LUTZ BACHER’S POSTHUMOUS SHOW IN LONDON HONES IN ON PRINCESS DIANA
The mysterious conceptualist Lutz Bacher is having her first posthumous institutional show.
The artist herself initiated the concept for the exhibition as a mixed presentation of audiovisual pieces which featuring old VHS footage from Princess Diana’s funeral and the voices and imagery of legendary figures from pop culture, including Leonard Cohen—but also Darth Vader.
Eerie installations, including a pit of sand, fill the gallery rooms. After Bacher’s passing in 2019, the non-profit exhibition center Raven Row worked with the artist’s estate to deliver the exhibition.
A California native, Bacher lived in the Bay Area and later New York. She was known to be highly secretive and never publicly revealed basic biographical information, like her birth name or age (although it is known that she was born in 1943).
Nonetheless, she received widespread institutional recognition with solo shows Bacher’s blend of found material, digital ephemera, and appropriated sounds and images is quintessential Bacher.
In one gallery, panes of glass shimmer with projected images of the Empire State Building lit up with bright colors at night. In the lobby, the visitor is affronted by loud traffic noises, whereas upstairs, bible passages are blared out of a huge speaker while tinny radios play run-of-the-mill pop hits over each other.
These strange works, that are tricky to categorize or contextualize, manage to disorientate the viewer in much the same way as our information-oversaturated world often succeeds in doing.
ALREADYMADE: A THESIS ON STURTEVANT’S DUCHAMPS by greg
You know how in 2017, the White House reporter was like, “I’ve been working on this investigation for a year, and he…just…tweeted it out”? This is the diametric opposite on every vector: I was noodling for a couple of hours on a blog post about an auction lot, and he…just…wrote a masters thesis on it.
After posting some thoughts Friday about the Sturtevant repeats of Marcel Duchamp’s photographs of Readymades, I heard from Hunter professor and Sturtevant whisperer Michael Lobel, who shared the fascinating research one of his former students had done on these very artworks, and much more.
Chris Murtha’s 2021 thesis, Double Documents: Imaging and Installation in Sturtevant’s “Duchamps” <https://tinyurl.com/ytdq7aby
> is the first close look at Sturtevant’s use of photography and installation. These mediums are inextricable from the artist’s decades-long engagement with Duchamp’s work, and Murtha traces how they function both as aspects of art production, and as modes of exhibition and distribution.
A lot of Murtha’s attention focuses on two major, underdocumented exhibitions: the 1938 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme, which Duchamp curated/installed and contributed to, and Sturtevant’s 1973 exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY. Along with the Readymade-related works she’d begun making in 1966, Sturtevant recreated elements of Duchamp’s 1938 mise-en-scene, installations that feel like they should be considered works themselves.
It’s a great and insightful read that makes me want even more Sturtevant research. Murtha provides more context of Sturtevant’s early encounters with Duchamp and his work in the 1960s. On the particular Boite-en-valise-style photocollages, it does sound like these photo-like images should not be considered evidence that Sturtevant actually made the Readymade objects they seem to depict. And for Sturtevant, as for Duchamp, that uncertainty was a goal.
When Murtha was writing, these photo works were only available through a 2012 Christie’s auction listing, which is not in the Bonham’s provenance. The two Broken Arm works <https://tinyurl.com/yqwwtdsy
> are the same objects, down to the speckles in the cardboard mounts. But though the Sculpture de Voyage image is the same, the print is a different object. <https://tinyurl.com/yv2tph5k
> The one sold in 2012, above, is 21.5 cm square and overpainted, but not collaged. The one in Belgium, below, is 7.8 x 8.4 cm, collaged and overpainted, and mounted on a 23 x 20 cm card.
It sounds like one is an enlarged rephotograph of the other. And Murtha includes yet another version in the illustrations: a 4 3/4 x 6 inch print with the Sculpture picked out in multicolored gouache. In this case especially, it was the image of a sculpture that Sturtevant was focusing on, not the shower cap sculpture itself. _greg.org
LEONOR FINI, LE LECON DE BOTANIQUE, 1974.
SOPHIE CALLE MOVED INTO PICASSO’S MUSEUM AND PUT HIS PAINTINGS IN THE BASEMENT
Most Sophie Calle works seem to be about men. But look closely, and you’ll see that her men are more plot device than protagonist. Often, the men are wholly invisible, and the works are instead about her clever retorts. Playing games with these men, her responses to their cues often caricature clichés of love and gender.
