Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Service of One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Is Etsy Too Big?

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

I was in awe of the Etsy platform when it launched 15 years ago as “a virtual storefront for hipsters’ arts and crafts” as Taylor Majewski wrote in builtinnyc.com. It went public in 2015 and describes itself as “an American e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. These items fall under a wide range of categories, including jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, art, as well as craft supplies and tools.”

According to statista.com, last year it reported 2.5 million sellers and 39.4 million buyers around the world.

I’ve loved and bought crafts for decades, promoted one of the big east coast shows for years and was thrilled that talented artisans had another vital way to expand their customer bases and generate sales.

Something happened. Carlene Gleman founder, artist and owner of Greymount Paper & Press, described her predicament in a series of Facebook postings. If her name and company are familiar it’s because I featured her in “Service of Ordering Online During a Pandemic,” last month.

Gleman claims that Etsy’s new off-site advertising program has “directly led to our artwork being repeatedly stolen.”  She found over 20 instances of theft in three months. Before Etsy introduced this new program, it had only happened once in five years.

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

While the platform appears to be helping promote some of its successful vendors’ products without repercussions, for a business like Greymount based on an artist’s creations, it is at huge cost. She said while the company’s new marketing approach should work for furniture makers, for example, “it creates trouble for shops whose artwork can be stolen with the click of a mouse.”

With a simple fix her work wouldn’t be in jeopardy, but in the last year, the brand has begun to insist on 2,000px high-resolution images for all listings. “A thief can download, copy, and easily remove watermarks from photos with this resolution,” said Gleman. “Lower resolution images, which Etsy allowed in the past, discourage theft by largely preventing enlargement and printing.”

Sellers who generate $10,000 gross profit according to Etsy’s calculations, [they include postage in the sales total!], must participate in Etsy’s new offsite marketing program, and, Gleman reports, are excluded from the platform’s internal search engine. [You know–the toolbar that helps you find “greeting cards” or “art featuring otters.”]

Upon learning about the new program, Gleman immediately turned off all advertising for her shop, to prevent her listing images from appearing on websites thought to be resources for copyright theft.

She checked her seller dashboard after she realized that her images were being stolen from her Etsy listings. She was incurring advertising fees. “Etsy was blasting my artwork across the web without my knowledge.”

She has hired a lawyer to fight the art thieves and has turned off her Etsy shop, permanently. She now sells her greeting cards, art prints, and gifts exclusively through her own website.

“See if an artist has a website and if it’s possible purchase through them directly,” Gleman recommends. She has decided to never again sell on a 3rd party platform that forces her to participate in advertising programs where she can’t control where her artwork appears.

The world of craft is diverse. The marketers at Etsy aren’t taking this into account. Do you know of other businesses that have tripped up when they haven’t recognized the differences in their clients?  Can you share other examples of copyright infringement?

Photo: Greymount Paper & Press

 

 

Service of Food as Art

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Food is missing from too many American tables and in the short-term, between record unemployment and Covid-19’s impact on prices, the appalling situation promises to get worse.

Simultaneously two gallerists attempting to keep an oar in the water while galleries are closed worldwide during the pandemic selected to promote a 1990 installation by Cuban-born visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres involving a cookie.

Hunger in America

According to Thomas Franck of cnbc.com writing in mid-May “The Labor Department reported Tuesday that prices U.S. consumers paid for groceries jumped 2.6% in April, the largest one-month pop since February 1974. The spike in supermarket prices was broad based and impacted items from broccoli and ham to oatmeal and tuna.

Photo: cannedfoodhx.com

“The price of the meats, poultry, fish and eggs category rose 4.3%, fruits and vegetables climbed 1.5%, cereals and bakery products advanced 2.9%, and dairy goods gained 1.5%.”

