescent New York of the 80s, when he turned the entire city into an immense canvas for painting.

The choice to create works in the urban context is not only a desire to express themselves beyond the traditional artistic channels, but embraces the symbolic meaning of democratic art and the international success of his works has contributed to the spread of art forms in public spaces.

Colorful, simple and direct, his works can be read both at a more superficial level as playful and childish images, and at a further level of deeper meanings using a biting humor, aimed at raising public awareness very delicately towards some social issues.
In addition to being a highly acclaimed artist, Haring was also an entrepreneur for himself creating a brand of sweatshirts, t-shirts and gadgets offered at his Pop Shop in New York, further pushing him towards global visibility.

Keith Haring
Keith Haring, “Ignorance = Fear”, 1989
Litografia
Keith Haring Andy Mouse
Keith Haring, « Andy Mouse », 1986
Serigrafy

Provocative and captivating, Christopher Wool (Chicago 1955) has always focused on the immediacy and irony of double meanings, focusing in particular on the visual representation of the language using different styles and using different mediums such as screen printing, stencil, spray paint and paint.

His works composed of large black letters on a white background aim to reflect on the current tensions of society and become a means of criticizing the aesthetics of traditional artistic representation: sharp word plays, ironic phrases and double meanings are a parody of the archetypes of academic painting.

Wool began working on canvases composed of words and phrases in the 1980s, a period in which the conceptual movement boycotted painting and a new generation of artists – including Jean-Michael Basquiat and Richard Prince – imposed itself on the international scene.

The artist has also suffered a strong influence from the action painting of Jackson Pollock regarding the procedural practice of the creation of the works, but during the 90s he elects the serigraphy as a preferred technique, which he still uses. The casual and highly intuitive style is reflected on the canvas in smudges, overprints and “imperfections” that combine to make his works unique.

In one of his most famous series, “Black Book Paintings” (1989-1990), the words are vertically divided on three levels and the concept, while remaining comprehensible in its entirety, is enriched with second meanings.

Christopher Wool Assassin
Christopher Wool, “Assassin”, 1989
Serigrafy
Christopher Wool If You
Christopher Wool, “If You”, 1992
Enamel on aluminum
Christopher Wool
Christopher Wool, “Untitled”, 2005
Enamel on aluminum

Richard Prince (Panama 1949), a painter and photographer, has also reflected on language and concepts. Since 1977 he has established himself as one of the pioneers of appropriation in contemporary art and his most famous reworking is the famous “Cowboys” series ( 1980-1992), in which he re-photographed the advertising campaign of a famous cigarette brand. The controversial, highly ironic, conceptual work is a criticism of the American lifestyle and the power that advertising images have on the human mind. As well as the nurses of the “Nurse” series (2003), taken from the covers of C series economic novels, they have something seductive but also very disturbing.

Richard Prince has therefore always caused controversy over issues related to intellectual property and also the recent series “New Portraits” (2015), in which each piece is an image taken by Instagram, investigates today’s problems related to privacy and control we have over ourselves and the information we consciously put on the net.

These shots, borrowed from some of his followers, magnified and resold at around $ 100,000 have created discontent resulting in lawsuits, and the funny thing is it’s not the first time the artist gets in trouble for violation of copyright, as for example already in 2013 the practice of the ready-made had brought him to court against the photographer Patrick Cariou, a case later won by Prince.
But it does not end here: even recently he has had problems with two professional photographers, Dennis Morris and Donald Graham, as well as with his former Gagosian gallery, but in this case the reasons for the breakup are not known.

The most amusing and light-hearted works remain his jokes, which since the mid-80s have challenged the traditional canons of the era, playing on the idea of creating a work of art that is actually the representation of a joke. His lines transposed on canvases with bright and cheerful colors, however, are much more than carefree sentences, as they reveal tensions often buried under the surface of social interactions.

These sentences, with their almost advertising and didactic rendering, are part of a broader research by the artist, which aims to redefine the concepts of paternity and aura of the work of art through a process of appropriation of images taken from the mass media , from advertising and entertainment typical of the 70s.
Prince uses different mediums such as drawings, installations, paintings and photographs that highlight how modern icons and more generally American identity have been specifically designed to encourage consumerism.

Richard Prince
Richard Prince, «Untitled», 1995
Acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
Richard Prince
Richard Prince, “Untitled (Fireman joke)», 1987
Acrylic on canvas

Instead George Condo (USA 1957) uses an imaginative language that pays homage to the traditional portraiture of the great European masters of the past, reworked and mixed with icons of contemporary American culture as characters from comics and cartoons: the fusion between the two aesthetic canons creates a mirror of contemporary social customs.

It is from the 1980s that Condo began to include in his works a mix of humor, irony and veneration towards artists such as Rembrandt, Goya, Caravaggio, Mirò, Picasso – embracing the entire spectrum of European and American art.

The artist’s eclectic style is characterized by dynamic figures, bright colors that incorporate surreal and expressionist elements, from Pop Art to Disney characters: this is how the grotesque paintings populated by bizarre characters characterized by bulging eyes, abstract bodies, prominent cheeks and biting mouths are born, which reflect the hysteria and paranoia of today’s society.

The artist coined the term “Artificial Realism” to describe his work, which creates a decomposition of reality then reconstructed according to the author’s personal order, a sort of psychological cubism that aims to describe the different moods of his characters. The reference to Picasso is not accidental: at the age of 13, George Condo sees a work by the Spanish artist published in a newspaper and from that moment it will become one of his greatest sources of inspiration.

In recent years, the American artist is very much appreciated by the market who amuses the great connoisseurs of art, becoming one of the most requested artists also as regards investments.

George Condo
George Condo, “Little Ricky”, 2004
Oil on canvas
George Condo
George Condo, image from Art Basel 2019

Another artist who revisits icons of art is Francesco Vezzoli (Brescia 1971), one of the most successful Italian contemporary artists, exploring the power of popular culture using different means of expression including embroidery, sculpture, video art and performance.

The study of media and television language leads him to an analysis of the stereotypes of contemporary culture and the influence of advertising on the human mind, research that translates into works that move between historical citations and contemporary figurative culture. A performer, he himself becomes the subject of his works, taking possession of images already known.