There was the man who rudely broke up with her by email. She had this document analyzed by 107 women, including linguists, clairvoyants, and even a female parrot, then turned their annotations into an installation titled after its final line: Take Care of Yourself (2007). There’s the man, Monsieur Henri B., whom she followed to Venice for Suite Vénitienne (1980). And there’s Paul Auster, the male author who based a character off her for his novel Leviathan. Calle responded by interpreting his metaphors and hyperboles as literal instructions, adopting, for instance, a monochromatic diet (orange on Monday, red on Tuesday, and so on) turning it all into a work of her own.
Recently, the French artist was asked to take on art history’s least invisible man—Picasso—when the Musée Picasso in Paris approached her for a show. Tourists from across the globe flock to that museum, seeking masterpieces by the famed Spanish painter; this year marks half a century since his death. Calle decided to keep just ten of his works on view, but most are occluded. For her, the weight of his presence was intense enough without having to show her work alongside his. With the exhibition, she figures Picasso as a ghost who haunts the work of many artists.
The weight of Picasso’s legacy made Calle reflect on what, exactly, she will one day leave behind. And so, she moved everything out of her apartment and into the museum, asking an auction house to inventory all her belongings. She’s not calling it a retrospective, but in the museum’s galleries, viewers get a career-spanning survey of the ideas she spent her life generating.
In several cases, she refashioned old works for a new setting. Her site-specific 1991 intervention commemorating masterpieces stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is here reconfigured in a series called “The Phantom Picassos.” Five of his major paintings are covered with large curtains, then embroidered with descriptions Calle collected from museum staff memories while the works were away on loan. She also dedicated a floor to projects she never finished, and arranged works from her personal collection (by the likes of Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, and Christian Boltanski) to approximate the dimensions of Picasso’s Guernica (1937).
With this show, as in all Calle works, absence is present—Picasso is in the basement, but his spirit is felt on all floors.
Here, you’re borrowing cues from Picasso, but you’ve also pushed Picasso out of his own museum, and made space for Sophie Calle. Can you talk about that decision?
I pushed him out because I was afraid of him! He’s too much for me. I could not imagine my work hanging next to Picasso’s.
At first, I refused the museum’s invitation. But after I visited the Musée during Covid, when his paintings were wrapped and hidden to protect them from dust light, I realized, although I cannot face Picasso, maybe I can face his ghost. Soon, I couldn’t think about anything else. I made three floors of new work in two years!
I wanted to play with him and with his museum, so I looked through his quotes and his objects for things that connected with me. I titled the show “À toi de faire, ma mignonne,” which basically means “Okay, darling, baby, you want my museum? Take it, show me what you can do.” Or more simply, “it’s your turn, now show me.” It’s the most complex show I have ever made.
I think it’s funny that he is in the basement and I occupy this museum, but I cannot pretend that my initial purpose was feminist. I didn’t put Picasso’s work downstairs because I wanted to cancel him. I did it because I could not be next to him. _ArtInAmerica
ROBERT INDIANA’S CATALOGUE RAISONNÉ IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR FREE ONLINE
The long-awaited catalogue raisonné of works by Robert Indiana, who died in 2018, has been published online and is free to access. The catalogue is divided into five sections including “works”, covering the artist’s paintings and sculptures, while “chronology” gives an overview of Indiana’s life and career. A section titled “Exhibition history” outlines solo and group exhibitions that have included Indian’s work; a literature section meanwhile includes published references, a selective bibliography, archival sources and artist’s statements. Simon Salama-Caro, the author of the catalogue raisonné, says in a statement: “We hope that scholars, educators, arts professionals, and anyone wishing to gain a refined knowledge of the work of Indiana will use this new tool to learn about the breadth and depth of his oeuvre.”
PESELLINO – A LOST STAR OF THE FLORENTINE RENAISSANCE SHINES AGAIN by Jonathan Jones
It was a gossipy aside that was to shape art history. After seeing Titian’s latest painting in his studio, the Florentine Michelangelo praised it to Titian’s face but on the way home commented backhandedly to his friend and biographer Giorgio Vasari that it was a shame these Venetian artists didn’t learn to draw. Over the centuries, the contrast between Florentine “design” and Venetian “colour” became a cliche. It even stoked up William Blake to rage at the Royal Academy for promoting soft Venetian colourism against the true tradition of drawing.
Pesellino at the National Gallery overturns that simplistic view in a jewel case of a gallery where golden searchlights illuminate a universe of colour straight out of 15th-century Florence. The paintings of Francesco Pesellino <https://tinyurl.com/yp4gq59c
> cover all the top themes typical of a Florentine artist in the early to mid 1400s, from the journey of the Magi to the Annunciation. But what glow in your mind are his intense, almost psychedelic blues, reds and golds. In his painting King Melchior Sailing to the Holy Land, a dawn sky unfurls in layers of pink against the azure heavens, beautifully observed and freely brushed. This isn’t rigidly “designed”: you sense the light is changing as you look, and recognise that Pesellino has captured the passing beauty of a brief moment.