Lauren Bauer writing in the brookings.edu blog reported a 460 percent increase in mothers who said the children in their households 12 years and under “were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”

Interactive Cookie Installation

It is against this background that Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner),” is being installed at 1,000 sites around the globe. It is promoted/resurrected by Andrea Rosen, show curator and director of The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation who is partnering with German art dealer David Zwirner. Sarrah Cascone wrote about the exhibitions on artnet.com.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner)” Photo: artnet.com

The original installation had 10 thousand fortune cookies piled up in the corner of a room. Today there will be from 240 to 2,000 cookies featured in the homes, museums or public places that Rosen selected via her choice of participants. Viewers are encouraged to help themselves to a cookie.

Cascone wrote: “The owner needs to follow specific but open-ended parameters in manifesting the work, which can be installed in more than one place at a time—making it perfect for our current moment, when much of the world is under indefinite lockdown.”

The curators, artist’s friends and colleagues invited to participate supply their own cookies. Rosen said “halfway through, everyone has to regenerate it to the original size. So everyone has the opportunity to experience both the potential loss within the piece, and also the notions of rebuilding and regeneration that is a very important part of the work.”

Rosen, told Cascone: “This is one of the only works in the world that can travel and be accessible right now. There’s so many people right now trying to do incredible online projects. Felix can actually afford people a physical experience with an artwork—and not just looking at it, but thinking about it, and their involvement and what it means to them.”

My post isn’t about the validity of the installation: It passed the test within the art community. However the timing strikes a false note for me for involving food in a frivolous way at a time when it is missing from so many tables. What do you think?

Even if the piles were made up of basic comestibles accessible to people needing help, the fact that they would have to reach down on the floor for the food and take only one or two packages lacks respect for the situation’s severity. Your thoughts?

Photo: cannedfoodhx.com

Service of Food: Valuable to Some, Essential to Others

Monday, December 9th, 2019

By Maurizio Cattelan Photo: news.artnet.com

According to United States Department of Agriculture, 40 million Americans face hunger, including 12.5 million children. In this regard two headlines hit me last week.

The first: “Maurizio Cattelan Is Taping Bananas to a Wall at Art Basel Miami Beach and Selling Them for $120,000 Each.”

The second: “Trump administration moves to remove 700,000 people from food stamps.”

Photo: bally.com

Sarah Cascone wrote the first article on artnet.com. She added that the gallery repping Cattelan was upping the price to $150,000 because the banana, affixed with contact tape to the wall, already had two buyers at the original asking price. She also reported that her husband and his college dorm mates had done the same thing with a banana and that he still had what was left of the shriveled fruit somewhere in their home.

I couldn’t tell from the article whether the artist would affix the banana to the buyers’ walls.

Obviously these art buyers have no trouble feeding themselves or their families which isn’t the case for people who need food stamps.

Photo: cnn.com

Tom Polansek wrote on reuters.com: “President Donald Trump has argued that many Americans receiving food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, do not need it given the strong economy and low unemployment. The program provides free food to 36 million Americans.”

Savings to the government over five years is estimated to be $5.5 billion.

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio described the cutback as “an unacceptable escalation of the administration’s war on working families, and it comes during a time when too many are forced to stretch already-thin budgets.”

Polansek reported “The administration has sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.”

“For those impacted it will mean less nutritious meals, or meals that are skipped altogether,” said Cassie Ramos, policy associate for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group.

Good work if you can get it is my reaction to the $120,000-$150,000 banana with a dash of there’s a sucker born every day. I’m not one bit magnanimous about the food stamp cuts.  If we’re looking for ways to cut the budget why pick on the poorer members of our country who, without food, in addition to suffering, will become sick and cost more? Will taking away food stamps inspire people who need them to get a job when my bet is that many already have a few?

Photo: wgem.com

Service of Who Vets the Details for a Prince?

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

The characters in this post are Charles, Prince of Wales, a British businessman, James Stunt, and a convicted painting forger Tony Tetro.