Emulating the typical patterns of cinema and advertising, Vezzoli tackles the ambiguity that prevents us from distinguishing reality from fiction in an analysis of myths and icons of popular culture.

These themes are addressed both in short films that portray phantom television productions, and in portraits of famous people – often in black and white – who are crying golden embroidered tears: the seductive language of advertising gives way to a deep contemplation of feelings and obsessions that affect the human soul.

Vezzoli has also revisited Boccioni’s work “Unique Forms in the Continuity of Space“, adding a heel 12 to the famous Futurist sculpture, symbol of progress and movement. The bronze “Unique forms of continuity in high heels (after Umberto Boccioni)” of 2012 aims to ridicule fascism through a sharp satire and at the same time adds a touch of glamor to Futurism.

 

Francesco Vezzoli
Francesco Vezzoli,
“Unique forms of continuity in high heels (after Umberto Boccioni)”, 2012
Bronze
Francesco Vezzoli
Francesco Vezzoli, “Cassandra Crying”, 2016
Print on canvas with metallic embroidery

Maurizio Cattelan (Padova 1960), who has often aroused and deliberately sought debates and controversy, has made irreverence and irony his style.

His works include sculptures, performances and provocative actions as in 1997, when invited to the 47th Venice Biennale he presented the work “Tourists”, 200 stuffed pigeons placed on the beams of the Italian pavilion. In visiting the space before the event Cattelan had noticed the abandonment and raging degradation together with the presence of many pigeons: he decided to “leave everything as he found it”.
One of his most ironic works is perhaps his self-portrait that emerges from the floor (presented for the first time in 2001 at the Boymans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam), amazed to find himself in an exhibition hall.

The installation was very much disputed during the Sotheby’s auction in May 2010, and the award of $7.92 million (excluding rights) to a buyer left in the shadow had earned him the title of the most expensive living Italian artist.

Surely scandals and provocations have had a strong impact on the artistic career of Maurizio Cattelan, as when in 2004 he exhibited three children-dummies hanged in the oak tree in Piazza XXIV Maggio in Milan – an installation aimed at raising public awareness towards the problem of domestic violence – considered offensive to public sensitivity and decorum. It is certainly a very powerful form of communication that requires non-trivial interpretative skills.

Having caused a lot of talking about himself in 2010 with the provocative “L.O.V.E.” – theme song for Freedom, Hate, Vendetta, Eternity – an 11-meter Carrara marble sculpture that stands in Piazza Affari in Milan opposite the headquarters of the Stock Exchange, building built during fascism. The work depicts a hand intent on the fascist salute but with all the fingers cut off except the middle finger, a vulgar gesture of irreverence against fascism and the world of finance.

In addition to those mentioned, Cattelan has created a remarkable body of works aimed at reflecting public opinion on issues that concern us all closely.

Just recently, you’ve heard of another of his works, an 18-carat gold toilet pan entitled “America” ​​stolen a few days after the opening of his new retrospective at Blenheim Palace, the English home where Winston Churchill was born.

Certainly theft has increased, not only the particular aura that already surrounded this interactive work – a satire on excessive wealth flaunted by the United States – created in 2016 and installed at the Guggenheim in New York for almost a year, during which around 100 thousand people could admire and use it.

The sculpture had already been talked about when Nancy Spector, curator of the exhibition, proposed it to the White House instead of the requested Van Gogh loaned but considered too delicate to be moved.

The gold toilet, estimated at around one million pounds, had already been ironically linked to Trump – who among other things has an adoration for the precious material – even though the reference to the President has always been denied by the Italian artist.

In the motivations for the particular choice Spector explained how “the work perfectly channels the history of the 20th century artistic avant-gardes”, but the sarcasm was all too obvious.

The work was inspired by income inequalities and the cycle started with the Duchamp fountain (1917) and continued with the “Artist’s shit” by Piero Manzoni from 1961.

“America” ​​stands as a supreme gesture of contempt for money and with its title adds further questions to the Duchamp’s irony, also due to its date of birth which – almost – coincides with the establishment of Trump in the White House.

Intellectually, Cattelan’s work implies different meanings, almost combining concepts and values ​​of the two works mentioned: while “Fountain” was considered without economic value, so that Duchamp’s friend Alfred Stieglitz had thrown it away, the Artist’s shit” had the value of the weight of gold.

It is therefore natural to wonder why the work was stolen: a conceptual wonder or 103 kg of gold?


Maurizio Cattelan, “Senza titolo”, 2001
Mixed technique

Maurizio Cattelan, “America”, 2016
Gold
Maurizio Cattelan
Maurizio Cattelan, “L.O.V.E.”, 2010
Carrara marble

As you have seen the irony and lightness – sometimes only apparent – are not lacking in the world of contemporary art and in today’s world artists increasingly choose performance and installation as ideal media as they perfectly indulge themselves to creations of all sorts.

The sense of humor is not always synonymous with lightness, often the meaning of many works is to be found beyond the surface.

There are still many artists worth talking to you about, you will soon discover them in the next article!

See you soon!

 
The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!

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Do you have a sense of humor?

 

-Part I-

The sense of humour is a sign of intelligence. It is the art of those who model what they see with an elegant satire to make us reflect on deep concepts and existential themes, offering an original and less rigid view of the reality.

Using the sense of humour in a sophisticated and creative way is certainly an art, and the combination of art and humour makes our life more fun and enjoyable.

It all started with Marcel Duchamp and Piero Manzoni, illustrious forerunners of ironic thought and revolutionary ideas that were inspirational for the successive generations of contemporary artists.

Initiator of Dadaism, a leading figure in Surrealism and a precursor of Conceptual Art, Marcel Duchamp (France, 1887 – 1968) challenged social conventions and changed the concept of art by raising objects of common use to real artworks. His irreverent provocations have influenced the avant-garde art and anticipated many artistic movements of the second post-war period.

“Bicycle Wheel”, the first ready-made, dates back to 1913 and its destiny is to change the course of the history of art forever. The decontextualization of common elements provokes an alienating effect and a conceptual distortion: the bicycle wheel has lost its function and the stool on which it is placed is unusable.

The most famous intervention will remain “Fountain” (1917), a male urinal complete with the artist’s signature, the scandalous work caused a great sensation at the time, including in the title all the irony of the genius of the last century.

