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Tag Archives: 21st Century Art

I can’t remember the first time I saw a painting from Samantha French, but I knew from the moment I saw them that their incandescence and mood were unique.

In her paintings, she transmits a human experience via paint: she focuses on and expands that sense of wonder that we have all noticed if not fixated upon in our experiences with water.

Even when you know about water’s chemical composition and why it aggregates and reflects the way it does, the effect is still incredible when witnessed. Samantha French studies water in its immediate, human context, making humans appear magical in the wake of the spotted light patterns that disperse themselves within vast blue arenas.

It reminds me of my state of mind as a child; French’s sensibilities happily rejoice in the visual wonders that familiarity can drain from us with age.

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I just finished reading the book The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson, a detailed overview of the art world from the perspectives of gallerists, auction houses, collectors and more. Sometimes snarky (very clear warnings are given to new-to-the-game collectors who think that buying fresh art from art school grads will result in later profits), sometimes awed (by collectors such as Charles Saatchi), Thompson maintains his truthful tone throughout the book. I felt as if I was getting inside information that most people weren’t privy to–an internship in a book.

After reading two books about the art sphere I feel as if I need a break: even the people who are most closely involved with auctions and the art trade can’t fully explain why a Picasso goes for $78 million at auction–it is difficult to extrapolate on assumptions that paintings are worth that much after a certain point, since the foundation is so unstable. Regardless, for paintings under about $30 million, the price scales are easier to comprehend, and the various stories that Thompson provides about the art trade are engaging.

A few fun facts:
1. Le peau de l’ours was the first art fund (like a stock fund, but with its managers betting that art will gain value in the future instead), and it was wildly successful in the beginning of the 20th century. There are two competing theories for the reason behind the name: either it was named for the bearskin hanging on the wall in their office or it was named for an old french folktale in which hunters sold the skin of the bear before catching the bear itself, a tongue-in-cheek statement about what they were doing (and my preferred theory).

2. Santiago Serra, a Spanish/Mexican artist, is famous for his bold artistic moves: on top of his decision to burn down the gallery in which he was showing as a form of protest towards its commercial orientation, he once traded prostitutes heroin in exchange for the right to tattoo a line down the center of their back and photograph it. He also barred the entrance to the Lisson gallery in London with metal grates, so that the upper class gentry that flocked to his exhibition could feel the sting of being excluded as the masses did each day. Another work was proposed at the Kunsthalle in Vienna, where he wanted to strip all of the museum employees to the waist (from head curator to janitor) and display them in a progression of skin tones from dark to light as a commentary about the relationship between privilege and skin tone.

Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, for which the book was named, sold for $12 Million (reportedly) to Steve Cohen.

I loved this book, and no, I don’t own any kind of copyright to it.

Found via the online art journal, Anarty: http://anartyblog.wordpress.com

Cecilia Paredes is a Peruvian artist who paints herself (i.e. her own skin) into the lush flora of various wallpapers behind her. Paredes describes it as an extension of her search for identity after a life of “displacement and migration.”

In many of her works, her hair and/or her eyes are often the only element present that betrays her presence: the wallpaper’s harmony is broken by the slight mismatch of lines and white pop of Paredes’ stare. Despite how it may appear at first glance, Paredes is, in fact, a part of the visual landscape, the representation of herself life-size within the 4’x 4′ frame.

Paredes exemplifies the issues of identity often seen within modern Latin American art: from Pepón Osorio, who struggles to evaluate his role within a Puerto Rican community as a black man and again as a Puerto Rican within the states, and Michael Manjarris, whose work reflects his mixed upbringing as both a Mexican and American citizen (even his name drops the Spanish pronunciation: man-harris becomes man-gerris), to larger concepts of identification as a nation that are common in the work of artists such as Fernando Botero and Diego Rivera. Anarty also likens her work to that of Frida Kahlo in visual style.

(But I still wonder if there is a link between her last name (Paredes is wall in Spanish) and chosen subject matter… no mention in any websites as of yet.)

I just began watching the PBS Series Art 21: Art in the 21st Century. It’s thought-provoking, challenging, and a bit overwhelming–after two episodes, I find myself almost exhausted from observing the life work and thought processes of 8 extremely disparate and brilliant artists.

Episode 1, Place, included Richard Serra (famous for his gigantic rust-colored steel statues), Sally Mann, Margaret Kilgallen, and Pepón Osorio.

Episode 2, Spirituality, included Shahzia Sikander, James Turrell, John Feodorov, and Ann Hamilton.

I was particularly impressed with the work of Sally Mann and Pepón Osorio.

Sally Mann:

http://sallymann.com/

Pepón Osorio:

A short overview of the Art 21 documentary about his work.