Javier Pes covered the incident on artnet.com in “Prince Charles’s Charity Displayed Paintings by Picasso, Dalí, and Monet—Until a Convicted Forger Claimed Them as His Own.” He wrote that Stunt lent “works supposedly by Monet, Picasso, and Salvador Dalí to Dumfries House, the historic property in Scotland that is a cause close to the heart of the heir to the British throne.”

Dumfries House Photo: dumfries-house.org.UK

Stunt got them back after Tetro announced he’d painted them. He also said that Stunt knew they were fake because he’d ordered them for his home. The faux artist added that “there is no way that these paintings could pass even the lightest scrutiny. The canvases are new, paint is modern, stretcher bars are not correct or period.”

The coverage implied that the Prince should have known better and we don’t know if he’d ever seen the canvases. Pes wrote: “The British royal, who is a former trustee of London’s National Gallery and grew up surrounded by Old Masters, must have been delighted when the flamboyant British businessman James Stunt agreed to lend 17 works.”

“LE FERMIER ET SON ÉPOUSE” by Joan Miro Photo: joan-miro.net

Stunt was also on the griddle. Quoting the Daily Mail‘s account and what Stunt said, Pes reported: “ ‘What is the crime of lending them to a stately home, [to] the Prince of Wales and putting them on display for the public to enjoy?’ He stopped short of accepting that he knew they weren’t originals,” added Pes.

Pes wrote: “Tetro, who was found guilty of art forgery involving works by Dalí, Miro, Chagall, and Norman Rockwell in the past, now makes what he calls ’emulations’ of Modern masterworks. Stunt ‘knew with 100 percent certainty that these works were by me,’ Tetro said, a claim that Stunt denies. ‘We discussed the subject of the paintings and many of the particulars. These were decorative paintings that were purposely made by me as decorations for his home.'”

It’s hard to tell who was pulling the wool over whose eyes in this $136 million art scam. Was Stunt trying to gain provenance for fakes he knew were such? Did he really know what he bought from Tetro? Was the Prince of Wales, who was trying to generate funds for a historic Scottish property, taken to the cleaners by Stunt, whom, Pes notes at the end of the article, went bankrupt this summer? Should the Prince’s front people/handlers–or the folks in charge of fundraising for Dumfries House–have done a better job at vetting the background of the theoretically munificent businessman before accepting his offer? Or should the Prince have known better?

Photo: vootelecom.co.uk

Service of Color II

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Karen Morris, Dellwood, Minn.

Karen Morris, Dellwood, Minn.

On housebeautiful.com Lauren Smith wrote “Pantone Predicts the Colors That’ll Be Popular Next Spring–Let’s just say, next year is going to be bold and bright” and called out Flame, Island Paradise, Primrose Yellow and Niagara—the names Pantone gave coral, soft aqua, sunny yellow and denim blue. Pantone calls itself the “authority on color, provider of color systems and leading technology for accurate communication of color.”

Deborah Shedrick, Montgomery, Ala

Deborah Shedrick, Montgomery, Ala

What struck me about the work of some exhibitors at my client’s upcoming American Fine Craft Show at Brooklyn Museum this weekend, November 19-20, is the palpable importance of color—some of those Pantone identified as well as other luscious, succulent ones. Much of the jewelry is inspired by spirited, passionate hues; magical tints enhance ceramics and glass. 

Thomas Marrinson ceramics, Hinesburg, Vt.

Thomas Marrinson ceramics, Hinesburg, Vt.

Color isn’t for everyone and there will be many options for the more conservative shopper in every category. In addition to color, 26 jewelers reference travel, history, nature and their current or previous careers in far-flung industries as impacting their designs. Their expert work transforms precious stones and sheet metal, wire—even textiles and paper—into enchanting decorative enhancements and imaginative gifts.

Julie Shaw, Cocoa, FL.

Julie Shaw, Cocoa, FL.