 

Marcel Duchamp, “Fountain”, 1917 Orinatoio maschile

Marcel Duchamp, “Fountain”, 1917
Male urinal

 

As for provocations, after the famous urinal there is “Artist’s shit” (1961) by Piero Manzoni (Soncino 1933 – Milan 1963) which is the most classic example of an artistic scandal, a work that had even caused a parliamentary question.
Besides the pure “thematic” coincidence, the two artworks cited are a cry of protest, a symptom of a strong reaction against the rules and the prevailing system of the time.
Art, which until then had been a carrier of meanings but mainly decorative and with a strong aesthetic function, now no longer worries about satisfying the sight but of conveying concepts and ideas, even of contestation.
Manzoni redefines the very boundaries of the work of art with an absolutely innovative creative freedom for the time, establishing itself as one of the protagonists of the international avant-garde and as one of the precursors of Conceptual Art. It is part of the informal nuclear movement from 1957 to 1959 and founded the Azimuth magazine with Enrico Castellani (1959-60), with which he also opened the Azimut gallery in Milan.
In the “Artist’s Shit” (“Merda d’artista”), in addition to the irony of the label that takes up the wording of any canned food, the conceptual provocation continues in the price given to the artwork, equivalent to that of gold per gram: in this way Manzoni associates two materials that are totally antithetical to each other but both full of meanings.
The controversy also refers to the art market and the arbitrary aesthetic value given to what is considered a work of art and also addresses the question between content and form.
Same as this work, his other works presuppose the concealment of the work of art, as in the case of the “Lines” (“Linee”), made between 1959 and 1961, which consists of a line drawn on a sheet of paper and its existence and length is certified only by the external label of the cylinder that contains it.
Always characterized by a strong irony and position, his work has embraced multiple forms of art: he took the challenge of happening and performance when he branded hard-boiled eggs to offer to the viewers with his fingerprints in “Consumption of dynamic art by the art-devouring public”.
He autographed the bodies of the models – “Living Sculptures” (1961) – bearing a regular certificate and delivery note, anticipating body art and also creating the largest sculpture in the world – an unbeatable primacy – placing a sort of base / pedestal with a reverse writing that reads: “Socle du monde” (“Base of the world”) (1961).
Today the “Achrome”, series begun in 1957, are in fact his most quoted works. With his monochromes Manzoni exceeds painting and limits his personal intervention: the kaolin-soaked cloth is left to dry letting the material modify itself over time.
The revolutionary significance of a genius, who died early, today is easy to guess, but in the 1950s and 1960s it was perhaps too early to receive the recognition he was due.
Hauser & Wirth dedicated a retrospective to his work – “Piero Manzoni: Lines” – running until 26 July in the New York office where 70 “Achrome” and 12 “Lines” are on display.

 

Piero Manzoni, “Merda d’artista”, 1961 Scatoletta di lattina, carta stampata, feci umane o gesso?

Piero Manzoni, “Merda d’artista”, 1961
Can of tin, printed paper, human faeces or chalk ?

 

Equally provocative and gifted with sense of humour is Salvador Dalì (Spain 1904 – 1989), the greatest exponent of Surrealism, famous also for the eccentric and bizarre personality that has poured into dreamlike works populated by deformed and disturbing animals and objects, fruit of the subconscious of the artist.
His early works are influenced by Cubism, Futurism and De Chirico’s works, to which he will add strong references to Freudian psychoanalysis. Eclectic and ingenious, Dalì has expressed himself in various fields, including cinema, photography and sculpture.
“The persistence of memory” (1931) is the surrealist artwork of excellence, the one with the presence of the famous soft clocks investigates and questions the claim to measure time in an objective and absolute way.
With the director Luis Buñuel he creates avant-garde short films such as “An Andalusian Dog” (1927), before a series of excellent cinematographic and theatrical collaborations: he will collaborate with Alfred Hitchock, Luchino Visconti and Walt Disney.
His unconventional style, his passion for luxury and excess have made him a worldwide celebrity, between unforgettable parties and wild cats kept as pets.
His extravagance has often been immortalized by Man Ray, but the lightness and irony of the Spanish genius are summarized in a photograph taken by Philippe Halsman in 1948: “Dalì Atomicus” – title referring to the nuclear explosion in Hiroshima and Nagasaki of 1945 – it is a real explosion that immortalizes flying cats, buckets of water and the artist suspended in mid-air in his intent of painting.
At the Grimaldi Forum in Montecarlo, an exhibition is underway that can be visited until September 8th, which brings together about 100 works covering the whole of his artistic career, from 1910 to 1983.

 

Philippe Halsman, “Dalì Atomicus”

Philippe Halsman, “Dalì Atomicus”, 1948
Silver gelatine print

 

The real trend of humour in the art world develops later with the Pop Art movement, born in England and the United States between the end of 1950 and the beginning of 1960. The concept of art itself is renewed, making it lighter and more ironic thanks to the appearance of flat and lively colours, to the reference to icons of cinema and comics. Pop Art — incisive and immediate — best expresses the collective imagination and the American society of the time, borrowing the language of mass media and advertising.
The cue therefore comes from everyday life and consequently even mass-market mass-produced products become true icons.
Impossible not to think of Campbell Soup cans or Coca Cola bottles reproduced in serigraphs by Andy Warhol (USA 1928 – 1987), according to which art is also consumed like any other product.
Thus reproducibility and obsessive repetition characterize his works which, like mass products – associated with consumerism – reflect American society. A leading exponent of Pop Art and an eccentric personality, Warhol has also made a name for himself for his unconventional lifestyle.

 

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol, “Campbell’s Soup II“, 1969
Serigraphy on paper

 

The theme of reproducibility of the work of art was also at the centre of the research of Roy Lichtenstein (USA 1923 – 1997), another great exponent of the movement: the source of inspiration – the comics – also translates into an interest in the mechanical processes. Lichtenstein implements the inverse process in his works, that is, starting from a copy par excellence (a printed page) he creates an original, revolutionizing the expressive language of the era. During his career, Lichtenstein has explored various themes, some of which are typically American: from the Far West to the artistic expressions of Indians, from the economic boom to oriental landscapes.