This could be the earliest painting of dawn’s delicacy. It was done about a decade before Giovanni Bellini painted a north Italian dawn with similar rosy magic in his Agony in the Garden <https://tinyurl.com/ylfq2tpb
> – which you can see in the National Gallery’s new gallery of the Venetian Renaissance. Born in 1422, Pesellino died in his mid-30s, leaving a scattered corpus of often quite tiny works. He is not known for any iconic masterpiece and his biography in Vasari’s Lives of the Artists only runs to a page, and is very garbled. Still, Vasari, a century after his death, knew Pesellino had to be in the book. His talent stood out, and he would have done still greater things “if death had not cut him off so prematurely”.
There’s something noble, even quixotic, about the attempt to resurrect this lost star and give Pesellino his due almost six centuries after his death from plague. This is as full a retrospective as he’s ever likely to get and it only fills one room. But it’s a room bursting with life.
Those colours bloom afresh, in which Pesellino tells the story of David and Goliath on two low, wide wooden panels. These crammed narrative scenes have been brilliantly restored their colours as bright as Pesellino intended, you believe. Gold dust spatters highlighted details. Red caps and filigree frocks, embossed armour and horses’ bejewelled reins enliven the cavalcade. Yet the poetry of Pesellino’s colours comes out most radically, again, in his skies: the brightness of the foreground is set against a low threatening sky of white, grey and blue, obscuring the day.
The ground too is dark, a deep green that’s almost black. This makes a resonant setting for the speckle of pale flowers Pesellino has painted, a floral array that looks forward to Botticelli’s Primavera <https://tinyurl.com/ywsh6te3
> . But if he’s good at colour, that’s just part of a sharp eye for nature. This is where the Florentine habit of meticulous drawing comes in, for Pesellino’s David and Goliath panels are full of sharply studied, lovingly animated animals. Lifelike dogs prowl, sit and sniff the flowers. Horses rear, rest and, in battle, die.
The biblical story of David, the shepherd boy who volunteered to fight the mighty warrior Goliath armed with only a stone and slingshot, and killed him with a surgical strike to the forehead, was beloved by Renaissance Florence. David, seen as the symbol of this small city republic defying Goliath-scale enemies such as Milan and the pope, was heroically sculpted by Donatello, Verrocchio and Michelangelo. Pesellino however tells the whole story in a gilded comic strip with a brutal battle at its heart – a fight so close and cruel you can’t tell which side is which.
That realism is not pacifist. The fighting is all part of a splendid spectacle of chivalry, with knights in armour fighting to impress the ladies who meet the victors outside the gates of a walled city which is clearly Florence.
This two-panel story is a masterpiece. And like so many masterpieces of the Florentine Renaissance, it was probably made for the Medici family, the wealthy bankers who became unofficial rulers of this so-called republic. They commissioned many images of David to show their republican zeal even as they corrupted the city government. Pesellino’s two panels are thought to have decorated chests in the Medici Palace.
Giants, dogs, knights, sublime skies – the beauties and wonders Pesellino painted were once part of everyday day life in a city where chests and bedheads were artistic marvels. Their context is gone but the joy remains. _GuardianUK
American abstractionist Jack Whitten
was born on this day
in Bessemer, Alabama in 1939
GUGGENHEIM AXES TEN EMPLOYEES
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has laid off ten staffers, or about 2.5 percent of its workforce,. Among those let go are two deputy directors and several longtime employees of the communications and visitor services department. The museum, which this past summer raised the price of admission from $25 to $30, attributed the layoffs to the same factors that had led to the price increase, among them declining attendance, a shrinking number of members, and the inflation-driven rising costs of labor, insurance, and shipping fees.
“Over the past months, we have taken proactive steps to reduce our deficit by raising admission fees and cutting costs wherever feasible,” museum spokesperson Sara Fox said in a statement. “Regrettably, the museum will not have the ability to support our previous number of staff.”
Maida Rosenstein, director of organizing for Local 2110, the chapter of the United Auto Workers under which about 150 Guggenheim workers are organized, said the union was blindsided by the layoffs, which she called “a real slap in the face” to longtime staffers who were let go. Local 2110 represents two of the dismissed employees; Rosenstein said the union, which only months ago won its first contract with the museum after more than two years of bargaining, was attempting to meet with management to discuss the layoffs.