For those bored by the mostly insipid fashion on today’s clothing racks, a fine craft fair such as this one is a treasure trove of both chic high-end classic and stylish casual wear. Fanciful accents and detailing punctuate one-of-a-kind coats and jackets designed and created by masters of leatherwork, weaving and expert tailoring. Exemplary millinery promises to be a show-stopper and versatile scarves and accessories in the hands of artists and expert fashion designers achieve elegant impact. 

Ethan Abramson, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Ethan Abramson, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Furniture artisans at the show speak about their pieces and the elements that go into them as though they are human or a three dimensional reflection of their lives.  Although most of them design and fabricate with wood, there are architectural, handsome steel and aluminum pieces as well.

The furniture makers aren’t alone in their mastery and appreciation of wood. Several exhibitors will sell handmade small decorative and/or functional and at times whimsical pieces that are impossible to bypass without touching.

In addition to furniture, wood objects, art glass and ceramics, there’s more to enhance a home: Fine artists and two sculptors join the artisans this year, achieving a tempting and visual feast just a few days before Thanksgiving.

If cost were no object, where would you look for special gifts for yourself or someone else? Do you value the fine work of artisans and artists and recognize the imagination, skill and time poured into each piece?

 

Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Service of Make it Clear and Keep Your Fingers Crossed

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Photo: theatlantic.com

Photo: theatlantic.com

 

Misunderstandings happen all the time between vendors who try to please and clients who hear what they hope or want to hear. Who knows who is right but clearly everyone can lose by winning.

In the first instance there’s Alec Baldwin and a well known New York art gallery owner Mary Boone. Baldwin “is suing Mary Boone in New York Supreme Court claiming the art dealer duped him into buying a $190,000 painting which was a copy,” wrote Hili Perlson on artnet.com

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

In 2010 Baldwin thought he bought Ross Bleckner’s 1996 painting “Sea and Mirror” owned by an “unnamed collector” and said he got “a different version” of a picture with the same title and that Boone had put the gallery inventory number of the original on the work he bought.

Through her lawyer the gallery owner said that “Baldwin was made aware from the start he was not getting the original 1996 version of the painting.” Nevertheless, Boone has offered a full refund.

But Baldwin wants more. Perlson wrote he wants: “the difference between the purchase price of the painting in his possession and the current value of the original Sea and Mirror, which was painted, as Baldwin claims, while Bleckner was at the height of his artistic career.”

I’ve written before about the second instance that is so fitting to the topic and worth a repeat. An interior decorator carefully explained to her client—in front of a third person—that fabricating stationary window panels instead of curtains would save on the cost of the very expensive drapery textile she’d chosen, with a drawback: The panels, she told this friend-of-a-friend, would not move and would not fully cover the window. The client was fine with the sketch and the savings and said she could live with the downside and the panels were ordered and installed.

stationary-drapery-panelArriving home and seeing the panels the client called the decorator in fury: “They don’t cover the window!” she fumed and said she wouldn’t pay for them. The third person, who had introduced the two, would not take sides.

Had the interior decorator asked her client to sign or initial the sketch she made on which she’d noted her warning that might have helped IF the client was willing to put her John Hancock to the sheet. [The client was a lawyer.] Had the gallery owner asked Baldwin to sign something that detailed what his $190,000 was getting him, his nose might have been out of joint, only earlier, perhaps avoiding the current muddle.

Proving a client/customer is wrong is messy and the worst business prescription. In the end it doesn’t matter how much paperwork a vendor has to prove a point unless the business retains pounds and pounds of legal support and has deep pockets budgeted for lawsuits. Apart from an airtight insurance policy to cover such misunderstandings, must most businesses expect to swallow such losses? Have you heard of similar examples?