 

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein, “In the car“, 1963
Oil on canvas

 

Another great Pop Art performer is Tom Wesselmann (USA 1931 – 2004), famous for his “Great American Nudes”. His stylized and seductive female figures introduce eroticism into movement, at a time when the nude of a woman begins to become an advertising product that no longer makes a stir.
In 1970, Wesselmann exhibited “Bedroom Tit Box”, a box that brought together painted wooden objects. What is striking is the presence of a breast between an ashtray and a bottle of perfume: starting from this still life the artist will begin to depict details of female bodies.
In an interview he said: “Painting, sex and humour are the most important things in my life”.

 

Tom Wesselmann

Tom Wesselmann, “Smoker #3 (Mouth #17)”, 1968
Oil on canvas

 

Jeff Koons – eccentric personality and “enfant terrible” of contemporary art – has often been talked about for his controversial choices.
His earliest works date back to the late 1970s but it was in 1980 that Jeff Koons made his debut in the art world: he exhibited at the New Museum the installation “The New” in which he staged some vacuum cleaners, products of consumer goods in which the influence of Andy Warhol is very evident.
The theme of consumerism and the fulfilment of the senses also include the sexual sphere and his pornographic sculptures certainly require a great open-mindedness and a strong sense of humour, even if only to conceive the message.
Some of these are currently on display at the Jumex Museum in Mexico City until September 29th in the review curated by Massimiliano Gioni “Apariencia Desnuda”, and are combined with Duchamp’s works in an unpublished exhibition that highlights the conceptual affinities between the two art giants. They questioned the function of the objects and in both of them there is often a strong eroticism, also found in everyday objects: an evident theme in the voyeuristic work “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, The Large Glass” (1915 – 23) by Duchamp, who considered that desire is a source of creativity, as witnessed also by his alter ego Rrose Sélavy. Recurrent eroticism also in the works of Koons, who caused scandal with the 1991 series “Made in Heaven” created with his wife and porn star Ilona Staller.
It is the first major anthological exhibition presented in South America for both artists and the 80 works on display clarify the points of contact both in the challenge to conventions and in the distortion of the function of common objects.
Jeff Koons is the artist par excellence who has taken over and transformed the enchantment and childhood desire for games into a fetish for adults that reflects the extreme individuality of modern society hidden behind a trivial toy.
He is probably still celebrating the very recent record at auction that he – again – crowned the highest paid living artist in the world. “Rabbit“, a stainless steel sculpture from 1986 was sold last May for $ 91.1 million at a Christie’s auction in New York.

 

Jeff Koons

Jeff Koons, “Balloon Dog (Orange)“, 1994-2000
Mirror polished stainless steel with transparent color coating


Damien Hirst
(Bristol 1965), one of the founders of Frieze, is another “enfant terrible” of contemporary art: one of his goals is to amaze and shock the viewers and the public.
Hirst no longer seeks the manual skill of the author of the work of art but tries to convey ideas and create almost a brand, as Andy Warhol had done before him. He takes up the use of everyday objects and from Duchamp the ready-made, but he models and transforms them by transposing them onto living beings.
The leader of the Young British Artists has always focused on the reflections around the theme of death and has been especially noted for the works that have seen animal protagonists in formaldehyde or for the famous diamond-covered skull “For the love of God”, perfect combination of irony and macabre, object of desire and repulsion.
The exorcism of death through medicine took shape in works that reproduce mirrors of medicine with the pills on display as if they were precious stones, signifying an almost sacred admiration for remedies against death but also a reflection on today’s addictions.
Among these, smoking has a prominent place, also due to its close link with death, and it is no coincidence that Hirst has dedicated more than one work to it: among these “Party time” (1995) is a giant ashtray filled with cigarette butts and empty packages, almost a pool to throw yourself into.

 

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst, “Lullaby Summer”, dettaglio, 2002
Glass, stainless steel, aluminium, nickel, bismuth and cast resin, coloured plaster and painted pills with dry transfers

 

On the close symbiosis between art and life, Yayoi Kusama (Japan 1929) has always moved, having lived voluntarily in a mental asylum in Tokyo for about 40 years.
Her works move between madness, fun and genius, thanks to their great power of interaction with the viewer.
She suffered from hallucinations from a young age, visions she transposed into her works, giving the viewers her vision of the world, full of suggestions. Not only obsessively repeated pumpkins and polka dots but also immersive installations such as the “Infinity Mirrors rooms” – rooms covered with mirrors that play with the thousand cross-references between pumpkins, polka dots and the reflected image of the viewers.
Obsessively repeated, the polka dots cover the furnishings of entire rooms or go to decorate tentacles sprouting from the floor and ceiling in installations that everyone likes.

 

Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, “Infinity Mirrored Room – All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins”, 2016
Wood, mirrors, plastic, acrylic and leds

 

Another artist who engages us in a fun way playing with the sense of orientation is Carsten Höller (Brussels 1961), an artist who often creates playful works whose purpose is to activate all 5 senses in the viewers, triggering adrenaline and emotions linked to games. childhood, as in the case of slides.
The artist plays with the disorientation and explores the contradictions within us, as in the case of the work “Upside Down Mushroom” at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, which implements a reversal of reality.

 

Carsten Höller, “Upside Down Mushroom Room”, 2000
Fondazione Prada, Milano

 

Even Paul McCarthy (USA 1945) plays with the senses and with the subconscious of the viewer with provocative, disturbing, politically committed works, which aim at a critique of consumerism and to lay bare our fears and neuroses, unmasking the deceptions that lie behind the promise of the American dream.
Known for his vast and varied production that includes performance, photography, sculpture, film, multimedia installations, drawing and painting; at the beginning of his artistic career he tries to break the limits of painting by using unusual “materials” such as body fluids and food.
McCarthy appropriates icons of popular and childhood culture such as gnomes, Heidi, Santa Claus, Barbie reformulating them in a violent version and playing with the viewer’s subconscious.
Brutal, explicit and often repetitive images cause sensory overload by causing feelings of discomfort and disgust: the artist overcomes any taboo and breaks all social rules.
From the early 1980s McCarthy developed a series of collaborations with Mike Kelley, another artist linked to the counterculture: the synergy between the two leads to the creation of “Heidi”, a 1992 video that depicts the disturbing implications of the famous children’s story.