The New York institution is the latest of several US arts institutions to send staff packing in an attempt to regain financial footing: The Dallas Museum of Art in October shed twenty staffers and announced it would close on Tuesdays for the foreseeable future; despite what it painted as a bleak financial picture, the museum is still going ahead with a planned multimillion-dollar expansion. In November, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art cut twenty staff positions, saying attendance had declined by 35 percent from 2019 levels. As well, the Guggenheim is still struggling to open its Abu Dhabi outpost; last month, it named Mariët Westermann as its next director. Westermann, who is vice chancellor at New York University’s Abu Dhabi campus, is expected to get the beleaguered project over its 2026 goal line.
The layoffs “will better position the Guggenheim to be a future-ready, sustainable museum while continuing to uphold our mission,” said Fox. _Artforum
“NOSTALGIA COULD BE A FORM OF INERTIA:
‘We also need art that’s responding
to the very unique time that we’re living in.’” _DeanKissick
MORE GETTY BUYS: by William Poundstone
The Getty Museum has just announced three painting acquisitions: a Gerard David Holy Family, an early still life by Ludger tom Ring the Younger, and Anton Raphael Mengs' Portrait of Friedrich Christian, Prince of Saxony. (I covered the Mengs in yesterday's post.) The Getty says that all three were purchased separately and are to go on display this week.
Gerard David's Holy Family was last auctioned in July 2018. Early Netherlandish paintings were popular with the Gilded Age collectors who stocked America's East Coast museums. That hasn't left many such paintings for the West Coast. The Getty Holy Family is only the second David in a local museum, joining a great Coronation of the Virgin <https://tinyurl.com/yr3wgpn3
> at the Norton Simon. The Holy Family is 16 by 13 in. and is said to be in extraordinary condition. Like many paintings of its period, it imports still life and landscape elements into a devotional scene. Joseph holds a bowl of milk soup. On the lid, prefiguring Christ's betrayal, are two rotten apples.
Born to a family of German Renaissance artists, Ludger tom Ring the Younger was best known as a portraitist. In the early 1560s he produced a group of independent still lifes, 40 years before such works became popular in the Netherlands.
Several tom Ring still lifes have come on the market but—judging from .jpgs—the Getty picture seems the most resolved and successful. It was sold to the Getty after remaining in a family collection for over 200 years. The vase is Venetian milk glass decorated with enamel. The unusual bouquet has roses on the bottom and an assortment of identifiable wildflowers on top.
Metropolitan Museum curator Keith Christiansen called the tom Ring "one of those amazing landmark paintings."
This makes six paintings acquisitions for the Getty in 2023, more than the institution has added in many years. Besides the three just announced, they include an oil sketch, The Death of Virginia, <https://tinyurl.com/yoxymhje
> by Guillaume Guillon Lethière; a small oil-on-copper Madonna and Child with Saints <https://tinyurl.com/yoyhoudk
> by Annibale Carracci; and (the one that got 99+ percent of the hype) Joshua Reynolds's Portrait of Mai, <https://tinyurl.com/ykdb9lym
> purchased jointly with the National Portrait Gallery, London.
CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST A.I. COMPANIES
The lawyers representing a group of artists who filed a class action lawsuit against three A.I. companies—Midjourney Inc, DeviantArt Inc, and Stability A.I.—have filed an amended complaint to address concerns of the court after a federal judge dismissed some of their claims in October.
The October decision by U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick was a blow to the three artists who had originally filed the lawsuit: Sarah Anderson, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz.
At the time, Orrick allowed one count of copyright infringement to move forward against Stability A.I. for allegedly copying the 16 works for which Anderson had registered her copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office, considered the core claim of the lawsuit.
But he had dismissed several other claims of alleged infringement of works by McKernan and Ortiz, allowing the artists time to amend the complaint. The chance to amend a complaint can allow a plaintiff to add additional points for consideration and even address any concerns of the court. In this case, the court had identified specific topics where it sought more details of the allegations made.
“We believe that the amended complaint addresses the court’s requests,” lawyers Joseph Saveri and Matthew Butterick said in an emailed statement to Artnet News. “The amended complaint… shows the ways in which defendants’ A.I. image generators copy plaintiffs’ work, and how the output of these generators is used to compete with or supplant the plaintiffs’ work in the marketplace.”
Indeed, the entire lawsuit has been reworked and rewritten, jumping from a 46-page complaint filed in January to 94 pages—and over 450 when including published evidence exhibits showing the alleged copyright infringement. Much of the additions are technical, pertaining to descriptions of the machine-learning process and precisely how the works of the artists were used to train the models at question.
Perhaps the first changes immediately noticeable on the amended complaint is the addition of seven new plaintiffs,