Win by losing

Service of Putting Your Money Where Your Talent Is: What Books Do Authors Read & Pictures Painters Collect?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

"Thoughts" by John Henry Henshall, 1883

“Thoughts” by John Henry Henshall, 1883

Books

Authors are always asked to name writers they admire and books they’ve loved and all are brimming with lists. Lisa C. Hickman, Ph.D is no exception. When I asked her by email she responded in minutes, “That’s a tough question, I admire so many. I recently finished Rick Moody’s Hotels of North America which was super smart and funny.  I also liked his novel The Ice Storm. But that’s all I’ve read by him.”

Author Lisa Hickman

Author Lisa Hickman

Hickman wrote William Faulkner and Joan Williams: The Romance of Two Writers (McFarland); edited Remembering: Joan Williams’ Uncollected Pieces (Open Road Media) and authored the narrative nonfiction book, Stranger to the Truth, (IndieAuthor LLC), a recounting of a Memphis matricide case.

She continued: “I’ve read a significant number by contemporary authors such as Jim Harrison, Valerie Martin, T. C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Oscar Hijuelos and Per Petterson, to name just a few.  In the southern literature genre–the subjects of my first book—in addition to William Faulkner and Joan Williams are Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy, Lewis Nordan and William Gay.   

“I think Andre Dubus III’s novel, The Garden of Last Days, about the terrorists who orchestrated 9/11 was a marvel, yet it didn’t get the traction it deserved.  An author with a lot of wit and talent—often overlooked–is Stanley Elkin.  I’m also a big Judith Rossner fan! And so it goes…”

David McCullough

David McCullough

In The Christian Science Monitor Danny Heitman reported that David McCullough likes to read what the subjects of his books did. In 2011 the Pulitzer Prize and National book Award-winning author told Heitman that John Adams carried a copy of Don Quixote and as he had not read it, he added it to his list. Among McCullough’s favorites are “historians Barbara Tuchman, Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote,” wrote Heitman, and he “is also a big fan of William Trevor, the Irish author and playwright, as well as mystery writer Ruth Rendell.” Quoting McCullough: “I love Anthony Trollope, I’m a Trollope nut. I also like [Canadian novelist] Robertson Davies. I love  Charles Dickens’ ‘American Notes.’”

Pictures

Authors aren’t the only ones to collect the work of colleagues. Mary Tompkins Lewis wrote in The Wall Street Journal about pictures by famous artists chosen for a London exhibition because other famous artists had bought them, which, she reported, happens a lot. [I never thought about it before but imagine it’s a superb subject for a museum exhibition!]

Lewis identified some of the artists and the paintings that will be on view at the National Gallery through September 4: 

  • Lucian Freud bought “Italian Woman” by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Paul Cézanne’s “Afternoon in Naples”
  • Henri Matisse owned “Three Bathers” also by Cézanne and a picture of a Tahitian by Paul Gauguin
  • Lewis wrote “Degas, whose buying habits bordered on addiction, briefly considered establishing a museum of his own.” Degas owned works by Gauguin, Manet and Cezanne, to name a few. Today Jasper Johns owns one of the Cézanne pictures that Degas had also bought—“Bather with Outstretched Arm.” 

“Countless artists have collected the work of their peers or masters of the past. As the exhibition shows, their motivations for doing so—which can include emulation, kindred pictorial ambitions, rivalry, prestige of ownership, or even investment—offer intriguing insights into their own artistic makeup,” she wrote.

Do you have a job, vocation, or hobby that inspires you to collect or read the work of others? Have you read books that your favorite authors say have inspired them? Do you enjoy identifying influences of other artists in some of the paintings you love most?

Paul Cézanne's "Bather with Outstretched Arm"

Paul Cézanne’s “Bather with Outstretched Arm”

 

Service of Dashed Hopes: Don’t Count Your Chickens

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Dont count your chickens

Here’s a true story of a man who thought he had a pretty painting to sell at auction that turned out to be the work of a master. Envision his dreams of what to do with his new found treasure when he learned that the pre-sale estimate might bring as much as $1,180,000 more than was first thought.