 

Paul McCarthy

Paul McCarthy, “White Snow” Dwarf, Bashful”, 2016
Silicone, fiberglass, steel

 

Like McCarthy, Mike Kelley (Detroit 1954 – Los Angeles 2012) has always been interested in American mass culture, examining it thoroughly to reveal hidden contradictions.
He explored various themes such as the relationships between different social classes, sexuality, religion, repressed memories and politics, making an incisive critique and a great deal of self-deprecating humour to these topics.
Especially known for his work with objects that evoke memories related to childhood and adolescence, such as stuffed toys, dolls and school photographs, throughout his career he has explored any type of medium: drawing, sculpture, music, video, shows, photography and painting.
In the project “Educational Complex” (1995) the artist analyses adolescent traumas and criticizes the rigid rules of society and the educational impositions to which we are forced to submit.
Among his best-known works “Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites” (1991-99), very colourful stuffed toys sewn together to form rainbow sculptures that at first glance evoke the magic of childhood.

 

Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley, “Deodorized Central Mass with Satellites“, 1991-1999
Mixed media installation: stuffed animals sewn over wooden and wire mesh frames with styrofoam packing material, fiberglass, car lacquer, metal hardware, nylon rope, pulleys


Claes Oldenburg
(Stockholm 1929) focused on the theme of consumerism and today’s eating habits and is famous throughout the world for monumental and amusing works that reflect a typically American imagery: from the shuttlecock for badminton to bowling pins, from the giant hamburger to the huge ice cream cone that fell on a skyscraper in Cologne.
His works are often strongly linked to the territory where the work is placed, as evidenced by “Ago, filo e nodo” (2000) created in collaboration with Coosje van Bruggen in Piazzale Cadorna in Milan, a tribute to the world of fashion and a clear reference to the underground lines in the colours used for the thread.

 

Claes Oldenburg,

Claes Oldenburg, “Dropped Cone”, Neumarkt Galerie Colonia, Germania, 2001
Stainless and galvanized steels, fibre reinforced plastic, balsa wood, painted with polyester gel coating

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

 

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Sparkling “Summer Show”

Summer Show

Curated by Linda Bajàre

On June 20, the exhibition “Summer Show” was opened, an intriguing artistic project curated by Linda Bajàre which presents the international artists Artis Nīmanis and Aivars Kisnics in Italy.

Scheduled until September 5, the exhibition is held at the prestigious Palazzo Matteotti in Milan, immersed in the atmosphere of the Italian capital of luxury, just a few steps from the Quadrilatero della Moda.
The Dedica Anthology, a new luxury hotel brand, is a vibrant part of the city and a fascinating depository of unique and authentic stories that are also told through temporary exhibitions like the Summer Show.

The works of the two Latvian artists interact with the exclusive spaces of Palazzo Matteotti, creating an exhibition itinerary that welcomes the visitor from the moment he enters and accompanies them to the Gallery Hall, the main hall of the exhibition.

The essentiality of the forms and of the sign are traits that unite Artis Nīmanis and Aivars Kisnics, like the profound manual skill that shines through in their works: the works exhibited – 21 in total – are charged with feeling, emotion and intense colors capable of enchanting the viewer offering a journey to infinity.

Despite being very different from each other, the echoes and references between the two artists are continuous and their works interpenetrate each other: the 14 canvases by Kisnics range from delicate and almost monochrome oils on canvas to bright, passionate color compositions that emit all the energy of the sea and summer; as well as the 7 sculptures of Nīmanis play with the theme of water, of carefree games on sunny days.

Equipped with a strong expressive charge, painting and sculpture are the two forms of art with which Latvian artists want to focus attention on the importance of technical research and experimentation on the subject.

From the “interior landscapes” of Kisnics, where skilfully superimposed pictorial layers on the canvas embody the mutability of the conditions and moods of the most important “forces of nature” – the sea and the human being – to the rigor and sinuosity of the forms of Nīmanis’s works that, thanks to the luminescence of the glass and the metallic reflections of the materials, capture the viewer’s gaze on a journey to infinity: Summer Show by the curator Linda Bajàre represents the impetus of a wave that guides the artistic research of two Masters able to amaze and excite the observer, bringing a breath of color and freshness to an exhibition dedicated to the effervescence of summer.

“All my works are multi-layered abstractions, composed of ten to thirty layers of color, carefully studied to enhance every mood,” says Aivars Kisnics, recounting his works: abstract landscapes that tell of sunsets, sunrises, wind and mirrors of water, horizons and chromatic games linked to the theme of the sea.

Next to them the magic of the sculptures by Artis Nīmanis dialogues, where glass, gold, silver and bronze bring us back, in a game of mirrors and visual effects rendered by light, to the origin of the universe: mysterious places to discover, in which each of us, as in a maze, can find his own intimate and personal path.

ARTISTI PRESENTATI:

ARTIS NĪMANIS
Latvia 1978

Artis Nīmanis is one of the best known Latvian artists: his works have been exhibited both in personal and in group exhibitions all over the world, including Europe, America and Asia. During a period of time that lasted about twenty years, Artis Nīmanis managed to achieve a unique technique thanks to a constant work of experimentation and research on the art of glass processing: the innovative method patented by him is at the base of the creative process of the artist, who manages to achieve a unique result by expertly combining glass and precious metals. This technique is based on a very particular procedure during which the glass, in the absence of air, is coated with a very thin layer of metal that gives the characteristic “mirror” effect to the glass surface. The fragility of glass, combined with a great variety of materials such as gold, silver, bronze and copper, make these sculptures even more mysterious. The originality of the works, the visual effects, the light emanating from the works of Nīmanis mean that the artist opens a door to a magical and mysterious world rich in unexpected transparencies. Glass, gold, silver and bronze bring us back to the origin of the universe in a game of mirrors and visual effects rendered by light: mysterious and undiscovered places, where each of us, as in a maze , can find its own intimate and personal path. To further increase this magical atmosphere given off by his works, the artist pays special attention to light: the different faceted surfaces of the glass create further optical effects and illusionistic combinations. Nīmanis in fact always creates optical illusions in his sculptures and for this reason the use of the mirror in his works plays a fundamental role, capable of giving his impressive technique a very high quality. The marked aesthetic sense of stylized forms, lines, rhythm, impulse, emotion and sensuality, and the treatment and perception of the fluidity of art, make Nīmanis appear among the greatest European glass artists.

AIVARS KISNICS
Latvia 1955

Born and raised in Latvia, Kisnics approaches art from a young age, participating in numerous painting and photography competitions. During the times of Soviet occupation he is forced to abandon the art, to carry out the career of captain of ship in the Baltic Sea. From 2005 he resumed painting and devoted himself completely to the oil technique on canvas of the school of abstract expressionism. The close relationship with the sea, where he spent most of his life, is the common thread and the source of inspiration for his paintings, where he transmits the emotion that the seascapes give, the beauty of dawn and the magic of sunsets, moments of perfect calm and serenity, in contrast with the strong energy of the storms and the torment of the waves.
In Kisnics’ painting nothing is left to instinct as the violent jet of color might suggest, each brushstroke is carefully considered with a rigor and evident technical precision, like a drawing in which the colors are mixed in a meticulous and orderly manner.

 

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

 

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What do you know about Art Basel?

Art Basel Linda Bajare

As every year, the appointment with Art Basel is back, open to public from 13 to 16 June, with the most important contemporary art fair in the world, born in 1970 thanks to the intuition of gallery owners and collectors Trudl Bruckner, Balz Hilt and spouses Ernst and Hildy Beyeler.

The founders – eminent personalities and avant-garde figures, were looking far ahead and sensed the great potential for a new market destined to change the history of art.

Legendary personalities such as Trudl Bruckner, a Swiss gallerist who during her 44 years of activity made “Basel zuliebe” – “for the love of Basel” – her slogan, is one of the female figures standing at the origins of the fair’s conception.

Together with her on the way to transforming Basel into an international center of contemporary art, the spouses Beyeler, cultured and sophisticated “old style” collectors – both patrons and merchants – created a collection of over 200 absolute masterpieces by artists such as Rothko , Klee, Giacometti and Picasso, with whom the couple had developed relationships of friendship and mutual respect.

In 1997, the Beyelers established the Foundation named after them, which has become the most visited in all of Switzerland and the most international, with 52% of foreign visitors.

Created as an answer and alternative of the German Art Cologne, the Swiss fair was successful from the very beginning, with over 16,000 visitors to the inaugural exhibition, 90 participating galleries and 30 publishers from 10 different countries.
The numbers were destined to grow exponentially within very few editions, if we consider that to date the participating galleries have risen to 290 coming from 34 countries.

Basel, from a typical town on the Rhine, becomes an international meeting and exchange place for all art dealers, art lovers and collectors and after 49 years it continues to be the most important international event in the field of art, not only in terms of the market, but also research.

The exhibition includes all forms of artistic expression such as painting, graphics, installation, photography, performance and video art, developed especially since the late 90s with “Video Forum”, a section dedicated to the interaction of art with technological media and first of all with the video art, then “Art Unlimited” was launched, giving space to large-scale installations created through the use of a wide variety of means of expression.

Demonstrating its international character, since 2002 the Basel fair has expanded overseas for the winter edition that takes place in Miami under the name of Art Basel Miami Beach (scheduled this year from 5 to 8 December). It was also in those years that Art Basel Conversations appeared, discussions with the main representatives of the art world – among the art collectors, museum directors, curators, artists, art critics and architects – providing access to information first hand on various aspects of the art world.

If prior to the Art Basel fair all the fairs were of a national character, then since its foundation the meaning of artistic manifestation has changed, and all the directors who have followed one another over the years have wanted to impress that seal of internationality and of superlative quality that is still maintained intact in its primacy. The commission carefully considers the candidates – galleries, artists and related works proposed for the exhibition – and this selection guarantees and protects the requirements necessary to participate in the prestigious fair.
The international character of the event is once again is emphasized by Art Basel Hong Kong, launched in 2013, allowing for a privileged observation point of the dynamics of the Eastern market. The next appointment is from 19 to 21 March 2020.

The turnover of millions of dollars for each edition and the huge capitals that revolve around Art Basel are amazing, with astounding numbers that reflect the economic impact the big fairs have on the global art market.
The main actors are mainly three: Art Basel – which belongs to the MCH group – Frieze London and Tefaf Maastricht: continuous expansion across continents and support from financial institutions (UBS in the case of Art Basel) are just some of the factors that determine the constant increase in growth.

Among other things, it became known these days that MCH Group, the company owning Art Basel and Masterpiece London, has decided to sell the Art Düsseldorf fair in order to focus more on the two “flagship horses” of their team.

So, what role do non-commercial events play in the art market?
The question could be answered with the statement: “See in Venice, buy in Basel”, this is the collectors’ motto that can serve as an example suggesting of the close link between the non-profit Biennale and the most famous commercial fair.
Venice, with its prestige, provides good visibility to the participating artists and gives an overview of the news and new interesting names.

There is no doubt that sales are made earlier in the Serenissima (Serene Republic), a fact that is confirmed by over one hundred exhibitions held in addition to the official Biennale program of this year.
For example, the Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery supports artists such as Lee Bul, Baselitz, Vedova and Ghenie present in Venice, and three of them are offered for sale in Basel.
Just as the Carpenters Workshop Gallery offers to buy the work of Maarten Baas, an artist presented at the Biennale. Equally the White Cube offers the artist Ibrahim Mahama, who represents the Ghana Pavilion.
At the exhibition we also find other artists participating in the 58th Biennale, such as Zanele Muholi, Kemang Wa Lehulere, Mawande Ka Zenzile, Frida Orupabo, Kris Lemsalu, Tamás Waliczky, Cathy Wilkes, Arshile Gorky, Günter Förg, Martin Puryear, Christoph Büchel.

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

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Glasstress

Hans Op de Beeck

Hans Op de Beeck

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Glasstress project and 30 years of the Berengo studio, the projects born according to the idea of ​​Adriano Berengo with the aim of developing cooperation between famous artists, designers and glass artisans from different countries.