A retired NYC antiques dealer, who chose to be anonymous, brought “Les Fleurs d’Été Dans un Gobelet,” [1885], a pleasing 13 x 9¾-inch picture of summer flowers in a goblet that he’d bought 30 years ago, to Litchfield County Auctions in Conn. It was originally pegged at $20,000.

Gauguin on Auction Website turnedBut after research the auction staff, according to Missy Sullivan, gave it an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The title of her Wall Street Journal article, “Gauguin Painting is Rediscovered,” makes clear the reason for the dramatic estimate jump. A Gauguin scholar in Paris, with 40 years of study behind her, who also worked on a catalogue raisonné for this artist, matched a color photo of the picture with a black and white one she had and confirmed its legitimacy, wrote Sullivan.

Artnet’s database, added Sullivan, reported a similar Gauguin sold 16 years ago for $346,750.

In addition to the Journal article, the auction house listed on its website editorial coverage that ran about the found Gauguin in many of the right places: Art Newspaper; Art Fix Daily; Live Auctioneers; The Observer; Art Net News; Blouin Art Info; Scoop and Antiques Trade Gazette.

In spite of this, according to the results posted on the Litchfield County Auctions website [photo above–Gauguin in gold frame] , the picture didn’t sell nor did it receive any bids. Plenty of lots received no bids and yet many of these were nevertheless marked “sold.” There may be hope for this jewel yet.

It wasn’t a typical Gauguin featuring Tahitian life that Sullivan wrote previously brought $300 million, but this fact was reflected in the estimate. Meanwhile imagine the disappointment. Interesting to conjecture what might have happened. Any ideas? Have you ever bought something and later learned it was far more important than you thought?

 

Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin Photo: ibilio.org

Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin Photo: ibilio.org

 

Service of Traditional, Faux and Inadvertent Marketing: Mother’s Day, Gold Toilet & Promposal

Monday, April 25th, 2016

MarketingMost marketing promotions are designed to push product, an organization or initiative and are created by those who benefit. Some are dressed up to look like art or charitable generosity but are really to raise the visibility of merchandise, an association, cause or person. And sometimes groups of people support a concept that, as luck would have it, benefits businesses.

Traditional Marketing

I must have had marketing in my veins when, as a kid, I didn’t get why Mother’s Day irritated my Mother's Daymom so much. She thought it was a fabrication to sell cards, candy, flowers and restaurant reservations. As an adult, I’ve helped countless clients to sell their products, services and concepts, which may be why I always appreciated the Mother’s Day ritual. I also love to give gifts and to celebrate occasions. With the exception of Father’s Day, I don’t think many of the offshoots such as secretary’s or boss’s day have done nearly as well.

Marketing in Sheep’s Clothing

Gold Toilet on NYT pageArtist Maurizio Cattelan or his handlers pulled off the second kind of marketing scheme with his sculpture of a gold working toilet that the Guggenheim Museum is installing. You couldn’t miss a giant shot of it on the front page of The New York Times’ “TheArts” section last week that topped serious copy about it. In fact it appeared all over the place. To pragmatist me, it’s ridiculous, has nothing to do with art and everything to do with getting the artist’s name front and center–but I’m clearly out of step.

Inadvertent Sales Windfalls

Nancie Steinberg, whose son Austen is a high school senior, shared info about a Promposal Austen 1phenomenon—promposals–that help sell pizzas, poster board, flowers, cake and more. I’m betting that unlike Mother’s Day, teens came up with this activity and that merchants benefit from it. Does it matter, as long as it’s all in good fun and everyone wins?

Promposals were new to me but not to Caitlin Dewey who wrote about them in The Washington Post in 2014 and tracked the first mention of the word to a Dallas Morning News article in 2001. She followed the movement to its “going mainstream” in 2002-2005. In “A Short History of the ‘promposal’” she defined it as “the eyebrow-raising high-school ritual wherein students go to elaborate, terribly public lengths to ask each other to prom.”

Austen presented his date of choice with a rose bedecked sheet cake decorated with “Will You Go To Prom With Me?” in orange frosting [photos right and below]. His friends videotaped and photographed the moment. She said “yes.”

Dewey wrote of boys in Arizona who laid trails of rose petals from a prospective date’s home to the school and a chap in Idaho who secretly set his girlfriend’s alarm to ring at 3 am with a message “Hope its not too late—will you go to the prom with me?” These and others such as hanging signs from highway overpasses, filling yards with balloons or wearing gorilla suits were all done in 2006, before high school kids had access to Facebook and pre Tumblr. YouTube was the place to be then as now. Dewey reports there are 40,000 promposal videos and 900,000 tagged “prom proposal” or “ask cute.”

What are some of your favorite marketing ideas? Any that annoy, surprise or fall flat?

 

Promposal Austen 2

 

 

 

Service of Warring Design Styles

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Butler Library, Photo: Wikipedia

Butler Library, Photo: Wikipedia

 

 

I like interiors that mix design styles–contemporary art with 18th century antiques for example–but for some reason I can’t explain, I find visually jarring lawns or fields around Victorian, New England saltbox, farmhouse or traditional style houses strewn with contemporary sculpture and oversized copycat Calder mobiles.

That’s why Jillian Steinhauer’s article on hyperallergic.com, “Columbia Students Object to Installation of Henry Moore ‘Monstrosity,'” caught my eye.

Sidenote: The reporter writes for a well regarded online art news source that describes itself as “a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today.” She ridicules these stuffy, unhip students and alums who are clearly clueless when it comes to art. Because I agree with them about the installation’s placement–though I like Henry Moore’s work–I felt mocked by her perspective, like a Bernie Sanders supporter at a Donald Trump rally.

What started out in Steinhauer’s article as the protest of three seniors and one alumnus who “expressed their horror” in an op-ed in the university’s daily student paper became, in an update, 1,000+ who signed a petition to prevent the installation of “Reclining Figure 1969-70” [Photo below, right] in front of Butler Library.

The initial four, one currently a law student at Yale, described the work as a “ghoulish figure,” a “monstrosity,” an “ugly hunk of metal,” “a desecration of our home,” and an “arrogant middle finger to the world.”

Steinhauer continued: “They liken it to ‘a dying mantis or a poorly formed pterodactyl.’

Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure 1969-70"

They slander it as ‘an idealization of a chewed wad of gum.’”

She inserted: “Who said art didn’t still have the power to shock — the art of a British modernist working in a family-friendly zone between figuration and abstraction, no less?”

She continued with the students’ complaints, punctuated by her own observation: “Whatever its artistic merits, placing the sculpture in front of Butler Library will put an eyesore on an otherwise crisp, geometric, and symmetrical landscape. Moore’s ghoulish figure clashes with the neoclassical aesthetic instantly recognizable to generations of Columbians.”

She again editorialized, before sharing another comment from the article in the student paper: “And my favorite: All of this is not to say that modern sculpture has no place at the University. It just doesn’t belong in the center of campus.” And she concluded: “Please, no one tell these folks about postmodernism. They might do something drastic.”

She didn’t note another point made in the op-ed: “Adding insult to injury, the narrow stretch of lawn that Reclining Figure will inhabit is the only part of South Lawn permanently open to the public. The sculpture’s girth will intrude on the precious few square yards of grass where students congregate together, be it over soccer or cigarettes.”

I was surprised that nobody commented on the potentially horrific cost of this sculpture–to protect, maintain and insure it–at an institution that already charges students in the high five figures for a year of study. Maybe it was a gift so Columbia didn’t have to pay for it?

Is the goal of art to shock? Do you appreciate the juxtaposition of contemporary sculpture installed outdoors with traditional backgrounds?  Can you shed light on why I comfortably mix contemporary art with antiques inside but have trouble when it comes to this jumble outside?

 

agree to disagree

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