The combination of the conceptual approach of the artists with the technical skill of the masters of Murano has revived and opened the doors to a new chapter of the ancient Venetian tradition, bringing it into the future.

The creation of the Berengo Studio project dates back to 1989, when Adriano Berengo decided to buy out an old glass furnace on the island of Murano – now turned into a evocative exhibition space – in order to cultivate the union between modern art and the ancient glass processing technique.

The inspiration comes from the American movement Studio Glass and from the experiments of Peggy Guggenheim, who, along with Egidio Costantini, the “master of masters” in the art of glassmaking, introduces some great artists of the time, such as Picasso, Arp, Ernst and Chagall, to work with this special material.

Adriano Berengo was inspired by these outstanding precedents, and over 30 years of activity, more than 300 artists have created their works in collaboration with the masters of Murano.

The Glasstress exhibition, which has now become an important event, was born in 2009 as an official side event of the Venice Biennale to share the extraordinary results achieved by this new combination of the two disciplines.

The exhibitions are also held thanks to the contribution of the Berengo Foundation, an institution founded in 2014, supporting the visionary project through side events, including educational initiatives and a rich exhibition program.

On the occasion of the 6th Glasstress exhibition, one of its sections is devoted to the most important projects and works historically relevant to the project from its inception to the present day.

The retrospective curated by Kohen Vanmechelen, reproposes the works of so renowned international artists as Jaume Plensa, Mat Collishow, Erwin Wurm, Tracey Emin and Jan Fabre, and is flanked by a special project by visual artist Robert Wilson.

The main section “How Glass Changes Our Perception of Space”, curated by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, presented in turn at the exhibition with a hyper-realistic self-portrait, shows artists, both displayed in previous editions, and artists invited for the first time. Among the big names returning are Ai Weiwei, Laure Prouvost, Tony Cragg, Thomas Schütte and Joana Vasconcelos, while among the newcomers Carlos Garaicoa, José Parlá, Rose Wylie and Prune Nourry emerge.

Some of the new projects presented in this edition are related to the theme of ecology and the relationship between man and nature, as the works of Prune Nourry, Pablo Reinoso and Valeska Soares, who – with different results and methods – have drawn inspiration from the city of Venice, to raise the problem of pollution and climate change.

Other artists, such as José Parlá and Monica Bonvicini, have instead focused on political and social issues: the Cuban artist refers to the features of glass – a fragile but sharp material – to speak about recent political events and reflect on the weakness of human being.

Monica Bonvicini, an artist born in Venice and ra winner of the Golden Lion at the 48th Biennale in 1999, crystallizes in this material the violence of an act of attack, a metaphor for the fight against abuse of women and any kind of aggression.

The various activities of the Foundation are also closely related to the Venice Biennale not only in terms of related activities and cooperation: some of the works created in the Berengo laboratories are an integral part of the projects presented by some national pavilions in the framework of this 58th edition.

These are the glass sculptures created by Laure Prouvost for the French Pavilion, and the 300 roses that make up the installation of Renata Bertlmann, the first female artist to represent Austria at the Venice Biennale.

Also, the work of blown glass “The Sword in the Rock” (1998), presented by Liliana Moro, one of the three artists representing Italy, has been  created thanks to the Berengo studio.

The Glasstress exhibitions have been presented in museums and institutions around the world, including the Makslas Muzejs “Rigas Birža” in Riga, the Millesgården Museum in Stockholm, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York, the Beirut Exhibition Center (BEC) of Beirut, the London College of Fashion and the Wallace Collection of London, the Ptuj City Gallery of Ptuj, Slovenia.

GLASSTRESS 2019 – List of participating artists

New artists: 13

Saint-Claire Chemin (Brazil), Pedro Friedeberg (Mexico), Carlos Garaykoa (Cuba), Arthur Lescher (Brazil), Prune Nurri (France), José Parlá (United States), Pablo Reinoso (Argentina), Valesca Soares (Brazil), Tim Tate (United States), Valeska Soares (Brazil), Tim Tate (United States), Janaina Tschäpe (Germany), Xavier Weilhan (France), Robert Wilson (United States), Rose Wiley (United Kingdom).

Artists who return with unpublished works: 14

Ai Weiwei (China), Monica Bonvicini (Italy), Tony Cragg (United Kingdom), Shirazeh Houshiary (Iran), Karen LaMonte (United States), Paul McCarthy (United States), Vik Muniz (Brazil), Jaume Plensa (Spain) , Laure Prouvost (France), Thomas Schütte (Germany), Sudarshan Shetty (India), Koen Vanmechelen (Belgium), Joana Vasconcelos (Portugal), Erwin Wurm (Austria).

The big names of the retrospective / Anniversary highlights:

Jean Arp (Germany), Ayman Baalbaki (Lebanon), Miroslaw Balka (Poland), Fiona Banner (United Kingdom), César (France), Jake and Dinos Chapman (United Kingdom), Mat Collishaw (United Kingdom), Tracey Emin (United Kingdom), Jan Fabre (Belgium), Kendell Geers (South Africa), Francesco Gennari (Italy), Abdulnasser Gharem (Saudi Arabia), Michael Joo (United States), Ilya & Emilia Kabakov (Russia / United States), Michael Kienzer (Austria ), Hye Rim Lee (South Korea), Oksana Mas (Ukraine), Hans Op de Beek (Belgium), Tony Oursler (United States), Javier Pérez (Spain), Antonio Riello (Italy), Bernardí Roig (Spain), Joyce Jane Scott (United States), Wael Shawky (Egypt), Lino Tagliapietra (Italy), Fred Wilson (United States), Dustin Yellin (United States).

 

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

 

 

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Street artist on the street

Banksy, the most famous street artist in the world, appears among the Venetian stalls, like any street artist with a hat and a newspaper, and his true identity, as always, remains a mystery.

This time he has exhibited a series of 9 paintings that make up a single image, a view of Venice in the style of “neo-Canaletto”, with a giant cruise liner arriving in the background, a work that poses the problem of rising seas due to global pollution of environment, one of the themes so dear to the artist.

The work entitled “Venice in oil”, as the handwritten sign says, refers to the controversy about the passage of large ships in the Lagoon.

The unexpected installation took place on May 9th this year, coinciding with the 58th Biennale.

“Despite this is the largest and most prestigious art event in the world, for some reason I have never been invited”: this is the provocative message accompanying the video posted on his Instagram account yesterday, Wednesday 22 May.

The video, assembled to perfection between background music, curious tourists and cats, is almost a mini story and raises several questions about the message and makes one think about the real significance of his participation in this event.

The reflection initially involves the theme of environment, and then expands to include a strong criticism of the system of the contemporary art: Banksy asks what is right to authorize and what is not, and what are the criteria for choosing the system.

The poor street artist, lacking the necessary documents, is forced to leave at the request of the municipal police, while a huge cruise ship, harmful to the environment and destroying the landscape, an element of both visual and audial disturbance – is passing quietly and slowly in the background playing his siren.

In Italy the artist has just been celebrated with an unauthorized exhibition at the Mudec of Milan that ended on 4 April. “The Art of Banksy. A Visual Protest ”, the first Milanese exhibition dedicated to the artist from Bristol, was curated by Gianni Mercurio and collected over 70 works including paintings, sculptures, prints, objects, photographs and videos. Divided into 4 sections, the exhibition offered an in-depth view of Banksy’s artistic career, from the first graffiti to curatorial activities such as Dismaland and Walled Off Hotel in Palestine.

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

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Italian Pavilion

Enrico David
Milovan Farronato
The challenge to the Labyrinth

 

This is Milovan Farronato (Piacenza 1973 – lives and works in London) the curator appointed to lead the Italian Pavilion at the edition of the 58th Venice Biennale.

Current director and curator of the Fiorucci Art Trust for which he created the Volcano Extravaganza festival held every year in Stromboli since 2011, Farronato has an international profile that boasts excellent collaborations and numerous curators in prestigious public and private spaces, among which the Pomodoro Foundation of Milan, Arario Foundation (Seoul, Beijing, New York), the Serpentine Galleries, the Milan Triennial e la Istanbul Biennial stand out; He followed the artistic direction from 2005 to 2012 of the non-profit space Viafarini and curated it at the DOCVA (Documentation Centre for Visual Arts in Milan).

He has also worked with artists of the calibre of Ugo Rondinone, Yayoi Kusama, Roberto Cuoghi, Katharina Fritsch and Lucy McKenzie; noteworthy resume of a curator who has the appearance of a glam rocker free from various schemes that promises to bring a breath of freshness and internationality into the project.

 

“The Challenge to the Labyrinth”
is the theme chosen by Farronato to represent Italy: inspired by the essay by Italo Calvino published in 1962, the curator takes up the great symbolic value of the labyrinth to talk about the complex and confusing historical period we are living through.

The labyrinth is a vast literary theme that has inspired mythological stories and fascinated great thinkers like Jorge Luis Borges or, indeed, Calvino.

Venice, with its intricate maze of streets, is a labyrinth city by definition and therefore the perfect setting to stage the indeterminacy and infinite possibilities of life: therefore, in line with the theme of this 58th Biennale “May you live in interesting times”, a title that evokes the feelings of uncertainty and disorder.

 

The theme was interpreted by three Italian artists of international renown: Enrico David, Liliana Moro and Chiara Fumai who, despite being very different from each other, have artistic paths marked by a strong spirit of research.

 

Enrico David (Ancona 1966, lives and works in London), had already been invited to the 2013 Biennale by Massimiliano Gioni, on the occasion of which he had brought a large installation composed of paintings, tapestries and sculptures.

More known abroad than in Italy, trained at St. Martins in London, David ranges from painting to drawing, from sculpture to installation, often using traditional craft techniques.

Selected for the Turner Prize in 2009, David has exhibited all over the world: his personal exhibition at the New Museum in New York in 2012 is unforgettable.

In this edition of the Biennale, he will present unpublished works, expressly conceived for the exhibition, and reworked works for the occasion.

 

Also Liliana Moro (Milan 1961) has already participated in the Biennale while very young, in the Open section of the Biennale curated in 1993 by Achille Bonito Oliva.

Liliana Moro is one of the best-known Italian artists abroad and has had an international career right away.

Her research focuses on the staging of reality in a cruel and poetic vision that combines sculpture, installation, performance, sounds, words, objects.

Among the most important fairs, she participated in Documenta IX Kassel in 1992, in the Open XLV section at the Venice Biennale in 1993.

Liliana Moro will also present the works that have never been exhibited or the works of the past.

 

Chiara Fumai (Rome 1978 – Bari 2017) will be represented through an unpublished project composed of documents and correspondence.

Her presence can be read as a sort of homage to the artist who died prematurely, among the most promising of the Italian scene.
Chiara Fumai has always favoured performance as an expressive medium, often accompanied by disguises, dj sets; the role of women was one of the main themes, within a strong feminist critique, also in relation to the art system.

She participated in Documenta 13 in Kassel in 2012 and was invited by institutions such as the MAXXI in Rome, the Bevilacqua La Masa Foundation, the Jeu de Paume in Paris.

In 2013 she won the Premio Furla; in 2016 she received an award in the Vaf Prize at the Macro of Rome; in 2017 she won the New York Award.

 

The layout of the Pavilion and the works on display emphasize the non-linearity of life, the doubt, the intricate trajectories, the disorientation, the complexity of the system of rules that determine space and time and the precariousness of current life.

The public is therefore the true protagonist, the creator of a personal dialogue with the works.

The path is irregular, several exhibitions coexist that leave the visitor free to build his own path, to get lost and even to go the wrong way. At the entrance there are two doors that invite you to the first choice: go to the right or to the left? (On the right a work by Liliana Moro which contains her entire career, left a diorama by Enrico David).
 

The Italian Pavilion was able to count on the allocation of a budget of 1 million and 300 thousand euros, of which 600 thousand provided by the Ministry and 700 thousand by the sponsors, involved thanks to the mediation of the curator who fielded his collaborations with the major brands of the world of fashion and more. In particular, the presence as main contributor of Gucci, FPT Industrial and Nicoletta Fiorucci Russo, already patron of the Fiorucci Art Trust project directed by Farronato. The technical sponsors are Gemmo, C & C-Milano and Select Aperitivo.

“The shades of the art rainbow are endless: choose your favorite!”

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